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How Gifts Storm Became the Best Deck in Modern

Written by Tim Bachmann on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

How Gifts Storm Became the Best Deck in Modern

Tim Bachmann

Hailing from northeast Pennsylvania, Tim has been playing since Mirrodin, and has been playing competitively since Dragons of Tarkir. With aspirations of playing on the Pro Tour, Tim plays in as many PPTQs and GPs as he can.

The Modern Metagame shifts every week. Heck, every format shifts every week, but the past few weeks of Modern have been actually insane to keep up with. The culmination of all of these Modern weekends and the modern PPTQ season being in full swing can’t be a coincidence, right?

I have been reading a LOT of Modern content in the past few months, mostly because of the bad taste the past few Standards have left in my mouth. Every deck I’ve played has been banned over the past year, and I’m just ready for a rotation. Unfortunately, I can’t even play in many more PPTQs this season because of that tricky little thing called life, but my outlet for Magic has been recently to read and watch as much content about Modern as I can. Modern is just such a cool format, there are so many cool things going on, I just love to take it all in.

Once the Death’s Shadow decks popped up in Modern is where I consider a new era of Modern to begin, this started our current Modern metagame, the landscape we’re playing in right now. Through the discovery period of these new decks, there was a lot of discussion about which one was the best, and everyone thought the deck was unbeatable. This is normally true for new, very powerful decks.

However, after a few weeks of various Death’s Shadow decks dominating the tournament scene, people started playing decks to beat it. Popular strategies of the time included Bant Eldrazi, Abzan midrange, and Death and Taxes, and other decks that sort of had access to cards that were good against the suicidal menace.

Then the second horse entered the race. Eldrazi Tron showed up in force, and has turned into one of the other top tier competitors in this Modern metagame. So much so that many pros have mentioned Eldrazi Tron as the actual best deck in Modern. However, there’s a funny thing about Modern. It’s difficult to have a single best deck these days, since there are soooooo many strategies to consider, in fact just this past weekend, the mono-white Martyr of Sands deck went 9-0 on day 1!

So naturally, with Eldrazi Tron taking metagame share away from the Death’s Shadow decks, the metagame opened up, and allowed other decks to be played. Affinity started to come out again, and even won a recent Grand Prix over in Las Vegas. Even though many people touted Affinity as a good matchup for Grixis Death’s Shadow, there were few of us (I among them, humblebrag) that saw Affinity as a poor matchup. The affinity deck was the perfect rock to the paper of Eldrazi Tron and the scissors of Death’s Shadow. The metagame had evolved into three top decks, and when you have a rock-paper-scissors metagame, the format becomes pretty healthy. Since you have a solidified tier 1, tier 2 decks are able to wedge themselves into the format where they may have two positive matchups in the top tier.

At this same time, we started seeing Valakut decks rise in popularity in paper, as well as Storm starting to win Modern Challenges and PTQs online. With the release of Hour of Devastation, the Valakut decks got Hour of Promise, which is a nifty little tool, and allowed for people to build a more all in version of the deck, with less maindeck interaction, having fewer Lightning Bolts and sweepers like Anger of the Gods or Sweltering Suns.

Two weeks ago in Syracuse, I’d say U/R Storm had its breakout weekend. Its results weren’t really appearing in the paper metagames. The obvious Caleb Scherer was playing the deck at the opens up to that point, but that’s a given, he’ll play Storm or any type of “cast a lot of spells and win deck” he can find in a format. I had been touting how much I liked the storm deck for a while, but again, no one seemed to be playing it in paper events until Syracuse, where two copies made the top eight, and four total copies made the top sixteen. I was happy to see Storm do so well, I have a soft spot for the deck in my heart, having played when the keyword was first printed. However, I didn’t expect it to win the following week in Richmond. I feel like anyone who wants to beat Storm is able to, however with the deck having access to Blood Moon, it has that axis to fight on as well as both the Grapeshot-Past in Flames axis and the Goblins plan.

While Storm won in Richmond this weekend at the Open, the two Grand Prix and overarching metagame of the weekend tell a different story. On my stream on Friday (shameless plug, my channel is here), I mentioned that I thought that some build of the Valakut decks was the best deck for the weekend. As someone that doesn’t really play those decks, I was unable to offer which build I thought WAS the best, but it was the highest played deck archetype across the top 32s of the three large events this weekend with a total of 15 decks sporting the Lightning Bolt land.

This is a naturally good matchup for U/R Storm, as they don’t have much interaction against you other than to Lightning Bolt the creatures in Storm, while Storm has potential access to Remands, and in a racing situation like this matchup, the Storm deck is almost always faster.

However, a naturally poor matchup for Storm was the second most played archetype in top 32s across the weekend, Grixis Death’s Shadow. With 14 copies, the deck is still a very popular choice for players in Modern, and it’s still a very good deck.

The leap from second most popular deck to third most popular deck of the weekend as per appearances in top 32s this past weekend is pretty substantial, however. The third deck in the list was Jeskai control with seven copies, which is obviously a huge drop-off, but we also get a ton of sweet archetypes beyond that, things like Storm, Company Combo decks, Blue-White based control decks, Green-Black based midrange decks, Eldrazi Tron, Affinity, and a whole bunch of one-ofs are all mixed in here.

So I do think that Modern is very healthy right now, with two dominant archetypes popping up every weekend. I do think that U/R Gifts Storm was the best deck in the format the past couple weeks, and I shifted my view to be Valakut as the best deck for this past week.

If there were to be more Modern events coming up on the SCG Tour or Grand Prix level, I would probably pick up Grixis Death’s Shadow, and choose that as the deck for next weekend. While it will undeniably have a target on its back again, I believe it is the best deck to bring into a Scapeshift and Storm metagame. I would make room for some Disdainful Strokes in the sideboard, because the deck can’t really handle a Primeval Titan coming down, but outside of that, I believe it would be the deck to play next weekend. Either that or Affinity with more anti-combo sideboard cards. Those would be the two best decks this weekend.

As for your weekly PPTQ, there is no need to try to out-tech the meta, as from my experience, most metagames at the PPTQ level can’t really be foreseen. People will play what they want to play, or what they own. You should do the same. I think some of the best decks to bring to a PPTQ are Valakut decks, U/R Gifts Storm, or some deck that leverages on playskill like a control or midrange deck. I do not think that Affinity is a good choice, as most people at the local level typically have one Affinity guy at their shop that they just want to kill, and I think the same can be said about Death’s Shadow decks. Perhaps B/W Smallpox could also be a very good choice.

Shameless plug once more, I stream every Monday and Friday, starting at around 8:30 EST over at Twitch. I’ve been playing Modern almost exclusively lately, so feel free to stop by and hang out.

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