There was a Modern Grand Prix barely two weeks ago, and already the data is a little outdated. Bridges were crossed, and subsequently crossed off of the list of legal cards. People, to quote a famous wizard, “delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness.”
I’ll do my best to extract the information that should still be relevant after the banning of Bridge from Below, and you may be surprised to learn that some of the assumptions about Bridgevine didn’t prove true at all.
The New/Old Modern Metagame
The top three archetypes should come as no surprise. Bridgevine claimed the number one spot on the spot, so to say. Izzet Phoenix indeed isn’t dead yet, but gained some valuable tools from Modern Horizons itself. Since the previous Modern GP in the antebellum era, White-Blue Control picked up a few things as well.
- 118 Bridgevine (9.5%)
- 99 Izzet Phoenix (8.0%)
- 92 White-Blue Control (7.4%)
The next decks in line included a couple that supposedly targeted Bridgevine, and one or two that actually performed well against Bridgevine. Can you guess which are which?
- 82 Infect (6.6%)
- 78 Humans (6.3%)
- 62 Mono-Red Prowess (5.0%)
- 61 Burn (4.9%)
- 39 Tron (3.1%)
- 38 Devoted Vizier (3.1%)
- 38 Jund (3.1%)
- 37 Colorless Eldrazi (3.0%)
Infect and Devoted Vizier had hovered around 1% before Hogaak joined the format. Both strategies could outrace even the Altar of Dementia kill, and Bridgevine barely interacted with their game plan. So it made sense for them to enjoy a larger following at this event than ever before. I also heard mention of Eldrazi as a great meta deck, although it remains unclear to me where it fit into the Bridgevine world.
One of the coolest, albeit sadly short-lived, pieces of technology was the resurgence of the original Eldrazi Titans in Tron. Karn, the Great Creator on the battlefield is great against Altar of Dementia and all, but Kozilek, Butcher of Truth in the library is even better.
One interesting development that exists largely unconnected to the whole Bridgevine issue is the rise of Mono-Red Prowess, thanks to Lava Dart and Finale of Promise. Wrenn and Six and Seasoned Pyromancer also let Jund pull ahead of other black-green midrange decks.
- 30 Rock (2.4%)
- 22 Spirits (1.8%)
- 20 Red-Green Valakut (1.6%)
- 18 Hardened Scales (1.5%)
- 18 Elves (1.5%)
- 17 Red Prison (1.4%)
- 16 Mardu Pyromancer (1.3%)
- 15 Affinity (1.2%)
- 14 Twin (1.1%)
- 14 Storm (1.1%)
All Mardu Pyromancer decks now incorporated eight Pyromancers, the young one as well as the grown-up, and almost all included a couple Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. The archetype became a little more popular again with these additions.
- 13 Thopter Foundry (1.0%)
- 13 Eldrazi and Taxes (1.0%)
- 13 Grixis Shadow (1.0%)
- 12 Esper Shadow (1.0%)
- 12 Amulet Titan (1.0%)
- 11 Merfolk (0.9%)
- 11 Dredge (0.9%)
- 9 Bogles (0.7%)
- 9 Esper Mentor (0.7%)
- 9 Jeskai Control (0.7%)
The above section features: the high-speed version of Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek made possible by Urza, Lord High Artificer, the white version of Death’s Shadow with Ranger-Captain of Eos and Teferi, as well as the surprisingly aggressive Monastery Mentor monstrosity with Unearth.
Add in some Giver of Runes here and there, some Slivers, plus Karn in all kinds of places, and you get a Modern format modernized almost beyond recognition when compared to the last big events two months ago. Although the Arisen Necropolis cast a large shadow over everything, the developments clearly didn’t stop at Hogaak.
- 8 Esper Control (0.6%)
- 7 Blue Tron (0.6%)
- 7 White-Black Tokens (0.6%)
- 7 Ad Nauseam (0.6%)
- 7 Blue-Red Delver (0.6%)
- 7 Slivers (0.6%)
- 6 X Rack (0.5%)
- 5 Whir of Invention Prison (0.4%)
- 5 Martyr of Sands (0.4%)
- 5 Ponza (0.4%)
- 5 Black Devotion (0.4%)
- 5 Death and Taxes (0.4%)
- 5 Mill (0.4%)
Neoform Combo remained a minor footnote. The same was true for dedicated Snow decks, Goblins, Ninjas, Tribal Zombies, and decks built around the interaction of Dreadhorde Arcanist or Collected Conjuring with Ancestral Vision, Crashing Footfalls, and their ilk.
The Win Rates
Three of the five Whir Prison pilots in attendance converted their start into a Day 2 finish. A conversion rate of 60% is as impressive as it is unrealistic, though. You’ll only ever find such high numbers among decks with a very low player number. Among the decks with a reasonably large base, Bridgevine led the charge into the second day with an impressive but realistic conversion rate of 33%. At any rate, conversion rates rarely tell the full story, not even the full story of an archetype’s Day 1 performance. I prefer to calculate the actual win percentage in completed matches across the whole tournament, excluding byes and draws.
- Whir Prison won 61.8% of 55 matches (56.5% of 46 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Colorless Eldrazi won 59.1% of 318 matches (60.3% of 272)
- Bridgevine won 56.3% of 975 matches
In this metric, Bridgevine did well, but didn’t excel. At 57.6%, its win rate in the first eight rounds explain why it nearly doubled its metagame share from Saturday to Sunday. This leaves but one possible explanation: Bridgevine players simply had more byes than others. Indeed, less than half of them played Round 1 and less than 70% played Round 2.
This doesn’t mean it was a mistake to ban Bridge from Below. The fact that the more accomplished players in the room ran more Bridgevine than the average might count for something itself. The deck also warped the metagame to an uncomfortable degree. But Bridgevine did not do an outrageous amount of winning at GP Dallas, and it proved beatable.
Whir Prison, for instance, went 8-1 versus Bridgevine. Colorless Eldrazi decks at least could hold their own against Hogaak, although their 24-22 performance in the matchup did drag down their overall win rate.
- Scales won 55.6% of 169 matches (57.1% of 140 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Thopter Foundry won 55.3% of 114 matches (53.9% of 102)
- Devoted Vizier won 54.8% of 301 matches (54.5% of 266)
- Jund won 54.7% of 307 matches (54.0% of 263)
Hardened Scales decks went 14-15 against Bridgevine, Thopter Foundry went 8-4, and Devoted Vizier went 20-15. The latter was supposed to be particularly good versus Bridgevine, so 20-15 is somewhat disappointing. At 26-18, even Jund fared better in the matchup.
- Red Prison won 54.5% of 123 matches (55.1% of 107 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Merfolk won 53.8% of 78 matches (54.2% of 72 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Affinity won 53.5% of 114 matches (54.3% of 105 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Humans won 52.9% of 580 matches (51.4% of 512 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Mono-Red Prowess won 52.9% of 518 matches (53.8% of 465)
- White-Blue Control won 51.9% of 619 matches (54.3% of 562)
- Burn won 51.6% of 473 matches (52.7% of 421)
- Eldrazi and Taxes won 51.6% of 95 matches (54.7% of 86)
- Mardu Pyromancer won 50.4% of 113 matches (52.9% of 102)
- Twin won 50.0% of 84 matches (52.6% of 76)
- Blue Tron won 50.0% of 46 matches (51.2% of 43)
Overall, the vast majority of decks lost more of their Bridgevine encounters than they won (the percentages within parentheses are higher than those without) and some to a shocking degree. Mono-Red Prowess’s 24-29 and Burn’s 22-30 record in the matchup were harmless in comparison. One of the most significantly bad performances against Hogaak came from White-Blue Control, winning a scant 16 of 57 matches, or 28.1%. The related Esper and Jeskai Control decks added a combined 0-4 on top.
The strategy that did best versus Bridgevine, for some reason, turned out to be Humans. Humans’ 44-24 record in the matchup bears a higher statistical significance even than Whir’s 8-1.
- Martyr won 50.0% of 32 matches (48.1% of 27 non-Bridgevine matches)
- White-Black Tokens won 49.0% of 49 matches (48.8% of 43)
- Rock won 47.7% of 216 matches (47.2% of 195)
- Infect won 47.3% of 548 matches (47.8% of 506)
- Esper Shadow won 46.8% of 79 matches (47.1% of 68)
- In another unexpected development, Infect had a negative record versus Bridgevine: 17-25.
- Spirits won 45.9% of 135 matches (45.5% of 123 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Izzet Phoenix won 45.6% of 673 matches (45.9% of 588)
- Amulet Titan won 45.3% of 75 matches (47.8% of 67)
- Tron won 45.1% of 257 matches (47.1% of 223)
- Bogles won 44.1% of 59 matches (47.3% of 55)
- Esper Mentor won 43.5% of 46 matches (43.9% of 41)
Here’s a news item that may deserve continued attention after the banning: popular archetypes Izzet Phoenix and Tron underperformed even with no direct link to the Bridgevine prevalence.
It’s possible to construct an indirect connection for Tron at least. Tron players may have run afoul of the unusual high amount of Infect and Devoted Vizier in the field. Izzet Phoenix doesn’t have such an explanation as recourse, and records of 307-366 and 270-318 (without Bridgevine) are both bad and both quite significant at that.
- Dredge won 43.2% of 74 matches (51.6% of 62 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Jeskai Control won 43.1% of 51 matches (44.0% of 50 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Red-Green Valakut won 42.4% of 132 matches (46.2% of 119)
- Ad Nauseam won 42.3% of 52 matches (44.9% of 49)
- Blue-Red Delver won 42.1% of 38 matches (51.6% of 31)
Red-Green Valakut, Dredge, and Blue-Red Delver were the decks with the biggest performance difference between a world with Bridgevine and one without. The latter two even sported a winning record when we discount their respective 0-12 and 0-7 run in the matchup. Valakut decks at least won one of their 13 encounters against Bridgevine.
- Elves won 41.3% of 104 matches (42.9% of 91 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Storm won 41.2% of 85 matches (40.7% of 81 non-Bridgevine matches)
- Esper Control won 40.0% of 40 matches (43.2% of 37)
- Ponza won 40.0% of 45 matches (43.9% of 41)
- X Rack won 37.5% of 40 matches (40.5% of 37)
- Black Devotion won 36.4% of 33 matches (37.5% of 32)
- Grixis Shadow won 35.9% of 78 matches (35.2% of 71)
- Slivers won 35.6% of 45 matches (36.4% of 44)
- Death & Taxes won 33.3% of 21 matches (33.3% of 21)
- Mill won 31.3% of 32 matches (30.0% of 30)
Bridgevine’s overall win rate at Grand Prix Dallas was not as alarming as expected. Some of the alarming early news regarding Day 2 advancement just couldn’t account for the fact that Bridgevine players had more tournament byes than any other group. Admittedly, Bridgevine also had the highest number of in-game byes in that the deck never lost a match to either Dredge, Blue-Red Delver, Ponza, Bogles, X Rack, Ad Nauseam, Esper Control, Slivers, Jeskai Control, or Death and Taxes. (We know of course that a deck with extreme matchups is better than one with even matchups.)
Bridgevine also influenced card and deck selection all around. For example, Infect and Devoted Vizier were popular like never before, a move possibly intended as a countermeasure. This is funny, because the Vizier decks only went 20-15 in the matchup, while Infect lost 17-25 to Bridgevine. Instead, the strategies that beat Hogaak most reliably were Humans (44-24) and Whir Prison (8-1), followed at some distance by Jund (26-18).
Some insight may be applicable to a post-Bridge future as well. For example, the second-most popular deck, Izzet Phoenix, put up significantly bad results even against non-Bridgevine decks. The third most popular, White-Blue Control, lost horribly to Bridgevine, but exhibited a significantly high win rate across its other matches.
The performance of Eldrazi Tron largely eclipsed that of classic green Tron, while Mono-Red Prowess players broke the 5% threshold for the first time and did reasonably well too. Overall, many new decks popped up and had a promising showing, for instance the new Thopter Foundry decks powered by Urza, Lord High Artificer.
The Whir Prison pilots performed so well that their combined record almost reached the customary benchmark for statistical significance. This is quite the feat, considering that there were only five of them. Unfortunately, a significant part of this was based on their strong Bridgevine matchup.
There’s a lot to process and a lot still left to test. All in all, the future of Modern looks bright. Here’s a final look at the most recent past: