Ah, Triple Modern GP Weekend. Nothing compares. Chocolate and peanut butter falls short, metalcore music comes close, dominating unsuspecting children in a friendly game of chess in the local park almost beats it, but still: nothing beats Modern GP Weekend. Today, we’ve got a ton of information to go through, a mountain of decklists to analyze, and a few essential pieces of tech hidden in the mound. Let’s break it down.
By The Numbers
Before going into each individual Grand Prix, it makes sense to first evaluate this weekend’s results as a whole. In doing so, we can gain some surface-level insight about the metagame as a whole before delving deeper into each specific event. While a lot of important information can get lost when looking at the “big picture,” value still exists in first taking a broad-level approach regarding results analysis. We can still miss things, like a niche archetype winning a big event, but as long we look at data side by side we can gain a better understanding of the results without the risk of some fatal misconceptions.
So, how was the weekend as a whole? Aggregating the three events together, here is the representation of every archetype that managed a Top 16 or better result for the three events:
|Zooicide (Death's Shadow Zoo)||6|
|Blood Moon Jund||1|
So, what does this table tell us? Looking purely at representation numbers without weighting by results only does so much for us, but as we said before, it’s a start. Here, we can use it to get a snapshot of the metagame at the top tables, and determine if any archetype is over- or under-performing according to their representation. Starting at the top, we can see relatively unsurprising numbers out of Infect, Bant Eldrazi, Zooicide, Affinity, Naya Burn and Jund, which are all major players in the format. In the middle of the pack we have RG Breach, Ad Nauseam, and GW Hatebears threatening to break into top-tier levels of representation, and then fringe strategies and “rogue” decks rounding out the bottom.
Immediately, the first major takeaway for me is the poor performance of Dredge. One of the most common top performing decks on MTGO in the past few weeks, Dredge’s showing here at GP Weekend is surprising, considering how consistent its performance has been both online and in paper events recently. This suggests, (emphasis on suggests) that Dredge either met an actively hostile field in all three events, or some other archetype’s natural rise has proven unfavorable for the deck’s overall position in the metagame.
Second, Bant Eldrazi’s performance suggests my analysis of last weekend’s events was correct, and we are witnessing an archetype on the rise. Elves only managed to put one copy into the combined results, while Bant Eldrazi takes the bronze medal for “most represented” on the weekend. We can safely say that either the right list has been found, or the format has shifted to a point where Eldrazi is here to stay until the format adjusts to fight it. If it wasn’t on your personal radar, it should be now.
Grand Prix Guangzhou
I chose to start with Grand Prix Guangzhou as, for me, its results are the most interesting. Seven different archetypes in the Top 8, with Naya Burn taking two slots, is immediately attention grabbing---not to mention the winning list.
Grixis Delver is one of those archetypes that I never seem to do well with when I pick it up, but still puts up amazing results here and there. You rarely see a large portion of the field playing Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration, yet when it pops up in a Top 8 it often tends to take home the trophy. The fact that Delver even beat Naya Burn in the finals to take the trophy (one of its worst matchups) is even more impressive to me. While other people continue to show up in large numbers with Infect, Zooicide, and fast combo, Grixis Delver will continue to do well. Its combination of fast, cheap threats and plentiful, cheap interaction work together to quickly apply pressure and disrupt the opponent until they are dead. While the collective “unfairness” of the format keeps down decks like Abzan, Jund, and Naya Burn, you can expect (with a bit of luck and a lot of play skill) to do well with this deck.
Looking at the list specifically, four delve creatures and more Kolaghan's Command is exactly what I like to see. For me, Grixis Delver always played second chair to Grixis Control as they cut what were, in my mind, the best reasons to be in the color in an attempt to support Delver of Secrets. In this list, Albertus Law chose to trim a lot of the reactive counterspells in exchange for more creatures and more individually powerful spells. When you can go Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration, Young Pyromancer, Gurmag Angler, Kolaghan's Command, you don’t really care if your opponent killed off a few of your creatures along the way. Eventually their removal will run out, and if not, spending time casting removal spells plays right into our Snapcaster Mage/Kolaghan's Command long-game.
As a final note, pay attention to the two copies of Blood Moon in the board. With Eldrazi Temple picking up in popularity, along with Blood Moon’s continued strength in the format, the time has come again to expect a possible Blood Moon out of any archetype that has access to red mana.
Knightfall placing 4th in a Grand Prix is a big deal. This archetype has been poking around the edge of the format for about a year now (check out my Video Series on the deck!) but has only managed a couple strong performances, and never a Top 4. The fact that we’re seeing it now suggests either a major format change or some new technology that improved the deck.
Four Spell Queller definitely counts as new technology! I’ve been having a ton of success with Spell Queller in Modern and I know from experience that it definitely fits in here. For those who have yet to play with/against the card, it can be awkward at times versus opponents with lots of removal, but the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. For a creature-based combo archetype like this, a lightning rod for removal that can interact with/disrupt the opponent while also just applying pressure if need be is exactly what the deck wants access to. Alongside Selfless Spirit and Collected Company, Bant Knightfall has successfully incorporated enough tools and tricks to make the opponent’s plays consistently awkward. This list is definitely one I plan on picking up and testing out soon.
Grand Prix Lille
4th Green-White Hatebears
8th Bant Eldrazi
8th RG Breach
8th White-Blue Control
11th Blood Moon Jund
12th Ad Nauseam
13th Green-Black Elves
14th Bant Eldrazi
15th Death's Shadow Zoo
Not to be defeated by Guangzhou’s Top 8 diversity, GP Lille featured a full eight different archetypes in the Top 8, with Infect taking home the trophy! Zooicide taking second is surprising to me, as they are generally faster and more disruptive than Infect, and only have to worry about their precarious life total in some obscure scenarios. Still, Infect can deploy to the board faster with mana creatures, and Spell Pierce can slow down Zooicide enough on their pivotal turn to swing the race the other way. While I would rather be on the Thoughtseize side of things, Infect remains a consistent choice.
GW Hatebears in the semifinals is the only other major point of interest for me here, this time with Blade Splicer! Blade Splicer, Flickerwisp, Restoration Angel, Collected Company, and Eternal Witness give the deck a lot of power and help to make up for the lackluster performance of Leonin Arbiter. Cutting away a lot of the flair, playing only Noble Hierarch as acceleration, and a playset of Scavenging Ooze to both hate on Dredge and provide a cheap, hard-hitting threat against removal-heavy decks all are steps in the right direction for me.
So, the big takeaway from Lille for me is more of a question than anything else: is this the new normal going forward? With archetypes like GW Hatebears taking steps to reduce Dredge’s effectiveness in the metagame, we could possibly be seeing a shift in the market share at the top, with archetypes like GW and Bant Eldrazi taking some of the points once held by Dredge. Whether the metagame will shift towards a “fairer” Hatebears style approach or a “trump” style of Blood Moon-type haymakers is yet to be seen.
Before moving on to Indianapolis, I have to mention the UW Control list Daniel Ballestin used to make his way to the quarterfinals:
Daniel’s list is pretty usual, full of “good stuff” UW cards that when combined together buy enough time to land some haymaker or other and win the game in convincing fashion. The thing I like the most about this list is exactly how unremarkable it is---no spicy bomb or over-the-top synergy to distract from the goal. Kitchen Finks and Restoration Angel block and gain life just as well as they attack, and Gideon Jura can play excellent defense or offense depending on our position when he comes down. Really, the true win condition in a list like this is Ancestral Vision, as an opponent low on resources will often just concede when this thing comes off suspend and we get to draw four cards to their one. Still, taking complete control and attacking with the old one-two of Gideon Jura and Celestial Colonnade for two turns is just good fun. If you’re interested in picking up this archetype, I think now is the time to do so. It’s not often that Supreme Verdict is good against such a large percentage of the field. We know we’re in a bubble when cards like Blessed Alliance and Blood Moon pop up in maindecks.
Grand Prix Indianapolis
1st Naya Burn
2nd RG Breach
4th Green-White Hatebears
4th RG Breach
8th Bant Eldrazi
9th Naya Burn
11th Bant Eldrazi
12th Bant Eldrazi
14th Living End
Burn wins a Grand Prix! For weeks Burn has been almost non-existent in the metagame, thanks in large part to Dredge and Gnaw to the Bone keeping it down. With Dredge on the downswing, and most players dedicating hate slots to fight it, Brandon Burton picked the exact right week to play Burn, while everyone else was focused elsewhere. I think we’ve finally come all the way around to the origin point, where Burn has been off the radar for so long, until the format got soft and allowed it to crush an event, at which point it will start to get hated out again. Worship is a fine plan against them, but keep in mind that more people are playing Worship now compared to a few weeks ago, and you won’t always “get em’” like you could in some games. Burn players know to bring in Destructive Revelry, or can afford to “wait and see” for Game 3 as they are still winning most Game 1s. While the rest of the format continues to spend slots hating on Dredge, Burn will capitalize on a favorable field.
As for RG Breach, I’m still calling it a bad deck that the rest of the format allows to exist. It’s slower than Tron, almost as slow as Scapeshift, and doesn’t even have access to blue. It’s my opinion that Breach is held up singlehandedly by the strength of Lightning Bolt, and the fact that everyone else is messing around with things like Wall of Omens and Blessed Alliance. While the control decks are dropping Nahiri, the Harbinger and durdling for a few turns after that before they win, Breach has all the time in the world to just get to lands naturally, or play threat after threat through control’s limited counterspells. This lets Breach skew their sideboard to fight all the aggro decks and help a bit against unfair combo, but it still just feels really lackluster. Everyone else is doing better, more powerful things faster, and I feel like we might just want to play Tron. Still, if people are starting to play more Blood Moon, Breach isn’t the worst option for those that want to do unfair things with their lands.
So, to recap, Eldrazi put up strong numbers, but didn’t translate well to the Top 8. This suggests to me that the deck is still the “real deal” but players came prepared for it this week. Dredge was successfully hated out of three different tournaments simultaneously, and Burn took advantage, putting up two finals performances and taking home one trophy. Worship is picking up in popularity as a strong trump for all the linear creature decks running around, but the surprise factor is gone now and most lists are starting to adapt to handle it. What happens next is anyone’s guess! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!
The_Architect on MTGO