As I’m sitting here writing this article during my lunch break at work, I’m reading over all the articles and listening to all the podcasts that have come out since Pro Tour Born of the Gods. If you’ve read my last article on the health of Gr Tron in a world full of Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom, then you know I am a big sucker for the format and I would probably consider Modern my favorite Magic: The Gathering format, second to none.
I have always imagined Modern as the “fair” Legacy. You can’t really get killed on turn one in Modern, and kills as soon as turn three are quit unlikely. Now don’t get me wrong Legacy players, I love hoofing people out of the game with my combo elves deck just like you like belching people out of the game, but sometimes it just isn’t fun to lose before you have even had a turn. Modern is better than Standard, in my opinion, simply because of the larger card pool. More decks can exist in the Modern format than in the Standard format, and the fact that there are around 10 to 12 decks that are remotely playable is awesome. If you are a combo player at, well then you can play any number of Twin/Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (combo isn’t really an option in Standard). Are you more of a control player who likes to be in charge of the game? U/W/X decks are for you! If you like midrange, well that is good for you because there are over 9,000 midrange possibilities for you to play. And if you like aggressive styles of play, well then there is always zoo for you!
But anyway, you didn’t open this article to hear a primer on the Modern format and read some idiot’s opinion on why it is the best format since Vintage. Instead, you wanted to hear what some idiot thought about the Pro Tour, the look of the Modern format going into the next big Modern event and how to best prepare for the tournament coming up in just two short weeks!
There are a few lists we need to be looking at when it comes to our preparation for GP Richmond. Storm, Melira Pod, Affinity, Twin, and American Control. The list I expect to see the most of at GP Richmond is obviously Twin. The deck is fairly affordable, not relatively hard to just “pick up” and has a lot of room for growth for better players. There are a couple of twin lists you can expect to see flourishing on MODO and in your paper preparation for GP: Tarmagoyf lists and straight UR Twin.
Tarmo-Twin by Patrick Dickmann
This list catches UR Twin in an interesting position. Before the Pro Tour, many twin players were going “All-In Twin” with cards like Noxious Revival and effectively saying Twin or Bust. This list, however, backs away from the do-or-die portion of the combo and has the ability to play a more midrange type of game. Before, twin had a problem when they couldn’t fix their draws to the point of being able to combo off early lest they allow their opponent to hold up mana to deal with their combo pieces. In this style of Twin, however, you can allow your ever growing Tarmogoyf to put a quick clock on your opponent that he/she must deal with in order to not die. As soon as your opponent spends removal on that Tarmogoyf, you can feel free to go off with your Twin/Exarch co-co-co-combo.
The other archetype we need to be looking out for in our testing is the storm list that appeared in the top 8!
Storm by Chris Fennell
This list is simply awesome. Back when Seething Song was banned everyone jumped ship from this deck and called it simply unplayable. In fact, Storm was the first Modern deck I ever built in its entirety and then it went and got one of its best combo pieces banned. That was a really bad feeling and it was an amazing introduction into the world of non-rotating formats. Sometimes stuff just gets banned and you are out a large investment.
But the return of the Storm lists to the upper echelons of Magic: The Gathering competitive play means more diversity in the format and that is always a good thing. Now Legacy players who enjoy a good Lion’s Eye Diamond deck can feel like there is something in Modern for them. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this deck except that to combat it at Richmond we are going to need massive hand disruption, and that is something that a Storm deck cannot win through. These players will need every spell in their hand in order to combo off quickly and effectively.
I’m going to spare you discussion on decks like U/W/R control, Affinity, and Melira Pod simply because those decks have been around since the inception of the format. However, I will include the decklists from the Pro Tour in case you either want to copy the lists for your own personal use or use them in an effort to metagame against the field for your upcoming Modern play!
Affinity by Christian Seibold
Like I said, there is nothing really new going on here. You play a ton of artifacts early and hope you can kill your opponent with them quicker than he can stabilize. This deck has some longevity with Etched Champion and Arcbound Ravager, but ultimately you just want to kill people quick with these types of lists. Board wipes will be necessary to defeat a nut draw and basic (read: cheap) removal is always effective against decks like these. This deck will always be a thing and must be something your list has a plan for if you hope to be successful at any modern event.
Melira Pod by Jacob Wilson
Often called one of the most consistent and best decks of the Modern format, the Melira list can win via the Melira combo or it can win via a midrange battle of just beating you down with dudes throughout the course of a game. To shut down the combo, you need to be packing some type of graveyard hate, and an effective strategy of removal for the decks early creatures will stop them from “ramping” into bigger and better creatures through Birthing Pod. I don’t want to bore you with discussions on what these lists are capable of simply because it has been around so long as I have stated. Not a lot to discuss here, control their creatures and you can control the game.
The list that won the whole freaking Pro Tour and will obviously show up at Richmond just by extension was a U/W/R list piloted by Shaun McLaren. I’m a lover of man lands and seeing him bash people out with a 4/4 flying vigilance land was sweet music to my ears. McLaren also got the pleasantry of using the ultimate on his Ajani Vengeant! Destroying all your opponent’s lands, as it turns out is pretty good, and he crushed his way to victory winning in a tumultuous five game final. If you have any interest in the Modern format, go back and watch the archives of these matches and just feel yourself be amazed by the spectacular showmanship of this deck/player.
UWR Control by Shaun McLaren
Pretty stock list here and you can see that McLaren was ready for all the Zoo decks that didn’t show up with his main board Anger of the Gods and Threads of Disloyalty. Mana Leak, as disgusting as it is, will always be around and is something we need to be playing around when we prepare for Richmond. Control decks are beatable and if we have a good idea of what the top lists look like, we can play around their threats and stop them from dealing with the threats we care about most.
So What Should We Play?
Well, I’m going to lay out two different types of suggestions for what you should play at GP Richmond coming up here in the next two weeks. The first one, which will be the most intelligent choice, will be the one that comes from my head. The second suggestion, less solid in nature, will come from my heart. Probably the best deck that you could be playing at Richmond is some variant of U/W/R or Melira Pod, and I am going to lean toward U/W/R Control. This archetype is simply a catch all. The main board removal and counter package can be tailored to whatever your perception of the meta game will be and has a fair matchup against all the decks that we discussed in this article. You have a fair matchup against Storm with all of your interruption, Melira Pod with your sideboard graveyard hate, artifact disruption (read: Stony Silence), and counterspells. Affinity matchups are a Path to Exile away from winnable and any other non “major” matchup you have a diverse enough removal suite to deal with random decks that present themselves throughout the tournament.
I don’t put Melira Pod at the top of my recommendations list simply because it is the hardest deck in the format to play. While U/W/R requires you to know the format as a whole quite well to succeed, Melira Pod has so many different lines of play available that it makes it a very difficult deck to just pick up and win with. If you have ample time to do some significant testing, Melira Pod, in my opinion, is the best deck in the format and the most prepared against the field, but it is not a deck that you can pick up and learn well within just two weeks. If you have any experience with the deck, it is probably the list to play and it is in your best interest to pilot it in Richmond, Virginia.
Now what does my heart say? (Que your bad jokes about the “fox” saying something)
Obviously! I couldn’t go an article on the Modern format without discussing my beloved Tron list!! Now hear me out. You’re probably thinking, “Good golly firetrucking gosh, Jordan. You told us like two weeks ago this deck was going to be lackluster!” In this new Modern format though that features U/W/R, Melira Pod, and a Twin deck that doesn’t always kill us on turn four, it is an extreme possibility that Tron may actually be good! Look at those lists that I’ve posted, particularly the U/W/R one. You know what I don’t see? Sowing Salt. That’s right. That card absolutely hoses Gr Tron players because it makes the land combo impossible to assemble. If Sowing Salt is on its way out, I want to be playing a land based deck.
Tron also has a great matchup against U/W/R control and Melira Pod, both of which are two of the best decks in the format. Honestly, if a large enough percentage of the meta game are these two decks, Tron could be positioned very well for a deep day 2 finish at GP Richmond. Here’s the list I’ve been running and took it to some effect this weekend while winning a GPT for Richmond:
GR Tron by Jordan Kennedy
You’ll notice the largest difference between this list and the list I posted last time is the inclusion of Firespouts in the main deck. That’s obviously a concession to the Zoo decks that you will inevitably have to play at any Modern event, but in my testing experience, the matchup is not all that bad. Domain zoo is a lot easier than the all in decks that pop up because they give us more time to stabilize, but Firespout puts in a lot of work, and Spellskite is an efficient blocker post board.
Life from the Loam put in a lot of work and helped me play around Fulminator Mages and Ghost Quarter a lot more efficiently. The nice thing is you can even dredge if you absolutely need to because you won’t mill out thanks to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Defense Grid was great against the control matchups because it turns their Mana Leaks in really bad Cryptic Commands, and it shuts off Snapcaster tech. Defense Grid also did work against Twin opponents because Remand gets a lot worse and comboing off on turn 4 after a turn 2 grid is a pipe dream at best.
What are you taking to Richmond? What is your interpretation of the metagame? Do you expect to see a lot of Melira and Control like I do or do you expect something much, much different? Let me know in the comments or on twitter @imjorman or @atyourendstep.
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