What a Pro Tour!
Despite the usual grumbling about the return of Modern to the Pro Tour (seriously what won't Magic players grumble about), Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan was a resounding success. There was a ton of metagame variety with no deck breaking 10% of the field, an exciting Top 8 full of great players, great viewership, and perennial fan favorite deck Lantern Control took down the title!
... Okay I guess you can't win them all, but there's no doubt that all and all it was a great event.
Also nice is that despite my trepidation about doing predictions for a Modern Pro Tour, I actually ended up doing pretty well! Today we're going to go over last week's Pro Tour predictions , as well as answering the many questions I've gotten about Standard U/W Auras with some updates.
Prediction One: My Predictions, And Pretty Much Everyone Else's, Will Be Dead Wrong
I cheated a little bit on this one, as naturally even if it's wrong it ends up being right, but hey… it's Modern! If you're playing fair, you aren't trying hard enough!
A lot of what I was hearing pre-Pro Tour was that the Modern format wasn't going to be able to hold up to the high-level scrutiny of the Pro Tour. That unleashing the Pro teams on the format will lead the format to coalesce around the broken strategies and lead to the eventual, inevitable bannings. While this certainly has historical precedent as most Modern Pro Tours have resulted in cards being banned, we've never seen a Modern Pro Tour with the format so fleshed out already.
There was also concern that the disruptive power of the various Death's Shadow decks would loom over the Pro Tour as the correct builds were found and played in the hands of the world's best players. Once again, Modern held up. Death's Shadow was definitely a played and successful deck in the event, but it was by no means dominant or more drastically successful than any other archetype.
The SCG Tour® having major Modern events for the last few years has really given the format a very real identity, and that identity is an exciting and healthy one. Modern can be frustrating at times, but there's no doubt it is a lively, thriving format. There are tons of viable decks and strategies, pet decks are very playable, we are still seeing interesting innovation, and the Pro Tour had some of its highest viewership in a while.
It's a pretty rough time to be a Modern naysayer.
Prediction Two: There Will Be Zero Jeskai Control/ Jeskai Midrange Decks in the Top 8
The darling of the SCG Tour® had a pretty good Day One at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, putting 17 of 23 pilots into Day Two, but promptly crashed and burned on the second day of competition. Only two players managed to go 7-3 with the deck out of the 17 on Day Two, and none did better.
So why is that?
Before we delve into the reasons Jeskai "failed," it's important to note that the split format of the event certainly makes these numbers less reliable. Because a player only needs a record of 4-4 to make Day Two, any player who was able to 3-0 their Day One draft doesn't even need to have a winning Constructed record to make Day Two. This makes the final records much more important when viewing the data and truly speaks to Jeskai's failure at the event.
As I said last week, Jeskai is an underpowered deck that excels in the hands of a skilled player in a weaker, more open field. The deck presents plenty of difficult choices for opponents to make mistakes on, but those mistakes are much less likely at a Pro Tour and even less likely on Day Two of a Pro Tour. As such, Jeskai's lower power level gets exposed, and middling results follow.
I said playing Jeskai at the Pro Tour was likely stamping your ticket to a 5-5 record in Constructed, and that certainly seems to have been the case.
Prediction Three: A Mardu Pyromancer Deck Will Make the Top 8 and Be the Surprise of the Pro Tour
I was very happy to be right about this pretty "out there" prediction, and even happier that the player that made me right was Gerry Thompson. When you think of a concept like "paying your dues," it's hard to think of a Magic player than exemplifies the it more than Gerry Thompson.
Sorry bud, if you're going to keep crushing Pro Tours, you give license for people to dig up ancient and possibly embarrassing photos.
I remember playing against Gerry at Pro Tour Prague 2006, my second ever Pro Tour, and knowing him only as "the dude I'd see at tournaments who always wore Deftones shirts." The Deftones are great, which is probably what made it stick out at the time, but battling against Gerry over the years at various Pro Tours, Grand Prix, and SCG Tour® events made it very clear he was an excellent player who lived and breathed the game. He was always a great writer, deck builder, and student of the game, and seeing him grow into perhaps one of the game's best ambassadors has been great.
What's also been great is seeing him finally obtain the Pro Tour success he's worked so hard and long to achieve.
Gerry's Mardu Pyromancer deck ended being a great metagame call for the field, boasting solid matchups against many of the most popular decks in the event like Five-Color Humans, Affinity, and Death's Shadow. In reality it is nothing more than a Jund deck in fancy new clothes, but as both Gerry and Reid Duke showed us, old 50-50 Jund decks still have legs when played excellently.
I don't expect Mardu Pyromancer to be a huge player in Modern going forward, but it is definitely in the running for "best fair Jund deck."
Prediction Four: The Card As Foretold Will Be in the Top 8
While this prediction was very specific - and clearly very wrong - it was a microcosm of the larger concept that there were tools available in Modern that were not being utilized properly and just waiting to be exploited, and the idea that the convergence of all the best Magic players in the world trying to break the format would ultimately bring these tools to light.
So why As Foretold?
The card clearly has a very powerful interaction with the Time Spiral "no-mana-cost" spells, and given that those spells are approximations of some of the best spells ever printed (Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, Balance, Living End, Eureka, and Wheel of Fortune) the pedigree is there as well. We've also been seeing a few new decks based around As Foretold and its various toys popping up, and typically where there's smoke there's fire.
While I don't know for sure, it seems doubtful anyone even registered the card As Foretold at the Pro Tour, making this a bust to end all busts. But hey, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take… right?
I don't think Modern is a "solved" format by any means, but I think that new decks like Humans and Mardu Pyromancer are much more likely to come about organically through many different brews and iterations than for someone just to outright break it.
Prediction Five: A Notable SCG Tour® Player Will Make the Top 8
Gerry T comes through again!
While Gerry hasn't been playing on the SCG Tour® a ton lately, he is still one of the most successful players in SCG Tour® history and I'm happy to take this one.
While I honestly more so had some of the notable Modern SCG Tour® grinders and their pet decks on my radar here like Joe Lossett and G/B Tron, Caleb Scherer and U/R Storm, or Ben Friedman and Grixis Death's Shadow, frankly I don't know how many were actually qualified for the event. This is something I probably should have looked a little more closely into before making the prediction, but thankfully I got bailed out anyway.
One could also cite Reid Duke as a winning entry on this prediction, as Reid is a player who has had good success on the SCG Tour® and is also well known for sticking to his Jund/midrange guns in Modern despite whatever else everyone else is doing or saying about the format. Reid's Abzan deck is pretty much exactly what you would expect him to play and speaks volumes to my prediction's underlying point of "experienced Modern players playing their comfort deck will do well."
Modern is still a format where knowing your deck inside and out is everything, and you really can play anything and do well as long as you know what you're doing. I mean, Thing in the Ice? Goblin Lore? Know your deck and you can go far!
Four Out of Five Ain't Bad!
I've had a pretty good track record of predictions over the last few Pro Tours, but I must say that I didn't have high hopes on this round of predictions with Modern in the mix. Thankfully, we actually did pretty well!
A lot of Modern is just exposure and getting to play Modern so often on the SCG Tour® has left me with a ton of experience in the format. With so many different decks, cards, and strategies in Modern, my advice for anyone looking to get a leg up in the format to just play as much as you possibly can! When it comes to Modern, knowledge really is everything, and the best way to get that knowledge is by diving right in.
Some Standard Updates
While Modern has been at the forefront both on the SCG Tour® and the Pro Tour lately, Standard has quietly been enjoying quite the renaissance. The format seems fresh and lively, full of varied strategies and sweet brews.
- 4 Adanto Vanguard
- 4 Adorned Pouncer
- 3 Sacred Cat
- 4 Skymarcher Aspirant
- 4 Sram, Senior Edificer
- 1 Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun
For the maindeck there aren't too many drastic changes, with some slight swaps based on how the metagame is shaping up.
Dive Down takes the place of Sheltering Light because of how poorly Sheltering Light interacts with many of the removal spells in the format; Moment of Craving and Vraska's Contempt are already great against Adanto Vanguard while also laughing at Sheltering Light, while Soul-Scar Mage also completely invalidates Sheltering Light. Dive Down is a bit tougher on the mana and worse against Fumigate but worth the trouble.
Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun takes the "singleton game-breaker" slot away from Trial of Solidarity by virtue of just being a durable creature with a relevant ability. It can be frustrating against removal-heavy decks to only draw auras, so adding an additional creature with a breakthrough ability makes a lot of sense.
The sideboard is where two of the biggest new additions show up, helping to shore up matchups against heavy removal decks and big creature decks, respectively.
Many of the Grixis and Dimir decks will be trying to kill every creature you play, making Gideon of the Trials a great card to play on turn 3 for some extra durable power. You already want to shave some of your auras in these matchups anyway, and Gideon can help bring the beats while also being great against Approach of the Second Sun decks.
Weighing in at a hefty four mana, Settle the Wreckage wasn't really considered for the initial lists, but the deck can often struggle with the big red duo of Rekindled Phoenix and Glorybringer, as well as Hazoret the Fervent and other large creatures. With your auras you often end up in racing scenarios, and there's no better card to turn the tide than a surprise Settle the Wreckage. Cast Out or Ixalan's Binding could also be reasonable choices, further cementing the fact that the deck needs some way to beat powerful creatures that cost more than three mana.
The SCG Tour®'s own Ryan Overturf has also been playing and tuning the deck, taking this variation to the finals of a local PPTQ:
- 4 Adanto Vanguard
- 4 Adorned Pouncer
- 4 Sacred Cat
- 4 Siren Stormtamer
- 4 Sram, Senior Edificer
- 1 Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun
Ryan's deck is a little more all-in on the aura plan and I'm a little concerned with the manabase, but it looks like a nice evolution of the deck that's definitely worth a try.
Everything Is Awesome
Modern looks great, Standard looks great, and it really feels like a great time to be playing Magic.
We've even got some of the fringe formats entering the fold, with a major Vintage event being held at #SCGCON as well as a No Ban List Modern Open and a Pauper Classic.
I may just have to dive in and see what these formats are all about!