A few weeks have passed since the most recent unbans, and we now have some data to work off of. The Magic Online metagame has started to redevelop, and with the Magic Online Championship happening last week we even got to see a glimpse at what some of the best minds chose to bring. This has been the very beginning of the newest iteration of Modern, and we are finally starting to notice some patterns.
Modern's Recent Trends
Jund is the new top dog.
It's clear now that Bloodbraid Elf has had the more immediate impact on the format than Jace, the Mind Sculptor. While this may not have been anticipated by the majority, it doesn't come as that big of a surprise that Bloodbraid Elf has just been easier to slot into existing archetypes. Jund has always been a solid deck in the format, but it looks like Bloodbraid Elf providing both card advantage and a quicker clock really has pushed it over the top. The reason the card has had a more significant impact than Jace is simple: it does more the turn you play it. Being able to double spell on turn 4 in a deck like Jund is just everything and really is backbreaking in a lot of scenarios. With Jund looking to be the format's new top dog, it's only a matter of time until there's a Jace deck that figures out to beat it. Being the blue player that I am, I'll be doing my best to make sure I figure that out. But how does Jund's presence over the format change it? I'm certainly expecting an uptick of linear decks that prey on Jund's fair game plan. Decks like Tron, Scapeshift, Burn and G/W Hexproof naturally have a great matchup against Jund.
G/W Hexproof is likely now tier one.
Speaking of G/W Hexproof, it has now won both of the most recent North American Grand Prix as well as the Magic Online Championship. Three players brought the archetype at the Magic Online Championship, which was probably more than some players expected. Reid Duke even tweeted that he did not accordingly plan for the number of G/W Hexproof at the event. As much as it pains my heart to say, I do believe the deck is incredibly well-positioned. The archetype has never really been a staple of the Modern format, but it might finally surpass that burden and cement itself as a tier one deck.
Burn got better but might want to change.
Both Josh Utter-Leyton and Brandon Burton decided to bring Burn to the event. While Burton decided to stick with a more stock build, Utter-Leyton brought a build featuring four copies of Manamorphose and three Bedlam Revelers!
On top of Utter-Leyton's innovation, John Phillip Whetstone finished 9th in the most recent Modern Classic with a list I'm quite fond off.
This list is excluding Skullcrack to incorporate four extra one-drops in the deck in Shard Volley. My good friend and Burn aficionado Arya Roohi has also made this same switch to his build of the deck. I must say I'm a huge fan, as more one-mana spells are a great way to counteract blue decks and double spell on critical turns. That said, excluding Skullcrack from the list when G/W Hexproof is potentially at an all time high might be a punt. While I'm no Burn expert, I'd be playing something close to this with some Skullcracks in the mix somewhere.
Alright, so these are the three big takeaways I've noticed already from this format. Now, let's get on to the fun stuff!
The Jace Brews!
A deck that has peaked my interest as of late in Modern has been U/W Control. The deck has a powerful top end as well as the ability to disrupt the opponent's mana, which is very powerful against a lot of these fringe manabases in the format. Also, the deck has some flex slots that provide card advantage that are just beginning to be replaced by Jace. So here's what I'd be looking at starting with:
For the most part, this decklist is pretty stock. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is going to be a huge upgrade to this deck. As fun as they were, I get to cut the sketchy one-ofs like Glimmer of Genius, Jace, Architect of Thought, Sphinx's Revelation, and Gideon Jura. Let's get into some of the cards I think improve in these strategies due to the bans.
Wall of Omens looks like it'll be back in force once again. This card gets better for multiple reasons. First off, and most importantly, it protects Jace! Second, it matches up incredibly well versus Bloodbraid Elf, a matchup that historically Wall of Omens has been on the favorable side of. Lastly, I believe there will be an uptick of Lightning Bolts and a decrease of Fatal Pushes, only further increasing Wall of Omen's stock.
Vendilion Clique is just so great for this type of deck. The deck lacks a sufficient way to close games often, and it does that while still enacting your disruptive gameplan. It got even better because of how well it lines up versus an opposing Jace. Imagine your opponent slams a Jace versus your deck without Lightning Bolt, so a Brainstorm looks safe. At the end of their turn, you get to wreck them with a Vendilion Clique by not only getting to look at their hand, but also finish off the powerful planeswalker.
Don't forget the beautiful trick of Clique'ing someone in response to their fetchland after trying to shuffle away cards from a Brainstorm. This not only snags their best card but also makes them draw a bad card that they tried to shuffle away with Jace. Lastly, Jace can't really productively bounce the legendary Faerie given its flash. As you can see, there's a lot to like here.
This is a subtle addition to the deck but something I think is important. Not only do they function as dual lands that also fuel delve for Logic Knot, but they also shuffle for Brainstorms! The presence of Jace in blue decks will almost certainly induce an uptick in fetchlands even if it's just a couple copies.
This deck is trying to be a bit more of a midrange tempo deck. I have played this in about 5-6 leagues on Magic Online and went 4-1 in three of them. I'm looking forward to tuning it a bit more to see if it has legs to compete. Tarmogoyf is just a great way to protect your own Jace while also pressuring theirs. Tireless Tracker, while not particularly good against Jace, is just the perfect card for long games which we are anticipating more of in this new format.
Note the addition of Field of Ruin over something like Blood Moon. There are actually a few reasons for this. First and foremost, I think Field of Ruin is just a better card than Blood Moon in Modern on the whole. Second, it works phenomenally with both Tireless Tracker and Jace to shuffle post Brainstorm. On top of that, it means you don't have to fetch awkwardly or be conscious of Blood Moon being in your deck every game.
Whether it be a draw-go Benjamin Nikolich-style control or the tempo version popularized by Jonathan Rosum and Harlan Firer, Jeskai variants have become a staple of the Modern format in the past few months. This is a version much more reminiscent of the latter but trying to add a bit more value to the equation with Blade Splicer and Restoration Angel. These are two cards that line up incredibly well with Jund, as Blade Splicer is always a two-for-one and is a great counter to Liliana of the Veil, and Restoration Angel is hard to both block and/or kill. Restoration Angel also has great synergies with all the creatures in this deck, eats Bloodbraid Elf up for lunch, and is one of the best responses to an opposing Jace in the format.
Lastly, I couldn't leave without mentioning Lar's Dam's Grixis Control deck. Without a doubt, my vote for the sweetest deck of the tournament.
Lars brought kind of a Grixis Midrange-style list, taking a more proactive approach to a Jace shell. I must say that Liliana of the Veil pairs quite nicely with Jace, and discard spells are the best way to force planeswalkers through. Also, I was happy with the inclusion of Dire Fleet Daredevil, a card I'm excited to see pop up in lists.
While I won't be making the trek out to SCG Dallas this weekend, I will be battling in a local 1k and testing out a new Modern deck. Maybe it'll be Jeskai, Temur, or my heart will stay true Grixis. Regardless, I promise I'll be Brainstorming with Jace.