I can't shake the nagging sensation that I should be flying to a tournament this weekend. Alas, there's unpacking to be done, things to get caught up on, and maybe some streaming to do.
Still, Modern calls to me.
The Magic Online Championship
G/W Hexproof won. It also won the Grand Prix immediately following Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. Recently, it's been well-positioned in a field of midrange decks, but that will likely end.
As expected, the Magic Online Championship field was full of Jund and had a smattering of Jace, the Mind Sculptor decks. G/W Hexproof is indeed quite good against that field, but so is Tron. Tron also conveniently destroys G/W Hexproof, but for some reason, nobody chose to play it.
I would take the Magic Online Championship results with a grain of salt considering how narrow the field was, but there's one takeaway: Good players like Jund, and in order to win a tournament, you're going to have to go through Bloodbraid Elf to do it.
Updating Some Favorites
As always, there's no shortage of decks I'd love to try. Grixis Control with Field of Ruins and some G/W Hexproof hate could be one direction to go in. I also like the idea of a green creature deck featuring Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Updating Mardu Pyromancer is certainly as option as well.
Let's start with an old favorite.
Lars Dam's deck from the MOCS is incredibly sweet and I would only make slight changes.
This is pretty clearly a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy deck, but that card has mostly been replaced by Search for Azcanta. It's not a direct upgrade, but it is an upgrade overall. However, given that this deck is planeswalker oriented with Liliana of the Veil and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, I could see Jace, Vryn's Prodigy playing nicer with the shell overall. It's something to try.
I basically hate the Mountain, but it's kind of a necessity if you expect any amount of opposing Field of Ruins. You can definitely dirty up the manabase with some additional red sources in Sulfur Falls and the like if you wish. Ultimately, you're going to fetch a dual land on Turn 1 instead of Mountain the vast majority of the time.
Shaving an Ancestral Vision is a necessity. You want it early to be sure, but it's not like it gets much worse on turn 4, at least if you're doing your job disrupting your opponent. Given that, it should be even easier to do your job if you're not flooding on Ancestral Vision, so I'm a big fan of cutting one.
Aside from that, I like getting additional mileage out of the sideboard. Lars already has several ways to gain an edge in control and midrange matchups, so cards like Dispel and Keranos, God of Storms aren't necessary. I agree that additional counterspells are necessary for some combo decks and Burn, but other than those fringe matchups, Dispel is weak right now.
Next up is basically the opposite sort of strategy.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 3 Selfless Spirit
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
This list is mostly derivative from Dan Schriever, aka Cavedan. Adding Bloodbraid Elf to the Knightfall shell is incredible. Not only does she eliminate the necessity of Collected Company, but she also provides a solid clock for the backup plan. In a deck that utilizes Kessig Wolf Run, Bloodbraid Elf is going to help immensely.
Unified Will out of the sideboard isn't perfect because of Bloodbraid Elf, but I do feel strongly that your most difficult matchups are those that countermagic would be great against. Meddling Mage can solve some issues, is great to Bloodbraid Elf into, and gets protected by Selfless Spirit, but it's not a perfect answer. Plus, you don't necessarily want each of your anti-combo cards to be permanent-based, as it makes you too easy to sideboard against.
One of the most underrated aspects of decks like these is their ability to play Izzet Staticaster on turn 2. I currently have them in my sideboard for Humans, Affinity, and Lingering Souls, but Izzet Staticaster is rather weak in Modern at the moment. Instead of decks where Izzet Staticaster happens to be great, there are tough matchups like Jund and Tron instead. While a successful use of Bloodbraid Elf overall, it doesn't quite get the job done in the current metagame.
Cavedan strikes again.
While I disagree with some of his choices, adapting the Traverse the Ulvenwald builds of Mardu Pyromancer that have been popping up on Magic Online is a strong choice.
Trying to cast Grim Flayer on turn 2 in a deck that basically wants all of its lands to tap for red mana is a tall ask. Granted, there are only two Grim Flayers in the list, but it's effectively a double splash. Manamorphose can obviously help, but can you imagine casting a blind Manamorphose on turn 2 and naming black/green in the off-chance you hit?
The Mishra's Baubles are a fine add in order to increase consistency from Traverse the Ulvenwald. If they were added because of the Grim Flayers, that would make me angry, but that's probably not the case. Either way, I'm not a fan of basic Forest in this deck either, and I'm sure Grim Flayer had something to do with it being added. If it were just Traverse, you could rely on Manamorphose some amount of the time, even if all your green sources got blown up by Field of Ruin.
Shaving a Young Pyromancer is fine, since sometimes you flood on threats. Multiples can be great, but most of the time you would have time to establish your position instead of dealing with what your opponent has going on.
No Blackcleave Cliffs is pretty crazy to me, but I think it has to do with delirium and Mishra's Bauble wanting fetchlands. It still seems like taking things a bit too far though. I would consider eliminating the Sacred Foundry altogether, but Kambal, Consul of Allocation has been excellent for me. As a potential Traverse the Ulvenwald target, it's even more appealing.
There's some tuning to be done here, but I like the idea overall. One of the easiest ways for Mardu Pyromancer to lose was by never drawing a Bedlam Reveler and this version ensures that you will have access to as many copies as you could possibly need.
- 4 Drowner of Hope
- 4 Eldrazi Displacer
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 4 Matter Reshaper
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
One of Modern's most forgotten decks is Bant Eldrazi. What used to be a solid midrange threat has mostly been supplanted by Eldrazi Tron. However, with the recent innovations to Bant Eldrazi, mostly by ManuGodineau, Bant Eldrazi is poised for a comeback.
For starters, this version of Bant Eldrazi is far more threat-dense than we're used to seeing, with Matter Reshaper alongside Eldrazi Skyspawner. The big innovation is utilizing Thalia, Guardian of Thraben alongside the Eldrazi, which was phenomenal technology I used toward the end of Eldrazi Winter. By cutting Path to Exile, the deck is now barely affected by Thalia, so her inclusion makes sense.
Out of the sideboard, this list uses Engineered Explosives and Relic of Progenitus as its hate, which is conveniently able to be found via Ancient Stirrings. Some lists have even played the full playset of Engineered Explosives maindeck over the maindeck Thalias, which is also acceptable.
The specifics here are interesting, but realistically, they don't matter all that much and could very likely change.
My rationale is that Wall of Omens is excellent against Bloodbraid Elf, can protect Dragonlord Ojutai from Liliana of the Veil, and protect Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Gideon of the Trials and Search for Azcanta become weaker, and while both are still present, they don't necessarily have to be. Snapcaster Mage was also weak in these sorts of decks, so shaving on them in favor of other card advantage elements is an upgrade.
There is absolutely some tension between four-mana, sorcery-speed cards and Cryptic Command, but it is what it is. The most important thing is to mitigate being caught with multiple copies of four-mana cards, so a Cryptic Command ends up getting the axe. Because of how important your four-mana cards are to stabilizing you, I went up to 25 land despite adding four additional cantrips.
U/W Control is excellent, but it's not the only U/W deck I'd consider playing.
This takes the elements I liked about the above U/W Control deck and takes them to the extreme. If Wall of Omens is good, maybe some copies of Restoration Angel are as well. If Restoration Angel is good, maybe I should add some amount of three casting cost creatures to blink. Blade Splicer is another card that's excellent against Jund, but Kitchen Finks could be great if you expect more Burn.
What I'd Play at #SCGDFW
Priority number one is beating Jund. Priority number two is beating Tron. G/W Hexproof isn't something I'd worry about truly catching on, but if possible, I'd try to hedge against it. For the most part, I'd expect others to beat it for me, but that's not the natural order of things.
Given those restrictions, I think Mardu Pyromancer is out because of the poor Tron matchup. It can be fixed, but it's easily the worst matchup, and going out of your way to have a chance will weaken your other matchups. I'm keeping the Traverse the Ulvenwald version in my back pocket though.
Despite being close matchups, I'd expect the Knight of the Reliquary decks to lose to Jund most of the time. It's incredibly difficult to keep up with the raw efficiency, even with cards like Collected Company or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. You have a shot, but you're starting at a deficit basically every game, and that's not where I want to be.
Jund and U/W Control are completely reasonable choices and ones that I would never fault you for. Of the two, Jund needs way more help against decks like Tron and G/W Hexproof than is reasonable in my opinion, so U/W Control would get the nod from me. Temur Scapeshift could be a nice sleeper choice as well.
That leaves Bant Eldrazi, U/W Control, and Grixis Control. Of these, U/W Control probably has to work the least to have good matchups against the top decks in the format. Bant Eldrazi is likely a favorite against Jund, but not by much. Of these, Grixis Control looks the most fun to me, but is much better in a narrow metagame.