In a week, we’re going to have the first Modern tournament after the PT: GP Vancouver. For all of its flaws, Modern does have one interesting characteristic—there are many different decks and almost all of them are somewhat viable. That said, there are a couple of decks that are better or worse positioned every week.
What You Should NOT Play
You should not play Burn (which was incidentally the deck I played at the PT). Burn did well at the PT and it’s not super complicated to play, so it’s feasible that we’ll see lots of burn decks in the future, and this is a conclusion that I think anyone can reach. Burn is also a deck that people hate losing to, and a deck that’s very easy to fight with cards like Leyline of Sanctity and Feed the Clan. Beating those cards is very hard, and sideboarding against them in the dark is awful. If you’re ever at a point where you want enchantment removal because they might have Leyline, then you should play a different deck. I think we are at this point.
Another deck I wouldn’t play is Junk, but that’s more because I think the deck is bad than because I think the tournament will be “too ready” for it. This is not to say Junk is unplayable. You can certainly play it and you might do well—but I think that other options are better. The format is all decks that actively want to play against Junk (such as Burn) and decks that are supposed to beat everything and lose to Junk (such as Infect or Amulet), but it turns out that Junk doesn’t even beat those decks very well. The two people who Top 8’d the tournament with conventional Junk did so mostly on the strength of their match versus the mirror, which they played 4 or 5 times each.
What You SHOULD Play
I think the best place to be is “a good deck that did not Top 8 the PT” and Affinity fits the bill.
Affinity is powerful but kept in check by sideboard cards. There was no Affinity in the Top 8, so people are less likely to sideboard cards against you. Before the PT, if I had to choose between Stony Silence or Leyline of Sanctity in my sideboard, I’d have chosen Stony Silence. Now I’ll choose Leyline. I think this is the case for a lot of people, which makes Affinity a much better deck and a very solid choice for the GP.
This is Frank Karsten’s version from the PT:
I like this version overall, though I think the sideboard can be tweaked a little bit more. I’d certainly remove the Rule of Law, and might also remove the Tormod’s Crypt for probably a second Blood Moon (against Amulet) and perhaps a Spellskite or second Dismember against Infect. I’d also like something versus Burn, since it’s a pretty even matchup and they have a better sideboard than you do, but you don’t particularly need it and I think the other cards are likely more important.
Infect is a very powerful deck that’s not very easy to hate out. Sure, you can play cards like Deflecting Palm and even Melira, Sylvok Outcast if you want, but those cards are not like Stony Silence or Rule of Law. Having Gitaxian Probe gives you nice information in the random field of a GP, so you don’t need to gamble as much, and you have enough speed to beat all the random decks like Tron and to compete with the new popular combo deck, Amulet.
I’d play something close to The Pantheon’s list from the PT:
3) Living End
I think Living End is not normally a great deck, but it’s very well positioned right now. The PT didn’t feature any graveyard decks or Storm, so the two primary forms of hate against you—graveyard hate and Rule of Law—will likely not be nearly as popular. The increase in Amulet popularity also makes Blood Moon more likely, but that doesn’t affect you. You can even play Blood Moon yourself. The big issue is Twin, which is a hard matchup and just won the PT, but if you can avoid that you should be OK.
Storm also shares all of those characteristics, but it has a weak matchup versus both Junk and Burn, so I don’t think it’s the optimal choice.
This is the Living End list I’d play, which is very similar to Stephen Murray’s from the PT but with a different sideboard:
Amulet is a very powerful deck that can navigate through most hate that is not Blood Moon. I do expect an increase in the number of Blood Moons, but it should still be a pretty decent deck for the GP. This is Justin Cohen’s list from the PT:
I believe Twin is a not a great deck in the abstract, but it does have some very good matchups (such as Amulet or Affinity). It is weak to the black/green cards, but not super weak, and you can certainly beat anything they throw at you. Twin is the closest thing to a “control” deck I would be willing to play in a field as open as the GP’s, though I think the UR version is better than the one with Tarmogoyf right now.
The list I like the most for Twin is Jelger’s, since it has maindeck Blood Moon. Here’s his list:
For the sideboard, I think you should likely play at least two Spellskites—they’re good against both Burn and Infect—and perhaps even a third Dispel which is good against both of those decks and more. Wurmcoil seems pretty awful to me, since Path is the removal of choice for most decks, and then you could cut the Nature’s Claim, the Shackles or an Ancient Grudge depending on what you expect.
That’s what I have for today! See you soon,