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Modern March Madness Conclusion

Written by Jeff Zandi on . Posted in Casual Magic, Magic Culture

Modern March Madness Conclusion

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.

And finally, after the storm, the calm.

It took more than a month, but at last the battles are over. The fifty-eight sets in Modern competed against each other in the third annual Modern March Madness tournament. These sets were each represented by Full Set Singleton decks. These decks contain one of each card in the set with basic land added. These are the largest decks in all the land and they are forced to compete each year in a single elimination bracket to learn what set is the most mighty in Modern.

Dragons of Tarkir was undefeated in the first two years of this scientific experiment but was taken down this year by an upstart, Amonkhet. Amonkhet met another first-year set in the finals, Rivals of Ixalan. Here’s what the top sixteen looks like after all the battles.



Full Set Singleton is more than a fun way to waste time playing Magic, it’s also a lofty high-concept attempt to rate Magic sets against each other in a pragmatic, objective way. Oh, and it’s also an opportunity for my human friends to compete in a bracket contest. I opened the doors to this contest to the world and a tiny percentage of humanity answered the call. These thirteen participants sent me a completed bracket based on my initial seeding of the fifty-eight sets in Modern. Every correct guess in the first round was worth one point. Round two wins were worth two points, the third round three points and so on through the final match, which was worth six points.

Here’s what the scores looked 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

After the Sweet Sixteen round was complete, the scores looked like this:

36-20 53 Joe Klopchic
30-26 45 Gerry Thompson
31-25 45 Blake Billingslea (finished)
30-26 43 Brian Heine (finished)
27-29 39 Scot Martin
27-29 37 Michael Ewing (finished)
26-30 35 Michael Taggart
25-31 33 Jonathan Maples (finished)
31-25 30 Lawson Zandi (finished)
18-38 25 Robert Berni
20-36 24 Brian Augustine (finished)
18-38 22 Jordon Berkley (finished)
17-39 18 Maitland Griffith (finished)

Joe Klopchic is close to locking it up this year. Eight points ahead of everyone else, Klopchic still has Return to Ravnica and Fate Reforged alive in his bracket. Gerry Thompson started badly in round one but has moved up the standings after rounds two and three. Now he’s in second place and still has Rise of the Eldrazi reaching the final four. Unfortunately four points is the most Gerry T. can wring out of the rest of the tournament because he has Rise of the Eldrazi reaching the final four but going no further. Gerry T. cannot catch Klopchic. Billingslea is in worse shape, he is tied with Gerry T. on points but Billingslea’s remaining bracket is completely busted and he cannot earn any more points. If Rise of the Eldrazi loses in the Elite Eight Billingslea can finish the tournament tied with Gerry T. Brian Heine is in fourth place for the moment but, like Billingslea, cannot earn any more points, his bracket is now busted.

Scot Martin is fourteen points behind Klopchic but Scot has Rise of the Eldrazi going all the way. If Scot is right about Rise and if Return to Ravnica and Fate Reforged lose in the Elite Eight, Scot can win the tournament and outscore Klopchic by one point! Michael Taggart is playing for pride. He can earn four more points if his last active team, Return to Ravnica, can reach the Final Four. That’s as far as Taggart can go, however. Robert Berni cannot win the tournament but he can earn some more points if Return to Ravnica and Amonkhet can reach the Final Four. Berni has Amonkhet reaching the finals.

The next four matches take us from the Elite Eight to the Final Four.

Return to Ravnica 2-1 over Rise of the Eldrazi
Rivals of Ixalan 2-1 over Magic: Origins
Amonkhet 2-1 over Fate Reforged
Oath of the Gatewatch 2-0 over Born of the Gods

Here are what the scores look like after these fourth round matches:

37-23 57 Joe Klopchic
30-30 45 Gerry Thompson (finished)
31-29 45 Blake Billingslea (finished)
30-30 43 Brian Heine (finished)
27-33 39 Scot Martin (finished)
27-33 39 Michael Taggart (finished)
27-33 37 Michael Ewing (finished)
20-40 33 Robert Berni
25-35 33 Jonathan Maples (finished)
31-29 30 Lawson Zandi (finished)
20-40 24 Brian Augustine (finished)
18-42 22 Jordon Berkley (finished)
17-43 18 Maitland Griffith (finished)

Return to Ravnica’s quarterfinals win over Rise of the Eldrazi locks up the win for Joe Klopchic. He wins a special custom playmat that I really hope he will not choose to regift as he does with so many of the playmats that he accumulates. Joe’s 57 points is higher than last year’s champion Derek Gardner. Gardner finished with 52 points last year. There was no bracket challenge in the first year, 2016, of the Modern March Madness tournament.

Here is the score after all 63 matches were completed. Only Robert Berni scored in the semifinals, by choosing Amonkhet to reach the finals. His semifinals win was worth five points allowing Berni to hop over Michael Ewing in the final standings.

37-26 57 Joe Klopchic
31-32 45 Blake Billingslea
30-33 45 Gerry Thompson
30-33 43 Brian Heine
27-36 39 Scot Martin
27-36 39 Michael Taggart
21-42 38 Robert Berni
27-36 37 Michael Ewing
25-38 33 Jonathan Maples
31-32 30 Lawson Zandi
20-43 24 Brian Augustine
18-45 22 Jordon Berkley
17-46 18 Maitland Griffith

Top Sixteen Review

The story of this year’s tournament was definitely the unexpected power of two new sets, Amonkhet and Rivals of Ixalan. Neither of these sets has been wildly popular during their short lives so far. While both have had some impact on constructed formats, neither has been hailed as great Magic expansions. Full Set Singleton and these two sets’ performance in the 2018 Modern March Madness experiment may signal that these two sets deserve more credit. As we examine the last four rounds of this year’s bracket, we’ll pay special attention to these two sets.

Sweet Sixteen

Dragons of Tarkir (1) versus Amonkhet (13)

For Dragons of Tarkir, having easily beaten Avacyn Restored 2-0 in the second round, game one begins with Ambuscade Shaman dealing four damage on turns four and five. Amonkhet makes a defensive play on turn five with Supply Caravan. Dragons gives up on the Ambuscade Shaman dash plan and simply plays Ambuscade Shaman the regular way on turn six. Amonkhet’s turn six is much more exciting, playing Sandwurm Convergence. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that this forty-four cent rare took over the game very quickly. Amonkhet wins game one on turn ten.

Dragons of Tarkir gets off to another aggressive start in game two with Zurgo Bellstriker on turn one. On turn three Amonkhet finally puts animals onto the battlefield with Graceful Cat while Dragons adds two Goblin tokens with Dragon Fodder. Dragons of Tarkir adds Stormwing Dragon face down on turn five, Amonkhet follows with Kefnet the Mindful. Dragons gets in there with his face down monster and two Goblin tokens making the score (17-10) in Dragons’ favor. Amokhet draws Hazoret’s Favor and passes the turn. As Dragons of Tarkir attacks with just the two Goblin tokens, Amonkhet draws Glory-Bound Initiate with Kefnet and is able to block a Goblin token with Kefnet (17-9). Stormwing Dragon stays back to defend. Amonkhet plays Never to take down Stormwing Dragon before attacking with Glory-Bound Initiate exerted along with Kefnet, a Goblin token blocks the Initiate but can’t stop the life gain from lifelink (12-13), then Throne of the God-Pharaoh triggers at the end of Amonkhet’s turn also helping to move the game in his favor (9-13). Just a few extra cards drawn from Kefnet, plus Kefnet’s impressive value in combat, put this game quickly out of reach for the two-time defending champion. Amonkhet wins game two on turn eleven.

Magic 2015 (2) versus Rivals of Ixalan (14)

Across the bracket, Rivals of Ixalan has escaped with close wins over Planar Chaos and then Aether Revolt before running into Magic 2015. M15 reached the final four last year.

Game one starts slowly until Rivals plays The Immortal Sun on turn six and makes the first attack of the game with Charging Tuskodon blocked by Ornithopter (14-20). Then Rivals draws Profane Procession. It’s all bad for M15 at this point. Rivals of Ixalan wins game one on turn eleven.

Things start poorly for M15 in game two. On the play, M15 throws away an opening hand with four basic lands, Naturalize, Necromancer’s Stockpile and Meteorite. The six-card keep consists of three Islands, Torch Fiend, Restock and Glacial Crasher. M15 scrys another Island onto the bottom of his library. M15 can keep this hand only because of my rule variant allowing each deck two free land searches per game that take the place of playing a land for the turn. Meanwhile, everything works out perfectly for Rivals, playing Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. M15 plays Glacial Crasher on turn six. The Crasher attacks on turn seven, the score is (18-13) in M15’s favor. M15 adds two unexciting elements to his side of the board, Fugitive Wizard and Witch’s Familiar. From this score, Rivals wins the game in three turns on the backs of Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, Mausoleum Harpy and Resplendent Griffin. Rivals of Ixalan wins game two on turn nine.

Other Matches

In other action in the round of sixteen, Return to Ravnica won 2-0 over Dragon’s Maze with impressive performances from Archon of the Triumvirate and Worldspine Wurm. Last year, Magic 2010 reached the final four. This year, M10 is knocked out in the round of sixteen by Rise of the Eldrazi with Gruul Draz Assassin all leveled up and lethal in games one and two. Origins defeated Gatecrash 2-1 with big games from Consuming Aberration in game one and Prickleboar in game three. Fate Reforged survived a tough 2-1 match against Khans of Tarkir. Oath of the Gatewatch prevailed 2-0 over Battle for Zendikar and Born of the Gods won 2-0 over Shards of Alara.

And now there were eight.

Elite Eight

Return to Ravnica continued its march to the final four by besting Rise of the Eldrazi 2-1 on the back of great performances by Hypersonic Dragon in game one and Pack Rat in game three. Yep, Return played Pack Rat on turn two with Rise holding no removal spells. The game was over on turn seven. Return to Ravnica returns to the final four having first reached the semifinals in 2015, the first year of this Full Set Singleton competition.

Oath of the Gatewatch ascends to the final four by defeating Born of the Gods 2-0 with games lasting nine and eleven turns.

Magic: Origins (5) versus Rivals of Ixalan (14)

The opening hands in game one say a lot. Rivals’ contains a Mountain, Squire’s Devotion, Relentless Raptor, Spire Winder, Trapjaw Tyrant, Wayward Swordtooth and Orazca Raptor. All he needs is to draw some land after using up his two mana tokens for the game. Origins’ opening hand holds two Islands, Plains, Consecrated by Blood, Eagle of the Watch, Reave Soul and Bone to Ash. Origins’ hand looks like a core set. Rivals’ does not. Sure enough, Rivals manages to draw land. After Trapjaw Tyrant lands on turn five, Rivals has Tilonalli’s Crown on turn six to trigger the Tyrant exiling Eagle of the Watch. This game was awkwardly one-sided and Rivals of Ixalan wins game one on turn seven.

Origins bounces back in game two with Bonded Construct on turn one and Scab-Clan Berserker on turn three. Origins is ahead (17-11) in turn four after attacking with both creatures for a second time, then adds Pia and Kiran Nalaar and two Thopter tokens. Origins draws Aegis Angel on turn six, but she isn’t needed. Magic: Origins wins game two on turn six.

Rivals throws back an opening hand with three Plains, two Forests, Sea Legs and Blood Sun, preferring instead a six card hand with two Swamps, Plains, Highland Lake, Dead Man’s Chest and Canal Monitor. Does Rivals’ future in this tournament rely on Canal Monitor? Origins starts the game with a hand of Mountain, Plains, Ampryn Tactician, Jace’s Sanctum, Alhammarret’s Archive, Maritime Guard and Talent of the Telepath. It takes a long time for the boards to develop. Nobody attacks until Blood-Cursed Knight blocks Charging Tuskodon on turn seven (17-20) beginning the slow blood-letting of Magic’s supposed last core set (now we know differently). Rivals wins game three on turn ten.

Fate Reforged (6) versus Amonkhet (13)

Amonkhet wins the die roll and plays first in game one of the quarterfinals. Amonkhet draws Sandwurm Convergence on turn three but would it enter the battlefield in time to make a difference? Fate Reforged was already attacking with Mardu Scout. Fate Reforged adds Alesha, Who Smiles at Death on turn three. Sandwurm Convergence does indeed reach the battlefield, but not until turn nine. That would have been too late in a lot of matches, but Amonkhet is in decent shape, slightly ahead on life (12-14). Fate Reforged has Outpost Siege in play providing extra card resources for Fate but the onslaught of Wurm tokens wins the game. Amonkhet wins game one on turn thirteen.

On the play but down a game, Fate Reforged rejects an opening hand with six basic lands and Fearsome Awakening. Fate keeps a six card hand with Island, Crucible of the Dragon Spirit, Return to the Earth, Hooded Assassin, Sudden Reclamation and Temur Battle Rage. Amonkhet starts the game with two Mountains, two Swamps, Gideon of the Trials, Aven Initiate and Galestrike in his hand. Amonkhet’s first creature on the board is Bloodlust Inciter on turn three. Fate played Hooded Assassin on turn three and starts attacking with it on turn four. The Assassin hits Amonkhet twice before Amonkhet plays Warfire Javelineer and starts attacking with the help of the Inciter. Wildcall manifests the top card of Fate Reforged’s library onto the battlefield face down with four +1/+1 counters on it. Then, on his next turn, Fate flips up the face down card revealing Atarka, World Render. Fate Reforged wins game two on turn seven.

In game three Amonkhet gets the first creature in play on turn three with Rhet-Crop Spearmaster. Fate gets Destructor Dragon onto the battlefield on turn six but Amonkhet starts pouring one monster after another onto the battlefield including Gust Walker and Vizier of Tumbling Sands. Amonkhet wins game three on turn eleven.

Final Four

Return to Ravnica (1) versus Rivals of Ixalan (14)

Return to Ravnica wins the die roll and plays first in game one of their semifinals match against Rivals of Ixalan. Return keeps an opening hand with Mountain, Island, Plains, Swamp, Tavern Swindler, Security Blockade and Goblin Electromancer. Rivals keeps two Forests, Swamp, Jade Bearer, Sworn Guardian, Rekindling Phoenix and Angrath’s Fury. Return has Electromancer in play on turn two. Electromancer draws first blood on turn three (20-18). Security Blockade follows creating a 2/2 white Knight creature token with vigilance. Rivals plays Giltgrove Stalker on turn three and Rekindling Phoenix on turn four. On turn six, Rivals plays Angrath’s Fury (fake card) targeting Goblin Electromancer searching his library for Angrath, Minotaur Pirate (also a fake card). Rivals plays Angrath, Minotaur Pirate on turn seven and adds two counters to it dealing one damage to Return and to each creature Return controls. (meh) Rivals plays another fake Magic card on turn eight, Vampire Champion. It’s turn eight before combat starts to really matter in this battle, Rekindling Phoenix gets in there and the score is (12-18) in Rivals’ favor. Rivals keeps slowly chopping at Return’s life count with Rekindling Phoenix and with Angrath. Finally, on turn eleven, Rivals removes eleven counters from Angrath destroying all of Return’s creatures. Rivals of Ixalan wins game one on turn twelve.

On the play for game two, Return starts with Island, Horncaller’s Chant, Jarad’s Orders, Grisly Salvage, Sunspire Griffin, Syncopate and Selesnya Charm. Rivals keeps Island, Plains, Sanguine Glorifier, Reckless Rage, Tilonalli’s Summoner, Aquatic Incursion and Angrath’s Ambusher. Return draws Precinct Captain on turn two but the Captain has to wait because Return played an Island on turn one and searches his library for a Forest for turn two. Rivals plays Tilonalli’s Summoner on turn two and hopes it won’t get destroyed for a while. As a matter of fact, Summoner deals the first damage of game two on turn three (19-20). Rivals plays Needletooth Raptor on turn four. In the meantime, Return fails to draw land and uses his two mana tokens on turns two and three for a Forest and then a Swamp. Return plays Grisly Salvage to find a Forest among the top five cards of his library. Return draws a Plains on turn four and plays Jarad’s Orders searching his library revealing and putting Deadbridge Goliath into his graveyard and Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage into his hand. On turn five Rivals draws and plays Knight of the Stampede, he has whittled Return down to size with Angrath’s Ambushers after two hits with Tilonalli’s Summoner and the score is now (14-20). The rich get richer a turn later when Rivals draws Twilight Prophet and is able to play it after using his second mana token to put a second Swamp onto the battlefield. Twilight Prophet pays immediate dividends revealing and putting Flood of Recollection into Rivals’ hand draining Return for two points, the score is (10-22). Rivals draws and tries to play Bishop of Binding but Return responds with Syncopate countering it. By now it’s too late for Return to come back. Rivals attacks with four creatures on turn seven and the score moves to (4-22). Return draws and plays Voidwielder bouncing Twilight Prophet, which helps for exactly one turn. Speaking of too-little-too-late, Return to Ravnica draws Pack Rat on turn ten. Rivals of Ixalan wins game two on turn ten.

Oath of the Gatewatch (5) versus Amonkhet (13)

In the other semifinals match, Amonkhet wins the die roll and plays first with Liliana, Death Wielder, Tattered Mummy, Companion of the Trials and four lands while Oath keeps a three-land hand with Brute Strength, Fall of the Titans, Oath of Gideon and Sky Scourer. Both sides get a creature onto the battlefield on turn two. The first damage in the game doesn’t happen until turn five when Amonkhet plays Manticore of the Gauntlet putting a -1/-1 counter on Tattered Mummy (17-20). Oath follows with Kozilek’s Translator. Liliana, Death Wielder joins the board on turn seven and, as a sort of fake Magic card, doesn’t bring much to the party. She puts a -1/-1 counter on Oath’s Gravity Negator. On turn eight, Oath finally attacks with Gravity Negator and Kozilek’s Translator dealing just two points of damage (17-18). World Breaker arrives for Oath on turn eight destroying Amonkhet’s only Island. Amonkhet immediately draws and plays a replacement. On turn nine, Gravity Negator and Thought Harvester and World Breaker, Negator provides World Breaker with flying until end of turn and the life totals swing in Oath’s favor (17-11). Amonkhet solves the World Breaker problem with Never/Return playing both halves of the spell on turn ten. Oath draws and plays Saddleback Lagac on turn eleven and puts +1/+1 counters on two creatures. Oath of the Gatewatch wins game one on turn twelve.

Amonkhet is on the play again in game two and keeps an opening hand with three lands, Hooded Brawler, Nimble-Blade Khenra, Illusory Wrappings and Naga Vitalist. Oath keeps a two-lander with Deceiver of Form, Tar Snare, Thought-Knot Seer, Call of the Gatewatch and Essence Depleter. Amonkhet accelerates his mana by playing Naga Vitalist on turn two. Amonkhet adds Prowling Serpopard on turn three and deals the first damage with Serpopard on turn four (16-20). Hooded Brawler follows and Amonkhet attacks and deals thirteen damage on turn five (3-20). Oath stays alive for a number of turns with Deceiver of Form and with Endbringer, but Amonkhet plays Ribbons from the graveyard to close things out and tie the match. Amonkhet wins game two on turn thirteen.

Oath of the Gatewatch plays first in game three of this semifinal match keeping four lands and Chitinous Cloak, Embodiment of Insight and Sweep Away. Amonkhet keeps a two-lander with Binding Mummy, Censor, Hooded Brawler, Unwavering Initiate and Scribe of the Mindful. Amonkhet immediately draws a simple green fatty, Greater Sandwurm. Amonkhet has Binding Mummy on turn two. Oath plays Sweep Away moving the attacking Mummy to the top of Amonkhet’s deck, but Amonkhet finishes turn three playing Hooded Brawler. The Brawler is exerted when it attacks on turn four (15-20). Oath plays a meaty creature on turn five, Embodiment of Insight. Hooded Brawler attacks exerted again on turn six and Oath takes the damage (10-20). Oath’s counterstrike with Makindi Aeronaut on turn eight is less than impressive (10-19). On Amonkhet’s turn eight he plays Limits of Solidarity taking control of Deceiver of Form until end of turn and attacks with Deceiver. Oath takes that opportunity to even up the game by playing Dazzling Reflection targeting Deceiver of Form. The score at the end of turn eight is (18-19) just barely in Amonkhet’s favor. Then Amonkhet plays Trueheart Twins on turn nine and Greater Sandwurm on turn ten. By this time, Oath has Essence Depleter in play and is activating it at the end of Amonkhet’s turns. At the end of turn eleven the score favors Oath of the Gatewatch (20-10). A turn later, Oath is close to victory, the score (21-3) in his favor. It all changes on Amonkhet’s turn twelve… the last turn of the match. Amonkhet draws and cycles Hieroglyphic Illumination drawing Soulstinger. He plays Insult, then attacks with Oketra the True and Scribe of the Mindful and Unwavering Initiate and Trueheart Twins (exerted) and Tattered Mummy and Greater Sandwurm and Honored Hydra. Oath plays Immolating Glare targeting Honored Hydra. The Greater Sandwurm is blocked by Essence Depleter, Embodiment of Insight blocks Oketra the True. When the dust settles, the score that had been (21-3) at the beginning of the turn is now (-3 -3). Amonkhet wins game three on turn twelve.


I have something special for the finals. My son Lawson and I played out the final match between Rivals of Ixalan and Amonkhet and posted the videos of the games on YouTube. Be patient, these are my first uploads ever to YouTube. I’ll work on the production values before my next video project.

When you watch the final match on YouTube, and I do hope you’ll give it a try, you might also want to have the play-by-play below handy so that you will know exactly what cards were played on what turns.

T1 Amonkhet mulligans to six cards, plays Swamp.
T1 Rivals plays Woodland Stream tapped.
T2 Amonkhet plays Swamp.
T2 Rivals activates and sacrifices his first mana token searching his library putting a Mountain onto the battlefield, plays Goblin Trailblazer.
T3 Amonkhet activates and sacrifices his first mana token searching his library putting an Island onto the battlefield,
T3 Rivals attacks with Trailblazer (20-18), plays Swamp, plays Dinosaur Hunter.
T4 Amonkhet plays Plains, plays Rags giving all creatures -2/-2 until end of turn.
T4 Rivals plays Plains, plays Vampire Champion.
T5 Amonkhet plays Mountain, plays Archfiend of Ifnir.
T5 Rivals draws Ghalta, Primal Hunger, plays Squire’s Devotion enchanting Vampire Champion creating a 1/1 white Vampire creature token with lifelink, attacks with Vampire Champion (24-14), plays Island.
T6 Amonkhet plays Swamp, plays Winds of Rebuke targeting and bouncing Vampire Champion back to Rivals’ hand milling Oathsworn Vampire and Dire Fleet Daredevil into Rivals’ graveyard from the top of his deck and milling Island and Plains into Amonkhet’s graveyard from the top of his deck, attacks with Archfiend of Ifner (19-14), plays Grim Strider with two cards remaining in his hand.
T6 Rivals draws Paladin of Atonement, activates and sacrifices his second mana token searching his library putting a Swamp onto the battlefield, plays Ravenous Chupacabra targeting Archfiend of Ifner, plays Paladin of Atonement.
T7 Amonkhet activates and sacrifices his second mana token searching his library putting a Forest onto the battlefield, plays Weaver of Currents, attacks with Grim Strider with two cards in hand (15-14).
T7 Paladin of Atonement triggers at the beginning of Rivals’ upkeep putting a +1/+1 counter on it, draws The Immortal Sun, plays Island, plays The Immortal Sun, attacks with Vampire token and Ravenous Chupacabra and Paladin of Atonement, Weaver of Currents blocks Vampire token (17-8), Rivals plays Oathsworn Vampire from the graveyard.
T8 Amonkhet draws and plays Evolving Wilds.
T8 Rivals draws an extra card with The Immortal Sun, plays Storm Fleet Sprinter, attacks with Storm Fleet Sprinter and Oathsworn Vampire and Ravenous Chupacabra and Paladin of Atonement, Grim Strider blocks Vampire (17- -1).

T1 Amonkhet plays Forest.
T1 Rivals plays Island.
T2 Amonkhet plays Mountain.
T2 Rivals plays Mountain.
T3 Amonkhet plays Island, plays Hooded Brawler.
T3 Rivals activates and sacrifices his first mana token searching his library putting a Swamp onto the battlefield, discards Plains.
T4 Amonkhet plays Plains, attacks with Hooded Brawler (17-20), plays Quarry Hauler.
T4 Rivals plays Swamp, plays Aquatic Incursion creating two 1/1 blue Merfolk creature tokens with hexproof.
T5 Amonkhet plays Painted Bluffs, plays Hazoret’s Favor, attacks with Quarry Hauler and Hooded Brawler (exerted) (8-20).
T5 Rivals draws Vampire Revenant, plays Plains, attacks with one Merfolk token (8-19), plays Vampire Revenant, at end of turn Amonkhet plays Magma Spray targeting and exiling Vampire Revenant.
T6 Amonkhet draws Forest, attacks with Quarry Hauler (4-19).
T6 Rivals draws Voracious Vampire, activates and sacrifices his second mana token searching his library putting a Mountain onto the battlefield, plays Form of the Dinosaur (15-9).
T7 Amonkhet plays Forest, attacks with Quarry Hauler and Hooded Brawler (exerted), Merfolk token blocks Brawler, Merfolk token blocks Hauler, plays Defiant Greatmaw putting two-1/-1 counters on Quarry Hauler.
T7 Form of the Dinosaur triggers and Rivals chooses to target Defiant Greatmaw (11-9), plays Plains, plays Ravenous Vampire.
T8 Amonkhet attacks with Quarry Hauler blocked by Vampire,
T8 Form of the Dinosaur triggers and Rivals chooses to target Hooded Brawler (8-9), draws Forest, plays Forest.
T9 Amonkhet plays Swamp.
T9 Rivals plays Island.
T10 Amonkhet plays Festering Mummy, plays Consuming Fervor enchanting Mummy, declares attack, Hazoret’s Favor triggers and Amonkhet chooses to give Festering Mummy +2/+0 until end of turn, attacks with Festering Mummy (2-9), at end of turn Amonkhet sacrifices Festering Mummy.
T10 Rivals plays Forest.
T11 Amonkhet draws and plays Gideon of the Trials, activates Gideon’s second ability making it a 4/4 Human Soldier creature with indestructible, declares attack, Hazoret’s Favor triggers and Amonkhet chooses to target Gideon of the Trials, attacks with Gideon of the Trials (-4 -9).

T1 Rivals plays Forest.
T1 Amonkhet plays Mountain, plays Pyramid of the Pantheon.
T2 Rivals activates and sacrifices his first mana token searching his library putting a Swamp onto the battlefield, plays Dinosaur Hunter.
T2 Amonkhet plays Swamp.
T3 Rivals plays Mountain, plays Strider Harness, attacks with Dinosaur Hunter (20-18), at end of turn Amonkhet activates Pyramid of the Pantheon putting a brick counter on it.
T3 Amonkhet plays Island.
T4 Rivals activates and sacrifices his second mana token searching his library putting a Plains onto the battlefield, attacks with Dinosaur Hunter (20-16), plays World Shaper, at end of turn Amonkhet activates and puts a second brick counter on Pyramid of the Pantheon.
T4 Amonkhet plays Swamp, activates Pyramid putting a third brick counter on it getting a black mana, plays Bontu the Glorified.
T5 Rivals equips Strider Harness to World Shaper, attacks with World Shaper and Dinosaur Hunter, World Shaper triggers milling Mausoleum Harpy and Plains and Mutiny into his graveyard from the top of his library, combat damage happens (20-10), plays Plains.
T5 Amonkhet activates and sacrifices his first mana token searching his library putting a Plains onto the battlefield, plays Cast Out exiling World Shaper.
T6 Rivals plays Gleaming Barrier, equips Strider Harness to Dinosaur Hunter, attacks with Dinosaur Hunter (20-7).
T6 Amonkhet taps Pyramid for three blue mana, plays Hieroglyphic Illumination drawing two cards, plays Island, plays Binding Mummy.
T7 Rivals plays Slaughter the Strong, Rivals keeps Dinosaur Hunter and sacrifices Gleaming Barrier, Amonkhet keeps Bontu and sacrifices Binding Mummy, Gleaming Barrier triggers when it dies creating a colorless Treasure artifact token.
T7 Amonkhet plays Island, activates Pyramid getting three red mana, plays Desert Cerodon, plays Cartouche of Zeal enchanting Desert Cerodon choosing to not allow Dinosaur Hunter to block this turn, attacks with Desert Cerodon (13-7).
T8 Rivals plays Island, sacrifices his Treasure token for blue mana, plays Azor, the Lawbringer, Azor triggers when it enters the battlefield, Amonkhet responds playing Winds of Rebuke targeting and bouncing Azor to Rivals’ hand, each player mills the top two cards of their library into their graveyard, attacks with Dinosaur Hunter (13-4).
T8 Amonkhet attacks with Desert Cerodon (6-4).
T9 Rivals plays Baffling End exiling Bontu the Glorified, plays Fathom Fleet Boarder, equips Boarder with Strider Harness, attacks with Fathom Fleet Boarder and Dinosaur Hunter (6- -2)

Rivals of Ixalan is the champion of the 2018 Modern March Madness competition.

Does that make Rivals of Ixalan the most powerful set in Modern? I doubt anybody is ready to believe that. However, I hope the performance of Rivals of Ixalan and that of Amonkhet in this year’s Modern March Madness will open people’s minds to the possibility that these really are two very powerful sets.

Next Year’s Bracket

Next year’s bracket will have sixty-two sets competing in it. Dominaria is upon us. We get a new core set (I’m not ready to cheer for this decision just yet) and we’ll get a new expansion set in the fall of this year and another in the late winter of 2019. These four new sets will have low seeds in next year’s bracket the same way that Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation, Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan had low seedings this time around.

After three years of play, there remain four sets that have not yet won a match. Kaladesh and Shadows over Innistrad each played in the 2017 and 2018 brackets. Kaladesh lost to Magic: Origins this year and to Magic 2013 last year. Shadows over Innistrad lost to Rise of the Eldrazi this year and lost to Fate Reforged last year. Two other sets have done even more poorly, having failed to win a match in three attempts. These sets are Mirrodin Besieged and Tenth Edition. Mirrodon Besieged’s three losses were to Dragon’s Maze, Avacyn Restored and Born of the Gods. Tenth Editions losses were to Aether Revolt, Dragon’s Maze and Coldsnap.

Here is a listing of the scores accumulated by each set across all three years of competition. These scores are like the scores the human players earned with their predictions. A first round match win (or bye) is worth one point, a second round win is worth two, a third round match is worth three and a win in the final round is worth six points. Even after losing this year in the round of sixteen, Dragons of Tarkir is still way ahead in the points race after earning 21 points each in 2016 and 2017.

45 Dragons of Tarkir
28 Return to Ravnica
21 Rivals of Ixalan
18 Gatecrash
17 Theros
15 Amonkhet
14 Oath of the Gatewatch
13 Magic 2010
13 Magic 2015
13 Eighth Edition
10 Magic: Origins
9 Fate Reforged
9 Rise of the Eldrazi
9 Alara Reborn
7 Born of the Gods
7 Dragon’s Maze
7 Ravnica
7 Fifth Dawn
7 New Phyrexia
7 Planar Chaos
6 Eldritch Moon
6 Conflux
4 Battle for Zendikar
4 Khans of Tarkir
4 Aether Revolt
4 Dark Ascension
4 Scars of Mirrodin
4 Time Spiral
4 Betrayers of Kamigawa
4 Innistrad
3 Dissension
3 Guildpact
2 Avacyn Restored
2 Champions of Kamigawa
2 Coldsnap
2 Magic 2012
2 Zendikar
2 Magic 2011
2 Magic 2013
2 Shadowmoor
1 Shards of Alara
1 Hour of Devastation
1 Ixalan
1 Eventide
1 Journey into Nyx
1 Morningtide
1 Ninth Edition
1 Saviors of Kamigawa
1 Darksteel
1 Future Sight
1 Lorwyn
1 Magic 2014
1 Mirrodin
1 Worldwake
0 Kaladesh
0 Shadows over Innistrad
0 Mirrodin Besieged
0 Tenth Edition

The madness is at an end for this year. I hope you will join me again in 2019 when I again try to divine which set in Modern is the most powerful by using Full Set Singleton decks to make the sets battle against each other in a single elimination bracket. You think I’m crazy? That’s funny, that’s what some of the other voices in my head say, too.

My hope is that next year you’ll fill out a bracket and compete like the fourteen brave souls that entered the arena this year.

Thanks for reading.

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