Hello everyone and welcome to the very first installment of Modern Mentor, your weekly LegitMTG look at the Modern format and metagame analysis. This week, we will be taking a look at tournament results from February 22 and 23, 2015. Each week will feature a breakdown of the top performing decks from each major modern tournament, a spotlight on a breakout card (if there was one), and a breakdown/analysis of major metagame points.
This week was a pretty busy weekend for modern as not only was the StarcityGames 5k Premier IQ in action in sunny, beautiful Los Angeles, but Grand Prix Vancouver also took place in a slightly cooler, yet still warmer climate than the -6 degrees that I am currently experiencing here in Ohio (if my bitterness doesn’t show through my writing, I’m upset with the temperature). So enough with all the chatter, let’s delve (heh) into some decklists!
U/R Delver, SCG Premier IQ 1st place, Calvin Kim
It appears as if the death of U/R Delver has been greatly exaggerated when we see it take down the Premier IQs. While it may appear that I have goofed and linked a decklist from a few short months ago, I am not mistaken – this deck has lasting power without Treasure Cruise. The biggest difference to note between this decklist and the decklists of yore (can I really say “yore” when referring to a mere month or two ago?), is the inclusion of a full playset of Snapcaster Mage. Everyone’s favorite non-Harry Potter wizard has reclaimed his rightful place as the king of a deck full of one mana spells and cards that punish you for casting them. In case you haven’t heard, Snapcaster Mage targeting a Lightning Bolt while you have Young Pyromancer feels just as good, if not better, than casting a Treasure Cruise for one blue mana.
Another big thing to note about this deck compared to its more popular predecessor, is the lack of graveyard enablers like Thought Scour and Gitaxian Probe. Casting Gitaxian Probe no longer is a free way to fill up your yard, and you would rather be able to cast the spells a Thought Scour would remove now that they no longer fuel a delve. It’s important to remember that to get the most value out of a Snapcaster Mage, you have to cast the card first from your hand and then flash it back. Casting it from the yard with Thought Scour, while not the worst thing in the world, is hardly optimal.
It is true that this deck has lost some of its late game longevity. Grim Lavamancer, while seeing play in the sideboard of a lot of U/R Delver decks pre bannings, should see more mainboard inclusion as it can provide the final few pings of damage necessary to finish the game out. Snapcaster Mage, for all of its strengths as a Magic card, does not fill the void for casting Ancestral Recall in a format with the power level that modern has. I would expect to see U/R Delver at every modern tournament you attend. The success of this deck will depend largely on the pilot, the amount of burn in the room (remember, this deck hates playing against burn), and whether the sideboard composition of the deck matches the other decks that were played that particular day.
Whatever your opinion is on the longevity of Delver in modern, it is important to note a few things about the deck:
- Delver of Secrets is a great Magic card (one of, if not the best, one drop creatures ever printed)
- Young Pyromancer is a great Magic card (one of, if not the best, 2 drop utility creatures ever printed)
- Snapcaster Mage is a great Magic card (one of, if not the best, 2 drop drop utility creatures ever printed)
Basically, this deck is playing some of the best cards available to Magic as a whole, let alone the nonrotating format that is modern. An adequate player of modern still needs to be aware of its existence and understand its game plan of “tempo you out of the game” in order to be successful. Also, this isn’t a financial piece or anything, but look at those new Snapcaster Mage prices $D.
Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s take a break from things that we’re familiar with and look at this list:
Abzan Midrange, Grand Prix Vancouver 3rd/4th place, Florian Koch
HAH. I’m just kidding. Here’s old faithful, Abzan Midrange! This deck, which represented 30% of the metagame at Pro Tour Fate Reforged, had another strong showing at Grand Prix Vancouver this past weekend. On the coverage article Top 5 Cards, Josh Bennett and Marc Calderaro report that Abzan represented the majority of the Day 2 field, and they named Inquisition of Kozilek as their fifth ranked important card from the weekend. In a combo heavy format like modern, disrupting the game plan is probably important, and the two life loss from Thoughtseize is relevant in a burn heavy format as well.
I think the hottest piece of tech in these sideboards that we’re seeing lately is Curse of Death’s Hold. I mused for a while about why this card is popping up in sideboards of lists all over the place, and thanks to players better than me (like fellow LegitMTG writer Mike Keknee), I settled on the conclusion I wanted to draw: killing your opponent’s Lingering Souls is insane and this card completely shuts off Splinter Twin decks. Mike suggested that the card is a hard lock against Affinity, but we eventually concluded that if you’ve made it to turn five against Affinity, you’ve already won the game anyway. But this card is difficult to remove, is a house against the matchups you want it in, and doesn’t negatively affect you in any way. With Splinter Twin decks being so prominent again (and it won GP Vancouver) and with Lingering Souls being a popular card right now, Curse of Death’s Hold seems like a great direction to be going.
It would have really sucked to have been this next guy playing in Grand Prix Vancouver, but luckily enough for him, he was at the SCG Premier IQ:
B/W Tokens, StarcityGames Premier IQ 7th place, Micahel Terasaki
A tokens list has probably been viable for some time, and we’ve seen it crop up here and there, but it’s always nice to see a list that isn’t tier one come in and do well at an event. My least favorite Magic card of all time is Sorin, Lord of Innistrad because it crushed me on camera at an SCG Open a few years ago, but this card is bonkers in this type of deck. This deck grinds out value on Abzan decks that need to one-for-one their opponents efficiently. Casting Lingering Souls behind the wall of an Intangible Virtue is a surefire way to ensure your opponent will be spending their cards inefficiently. A challenge that this deck will face is that when it gets behind, it will most likely stay behind. Abrupt Decay and Nature’s Claim are very effective against this decks enablers (see Intangible Virtue, Angelic Destiny, etc.) and without those, the deck turns into a pile of 1/1s. This deck seems like it prays on the midrange decks of the format, gets utterly destroyed by combo decks, and has a non-negative matchup against other fair decks of the format. I don’t have a lot of details on this deck, but I’ll be curious to see if it shows up in top 8’s and top 16’s in the future. If Abzan continues to be as big of a player as it seems, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a copy or two of this every weekend. This is impressive considering that probably not many people were playing this list to begin with.
I won’t annoy you with all the decks you’ve heard about for weeks (Twin, Affinity, Storm, Burn, etc.), but it is important for you to know right now that they’re still out there. They’re still going to be out there next week when I recap the results of modern tournaments from this coming weekend. Hell, these decks will still probably be there three months from now when I write an article about tournaments in May (oh my God, May…spring time…warm weather :D). Sometimes interesting tech will creep up in these decks (read: Curse of Death’s Hold is pretty cool and most people probably haven’t heard about it), and we’ll talk about it, but for next week, I want to start looking at unique things people are playing like Michael Terasaki’s B/W Tokens list that we just discussed. Until then, cheers!
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