Choose Your Own Adventure: The Wide-Open State of Modern

Posted in Event Coverage on September 12, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

Modern is one of Magic’s most diverse and interesting formats. Since its inception, the metagame has oscillated between various points of contention, whether that was a dominant deck like Jund or Splinter Twin or Birthing Pod in their heyday or Red-Green Tron earlier this season, there has almost always been one or two decks that stood above the rest.

That is no more.

It began with Grand Prix Charlotte, when seven distinct decks — including rarely-seen archetypes like Goryo's Vengeance, Ad Nauseam combo and eventual winner Elves — advanced to the elimination rounds. It continued as the format adjusted to Dragons of Tarkir and adopted cards like Kolaghan's Command, Roast and more, and again the normal order of things was stirred.

If the addition of the powerful cards from Dragons of Tarkir stirred the format, the 2015 World Championship completely shook it up. With 24 of the best players in the world squaring off in Magic’s most prestigious event, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the usual suspects show up and see players battle with the aforementioned “boogeyman” decks of the format.

Instead, we saw a hugely surprising list of decks. While the omnipresent Affinity deck led the way, the next three most-played decks weren’t on anyone’s radar entering the event: Living End, last seen finding success at Grand Prix Kansas City way back in 2013; Hexproof Auras, famously piloted to success at the 2013 World Championship by Reid Duke but nearly invisible until Daniel Ward took it to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Vancouver in February; and White-Black Tokens, an archetype that was expected to show up in force when Bitterblossom joined the format but took some time to spread its faerie wings.

That’s where things line up as we enter Grand Prix Oklahoma City. But while Living End and Hexproof Auras may be the most recent Modern decks to find success, no one here expects them to be dominant over the next 18 rounds. In fact, “dominant” doesn’t describe any deck in the room, and while a few predictions were made for Grixis Control or Affinity to be the most-played deck today, there was no consensus on what would find the most success.

Which sums up Modern perfectly. Any deck, on any given day, can find success. In the past few months we’ve seen Top 8 performances at high-level events from unexpected decks like Merfolk, Scapeshift, Death and Taxes, Elves, Infect, and even Slivers, not to mention the emergence of quirky decks like Lantern of Insight Mill and White-Blue Emeria, the Sky Ruin Control. None of those have ever been considered pillars of the metagame or even decks in serious contention, but all have delivered players to the final rounds in recent months.

“It’s not a format where you have to change your deck a lot, there’s a lot of room to gain in Modern just by knowing your deck and playing it tightly,” Brian Braun-Duin explained. “There’s a lot of decks that can do well if you know all the interactions.”

Whether you choose to take the road less traveled and battle with one of these decks, or arrived armed with a more “traditional” deck like Affinity, Jund or Splinter Twin, Modern is truly a wide-open metagame. Eighteen different decks have taken up the 24 Top 8 spots at the last three Modern Grand Prix, and with Magic Origins hitting the Grand Prix scene for the first time, there’s no knowing what deck will rise up this weekend to join the ranks.

But we do know it’s going to be fun to watch.

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