Insider: Eighteen Modern Tournaments – RPTQ Recap

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Last weekend Wizards put up the Top 8 decklists of eighteen Regional Pro Tour Qualifiers (RPTQs) in the Modern format. This week, we'll be taking a look at the lists and the trends.

First and foremost, note that these tournaments required winning a previous PPTQ to qualify for, so the field of entrants were on the better end of play skill and card access. This makes the data all the more enticing; it's comparable to Day 2 of a Grand Prix.

If you're intent on attending GP Pittsburgh or another large Modern event soon, this article will prepare you for the field. And no matter what, you'll get a great financial view on the current state of Modern.

The Data

To make the data more readable, I made a spreadsheet of the Top 8 decks. (You can find Wizards' original post here.) A few notes on the methodology:

  • I aggregated general strategies together. "Grixis" contains mostly Grixis Control along with a few Young Pyromancer lists.
  • Twin, at twenty copies, was divided evenly across U/R, Grixis and RUG Twin.
  • Collected Company is mostly G/W Bears with a trio or so of Kiki-Jiki combo decks.
  • These are all of the decks; if it's not on here, then the 146 players who top-eighted passed on the deck. Consider those decks unplayable in Modern.

Blue Is Hard to Find

Splinter Twin is the most represented deck. The lists ran 3-4 Snapcaster Mage and some flirted with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound. Beyond that, we had nine Grixis decks and five other control decks based on blue.

That makes up less than a quarter of the metagame. Jace and Snapcaster are still good cards, with the latter being the principle draw to blue. But the format is pretty antagonistic to blue strategies.

Jund, for example, gives blue decks of all sorts a fit unless they're playing Scapeshift. Jund and its cousin Junk are everywhere. The numbers skew toward Jund particularly in the Asian events, but the deck is heartily represented all around.

My suggestions based on this are specifically limited to the Splinter Twin deck. If you're intent on playing Snapcasters, this is the only realistic home for them.

The card itself, Splinter Twin, is a phenomenal buy right now. It's the bedrock of one of the best decks in Modern and the recent Modern Masters printing has dropped the price enough to make getting them worthwhile again.

Twin is, unfortunately, a deck that rarely gets upgrades from new printings. Its core is the untapping creatures paired with efficient counterspells and cantrips. That last part is unlikely to improve, since Wizards thinks that even Act on Impulse is just a little too good.

I hold out hope that the red-blue manland in Oath of the Gatewatch will be good, but I expect it to have a lame and terrible ability. Is it too much to ask for a 5/5 flying dragon for 4UR?

Don't Write Off Affinity Just Yet

As the second most popular deck in the roundup, Affinity is still tremendous.

Kolaghan's Command drove the deck back a bit, but it has developed laterally with Ghirapur Aether Grid to answer spot removal. When players skimp on their Vandalblasts and Pyroclasms, Affinity comes roaring right back.

I talked with Chaz Volpe earlier this week, and he suggested Steel Overseer as a fine pickup right now. I heartily agree; it gets no respect in a Lightning Bolt world, but it does a fine job of impersonating the best card in the deck, Cranial Plating.

Bloom Titan & R/G Tron Still a Force

While these two decks operate on similar axes, there's no one card that hoses both. Blood Moon is great against Bloom Titan and only okay against Tron. Meanwhile, Fulminator Mage and Sowing Salt are stellar in reverse.

This means you can't devote sideboard spots to both decks with one card. You have to decide if you're going to lose to one, or over-sideboard in hopes of stopping them.

The Bloom Titan deck is capable of some ridiculous early starts, and getting a hate card like Blood Moon out on turn four can sometimes be far too late. R/G Tron is more beatable; Splinter Twin has a treat of a match against it, for example.

The deck, however, shreds Jund with an early Karn, a roll-down from Ugin or a board sweep from Oblivion Stone. That was its original claim to fame and it's still potent at beating the $2,000 menace.

If I'm boarding to beat only one of the two decks, it will be against R/G Tron. Bloom Titan is so capable of shrugging off interaction and hate cards, I've been wondering when the Summer Bloom ban is coming.

Collected Company Proves Jamming Creatures Still Works

The Collected Company decks had a strong showing, with a dozen Top 8 appearances and a few wins. The deck's strategy is simple: run out the cheapest green and white creatures and use a handful of instants to interact.

This sounds like a deck that combo could roll, but between Qasali Pridemage and Dromoka's Command, good luck sticking a Splinter Twin. Same story for Jund when they're discarding Loxodon Smiter to your Liliana of the Veil.

The deck's main weakness is to a sweeper like Wrath of God, but if you look at the results that card is nowhere to be seen.

Consequently, I like this deck going forward. It's not budget by any means; it starts with Tarmogoyfs and ends with Aven Mindcensors, after all. However, it has more meat than Jund can deal with and thanks to Collected Company, sometimes the deck leaps forward on the board.

Quick Hits

  • Only ten Burn decks surprised me. That deck is still Tier One, though I hate to say it. Ask Lee Shi Tian what he thinks of Lava Spike.
  • With eighteen different deck types represented (without further subdivision), Modern is a healthy format.
  • My pick going forward is Scapeshift, since it can overload on nonbasic land hate while still maintaining a lot of its own inevitability against Jund.
  • This is a metagame that disrespects Lightning Bolt and honors Path to Exile. Just about every list doesn't care about one dumb burn spell, but Path causes actual problems for many of these decks. It's a shame that white is poorly represented right now.
  • Yes, that's a Norin the Wary-Genesis Chamber combination deck. Thankfully, it didn't win.
  • Elves put two copies in the Top 8, both running four copies of Dwynen's Elite. I have played against that card. It is berserk. It means that Heritage Druid almost always comes alive on turn two, for example. Foils are $4, a reasonable buy-in from here.

Next week, we'll look at a raft of Standard and Modern lists, with an eye on GP Pittsburgh. Look at the data and then hop to the comments section to tell me which deck you think should have made the list, or which archetype surprised you!


5 thoughts on “Insider: Eighteen Modern Tournaments – RPTQ Recap

  1. Nice article…I really like this kind of metagame breakdown. And as your notes state…the problem with modern (to me) is a lack of true control decks (to keep the combo decks in check).

  2. I’m always a big fan of other Modern articles, and love reading other authors’ insights into the format. Although I mostly agree with what you say here, I have to disagree with with your categorization of Bolt vs. Path in the “Quick Hits” section. Modern’s linear decks generally care much more about Bolt than Path, notably Affinity, Infect, Burn, Merfolk, and the different Zoo variants. Bolt is also exactly where you wanted to be against the Company decks; “Path the Bird” tends to work poorly.

    True, Path is going to give you more mileage against Tron’s and Amulet’s big dogs, but the tradeoff is heavy against the aggressive decks. It also doesn’t give you the same kind of reach as Bolt, which is important in closing out games.

    The metagame statistics also attest to this, with Jund enjoying significantly more play than its Path-using cousin, Abzan. Abzan is seeing more play now than it was a few months ago, but Jund is still the clear frontrunner based largely on its use of Bolt.

  3. I agree with Scapeshift being well-position in the metagame and poised for a spike in popularity. The price of Scapeshift itself has been trending down all year after spiking last December, so maybe we’ll see a repeat of that spike again this year.

    Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle seems like another great call, it has been slowly growing all year.

  4. Off a glance there are some interesting tidbits to be gleaned.

    Burn almost always uses Atarka’s Command and Eidolon. Nacatl builds are frequent as well (Command + Boros Charm).

    There is a 2nd place list with 2x Pia and Kiran! (Yasunori Baba – Tokyo). Pia &K are loosely seen as an experiment.

    Jiachin Tao (Vancouver) made 2nd with an interesting b/w tokens using bblossom in the board.

    Dromoka’s Command, Noble Heirarch and Voice of Resurgence are played in multiple decks. Spellskite being an obvious answer to Twin and Boggles is seen sprinkled throughout.

    A common theme emerges on 2nd place finishers. Toronto (Andrew Van Leeuwen) has a cool creatureless (okay Snaps is a critter) control. Modern has historically lacked a true control deck.

    CoCo is played side by side with Chord frequently. Chord might be a good call right now.

    There are some fun fringe decks. Sometimes they make it because of player skill more than the deck lending itself to wins. But there is also the chance one of the lesser represented decks could be a breakout. Vexing Devil in a burn deck is strange. I don’t give any weight to that. But seeing Pia &K does raise my attention.

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