Insider: Modern Moves from GP: Charlotte

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GP: Charlotte exploded Modern this weekend. Over 2,700 people showed up to do battle in my favorite format. We expected format standbys like Affinity and Jund, we were expecting Amulet Bloom, and Collected Company was surprising in all of its iterations. This week, we'll look at what hit, what missed, and what we can profit from leading out of the Grand Prix.

A Pair of Twins

Sam Pardee and Wesley See both made the Top 8 berth with (standard? boring? expected?) U/R Twin decks. Skipping out on Tarmogoyfs and Tasigurs, this list aims to use the straightforward combo with more disruption and varied blue creatures. The huge benefit of going U/R is that you get a very streamlined Blood Moon plan, one unreliant on Polluted Delta digging up a singleton basic Leechridden Swamp.

I had figured one Twin deck would make the Top 8, but two is fascinating. This is frankly a hateful format for Twin. Abzan and Jund are running rampant with Abrupt Decay and the Grixis Control deck can slip out a threat for a single black mana and sit behind Cryptic Command. It reminds me of our past Modern Pro Tour, with two Twin decks sneaking in despite all the Path to Exiles and Abrupt Decays around.

Actions: Twin is still running hot. Notice how Deceiver Exarch shot up $3 from last week, when I highlighted it as a superb pickup for Modern. Splinter Twin has stabilized at $16 in its most recent printing. This is still a wonderful card to pick up and hoard.

I'd watch the market for a week or two and see if Twin drops any more. Otherwise, this goofy enchantment will still survive, notching victories against Torpor Orb, Hushwing Gryff, Rending Volley and a host of other tarnished silver bullets.

Two Competing Companies

Abzan Company and Elves both harnessed Collected Company as a card advantage engine this weekend. We saw it also show up in Paul Rietzl's Naya Zoo and in Brian Kibler's win-less Bant Zoo. Collected Company doesn't give much of a mana discount, but it does give a good shot at a two-for-one in a color bereft of card advantage.

Ian Bosley's Collected Abzan deck utilizes Viscera Seer, Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Kitchen Finks to gain infinite life. It's a clever combination that emerges from the apocalyptic dust-storm of Birthing Pod's ban. It's a reason that Ignoble Hierarch is still stubbornly sitting at $36, the same price I buylisted mine for when the reprint was announced. I've got no opportunities to re-buy at a profit, it seems.

Meanwhile, winner Michael Malone's Elves use Collected Company to hit a critical mass of Elves. The goal here is to get a few in play, find Ezuri, Renegade Leader and then jam five mana through him for a lethal attack. It's simple, straightforward and lethal. It's driving Heritage Druid up near $10 in the same time.

Actions: If you want to get in on Elves, then I think Ezuri, Renegade Leader is the right place to speculate. He's $2.50 right now and the lynchpin of Elves in both Modern and Legacy. Should the Collected Elves spread, then Ezuri is the natural three-of.

If you want to fight it, then Wrath of God is a good go-to (though there are so many editions!). Wrath prevents Ezuri from regenerating the rest of the team. If you'd rather play a Grixis deck, then look to Night of Souls' Betrayal to provide consistent antagonism.

If you'd rather speculate on the Abzan cards, then Anafenza is a good target. These decks run Melira, but Anafenza tends to be far more useful outside of the infinite combination. She's bottomed out at $2, so this feels like a good time to get in. Nobody is playing the card in Standard, so the price is reflective of her Modern play.

Goryo's Vengeance Drops Emrakul

The deck that packs Disciple of Griselbrand and Goryo's Vengeance has made a lateral shift to Borborygmos Enraged. Borborygmos, by the way, is the sound of a stomach rumbling; now that you know it, I expect you to use it in conversation this week and report back to @quietspec with results.

I like this shift over from Emrakul because that iteration had to have the Vengeance on the same turn that it discarded its reanimation target. This way, you can plan on tossing the demon whenever you need to and bringing him back for a brief party when ready.

The way that the deck wins is by drawing sets of 7 cards until you hit Nourishing Shoal and Worldspine Wurm. Pitch those, gain 11 life, draw another seven cards. You'll stack up a few Simian Spirit Guides. Burn one to use Faithless Looting to discard Borbo. Burn two more to make RR, send it through a Manamorphose for BB and Goryo's Vengeance it out of your graveyard. Pitch all those lands in hand to kill the opponent.

Actions: Nourishing Shoal disappeared from the internet today and its new price is anyone's guess. Miss out on that? Worldspine Wurm is $4 and Through the Breach has seen a modest jump to $12. Both have room to go up. I like Through the Breach because we can easily compare it to Goryo's Vengeance, since they're the same block.

Ad Nauseam Makes Top 8, Everyone Around You Starts Playing It

I don't know if you were playing Magic before the storm mechanic hit in Scourge. In Vintage, the combo deck was Academy, which was a goofy deck that hoped to get Tolarian Academy in play and then try to tap it for a lot of mana, many times. It could win by Stroke of Genius to mill the opponent. It was decent, but it was beatable and it had a bunch of strange cards that made it pretty fun to play against. Then Storm came and everyone learned to count to ten.

Storm is inelegant compared to an honest combo like Splinter Twin or Illusions-Donate. You had to work to make those combos fire off, whereas Tendrils of Agony only demanded you cast the correct tenth spell after Yawgmoth's Will.

I know Ad Nauseam and Angel's Grace is still a two-card combo, but it feels like those Storm decks. I attempt to play a game, you sit back and when your Lotus Bloom comes off, we do something uninteractive and you win. I'm sure you can tell I'm grumpy about the deck.

In truth, it's pretty cool that Modern has a deep cardpool to enables this with Phyrexian Unlife and Angel's Grace. It gets to use things like Lightning Storm or Conflagrate to kill, both of which were unloved during their whole Constructed runs. It's something I should love but I cannot muster affection, especially since it wins at instant speed.

Nonetheless, it's a deck that the cadre of "I'd play Modern if there were a broken combo deck" players pick up on. Since it's mostly uninteractive, one must only learn how to blast away the occasional Leyline of Sanctity during goldfishing. That means we'll see growing demand for it in the next few weeks.

Actions: So much of this deck is still so darn cheap! Lotus Bloom is $4.50 (don't accidentally buy Lotus Blossom). Spoils of the Vault: $1. Phyrexian Unlife: $1. Angel's Grace: $3. Pact of Negation is one of the pricier pieces, but we aren't looking at a fetchland-rich manabase. This deck is made for the guy who loads up Cockatrice at work and bangs out goldfishing games to try different scenarios.

There are a bunch of intricacies here, too. If you need to kill that Leyline, you can fire off an Angel's Grace, Spoils into a free Patrician's Scorn and then proceed to Ad Nauseam as normal. It's a deck on the rise and the elements are cheap and abundant.

Quick Hits, Charlotte Edition

  • For the alleged rebirth of Jund, this was a boring weekend for the attrition deck. Collected Company blasts past its grinding elements, and the presence of the Abzan combo deck is as dangerous as Pod ever was.
  • No Siege Rhinos, either. I imagine we'll see plenty of Jund in the Top 16, but neither of these decks go great against the topdecked combo pieces running around.
  • If there's one card that loves the current metagame, it's Dispel. Negate's little brother is at home even against Elves, where it'll stop the bullets and prevent a rebuilding from a wrathed opponent.
  • Affinity has no Ensoul Artifact and four Steel Overseer, which is gutsy in the face of a format packing so much Kolaghan's Command.
  • Patrick Chapin's Gurmag Grixis control deck looked to be in control every time he was on camera. Maybe it's his experience telling him to evaluate threats properly, but I think this deck will still be great in the hands of others. Expect more of it.
  • Keranos, God of Storms showed up in Twin and Grixis sideboards but seemed awfully slow. I wouldn't be surprised to see something else go in. If you want to dig deep for tech, then Detritivore is a personal favorite of mine...
  • Fulminator Mage has enjoyed his time in the spotlight, thanks to a reprinting that vastly improved availability. One day, we'll see four in the maindeck of Grixis Control and when someone buys it back with Kolaghan's Command, we'll all act like we had that idea before.
  • There are so few Path to Exile in this format that it makes Gifts Ungiven for Unburial Rites and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite into a real potent board lock. U/W Tron is still probably inferior to R/G Tron, but U/W Control could run this Gifts combo profitably.

Charlotte was a great weekend, and we'll be back next week to talk tournaments. What was your favorite play, card or deck of GP Charlotte?

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