I’m really looking forward to Grand Prix Las Vegas. As a resident of the city for about four years, I get to go back, hang out with old friends, and go to my favorite dining establishments. One thing I didn’t do when I lived in Las Vegas was play a ton of Magic. I dabbled, but I didn’t have many friends within the local community, which can make it tough to play. GP Las Vegas is always a spectacle, and everyone is sure to have some friends there hanging out, or better yet, a bunch of new people you can meet and interact with.
The tournament I’m most looking forward to? For the first time, well, ever, it’s a side event. The Beta Booster Draft Qualifiers are such a sick value. Having the opportunity to draft Beta is once in a lifetime, and the value is fairly high as well. Eight lucky individuals will earn this opportunity in side events, and I myself will play as many as I can outside of the two main events. If I wasn’t hunting down Pro Points I’d consider skipping the main events because I want to draft Beta that badly. I’m actually hoping to do well in Modern this time around, though I’d rather play Dominaria Sealed, simply because I’ll be able to play the Sunday Beta Booster Draft Qualifier.
For that reason, I’ve focused on analyzing the Modern metagame from the SCG Invitational this past weekend, and current trends in Modern. There are a few decks I think are likely to break out at this event.
1) Hollow One
This is the deck I’m most likely to play, as of Tuesday afternoon. There are two reasons for this. The first is because I’m very comfortable with the deck and have a lot of reps with it. I know how it plays in most matchups and it’s extremely proactive, so in matchups I don’t know that well, I’ll simply try to goldfish my opponent before they can do their thing.
Another reason is because I think it’s starting to lose respect as a top tier deck in Modern and becoming less popular. Players are focusing less on it and more on Humans, and the changes people make to beat Humans are often beneficial for Hollow One. Every additional Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt added to players’ decks is a benefit to Hollow One.
A deck like Jeskai Control is an excellent matchup for Hollow One, despite being a bad matchup for Humans. Lightning Bolt is an extremely efficient removal spell against a Humans deck, but a terrible answer against Hollow One because all of the creatures that can be killed by a single Lightning Bolt come back over and over. Snapcaster-Bolt decks in general struggle against Hollow One, so as people focus more on beating Humans and less on Hollow One, you’ll find a few more solid matchups.
As for the inclusion of Lingering Souls, I’d avoid it for this tournament. Lingering Souls is excellent at pressing your advantage against fair decks, but having a less painful mana base and the utility of Collective Brutality in unfair matchups is something I really missed at Grand Prix Hartford. I want to make room for additional hand disruption in my sideboard as well so that I can have more copies to slow down combo decks early and pressure their life total before they can recover. I may be a bit early to speculate on how well positioned it will be among the trends of the format, but I’m confident that Modern is heading in that direction.
Here’s the list I’m likely to play this weekend at GP Las Vegas:
The sideboard is the only thing I’d change, but I’m pretty sold on what I have here, despite how stock it may be.
There’s no Big Game Hunter, which I may regret, and the card that’s the most expendable is Engineered Explosives. Explosives is a nod to the recent popularity and success of Bogles at GPs, despite it being pretty absent from the Magic Online metagame in my experience. Engineered Explosives is a flexible card you can also bring in against a variety of matchups, like Mardu, Affinity, Lantern, and other decks that may try to lock you out with a permanent like Ensnaring Bridge or Chalice of the Void.
Humans is the most popular deck in Modern, and reacting to that means that you need to play a fair game of Magic and kill a bunch of creatures. Whether you play a low-curve Jund deck, Jeskai Control, Bogles, or U/W Control to beat Humans, there’s one thing that all of these decks have in common: they’re all weak to Tron. Tron not only beats the most popular and best deck in Modern, it beats most of the ways people react to that trend. We saw Wuzlking win a recent Magic Online Modern PTQ with Mono-Green Tron, and a couple more rounding out the Top 16 of that event. The success of Tron in that tournament isn’t an accident—this is an excellent deck to beat the common trends of the current format.
WUZLKING, 1st place at MTGO PTQ
This is a deck I’ve yet to play much of on Magic Online because I’m not sure that my laptop can actually make it through a match without timing out due to lag. Make no mistake—the deck is absurdly powerful, and most people don’t have much experience playing with or against it, giving you some free equity. People still don’t show enough respect for this deck, and I see countless white decks playing one or zero Stony Silence, which is one of the biggest problems for this deck in the format. Nature’s Claim takes out Stony Silence, but Stony Silence also shuts off some of the green mana sources in the deck, actually making it one of the most resilient hate pieces.
The deck makes a ton of mana quicky, and has redundancy with Inventors’ Fair and Buried Ruin to keep a Krark-Clan Ironworks on the battlefield in the face of cards like Ancient Grudge and Kolaghan’s Command.
Up until the finals of the Invitational this weekend, it seemed easy for Zac Elsik in the matches I watched. He was able to fight through flimsy disruption and combo off with ease when necessary. Matt Nass has played this deck in two individual Grand Prix and finished with a trophy and a semifinals exit in those two events. With how little of a metagame share this deck has, its results continue to be impressive. Don’t sleep on KCI, and if you’re not going to play it, I highly recommend thinking about how you’re going to approach the matchup, because I expect it to have another good showing this weekend. In my mind, KCI is the best combo deck left in Modern, and the lack of attention it’s getting is scary.
Zac Elsik, 2nd place at SCG Invitational
4) U/W Control
AGGROATHLET, 2nd place at Magic Online PTQ
I normally hate reactive blue decks in Modern. I tried a couple of builds of U/W Control this week and was always confused by opening hands. They all felt inadequate and clunky, but in the end, I put up a respectable win percentage with various versions of this deck, and the one reason why was Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. That card is simply fantastic in Modern and is definitely the real deal. All of your interaction in Modern is cheap, so it’s safe to play a 5-mana card that untaps two of your lands to protect it, especially in a format not suited to answering planeswalkers. This is not a format where we see too many copies of Dreadbore or Maelstrom Pulse, which leaves Teferi, Hero of Dominaria much less vulnerable in Modern than it is in Standard. Teferi has the ability to dominate a game and keep the opponent from drawing out on you once you take control.
This is the 2nd-place PTQ deck list from a recent Magic Online PTQ, and while I like the archetype, I’d change a few things about this deck to streamline it. I’d cut the Wall of Omens, Sphinx’s Revelations, Spreading Seas, and Gideon of the Trials, and add some Logic Knots and another Jace, the Mind Sculptor, another Teferi, and another 1-mana removal spell like Condemn or Oust. I like the way the Wrath of God effects are split, but I’d play more Terminus and maybe no Supreme Verdict at all, as it’s the most commonly named Meddling Mage wrath in the dark, and there are fewer decks like Death’s Shadow that play counters and creatures these days, so keep your Humans opponent guessing and play a split of Day of Judgment, Wrath of God, and Terminus.
I also think Settle the Wreckage is an underrated Modern card right now, and I’d recommend playing up to two copies in your 75, as it’s impossible to play around most of the time.
One reason I gave up on this deck is because I didn’t know how to build it correctly, but if you find a good build, I think Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Jace, the Mind Sculptor put this deck back into tier 1.
5) Mardu Pyromancer
Mardu Pyromancer is another deck that exploits one of my favorite cards in Modern, Faithless Looting. Having Young Pyromancer, Lingering Souls, and Bedlam Reveler turns the card disadvantage Faithless Looting costs you into an engine card that can keep your deck rolling consistently throughout a grindy game, or digs you to the appropriate pieces of disruption you need in any given matchup. This deck has hand disruption backed up by pressure from Young Pyromancer to beat combo decks, and can steal wins with Blood Moon at any given time.
I’m not a huge fan of fair decks in Modern anymore, but this is the deck I’d choose if I was going to try to interact with people in Modern without blue cards. I like having a favorable Humans and Affinity matchup, as well as being able to grind with the other fair decks in the format with Kolaghan’s Command and Bedlam Reveler shenanigans.
One problem I noticed with Mardu while playing the U/W Control side of the matchup on Magic Online is that Mardu is fairly weak to the various planeswalkers that deck brings to the table, so I’d have a plan in mind for beating Teferi, Hero of Dominaria because its high loyalty and card engine makes it difficult for Mardu to keep up with. I love having a highly favorable Humans matchup and a deck that attacks from a few different angles. Mardu is the new Jund in my opinion. Sorry, Bloodbraid Elf.
Joe Stempo, 5th place at SCG Invitational
These were the five decks I thought about playing for GP Las Vegas this weekend. I’m likely sticking with the Hollow One list because I’m still confident in the archetype. There’s a ton of viable decks in Modern, so ultimately play what you’re comfortable with as the best deck for you isn’t always the best deck. This is going to be a big tournament with a widely diverse metagame on Day 1, and we’ll see the cream rise to the top. I think the decks I’ve listed will give you the best chance at winning the tournament in the winners’ metagame, but in Modern, it’s always pretty hard to tell.
What do you think the best deck in Modern is for this weekend?