Whether you’re playing in #MythicChampionshipIV, #SCGCOL, or watching from home this weekend, this will be a massive turning point for Modern’s metagame. Strap yourselves in, because we’re about to go on a wild ride.
I can’t predict what the SCG Tour folks will show up with this weekend, but I do have a good handle on what’s going to happen in Barcelona.
Azorius Control Will Be the Most Popular Deck
Have I gone on record saying that Azorius Control isn’t playable in Modern? Why, yes, yes, I have. Several times, in fact. With additional planeswalkers, Force of Negation, and Monastery Mentors out of the sideboard, Azorius Control is now one of the strongest decks in Modern, if not the literal strongest.
One of the few weak points Azorius had was having to stretch itself thin enough to beat Humans, big mana, and other grindy matchups like the mirror. However, with Plague Engineer in a ton of decks and a plethora of bad matchups at the top, Humans doesn’t seem particularly good at the moment. And with that problem out of the way, Azorius gets to play spoiler.
The decklists in this article aren’t what I expect to show up. Instead, they are how I would build them.
I could also see a build that has Terminus, Monastery Mentor, and Mishra’s Bauble all in the maindeck. That deck would play out like a half-Fish, half-Prison deck, but it would be quite good in my expected metagame.
Jund Will Re-Emerge
I registered this:
Wrenn and Six gives Jund another difficult-to-deal-with engine, and with Mono-Green Tron on the decline, Jund is free to run rampant. My testing process started with other decks, but I never wanted to play against Jund with most of the decks I tried, so eventually I decided to try Jund itself.
Tarmogoyf is a great blocker and shrugs off Lightning Bolts, two things that haven’t been entirely relevant in Modern for a while. Meanwhile, Wrenn and Six plus Bloodbraid Elf can annihilate Azorius Control, so I like the positioning there.
There are some truly heinous matchups, but that’s what the sideboard is for.
Hogaak Might Be Stronger as a Result of the Ban
Talked through it on this week’s cast, but I think the Bridge from Below ban has effectively tricked everyone into building a better version of Bridgevine. Godspeed MC competitors.
— Bryan Gottlieb (@BryanGo) July 24, 2019
Bryan Gottlieb posited that the Bridge from Below ban may have removed the combo aspects of the deck but might have accidentally forced players to build the “correct” version of the deck, therefore making it stronger. By cutting Bridge from Below (and therefore Altar of Dementia), Hogaak is able to have a more cohesive deck in sideboard games when facing down a bunch of hate, instead of having a bunch of dead cards like Bridge from Below when your opponent has a Rest in Peace on the battlefield.
Sure enough, early reports are coming in from various players in the tournament, each talking about how the deck is still broken and they were set on playing for the last week or so. This could be a scary tournament, but if Azorius Control is as big of a presence as I think it is, hopefully the threat can be contained.
If not, it’ll be an awkward tournament.
Izzet Phoenix, Humans, and Mono-Green Tron Will Plummet in Popularity
I wish I could have registered this:
I love Lava Dart, especially its interaction with Aria of Flame, but without any Humans to prey on, there’s very little reason to play it. Wrenn and Six is doing a great job of keeping one-toughness creatures out of the format.
The Fact or Fictions in the sideboard could be Jace, the Mind Sculptors or Chandra, Torch of Defiances, but Fact or Fiction is much, much stronger against Jund. They have too many sources of incidental damage to be able to keep a planeswalker on the battlefield for long.
Hogaak is a difficult matchup, but winnable if you just stop them from resolving Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Keeping their battlefield clear is of the utmost importance, so the spot removal is quite good. Post-sideboard, Anger of the Gods cleans up most of the stragglers. Just make sure to kill Carrion Feeder before it gets too large, especially since it can sacrifice Vengevines and prevent them from being exiled.
Unfortunately, most of the most popular decks are poor matchups for Izzet Phoenix, so it seemed like a bad idea to play it. I’ll definitely be revisiting this one in the future, though.
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 3 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Kitesail Freebooter
- 2 Militia Bugler
- 2 Deputy of Detention
I brought Humans with me to Barcelona “just in case.” Since I’ve very dumb, I left my Tarmogoyfs and the rest of the Jund Squad at home because “Jund sucks.” Thankfully, Michael Majors was coming to Barcelona and I was able to convince him to rummage through all my Magic cards for such hits as Slaughter Games. You know, just in case. Never punished.
Meanwhile, my Humans deck sat in the corner, collecting dust. People asked me for various terrible Magic cards to borrow, but not a single person asked for Humans cards until the night before decklists were due. I feel bad for that unfortunate soul, but I wasn’t about to try to change his mind. Sorry, Rob!
Anyway, the mass adoption of Plague Engineer means Humans has its work cut out for it. Reflector Mage and Kitesail Freebooter are incredibly lacking in today’s metagame, and possible replacements like Unsettled Mariner don’t help much either. Tribal decks in general have taken a massive hit. Maybe I should be looking at more extreme takes on Humans, like adding Seasoned Pyromancer into the mix.
I don’t have a fancy Mono-Green Tron list to show you. It would have four copies of Relic of Progenitus and zero copies of Karn, the Great Creator, though. Past that, you’re free to do pretty much whatever you want. I highly recommend playing Emrakul, the Promised End.
Death’s Shadow Will Be Absent
Add another to the list of decks that don’t want to compete with Jund and Azorius Control at the top of the heap. Aria of Flame continues to be an issue, plus Hogaak is about the worst matchup imaginable.
Mono-Red Phoenix Is the Strongest Sleeper Choice; Hollow One Is the Second
While both of these decks use the graveyard to some degree, they aren’t as reliant on it as Hogaak (or Dredge). Both are slightly better than Hogaak at winning through graveyard hate and are the true nightmare matchups for the top few decks. I’m not seeing a lot of lifegain cards, so Mono-Red Phoenix could be particularly brutal this weekend.
My Day 1 Metagame Predictions
In order, from highest to lowest:
- Azorius Control
- Izzet Phoenix
- Eldrazi Tron
- Grixis Urza
- Mono-Red Phoenix
- Mono-Green Tron
- Counters Company
- Hardened Scales
- Death’s Shadow
Based on reports so far, it’s possible that multiple large teams have decided to play Hogaak, so that could skew the numbers by quite a lot. Regardless, I’m pretty confident in this breakdown.
My Top 8 Predictions
Obviously this is where things can get rough because of Draft records, but I think it all evens out.
- 3 Azorius Control
- 2 Jund
- 2 Hogaak
- 1 Mono-Red Phoenix
Yes, Azorius Control will be the most popular deck in the tournament, and no, people will not be prepared to beat it. The deck is just too good against most things at the moment and the recent additions to the archetype are things most people haven’t adapted to quite yet. Given how few copies of Humans there will be in the tournament, it’s Azorius’s tournament to win.
Predictions for Myself
As I mentioned, I registered Jund. For more information on that choice, you should check out the Arena Decklists Podcast, where Bryan Gottlieb and I do a deep dive on Jund, why it’s good again, and a matchup breakdown.
I’m playing a matchup lottery to some degree, and Modern Horizons Draft isn’t my best format, so I’m not expecting anything special.