This is meant to be a crib sheet for people going to the Grand Prix in Columbus next weekend. If you follow Modern extensively, this article probably isn't going to be too useful.
If you don't, are behind since the PTQ season, or just want some tips on how to approach each deck, you will find something useful.
If you are playing at the Grand Prix, understanding your matchup against these decks is going to be crucial. I can't say for sure you will play against them the most, but going deep into the event these are the decks I would expect to have to take down.
- 1 Spellskite
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Cunning Sparkmage
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 2 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 1 Village Bell-Ringer
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 4 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Entomber Exarch
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Harmonic Sliver
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 1 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Ranger of Eos
- 1 Reveillark
- 3 Viscera Seer
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
- 3 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
- 1 Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
- 1 Dryad Arbor
The Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker / Restoration Angel list of this was the breakout deck of the last Grand Prix, but the older Melira list isn't too shabby either. The Kiki-Jiki combo is slightly more lethal and only two cards, but the black in Melira gives you better support spells like Thoughtseize.
Pod decks beat almost anything going long by nature of their namesake card. You need some way to actually lock things up in order to grind out one of these decks. This isn't that hard, as Pod decks tend to be slower than other linear decks and have less interaction. Traditional combo performs well against Pod, as do softer combos like Gifts Ungiven / Unburial Rites.
Of course, you can still beat them playing fair. You can try to attack their Pods and make them play fair too, but they can also just beat you down with Kitchen Finks. If your answer is something like a Disenchant that isn't applicable to the rest of their deck, you stand a chance of losing to mediocre beats.
Realistically, unless you pressure the Pod decks, you will die to them. They are still at their cores midrange decks. Be aggressive and take them down. Just don't die to a Kitchen Finks.
If you want to sideboard anything here, board something with broader applications against their deck. Torpor Orb is fine for a card that doesn't actually trade for any of their cards, but if my deck tries to play a remotely fair game I would board something that disrupts their combo and deals with Finks beats.
If you decide to play this deck, be aware of what you are doing. Namely, realize you are playing a wild toolbox deck with access to your entire deck every turn. If you don't practice and know your potential lines extremely well, odds are things aren't going to work out.
This could come in a number of varieties, each of which in turn has a huge number of sub-archetypes. I'm just going to start spewing some out there, as the goal here should be understanding what's going on as soon as you sit down.
Red-Black: Rise / Fall, Terminate
Red-Green: Huntmaster of the Fells, Ancient Grudge
I'm not exactly sure what you can do on a deck-by-deck basis to make your blue matchup better, but the same general rules apply as for any other format. You can get your action down before their disruption suite gets online or load up on threats to grind them out. The first is easier than in Legacy as long as you can work around Spell Snare, and the second is harder because Vedalken Shackles is a real thing they can use to grind back and you have no Green Sun's Zenith for max threat density. Lingering Souls and Knight of the Reliquary still work wonders.
Of the linear decks, this will be the most played. It is the cheapest, has the most enticing nut draws, and in general the Storm mechanic just attracts a lot of players.
This deck is a decent enforcer. If you have no way to interact with it in a reasonable time frame, you will die. It also folds very hard to the things that actually beat it and, at least in my opinion, isn't very good.
The deck is shockingly good against counterspells for a number of reasons. Past in Flames is really hard to counter, Pyromancer Ascension often hits before most counterspells are active, and Empty the Warrens just doesn't get countered. At least, it's good going long against counters. In the short game countering Rituals mid-chain buys a ton of time to bring the beats. The same logic applies to discard spells.
The deck also isn't that fast. The stat I always cite is my record against the deck with Affinity: X-1, where X is over twenty. Admittedly I boarded Ethersworn Canonist, but game ones were still at worst a coin flip if you could just represent a turn 4 clock. Storm has gotten better since then with the Dark Ascension one-drops, but the point remains that it doesn't take a lot to bridge from a fast clock and a close matchup to being extremely favored against Storm.
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Etched Champion
- 4 Memnite
- 4 Ornithopter
- 4 Signal Pest
- 1 Steel Overseer
- 4 Vault Skirge
As the other decks in the format have gotten better this deck has gotten less free wins, but it's still a threat. I personally stopped playing it online, but it still handles well against a lot of the less powerful decks in the format. This deck was highly represented at Yokohama and had an above-expected Day 2 conversion rate. Be prepared.
Out of the maindeck, your best chance to beat the deck is answering Cranial Plating. Spell Snare has been the most obnoxious card to play against in my experience. There are general game plans of doing something more broken that apply as well, but Affinity can and will beat you in a straight up race. The decks that crush Affinity have interaction and something broken to do early, like Unburial-Gifts Tron.
Of course, board hate does exist. In general, you just want to be able to keep them off of hitting you with Cranial Plating. Ancient Grudge is amazing, as is the makeshift version of Disenchant backed by Snapcaster Mage. If you really want to get them, Stony Silence is almost unbeatable.
Things that aren't that good (but still do some work): Kataki is easy for Affinity to pay for now that they run mostly non-artifact lands. Hurkyl's Recall only buys you a turn or two as all of their spells are cheap. Anything out of a deck that folds to Blood Moon is going to be irrelevant unless you can handle them boarding into four of that card.
These decks either aren't going to be as popular or take less work to handle than the above ones.
This deck is shockingly good. All the reasons it should be bad in Legacy, namely fast combo, don't really exist in Modern. It also demolishes Tron without hate; Karn Liberated basically does nothing against these cards.
You can just board in life gain, but that's not the only way to beat burn. Burn is trading their cards for your life total, and life gain is you trading your cards for their cards. Eventually they are left drawing one card a turn trying to get there while you are actually doing things like attacking. You can accomplish the same thing in other ways, for example Spellstutter Sprite. Just have some answer to creatures so they can't grind back; some lists have Dark Confidant on top of Grim Lavamancer.
One thing to keep in mind: if you go with straight up life gain, Burn can board in Rain of Gore. It looks like it puts them down a card, but then you realize all these Kitchen Finks and Lightning Helixes in your hand put them up a card when you cast them. When it counts, it's almost like the best Mystic Remora possible.
If nothing else works and you really want to mean it, I am probably under 10% to win a game against Leyline of Sanctity with this deck. Just remember that if your deck wins with creatures, they can just burn them and Goblin Guide you out.
There is one reason this deck ended up in this section instead of the top one. You are much more likely to just randomly have interaction for this deck than for something like Storm. Every Path to Exile or even Lightning Bolt can stop a combo attempt. The difference between a hard hate card (i.e., Torpor Orb or Ghostly Prison) and just a removal spell (Path to Exile, Celestial Purge) is actually fairly negligible in how often it will win you the game.
This isn't to say the deck isn't good. I've played enough with it to know otherwise. It's more that if you want to build to beat Twin, it's fairly easy to find something that has applications against it and other things. Don't immediately go for the hard hate if you can find overlap. Just be aware that enchantment removal isn't enough as they can and will Kiki-Jiki you. The same applies to Spellskite, which they can beat with Deceiver Exarch plus Kiki-Jiki.
This deck, on the other hand, legitimately requires specific hate to beat it. If the Grand Prix was happening on Magic Online, this deck would be a top concern. I just don't think enough people in real life are going to pull the trigger on it given that it hasn't put up any Grand Prix results. It was only 6% of the field in Yokohama (with no change between days), so conceding the matchup is not unreasonable for fair decks.
That said, ways to beat it exist. Sowing Salt is the best answer provided that you can get to four mana without losing to turn 3 Karn. Blood Moon is ok, but only if they aren't already boarding in Seal of Primordiums to deal with the rest of your deck. Spreading Seas was an option that floated around during the end of the PTQ season, but it requires backup from Tectonic Edge and/or Ghost Quarter to really work.
The deck also has issues with combo, as evidenced by the resurgence of Storm at the end of the PTQ season. It can still win with a turn 3 Karn, but anything slower isn't going to be enough.
You should beat these decks just by playing something reasonable.
I have no idea how this deck won a Grand Prix. I can see how it beats up on the blue decks by being a pile of threats, but there is just so much combo. Seven discard spells isn't even enough as Tron and Pod require basically nothing to "go off." Maybe I'm being harsh here, but this really isn't something I can see being a good choice. The only card I like is Zealous Persecution, which seems like it randomly wrecks some matchups.
If you want an actual plan out of a control deck, Engineered Explosives is a good start. It can answer both tokens and the Anthems. Out of Affinity, I was a fan of Whipflare, and out of most other decks my plan has been just ignore their midrange threats and kill them.
Martyr also falls in this category, as the two decks have started bleeding together. Turns out you can't just gain a 100 life and call it quits when your opponents can poison you out in one shot, make a million and five 1/4s, or just restart the game with your deck in play.
Similar problem, only this time the numbers back it up. Jund was the most popular deck on Day 1 of Yokohama, but lost a third of its metagame share by Day 2. Again, the deck just doesn't do anything compelling. It's the same Rock deck as always, just repackaged to have "better" cards.
Let's just throw some examples of this out there. You would think the Twin matchup would be easy when your deck is all removal and discard, but in practice it is close to even. You would also think the Affinity matchup is easy when you board in a full set of Ancient Grudge and then some, but even with eight cards for the matchup it is unfavorable. That's not even bringing Tron into the conversation.
Also, Blood Moon. Good luck!
P.S. The other reason Jund is here is that there really isn't much you can do to prepare for it. Beyond getting them with Blood Moon, there isn't anything you are going to do improve your matchup besides just play a better deck.
It might not be fair to hate on this deck quite so much. The Loam engine is extremely powerful when it gets going.
That said, you will fold to fair decks with Relic of Progenitus or Nihil Spellbomb. Without the actual card draw the Legacy version has access to with cycling lands, you have issues playing normal games without just flooding out. When the deck won the Grand Prix graveyards weren't all that, but I expect the threat of hasty Griselbrands is going to keep the hate count high.
Green Creature Decks
- 2 Spellskite
- 1 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Qasali Pridemage
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Treefolk Harbinger
- 3 Doran, the Siege Tower
- 3 Grim Lavamancer
- 4 Kird Ape
- 4 Loam Lion
- 4 Steppe Lynx
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 2 Geist of Saint Traft
- 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
There isn't really a good guideline here on what they will have, similar to the blue decks. These decks haven't put up good numbers, but people will play them regardless. The cards are just so good that something has to exist with Knight of the Reliquary involved, or at least people will think something has to exist.
This deck isn't Legacy Maverick. You aren't mono-threats with Green Sun's Zenith, and you don't have Mother of Runes or Stoneforge Mystic. Just killing all their relevant cards is a thing that is easily accomplished with Snapcaster Mage. Or you can go with the tried and true method of just kill them and who cares.
Notice the general trend among these decks? The good ones are combo and aggro-control. The bad ones are midrange decks that try to prey upon the aggro-control decks that aren't even dominant. Most of the better ones have a non-interactive element to them. Given the spread, it's very hard to build a control shell that answers them all going long. There's a reason the "control" decks of the format handle a lot of things by attacking. Think Legacy: you aren't winning long games with Cruel Ultimatums; you are winning them in the short term with Vendilion Cliques.
This isn't an established Standard format with two playable decks. I'm not going to say having all the answers is impossible, but it isn't likely. Make sure your deck does something powerful and proactive.
There isn't an established list for any of these, but people will try to make them work. I can't say for sure how good they are; just be aware they exist.
I was a huge proponent of this card before the explosion of Tron online. Turns out that a turn 5 Realm Razer isn't quite fast enough, but that could be fixed by the other fifty or so cards in your deck if you want.
This combo is so powerful because of how compact it is. At most it takes up eight cards, with four of them being Gifts Ungiven and Elesh Norn being reasonable to cast. It is also fairly resilient to hate because you can just Gifts the "fair" way for four real cards.
I can't tell you what shell the Gifts deck will have, and I can't tell you how to beat it outside of play Tron lands. The blue deck matchup is closer than the others because they can shut off Gifts, but the rest of your deck can beat them. From my experience with the control list you crush Pod, you crush Affinity, and you crush both Storm and Twin.
The more I think about it, the less I understand why this deck isn't more popular. Thoughts?
I don't know how consistent this list is through disruption, but with Wild Guess is it scarily fast. Be aware this is a thing and show up with graveyard hate.
I'm going to be honest. I don't think Master of the Pearl Trident solves anything for this deck. You just don't have the tempo elements the Legacy lists actually rely on to win.
That doesn't mean people won't try it.
I don't know what this deck accomplishes, but if your opponent leads with blue source and Aether Vial, you should know what's up.
I'm not sure what the shell is, but something I've felt is missing compared to old Extended formats is a hardcore non-basic hate deck. All-In Red and Destructive Flow both had solid success back in their days, and it seems like Blood Moon could punish a lot of decks, especially if the blue decks need off-color mana against you. I wouldn't try to mimic All-In Red without Chrome Mox and Rite of Flame, but something involving Birds of Paradise and Magus of the Moon seems like a good start.
This should cover most of what you should expect to see at Grand Prix Columbus. Of course, there's a huge random element. There's a bunch of combo decks I didn't get to touch on (Ad Nauseam, Hive Mind, etc.), a broad spectrum of aggro style decks (Faithless Looting / Bloodghast, anyone?), and any control deck people decide to show up with.
The point is still the same. Be proactive, and you will simply win games instead of having to play them out. It's up to you to choose how.
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