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March Modern Madness Part Two – Sweet Sixteen

Written by Jeff Zandi on . Posted in Uncategorized

March Modern Madness Part Two – Sweet Sixteen

Jeff Zandi

Jeff Zandi is a level 2 judge and an eight-time veteran of the Pro Tour. He has written continuously about Magic for over eighteen years. His team, the Texas Guildmages, have the longest running regular game in history, meeting at his home every Tuesday night since 1996.

The madness started last week. Fierce competition between extremely tall competitors in a bracket of sixty-four. No, not college basketball. I’m talking about some Magic madness in March, the third annual Modern March Madness tournament running all month long right here at the desk of your humble correspondent. In my tournament, the fifty-eight sets in Modern battle each other in a single elimination bracket in order to answer a deceptively simple question. What is the best set in Modern?

I assure you, even though I play most of the games all by myself, the competition is indeed fierce. My competitors are taller than yours, too. Normally, I’m a forty-card deck kind of guy. I like sealed deck and booster draft more than any other formats in Magic. Of course, I play plenty of sixty-card Magic. I play Modern whenever there’s a big tournament and I’ll even play Standard when it’s completely necessary. Commander? It’s not really my thing, but sure, I have one deck built. One hundred cards with every Hypnotic Specter ever printed in black, blue and red. I’m talking about much bigger decks than that. I’m talking about Full Set Singleton. These decks contain one of every card in a single expansion set along with enough basic land so that the deck contains 40% basic land.

Fate Reforged is one of the smaller decks. It’s three and three-quarters inches tall and contains just under three hundred cards. How about a really tall one? Time Spiral, including its time-shifted subset, is eight and a half inches tall including 672 cards, everything from Academy Ruins to Zhalfirin Commander.

Modern constructed is, to a lot of people’s thinking, more healthy than it has ever been. There is a great variety of decks that you can win with in Modern, and those decks contain a wide variety of card options. That’s nice. My annual Full Set Singleton tournament goes one step further. This single elimination tournament includes all of the sets in Modern battling against each other. That’s every single card of every set in Modern entering the arena. Two sets enter. One set leaves.

Modern March Madness Challenge

I challenged Magic friends from near and far to take their best guess at how this year’s bracket might turn out. Thirteen men stepped up and accepted that challenge. In the following list, the first two numbers are the win/loss record of the player in the first thirty-two matchups of the tournament. The second number is how many points the player earned in the first round. Wins in the first round are worth one point and there were six byes this year so every player was assured to get at least six points in the first round. After the first round, the scores looked like this:

22-10 22 Joe Klopchic
22-10 22 Lawson Zandi
19-13 19 Blake Billingslea
19-13 19 Brian Heine
19-13 19 Jonathan Maples
18-14 18 Michael Taggart
18-14 18 Gerry Thompson
18-14 18 Michael Ewing
17-15 17 Scot Martin
16-16 16 Brian Augustine
16-16 16 Maitland Griffith
15-17 15 Jordon Berkley
13-19 13 Robert Berni

Here’s what the scoreboard looks like after two rounds:

33-15 44 Joe Klopchic
29-19 39 Blake Billingslea
28-20 37 Brian Heine
27-21 36 Gerry Thompson
26-22 34 Michael Ewing
25-23 33 Scot Martin
25-23 32 Michael Taggart
31-17 30 Lawson Zandi
23-25 27 Jonathan Maples
20-28 24 Brian Augustine
17-31 19 Jordon Berkley
16-32 19 Robert Berni
17-31 18 Maitland Griffith

Although the tournament consists of six rounds, half the matches are finished after the second round. Half of the Modern sets are officially knocked out of this year’s competition and with them, nearly half of our human contestants’ brackets are busted.

Joe Klopchic, noted level 3 judge, is in the lead. He has lost only one of his final four teams. Unfortunately, the one he has lost is Ravnica and he had Ravnica winning the whole thing this year. He still has Return to Ravnica, Magic 2015 and Fate Reforged.

Blake Billingslea is in second place. Like Joe, his final four is intact other than also choosing Ravnica to win it all. Blake’s surviving final four picks include Magic 2010, Magic 2015 and Dragons of Tarkir.

Brian Heine is in third place just a few points behind Blake, but Brian’s bracket is a lot closer to being busted. He has lost three of his final four teams, Ravnica, Time Spiral and Fifth Dawn. He needs Dragon’s Maze to go all the way in order to have a chance to win.

Pro Tour champion Gerry Thompson is close behind Brian and has three of his final four still alive, having lost only Dissension. Dissension is from the same bottom-right corner of the bracket as Ravnica, and Gerry T. had Dissension going all the way, just like Klopchic and Billingslea had Ravnica. Gerry T. still has Rise of the Eldrazi, Gatecrash and Dragons of Tarkir.

Michael Ewing is in a decent position having lost two of his final four teams. Like some others, he has been let down by Ravnica. Luckily for Ewing, he didn’t have Ravnica winning the whole thing. Ewing still has two of his final four including Magic 2010 and Dragons of Tarkir.

Scot Martin is in the middle of the pack after two rounds but still has two teams left from his final four having lost Planar Chaos and Theros. Martin still has Rise of the Eldrazi and Khans of Tarkir.

Michael Taggart still has three of his final four teams in the game, having lost only Theros. He picked Theros to go all the way. The bottom right of the bracket has been the most vexing to this year’s predictors. Taggart still has Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash and Dragons of Tarkir.

Lawson Zandi still has three of his final four teams including Magic 2010, Gatecrash and Khans of Tarkir. The only team missing from his final four is Alara Reborn from, you guessed it, the bottom right quadrant of the bracket.

Jonathan Maples’ hopes for victory are significantly more dim than most of the other players. He has lost three of his final four teams. He does still have Magic 2010 going to the finals but losing to Eighth Edition. His fate rests solely with Magic 2010.

Brian Augustine leads a group of players whose 2018 bracket can only be described as totally busted. Twenty points behind the leader, Augustine, better known around Dallas-Fort Worth as Motumbo, will have a hard time picking up more points in the tournament. He has lost all of his final four competitors. In Augustine’s mind, the final four looked like Time Spiral beating New Phyrexia and Eighth Edition beating Ravnica in the semifinals before Time Spiral won it all in the finals. Time Spiral is a strong set and has the most cards. Maybe next year.

Jordon Berkley’s bracket is in about the same shape as Motumbo’s. You know… busted and stuff. He has lost all of his final four teams. He had predicted that Mirrodin would take the championship after defeating Ravnica in the semifinals and then Shadows over Innistrad in the finals. He’s the only player this year to give Mirrodin much of a chance.

Grand Prix and Hunter Burton Memorial champion Robert Berni took this year’s challenge relatively seriously, and I’ll probably have to hear it from him about how the wrong teams won. Berni is low on points, next to last after two rounds, but still has Return to Ravnica and Amonkhet in his final four. He was failed by Betrayers of Kamigawa (he thought Jitte would get it done) and Dissension. Good luck Berni!

Maitland Griffith is in last place after two rounds. Not only are all of his final four picks already knocked out, his bracket is the most busted of all because he cannot win any additional points meaning that his fate is sealed. Griffith will finish this year’s competition in last place with eighteen points.

When the dust settles from the remaining fifteen matches, we’ll know both the set that wins the third annual Modern March Madness tournament and we’ll know whose predictions were closest. The player who earns the most points in the challenge will win a one-of-a-kind custom Modern March Madness-themed playmat. The winner will even have some input into some of the details of the playmat.

Modern Full Set Singleton Battles

Now that we’ve looked at how the human contestants are doing, it’s time to take a look at some of the best matches in the first two rounds of competition. The first game I’d like to show you is game one of the first round matchup between Eldritch Moon and Zendikar. I’ll use this game to take you deep into the weeds, deep into my personal Magic madness. You see, I record the exact play-by-play of these matches for… I want to say… science reasons? I appreciate that it can be difficult to read a match in this play-by-play format, particularly when you haven’t been looking at much Eldritch Moon or Zendikar lately. This is the only game you’ll have to slosh through with this level of detail. For other matches I’ll provide a more readable summary. You just have to understand. This is what I DO.

One last thing. I want to remind you that I do use one variant rule for the tournament each year. It’s not necessary, but it helps make the games move faster and I think it makes the format better. Each player (deck) starts each game with two mana tokens. Mana tokens are not really tokens, they aren’t permanents on the battlefield. You can spend a mana token any time you would normally be allowed to make a land play for the turn. Doing so replaces your normal land play for the turn. You can sacrifice a mana token to search your library for a basic land and put it onto the battlefield untapped.

Eldritch Moon (5) versus Zendikar (12)

T1 Zendikar keeps two Islands, Forest, Stonework Puma, Ravenous Trap, Cosi’s Trickster and Explorer’s Scope. Plays Island, plays Cosi’s Trickster.
T1 Moon keeps Island, Mountain, Swamp, Forest, Curious Homonculus, Hamlet Captain and Drogskol Shieldmate. Draws and plays Plains.
T2 Zendikar draws and plays Plains, plays Explorer’s Scope, equips Scope to Trickster, attacks with Trickster, Scope triggers and Zendikar looks at the top card of his library and puts Plains onto the battlefield tapped.
T2 Moon draws and plays Forest, plays Hamlet Captain.
T3 Zendikar draws and plays Island, plays Stonework Puma, equips Puma with Explorer’s Scope.
T3 Moon draws Lunar Force, plays Island, attacks with Captain (20-18).
T4 Zendikar draws Shieldmate’s Blessing, attacks with Trickster and Puma, Scope triggers and Zendikar looks at the top card of his library and leaves Blood Seeker on top, Moon plays Drogskol Shieldmate, Shieldmate blocks Trickster, Zendikar plays Shieldmate’s Blessing targeting Cosi’s Trickster (18-18), plays Forest.
T4 Moon draws and plays Swamp, attacks with Captain (18-16), plays Curious Homonculus.
T5 Zendikar draws Blood Seeker, activates and sacrifices his first mana token searching his library putting a Swamp onto the battlefield, plays Blood Seeker.
T5 Moon draws and plays Mountain, attacks with Captain (18-14), plays Lunar Force.
T6 Zendikar draws and plays Sunspring Expedition, Lunar Force triggers, Moon sacrifices Lunar Force targeting and countering Sunspring Expedition, Zendikar plays Island.
T6 Moon draws Tangleclaw Werewolf, attacks with Captain (18-12), plays Forest, plays Tangleclaw Werewolf, Blood Seeker triggers (17-12).
T7 Zendikar draws and plays Quest for the Gravelord.
T7 Moon draws Island, plays Swamp, activates Tangleclaw Werewolf transforming it into Fibrous Entangler, attacks with Hamlet Captain and Fibrous Entangler, Trickster blocks Entangler, Stonework Puma and Blood Seeker block Hamlet Captain, Captain triggers and gets +1/+1 until end of turn, Quest for the Gravelord triggers three times and gets three quest counters on Quest for the Gravelord, at end of turn Zendikar removes three counters from Quest for the Gravelord exiling it and creating a 5/5 black Zombie Giant creature token.
T8 Zendikar draws and plays Quest for the Gemblades, equips Scope to Zombie Giant token.
T8 Moon draws Swamp, plays Mountain, attacks with Homunculus and Shieldmate and Entangler, Zombie Giant blocks Entangler (17-9), Quest for the Gemblades triggers and gets its first quest token.
T9 Zendikar draws and plays Mountain.
T9 Moon draws Providence, plays Island, attacks with Homunculus and Shieldmate and Entangler, Zombie Giant blocks Entangler (17-6), Quest for the Gemblades triggers and gets a second counter.
T10 Zendikar draws and plays Island.
T10 Moon draws and plays Mountain, attacks with Homunculus and Shieldmate and Entangler, Zombie Giant blocks Entangler (17-3), Quest for the Gemblades triggers and gets a third counter.
T11 Zendikar draws Swamp.
T11 Moon draws and plays Swamp, attacks with Curious Homunculus and Drogskol Shieldmate and Fibrous Entangler, Zombie Giant blocks Entangler, Zendikar removes three counters and sacrifice Quest for the Gemblades putting four +1/+1 counters on Zombie Giant (17-0).

Spoiler alert. Even though Eldritch Moon fought bravely in the match and won game one, Zendikar eventually prevailed in games two and three. Game three was close for a while and then Zendikar got Hellkite Charger and Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet on the battlefield and soon claimed victory.

Dragon’s Maze (4) versus Mirrodin Besieged (13)

Both decks were able to get the lands they needed and both drew action spells. Both sides played a creature on turn three, Bane Alley Blackguard for Maze and Blightwidow for Besieged. Next, Besieged added Plaguemaw Beast to the battlefield. Maze responded with Sunspire Gatekeepers on turn five. Creatures are popping up but neither side is committing to combat just yet. Maze plays Sire of Insanity on turn nine as well as Deputy of Acquittals. When Sire triggers at the beginning of the end step Maze only has to discard an Island while Besieged is forced to discard Knowledge Pool, Magnetic Mine and Massacre Wurm. The first swing of the game in on turn eleven after Maze plays Unflinching Courage enchanting Tajic, Blade of the Legion. Maze attacks with Tarjic and Sire of Insanity, a Rhino token, a Centaur token and a Knight token (these were from Trostoni’s Summoner on turn seven). Besieged blocks but doesn’t really get rid of many of the attackers. The score was (20-20) at the beginning of turn eleven, it is now (28-12) in Maze’s favor. Dragon’s Maze closes out game one on turn twelve attacking with Tajic and Deputy of Acquittals and Sunspire Gatekeepers and a Rhino token and a Knight token with only Vedalken Infuser to block on Besieged’s side. The final score of game one is (35- -1). Dragon’s Maze wins game one on turn 12.

Mirrodin Besieged has a good start in game two with Mirran Crusader on turn three, but Maze plays the second half of the split card Far/Away and the board is clear again. Besieged plays Flesh-Eater Imp on turn four and starts giving Maze poison counters on turn five. Maze draws Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, on turn five but can’t play it yet. Maze plays Punish the Enemy killing the Imp after getting his third and fourth poison counters of the game. Besieged plays Core Prowler but Maze follows with Scab-Clan Giant. The Giant fights with Prowler when the Giant enters the battlefield and Maze is on top once again. Maze plays Zhur-Taa Ancient on turn seven. Mirrodin Besieged has Knowledge Pool in play, but with more than enough mana available to Maze, the Knowledge Pool can only complicate, but not stop, Maze’s push to victory. Dragon’s Maze wins game two on turn nine, wins the match 2-0.

New Phyrexia (3) versus Ninth Edition (14)

Full Set Singleton games can go pretty long. Game one of New Phyrexia’s round one match against Ninth Edition was one of the shortest this year.

Ninth Edition won the die roll and went first with a rather interesting opening hand including Swamp, Plains, Zealous Inquisitor, Pegasus Charger, Elvish Berserker, Dehydration and… Battle of Wits. New Phyrexia has a nice opening hand with Wing Splicer, Myr Superion and Sword of War and Peace. Yeah… it’s not going to matter. With Battle of Wits and two basic lands in his opening hand, all Ninth Edition has to do is draw another land in the first five turns. That, along with two Islands provided by mana tokens, allowed Ninth Edition to play Battle of Wits on turn five. New Phyrexia drew Karn Liberated on turn five. Too bad for New Phyrexia that Battle of Wits ended the game a turn later. Ninth Edition wins game one on turn six, leads match 1-0.

Ninth Edition isn’t the only Battle of Wits deck in Modern. The card also appears in Magic 2013. It’s something to keep in mind…

Ninth Edition comes on strong in the second game of this first round match with Thundermare on turn six tapping all other creatures on the battlefield before getting in there for a hasty five points of damage. New Phyrexia isn’t taking it lying down, playing Enslave enchanting Thundermare. New Phyrexia wins the game (15- -2) by flying over the top with Spire Monitor. New Phyrexia wins game two on turn ten, ties match 1-1.

In game three Ninth Edition takes first blood with Goblin Brigand attacking on turn three and then adding Razortooth Rats. Ninth adds Rootwalla a turn later. New Phyrexia simply ends up short of creatures and loses to a humble but determined collection of unimpressive monsters from Ninth Edition. Ninth Edition wins game three on turn 7, wins match 2-1.

Innistrad (4) versus Amonkhet (13)

Amonkhet plays second in its first-ever Full Set Singleton match in the Modern March Madness tournament. Innistrad hits the ground running with Champion of the Parish on turn one but doesn’t have much after that, a Feral Ridgewolf on turn four. Amonkhet plays Tah-Crop Skirmisher on turn two but has a more serious threat with Colossapede on turn five followed by Stir the Sands creating three 2/2 Zombie tokens on turn six. Amonkhet wins game one on turn 8 and leads the match 1-0.

Amonkhet starts game two impressively with Dread Wanderer on turn one dealing two damage on turn two (18-20). Innistrad has Rakish Heir on turn three. Amonkhet plays Defiant Greatmaw on turn four putting a pair of -1/-1 counters on Dread Wanderer, who at least dealt four points of damage before his brave sacrifice. Greatmaw smashes on turn five (12-20) and Amonkhet plays Mouth creating a 3/3 green Hippo token. Amonkhet swings for five on turn six (7-20) and adds Hooded Brawler. Meanwhile, Innistrad is drawing cards like Stony Silence and Smite the Monstrous. Amonkhet wins game two on turn 7 and wins the match 2-0.

Fifth Dawn (3) versus Hour of Devastation (14)

Hour of Devastation is also making its Modern March Madness premiere this year. In the first game of its first round match against Fifth Dawn included some really famous old Magic hits from Fifth Dawn like Chimeric Coils and Eternal Witness. Meanwhile, Hour of Devastation was drawing extra cards with Sunset Pyramid. Hour plays Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh on turn nine and turns the game immediately into his favor. Hour of Devastation wins game one on turn 11, leads the match 1-0.

Fifth Dawn fights back in game two playing Fist of Suns on turn three, Furnace Whelp on turn four. From turn five on, Fifth Dawn can play whatever he manages to draw, he has Fist of Suns and five different basic lands types in play! Fifth Dawn wins game two on turn eight, ties the match 1-1. Hour of Devestation ends up winning the match 2-1 after a quick start, fueled by Rhona’s Last Stand.

Champions of Kamigawa (8) versus Future Sight (9)

Game two of this matchup provided the longest game in the first round. Future Sight draws first blood on turn three when Narcomoeba attacks. Champions of Kamigawa plays Isamaru, Hound of Konda on turn three and then equips it with Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho. Isamaru deals five damage on turn six (18-15). Future Sight plays Nacatl War-Pride on turn seven but Champs gets through with Isamaru again on his turn seven to make the score (18-10). It was hard to imagine the game would last much longer. Future Sight played Tombstalker on turn eight and it would be a while before any more damage would be dealt to either player. Eventually, on turn sixteen, Future Sight plays Daybreak Coronet enchanting Linessa, Zephyr Mage. Linessa attacks for six (12-16). A few turns later Linessa continues punching and the score is (6-20) in Future Sight’s favor at the end of turn nineteen. Champs gets ahead on creatures. With some difficulty, because Linessa bounced an attacker each turn, Champs began pecking away at Future Sight’s life total. Finally, on turn thirty-four, with the score (6-3) in favor of Champions, Champs attacks with He Who Hungers equipped with Oathkeeper and Soratami Savant and Hundred-Talon Kami and Future Sight concedes, unable to stop enough damage even by blocking with Linessa and bouncing another attacker Champions of Kamigawa wins game two on turn thirty-four and wins the match 2-0

The Second Round

Return to Ravnica (1) versus Coldsnap (9)

After enjoying a round one bye, Return to Ravnica enters the arena against a heavy underdog, Coldsnap. In game one Return deals the first damage on turn three with Rix Maadi Guildmage (20-18) and then plays Hellhole Flailer putting a +1/+1 counter on it. Flailer and Guildmage get in there on turn four and the score is suddenly (20-12). Coldsnap manages to put a few blockers on the board but never manages to stop the RTR onslaught. The score is (16-2) at the end of turn six and Coldsnap concedes on his next turn when he draws Hibernation’s End instead of a real answer. Return to Ravnica wins game one on turn seven and leads the match 1-0.

Return to Ravnica gets a fast start in game two with Dryad Militant on turn one, but Coldsnap has already played a blocker, Martyr of Frost. Dryad Militant is unblocked on turn two (20-18) but Coldsnap reveals Surging Aether and sacrifices Martyr of Frost to counter RTR’s turn two Drudge Beetle. Return adds Tower Drake on turn three. Return to Ravnica draws, plays and attacks with Hypersonic Dragon and this card proves to the winning play of the game. Return to Ravnica wins game two on turn seven and wins the match 2-0.

Dragons of Tarkir (1) versus Avacyn Restored (8)

Like Return to Ravnica, Dragons of Tarkir had a first round bye and is being tested for the first time this year in round two. Unlike RTR, Dragons of Tarkir is the two-time defending champion of the Modern March Madness tournament. Dragons of Tarkir has not yet lost a single match in this competition.

In game one, Avacyn Restored deals the first damage on turn three attacking with Kruin Striker after enchanting it with Predator’s Gambit. Dragons of Tarkir swings back with Dragon-Scarred Bear equipped with Stormrider Rig (16-16) and adds Kolaghan Forerunners to the battlefield. Avacyn draws and plays an Island on turn four and passes. That’s not a good thing. Dragons plays Sarkhan’s Rage targeting Kruin Striker and then attacks for six with Bear and Forerunner (16-10). Avacyn plays Rotcrown Ghoul on turn five. Dragons attacks with just the Bear on turn six (16-7) after playing Sarkhan Unbroken and adding a counter to the Planeswalker drawing Savage Ventmaw. Savage Ventmaw soon ends the game in Dragons’ favor. Dragons of Tarkir wins game one on turn eight and leads the match 1-0.

In game two, Avacyn again deals damage first, this time with Midnight Duelist on turn two (19-20). The Duelist deals another point of damage on turn three before Dragons has a creature of his own on the battlefield, a face down (morphed) Ainok Survivalist. Dragons opens up the game on turn four drawing and playing Explosive Vegetation getting a Plains and Forest out of his deck onto the battlefield. Avacyn draws Griselbrand on turn seven but can’t play it. Dragons draws and plays Savage Ventmaw. Once again, Savage Ventmaw takes over the game. Dragons of Tarkir wins game two on turn ten, wins match 2-0.

Statistic from the First Two Rounds

There were twenty-six matches in the first round (because there were six byes) and sixty-two games. The games ranged in length from four turns to thirty-four turns, the average number of turns in round one games was eleven.

There were sixteen matches in the second round including forty-one games ranging in length from seven to eighteen turns. The average number of turns in round two games was ten.

As for this year’s Sweet Sixteen, this is the first year for Amonkhet and Rivals of Ixalan. I admit I ranked them too low. I should give new sets a little more credit.

In the top left quarter of the bracket: Return to Ravnica only won a single match a year ago but reached the finals in 2016 where it lost to Dragons of Tarkir. RTR is a good bet in the Sweet Sixteen. Dragon’s Maze is in the top sixteen for the first time in three tries. Maze won only one match last year, against Tenth Edition. Maze won two matches in 2016, against Conflux and Mirrodin. Rise of the Eldrazi is a set that a lot of my friends imagines would do well. I wonder if they have Jace fever. Rise lost to Gatecrash in round one last year. Rise defeated Coldsnap and then lost to Alara Reborn two years ago. Magic 2010 reached the final four last year before losing to Dragons of Tarkir. M10 lost to M13 in the first round in 2016.

In the bottom left quadrant of the bracket: Gatecrash went all the way to the finals last year and lost to Dragons of Tarkir. In 2016 Gatecrash lost in round one to Alara Reborn. Magic: Origins beat Coldsnap last year in round one and then lost to Fate Reforged in round two. In 2016 Origins beat Ninth Edition and Khans of Tarkir before losing to Dragons of Tarkir. Magic 2015 reached the final four last year before losing to Gatecrash. M15 lost to Planar Chaos in round one two years ago.

The top right quarter of the bracket is where the two-time defending champion lives. That would be Dragons of Tarkir, of course. The deck that has not yet lost a match, 11-0 in actual matches with a first round bye all three years. Fate Reforged defeated Shadows over Innistrad and Magic: Origins last year before falling to Dragons of Tarkir. In 2016, Fate lost to Time Spiral in the first round. Khans of Tarkir lost in round one to Magic 2011 last year and in round one to Magic: Origins in 2016.

The troublesome quadrant this year, according to our predictors anyway, is the bottom right quarter of the bracket. Battle for Zendikar beat Future Sight before running into Dragons of Tarkir last year. In 2016 Battle for Zendikar lost in round one to Fifth Dawn. Oath of the Gatewatch beat Time Spiral and Magic 2011 last year before falling to Eldritch Moon. 2016 was Oath’s first year in the tournament and the deck had a first round bye but lost in round two to Theros. Shards of Alara beat Ninth Edition last year before losing to Return to Ravnica. In 2016 Shards lost to Magic 2014 in the first round.

One thing that’s been true all three years is that the matches get better and more interesting the further the tournament moves. While the sample size is low, just three single elimination tournaments in three years, I’m completely sure that some of these Full Set Singleton decks are simply better than some others. I’ll admit that I really hoped this unusual big-deck format might reveal truths about one set’s power compared to anothers. I’m not so sure about that. Cards’ values are chained to the formats in which they are played. Sets that win more often in Full Set Singleton don’t prove that they are literally better than the sets they defeat. But it’s interesting. The humbling element is how well core sets do in the competition. I find core sets completely boring, but is it possible that core sets have a better average card quality than other sets?

Next time, in part three, we’ll wrap up the 2018 Modern March Madness bracket and find out what player should start waiting by the mailbox for their one-of-a-kind playmat.

Thanks for reading.

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