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The Modern Metagame at Grand Prix Austin

MagicFest Austin was home to the first Grand Prix of the year, and precipitated a new round of bannings comprised by Mox Opal, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Mycosynth Lattice.  This article collects all stats, lists, and Modern insights from the event. While the format is sure to change, hopefully this article can give you a springboard for new ideas.

The Deck Lists

Here are the Top 8 deck lists in final standing order:

  1. Christopher Candreva – Sultai Titan Field
  2. Marcus Luong – Bant Urza
  3. Oliver Tomajko – Temur Urza
  4. Ian Birrell – Jund
  5. Evan Teachworth – Bant Urza
  6. Tad Macaraeg – Kethis Combo
  7. Brendan Cohen – Sultai Urza
  8. Andrew Wolbers – Temur Ponza

Going deeper in the standings, the deck lists of ALL Grand Prix competitors are available here.

The Modern Day 1 Metagame

On Saturday morning, 802 players enrolled in Grand Prix Austin. Here is how their deck choices broke down, based on the deck names that were assigned by the coverage team in Austin.

The Day 1 Metagame breakdown of GP Austin
Click to enlarge.

As a whole, the metagame was pretty diverse, with a huge “other” category. That’s typical for Modern.

The Most-Played Cards

Here is the breakdown of the most played cards among deck lists submitted for Grand Prix Austin.

The most played cards at GP Austin
Click to enlarge.

Oko, Veil of Summer, and Once Upon a Time have previously received bans in Standard and Pioneer. Now, one of them has been removed from Modern. We’ll find out if the other two last.

The Match Win Rates

The following provides the match win rates in non-bye, non-mirror matches across all available Swiss rounds at the Grand Prix for all decks with 17+ pilots. The error bars represent confidence intervals, based on a 95% confidence level under the normal approximation to the binomial distribution.

Match win rates at GP Austin.
Click to enlarge.

The first thing to note is that Grixis Shadow greatly underperformed, as the deck won merely 35.3% of its matches.

The second thing to note is that Urza decks overperformed. Sultai Urza won 56.8% of its matches; Temur Urza won 59.8% of its matches; and Simic Urza won 61.2% of its matches. Sample sizes are not large enough to confidently conclude which build is the best, and there may also have been human errors in labeling the color combinations. But it is almost certainly no coincidence that the three best match win rates among popular decks were all held by Urza decks.

The Defining Deck of the Tournament

Bant Urza

Marcus Luong, 2nd at GP Austin

2 Breeding Pool
2 Flooded Strand
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Mystic Sanctuary
3 Polluted Delta
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Snow-Covered Island
4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
4 Gilded Goose
4 Urza, Lord High Artificer
4 Oko, Thief of Crowns
2 AEther Spellbomb
4 Arcum's Astrolabe
3 Cryptic Command
2 Dismember
2 Engineered Explosives
3 Metallic Rebuke
4 Mishra's Bauble
4 Mox Opal

Sideboard
3 Ashiok, Dream Render
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Mystical Dispute
4 Path to Exile
2 Teferi, Time Raveler
2 Veil of Summer

The core of the Urza deck (i.e., all seven non-land four-ofs) dominated Grand Prix Austin in a variety of color combinations. 

Even though Sultai, Temur, and Simic were most popular, the best performance was held by Bant Urza. The white splash is for Path to Exile and Teferi, sometimes from the sideboard only. Assuming there were no human errors in deck labeling, only four players registered Bant Urza for Grand Prix Austin, but they posted a combined 34-12 (74%+/-13%) record with two players in the Top 8. I don’t know whether these were just some of the best players in the field or whether white is the best splash after all, but Bant Urza to me is the deck of Grand Prix Austin.

The Winning Deck

Sultai Titan Field

Christopher Candreva, 1st at GP Austin

1 Blast Zone
1 Breeding Pool
4 Castle Garenbrig
3 Cavern of Souls
3 Field of the Dead
1 Ghost Quarter
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Prismatic Vista
1 Radiant Fountain
2 Simic Growth Chamber
2 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Snow-Covered Island
1 Tolaria West
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Island
1 Swamp
2 Forest
4 Arboreal Grazer
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
4 Primeval Titan
3 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Oko, Thief of Crowns
4 Once Upon a Time
3 Search for Tomorrow
4 Summoner's Pact
4 Explore

Sideboard
2 Abrupt Decay
3 Ashiok, Dream Render
1 Bojuka Bog
2 Dismember
4 Mystical Dispute
1 Ramunap Excavator
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Tireless Tracker

I remember the time when almost all Primeval Titan decks used either Scapeshift or Amulet of Vigor. Those days are over. Christopher Candreva won the event with the plan of grabbing Field of the Dead and amassing a horde of Zombies. This is a relatively new deck, and only eight players brought it to the Grand Prix, but it worked well: A combined 37-23 (62%+/-12%) record, and Christopher Candreva took the trophy. Congratulations!

One of the benefits of Sultai Titan Field over something like R/G Valakut was that you gain access to Oko as well. In fact, there was only one player in the Top 8 (Ian Birell, playing Jund) who did not use the planeswalker from Throne of Eldraine.

The Spiciest Deck

Kethis Combo

Tad Macaraeg, 6th at GP Austin

1 Breeding Pool
3 Flooded Strand
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
1 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Temple Garden
2 Verdant Catacombs
1 Watery Grave
4 Gilded Goose
1 Hope of Ghirapur
4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
4 Kethis, the Hidden Hand
3 Oko, Thief of Crowns
1 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
2 Teferi, Time Raveler
4 Arcum's Astrolabe
4 Grinding Station
4 Mishra's Bauble
4 Mox Amber
4 Mox Opal
3 Unearth

Sideboard
2 Assassin's Trophy
2 Collective Brutality
3 Fatal Push
2 Metallic Rebuke
2 Mystical Dispute
1 Sai, Master Thopterist
3 Veil of Summer

Kethis combo dominated Standard in the summer, but I hadn’t seen it in Modern before. Well, Tad Macareeg put it on the map with a Top 8 finish this weekend.

A key Modern addition is Grinding Station, which is like a Diligent Excavator except that every Mox mills you for three rather than for two. This way, you can more easily fuel Kethis at first and mill out your opponent in the end.

Going forward, I would be interested to see if the mana base could support Theros Beyond Death’s Underworld Breach, as that card is also a combo along with Grinding Station.

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