The SCG Modern Classic in Atlanta last Sunday signaled the end of Modern as we know it. Hour of Devastation is officially upon us, and with it, our reckoning has arrived. Armed with powerful new spells, creatures, and everything in between, the world’s best brought their collective knowledge to bear, shaking the foundations of our beloved format to its core under their combined might (do foundations have a core? I’m an architect, I should know). Behold, your new Modern influencers: Rhonas the Indomitable, Claim to Fame, and Irrigated Farmland! Hm. Well, that was disappointing...
So, by all early indications, it doesn’t look like Hour of Devastation is a knock out of the park, but as we discussed last week, that’s kind of okay. Modern is great right now, and far from solved, so a set release that doesn’t add much to the card pool is much more welcome than, say, if the format were busted beyond belief. Remember a few weeks ago when everyone said Death's Shadow needed to be banned? Remember a few weeks before that when Counters Company took an event by storm? And what about before that, when Dredge and Storm were putting up strong, consistent results? See what I mean? I could go on and on, but the truth of the matter is that Modern is great, and life is good—let’s appreciate it while we have it.
Let’s dive in to the Modern Classic results from Atlanta. Even though there weren’t many Hour of Devastation inclusions, there were still a ton of new archetypes and innovations hidden in the lists. How is that possible? Well, let’s look and see…
I’m not even going to try and hide my excitement. This deck looks so sweet. Might of Alara? Are you #^($&@ kidding me? Daniel’s list is so cool, I don’t even know where to start. Creatures seems like a good bet, but really this deck is just Burn, but a Burn deck that can actually beat Leyline of Sanctity and grind out the midrange decks.
Kolaghan's Command, Traverse the Ulvenwald, and company are gone, instead replaced by Tribal Flames, Boros Charm, and Might of Alara. We’ve finally reached the point where there are just so many good cards to play in Modern that the lines between Death’s Shadow Aggro, Zoo, and Burn are forever blurred. This week, dodging Leylines (and potentially Oketra's Last Mercy) seemed to be Daniel’s goal, and it worked out well for him. I appreciate going all-in and trusting your gut about the format, as there isn’t a basic land in sight. By sleeving up this 75, Daniel made a statement about where he expected the field to be, and I hear it loud and clear. This is what those in the business call betting the farm, and Daniel cashed in.
Next week, who knows if players will adopt his list, but that doesn’t really matter. Whether Daniel’s version of Death’s Shadow Jund, or Zoo, or creature Burn, or whatever you want to call it, is the right version for next week is hard to say. But I’m interested in seeing how the classic Death's Shadow decks will respond to this newcomer entering the clubhouse. Stubborn Denial was the de facto "best card" a couple weeks ago, but it doesn’t do much against 19 creatures attacking into you, especially when this list also has access to a ton of pump and burn to go with it.
It is interesting to note Daniel’s lack of discard, which of course doesn’t work when he’s trying to drop one-drops onto the field as fast as possible. Spell-based combo and the like could be happy to see this change, but it’s not like they are much happier to see a Wild Nacatl on the table instead. Will this push the format into more goldfishy combo, or will we see Jund and other removal-heavy decks come back even stronger as a result? I’m keeping my eyes on this one.
Not to be outdone, Troy Smith decided to pack Grixis Delver like it was 2015. It feels like I missed some Twitter hashtag or something, where all of the players decided to bring off-brews of all the established archetypes. This is classic Grixis Delver, all the way down to the Young Pyromancer, Remand, and Dispel in the sideboard. I’ll be honest, I love Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration just as much as the next guy, but I can’t think of a reason why Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration and Remand are better than Death's Shadow and Stubborn Denial, unless getting off the graveyard was 100% the way to go this weekend. It feels to me like the graveyard wasn’t supposed to be a big target heading into this weekend, but based off what I’m seeing, I’m starting to expect that was what was in players' minds as they chose their lines.
Still, Grixis Delver is a solid choice, and capable of strong results in the hands of a skilled pilot. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Mana Leak I had to reread it (nah, not really), but with midrange poking around again, the card finally seems solid. Not against Goblin Guide and Memnite, of course, but we knew that from the semis. I can get behind six one-mana removal spells again (plus Murderous Cut) but Fatal Push is the one we need to be maximizing. I understand the Bolt/Snap/Bolt potential, but Daniel’s list is just begging to blow you out every time you think about casting Lightning Bolt against his creature.
Still in the Top 4, Sol Malka makes an appearance with a masterpiece, in every sense of the word. Tireless Tracker, Eternal Witness just for the value, this is the kind of deck that dreams are made of. The singleton-Traverse the Ulvenwald, 13-different-cards-in-the-sideboard special. Every single card in this deck dares you to cut it before playing at least 10 games with the list. Don’t even try it.
There are just so many plays. One copy of Bloodghast in the board, because—why? It’s a 2/1 that keeps coming back to apply pressure against control, sure, and it combos with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet when we have the mana and all the time in the world. Do we dare be so cute? Liliana of the Veil is just a three-of, but not Abrupt Decay; we’re packing the full four. That makes sense, as small creatures were apparently the way to go, but then we get to the two copies of Fatal Push and I’m just amazed. Again, I know just by looking at it that this deck is a finely tuned machine of metadeck domination, and I can’t wait to pick it up and start grinding games with it.
We’ll continue with the theme and go right to the 5th-place list to finish things out today. Sorry Affinity, but nobody cares. This is Magical Christmasland, and we only allow interesting decks here. Spell Queller and a ton of Burn spells is a lost three evenings waiting to happen, and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t the first deck I loaded onto my MTGO account after going through the results. The options, of course, are endless. Opponent does something on three? Spell Queller 'em. They don’t play along? Electrolyze for two and cycle away. Next turn, let’s Cryptic Command. If not, lets Snapcaster Mage into Lightning Helix.
This deck is exactly what I want to be doing when you don’t expect many Tarmogoyf or Death's Shadow—or if the Tarmogoyf/Death's Shadow decks stop packing discard spells. Against the midrange decks, we’re a draw-go Burn list that can counter whatever they decide to eventually throw our direction, while we’re doing damage all along the way.
So, Hour of Devastation isn’t making a large impact, but the results from this weekend are evidence enough that Modern’s card pool is insanely deep already, and practically anything can put up strong results on any given weekend. I, for one, am fine with the way things are looking early into this new Modern, but that’s just because it looks almost exactly like old Modern with some brand new clothes.
What do you think? What are you playing heading into August 2017? Please tell me somebody is playing Kiki Jiki, Mirror-Breaker, or Geist of Saint Traft, or Bitterblossom. Anything is possible, apparently.
Thanks for reading,