Following a Grand Prix triple-header at Melbourne, Bologna, and Detroit, the Modern metagame has exceeded Lovecraftian levels of warpage. The Top 100 of these three events were 43%, 39%, and 47% Eldrazi respectively. GP Melbourne had three Eldrazi in the Top 8. GP Bologna had five, and all the Top 32's of were as bad as the Top 100's. Both Melbourne and Bologna ended with U/W Eldrazi mirrors.
Added to the 33% Eldrazi share leading up to Grand Prix weekend, these numbers are, quite literally, the most broken I've ever seen Modern since it started in 2011.
Wizards will act on April 4, and I expect a decisive ban in the tradition of 2005 Affinity, 2011 Caw Blade, and 2015 URx Delver. We'll talk more about the ban rationale as we get closer to April 4, but for now, it's enough to start marking down the calendar until both cards get obliterated.
That means it's also time to stop worrying about beating the Eldrazi or co-existing with them. Instead, I'm thinking ahead to the post-April Modern metagame.
As deplorable as metagame diversity has been these past weeks, we've seen a few important technological and strategic innovations that are likely to persist beyond bans.
While everyone else is unloading Eldrazi staples (I've been warning about this for weeks), there are a number of cards you'll want to pick up while the rest are frantically selling off their Eyes. The technology and strategies in this article have distinguished themselves in an Eldrazi world and, more importantly, look to meet the benchmarks to succeed after the Eldrazi perish.
I'm going to be assuming a double Eye and Temple ban, even if this might not occur. There's no better way to minimize your investment risk than to assume the maximum possible banning scope. At least in the first two sections, your risks would be even lower if the Eldrazi survived in some form, so it's a good baseline assumption for now.
Hold Those Eldrazi
I've already talked about Eldrazi cards likely to maintain value after a ban, and the Grand Prix weekend helped highlight some of those staples. Whether in watching slow Eldrazi starts or seeing these Eldrazi in action across tight matchups, we witnessed plenty of Grand Prix evidence that a few Eldrazi will be remain Modern-relevant even if both Eye and Temple head off to banlist exile.
Even after a major ban, Thought-Knot Seer would remain strong in Modern. During the GP Detroit stream we saw even turn three or turn four Seers put in major work in the grindier matchups, also representing a formidable 4/4 body to clock an opponent or stall the board. Numerous decks will be able to power out the turn 3-4 Seer, including Death and Taxes, Abzan Chord (not Company, due to mana-cost conflicts), and the Tron decks.
In all those cases, Seer gives decks which traditionally don't have access to discard effects an interactive out against the turn four combos of Modern. The 4/4 body tangles favorably with Burn and Zoo's beatsticks, which further pushes the Seer towards playability even after a ban.
We didn't see a lot of Matter Reshaper at Star City Games' Louisville Open, with many Eldrazi players investing heavily in mirror-match bullets like Worship and Eldrazi Displacer. Although GP Detroit and the other events still saw the supremacy of U/W Eldrazi, it also saw many R/G players (and other Eldrazi builds) migrate back to the value-laden Reshaper. This bodes well for Reshaper's chances after a possible ban.
I absolutely love Matter Reshaper in the two-colored, creature-heavy decks like Death and Taxes and Hatebears. Reshaper also has great synergy with Company, even if the current Abzan, Bant, and Naya versions might shy away from the <> mana requirements. For decks that can rock the painlands (more on those later), Reshaper becomes a powerful turn 2-3 play whether against aggressive Burn and Zoo starts, or in the grindy Abzan, Jund, and Ux(x) Control matchups.
Reshaper and Seer are the big winners after a possible double ban, but all the other Eldrazi will get affected as well. Here's a quick list of their prospects and your financial directive for each creature. Again, I'm assuming the most destructive double-ban possible. A more limited ban would decrease your risk in every category.
I initially thought this might be more playable, but I'm very nervous about betting on five-mana creatures without the acceleration of Temple or Eye. This card becomes better in metagames clogged with Lingering Souls and spot removal, but much worse if blue decks roar back with Remand and Snapcaster Mage.
The Grand Prix events showed Smasher was at its best as a turn 3-4 aggro drop and at its worst later when the board was locked down, and I fear a post-banning Modern will have more of the latter than the former. Safer to sell now and rebuy later than lose the value altogether.
I guess Ancient Stirrings hits it, but without the ahead-of-the-curve growth induced by Temple and Eye, Endless One feels a lot less endless. Tarmogoyf and Gurmag Angler (remember them?) will quickly outclass this card, not to mention the return of linear decks that race under a turn four 4/4.
On the one hand, Displacer shenanigans get much better in grindier metagames. On the other hand, Displacer was at its best during the Grand Prix Three when it didn't face removal or pressure. A post-banning Modern is sure to see ample pressure (a return to linear decks in an uncertain format) and substantial removal (Lightning Bolt will be back in force). The safe bet is to sell out now and buy back later if the card looks decent.
Drowner of Hope
Abstractly, Drowner seems like a solid way to bust up stalled boards, or a decent inclusion in the blue-based Tron lists which can accelerate it out early.
Unfortunately, both the Grand Prix tournaments and the events leading up to this weekend showed us exactly where Drowner excels and why Drowner was so relevant. For one, Drowner got a ton of synergy with endless Eldrazi Scions courtesy of Eldrazi Skyspawner and Displacer activations. Two, Drowner was best at breaking open stalemates, especially between Eldrazi decks.
The removal of Eye and Temple eliminates both of those scenarios. Tron decks can't even cast this guy until turn four, which is not where you want to be against Modern's fast decks.
We saw huge Mimic crunches in the early turns of GP Detroit matches. We also saw Mimic sit around looking stupid past around turns 4-5. Without Temple and Eye to power those starts, Mimic is sure to fall in the latter category, not the former, once April comes around.
Let me know in the comments if you have questions about other Eldrazi staples! Most of the non-Eldrazi fixtures (Dismember, Chalice of the Void, Gut Shot, etc.) should stay at least as playable as they were before Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, with cards like World Breaker becoming significantly worse.
Keep Those Painlands
If you believe in Seer and Reshaper's chances in post-banning Modern, then you'll also believe in the painlands to enable them. We saw the painlands in action all weekend long, not to mention in the weeks leading up to those Grand Prix scenes.
These were by far the most important enabler of the varied Eldrazi strategies. Tired of U/W, R/G, R/W, Bant, and U/R Eldrazi variants? Blame the painlands, which enabled the <> costs while also contributing to the color requirements.
Painlands are likely to remain relevant, even if not quite as dominant, after the April bans.
I'm highlighting these four painlands because they represent the best two-colored Modern combinations that can also support Thought-Knot Seer and/or Matter Reshaper. If you think you've pioneered W/R Midrange or R/G Ponza, then be my guest to add Battlefield Forge and Karplusan Forest to the list.
W/B Death and Taxes, not to mention W/B Hatebears, have a history of Modern success. These decks will love to add Matter Reshaper to their main 60, both as another Aether Vial option and as a board-wipe recovery. The overwhelming majority of this deck gets flipped off Reshaper, which makes it a better Kitchen Finks in all but the most aggressive matchups.
If you prefer the G/W route, you get Noble Hierarch and/or Birds of Paradise added to your list. This opens up turn two Reshaper, and also makes Thought-Knot Seer a viable member of your team. Our Grand Prix weekend confirmed that a turn three Seer was almost as brutal as a turn two Seer, and I'm excited to see Hatebears try this out after the bans. Perhaps Abzan Liege joins in too!
Believe in Blue-Based Control
Remember Snapcaster Mage? Cryptic Command? I guess I don't really remember them either, but there's a good chance we'll see these decks return after the April bans. Despite what the Grand Prix fields suggested, U/W Eldrazi won't have a Hallowed Fountain and Path to Exile monopoly much longer!
Leading up to the Eldrazi takeover of Pro Tour Oath, blue-based decks were starting to find their Modern niche. This wasn't quite the blue-based renaissance Wizards expected in the wake of the controversial Splinter Twin ban, but Jeskai, U/W, Esper, and Grixis flavors were all carving out a chunk of Modern territory to at least equal the old URx Twin share (but not to exceed it).
Eldrazi mucked that up, but with Temple and Eye gone, we are likely to return to that balance in April.
At a mere $60, Snapcaster isn't going to get much lower, and actually stands to increase significantly if blue makes a post-Eldrazi breakout. We've heard whispers of a Shadows over Innistrad-specific Expeditions run, which could feature Snapcaster along with Liliana of the Veil and others, but if those rumors don't pan out Snapcaster is unlikely to drop any time soon.
We didn't see a lot of Snapcaster-powered control over the Grand Prix weekend, and what little appeared was overshadowed by the Eldrazi. That said, we saw a collective 13% of the collective Top 100 Grand Prix metagame on some form of blue-based control split between Jeskai, U/W Control, and Scapeshift (both Temur and Bring to Light). If these decks can appear over the Eldrazi weekend, I'm confident they'll be back to their pre-Eldrazi rates soon.
Other big blue-based control pickups include Supreme Verdict, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Restoration Angel, and the venerable Cryptic Command. I'm especially bullish on Restoration Angel which is powerful in both Kiki Chord and virtually all of the UWx variants.
Between the pre-trends before Pro Tour Oath and the continued presence, even if in diminished form, of blue control during the Eldrazi winter, I'm optimistic we'll see more of these decks in April.
Also, there's a possibility we see an unban to push the metagame back to balance and "apologize" for the outrageous Eldrazi imbalance of the preceding months:
Wizards might also decline to unban Vision because they didn't have enough time to see what a Twinless metagame looked like before the Eldrazi took over. That said, they might also decide to unban it anyway as a consolation for the February through April metagame, and to jump-start the new environment after significant bad press and buyout.
Remember to Go Linear
Pop quiz! What is the optimal strategy in an unknown Modern metagame after a major shakeup?
You get a hearty pat on the back for answering "play Jund," but top marks only go to those being as unfair and linear as possible.
We've seen this in Pro Tour Fate Reforged, which was nothing but Abzan and fast decks trying to go under Abzan. We saw this in Pro Tour Oath, which was saturated with linear decks trying to capitalize on Twin's removal (of course, one deck shined brighter than the rest...). We've also seen it in various intermediate metagames throughout 2014 and 2015, when players weren't sure about the best interactive deck and went linear instead.
Barring an Ancestral Vision unban (and even then, it still might happen), we are likely to see players return to strategies such as Affinity, Infect, Burn, Suicide Zoo, Grishoalbrand, Elves, and insert-unfair-deck-here. This is a natural function of Modern having poor generic answers outside of Bolt and Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek, which means it's often better to roll the dice on a glass cannon than try and go 55-45 versus a diverse field.
If the Grand Prix weekend and the preceding metagame are any indication, Affinity is clearly the place to be and the deck to buy around.
I warned you about Inkmoth for a while now, and although it looks like this train has left the speculation station, I bet Inkmoth's ceiling is even higher than where it's sitting today. Infect and Affinity will continue to be powerhouses after the Eldrazi---Affinity should be at least as powerful as now, and Infect will get even better. Inkmoth will be going on up alongside this deck, and with Wizards discontinuing Event Decks, only Commander products stand in front of more Inkmoth spikes.
If you run these decks, you are likely to experience some measure of success in the banning aftermath. If you invest around these decks, you are likely to make some healthy short-term profits, although be warned that there are few major Modern events until the June Grand Prix tournaments (high-profile events tend to drive spikes).
28 Days to Go!
I'll be posting a "ban them; ban them all" article on the Monday before the April announcement, with some more post-banning speculation as we get closer to that date. It can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned. Modern has never been so broken, either from a quantitative perspective in the metagame numbers, or a qualitative perspective in the community feedback. We'll all be happy to emerge from this nightmare in less than a month.
We'll keep looking ahead to the post-April world to see how Modern will shape out, so let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the format's direction, certain card prospects, or specific strategies you're interested in after April. See you all in the discussion section!