The metagame transition from SCG Milwaukee to SCG Indianapolis has been insane. After a dominant performance by Abzan Company in Milwaukee, the deck failed to make the second day of competition in any capacity in Indianapolis. Additionally, after Joe Lossett proved that Tron was alive and well in Milwaukee, Tron went on to be the most represented deck in day two of Indy!
No doubt the anti-Company technology didn't fare well against the dreaded Tron. And while all that was happening, Nahiri Control had a dominant breakout weekend in the hands of Pete Ingram. It was a pretty good weekend for yours truly as well, but let's discuss this one thing at a time.
Why Tron Is Succeeding
The Eye of Ugin ban didn't have a non-zero impact on Tron, though it's important to remember that some great cards have been printed for the Tron deck recently.
Eye into Emrakul was lights out against control decks, though just putting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on the stack can be game over in those matchups anyway. World Breaker's cast trigger is a huge problem as well. The consistency over the course of a long game has been damaged, though the power level has been increased significantly.
Linear decks and Abzan Company were the level one metagame after the Eye of Ugin ban, and with these decks seeing success many players picked up Jund to check the creature decks. The more midrange the format gets, the easier the road is for Tron.
Every article about Modern Jund makes Tron just a little bit better of a deck choice. Tron won't go anywhere, and I think 1.5 copies in a given Top 8 is a good line given the deck's metagame position. Once the Tron player gets in the Jund bracket they are home free.
Currently I think that Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is poised to start increasing in value. The card saw $40 heights when 4x Ugin decks were successful in Standard, and now the card has leveled off at about $20. It's a casual/Commander all-star, and I like buying Ugins at $20.
Why Abzan Company Is Failing
Abzan Company is on the slow side, though it's a great deck for sculpting gameplans and beating linear decks. Collected Company has a reasonable amount of variance, though Chord of Calling is what you need every time. If your opponent is just great at killing creatures though, it's very difficult to sculpt a gaemplan with Abzan Company, as Chord of Calling is ineffective without creatures to convoke.
As long as Jund and blue-based control decks are popular, I don't think we'll see a Top 8 very similar to Milwaukee's. I'd say that Indy is more the norm and that Milwaukee was the fluke.
The Power of Nahiri
Shaun McLaren is a hard dude to get a read on. When I saw that he was streaming with Nahiri and Emrakul in Modern I didn't know if this was actual testing or something akin to his Séance stream. As I watched him win a bunch of games, it became clear that Nahiri was a totally reasonable card to put in your Modern deck.
Pete Ingram's run in Indy was nothing short of dominant, though it's important to remember that there were other players on the deck in the event who fared poorly. I do think that the deck is great, but I don't think it has what it takes to dominate Modern.
Nahiri offers a great way to close games for Jeskai, but the power level and timing simply aren't as powerful as Splinter Twin once was. Jeskai decks are going to be very difficult to grind out playing an honest game of Magic, though the deck can still get Tronned out and struggle in other ways.
With a huge Nahiri and Celestial Colonnade spike, I think it's a horrendous time to buy into Jeskai, though the deck is great and something that should be a strong consideration for competitive players. I just don't believe it's open-and-shut the best deck. Luckily we'll be getting plenty of data this weekend to find out how great these decks really are and what players are doing to combat them.
There are a lot of ways to Valakut right now. There's Gruul or Temur Scapeshift, there's Nahiri Titan lists, and then there's Matthias Hunt's Gruul Titan Breach deck. Matthias has put a lot of thought into this deck, and while he didn't make day two in Indy, Daniel Hendrickson made Top 4 with his list.
I've talked to Matthias at length about this list, and I like a lot of what is going on there. He tried Nahiri, and while it is a strong card you really just end up being a bad Nahiri deck relative to Jeskai and a slow Valakut deck relative to the other options. Matthias's list doesn't have the play that something like Temur Scapeshift does, though it does have extremely high win percentages and inevitability in its good matchups.
Max McVety (Invitational champion), Andrew Elenbogen (Grand Prix Top 8 competitor), and Matthis (Rookie of the Year) all came up significantly short in Indy with the deck, though Daniel Hendrickson, a young man who I once watched try to special order gumbo, put up a very impressive finish. The deck is great in the right field, and the most important thing is to dodge the Infect matchup, which Andrew lost to twice in a row to fall out of Top 8 contention on Day 2.
Through the Breach is an interesting target, as it is quite difficult to reprint as an arcane spell and also sees fringe Legacy play. But the slam dunk from these decks is the namesake card. We just left Zendikar, so I don't expect to see a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle reprint any time soon. There are a lot of copies around in the $6 range, though as we see more 4x Valakut decks show up I could see these disappearing before too long.
Dat Delver Deck, Doe
Fifth place in a 650+ person tournament is not a bad finish, especially when you're the only person playing your deck. I've been playing close to the same Delver deck for a long time, and if you read my articles there wasn't much that could be deemed surprising in my list. The only change from my most recent tournament report was removing the second Kolaghan's Command for a maindeck Pillar of Flame.
Grixis Delver's metagame position is basically next-level Jund. The deck is flush with interactive spells to beat up on linear decks, and then utilizes Snapcaster Mage to go over the top of Jund decks. Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration is pretty bad in Modern, though it enables you to race when you can't meaningfully interact forever against decks like Tron.
It's not difficult to see how the deck beats linear decks, and if you need any evidence on how the deck dispatches Jund then I suggest this match for your viewing pleasure.
Grixis Delver and Nahiri Jeskai occupy similar metagame spaces. Given the current configurations, when you compare my list to Ingram's I'd say that he's favored heads up, while my deck is better in matches where you want to close quickly such as Tron.
I believe that there's a configuration of my list that can be build to make this matchup favorable with a few minor tweaks. The current issue is that Nahiri and Celestial Colonnade require very different answers. It's for this reason that I believe Dreadbore is a poor tool against Jeskai, as it's extremely narrow and not a guarantee even for its one job.
The overlap of Grixis and Jeskai, and the single card that makes the decks as powerful as they are, is Snapcaster Mage. There were only two Snapcaster Mage decks in the Indianapolis Top 8, and I expect this number to be below average as players figure out how to build them. Ol' Snappy was once an $80 card, and if it has the kind of weekend I expect then $50 is going to seem cheap before long.
I think that Modern is in a pretty great place right now. They sky was falling previously with Abzan Company and it's falling now with Nahiri, but I don't think either deck presents something that the format can't adapt to. There are a lot of forces acting to keep the metagame diverse, and plenty of pressure on the sideboards for the more controlling decks to keep them from dominating.
Without a Modern Pro Tour, it will be interesting to see how the market behaves, though things like a double GP weekend are certainly going to drive market movements. Keeping an ear close to the ground this weekend will be wise.
Thanks for reading.
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter