A Deep Dive Down Grand Prix Dallas’s Deck Database

The most recent Modern Grand Prix brought about plenty of new developments. The rise and subsequent fall of Bridgevine was but one of many storylines. Last time, we took an extensive look at the abstract data, and now it’s time to get a little more concrete. This article deals with all of the previously unpublished Top 32 lists, and I’ll dive deeper with my next article.

The Top 8 decks, which you can find on the event’s coverage page, included one each of Humans, Eldrazi Tron, Taking Turns, and Thopter Foundry as well as two each of Bridgevine and White-Blue Control. The next 24 players added another 10 archetypes to the mix, some of them very unexpected. For example, the most successful Death’s Shadow deck wasn’t blue, and it wasn’t green either.

The full Top 32 breakdown was as follows.

Dallas infographic

Let’s go through the archetypes one by one, beginning with the most common and advancing to the more unusual.

The Top 32 from Grand Prix Dallas

Five Eldrazi Tron (1 Top 8)

37 players entered the tournament with some form of Colorless Eldrazi deck. 33 of them ran Urza’s lands. Of these 33, five ended up in the Top 32. Samuel Cook went 13-2 to clinch a spot in the Top 8, while Nathaniel Wilson, Zachary Philley, and Matthew Delbert all went 12-3. Gene Richtsmeier had a rough Day 2, but with his undefeated run on Day 1, he had clearly earned the tiebreakers to sneak into 30th place on a record of 11-4.

Their main decks varied by about two lands and about five nonlands, so I’m not going to list all of them here.

Nathaniel Wilson, 13th Place

12-3 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

2 Blast Zone
1 Cavern of Souls
4 Eldrazi Temple
2 Ghost Quarter
1 Scavenger Grounds
4 Urza's Mine
4 Urza's Power Plant
4 Urza's Tower
2 Adarkar Wastes
2 Endbringer
4 Matter Reshaper
4 Reality Smasher
4 Thought-Knot Seer
3 Walking Ballista
4 Karn, the Great Creator
1 Ugin, the Ineffable
2 All Is Dust
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Dismember
4 Expedition Map
1 Relic of Progenitus

Sideboard
1 Mycosynth Lattice
1 Liquimetal Coating
1 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Trinisphere
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Pithing Needle
1 Basilisk Collar
1 Walking Ballista
2 Spatial Contortion
1 Grafdigger's Cage
3 Leyline of the Void

All five decks contained 13 Eldrazi, three copies of Walking Ballista, two copies of Dismember, and one copy of All Is Dust, as well as full playsets of Expedition Map, Chalice of the Void, and Karn, the Great Creator.

The metagame and its increased speed serves as one possible explanation why Eldrazi Tron performed so much better than it did at previous Modern GPs. The rest has to be attributed to Karn, which gave the deck a colorless toolbox and alternative route to victory. In fact, if any card dominated the top ranks, it was the Great Creator. 30 copies finished within the Top 32.

Four Bridgevine (2 Top 8)

In contrast, only 16 copies of Bridge from Below made it to the Top 32. Paul Cuillier and Tom Ross earned entry into the playoffs with matching records of 12-2-1 and largely matching main decks, which differed in only two spells. Ian Thorne, who finished 10th on 12-3, had one spell different from either.

Instead, let’s take a look at the most innovative Bridgevine version in the Top 32:

Yuta Takahashi, 31st Place

11-4 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

4 Blackcleave Cliffs
3 Blood Crypt
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Marsh Flats
2 Overgrown Tomb
4 Polluted Delta
1 Swamp (339)
1 Verdant Catacombs
3 Bloodghast
3 Carrion Feeder
3 Cryptbreaker
4 Gravecrawler
4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
4 Insolent Neonate
4 Stitcher's Supplier
4 Vengevine
4 Altar of Dementia
4 Bridge from Below
4 Faithless Looting

Sideboard
3 Assassin's Trophy
1 Cryptbreaker
3 Fatal Push
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Nature's Claim
1 Thoughtseize

Now, with Bridge gone, we’ll never know whether or not Cryptbreaker was worth it to shave a Bloodghast, a Carrion Feeder, and a Lightning Axe compared to the usual setup. While that’s sad, overall the format is likely better off without Bridge. For one thing, Yuta Takahashi can go back to playing his famous Faeries.

It is notable as well, if unspectacular, that Bridgevine was 9.5% of the field but 12.5% of the Top 32. Most reasonable decks increase their metagame share toward the top ranks, as the chaff gets eliminated. However, Bridgevine had a huge target on its back, and still people weren’t able to hate the deck out of contention. Hogaak almost won the tournament too: the final match of the weekend was one of only 28% of encounters between White-Blue and Bridgevine where the control deck prevailed.

Three White-Blue Control (2 Top 8)

Considering how many one-ofs and two-ofs the deck has, it is crazy how similar the White-Blue Control builds in the Top 32 looked. All three main decks featured the exact same creature selection and came within one card of having the exact same numbers in front of their four different planeswalkers. Except for a minor disagreement over Spell Snare or Spell Pierce, everyone picked the same counters too, including picking up a pair of Force of Negation from Modern Horizons. Even the three copies of Celestial Colonnade have become a universal standard.

So one list is as good as any other. Here’s the previously unpublished one from the Top 32.

Conor Mares, 28th Place

11-3-1 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

1 Blast Zone
3 Celestial Colonnade
4 Field of Ruin
4 Flooded Strand
2 Glacial Fortress
2 Hallowed Fountain
6 Island (335)
3 Plains (331)
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1 Teferi, Time Raveler
2 Cryptic Command
1 Detention Sphere
1 Fact or Fiction
2 Force of Negation
1 Logic Knot
1 Mana Leak
1 Oust
4 Path to Exile
1 Spell Pierce
2 Supreme Verdict
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Timely Reinforcements
4 Opt

Sideboard
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
1 Celestial Purge
2 Dovin's Veto
1 Lyra Dawnbringer
4 Rest in Peace
2 Restoration Angel
1 Stony Silence
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Vendilion Clique

White-Blue Control isn’t going anywhere, either. In non-Bridgevine matches, the deck had a significantly positive record of 305-257. What kept White-Blue Control under control was its horrible matchup against Hogaak and Co.

Three Humans (1 Top 8)

Christopher Hohman’s Top 8 deck and Jonathon Moore’s ninth-place deck each featured a fifth Horizon land, plus Collector Ouphe and Plague Engineer in the sideboard. Other than that, no cards from Modern Horizons or War of the Spark earned a place in their builds. Humans remained unimpressed by the otherwise massive impact the two sets had on the format, but the strategy continued to perform well anyway, just as if nothing had happened at all. Indeed, nothing much had happened for Humans. A few boarding concessions were all it took for Humans to post the most significantly strong results against Bridgevine of any archetype in the field.

The third Humans deck in the Top 32, on the other hand, contained four maindeck cards from Modern Horizons.

Justin Halford, 25th Place

11-3-1 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Horizon Canopy
1 Island (335)
1 Plains (331)
4 Unclaimed Territory
1 Waterlogged Grove
4 Champion of the Parish
1 Deputy of Detention
3 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Mantis Rider
4 Meddling Mage
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Phantasmal Image
2 Ranger-Captain of Eos
4 Reflector Mage
4 Thalia's Lieutenant
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Unsettled Mariner
4 AEther Vial

Sideboard
3 Auriok Champion
2 Damping Sphere
1 Deputy of Detention
1 Dismember
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
1 Knight of Autumn
1 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade
1 Plague Engineer
2 Ravenous Trap

Ranger-Captain of Eos in particular looked super interesting to me. Regular readers will know what I tend to do when something piques my interest. I tried to find out about a possible correlation between the Captain’s presence in a main deck and success…

The sample size is paltry, but the point differential appears promising. The Ranger-Captain definitely deserves further testing. I mean, what else are Humans players going to try out? The majority of the deck seems to be set in stone.

Three Jund

Gavin Bennet, Tad Macaraeg, and Amir Radmard all went 12-3 with Jund. All three used lists that were 74-card carbon copies of one another. Or rather, they all copied the work of Magic Online user “bladede” who won an MCQ with it the week before. Whether the version originated with bladede or they got it from somewhere else, I was unable to determine.

Conveniently, the Jund player that ranked highest in Dallas ran the exact original 75.

Gavin Bennet, 12th Place

12-3 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
3 Bloodstained Mire
1 Forest (347)
1 Mountain (343)
1 Nurturing Peatland
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Raging Ravine
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp (339)
3 Verdant Catacombs
2 Wooded Foothills
2 Bloodbraid Elf
3 Dark Confidant
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Seasoned Pyromancer
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Wrenn and Six
1 Abrupt Decay
2 Assassin's Trophy
2 Fatal Push
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Kolaghan's Command
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Thoughtseize
1 Unearth

Sideboard
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Collector Ouphe
3 Fulminator Mage
4 Leyline of the Void
2 Plague Engineer
1 Weather the Storm

While the Top 32 results peg this list as the gold standard for Jund, a sample size of three does not quite close the case. Broadening the scope should elucidate the matter. I broadened the scope of the investigation to include the nonland part of all 38 Jund main decks.

One cannot deny the data, although one can always argue about the interpretation. That it was the above version specifically that outperformed all the others, is but one interpretation. An alternative explanation would be that, in general, people that stay up-to-date with current events have a higher tendency to do well at tournaments.

If you read this far, you probably believe in the causality between card selection and success, just as I have a professional obligation to do. Either way, the correlation here is pretty strong.

Three Red Prowess

Red Prowess flew a bit under the radar. Note that the deck put a larger percentage of its pilots into the Top 32 than either Humans, White-Blue Control, or Bridgevine (although a smaller share than Jund and a much smaller share than Eldrazi Tron).

Most lists looked nearly identical to the following. One common departure was to run a second copy of Finale of Promise, which is for example what 29th-ranked Alex Bell did. Overall, decks with one Finale and two Finales averaged the exact same number of points, though. I checked.

Shane Anciso, 11th Place

12-3 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

1 Fiery Islet
14 Snow-Covered Mountain
3 Sunbaked Canyon
4 Arclight Phoenix
2 Bedlam Reveler
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Soul-Scar Mage
4 Faithless Looting
1 Finale of Promise
3 Gut Shot
4 Lava Dart
4 Lava Spike
4 Light Up the Stage
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Manamorphose

Sideboard
1 Abrade
3 Dragon's Claw
2 Flame Slash
3 Kozilek's Return
4 Leyline of the Void
2 Shattering Spree

The second highest finisher on Red Prowess, on the other hand, did things a little differently. If you wonder why the archetype no longer goes by “Red Phoenix,” here’s the reason:

Cory Till, 23rd Place

12-3 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

14 Mountain (343)
2 Sunbaked Canyon
4 Bedlam Reveler
2 Blistercoil Weird
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Soul-Scar Mage
4 Crash Through
4 Faithless Looting
3 Gut Shot
3 Lava Dart
4 Lava Spike
4 Light Up the Stage
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Manamorphose

Sideboard
3 Abrade
3 Dragon's Claw
2 Flame Slash
2 Molten Rain
1 Shattering Spree
4 Surgical Extraction

Then again, only 11 of 62 Prowess players passed on the power of the Phoenix, and this minority averaged two match points fewer than the majority. Blistercoil Weird didn’t have any impact on performance, and the same applied to a number of different card choices as well.

A single interesting correlation involved Bedlam Reveler, albeit at no more than a very tenuous sample size.

Two Red Prison

That two of the total 17 Red Prison players made it to the top ranks is a fantastic showing for the archetype. Red Prison has never been this successful in Modern before.

Only 17 lists to work with means no more statistics about the connection between card choices and points. This is just as well, because Red Prison decks have adopted a very uniform look anyway.

Carlo Negrete, 14th Place

12-3 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

3 Gemstone Caverns
12 Mountain (343)
4 Ramunap Ruins
2 Zhalfirin Void
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
1 Magus of the Moon
3 Seasoned Pyromancer
4 Simian Spirit Guide
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
4 Karn, the Great Creator
3 Abrade
1 Anger of the Gods
4 Blood Moon
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Desperate Ritual
3 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Pyretic Ritual
1 Slagstorm

Sideboard
2 Anger of the Gods
3 Eidolon of the Great Revel
1 Ensnaring Bridge
1 Liquimetal Coating
1 Mycosynth Lattice
2 Ravenous Trap
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Tormod's Crypt
2 Torpor Orb
1 Witchbane Orb

The second Prison guard, Mat Johnson in 15th place, replaced Anger of the Gods with a fourth Abrade and ran Legion Warboss instead of Seasoned Pyromancer. The other 35 maindeck spells as well as 17 of the lands were all the same.

The reason for Red Prison’s newfound success and its corresponding uniformity we can once again attribute to the introduction of Karn, the Great Creator. This, along with Eldrazi Tron, is very much a Karn deck now. Both strategies share the planeswalker, a way to get Mycosynth Lattice down on turn four or five, and the full playset of Chalice of the Void.

They share these qualities with one other archetype. Whir Prison didn’t reach the Top 32, possibly in part because just five players picked the deck. But it exhibited the highest win rate in the field.

The Rest of the Top 32

I’m not going to comment on the Top 8’s Taking Turns or Urza’s Foundry lists. Those are old news, and we got more than enough new news.

For example, a lot of people will be happy to see Merfolk back again. Though they shouldn’t get their hopes up too high. The other 10 Merfolk players in attendance all didn’t survive the cut to Day 2.

Kyle Larson’s Merfolk, 16th Place

12-3 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

1 Cavern of Souls
4 Faerie Conclave
9 Island (335)
4 Mutavault
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Waterlogged Grove
4 Benthic Biomancer
4 Harbinger of the Tides
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
4 Merfolk Trickster
2 Mistcaller
4 Silvergill Adept
4 AEther Vial
2 Echoing Truth
4 Force of Negation
4 Spreading Seas

Sideboard
4 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Deprive
2 Dismember
1 Grafdigger's Cage
4 Relic of Progenitus
2 Tidebinder Mage

What sets this version apart from the less fortunate folk was not the full Force of Negation. Running four copies was virtually universal among Merfolk players in Dallas. The above differed in its maximally streamlined fish selection. Most others used Merrow Reejerey and Master of Waves, sometimes even Thassa, God of the Sea.

Next in line was Mardu Shadow. Doubts are in order with regard to the question if this constitutes the beginning of a new trend. Only two Shadow players went the Mardu way, and while one went on to finish 12-3, the other dropped out at 2-3.

Tommy Harding’s Mardu Shadow, 17th Place

12-3 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

2 Arid Mesa
1 Blood Crypt
3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Godless Shrine
4 Marsh Flats
1 Plains (331)
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Silent Clearing
1 Swamp (339)
4 Death's Shadow
3 Dreadhorde Arcanist
1 Giver of Runes
4 Ranger-Captain of Eos
4 Street Wraith
1 Faithless Looting
2 Fatal Push
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Mishra's Bauble
3 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Path to Exile
2 Surgical Extraction
4 Thoughtseize
2 Unearth

Sideboard
1 Yixlid Jailer
1 Wear/Tear
4 Plague Engineer
2 Lingering Souls
3 Leyline of the Void
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Celestial Purge
1 Alpine Moon

To say that Death’s Shadow had a bad weekend in general, present exceptions notwithstanding, doesn’t come close to the realities. The newly popular Esper Shadow at least won 46.8% of its matches, but the still slightly more popular Grixis Shadow barely won 36%.

It also makes sense for Death’s Shadow to be a shadow of its former self, when you look at the competition. Both color combinations’ results against Bridgevine matched their overall performance. Then there were all of the aforementioned Chalice of the Void decks around. Finally, to add insult to injury, there were 291 copies of Aria of Flame in the tournament.

Similar to Shadow, one Rock deck snuck into the Top 32, whereas most failed even to reach Day 2. The list below features minor technology updates, hidden between the lands and in the sideboard. After Arcum’s Astrolabe in the Top 8, this marks the second deck to make use of snow.

Will Van Zee’s Rock, 20th Place

12-3 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

4 Blooming Marsh
3 Field of Ruin
1 Nurturing Peatland
2 Overgrown Tomb
3 Snow-Covered Forest
5 Snow-Covered Swamp
2 Treetop Village
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Dark Confidant
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Tireless Tracker
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Abrupt Decay
3 Assassin's Trophy
4 Fatal Push
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Thoughtseize

Sideboard
1 Collector Ouphe
2 Dead of Winter
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Hexdrinker
2 Kitchen Finks
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Plague Engineer

Devoted Vizier, in contrast, got one major update in Giver of Runes. I tried to find out whether or not the Giver gave players a meaningful advantage, but I could no longer find a control group.

Robert Westbrook’s Vizier, 22nd Place

12-3 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

1 Breeding Pool
3 Forest (347)
4 Horizon Canopy
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains (331)
2 Razorverge Thicket
2 Temple Garden
2 Verdant Catacombs
4 Windswept Heath
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Deputy of Detention
4 Devoted Druid
1 Duskwatch Recruiter/Krallenhorde Howler
2 Eternal Witness
4 Giver of Runes
2 Noble Hierarch
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 Tireless Tracker
4 Vizier of Remedies
1 Walking Ballista
4 Eladamri's Call
4 Finale of Devastation
4 Incubation/Incongruity
2 Postmortem Lunge

Sideboard
3 Burrenton Forge-Tender
1 Collector Ouphe
1 Gaddock Teeg
3 Path to Exile
1 Plague Engineer
3 Ravenous Trap
2 Thoughtseize
1 Thrun, the Last Troll

Infect’s big pick up from Modern Horizons was Scale Up. The average deck contained 3.5 copies. Neither the absence nor presence of that card, or of any other, showed any relevant connection to strong or weak performances. The top finisher was the only one to run four Teferi, Time Raveler, though.

Timothy Thomason’s Infect, 26th Place

11-3-1 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

2 Breeding Pool
1 Dryad Arbor
2 Forest (347)
1 Horizon Canopy
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Pendelhaven
2 Temple Garden
1 Waterlogged Grove
4 Windswept Heath
4 Blighted Agent
4 Glistener Elf
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Teferi, Time Raveler
4 Blossoming Defense
2 Distortion Strike
1 Groundswell
4 Might of Old Krosa
4 Scale Up
3 Spell Pierce
4 Vines of Vastwood

Sideboard
2 Carrion Call
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Distortion Strike
3 Force of Vigor
4 Rest in Peace
1 Twisted Image
1 Weather the Storm
2 Wild Defiance

In any case, the more relevant Infect statistic may be that the deck made up 6.6% of the Day 1 field, 4.2% of the Day 2 field, and 3.1% of both the Top 32 and Top 64. What correlated with a weak performance was choosing Infect in the first place.

The same was true, albeit to a smaller degree, for Burn. Once again, the top finisher’s list had a unique selling point. It was the only one to include more than four Horizon lands.

Lucien Longlais’s Burn, 27th Place

11-3-1 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

1 Arid Mesa
2 Fiery Islet
4 Inspiring Vantage
3 Mountain (343)
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Sunbaked Canyon
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Boros Charm
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Lightning Helix
4 Rift Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
4 Skewer the Critics
2 Skullcrack

Sideboard
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Path to Exile
3 Searing Blood
2 Skullcrack
3 Smash to Smithereens

Last but not least, we come to the final entry in the Top 32. The following looks more like a Legacy deck than a Modern deck. In fact, it looks like multiple Legacy decks rolled into one: Tarmogoyf and Forces, Jace and Narset, but also Karn and Chalice. I don’t even know where to begin. Conveniently, this is not the beginning of the article but the end.

Kevin Ambler’s Temur, 32nd Place

11-4 at GP Dallas-Fort Worth

2 Breeding Pool
1 Forest (347)
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Hinterland Harbor
3 Island (335)
3 Lonely Sandbar
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Mountain (343)
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Spirebluff Canal
2 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Wooded Foothills
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Tireless Tracker
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Karn, the Great Creator
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
2 Wrenn and Six
1 Abrade
2 Anger of the Gods
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Cryptic Command
2 Force of Negation
4 Growth Spiral
1 Magmatic Sinkhole
1 Pyroclasm
2 Remand

Sideboard
1 Abrade
1 Anger of the Gods
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Huntmaster of the Fells/Ravager of the Fells
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Mycosynth Lattice
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
1 Teferi's Puzzle Box
1 Thragtusk
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Torpor Orb

 

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