Modern Metagame Breakdown: 12/1 – 12/31

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This metagame update almost didn't happen. With a banlist announcement coming up in just two weeks and a new midrange deck redefining the online metagame, it felt silly to analyze a format that is sure to be radically different before January even ends. I changed my mind after sitting down and going through the numbers. Although Modern is undergoing dramatic shifts with more to come depending on the January 18 update, metagame changes are already underfoot and we'll want to identify them before that fateful Monday. Besides, there are still almost two full weeks of Modern until the DCI makes its statement, and December's trends will certainly be at play over that time period.

Stirring Wildwood Art

We already saw some subtle but important movement in November's metagame breakdown. RG Tron and Amulet Bloom solidified their status as Tier 1 contenders, replacing linear alternatives like Infect and Merfolk. Meanwhile, Grixis evolved from its control roots into a midrange future, some fairer Tier 2 decks fell off the radar, and Retreat to Coralhelm staked a claim. Also, Zoo. Lots. Of. Zoo. Today, we'll track these November trends into December, see how they fared throughout the last month of 2015, and theorize about where they might lead into 2016. To reflect the New Year transition and the upcoming January changes, I'll spend less time on December and more on projections about where Modern will go from here.


Tier 1 Decks

siege rhinoDespite some high-profile StarCityGames showdowns, a handful of large Italian and Japanese tournaments, and a regular spattering of mid-size regional events, December was a relatively quiet month for Modern. We only tracked 55 total paper events in the month, down almost 50% from both our November and October datasets. Collection was much more robust on the MTGO side, where we saw 55 events, almost 500 decks, and the biggest MTGO sample since Wizards upended the online community with its summer Daily and Premier changes. The MTGO data even included both a MOCS and a Premier, better-attended venues that fittingly saw December's breakout Tier 1 performer in their Top 8s. But, spoiler alert, more on Mr. Siege Rhino later...

Because December featured no true "major paper events" (i.e. an Open, a Grand Prix, or a Pro Tour), we are recycling the GP Pittsburgh Day 2 stats for the current breakdown. We're also jumping ahead to January to add in the SCG Cincinnati numbers to this update. Although the Cincinnati Open wasn't in the 12/1-12/31 date range, it makes qualitative sense to include it. First, its inclusions shores up our sample, compensating for the lower paper N. Second, December's trends were hard at work during the Open, so we only gain information by adding them.

With all that in mind, here are Modern's Tier 1 decks for December. As always, Tier 1 decks are defined as those strategies which you are very likely to encounter in a tournament. You need to test against these decks to prepare for any event, and you are in big trouble if your deck of choice fares poorly against the Tier 1 testing gauntlet.

Metagame %
MTGO %Paper %Major Event
Day 2 %
RG Tron6.9%4.8%4.9%10.1%
UR Twin6.2%5%6.5%6.5%
Amulet Bloom4.2%4.1%3%5.5%

Whoa, deja vu. Six of those seven decks are identical to those we saw in November's update, which suggests a stable metagame where format pillars continue to stand. This is in stark contrast to the October-November transition we observed a month ago, when the linear shuffle was in full force and ramp decks cemented their Tier 1 footing. The big exception to this is Abzan. As we'll see in the trend table below and talk more about after, Jund's jealous brother returned into Modern's highest echelon, a change that both signaled a big shift in December and forecasts further movement to come down the road.

Deck nameMeta% change
(Nov. to Dec.)
RG Tron+.7%6.9%6.2%5.5%5.1%
UR Twin+.7%6.2%5.5%4.5%3.4%
Amulet Bloom-1%4.2%5.2%4.1%3.7%

Stupid Burn, torpedoing my projection from last month's article. You can be sure that's the last time I bet against Affinity. With the exception of Affinity, all of the Tier 1 decks bobbled around between -1% and +1%, which is to be expected in any metagame period especially an off-month. Don't read too much into any of these trends. That is, any of them except Abzan. Abzan's resurgence (Jordan, toss me a Voice of Resurgence pun!) is a major Modern coup that, if sustained, will have huge implications for 2016.

Building off those numbers and the themes we've already described, here are some of the narratives we need to keep in mind when considering December Modern.

  • URx Twin is still the king at 12.5%
    Splinter TwinDon't know what else to play or prepare against? There's always Twin. December saw UR Twin return as the frontrunning weapon of choice for blue mages who want to compete against linear strategies. The URx Twin collective remains primarily split between UR Twin (6.2%) and Grixis Twin (dropping slightly from November to 3.8%). Jeskai (up to 1.5% after Bianchi's win at Pittsburgh) and Temur (just 1% and out of Tier 2) make up the remainder. Expect to see this share drop a bit as Tron adds more maindeck Spellskites, BW Eldrazi keeps making waves, and Abzan proves it's where BGx players want to be.
  • Tron is going nowhere
    Karn LiberatedIt's no coincidence Jim Davis chose RG Tron as his Modern champion for the SCG Players' Championship, and it's also no fluke that he took the event. This has just been a big month for Tron. SCG Cincinnati was the first Modern event ever where RG Tron had the highest Day 2 metagame share, just as December generally was the first month where the Urzatron rose to second most-played Tier 1 representative. Fulminator Mage and Crumble to Dust have put in major legwork to keep Tron at bay, but the deck has shown remarkable resilience to this hate while also not exceeding unhealthy shares. I expect the strategy's share to increase in 2016 as more players try Bx Eldrazi (a rough matchup for the midrange-ramp hybrid), but also to stay under control as sideboards get better at respecting the dangers of turn three Karn Liberated.
  • Abzan's rise, Jund's fall?
    December's big story was Jund dipping 1.1% and Abzan vaulting off that dropped share to rise 2.3% points to 5.2% of the format. The change was most apparent on MTGO, where Abzan currently sits within .2% of Path to ExileJund. To some extent, this reversal is an odd turn. Jund is much better against the rising Tron decks than its BGW alternative: Jund gets more from Dark Confidant plus Kolaghan's Command-recurred Fulminators than Abzan gets from Path to Exile trumping Lightning Bolt. This suggests there are more pressing metagame influences driving Abzan's surge than just Tron. The first of these appears to be Jund itself. Abzan is known for beating up its older sibling, and with players growing complacent around Jund's foothold, it was high time Abzan struck back. A second reason is Lingering Souls, which wrecks Jund, grind-oriented Grixis, and Twin players who are accustomed to the 50-50 slogfest against BGx. Add Eldrazi and Affinity to the picture, the former eating Bolts and Commands for breakfast and the latter succumbing to Stony Silence, and it's no wonder Abzan is edging in on Jund's Tier 1 territory.

In addition to these themes, remember that Affinity is now and will forever be the best aggro deck in Modern (and, unlike me, you shouldn't gamble against it in predictions). I'll touch on Burn a bit at the end of the article, but for now, it's enough to know Burn's fortunes are heavily dependent on sideboard choices and how the red mages shift along the Burn and Zoo spectrum. Red Deck still Wins in Modern and will always be present, but it lacks the raw power of Affinity which enables the artifacts to more consistently stay at the top. As a final note, Amulet Bloom sticks around Tier 1 for yet another month, again proving it's a force to be reckoned with in a metagame that should be policing it better.

Tier 2 Decks

We're tracking fewer Tier 2 entries in December than we saw back in November. Last month's insane 15 options has narrowed down to 12, with a number dropping down below Tier 2, some migrating up to Tier 1, and others rising up from the (de)void. Just as a reminder, Tier 2 decks represent those strategies which are viable and competitive in most tournaments, but not necessarily decks you will encounter. Skip your Tier 1 testing at your own peril. Missing out on those Tier 2 tests, however, is generally okay so long as you know how the decks work and don't make cataclysmic misplays like forgetting Infect plays Vines of Vastwood or Abzan Company can Chord of Calling into an active Spellskite.

Metagame %
MTGO %Paper %Major Event
Day 2 %
Grixis Twin3.8%2.3%3.7%4.8%
Abzan Company2.5%1.9%3.0%2.3%
Naya Company2.3%1.2%2.1%3.2%
Living End2.2%2.9%1.9%2.2%
Grixis Midrange2.0%2.1%1.6%2.5%
Ad Nauseam1.8%1.7%2.3%1.4%
Jeskai Twin1.5%0.6%2.6%1.0%

Gone are Grixis Control, Gruul Zoo, Knightfall, Temur Twin, and Elves. In their place, we see Jeskai Twin make its way to Tier 2 for the first time in Modern's history, Grixis Midrange officially evolve from its Cryptic Command origins, and holy frikkin Blight Herders. With the exception of Bx Eldrazi, all of these changes are par for the course in a month of Modern. We'll see at least some of them reverse in the coming months (I fully expect Temur Twin to return), and others might be more of a metagame call than anything else (Grixis Control/Midrange is more of a continuum of options than two distinct decks). Instead of discussing those changes, which will continue to fluctuate into 2016, I want to take a moment to talk Eldrazi.

I made a New Year's resolution in yesterday's article to test first and board hype trains later. I've done the testing on both sides of the table and I'm here to report that Bx Eye of UginEldrazi is the real deal. Is it as broken as many online ban maniacs and Chicken Littles attest? Certainly not in its current form, which many of those detractors would know if they tested before they typed. Is it still a powerful deck with strong matchups and a natural format niche? Better bet your foil Eye of Ugins it. The midrange/ramp hybrid has all the markings of a Tier 2 regular and I fully expect to see it in multiple metagame updates throughout 2016. It might even ascend to Tier 1, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. As I wrote about on Monday, BW Eldrazi is probably the tastiest of Eldrazi's many flavors, but the verdict hasn't been finalized yet. Prepare for a few months of every Bx(x) Eldrazi permutation under the Magic suns. When the dust settles, at least one variant will emerge victorious and we'll have our newest Modern mainstay.

Be ready for the Eldrazi in 2016. From a game perspective, this means knowing how to beat the deck and knowing how it works. If you think your Remands are going Wasteland Stranglerto stop those Blight Herders, then hover over the Eldrazi again just to save yourself the tournament embarrassment. From a deck perspective, you need to know what Eldrazi beats and what Eldrazi fears. Jund, Abzan, and Grixis are food for the hungry-hungry processors. Same with anything that relies too heavily on graveyards, or decks that get choked out by the turn two Wasteland Strangler blowout. On the other hand tentacle, Burn, Merfolk, Affinity, and RG Tron are its natural enemies. Finally, from a format perspective, know how Eldrazi will affect the metagame. If BGx and Grixis decks take a dive, what gets better and what gets worse? If the metagame adapts with more blitz aggro decks, what gets better? You'll need to tackle all these questions as we move into 2016 and prepare for a new year of Modern.

Of course, there's that pesky X factor of bans and unbans. I'll save that for another article but some of the possible (dare I say, probable?) changes will have sweeping effects on Modern. But it's too early to think about that today.

Metagame Predictions for 2016

I'm still kicking myself for thinking Burn was going to surpass Affinity. The robots had been crushing it for months before the update, and I'm not sure what factors I imagined could alter that narrative. Thankfully, 2016 is here and the prediction slate is wiped clean. 2015 also wasn't as bad as that Burn forecast might make it out to be. Over the year, I made 22 total metagame predictions over ten articles spanning February through November. I got 15 of them right and seven wrong, for a respectable 68% accuracy rate. Thank Ulamog I'm doing much better than a coin-toss!

Before we get into the January and year-round prognoses, here's a final word on Burn and Affinity, and a great lesson for 2016.

  • Burn will surpass Affinity? Nope. 
    Repeat after me: never bet against Affinity. I've used that phrase earlier in 2015 to describe other decks, but I think this is my most appropriate use to date. Affinity has been Arcbound RavagerTier 1 for every update of 2015, and has been the best aggro deck in every period since August. That's a five month reign, despite players knowing exactly what Affinity would do and packing the sideboard cards to handle it. Despite that, Affinity still managed to be on top. Not so with Burn. The red deck's fortunes have risen and fallen as players prepare for it with more impactful sideboard cards and shifting game plans. There are certainly metagames where Burn will be better than Affinity, but they are very rare and probably very isolated. As a whole, Affinity's power level will always keep it a head above the Lava Spikers. Also, somewhat miraculously, Affinity managed to keep this spot without ever reaching toxic metagame shares. It only exceeded 10% of the format once and hasn't been higher than that since August. This shows the deck is both powerful but also containable, a true format pillar we should always expect.

Time to turn to 2016 and lay out a possible roadmap for where the metagame might take us in the New Year. It was surprisingly difficult to make meaningful predictions for the whole year: there's just so much that can happen between now and February, let alone now and December. Without bringing banlist and reprint speculation too much into it, here are some short and long-term possibilities for the next 12 months.

  • Short-term: Bx Eldrazi hits Tier 1
    Between Monday's article and today's, I've already talked Bx Eldrazi to death (although I promise I did my homework and testing before boarding this hype train). I promise this is the last one for day. Based on the deck's current trajectory, I see this strategy temporarily pushing into Tier 1 as pilots climb aboard and opponents keep forgetting how to beat it. After a brief stint in the topmost tier, it should fall back to Tier 2 as the metagame reacts. Expect endless banlist mania and whining in the interim.
  • Short-term: Abzan surpasses Jund
    Abzan and Jund always swing back and forth, and I'm seeing enough pre-trends pointing towards an impending reversal. Two other shifts are going to seal this transition. siege rhinoFirst, the metagame is becoming decreasingly Bolt-friendly, which is always the first sign of an impending Jund downfall. Infect and Merfolk are out of Tier 1. Tron and Twin are at the top of the format. Eldrazi (they're back! sorry!) don't even care. With the quantitative datapoints aligning with this more qualitative analysis, I don't see Jund surviving for long. Second, I have a sneaking suspicion Amulet Bloom isn't long for this format in its current form. This dramatically diminishes the relevance of Blood Moon in the top-tier, which is one of Jund's biggest edges over Abzan. I'm still going to play the enchantment, but this banning will eliminate one of the more obvious reasons for others to play it, so this should seal the switch in the short-term.
  • Long-term: Modern gains another Tier 1 blue-based control deck
    Twin aside, Modern's Tier 1 continues to lack a real blue deck to control the format. Part of this is because Modern has odd dynamics where traditional midrange and control decks aren't always the best policemen. Aggro is sometimes the regulator. Or ramp. That said, control decks still take on an important metagame role, regulating certain types of aggressive and synergy decks better than anyone else. These decks have been absent in Modern for a while, even if Grixis players tried mightily before ditching countermagic and shifting back midrange, and I think 2016 will be the year this stops. Whether through unbannings (Sword of the Meek! Ancestral Vision!), reprintings (Fact or Fiction?), or new cards (a Force of Will variant Twin can't use. Design it, Wizards!), something will enter Modern to push control in the right direction.
  • Long-term: Modern will retain its four format pillars through 2016
    URx Twin, BGx Midrange, Affinity, and Burn: these are the central cores that power our format and keep the Modern Force in balance. We might see different variants of these Tarmogoyfdecks (whether competing Twin types, Jund vs. Abzan, or the countless Burn hybrids), but these fundamental strategies are still the defining drivers in Modern. I don't see this changing in 2016, which sounds more conservative than it is. Wrapped up in this prediction is a guess at no major bans aimed at these decks, no major new cards to dethrone them, and no periods of time where all of them aren't viable at major events. Non-rotating formats depend on these reliable pillars, and 2016 should be a year where we can count on playing with them and against them. If Wizards undermines this with the January 18 announcement, their change in tone will have reverberations well beyond my prediction accuracy rate. I'm banking against it though.

I want to thank everyone for a great 2015 on the site and for all your support of both Modern Nexus and Modern more generally. We couldn't do it without you and we're all pumped for what 2016 has to offer. Especially if that offering is Innocent Blood!

Surprisingly creepy closings aside, that's all for our December metagame breakdown and our 2016 predictions. What trends did you observe in the 12/1-12/31 data? Any decks you have on your radar for January? What about broader themes you are looking forward to in 2016? I'll be checking the comments to respond to all of you and hope you enjoyed our metagame closeout piece for 2015!

47 thoughts on “Modern Metagame Breakdown: 12/1 – 12/31

  1. I think the Wafo-Tapa Esper shell is just one good, cheap and interactive spell away from being Tier 2 material. The surge counterspell was probably an attempt at something like this, but that deck doesn’t play Last Word already so that was disappointing. Maybe Wizards finally slips up and prints that spell in Innistrad?

    1. We can only hope. I do like Esper Control (not to mention Esper Gifts) and think these decks can really shine with the right cards. Blood would help a lot as a Bolt replacement, although the Snapcaster anti-synergy is unfortunate. I’d sure play it with Souls, however!

      1. Esper isn’t really that reliant on Snapcaster Mage, due to the fact that the deck has a higher average curve than Twin or Grixis so it can’t afford to play the full playset, or else they get clogged in your hand. Snappy is better with more cheap spells. Besides, the deck doesn’t have the reach for Snapcaster beats to matter, so sacing your own Snapcaster Mage isn’t that big of a deal. Innocent Blood would be pretty bad in Grixis where having Jace/Snap matters a lot, but in Esper even saccing your own Snapcaster would be a perfectly acceptable play (If you want, you can undo that by Cryptic Command bouncing Snapcaster and drawing and then casting Blood if you want to truly maximize value).

        I think the Esper shell has a lot of really powerful cards in it. Esper Control, Esper Gifts and Esper Mentor are all three decks doing different things, but they all seem to be “one card away” from being legit.

  2. “Amulet Bloom sticks around Tier 1 for yet another month, again proving it’s a force to be reckoned with in a metagame that should be policing it better.”

    I can’t see why it SHOULD be policed better. The deck DOES NOT fold to Blood Moon as people tend to belive. It is an amazing card against the deck, but you can and in fact will beat Blood Moon aftergetting used to how Titan plays after sideboard.

    The deck has real strenght, it is not a “should-be-crumbling-under-one-spell” format-warping deck that will go away just by “policing” anymore than RG Tron would go away because of Sowing Salt or Affinity because of Stony Silence.

    Why is Titan something that should be policed better but not Affinity?

    1. Simply put, Amulet Bloom violates the turn four rule, so if it can’t be policed that’s a problem. Affinity and Tron do not, so they aren’t problems under the turn four rule. They also don’t occupy unhealthy metagame shares, so they aren’t issues for diversity reasons either.

      My “should be polic[ed] better” comment is supposed to suggest the format doesn’t have the tools to regulate this deck. Not even Moon can do it! I’ve made it no secret that I think something should be banned from it and I have the data to back that up in next week’s article. I normally hate making things about bans but we have a year of data on the deck and a ban announcement is two weeks out. It’s misleading to not talk about bans at this point.

      Bloom’s continued Tier 1 presence coupled with its early-turn win-rate is an issue that I fully expect to see resolved on the 18th.

      1. As a Bloom Player I was killed multiple, and I mean MULTIPLE, times on turn 3 by Infect, Affinity, Burn and Zoo. These kills only occured because their hand were good and because I FAILED TO INTERACT IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY. The same way Titan kills before turn 4 when their hand is good and the opponent just sits there staring at the table with nothing relevant in their hands. I do realize it is less often than Amulet’s though.

        I think the problem is the way people build decks in modern (always about speed, never about resilience) and the simply lack of cards that can interact with Bloom. Where are the Dispatches maindeck in affinity in place of those pesky Galvanic Blasts? Where are the Boomerangs (for christ sakes, Amulet have a hard time dealing with Boomerangs!) on maindecks in the place of some (not all) of the Vapor Snags? The Tunnel Ignus on sideboards?

        Every other deck is respected in their strenght: Deciver Exarch influences the way people pack removal in the MAIN DECK in modern since the dawn of the format. Every new deck asks itself “how can I beat burn/affinity” when it is being developed and devote maindeck an DIVERSE sideboard options against them. Goyfs, Rhinos and Tasigur made people play Roasts in maindecks, but when it comes to 6/6 Titan they don’t change anything.

        People respect the top decks so they dont lose to them, but with Amulet Bloom they think it should be “Ill only pack Blood Moon and it should be enough. Blood Moon is the police card of Modern after all”. If it doesnt work Ill only cry the deck is too powerful” instead of adapting to it.

        It has been a WHOLE YEAR (as you said it), and people still rely on -only- Blood Moon to save them against Amulet Bloom, when if it was ANY OTHER deck they would be trying something new already.

        Another way to look at the issue would be like in legacy, when 7/8 decks in top 8s had counterbalance, they didn’t ban it. They just printed Abrupt Decay and nowadays you only see counterbalance in miracles (and it is not even the best card in the deck).

        I’m not saying that should be the exit, just that it is one of the possible ones. Of course, even as a Titan Player I wouldnt be exactly sad to see Hive Mind going away, but history teaches us that if they decide to axe the deck, they wont go for Hive Mind (wich is the “de facto” violator of the T4 rule), they will just sever it’s head by baning Summer Bloom or Amulet. And in that case, I don’t think the format will be better by one less deck; when it could still have that deck, but only under a regime of better cards to deal with it.

        And about the “They also don’t occupy unhealthy metagame shares, so they aren’t issues for diversity reasons either “: they have greaters slices of the metagame than Amulet Bloom. Even on day 2, as you stated twice this week when talking about Tron. So I dont get what you are saying.

        TL:DR; I just wish people start to realize that there is a bunch of stuff they can do to Amulet that they still didnt do, only to sit there behind they wall of misinterpreted numbers inflated by the completly stillness and lack of imagination of people who play against it in the time to beat the deck. When you don’t respect the deck, you lose to it. Simple as that. That would be true to any other T1 deck.

        1. Not going to get too heavily into this before the ban article, but I will focus on the most important pieces in your post.

          Most Bloom defenders mix up ban criteria which gets them into trouble. Modern decks suffer from bans when they a) violate the turn four rule (Storm, maybe Bloom), b) reduce deck diversity (Delver, Pod, Ajundi), or c) cause logistical issues (Eggs). When we talk about “unhealthy metagame shares”, we are typically talking about (b). These decks often do not violate the turn four rule but do reduce diversity by occupying 15%+ of the format. By contrast, decks that fall prey to (a) only need to be “top-tier”, not the most-played deck in the format. Bloom is top-tier enough to fall to the turn four rule, but lacks the metagame share to reduce diversity. It’s not banned under (b). It’s banned under (a).

          We need to remember that Storm was defined as “top-tier” because it had 11% of the MTGO metagame, 5% of the paper metagame, and a single T8. Amulet Bloom currently has 4% of the MTGO metagame but was as high as 8% in the past. It has hovered in the 5% range for months and has SIGNIFICANTLY more T8/T16 performances than Storm. Those T8 performances more than make up for the diminished MTGO share, and I’m confident Wizards will see it the same way and define it as top-tier in the next update. And they will be totally justified in doing so.

          1. “we are typically talking about (b). These decks often do not violate the turn four rule but do reduce diversity by occupying 15%+”

            So when does Twin get cut down? Has continuesly the highest shares of the metagame and is easily the most stable deck in the format. Also finds it’s place in Top8 ths of close to every tournament so far…

          2. In reference to the Anonymous poster below, Twin has not sustained that share for a consistent period of time. It also hasn’t sustained that share at all since the summer. I also argue that Twin INCREASES diversity rather than decreasing it, just by policing out a variety of linear decks that would otherwise run rampant.

        2. The problem with the cards you mention (Boomerang, Ignus, and… Dispatch?! A 0 for 1?!) is that they are too narrow.

          Spellskite gets played over Kor Firewalker because Firewalker is killer vs. Burn but not very good otherwise. Skite is solid against a lot of decks.

          Stony Silence sees play vs. Affinty, yes, but is also great against Tron and might come in against the new Relic/Scrabbling Claws/Expedition Map Eldrazi builds.

          You are advocating for a format-warping deck by saying that what would be fair is for other players to devote sideboard space against your one build while weakening their game vs. the field. So either we do as you recommend and get lots of losses against other decks or we don’t and have terrible game against one unfair combo build.

          Just saying.

          1. deaddrift – I think you make a valid point, though slightly backwards.

            The main issue here is that amulet IS NOT a big enough share for people to dedicate enough hate for it. I don’t see how amulet is any more unfair than something like affinity – yet you are happy to board 3 stony silence specifically for that match-up, but only 1-2 Moon/Fulminator affects for amulet (as a rough example).

            Your point is right – you would have to warp your sideboards to deal with 1 specific deck – and you don’t want to. But that isn’t because “the deck is too unfair”, it’s because you don’t know if you’ll face it each week. You already warp your sideboard to deal with other decks, regardless of “fairness”. Amulets issue is that its extremely fast but you won’t see it at every event. Affinity is extremely fast but you are likely to see it.

            Anyway – regardless of all of that. The deck is what it is, which is “difficult to interact with” and fast. The numbers back it up and its likely to get a ban. I do think it’s unfortunate, because I like the deck and find the “non turn 2” games quite interesting. But, it probably is due a ban. Its disheartening because people worked on the deck about 2-3 years ago (back before Matthias Hunt did well with it), and as soon as it gets competitive, its banned. It sort of suggests that no-one should work on pet decks that are quick (stuff like mindcrank / guildmage would be banned if it got good, so why make it good)!

            Anyway, rant over! Sheirdan – really looking forward to your amulet/ban based article. It can’t come soon enough! I need putting in my place about amulet if nothing else!

          2. I don’t think you understood me. Stony sees play because Affinity is all over but also because it has game against another very powerful staple (it is great vs. RG Tron). That’s not warping the board, it’s what the board is for.

          3. As an RG tron you pack rending volleys to deal ONLY with Twin (don’t lie saying is for something else, even though you can bring it in in one other match), and that’s fine for everyone. As a Merfolk player, you pack 3-4 Hurkyll Recall only for the sake of affinity (again, you can bring it in for one other match, lantern). As an Abzan player, you bring Stony Silence for Affinity, but you get incidental damage on one or two matches tops.

            But hey, you can’t side in more hate against amulet bloom if the match is bad, that is warping the sideboard! Even though, for example, Tunnel Ignus would be primarly to Amulet Bloom and you could bring it in for Scapeshift(s) (one extra match).

            It is the exact same thing in both cases.But if it is any other deck, it is what the sideboard is for, and if it is with amulet bloom, it is “warping the sideboard”.

            Double standards everywhere.

      2. Just a writing note – “Tron is going nowhere” is a poor way to represent your opinion on the subject IMO.

        It sounds like its a dead end choice, one that doesn’t have a future. A more appropriate choice might be “Tron isn’t going anywhere”, “Tron is here to stay” or similar.

        I’ve enjoyed your articles thus far, this one included, but small things like that bother me a lot and take away from the article as a whole.

        I appreciate constructive criticism and try to learn and grow from each page I write, I hope you feel the same!

        1. Thanks for the feedback! Something to keep in mind for future articles. Sometimes things sound great when we read them and less great when released to the masses.

    2. The sideboard cards against Affinity are fairly obvious and it’s bad Twin matchup keeps it from attaining truly dominating levels, though it is still fairly ridiculous. The problem with Amulet is that the best card for containing it early is Ghost Quarter and that card didn’t have a home as a 4-of until the recent rise of Eldrazi. Modern could be doing more to regulate and contain Bloom, but most deck’s manabases can’t support Quarter so it’s being let go unchecked.

      Interestingly, if the format were less fair overall Bloom may not be a problem because Death and Taxes runs Quarter as a 4-of and Thalia/Leonin Arbiter are very good at slowing the deck down. The problem is that mono-white DnT doesn’t beat fair decks and GW Hatebears, which does, has always been worse against combo than mono-white (not sure why btw, but my experience has shown this to be true). In a world were Grishoalbrand, Bloom, Bubble Hulk and Storm had bigger metagame shares then DnT would rise to keep them down but as long as BGx, Affinity, Tron and Grixis retain big metagame shares it’s just not happening.

  3. Pumped to see Eldrazi in Tier 2!

    With all of the new OGW cards, I honestly think Mono B Eldrazi will make the strongest case. We’re going to have plenty of incentive to use cards that require colorless once it drops, and when that happens the manabase of the BW version looks pretty awful as it’s effectively a 3 color manabase. The benefits you get from both souls and path can BOTH be had in mono Black (sweepers, more discard, plenty of spot removal ) but you get a much better and more consistent manabase that can run toolbox lands (Bojuka, Haven of the spirit dragon, Miren, Cavern of Souls, and the new Sea Gate Wreckage) AND it’s all painless. Huge.

    The sky is the limit for this deck – especially if the rumored Emrakul in SOI turns out to be real.

    1. I absolutely agree with you that as it stands, Mono-B has the best chance to use all the cool new toys we’re getting in Oath. A lot of people are waking up to the fact that is a color in this deck, making BW a three-color deck without the ability to fetch for . It’s the version of the deck I’m playing now, and I have no plans to switch after Oath drops.

      That said, I also think it’s possible that there is no “best” Eldrazi deck, only best lists in certain color combinations. BW could choose to only pickup Eldrazi Displacer and still be a fantastic deck. RB versions are getting a lot of new tools in the form of aggressive creatures and spells (Kozilek’s Return chief among them) and aside from B might get the most out of Reality Smasher. I could see that deck getting lower to the ground and more aggressive to go under its cousins. Even the much maligned UB (which is still very fun to play) is getting new tools from this set.

      Ultimately, instead of a “best” color pair, it’s possible that separate optimized versions of each color pair evolve, with the non-Mono-B decks taking the least from the new set. While different, each will be viable but gain small percentages in different metas. Perhaps most exciting, the decks could form their own rock-paper-scissors meta where each splash beats up on one of its cousins, but not the others.

      Or maybe, this is all wishful thinking 🙂

    2. We’ll have to see! BW Eldrazi has the best results right now in real events, so I’m leaning towards that version based on those results and my own testing. Souls and Path are just so disgusting combined with the other stuff that deck is doing.

      1. Sea. Gate. Wreckage. I’m telling you, it’s the future.

        But for real, souls and path are great. I agree with Joja, I think it’s just going to be an archetype like twin that has many different viable and powerful options.

        I HATE the mono black lists that were played at SCG. 4 Urborg 4 Eye 4 Map seems prettttty awful. People are thinking of this deck as a ramp deck, but it’s real power is that it’s much much more than just another Tron. Jund em’ out, drop Ulamog. No other deck can do that.

        1. Skullcrack etc. only do that effectively if the Thopter player stacks a bunch of triggers on top of each other, otherwise it’s very possible to play around Crack and other anti-lifegain cards. I know that there are more and better answers now than there used to be, but if Thopter adapts it will be very oppressive.

    1. It would knock Burn down a bit, but the format is very different. Burn has better tools to beat the deck and the format generally has better regulators to keep it in check. Overall, I think the small loss for Burn players would be well worth the uptick on the blue side of things.

    1. I agree it’s harder but I don’t think it’s too much worse. Bolt is way better against Burn than Path, and Jund’s manabase is less painful off Cliffs. That said, Rhino is definitely a powerhouse here, and Confidant is kind of awful. Then again, the sideboard options are about equal (Timely isn’t even that amazing against Burn). Overall, it’s probably a factor but I don’t think it’s a huge one. That said, there might be a perception that Abzan is significantly better than Jund against Burn, and that perception alone could drive a shift even if the matchup wasn’t too dissimilar.

  4. I must say that I have followed this website for a while and I truly enjoy this websites efforts to bring modern to the forefront and promote it as the great format it has potential to be.

    However I must say that I find it appalling all the incidental ban hammer speak that goes on regarding decks, especially Amulet Bloom. I have never played it nor do I own the deck but I have played against it plenty of times and I have to say I don’t see where all this hate talk comes from. The real problem is that if someone loses to a deck, whether on turn 2 or whatever they want to cry fowl and every single match vs amulet goes turn 2 hive mind lose. I played against the deck at least 50 times and I think once maybe twice did that ever happen.
    But the biggest problem I have is that you guys make references quite often and while they may be subtle they do not go unnoticed, at least to readers who actually read. There should be, in no way, shape or form, any talk regarding neutering a deck. Banning summer bloom will completely destroy the deck. Explore is no where even close to the same card. Yes summer bloom enables turn 2 titans and hive minds but look at how the deck has to be constructed to do so. It is an extremely fragile combo.
    Also why doesn’t the deck run more hive minds if that turn 2 kill is as consistent as people claim?? Because it is so inconsistent that is why. If it was as good as people said every deck would jam 4 but this is not the case.
    In reality though since it does break the turn 4 clause when it does happen why does on this site talk about the banning…um Hive mind? Or just ban slayers stronghold so that the turn they play titan they cant attack and find more titans?? No, nobody talks about that because its easier to play to the mass and just jump on board than to speak reason.
    Why on earth do people that play magic and know financially what it means to invest in a deck want to completely neuter a deck? How would it make you feel if you spent $500+ in a deck to find out they completely make the deck unplayable by banning cards that are so integral to the way the deck functions instead of taking out the other slayers stronghold or hive mind, thus taking away the speed and some of the “unfair” tactics but still leaving the integral part of the deck intact and very playable.

    I think the magic community and the writers in general, not only here but on other sites need to take a different look on bannings and how the write their articles. The real problem is a lack of counterspell in the format. I believe that force of will would be interesting in the format but (twin might be too good) why don’t we start with adding an all inclusive answer like counterspell and see how it goes first and see if that helps make control an actual and viable deck in modern or at least a viable answer to some of these problematic cards that are discussed?
    I realize that some writers have touched briefly on the topics I have just discussed but it doesn’t take much to realize that there is wayy more talk about banning decks into oblivion than putting pressure on wizards to print better answers for every color.

    What the appeal to modern for me and possibly many more is an eternal format that doesn’t require at least $1,000 in lands (legacy, which is a format I do like fyi) and one that I can put a deck together that I like, dust it off when I have the opportunity to go to a grand prix and other local events that I want to. I don’t want to have to worry about every deck coming under ban scrutiny because some winy pro-writers lost to the deck a few times.

    Also I think something this community should put pressure on wizards to be more clear on their actual requirements for banning a card in a deck and to let the community know that a certain deck will be under “ban” radar. There is absolutely no reason why we, who invest our hard earned dollars into their product don’t get any insight to bans which can make our deck, thus our investment completely unplayable.
    I think the reason they don’t is because they just look at bans as a way to “shake up metagames” and also to further their profit lines by creating hype for a format right before the pro-tours.

    1. “How would it make you feel if you spent $500+ in a deck to find out they completely make the deck unplayable?”

      I would feel crummy and be pissed. But on the other hand I spent $500 on a handful of cardboard. That is pure speculation no matter how you slice it and sometimes speculation goes awry.

      Advocating for opening up Counterspell is telling; now THAT would change the whole format, in a way that banning a single part of a deck that currently occupies a small but potent part of the meta.

    2. I’m going to push back pretty strongly against this.

      We basically NEVER make veiled banlist references (at least, outside of banlist articles where they are explicit references). This is the first metagame article where I’ve brought up an explicit reference to a deck. Indeed, in past articles, notably November’s when Bloom ban talk was at a height, I explicitly pushed back against it in the introduction. No other articles have discussed it. If you can point out other references please do so, but we actively avoid this in our articles.

      As for Bloom itself, people get way too emotionally invested in their decks and struggle to see the arguments against it. If you’ve read my “Understanding the Turn Four Rule” piece, you know there are two criteria for determining if a deck breaks the turn four rule. Bloom has been top-tier for months now, so it’s clearly qualifying there. I also now have data to suggest it consistently wins before turn four, so it’s also qualifying on that count. The combination of those two quantitative datapoints are what drives me to my banning conclusion.

      I don’t care about all the rhetoric around a supposedly bannable deck. I care primarily about the numbers, followed by the alignment of those numbers with more qualitative metrics. Stories, anecdotes, theorycrafting, etc. alone don’t cut it for me and I just don’t care about them.

      As for what card to ban, again, I am just following precedent. Storm saw a ritual banned in 2013. The language from that announcement suggests a similar, ritual-focused ban would be aimed at Bloom. Summer Bloom and Amulet of Vigor are the deck’s “rituals”, so either is fair game (although I expect Wizards to not gut the deck by banning the artifact). Again, this is an example of a clear dialogue with past examples and precedent, not just the rhetorical spewing I see on many other sites discussing bans.

      I’m happy to discuss these concerns with you further, but again, I really think you are off base with your accusation that we have veiled ban references. We explicitly fight against those references or defend against the ban maniacs. Every single banlist prediction article for this year has predicted “No Banned Changes” when most of the community was whining for some ban or another. The non-banlist articles haven’t even spoken to the topic up until this week, where it is totally appropriate to discuss the issue with a ban less than two weeks out.

    3. “Or just ban slayers stronghold so that the turn they play titan they cant attack and find more titans?? ”

      Put another way: “Ban Siege Rhino and keep Pod decks intact”. In the short term, Pod would have taken a hit in power level. In the long term, the next value-creature would “undo” the ban. It’s an unnecessary design restriction. Banning Slayer’s Stronghold would vastly decrease the quantity of T2 titan deaths, but it also means that the next land that gives creatures haste would put us back in the same position.

      “I think the magic community and the writers in general, not only here but on other sites need to take a different look on bannings and how the write their articles. The real problem is a lack of counterspell in the format.”

      These articles seem to go hand in hand. Every author has their own opinion on what should be unbanned, what card needs a reprint in a modern-legal set, whether or not a 15 card sideboard is sufficient, and so on and so forth.

      In regards to counterspell, I think it would make an interesting target for a “Banlist Test” article similar to the stoneforge abzan v. affinity experiment.

      1. Counterspell is only an improvement of mana leak and i think it is not enough to keep in check the big-mana deck: it doesn’t stop bloom from winning on turn 2 on the play, is only good against tron unless they start casting ulamog/emrakul/new kozilek(possibly) and is pretty bad against Bx processor.

  5. Solid update, Sheridan. But the predictions regarding a blue-based control deck are going to require an unbanning/release/reprint of some sort. My bet (and hope) is on Sword of the Meek, namely because Twin can’t benefit from it and because artifacts are easier to keep in check for the current metagame. I think that Ancestral Vision has too much “Twin will use the heck out of this” lingering to truly be considered as an unban target (whether that’s fair or not is up for debate).

    I also think an Innocent Blood reprint is overdue. It doesn’t enable Black aggro (a perpetually downtrodden archetype in this format, but that’s a story for another time) because of its drawback, but it’s a potent T1 piece for midrange and control decks who just need to get that Goblin Guide/Monastery Swiftspear/Wild Nacatl off their back so that they can operate. I don’t think it will replace Bolt or Path in Jund or Abzan (or even Mardu), but it will benefit UBx decks, which right now are sorely lacking good, cheap removal options (Disfigure? Please).

    1. Totally agree with the assessment of blue-based control. Wizards needs to create that “Something” to push control into viability. My prediction and hope is that an unbanning, reprint, or new card will do just that.

      As for Blood, I think the potential gains for non-BGx black decks far outweigh the chances that Abzan will use this effectively. It’s really narrow in any opening where you drop the T2 Goyf/Tasigur, although it’s much sweeter with Souls. I could certainly see it seeing Abzan play, but any gains it provides Abzan should be more than matched by the help it provides to struggling Bx(x) Control decks in lower tiers. ESPER PLEASE??

    1. What are your objections to it? One very possible complaint is that it took a while for aggro to regain a foothold in Modern after years of being a one-story Affinity town, and Blood might reverse that. Any other worries?

      1. That’s the biggest thing (I’ll admit I’m an aggro player at heart). I also think it also adds another efficient tool to decks that don’t really need it (I see it slotting right into Abzan’s sideboard). Plus I think it’d spell the end for Boggles, and even though I don’t play that deck I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

  6. Like I said, you don’t come out and directly state “ban x card” but I have read your articles claiming you expect no bans and that is the right thing to do, but then you might come back a paragraph or article later stating something along the lines of how broken it is or how scary turn two kills are.
    Also in one of your latest articles you made a comment in this reply box where you literally said “something needs to go, whether it be summer bloom or amulet.” Again, you make no mention of the actual problems, hive mind and slayers stronghold or garrison, you say you want or think summer bloom or amulet. That is your opinion based on personal preference or in regard to storm, that is your right to have that. What I am suggesting is why don’t we take another path that doesn’t kill the deck outright first, then wait and see. Then if it is still considered a problem than by all means, there was ample time, we took every logical path to see if this works and it just didn’t. Case closed.
    Now if you have the data that shows turn two kills with hive mind and the pacts are that consistent with blooms current set-up then yes, I would say that is too much. But summer bloom is not the problem, hive mind is since it is the card directly related to the kills.
    Also does your data distinguish between two turn kills where the opponent is actually dead or where someone just scoops from seeing a turn 2 -4 titan? Because if they are in fact scooping before they are dead can’t you blame that on either not being prepared or keeping a sketchy hand? I mean if I die against affinity on turn 3, the community seems to be in agreement that is my fault for either deck building or keeping a bad hand or affinity just does that so be better prepared. What I am getting at is a double standard for the deck.
    Now, in regards to the response about banning siege rhino so pod stays alive, I think pod had around 10 grand prix VICTORIES along with numerous other high finishes before rhino was introduced so that is really a poor comparison.
    There is no doubt that banning slayers stronghold or even the double strike land or both would slow the deck down while still letting it be its own strong deck. To my knowledge there are not any other lands like that and wizards will control if they print lands that give creatures haste, which is another failed argument that we can just keep rambling on about with nothing to gain.
    I did read your understanding the turn 4 rule but you even have to admit that Wizards themselves needs to be way more transparent on what this actually means because again, they are not. Well they kind of are but it is basically just a guessing game with no actual numbers given from wizards. This is ridiculous. Well if the deck wins before turn 4, its a problem and could be banned. Well actually, it needs to be consistently doing it. Well actually, it has to be winning consistently before turn 4 and tier 1 or whatever we decide. Well actually, it needs to be doing all those things while I happen to eat bad turkey sandwich which makes me sad. I mean give the banlist, clear cut and dry criteria would actually make everyone’s job easier instead of having to rely on certain individuals to take their time to give us a speculation, which we thank you for.
    Now, I know you guys do for the most part, a great job. I do like reading your articles and everyone else does go above and beyond any other site in regards to modern. I just said I noticed a little bias in regards to indirectly hating on amulet with little jabs. I haven’t noticed this with anything else, just amulet. This can happen, we are humans with the right to express our thoughts and whether we want to admit it or not we always have bias. We just have to work hard and not letting that show up in journalism as media has such a strong effect on people. Your new years resolution stated that and I applaud you for that stance, something no other site has done.

    Also I will say that the reason why we have so many “goldfish” decks in modern is because there is no viable control strategy to deal with everything. I mean if force of will wasn’t in legacy, how much fun would you have going to a tournament and playing against reanimator all day? The reason legacy players don’t have that problem is because of force of will, so hate it or love it helps to keep ridiculously fast and powered decks in check.
    Modern isn’t at that level so something like force probably isn’t necessary (not to mention the financial headache). What I am trying to say is that with a viable control strategy, that would in my opinion help to keep the goldfish decks like amulet and griselhoard and numerous other ones in check. I would love to see a lot of people getting together and testing this out to see if counterspell would be too good.
    Also, we need a better land destruction than tec edge and ghost quarter. I am one that is for a wasteland that costs 1 to activate. Makes it slower than legacy while still allowing for early enough interaction. Tec edge is hardly played because the 4 land restriction is either too slow ( tron or amulet can already get their game online) or the decks don’t ever hit 4 lands, making it worthless. Ghost quarter still leaves them with a land and you without so its still a disadvantage instead of breaking even.

    1. A few things on this.

      1. I’ve explicitly mentioned that Bloom needs banning in this article and Tuesday’s article. It’s 2016, the banlist announcement is around the corner, and my Amulet Bloom banning piece is coming out next week. It’s time to be up front. But previous articles have not suggested this. Bloom players might read between the lines what they want to hear (e.g. when we report Bloom has the highest MWP and Bloom players believe this suggests it should be banned). But this is the kind of paranoid alarmism that comes in Modern. If I genuinely think something should be banned based on the data, I’ll go out and say it. Otherwise, I’ll report what the data says.

      2. The only reason I have not discussed the specific card that needs to be banned is article space. It’s inappropriate to talk about that offhandedly because it needs explanation, which I’ve given elsewhere in a QuietSpeculation article and on forums. For articles here, it is totally fine to say that I believe something will be banned and to stay tuned for next Tuesday to hear more. Before 2016, however, I never did this because we were still gathering data.

      3. Banning a ritual is not opinion or personal preference. That’s what they did in the case of Song and the case of Rite of Flame. The other example of such a T4 ban was Blazing Shoal, which completely killed that style of Infect. Whatever historical precedent you draw from, Amulet Bloom is going to lose something big.

      4. The data does not include scoops.

      5. Totally agree Wizards should be more transparent and communicative about the T4 rule and banlist policy generally. It leads to lots of speculation, panic, alarmism, and general discontent. That said, Modern is still a super successful format, so maybe it’s not that important overall even if you and I think it is.

      6. Better generic answers would help Modern a lot. When we get them, maybe the format’s banlist can be cleaned up. Until then, the T4 rule needs to be enforced by the DCI, not by regulating cards.

  7. Also I understand there is a risk with investing x amount of dollars into any deck. Bannings are not fun, but to keep things in check or from metagames becoming way too skewed then yes, certain times will require said card to be banned and then a deck is basically unplayable in the competitive scene. I am just advocating taking all other lines of thought first, before nuking a deck.
    I just see way too many times in other games as well where they take a lazy or not very thought out approach to how to balance a game or certain mechanics just to shake things up.

  8. Well, there goes our dream of a stable format kept from degenerating by a number of “format pillars”.
    Modern is unofficially a rotating format, where each rotation takes place before the annual modern Pro Tour. Also, wotc’s stance towards bannings is now harder to rationalize than ever before.

    (This comes from an affinity player, I’ve just lost one of my worst matchups)

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