Our Big Fat Modern Weekend

Magic is in a fun place right now. There’s not really any major Standard events on the horizon, so we’re left looking at a lot of Modern tournaments and even some Legacy.  Honestly I’m a little relieved by this as everyone seems on board to take a break from Standard until the card pool self-corrects. Essentially, you should be on Aetherworks Marvel at this point and you don’t really have much of an excuse to play something else.

However, if you were to go against my advice and play something different, there might be a Spell Queller deck out there that can beat up on Marvel, especially with Mardu trending down on removal spells. But I digress, let’s look at some different formats today.

The real focus today is on the reults from last weekend. We had a Modern SCG Open in addition to two Grands Prix (according to Google this is the plural form of Grand Prix). That’s a huge swath of data to pull from, and from different parts of the world to boot. This also means we get to see some of Japan’s famous deckbuilding (spoiler: they delivered).

Here’s the metagame breakdown for all three tournaments combined (Top 32):

  • Dredge – 10
  • Grixis Death’s Shadow – 9
  • Counters Company – 9
  • Burn – 9
  • Eldrazi Tron – 6
  • Affinity – 6
  • Titan Shift – 5
  • 4C Death’s Shadow – 4
  • U/R Storm – 3
  • Vizier Knightfall – 3
  • Lantern Control – 2
  • Elves – 2
  • Jund – 2
  • Abzan – 2
  • Abzan Delirium – 2
  • Living End – 1
  • Zoo Death’s Shadow 1
  • Bring to Light Scapeshift – 1
  • UW Emeria Control – 1
  • Jeskai Copycat – 1
  • Valakut Breach – 1
  • W/B Eldrazi – 1
  • Ad Nauseam – 1
  • Esper Control – 1
  • Jeskai Control – 1
  • Bant Eldrazi – 1
  • B/G Midrange – 1
  • Amulet Titan – 1
  • Sultai Death’s Shadow – 1
  • Bogles – 1
  • Eldrazi & Taxes – 1
  • U/R Madcap Experiment – 1
  • W/R Prison – 1
  • Tron – 1
Pick your poison

That’s a ridiculous amount of archetypes. Now let’s look at the three Top 8’s side by side:

Grand Prix Kobe 2017

  • 1st – W/B Eldrazi by Joe Soh
  • 2nd – Dredge by Terumasa Kojima
  • 3rd – Grixis Shadow by Park Bi-o
  • 4th – Eldrazi Tron by Fumiyasu Suzuike
  • 5th – Ad Nauseam by Tomoya Tsubouchi
  • 6th – Affinity by Takeshi Kagawa
  • 7th – Esper Control by Akio Chiba
  • 8th – Jeskai Control by Ryoichi Tamada

Grand Prix Copenhagen 2017

  • 1st – Grixis Shadow by Mattia Rizzi
  • 2nd – Living End by Cristian Ortiz Ros
  • 3rd/4th – Lantern Control by Kim Ströh
  • 3rd/4th – U/R Storm by Martin Müller
  • 5th-8th – Scapeshift by Teemu Halonen
  • 5th-8th – Dredge by Remi Le Francois
  • 5th-8th – Counters Company by Michael Steinecke
  • 5th-8th – Death’s  Shadow by Gunnar Geißler

SCG Baltimore 2017

  • 1st – Grixis Death’s Shadow by Brad Nelson
  • 2nd – Dredge by Ben Friedman
  • 3rd – Amulet Titan by Jacob Haversat
  • 4th – Jund by Reid Duke
  • 5th – Eldrazi Tron by Todd Stevens
  • 6th – Sultai Death’s Shadow by Ryan Hovis
  • 7th – Scapeshift by Craig Berry
  • 8th – Grixis Death’s Shadow by James O’Shaughnessy

A couple quick notes:

  • Death’s Shadow had a great showing and a fantastic conversion rate into top eight (8/13).
  • Counters Company struggled hard, only putting one of nine into the top eight. This signifys to me that Counters Company is great against the field at large, but really bad at the top tables.
  • Dredge performed about as expected
  • Modern is still a linear decks paradise

Going forward I would expect the format to warp around Death’s Shadow even more. The addition of Stubborn Denial into the traditional Jund Death’s Shadow lists was a natural evolution of the deck and likely insulated it even further against Counters Company. I also just want to say I hate this name for the deck. It’s just Abzan Company!

Decks that got better after this weekend:

  • Dredge (good matchup against Death’s Shadow and should enjoy less hate)
  • Elves (great at overloading Death’s Shadows removal suite and lack of format sweepers)
  • Living End (Explosive and turn 3 is a great turn to Living End right now, especially against Death’s Shadow)

Decks that got worse:

  • Counters Company (removal + counterspells + quick clock) – in general I expect Counters Company decks to enjoy success, it just really struggles against the best deck in the format and likely will have to dodge it to top 8 anything.
  • Storm (hand disruption + counterspells + clock)
  • Scapeshift (hand disruption + counterspells + clock)

Decks that are still viable:

  • Burn (the matchup with Death’s Shadow is supposedly skill based but I’m definitely not an authority on the burn side of things)
  • Affinity (for a hugely linear deck affinity surprisingly has a lot of 50/50 matchups).
  • Eldrazi Tron (Death’s Shadow is favored but Eldrazi Tron has enough other good matchups that it’s still playable).

I could write about the other 10 or so real decks in the format but Modern is just the kind of place where you can expect the unexpected, and can expect to never play against the same deck more than twice in a tournament. We can discuss until I’m blue in the face about how Death’s Shadow with Stubborn Denial is the best deck in the format (it is), but the truth is you won’t play against it all that much.

This makes testing Modern hard, and why it’s important to have a deck with a solid gameplan that is resilient to commonly played hate. Anyway, the “unexpected” portion of the metagame is my bread and butter, and this past weekend had quite a few innovative decks do some really great work.

B/W Eldrazi by Joe Suh, 1st Grand Prix Kobe 2017

Lands (23)
Caves of Koilos
Concealed Courtyard
Eldrazi Temple
Fetid Heath
Godless Shrine
Mutavault
Plains
Swamp

Creatures (16)
Reality Smasher
Shriekmaw
Thought-Knot Seer
Tidehollow Sculler
Wasteland Strangler

Soceries (9)
Collective Brutality
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lingering Souls
Thoughtseize

Instants (7)
Dismember
Fatal Push
Path to Exile
Artifacts (5)
Ratchet Bomb
Relic of Progenitus

Sideboard (15)
Blessed Alliance
Cast Out
Disenchant
Fulminator Mage
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Stony Silence
Surgical Extraction
Thoughtseize

Before Oath of the Gatewatch released there was a BW “Processor” deck that saw a good amount of play. This deck hearkens back to that by combining Tideholow Sculler, Relic of Progenitus, and Wasteland Strangler to enable a disruptive and explosive gameplan that can bury an opponent in on board card advantage. In this meta Lingering Souls and Path to Exile are both fantastic against Death’s Shadow variants as well.

What I really like about this list is that it affirms the deck I’ve been working on for GP Vegas.  I knew that I wanted to play Eldrazi & Taxes, but I wasn’t impressed with the Aether Vial portion of the list. My version is a couple cards off but I’m more excited than ever to get to testing for this GP.

B/W Eldrazi by Nick Peternell, GP Vegas Test Deck

Lands (23)
Caves of Koilos
Concealed Courtyard
Eldrazi Temple
Godless Shrine
Mutavault
Plains
Swamp
Vault of the Archangel

Instants (6)
Fatal Push
Path to Exile

Sorcery (10)
Collective Brutality
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lingering Souls
Thoughtseize

Creature (14)
Eldrazi Displacer
Thought-Knot Seer
Tidehollow Sculler
Wasteland Strangler

Artifact (7)
Relic of Progenitus
Smuggler’s Copter
Sideboard (15)
Disenchant
Dismember
Ethersworn Canonist
Ghost Quarter
Gideon of the Trials
Grafdigger’s Cage
Journey to Nowhere
Pithing Needle
Rest in Peace
Stony Silence
Thoughtseize

I’m a firm believer in Smuggler’s Copter in these lists. The synergy with Lingering Souls is just too good to not play. To facilitate this, I also have Eldrazi Displacer instead of Reality Smasher to enable Copter attacking more often on turn 3. Displacer is also great in the mirror and has a lot of built in synergy with Wasteland Strangler, Tidehollow Sculler, and Thought-Knot Seer.

The one knock against this deck is that Wasteland Strangler doesn’t match up well at all against Death’s Shadow. The ends up taxing Path to Exile a little too much, so I’ll be looking at some other options like Condemn and Blessed Alliance in my future testing.

The other deck on my radar is the new hotness, Abzan Counters Company:

Counters Company by Michael Steinecke - Top 8, Grand Prix Copenhagen 2017

Creatures (30)
Birds of Paradise
Devoted Druid
Duskwatch Recruiter
Eternal Witness
Fiend Hunter
Kitchen Finks
Noble Hierarch
Qasali Pridemage
Rhonas the Indomitable
Scavenging Ooze
Tireless Tracker
Viscera Seer
Vizier of Remedies
Lands (22)
Forest
Gavony Township
Godless Shrine
Horizon Canopy
Marsh Flats
Overgrown Tomb
Plains
Swamp
Temple Garden
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath

Instants (8)
Chord of Calling
Collected Company

Sideboard (15)
Anafenza, the Foremost
Eidolon of Rhetoric
Fatal Push
Kataki, War’s Wage
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Maelstrom Pulse
Orzhov Pontiff
Path to Exile
Reclamation Sage
Selfless Spirit
Sin Collector
Tidehollow Sculler
Tireless Tracker

I mentioned earlier about how this deck isn’t great against Death’s Shadow. The thing about this deck versus the old school versions of Abzan Company, going back even to when Birthing Pod was legal, is that this is the most fragile version of the deck yet. You need to devote more than the usual number of crappy careatures to enable these combos, and that leaves you vulnerable to discard, removal, and counterspells. I don’t need to tell you that those things are all played in very high numbers in the best decks right now.

The big takeaway is that if you’re going to play this deck you need to be resilient and grindy. This means less slots to pure combo and more room for cards like Voice of Resurgence and Eternal Witness. The biggest strength of the Abzan Company style decks is that they are a reasonable value-beatdown deck as well as a combo deck.

The balance between the two needs to be adjusted to the metagame and right now this means being able to win games when your devoted druid dies on turn two and you get your Collected Company ripped out of your hand.

End Step:

The last thing I want to point out is the singleton copy of Collected Company in the Affinity list from Kobe. Wut?

Well, that’s all I got for you guys this week. Thanks for reading and supporting us, we sincerely appreciate it. If anyone has any suggestions for content you’d like to see, definitely hit us up on Twitter or our Facebook page, and our YouTube channel has some fresh stuff on it as well!

Nick Peternell

Nick has been playing Magic since the 2013 Core Set was released, and grinding since Return to Ravnica. He’s played on the Pro Tour and has multiple high finishes at both the Star City Tour and Grand Prix levels. He’s a brewer at heart and excels most in the beginning and middle stages of a format. Finding weaknesses in the metagame and exploiting underplayed cards is just another day in the office for him.

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