Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan has come and gone and, to the surprise of probably no one, Modern still looks to be an amazingly diverse format without a dominant deck at the top. However, there were certainly decks that either cemented themselves among the top tier, Humans and Lantern Control, or made a name for themselves on the biggest stage, B/R Hollow One and Mardu Pyromancer. Although there wasn't any individual deck that was over ten percent of the field, the most popular deck still had a large effect on the results of the tournament.
The Humans Effect
Coming in at 9.3% of the field day one, Humans ended up having a much bigger impact on the metagame than what that small number may imply. As I'm sure you know by now, Humans is an extremely disruptive aggro deck despite being composed of entire Human creatures and mana in their maindeck.
Having the combination of a fast clock and a disruptive creature base is exactly what the unfair decks in the format don't want to see. It was a popular prediction that someone would break the format at the Pro Tour with a new combo deck, or that U/R Gifts Storm and Tron would run rampant, but neither of those things happened. Humans kept those decks in check, and as a result we ended up with a relatively fair Top 8. I expect this trend to continue, with Humans being the number one target of the format moving on from Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. If that's the case, these are the four decks that I'm the most interested in playing in preparation for #GPToronto this weekend and #SCGINDY the following weekend, both big Modern events.
Let's start with the deck I have the least experience with and will be talking the least about, Mardu Pyromancer. I'm sure our own Gerry Thompson will have much more to say about the deck later in the week so I'll just touch on why I think the deck is so well positioned at the moment.
First off, I love how Gerry basically removed white from the previous Mardu Pyromancer deck with just the smallest splash for Lingering Souls. This is something I wish I had done with the B/G Midrange deck I played the weekend prior and what Ross Merriam told me I should have done on the drive up to SCG Philadelphia. Lingering Souls is wonderfully positioned in Modern these days, and I should have listened to Ross and splashed for it.
Kolaghan's Command is another card I'm really high on right now, especially in a deck like Gerry's that can get the most out of all four modes on the card. First of all, there are plenty of artifacts in the format so having access to a Shatter effect in the maindeck is right where I want to be. Next, Gerry can use Faithless Looting and Collective Brutality to put creatures in his graveyard, only to return them back to his hand with Kolaghan's Command. The Shock ability can pick off the various small creatures of the format or team up with Lightning Bolt to add up quick damage, and the discard ability combines well with the other nine maindeck discard spells.
I have always thought this was an under the radar type deck that had a lot of good things going for it, but I'm really impressed by Gerry's build of moving to basically a two-color deck.
As I mentioned before, I've been pretty high on B/G decks recently and really like Reid Duke's build of Abzan. It has become almost cliche' to say that B/G/x Midrange decks aren't playable, and Fatal Push killed Tarmogoyf, but with Humans and Affinity being the two top aggressive decks of the format I believe the classic combination of Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, and Liliana of the Veil is a strong choice. That being said, when I played B/G Midrange at #SCGPhilly the previous weekend after the event I really wished I had splashed a third color, either red for Kolaghan's Command and Lightning Bolt, or white for Lingering Souls and Stony Silence. I stayed with two colors at the time for one specific card that I thought would do a ton of work, but it ended up being a liability.
Although Field of Ruin did a nice job destroying Celestial Colonnades against the two Jeskai Control players I faced over the weekend, I didn't see a single big mana deck and they were frequently just colorless lands that didn't help cast my spells or exile cards with Scavenging Ooze. Most of the tournament I just wished they were more fetchlands, and even though they would have helped immensely against Tron if I was paired against it, I don't think it was worth the hassle. If I was splashing white like Reid did, I would have access to Stony Silence anyway to help out the Tron matchup and would have been able to cast my spells more easily against the aggressive decks. I like moving away from Field of Ruin for the time being and adding more fetchlands and creature-lands to the manabase, especially Treetop Village.
I sideboarded in Liliana, the Last Hope almost every match and it was frequently the card I was hoping to draw. I would have loved having access to one in the maindeck, and I loved how Reid put one in the main. The format is being defined by small creatures and the work Liliana, the Last Hope puts in is quite worth the slot. I don't think I would want a second in the maindeck over a copy of Liliana of the Veil, but one main with another in the sideboard is the right number.
I was really happy with my call to bring B/G Midrange to #SCGPhilly and the changes I would have liked to see with the deck after the event Reid Duke made for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan the next weekend to huge success. Congratulations to a wonderful person, and I'm glad he didn't listen to the masses who said B/G/x Midrange decks weren't playable, and instead found a wonderful 75 that took him to the Top 8.
The next deck I've been excited to play again for the first time in a long time is Eldrazi Tron. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the deck as it's the only deck I've won an individual SCG Tour® Open Weekend with, and my win percentage with the deck is much higher than any other deck I've played before, but since Humans first burst onto the scene last fall I have had a hard time winning with Eldrazi Tron. Plenty of people, including our own Brad Nelson, brought it to Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan and had success with it, which brought back the itch for me to try it out again. I've been playing the above list in a few Magic Online leagues this week, including one 5-0, but I'm still really worried about both the Affinity and Humans matchups for the deck. I love the inclusion of Gut Shot to fight those strategies, but I haven't been able to draw it yet in those matchups. Brad also has many more thoughts on Eldrazi Tron, but I want to talk about some cards I'm still debating on in the decklist.
My least favorite card by a country mile is Warping Wail. I understand there are corner cases where the card does something good, like countering a Past in Flames or exiling a Steel Overseer, but I've used it far too many times as a two mana 1/1, or half of a Lingering Souls flashback, for me to want to play the card anymore. The removal part of the card is the most valuable and therefore, I'm just going to be replacing them with Spatial Contortions that still kill all of the same creatures and more that Warping Wail cannot. Sure there are a couple of sorceries that are really nice to be able to counter with Warping Wail, but having access to a better removal spell is more important in my opinion. Plus, Spatial Contortion can act as a Lightning Bolt to send the last three unsuspecting points of damage when used on your Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, or Endbringer, and teams up well with Endbringer or Walking Ballista when trying to remove larger creatures. No more turn 1 Goblin Guides from my opponent where I just look at my two mana removal spell in hand that can't deal with it, and I'll still die to Scapeshift all the time anyway with or without Warping Wail.
All is Dust is truly the best card in the deck in so many matchups that I don't want to play less than three in the 75 and honestly, I wouldn't mind having three in the maindeck. It's a much easier to cast seven- drop than Karn Liberated because your Eldrazi Temples count for two mana, and with it and Endbringer being your main top end now it's easier to find Eldrazi Temples from your Expedition Maps.
Azor's Gateway has been a test card in the sideboard and although it hasn't done anything incredible so far, I've been reasonably happy with it. Besides playing against control decks where you can run out of gas, there are also plenty of matchups where Eldrazi Tron leans on Walking Ballista and All is Dust and turns into a colorless control deck itself, and I like having Azor's Gateway as a card advantage source in those matchups as well to help find my important top end pieces. I'm not sure if Azor's Gateway is better than Treasure Map or Druidic Satchel, but I like having access to one of these cards.
Batterskull is most likely the card I'm missing the most for the Humans matchup, and when putting Spatial Contortion in the maindeck I can free up a sideboard slot for it. Even though many people bring in anti-artifact cards already against you, Batterskull is the type of card that can have a huge impact on the game for a reasonable amount of mana, especially in this deck. Wurmcoil Engine is similar, but probably a little too expensive and weak to Reflector Mage for my liking. Even if they Reflector Mage the Germ token, you can simply equip the Batterskull to another creature.
It's been good playing Eldrazi Tron again, and I may pick it back up for an Open soon. Like I mentioned before the biggest matchups I'm currently worried about with Eldrazi Tron are Humans and Affinity, not to mention the unwinnable matchups such as G/x Tron and TitanShift, but it's always been a deck I've over performed with.
- 2 Aven Mindcensor
- 3 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Ramunap Excavator
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
And finally we have my updated G/W Company list with the post Pro Tour metagame in mind and what I'll most likely be playing at #GPToronto this weekend. The changes from previous lists are subtle, but hopefully help give the deck a better chance against the more prominent decks right now.
Dromoka's Command is a card I've played in the maindeck before, and I believe now is the time to bring it back. A Meddling Mage naming Path to Exile is devastating for the deck, and therefore I want access to another removal spell. Dromoka's Command is much more versatile than a normal removal spell though, and can also disrupt combat math, remove an important enchantment, or help protect myself from that lethal Boros Charm.
Another card I had before but haven't played in while, Whisperwood Elemental is another nod to the emergence of Humans as it can not only create more chump blockers for me, but also help find important creatures like Knight of the Reliquary and Courser of Kruphix faster. It's also secretly a decent card against Affinity, because the manifest creatures it creates are colorless and therefore, can block Etched Champion, one of the hardest threats for my deck to deal with.
Besides that I have an extra Reclamation Sage in the sideboard over the second Eidolon of Rhetoric, as U/R Gifts Storm isn't as popular as it was before, but being able to destroy artifacts and enchantments is crucial. To that second point, I wouldn't mind having a third copy of Engineered Explosives in the deck to also help out the Humans matchup as well as Lantern Control, Affinity, etc. If I do put a third Explosives in the sideboard it will be over the Elspeth Sun's Champion, which is at its best against the U/W/x Control decks. That's the last slot I'll be testing with this week, but besides that I'm happy with this build of G/W Company.
So there you have it, the four decks I'm excited about playing in Modern moving forward from the Pro Tour metagame into#GPToronto and #SCGINDY. It's hard to have any decks in your crosshairs when playing the wide open format known as Modern, but no matter what I play I want to make sure I have a good Humans and Affinity matchup moving forward.