After several months without playing Magic Online, I logged onto my account last Thursday to see what was going on there. To my surprise, I found I had 39 Qualifier Points (QP), and to my delight, the Vintage Cube is back. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to earn the missing point while enjoying one of my favorite formats and qualify for the next big tournament with a QP entry available.
Events unfolded quickly. There was a Modern Qualifier on Sunday. After earning the missing QP, I unpaused my rental account, set the limit to $250, and borrowed my pet deck: Burn. I went straight for the Leagues, as I wanted to scout the digital meta before the big contest.
After several years playing Burn, I feel like I have mastered it. Sure, you can always learn something new, but I pretty much know the deck inside and out. My only contact with Modern these last months though was playing FNMs in paper, and my local meta has far fewer new cards (and hence, fewer new decks) than Magic Online, so picking up Modern was like starting all over again.
Here's a quick rundown of some of the things that struck me about the state of the format.
1) It Is Not Uncommon To Face an 80-Card Deck
I faced a Yorion, Sky Nomad deck in three of the eight rounds of the tournament including two different Crashing Footfalls configurations and one pure UW Control deck. When Ikoria was released, I thought: "what a joke!" whenever I faced an 80-card deck. I do not feel that way anymore. Clearly, more players are finding this appealing. Personally I prefer not to dilute my deck like that, but the strategy seems to hold some promise.
2) Elementals Everywhere… Except for You, Subtlety
The power level of cards like Urza's Saga, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Murktide Regent, and Dragon's Rage Channeler is well renowned, so I knew about these cards beforehand. However, what I did not expect is that nearly every deck I faced featured at least one Elemental from the Modern Horizons 2 mythic cycle, either in the main deck in the sideboard.
The combination of Grief and Ephemerate is formidable. Fury and Solitude have proven to be great removal, and Endurance is a fantastic sideboard play against certain decks. Blinking a 3/4 with reach on turn one can be pretty solid, as my poor Goblin Guide and I quickly found out. The only Elemental that does not see play is Subtlety. I played several Leagues, two Modern Challenges, and the Qualifier and have not seen the card once. Clearly, it's the loser of the lot, at least in Modern!
3) Hammer Time Is the King of Modern
I think this is the strongest deck in the format right now. The addition of Urza's Saga added a lot of consistency, and the deck feels much less like a glass cannon now. Also, Esper Sentinel is a really strong Magic card. There was a game where I punted: I had to burn to the face to potentially win the next turn. Instead, I opted to kill his Puresteel Paladin in response to a Springleaf Drum that would have turned on Metalcraft. My opponent then proceeded to play a second Paladin and attach one Colossus Hammer to him and another to an Ornithopter. I lost that match, which pretty hurt badly considering I was 3-1 at the time.
4) BG Aristocrats Is a Thing!
This deck features Young Wolf, Strangleroot Geist, Chord of Calling, and Eldritch Evolution all tied together by the great Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. I faced this in the last round of my tournament. We were both 5-2, so finishing 6-2 would mean having a fair shot at making top 16. After I won the first game, my opponent ground me out with their legendary creature and multiple Geralf's Messengers in game two. Game three was much the same story, but with the addition of Blood Artist, a card that makes Burn players very miserable.
5) Sunset Revelry Is a Ridiculously Strong Magic Card
This new card, courtesy of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, hits aggressive players where it hurts. It's like Timely Reinforcements on steroids. It even draws an extra card if, say, you as the aggro player are holding your spells to avoid countermagic. In multiples, it is truly lights out. In the second game of a match against 4-Color Omnath, my opponent played Sunset Revelry turns two and three. He even created two humans both times, as my opening hand involved Monastery Swiftspear, Goblin Guide, and Eidolon of the Great Revel. I lost that game, of course.
6) Burn Can Still Win Games, Thank God
After the addition of MH2, I was afraid that Burn could no longer compete in the Wild West that is Magic: Online. Fortunately, this is not the case. I managed to post a 5-3 record and felt like I could have won at least two of my three losses had I played better Magic. I took the Boros Ferrari for a spin in a League yesterday and posted a nice 5-0, showing that the deck still has legs.
7) Modern Is in a Sweet Spot!
I like the current state of the format. It is fun, several strategies are viable, and my pet deck can still compete. Some of the new cards are clearly pushed, but Modern feels healthy nevertheless. The same thing can't be said for Legacy, where UR Tempo decks dominate the format. There's no such dominance happening in Modern, by any deck. While I must say that Urza's Saga sometimes feels like too much to handle, I do not see any reason for bannings. It is not extremely oppressive. One great story: I got to fuse a Wear / Tear to destroy a tapped Saga and a Shadowspear and it felt so nice!
Overall, I am enjoying my return to Modern! How do you feel about the format? Are you enjoying it as it is now, or do you feel like some bans are needed? Let me know in the comments. I am really excited to follow how the format evolves, and I shall continue burning 'em out!