This past weekend was branded as Modern Weekend, with Modern Grand Prix being hosted in the US in Los Angeles and Charlotte. A battle of the coasts! With the potential of two different metagames emerging, eyes across the globe were glued to Twitch and Twitter feeds alike, trying to see how their favorite players were navigating their favorite decks through a veritably vast sea of a wide open format. Would Abzan Company rear its ugly head again, and have swaths of people call for bannings? Would Nahiri, the Harbinger har-bring (hoho!) the Aeons Torn and Annihilate the competition again? Would the Eldrazi menace return to wreak havoc on all those with hopes of playing a “fair” game of Magic?
People far and wide strapped in to see this wild west shoot out unfold as Merfolk won in the west, and Ad Nauseam won in the east. What would have been considered mere tier 2 strategies only months before ended up taking home both trophies, flanked in both top 8s by even more would be tier 2 strategies. Alas, Modern now resembles an Aldi Food Market. There are no shelves, there are no tiers, just piles of things for people to grab at, for discount prices no less!
Today I want to delve a bit deeper into Modern (and a hint of Standard), and look at five takeaways from this Modern weekend!
1.) There is no Tier 1 in Modern
Most competitive Magic players, myself included, like to think of formats as having tiers to represent which decks are the “better” decks in the format. While a new metagame like this new Modern format gets sorted out, you’ll see a couple of standout decks from week to week slowly churn as they become better and worse for each weekend, or are played by more or fewer people. These are generally the metrics by which a tier is formed. The more people that play the deck to successful results, the higher on the tier list a deck exists for that format.
Take Legacy for example. It’s almost a non-rotating format. Tier 1 right now exists pretty much only as Miracles, where tier 2 are the different decks that either beat miracles, or are popular despite Miracles’ supposed dominance.
Modern used to look like this before the Splinter Twin ban. Tier 1, to me, consisted of Jund, Splinter Twin, Affinity, and Burn. These were the decks you were most likely to fight before the Splinter Twin ban, and they were the most successful decks in the format in terms of conversion rate. That is not to say any given deck could win any given event, but there were few, if any, decks that were able to beat all of these decks, and then have game on much else in the format.
However, going into this weekend, the only deck that was really showing any dominance in the Modern format was Jund. And that’s just the financially bearish deck. This is the deck most people just have, despite its cost, because the cards are great, and are least likely to lose value, meanwhile the deck remains competitive and is the flagship fair deck of the modern format. Most other decks fell off of the tier list. Affinity had been hiding in a cave, Burn seemed to be the best deck no one was playing, and the newly victorious Abzan Company and Nahiri Jeskai lists, while present in heavy numbers, and putting up decent results over this weekend overall, had one copy between the two archetypes in either top 8.
Instead, we saw the likes of crazy brews and tier 2 snipers doing well all weekend, and even into the top 8. Merfolk, Ad Nauseam, Kiki Chord, Suicide Zoo, Bant Company, Bant Eldrazi, and Grixis, all being supposed tier 2 decks, were dominant this weekend, along with great records from neat fringe strategies like U/B mill.
More than ever, any person can take any deck and win with it in Modern. While I favor aggressive strategies that are difficult to control, like Infect, or Abzan Collected Company, some of these lists and strategies just look sweet to try, and really show that deck familiarity and commitment are more important that deck selection for a Modern event.
2.) Age Doesn’t Matter.
Probably the talk of Grand Prix Los Angeles was Ethan Brown’s amazing run to the finals. “Tim,” you’re wondering, “a guy made it to the finals of a Grand Prix. This happens at literally any and every Grand Prix.” Ethan is thirteen years old. He is also now a professional Magic player. To put this in perspective, I played in a 20 person PPTQ this past weekend and only made top 4.
While I’m happy for Ethan, come on man! I’m pushing 30 and I’m not even qualified for an RPTQ!
Joking aside, it was great to see this story unfold as he dispatched professionals throughout the event in the feature match area. While I have mental hurdles I myself seem to be slowly rolling over, Ethan was able to show up and do his part to make the Pro Tour.
I feel like this is one of those things where young kids are more likely to do crazy skateboard tricks, because they don’t have that fear in them yet. That’s probably one of the keys to Ethan’s success, he’s not afraid (or at least as afraid) of I am of failing.
Good luck on the Pro Tour, Ethan!
3.) The Eldrazi Are Dead? I Thought-Knot!
Last weekend on the SCG Open series, we saw Todd Stevens top 16 the Modern event in Indianapolis with his brew of Bant Eldrazi. People seemed to write it off as a good player and brewer doing well with just a brew.
Platinum level pros proved us all wrong this past weekend, as Thiago Sapporito did well playing a similar list, and Pascal Maynard made the top 8 of GP: LA with the menacingly powerful creatures. It seems that powerful cards just want to be cast, and the likes of Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, Drowner of Hope, and Eldrazi Displacer are no exception. Bant is a good shell for the deck, because not only does it enable your Drowner of Hope and Eldrazi Displacer, like what the old UW Eldrazi decks were able to do, you get access to ways to both search for your spells with Ancient Stirrings, as well as cheat on mana a bit with Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise. This is my deck of the weekend, and I can’t wait to get the cards to smash peoples’ faces in. At first I didn’t like the Eldrazi, but I’m slowly coming around to them.
Bant Eldrazi by Pascal Maynard
4.) Magic Coverage is Awful.
There is one company right now that should just be the only one able to produce live Magic content. That company is Star City Games. Their production crew gets it right most of the time. Like most live sports events, or even esports events, they have their own hiccups. But for the most part, from their overlays, to transitions, to downtime, their stream is the most viewer friendly.
Channel Fireball…just fails to deliver. At least in my opinion. From that annoying music and countdown timer in between rounds, to disconnects between the casters and production crew, to the casters themselves, every time I watch them produce and cover live events, I’m astonished that the people that put these displays together get paid actual human dollars.
I’m not calling just Channel Fireball out either. While they were the ones casting this weekend at a sub-par level, Wizards themselves regularly underperforms when they cast Pro Tours. Just open Twitch chat during a Pro Tour, and you’ll see the running jokes. I love it. It brings a smile to my face that people are as unhappy with how the game we love is represented and displayed to the world as I am.
I am no producer of live content, but I do know what I don’t want to see, and that’s what Channel Fireball and Wizards do for coverage of live events. Channel Fireball did try to spice things up this time with neat little segments in between matches, but those that weren’t Fact or Fictions or Keep or Mulls felt mostly like inside jokes between LSV and his friends that the viewers had no part of.
If Magic wants to succeed at the esports level, and compete with Hearthstone, it needs to have better quality content, and better ways to deliver that content. Period.
5.) I/You Can Do It.
I played in a PPTQ this weekend. It was smaller, but like most events I enter on the weekends, whether they are PPTQs or IQs, I was competing for a Top 8 spot up until the last round. I did make Top 8 this week, which is par for the course, but then I choked. I had to play against Craig Krempels in top 4. Unfortunately, he got the better of me, and I left with $20 store credit. While I was getting amazing support from my wife and play group, pats on the back, etcetera, I didn’t feel great.
I need to win one of these things. Ultimately, the goal is to make the Pro Tour. I know I can definitely do it. I’ve noticed lately that the other area grinders have come to recognize me as an actual competitor. Michael Derczo, a real standup guy, started taking notice of my finishes, and we chatted about how I made 9th place on breakers the week prior. It feels great to be recognized by people I respect as someone to watch out for at events. Now that I’ve kind of established myself as an area grinder, I know I’m as good as these people. At least I’m not worse.
With enough time, practice, patience, and care in testing, I can do it. With enough of the same, you can do it as well. Most of the barriers I’ve had are mental ones. But now I kind of see myself on the same level as these area regulars. I’m still learning, these people are still better than I am at some things, but I’m definitely getting there. I feel like my luck is about to break my way, and I’ll have my RPTQ invite soon enough. Just keep pushing, and remember what my wife calls the C’s: confidence, and caffeine.
I hope all you folks enjoyed watching Modern weekend unfold. I hope you all have fun with your new favorite Modern deck from this weekend. I’m still battling with Infect until my cards come in for these other new toys I want to try. Remember to follow me on Twitter @bachmanntim, and follow me at Twitch.tv/timbeef.
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