Grand Prix Lincoln (#GPHoth) and Forward

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Wikipedia's definition of keystone can be summarized as a wedge-shaped piece of stone that is located at the peak of an archway. This block allows the structure to bear weight and locks the other stones in place. The concept of a keystone will help to illustrate my point about how eternal formats work.

There is one fundamental building block, or keystone, in which eternal formats stand upon. This crucial piece of knowledge is that eternal formats are wide open.

Most of the time in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage, there is no best deck. There are plenty of decks that are playable and these formats reward deck building, innovation, and seasoned players. These things are true because more decks are playable. In older formats, you cannot build a deck meant only to beat a specific couple of decks because of the diversity that is present at events.

When I play Modern or Legacy, I don’t typically play the same deck more than once in any given event. This premise should not dissuade new players from breaking into other formats, but knowing about the keystone to older formats will help give you solid ground to stand on. Many decks are viable, so play the deck you want to play. Make sure the deck is good and that you know it well.

While this concept can be applied to Legacy and Vintage, my point in bringing it up is to discuss Modern, hence the title referring to a big Modern event this past weekend. Modern has been raked over by those at Wizards and cards deemed too powerful have been removed from playability. They have done a great job of allowing many different types of decks to be playable in this format. Let’s take a look at the top 8 of this past weekend’s Grand Prix to see just how diverse the format is:

  • 2 Jund decks
  • 1 Meleria Combo
  • 1 Mono Blue Faeries
  • 1 Blue White Tron
  • 2 Affinity
  • 1 Aggro [card Life from the Loam]Loam[/card]

Even if you know absolutely nothing about Modern, just the fact that there are six different decks is awesome and amazing.

Often in Standard we get to a point where there are less and less decks in the top 8 of events. One reason I like Standard right now is because that is not the case at every event. In Standard, Delver and Wolf Run typically do well at nearly every event, but there are always other decks that find success as well.

Modern, however, has this type of diversity at every event. Six decks is just scratching the surface of the number of playable decks in the format.

LSV had some thoughts on this topic as well in his article this week where he relates his experience playing Blue White Tron to a top 8 appearance. Even if you have no interest in Modern, he shares some important ideas for those of us striving for success in competitive magic. Here is the link to his article.

The line that suck out to me the most was, “It’s very important to pick a deck you like playing, since your attitude definitely impacts how much success you have.”

I see players all the time who are not having fun at the event because they chose to play the winning deck from the week before. That can be a great strategy, but playing a deck you enjoy that you are familiar with will net you more wins. There is a fine line between enjoyment and competitiveness, though, so beware bad deck decisions solely based on enjoyment. Not only did he enjoy this deck, it was a deck he had tested extensively and one he thought was quite good. Both things must be true and it can be hard to find the right mixture of the two.

Important thoughts about Modern

Choosing a deck in a wide open metagame such as Modern can prove to be quite a daunting task. There are a few hurdles we need to jump over if you want to be successful in this format. For those of us struggling to settle on a deck, I've outlined them so we can build our decks accordingly.

Obstacle 1: Affinity

In case you haven’t heard by now, Affinity is quite good. For those of us that were playing when Affinity was in Standard, we already know how good this deck is and what it is capable of. With Modern having so many sets legal for deck construction, there are even additions to the deck that make it better than it was previously.

Mox Opal, for example, is amazing in this deck. In fact, I see it as one reason to play it. The mana is faster than any other deck in the field and, because of this, you will get some free wins just based on your opponents not being able to react quickly enough before they are dead.

The versions of Affinity that have been successful remind me of Red Deck Wins. You should treat them as such. They aim to end the game as quickly as possible by attacking and then finishing you off with burn spells. If you go to an event unprepared for Affinity, it is doubtful you will find success.

Solution: Come prepared with Ancient Grudge, Shattering Spree, or even Creeping Corrosion.

Obstacle 2: Combo

There are a variety of combo decks that are prevalent in Modern and new ones are still being invented. Most players know about Splinter Twin, and though it has not had much success recently, it is a very solid deck that will be played.

Right now Meleria Combo is in the crosshairs because of Andrew Cuneo's second place finish that at Grand Prix Lincoln with the deck. I have played this deck a bit and it is resilient. Most aggressive matchups are in your favor and there are very few things you are actually afraid of. Graffdiggers Cage seems problematic for the deck ,so watch out for that Dark Ascension rare that is starting to be included in players' sideboards.

I would also classify the Life from the Loam deck as a combo deck, though it plays somewhat like a midrange aggro control deck at times. After watching the finals of the Grand Prix, that evidence suggests that this deck should definitely be taken seriously. It can control the game quite well with Flame Jab and Raven's Crime.

These cards make it hard to keep creatures on the battlefield and disallow access to cards in hand as well. This Jund colored deck functions similarly to the Jund aggro decks in that they eliminate your hand and all your creatures. Rather than focus on winning the game, they stop you from winning the game. The Life from the Loam deck does have Countryside Crusher, though, so be aware that games can end quickly if you are not careful.

The final combo deck to think about is Storm. Many of the players that made it to the top 8 had to play against and beat Storm in order to achieve success. They did so by including a couple cards in their sideboard to combat this deck. Ethersworn Cannonist and Rule of Law, for example, provide a sizable roadblock that the Storm deck must overcome in order to win the game.

Combo is a consideration you must think about when preparing for a Modern event.

Solution: Combust, Qasali Pridemage, Graffdiggers Cage, Damping Matrix, Torpor Orb, Relic of Progenitus and other combo hate.

Obstacle 3: Diversity

While diversity is a great thing for a format, in this case it makes it a problem that needs to be overcome in order to succeed. Let’s just take some information from the Grand Prix Lincoln top 8 player profiles on our topic of diversity. Here is what the players had to say about their journey to the top 8.

How many different decks did you play against this weekend?



Eight. Ad Nauseam, Twin, Caw, Affinity, Fae, Tron, Storm, Melira.
Twelve different decks in Twelve rounds.

Seven. Melira, RUG, Twin, Affinity, Jund, Martyr, Doran.

Nine. Eight plus four Melira decks.

Nine. Storm, Pod, Jund, Affinity, Twin, Vampires!! Zoo, Caw Blade, Faeries.

Seven. Affinity, Jund, Mirror, Mirror with red, Storm, Bant, UR Tron, Mirror with red and white.

There are some things to keep in mind when looking at the data. The first is that there were fifteen total rounds before the top 8, but many of these players had three byes for the event. So we need to consider that for the most part we are comparing this amount of diversity to twelve rounds.

If we look at the sum of the decks player had to battle and compare that to the average of twelve rounds they played, we can deduce that in an eight round event we are likely to play against an average of five different decks. The reason that this is important is because when you are choosing your deck, you need to keep in mind that you will be playing against many different types of decks. This should help in narrowing down the decks you are choosing from as well as helping you to create your sideboard.

Additional Resources:

My favorite author in the Magic community is Alexander Shearer. The work that is does is simply amazing. Not only is it visually appealing, his statistical analysis of the game really puts things into perspective. When his focus is on one particular deck, he breaks down what the deck is doing and his card choices better than anyone else writing articles.

His article from this week is also about Modern. In it he analyzes what decks are making it to the top 8 of PTQs so far this season. If you are interested in the Modern format and are headed to some PTQs, make sure to read his article found here.

I hope all this information will help you on your way to your next PTQ top 8!

Until next week,

Unleash the force on those PTQ's!!!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

One thought on “Grand Prix Lincoln (#GPHoth) and Forward

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