My Struggle In Preparing For Mythic Championship IV

Brad Nelson faces uncomfortable truths about his Modern preparation as he gets ready for Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona! If you’ve ever clung to a deck too long, this one’s a must-read!

Mythic Championship IV is next week already. This event will showcase Modern Horizons Limited and the Modern format after theaforementioned set’s release. Already, though, the inclusion of this set has led to the banning of Bridge from Below due to its unbelievable synergy within a deck that showcases everyone’s favorite avatar: Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Will that be enough to push this incredibly powerful 8/8 out of the spotlight? Will Urza have something to say about it? Is Tarmogoyf actually good now?

You might be asking yourself why I’m even talking about Modern today. After all, I’m not really the biggest fan of the format. But that doesn’t matter right now. Modern is the Constructed format for the Mythic Championship, so it’s the format I’ve been testing. I’d love to be grinding away at this awesome-looking Standard format, but instead I’m stuck trying all of Modern’s wonderful new toys, which there are many.

Today I’m going over my entire thought process when it comes to selecting a deck for Mythic Championship IV. Don’t get your hopes up, as I haven’t decided on a deck yet, but I have been putting a lot of work into testing for this tournament and my mindset when it comes to Modern deck selection. Losing in the finals of Mythic Championship III was heartbreaking, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure before even leaving the United States for the next big event. I’m working hard, and today I’m letting you in on how I see things right now.

Modern’s landscape has drastically shifted in recent months with the inclusion of both War of the Spark and Modern Horizons. Obviously there are many cards responsible that we could talk about to set the stage, but I’ll assume most of you know by now what cards I’m talking about, so we will just use pictures as a crash course for those who are in the dark.

There are many more, but all you need to know is that a lot has changed. The three-mana planeswalkers make Azorius Control players think they have a chance, Karn has made Eldrazi Tron playable the same way Wrenn and Six has made Jund justifiable, and all the while Faithless Looting is still the best card in the format not to get banned yet.

Yup, that’s right, Faithless Looting decks are still good and still winning. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these archetypes wins the whole thing in Barcelona next weekend, as they’re by far the most powerful strategies in the format. Faithless Looting just gives these decks an absurd amount of consistency that I can’t believe the card isn’t banned yet.

It doesn’t really matter what I think, though. The only important thing to take away from this is that graveyards still matter even though Bridge from Below was banned. Sigh.

It’s not all bad, though, as one of my favorite decks is popular again, and after playing around with it, I can see why!

I love Eldrazi Tron! A little too much, if you ask my peers, but there’s just something about a deck that has so many decisions built into land drops. At the deck’s core, it’s just a Chalice of the Void strategy that ebbs and flows on the value of that XX spell. The Eldrazi cards have slowly become less and less powerful with Matter Reshaper currently looking almost embarrassing on the battlefield. The deck really did have the door shut on it for a while, but Karn, the Great Creator gave it a new spark of energy.

You know, because it’s from War of the Spark. Get it?

I’ve played a ton with Karn, the Great Creator these past couple of weeks, and from my experiences I’ve learned that this card is real – especially when you assemble the UrzaTron! For whatever reason, though, I always feel like the deck’s still underpowered, inconsistent, and not worth my time. Then I’ll 4-1 another League with it, forcing me to re-queue with it. This vicious cycle has lasted six Leagues now, where I have a combined 22-8 record.

I’m still nervous about taking Eldrazi Tron to Barcelona with me, though. That’s why I made a list of all the reasons why I should and shouldn’t play the deck.

Why I Should Play Eldrazi Tron:

1. Chalice of the Void and Leyline of the Void create a squeeze against a large spread of the format.

2. Open decklists and the London Mulligan Rule help this deck significantly when the cards it’s playing are good (Chalice of the Void, the UrzaTron, Leyline of the Void).

3. Karn, the Great Creator is exceptional against other big mana decks, giving Eldrazi Tron an out in these matchups it previously didn’t have.

Why I Shouldn’t Play Eldrazi Tron:

1. It’s underpowered relative to the format, leaning on its lock pieces to win many games.

2. It doesn’t play Mox Opal.

3. It doesn’t play Faithless Looting.

4. It doesn’t play Aether Vial.

Honestly, not playing Mox Opal, Faithless Looting, or Aether Vial is a real reason to question the deck’s validity. I know it’s been doing very well in tournaments as of late, but so did Amulet Titan before Mythic Championship II. There, the Primeval Titan strategy put up a meager 44%-win percentage, while decks with Mox Opal, Faithless Looting, and Aether Vial all did relatively well. Mono-Green Tron did put many players into the Top 8, but the deck itself did badly given how many great players showed up with it.

There’re so many reasons for me to want to play Eldrazi Tron, but the truth of the matter is I always ignore the most powerful cards, eventually regretting my deck decisions in this format. Picking Eldrazi Tron would just be me doing this once again, which scares me.

This also doesn’t play Mox Opal, Faithless Looting, or Aether Vial

Jund was my deck choice for Mythic Championship II, but I regretted it. Maybe I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have such a bad Day 2 with the deck, but in the end I knew I just took the easy way out, playing a deck I knew and had the cards for. I shouldn’t have done that.

Three decks that were on my radar for that event were Mono-Green Tron, Hardened Scales, and Humans. I wasn’t winning with Mono-Green Tron, didn’t know how to play Hardened Scales well enough, and never played Humans before. I was about to play Azorius Control, but I had a sneaking suspicion that my build wouldn’t have been good enough. Ultimately, I just followed Reid Duke and Logan Nettles into battle with Jund. It was fine but didn’t get me the results I wanted.

This time around, I’m not even considering Jund a possibility. There’s a chance it’s actually good right now thanks to Modern Horizons, and it would be incredibly tilting if the deck was actually good the one time I never tried it, but that’s the trap of liking something in Modern. You’re always afraid of missing out, but honestly, I’d rather miss the boat this time than once again be on the Jund-colored Titanic as it sinks to the bottom of another tournament hall.

That’s also why I’m not touching Azorius Control either.

I loved Jeskai Control in 2018. I played Ben Nikolich’s 75 in six unique tournaments. All those events combined, I finished the year with over a 70% win percentage, which was better than I’ve ever done in the format. Things change, though, and Jeskai Control has become unplayable given its bad Faithless Looting and big mana matchups.

When Jeskai was bad, I set my sights to Azorius Control and played it in a Team Modern Grand Prix with KMC-Genesis teammates Brian Braun-Duin and Seth Manfield. To prepare for the event, I played in a Modern Open in Baltimore and twenty Magic Online Leagues. I was serious about doing well, as Seth Manfield was fighting for Player of the Year.

I ended up going 1-5-1, and we were out of the event after Round 7. They were individually 6-1 and 5-2, but we were out.

I still feel bad about that tournament but use it as a reminder that, no matter how well your Azorius Control deck is built, you still have no control over which answers you’re drawing. Jeskai Control at least had a ton of redundancy, so your good matchups were actively good matchups. Azorius Control doesn’t have that and I don’t think the new inclusions it has gotten are enough to push the deck over the top.

Hopefully I’m wrong, though, and the deck’s great. After all, Shaheen Soorani is teaming with my little brother Corey Baumeister this weekend for SCG Philadelphia. He’s taken the Modern seat and I’d sure love to root them on all weekend long! No pressure, control master!

Where does that leave me? I could try to go down the Death’s Shadow route, as I really want to try Abzan Death’s Shadow with the printing of Knight-Captain of Eos, but there’s just not enough time. Plus, if it were good, I’d expect others to have tried it. It just doesn’t seem like the place you want to be in this metagame.

That’s it. Those are the decks I’ve played in the past and are comfortable with.

Those are the cards I’ve played in Modern over the last couple of years. No Aether Vials, Mox Opals, or Faithless Lootings in sight. I’ve found some success, but for the most part not in the tournaments I really wanted to win, like Mythic Championships or World Championships. I keep playing medium decks to medium results.

Moving Upward and Onward

I’m making a promise to myself for Mythic Championship IV. I’ll have five days to dedicate to testing before I leave for Barcelona and I will use that time to play decks with these cards. Here’s where I’m starting the tail end of my testing.

I played some with Izzet Phoenix last time I tested Modern and had good results. Honestly, I had no real reason to put the deck down. I’ve always had low confidence in my Modern prowess, so much so that if a teammate isn’t telling me what list to play and how to sideboard, I often won’t play a deck I think is good. Izzet Phoenix and Hardened Scales were those decks for Mythic Championship II and both decks did well.

There’s a chance that Izzet Phoenix isn’t well-positioned for this tournament, though, as it has struggled in recent weeks, but it still has the potential to be great. I don’t want to sleep on it.

The Breakdown

Deck selection isn’t easy. There have been countless articles on the subject and everyone has a different philosophy on the matter. It’s just so difficult to decide between playing what you know and playing what you think is good. Obviously, when those two things line up, you’re in a great spot, but we all know it’s rare, especially in a format like Modern which has such a high learning curve when it comes to introducing new decks into your repertoire.

I’ve learned one important thing about deck selection – if you’re not willing to break out of your comfort zone now, when will you be? I’ve knowingly played it safe in Modern for years now and it’s provided me very little when it comes to results. I say “knowingly” because I’ve written about this before and still continued down this lackluster path. I’ve watched teammates like Brian Braun-Duin pick up new and challenging decks to then find success with them while I continue to have mediocre results with ones I knew. I’ve played it safe far too many times in my career and thus dislike the format due to it.

Deck selection is a skill unlike any other in Magic and I’m bad at it when it comes to Modern. Maybe it’s because I only test the format when a serious tournament comes up, but that isn’t a good excuse if I want to continue doing well on the professional level. I’ve skated by year after year leaning on Standard results, but I’m honestly kind of sick of it. I don’t like the feeling of traveling halfway around the world with little-to-no equity in a tournament of such importance.

Being successful in Magic means nothing if you can’t do it again, and again, and again. Leaning on my good results in Modern has simply allowed me to justify bad behavior when it comes to wanting to take the easy way out playing a deck I’m comfortable with, allowed me to put in less work and still hope for good results.

Sometimes you have to take a hard look in the mirror and realize the errors in your ways. I know I’m good at Magic, but I must put more effort into both Limited and Modern. I just have to do something about it and not continue just saying it.

It’s time for me to seriously ask myself, “What do I need to do to become better at this game?” and finally do it.