The first Splinter Twin -less, Summer Bloom -less Pro Tour is in the books, and today’s Modern looks far different from the established field that dominated 2015. Endless One? Death’s Shadow? Eldrazi Skyspawner? What the heck just happened?
First off, I just want to say that I’ve written most of this on Saturday, starting toward the beginning of Limited coverage and ending shortly after the announcement of the Top 8. We’ve got a day of Modern under our belts, but I still don’t know which deck ended up in the top spot. That said, I think I’ve seen enough to discuss the future of Modern with some confidence.
The big questions going into the weekend: Would the bans work? Would they open up the format? Would Modern be better or worse than it was during the Splinter Twin era?
The answer depends on whom you talk to. If you wanted a great Pro Tour viewing experience, you had to be thrilled about what happened in Atlanta. There were crazy new decks all over the place and loads of great matches on camera. The “Modern won’t be interactive anymore!” crowd may claim victory, but I’m not so sure—there were some really silly games that ended on turn 2, but there were also some matches that were among the best I’ve ever seen.
With the dust settled, it does now appear as though there’s a best way to attack the format: pure aggression. The most popular decks in the field going into the Pro Tour were Affinity, Infect, Burn, Eldrazi, and Zoo. All of these decks (minus a few wonky Eldrazi variants, perhaps) attempt to attack opposing life totals as quickly as possible. I prefer control, midrange, tempo, and combo strategies to straight-up aggro, so if I want to get into Modern today, what should I build? I don’t have a good answer right now, and that’s frustrating.
The Metagame From 35,000 Feet
First, let’s talk about what didn’t show up. The list is actually pretty large. Tron, which was supposed to take over the metagame in Twin’s absence, was nowhere. The midrange decks (Abzan and Jund) were only 10% of the field and they were entirely off-camera on Day 2. Grixis Control and U/R Delver? Not so much. Kiki-Chord? A blip on the radar. Scapeshift? Ditto.
The three flavors of Eldrazi and Death’s Shadow Zoo appear to have been the two decks best-positioned heading into the tournament. Both decks had an advancement percentage of about 80%, which is just savage. Jund and Infect also pulled their weight heading into Day 2, while Affinity, Burn, Abzan, and Scapeshift ended up being the poorest choices in terms of advancement. Of course, some of that is player-dependent: a new pro without a team is more likely to end up playing a tried and true brew like Affinity, while many of the top players were in the superteams that innovated Death’s Shadow Aggro and the new breed of Eldrazi decks.
After a month of crazy Modern spikes, I suspect that things will start slowing down a bit now. Key pieces in the decks that didn’t do well at the Pro Tour should begin to drop a little. At the very least, underplayed cards like Snapcaster Mage probably won’t continue soaring upward. I suspect the Modern field at your local game store and on the SCG Tour® will start to look more like the Pro Tour and less like the remnants of Modern in 2015. The new pantheon? U/R Eldrazi, Colorless Eldrazi, Infect, Affinity, Death’s Shadow Zoo, Collected Company, Abzan Company, Jund, Abzan, and Burn.
The problem, of course, is that the Eldrazi decks are probably a bit too unfair. While the Mishra’s Workshop comparisons are a little much, Eye of Ugin can produce (a virtual) four mana on turn 2 fairly regularly. We’ve just seen Summer Bloom and Splinter Twin get the axe for doing things that are less consistently powerful, and Eldrazi Temple is certainly more powerful than banned cards like Bloodbraid Elf and Ancestral Vision. Is there a single person out there who thinks that Eye of Ugin will survive in Modern over the long run?
Eldrazi doesn’t have to win the Pro Tour for that to happen, by the way—based on some of the absurd turns we all got to watch on stream last weekend, Eye of Ugin is just silly. To me, the only question is whether Wizards of the Coast will ban Eye in April or whether they’ll wait for next January.
Financially, that puts Modern players in a tricky spot. Should you drop a bunch of money on a deck that is likely to get banned into irrelevance or pick something sub-par to play until the Eldrazi menace is defeated? To me, it depends on how much Modern you plan on playing this season. If you’re going to attend a bunch of high level tournaments, go get Eye of Ugin. If you’re playing the format once in a while at the FNM level, it’s probably not going to be worth your investment.
Everyone is capable of doing this math, so I think the price of the Eldrazi staples will lag a little once the excitement surrounding the Pro Tour subsides and people are actually faced with making a new investment. People are snapping up the Eldrazi deck staples now, but I think fewer people than normal will actually want to buy the whole deck at full price. The fact that most of these pieces are available in in-print boosters helps foster demand, though—if you can find your way to four copies of Eye of Ugin, some solid FNM trading could get you the best deck in Modern.
Last, it’s worth taking a moment to figure out what deck might emerge as a way to fight the Eldrazi. If you want to imagine a universe where Eye of Ugin isn’t banned, it starts with a strong deck or two that can keep it in check. That deck probably isn’t Affinity, nor is it Infect or Burn. Blood Moon looks like it’s about a turn too slow in all the current builds of Blue Moon. Boom // Bust? Worship? Ensnaring Bridge? Melira combo? Spreading Seas?
Whatever this deck ends up being, there are going to be some very good spec opportunities coming out of it. Keep your eyes on StarCityGames.com’s Premium Modern content and see what brews develop.
The Breakout Decks
There were two major Eldrazi variants floating around over the weekend: the U/R variant and the colorless variant. Both are very strong, though the U/R version seems better in the mirror match and against Infect. Let’s take a look at them one at a time, starting with the colorless version:
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 2 Spellskite
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Matter Reshaper
This is a metagame-driven deck to some degree with a Simian Spirit Guide / Chalice of the Void package deliberately designed to attack all the format’s powerful one-drops. If you’re playing at your local FNM, you might not want the card disadvantage against the slower decks you’re likely to see. That should change as the format becomes more similar to this Pro Tour, though.
Chalice of the Void itself is great in the deck regardless, and the card’s price spiked in an awful hurry once this deck made itself known—Star City Games is currently sold out at $30. Considering how good the card is in the other Eternal formats and how well-positioned it is in Modern is right now, I suspect that this price will hold over the short term. People love cards that are good in hot decks but are also powerful in many other strategies.
The heart of this deck lies in the four-of Eldrazi spells: Endless One, Eldrazi Mimic, Matter Reshaper, Thought-Knot Seer, and Reality Smasher. All of these are rares from sets that are currently in print, so their upside is somewhat limited by demand in Standard. As we learned from Collected Company and Kolaghan’s Command, though, cards that are good in both Standard and Modern tend to stabilize pretty high and are relatively immune to price drops.
Will any variant of this Eldrazi deck start to dominate Standard? Without Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple, it’ll be really hard. I suspect all of these cards will be hot for a few weeks—especially if this deck wins the Pro Tour—before their prices begin to soften. If either Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher becomes a Standard four-of, though, all bets are off.
The manabase in this deck is especially interesting. By going completely colorless, the CFB/FtF Eldrazi deck is able to play Mutavault and Blinkmoth Nexus alongside Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin. I doubt Eye and Temple can spike much further—they’ll be at their all-time high right after this event, I suspect—but Mutavault seems to have fallen below everyone’s radar. The card’s power level is high, and I could see it hitting $25-$30 again very easily.
I also like Ratchet Bomb as a cheap pickup. With all these small infect creatures and Endless Ones running around, it’s well-positioned at the moment. Colorless Eldrazi runs multiple copies of Ratchet Bomb in the maindeck, and the card is still just two bucks on StarCityGames.com.
- 4 Drowner of Hope
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 2 Ruination Guide
- 4 Vile Aggregate
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 3 Eldrazi Obligator
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
This deck was 19-1—nineteen and one!—on Day 1. That’s a 2007 New England Patriots level of domination. Pretty good for a deck that looks like a pile of Limited chaff at first glance.
This deck goes wider than the CFB version, though it does run four of the same core Eldrazi: Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, Eldrazi Mimic, and Endless One. If you’re going to buy Eldrazi this weekend, those are the ones I’d recommend; both of these deck variants will be popular choices among Modern brewers.
It’s probably too late to get cheap foils of Ruination Guide, Vile Aggregate, and Eldrazi Skyspawner, but remember to double-check your bulk. These should sell and trade well over the next few weeks, though I doubt you’ll get more than bulk prices for non-foil copies of these cards.
Eldrazi Obligator is still a bulk rare, and that shouldn’t last. The U/R Eldrazi deck alone—even knowing the Eye of Ugin ban is coming—should bring that card into the $2-$3 range. Ditto Drowner of Hope, another bulk rare that has serious game as long as Eye and Temple are Modern-legal.
The deck also runs a single copy of Gemstone Caverns. This Time Spiral rare was immediately bought out, and cards from this era have such a limited supply that I wouldn’t be surprised if the new price sticks. Expect a $10 tag on this tomorrow.
- 4 Street Wraith
- 1 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Wild Nacatl
- 2 Goblin Guide
- 4 Death's Shadow
- 1 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Monastery Swiftspear
Some of the pros on Twitter were skeptical about an entire team bringing Death’s Shadow to a Pro Tour, but the deck put up a more-than-respectable showing over the weekend. Was this deck underrated just because it’s hard to play and seems kind of silly? Or is it just a whole lot better in a format where there is less interaction?
If you didn’t watch the PT, you might still think of Death’s Shadow Zoo as something of a gimmick deck. It isn’t. Like it or not, this is one of the important aggro decks in the format going forward. Sleep on it at your own risk.
Death’s Shadow, the deck’s titular card, saw a major buyout and is now sold out at $10. I suspect it’ll end up closer to $15 when all is said and done. Death’s Shadow runs four copies of Mishra’s Bauble too, though, and that’s the card I suspect will spike once more people start playing the deck. Coldsnap cards are just scarce in relation to everything else, and the price didn’t budge over the weekend. Mutagenic Growth is another card you should keep an eye on—it’s currently sold out at just $0.50, and it has multiple applications in the new Modern format.
This Week’s Trends
Sam Stoddard’s article “A Standard Power Level” is worth the read for anyone interested in what the future holds for Standard. Sam, who works in Development at Wizards of the Coast, lays out the reasons why WotC will not be reprinting known powerful cards like Tarmogoyf or Force of Will in a Standard-legal set anytime soon. He goes on to say that reprinting obvious powerhouses Mutavault and Thoughtseize was probably a mistake and that we probably won’t be seeing a fetchlands-plus-fetchable-two-color-lands manabase again anytime soon.
This significantly lowers the chances of previous format powerhouses coming back in “Return to…” sets, so don’t expect to see Snapcaster Mage show up in the latest Innistrad revisit, nor will Goblin Guide be coming back whenever we come back to Zendikar a third time. Luckily, since WotC has biannual reprint sets, Commander 20XX, Duel Decks, the From the Vault series, and judge promos at their disposal, there is no shortage of ways to pump the market full of reprints. If a fantastic Modern card drops in price due to a plane revisit, buying in is probably safer than the market might act like it is.
The big winners in Standard this week were Collected Company; Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy; Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; Sylvan Advocate; Kolaghan’s Command; and Abbot of Keral Keep. Kalitas and Sylvan Advocate have proven themselves to have strong Standard bona fides, so their prices will probably settle in near their post-spike prices as long as the metagame stays close to where it is now. The other cards are strong in both Standard and Modern, so their prices are probably a little inflated right now due to Modern season hype and Standard legality. All those cards have a bright future, though, so I can’t really advocate selling at the moment.
Descendants’ Path saw a spike to about $10 last week because of its interaction with the Eldrazi in Modern—check out what happens when you combine it with Conduit of Ruin and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. It’s a fun deck, but I can’t imagine it’s anywhere close to Tier 1. Descendants’ Path will probably settle in around $4 when the dust settles, though the card’s raw power level is quite enticing.