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Modern Talk

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

Modern Talk

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.

So my plan this week was to have another tournament report. I did play at an IQ this past Friday, at a really nice store. However, I didn’t perform admirably; I would be brave if I called my performance even satisfactory. I guess, though, if you were able to win every event, if I were able to win every event, we wouldn’t be playing in all of these IQs or PPTQs.

Instead, I want to talk about modern! With the Pro Tour for Oath of the Gatewatch coming up next week, there’s a lot of hype over the format. The SCG Tour’s last two events, and the first two events of the year, were both Modern. We saw some of what the Modern format is all about: some fringy tier 2/tier 3 decks performing well while being piloted by competent players, along with Amulet Bloom and of course, Splinter Twin!

The first thing I noticed while watching these events was “Hot dang, that’s a lot of Splinter Twin.” There was a lot of Splinter Twin on camera the past two weekends. Now, I’m not sure if that’s because of how SCG does its feature matches (the reasons I always hate watching SCG Tour coverage could be an article in and of itself), or if it’s actual metagame representation. If it’s a result of the latter, then that means two things for me going forward on a personal level: I will be playing a lot of mirror matches when I try to qualify for an RPTQ this year, and the other thing is that there are a lot of poor Splinter Twin players out there.

In Cincinnati two weeks ago, UR Twin had five copies show up into day 2, while Grixis twin had six show up. A lot of people separate these two into separate decks. I understand why, and I guess that’s like separating Jund and Abzan as separate decks in the metagame. Both of the decks (the twin decks and the BG/x rock decks) try to do the same over-arching strategy, either by using very powerful interactive spells to grind the opponent out, or to craft a two-card combo, but that extra color is either personal preference or a metagame call.

In Charlotte this past weekend, we saw UR Twin as the most common deck in day 2, but not by much, with only eight copies, and zero copies of Grixis. This denotes that Brian Braun-Duin’s success with his UR Twin list drove a lot of people away from the black splash. On a personal level, I prefer more consistent, stable, manabases, and try to shy away from unnecessary additions that try to add something to a deck that the deck does not really need. This is partly the reason I don’t like the current standard metagame, and am playing a R/G aggressive deck there.

While a lot of people may prefer Grixis, it truly is a different type of deck. You’re trying to play a more controlling game when you play cards like Terminate and Murderous Cut. And while I understand the logic, I feel like it’s just a less committed white splash. I think that adding the black splash doesn’t help as much as you’d think against the matchups you would need to splash for. I therefore posit that UR has always been the better deck, even since Grixis became supremely popular last year with the advent of cards like Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Kolaghan’s Command.

Now, while I love my Twin deck, and understand that it’s very difficult to play against, and is very good, I will be the first to say that I do not think it is the most powerful deck in modern. That title would have to go to Amulet Bloom. If you don’t agree with me, then you are probably an Amulet Bloom player, or someone that just keeps losing for whatever reason against some deck that a guy plays at your local shop. You have to be reasonable. Amulet Bloom is the most powerful deck in the format. By a long shot. Nothing even comes close. Nothing is as oppressive as an opponent that untaps on turn three with a Primeval Titan. “Sure, let me go get my backup pacts. So I can blank any interaction you may have to keep me off of my linear, busted strategy.” The fact that that deck is able to play a backup strategy of Hive Mind plus pact is ludicrous. I know a lot of people were surprised when the deck was spared by the ban hammers over at the DCI last year, and I think that if they decide to let people play the deck again for the next year, I’ll be picking the deck up. Not only is it absurdly powerful, it looks fun as anything to play!

Now, if Amulet Bloom gets banned, that still, in my eyes, doesn’t make Splinter Twin the best deck in the format. There’s a new king in town, baby, and let him live long. And hopefully no longer prosper. I think that the best deck in Modern if Amulet Bloom gets banned is RG Tron. A lot of my friends and people that I talk to on a regular basis about Magic call me crazy and are very skeptical of this, but hear me out.

The RG Tron deck is essentially a combo deck. You’re trying to cheat on mana and cast cards like Wurmcoil Engine, Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, etc. as early as turn four. Now, none of these win you the game on the spot, but they get pretty close. Before Khans of Tarkir brought new mana bases to Modern with the original untapped fetchlands, and the following sets brought a ton of new, powerful toys to the Modern format, G/R Tron was one of the pillars of the format. It was already accepted as a tier one deck, and only for a few months after the banning of Birthing Pod did it stumble, when decks like Infect and Burn were just running amok and housing people left and right.

Since then, though, the format hasn’t’ slowed down, but the types of decks that are trying to be quick are more of the combo or midrange variety, and infect and burn have fallen a bit to the wayside. This essentially means that they are good matchups for RG Tron. Pretty much, RG Tron is the deck with the best long game. You get to play stupid spells like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn if you want. This along with cards like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon just blank a lot of decks. Decks really aren’t too well suited to fight against high loyalty Planeswalkers, and decks can’t interact with cast triggers like we’re seeing on the new Eldrazi cards.

So you might be saying, isn’t this just because of the metagame? Surely Tron can’t do well in a metagame full of Infect and Burn! You’d probably be wrong after January 22. Over the past year, while cards like Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Birthing Pod were stealing the spotlight and being banned, and everyone is trying to figure out how to play Kolaghan’s Command and Tasigur, the Golden Fang in their favorite decks, Tron has just been quietly picking up INSANE cards. Over the past year, they’ve picked up:

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Rending Volley
Orbs of Warding
Kozilek’s Return
Kozilek, the Great Distortion
Mirrorpool
Sea Gate Wreckage

Along with whatever other cards they want to play that are hidden in Oath of the Gatewatch and Battle for Zendikar, Tron has been given a TON of new toys. And they’re all insane-o busted! Rending Volley helps with the Twin matchup, Kozilek’s Return has the potential to be the premier early interaction with the deck to help against Infect and other small aggressive decks, Mirrorpool and Sea Gate Wreckage appear to be awesome in a deck that has Ancient Stirrings and Sylvan Scrying and Expedition Map, and any of those other cards are either already played in RG Tron or have a ton of potential.

I’m really excited to watch the Pro Tour in a few weeks. I’m always eager to know what decks the top teams think are the best to try to win an event at the top level of Magic. I’m also really looking forward to see some changes to the banned list in both the banning and unbanning directions. There has been a lot of talk on the ol’ interwebs about some other cards being unbanned, notably Stoneforge Mystic. We’ll see what the “new” Modern format looks like!

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