I made what was probably the hardest Magic-related decision I’ve ever made this last weekend.
I skipped a Grand Prix.
A Modern Grand Prix.
In driving distance of my apartment. Even within public transit distance of my apartment.
When I knew what the best deck was.
When I had five decks I felt were great.
I made the decision not because it was what I wanted to do but because it was almost assuredly the best decision.
After my top 16 at Grand Prix DC, my five Grand Prix finishes this season are all top 16s or higher, so the most Pro Points I could get from this Grand Prix is five. I am sitting on 32 Pro Points. I am locked for Gold already, and the cutoff for Platinum is 45 points. I currently need a top 16 at the Pro Tour to make it.
If I went to Boston, I would need a top 8 to get any Pro Points. Anything less than second place wouldn’t affect what my Pro Tour finish for Platinum has to be, and even finishing in the finals bumps that top 16 figure only to top 25.
Normally I love to battle, and I really enjoy the Modern format, but playing Modern really isn’t the best thing I could do right now. There’s drafts to be played online and Standard to be tested.
If I didn’t have work to do for another event, I would be there in a heartbeat.
If I spent this weekend playing Modern instead of M15 draft and finished anywhere below eighth, I would feel like the biggest idiot in the room. Even if I top 8ed, there’s a huge number of PT scenarios where I know I could only blame myself for my results.
If I fail at this PT and know I put everything I had into it, that happens. If I fail and know I could have done more, that’s on me.
And, as I have said before,you aren’t obligated to play a tournament.
So, had I needed the Pro Points or not had an incoming Pro Tour, what are the five decks I liked for this metagame?
People just sucked at building it, and I didn’t see how to fix it then.
Jun Young Park figured it out. Gabe Carleton-Barnes and Conrad Kolos also figured it out.
As I always said, Scapeshift is an eight or nine card combo deck. Every card you draw that isn’t a Scapeshift or land is another draw step you need. If every card you draw that isn’t a Scapeshift or land replaces itself, and your problem is solved. And it’s not like you are playing bad cantrips. You literally just want all the things that say “Affect the game state, draw a card” and the filtering spells that are good enough to reasonably play.
As a result you get to be a very controlling deck with all the benefits of a pure combo deck. Eight counters, removal, and Snapcaster Mages let you fight a lot of long games. The fact your combo inherently beats Mana Leak also gets people. Most importantly, Scapeshift is the combo deck that straight up ignores Abrupt Decay. People have to interact with the stack when you are well prepared to fight there or attack your hand when your deck is designed to maximize your hand size at all points.
The Explore slot is the only one I’m unsure on. It could be an Izzet Charm, a Relic of Progenitus, or a number of other things. You don’t want a ton of Izzet Charms as it always puts you down a card, but one is nice to fix potential extra Scapeshift or land problems.
The sideboard is all maximally impactful cards. If you draw something that isn’t a cantrip or lands, it better crush your opponent. No Combust or Spellskite that can just be fought through. Vendillion Cliques and counters to shred opposing combo, Inferno Titans as Scapeshifts five and six, Affinity hate, and sweepers.
Clique also performs the important function of letting you fight Slaughter Games from Tron on multiple angles. It can attack them if you fail to stop the card or pull the Slaughter Games from their hand before they cast it.
Regardless, this was the best deck for Grand Prix Boston. It’s way better against Jund than it was pre-Deathrite ban because Liliana of the Veil is a three-drop and the Scapeshift deck is built better. You lose ground with this build against Affinity and Infect, but you were a massive dog against both of those to begin with so who cares.
Similar to the Scapeshift list, this is a degenerate deck that has a new, additional linear focus.
All your creatures fight removal profitably. No Vexing Devils. No Grim Lavamancer. No Deathrite Shaman. Their Maelstrom Pulses are still going to leave them taking damage, and if they tap down for a spell, my guy is going to hit them for damage.
Every card I draw has to cast my spells or deal damage. Again, this is an eight or nine card combo deck only the combo is six burn spells and three lands. Letting them trade a removal spell for one of my cards means I need another draw step, and they get another turn to attack and race. That’s not part of the game plan.
Eidolon of the Great Revel allowed this to happen by giving you another repeatable damage source that fits this paradigm. That card means it, and I fully expect it to shine in every format it is legal for a long time.
This is also why I would stay away from maindeck Searing Blaze or Searing Blood. Can’t afford to draw blanks against combo, and there isn’t really a Zoo deck you have to race while preventing them from racing you back. I guess Affinity exists, but that’s on the down swing.
War Priest of Thune is something I saw in a Magic Online list I can’t seem to find again, but it is genius. You want an out to Leyline of Sanctity that deals damage. Splashing Green for Destructive Revelry is ok, but spreading your splashes can lead to a lot of shockland damage and inconsistency. War Priest of Thune attacks, and that’s good enough against most Leyline decks as they tend to be combo decks that lack removal or blockers.
This exact list is clearly in need of refinement, but all of the things I think are good ideas are there. Viridian Corrupter is good, no black spells gives you a lot more time per game, and the sideboard is approximately the right ratios even if it’s not the perfect cards.
Infect is probably a level too deep, but the idea is solid. If people are messing around with midrange nonsense and slower combo, just combo them. Storm or Ad Nauseam might also succeed on this front, but I like Infect a lot more against Jund than either of those. Maybe not against Lingering Souls Junk though, which seems to be the big B/G deck right now.
This is likely the most important deck to keep in mind for future events. We are rapidly approaching the point where everyone is inbreeding to beat inbred midrange decks, and if they are doing something weird or any strategy at all where your plan isn’t 100% set, you are probably just better off on the plan of, to quote Day, “Just go ******* kill them”.
Nothing ever changes. Would play this exact 75 almost a year and a half later.
This deck is really good against Jund. It’s really good against U/W/R Control. It’s really good against Melira Pod. It’s even really good against people who are trying to make their Twin decks into midrange hybrids.
It’s terrible against the other decks that fight that metagame though. I honestly don’t know if Scapeshift or Burn is a worse matchup, but I would rather cut my losses and not play against either.
Still, you do gain a significant amount of percentage compared to those decks against the things they are aiming to beat. I would put Tron as a deck that gets you to 10-0 and then struggles to find the last three match wins.
Yeah, this is what I was actually planning on playing within a few cards. I feel like not having the fourth Cryptic Command or Mistbind Clique can’t be right, but the list I was basing it on had three of each so here we are.
This isn’t really the best deck. Sure, it has two PTQ wins and a few more top 8s this season, but Scapeshift was clearly better. You could definitely make an argument that Faeries beats Burn and Scapeshift fairly well, and as such, is a solid level 2 choice, but that’s probably a stretch.
It’s just that winning with Faeries is the single best feeling in Magic.
Every game you win with the deck, your opponent has a single shining moment of emotion. It’s somewhere between disgust that they had to sit through this and despair at having a glimmer of hope and losing it.
Sometimes, it’s when the Bitterblossom hits play on turn 2, and you just sit around and play things when you feel like it as their life total ticks down.
Sometimes, it’s four turns after you Thoughtseize them, line up the dominoes, and watch all your answers fall in perfect alignment with their threats.
Sometimes, it’s when your end of turn Vendillion Clique triggers, you look at their hand, and tell them to keep it despite there being cards they thought were relevant.
And sometimes, it’s when you end the game at one life, with zero cards in hand, and them at exactly zero despite a great start, leaving them wondering how this could possibly happen as they sign the match slip.
Oh, yeah, there’s also another reason:
I don’t have the portrait playmat to go with it, but a small amount of narcissism is healthy right?
A quick listing of why the traditional Tier 1 decks didn’t make the cut:
Birthing Pod: With an active Pod, Kiki Pod is the most powerful deck in the format by miles. The issue is that in exchange you have a number of non-Pod games where the deck can be wildly inconsistent. Scapeshift offered the necessary power to trump the format as well as consistency instead of just one of the two. Melira on the other hand is a bit more consistent but just doesn’t have the combo power, so the issues with it fall into the same category as the issues with Jund and Junk below.
Jund and Junk: This deck is the clear level 0. It has the most PTQ wins of any deck in the format, but it’s an easy target in my mind, and I wouldn’t expect it to be nearly as optimal moving into the end phases of a fifteen round event. See also how Tron and Scapeshift are in my top decks to play.
Twin: The Level -1 deck. Too much Jund, actually quite bad against things like Burn. The hybrid versions are just bad Scapeshift decks. While Scapeshift has a bunch of cards in a fluid plan, hybrid Twin often just draws Tarmogoyf with Splinter Twin or other nonsense pairings. The cantrips aren’t quite good enough to hold that together, and the other decks are a bit too good to let that slide.
Affinity: This is level 2 deck to play. Smashes Tron and Scapeshift, but I felt like that was getting a little ahead of the format. I don’t love the Melira or UWR matchups and I expected just a little too much of those to make plowing through day 1 into the good matchup bracket a certainty. I would not be shocked to see this win the Grand Prix or see a massive surge in popularity afterwards.
I doubt there will be that huge of a metagame reaction to this event in the PTQs immediately following this event.
First of all, PTQ data accessibility has drastically dropped off this Modern season for multiple reasons. There aren’t Magic Online PTQs to publish results from, the Magic site redesign has made everything a lot harder to find, and I think it’s also a matter of less TOs actually submitting lists and having them go up.
Second, the price of the format has massively increased. Players switching decks have a lot more hoops to jump through, and often the cards they want may just not exist for them to get. Even if they can get the cards, can they get them in time to actually practice enough with the deck to matter? This is a huge advantage I have from playing the format on Magic Online where everything is way more fluid, but again, I got in very early and the price increase doesn’t really matter as I can keep moving the same initial equity around from deck to deck without caring. The big time distance between Modern Masters and this PTQ season definitely hurt the amount it could help here.
Point to take away: These decks are still good this week and the next one. Go beat people with them.