Analyzing Sunday’s Magic Online Modern Championship Qualifier

If you like variety, the post-banning Modern metagame is for you! GerryT breaks down key decks from a recent online event.

Mazemind Tome, illustrated by Randy Gallegos

Nobody expected the Arcum’s Astrolabe ban in Modern to fundamentally alter the format. It’s one of those bans that nerfs an archetype softly, which serves to even out the format. Given the results of the Modern Championship Qualifier, it seems to have worked perfectly!

Even before the ban, Eldrazi Tron was one of the most popular and successful decks on Magic Online. Naturally, the ban didn’t change that.

Honestly, this list is about as stock as you can get. Obviously there’s plenty of room to get creative with the sideboard and which Karn, the Great Creator targets you want, but that’s about it at this point.

Mazemind Tome

Mazemind Tome is a seemingly odd inclusion that gives Eldrazi Tron something to do in the early-game and the late-game. It can also gain you some life! It improves your matchups against aggro, midrange, and control, so it seems like a fine card to play. Eldrazi Tron tends to mulligan aggressively and potentially run out of gas, so having cards like Karn and Tome that give you things to do in longer games is helpful. 

Overall, Eldrazi Tron has streamlined by cutting all the top-end and picked up some extra tools. It has Chalice of the Void and some powerful opening starts that lead to free wins. That all combines to make it the best deck at the moment. 

The second-place deck is certainly one that I love. I even had something close to this sleeved before quarantine happened and goldfished it several times before finally desleeving it. It’s classic Stoneblade and now it has a new toy in Shark Typhoon!

Shark Typhoon

Original Caw-Blade operated in more of a tapout fashion because they didn’t have access to powerful cards like Cryptic Command and Archmage’s Charm. With those cards available, it’s difficult to justify not playing them, so ideally you have a flash threat to go along with it. Spell Queller was the previous option (which was quite good against combo decks) but Shark Typhoon ends up being better in more matchups.

I’ve seen some versions of blue control decks playing all four copies of Ceremonious Rejection. Given how this matchup played out in the finals, maybe that’s not such a bad idea. 

Although I like the tempo version of Stoneblade, I’m not a fan of the control versions. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is a great card but it doesn’t combo well with Stoneforge Mystic. Putting both of those in the same deck never made much sense to me. Ice-Fang Coatl is good with Equipment but so are Snapcaster Mage and Shark Typhoon tokens. Outside of that, green doesn’t offer much, so I wouldn’t be splashing. 

Additionally, the more controlling strategy doesn’t mesh with Stoneforge Mystic, nor do I think it’s a superior strategy in Modern. Cryptic Command and Stoneforge Mystic can carry you to some degree but I’d avoid splashing in Stoneblade.

There was a period where every time I looked at a Death’s Shadow decklist, it was even stranger than the one I saw before it. Thankfully, this one gets back to the basics.

Traverse Death’s Shadow splashing Stubborn Denial and Temur Battle Rage is fairly classic. Cling to Dust, Nurturing Peatland, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den are relatively new additions, all solid upgrades. The sideboard has a wide variety of powerful cards. Overall, this is a well-built deck.

The real question is whether or not Four-Color Death’s Shadow is well-positioned at the moment. It lacks polarizing matchups in general, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing. In a wide-open field like Modern, having coin-flip matchups across the board could be more beneficial than making hard reads and missing. 

Izzet Prowess is Modern’s newest deck, although I wouldn’t give it rave reviews. It’s solid, and probably an upgrade to the Mono-Red Prowess deck, but I wouldn’t put it in Modern’s top tier. 

Stormwing Entity is another powerful prowess threat and works well with the cards you already want to play like Gut Shot, Mutagenic Growth, and Manamorphose. Getting a reason to add Opt into the mix is a bonus. 

The rest of the Top 9 was rounded out by Amulet Titan, Gruul Prowess, and some spice.

Both these decks operate similarly since their splash is basically for removal spells and some sideboard cards. Each option has its pros and cons but I prefer red because Lightning Bolt is more versatile than Fatal Push. However, you could run into issues from larger creatures like Tarmogoyf and Death’s Shadow.

Modern’s version of Wilderness Reclamation operates similarly to the Standard versions. You slow down your opponent with spot removal and things like Remand and eventually use Wilderness Reclamation to double your mana and go over the top. Modern features Cryptic Command and Fact or Fiction as ways to get the most out of your Wilderness Reclamation turns. 

Lavaridge has Field of the Dead as a way to close the game sooner, which I like. Most of the time, you’ll be able to draw your deck with all the cantrips and Fact or Fictions and loop Nexus of Fate infinitely. When backed up by Cryptic Command and Mystic Sanctuary, that strategy is surprisingly viable in Modern.

This is what the new Rakdos Goblins decklists look like. As it turns out, you are better off playing fewer mediocre Goblins and playing good cards instead. With eight discard spells and Dark Confidant, the deck often feels like you’re playing Jund with a combo finish. Any midrange deck wouldn’t be complete without the majority of their sideboard dedicated toward beating decks like Mono-Green Tron and Dredge that don’t particularly care about Thoughtseize

Similarly to Four-Color Death’s Shadow, these decklists keep getting weirder. Sometimes you want some 4/4s courtesy of Crashing Footfalls and sometimes you want to blow up the world with Restore Balance. Regardless, there are enough pieces of each combo to make it somehow come together. 

A random maindeck Spell Pierce and four Madcap Experiments in the sideboard cement the Modern experience.

I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for Censor over Remand, but other than that, this build of Temur Scapeshift looks very solid. With Arcum’s Astrolabe banned, there’s very little reason to try to do cute things with Yorion, Sky Nomad, so this deck clocks in at a scant 60 cards…for now. 

Uro and Growth Spiral make ramping less risky than cards like Search for Tomorrow and Farseek, which are otherwise poor topdecks. The manabase is much stronger than it used to be thanks to Ketria Triome functioning as a Mountain, allowing you to play fewer shocklands. It also helps negate the downside of playing 29 lands in order to facilitate Uro and Growth Spiral. Mystic Sanctuary caps it off, allowing each fetchland to be a defensive tool or a discarded or countered Scapeshift

This deck gets to threaten Turn 4 kills backed up by disruption and one of the more robust late-games in the format. What’s not to love?

Silversmote Ghoul may seem like a small upgrade for Dredge and that’s more or less true. It basically does the same thing as the rest of the deck except much, much better. 

Having more power than Narcomoeba means your goldfish will be quicker. The body will be more relevant in games where you get to dredge a medium amount and they find a Rest in Peace. Plus, being able to sacrifice to draw a card (or, more realistically, dredge) will create some explosive turns. You can also cast it!

It’s not free to get onto the battlefield, since you have to get a little lucky when you dredge over a Creeping Chill, but a small Smiting Helix splash can also help bring them back. 

As someone who helped popularize Orzhov Tokens back in the day, I adore this deck. 

Mono-White Tokens has numerous issues but that doesn’t change the fact that most decks are incredibly weak to a swarm of sizable bodies, at least in Game 1. Force of Virtue and Venerated Loxodon give this fair deck some rather unfair turns by allowing them to have some free spells at their disposal. 

This is yet another awesome deck, but I prefer Dimir.

This event is a prime example of the Modern formats I tend to like. Variety is at an all-time high, each macro archetype is well-represented, and the format seems balanced. Most of the decks and even the matchups look fun. Modern has been through several shake-ups in the last couple of years, and that can be frustrating, but if it’s what had to happen in order for us to get here, I’m happy about it.

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