Day 1 Coverage of Grand Prix Detroit

Posted in Event Coverage on September 15, 2013

Ben Stark, Josh Utter-Leyton, Reid Duke, David Caplan, Adam Jansen, Daniel Cecchetti, and Jessie Butler and are your undefeated players of Day 1 of the largest Modern Grand Prix ever in North America! That's three of this year's Magic World Championship Top 4. And the only reason the fourth, Shahar Shenhar isn't there, is because he lost to Utter-Leyton in the last round to sink to 8-1 instead. Also among the top point-getters are Brian Kibler, Lucas Siow, Willy Edel, Owen Turtenwald, Alex Majlaton, Sam Pardee, Sam Black, Craig Wescoe, and Mark Herberholz. It's going to be an intense battle for supremacy all day tomorrow.

Today the Modern field has shown itself perfectly. The top decks have stabilized into familiar archetypes like Jund, Junk, RWU, Affinity, Tron and Kiki- and Melira-Pod. First, that's seven "best" archetypes, so there is plenty of variance to pick a deck that you enjoy. Secondly, there is stability in this free-for-all that is Modern. And anyway, there are still some roguish decks bubbling right below the surface as well. Esper Mill, Hexproof Boggles, Merfolk, Mono-White Vial, and Living End are all making appearances in the top tables. We'll see tomorrow which decks can make it to the Top 8.

Get some rest and we'll see you all tomorrow! Goodnight from Detroit.


EVENT COVERAGE

Saturday, 1:50 p.m. – Updated Modern Glossary

by Marc Calderaro
 

Modern is a veritable Wild Wild West, (complete with giant, metallic spider-like beasts, if you're partial to Will Smith movies). There are many different archetypes all vying for Tier 1 status, and many of them have important variations therein. To help navigate the mystifying maze that is Modern, below is a handy glossary to get you started. Beware, there are many decks not represented here (including a infinite Time Walk deck which may or may not feature Extraplanar Lens and 24 Snow-covered Islands), but this will provide a good base of the decks that will likely appear at a given tournament. Much credit goes to Mike Rosenberg's great glossary from Grand Prix Kansas City.

Ad Nauseam – A mish-mash of colors, this combo deck uses Ad Nauseam to draw its entire deck with the help of either Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife, which temporarily stave off death. Once it does that, it casts Lightning Storm and discards enough land to burn the opponent out in one fell swoop. It's important to note, this deck can win in the middle of the opponent's turn.

Affinity - aka "Robots." This deck plays a large number of artifact creatures and cards that have strong synergies with them. Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer, and Cranial Plating all allow for quick kills out of nowhere, while lands such as Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus give the deck staying power against mass creature removal like Pyroclasm. If your deck cannot stop this artifact deck, it will not be successful in Modern.

Burn – Any red-based deck that aims to "combo" out by dealing 20 points of damage as fast as possible. Decks that run Lava Spike are classified as burn. These decks usually run burn-like creatures in the form of Vexing Devil, Grim Lavamancer, and Goblin Guide. In current Modern, these decks often play black for cards like Bump in the Night and Deathrite Shaman.

Hatebears - aka "Modern Death & Taxes". Green-white decks that combine all of the best creatures that are the size of Grizzly Bears that also have back-breaking effects against some of the more "unfair" decks in the format. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Aven Mindcensor are all-stars in this deck.

Hexproof – A green-white deck that casts a creature with Hexproof, nigh-unkillable for an opponent, then loads it up with Auras like Daybreak Coronet, Rancor, Unflinching Courage, and Ethereal Armor to march to victory. This deck often wins with creatures that had previously been considered unfit for Constructed, like Slippery Bogle and Gladecover Scout.

Jund – Jund's usual form, a black-red-green midrange deck, has morphed into varying forms. These decks play powerful creatures (Deathrite Shaman, Tarmogoyf), removal (Lightning Bolt), and discard (Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek). Liliana of the Veil plays double-duty, providing repeatable removal and discard. There is a four-color version that adds white for cards like Lingering Souls and Ajani Vengeant, often referred to as "Ajundi." These are a little more controlling and more powerful. But even in Modern, a four-color manabase can be quite damaging.

Junk – A green-black-white control deck that is similar in design to Jund, as it includes Liliana of the Veil and similar creatures and discard, but instead of just adding red, like the greedy four-color "Ajundi", it replaces the red with white. This allows for cards like Lingering Souls, and Path to Exile, and can sideboard Aven Mindcensor and Stony Silence.

Kiki-Pod - A midrange deck that focuses around Birthing Pod, a powerful artifact that can assemble a combo kill if left unchecked. Kiki-Pod specifically focuses on winning games out of nowhere with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and either Deceiver Exarch or Restoration Angel, a combination that lets the Pod player create an absurd number of token creatures. Unlike the other deck that uses Birthing Pod, Melira-Pod, Kiki-Pod is much more focused on using the combo kill. Often if a player can untap with a Birthing Pod and a creature, it will find some way to win the game.

Living End – A black-red-green deck, that has fun with the cascade mechanic's interaction with Living End. The early turns the deck just cycles away creatures like Jungle Weaver, Monstrous Carabid and Street Wraith. Then uses Demonic Dread or Violent Outburst to cascade into Living End (this happens because Living End is the only card in the deck that costs less than three mana), reanimating all the big beasts in the graveyard and pounding the opponent into submission.

Melira-Pod - A midrange deck that focuses around Birthing Pod, a powerful artifact that can assemble a combo kill if left unchecked. The Melira-Pod archetype features a combo kill of Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Kitchen Finks/Murderous Redcap, and a sacrifice outlet such as Viscera Seer. Thanks to the persist mechanic and Melira's ability to prevent -1/-1 counters from being able to be put on creatures, this deck can gain an arbitrarily large amount of life, or deal a giant amount of damage by assembling its combo. Unlike the other Birthing Pod deck, Kiki-Pod, Melira-Pod's focus on creatures and addition of Gavony Township often allows the deck to win without ever assembling the combo, or even drawing Birthing Pod. This makes the deck slower than Kiki-Pod, but more resilient.

Restore Balance – A red-white-blue deck that has fun with the cascade and suspend mechanics. Usually, Restore Balance requires six turns in suspension to cast. However, if your deck can cast Violent Outburst, and contains no spells that cost less than three mana (except for Restore Balance, of course), Violent Outburst will always cascade into Restore Balance. This deck repeatedly wipes the board with Restore Balance, and when it's ready, uses Greater Gargadon to sacrifice its own lands, creating a make-shift Armageddon when Restore Balance resolves. With both players landless, having a 9/7 beatstick with Haste usually wins you the game. There is another version that uses artifact mana like Wildfield Borderpost and Firewild Borderpost, then wins by casting March of the Machines to make all the artifacts 3/3 creatures.

Rock – A straight green-black version of the Jund deck, Rock cuts out the red and overloads on discard and removal, then wins with whatever creature it feels like—usually Tarmogoyf. The Rock archetype has a strong lineage across many different formats; it is the classic "midrange" deck that can act as either the control deck, or the aggressive deck, depending on the situation.

RWU - Though this started as a control deck, there are now three distinct forms of this "American" deck. It is a red-white-blue deck that's pure value and comes in aggro, midrange, and control versions. It also has efficient removal (Lightning Helix,Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze), efficient creatures (Snapcaster Mage, Restoration Angel), efficient counterspells (Spell Snare, Mana Leak, Remand) and card draw (Sphinx's Revelation). The aggressive versions play Geist of Saint Traft and eschew the higher-end spells like Sphinx's Revelation. While the most controlling versions play Snapcaster Mage as the only creature, maximize counterspells, and usually win with an unstoppable Celestial Colonnade or Gideon Jura.

Scapeshift – A blue-red-green combo deck that gets a ton of lands into play, then casts Scapeshift searching for a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or two and six Mountains. This deal lethal damage straight to the dome. There are two main versions of the deck: the straight-up control deck that just stalls the board and ramps until it can win, and the one packs a back-up plan of four Primeval Titans "Prime Time" (which also serve as a strong secondary way to ramp lands and fetch Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle for extra damage).

Soul Sisters – Usually mono-white, this midrange deck combines life-gain effects like Soul Warden and Martyr of Sands with a variety of powerful aggressive white cards such as Ajani's Pridemate and Spectral Procession, and looks to finish off the game with Serra Ascendant.

Splinter Twin – A blue-red deck that, like Kiki-Pod, uses the Aura Splinter Twin, in concert with either Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite. After tapping the creature to use the ability Splinter Twin grants it, the new copy will untap the original creature, allowing it to make a second copy, ad nauseam (not the card Ad Nauseam, that's a different modern deck). This deck also run Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to double the amount of combo pieces.

Storm - A blue-red archetype that aims to play a critical mass of card-drawing effects and rituals—like Desperate Ritual and Pyretic Ritual—in a single turn to power a game-ending spell with the storm mechanic, usually Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens. The two versions, which look remarkably similar, play either Pyromancer Ascension, or Pyromancer's Swath. Pyromancer Ascension is played early game, then cooked to a boil, doubling up every spell in the midgame. Pyromancer's Swath is only cast on a turn the deck intends to cast its bevy of rituals, and makes Grapeshot all-the-more backbreaking.

Tron - A deck that plays the Urzatron lands (Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Tower, Urza's Mine) to play expensive colorless spells such as Karn Liberated and Wurmcoil Engine fast. There are three color combinations commonly played. The red-green version uses Ancient Stirrings and Sylvan Scrying to assemble Urzatron as quickly as possible; the mono-blue version uses counterspells to assemble the land combo at its leisure; and the blue-white form uses a mix of counterspells and board sweepers like Supreme Verdict to command the game, then cast its colorless finishers.

UR Delver – A blue-red deck that can look like an RWU deck, but plays rather differently. Using the creature suite of Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, Spellstutter Sprite and Vendilion Clique, the deck uses these fast, evasive creatures to start dealing damage early. Then it uses "tempo" to continue the assault before the opponent can gain a proper footing in the game. Spells like Remand are usually used merely to delay the opponent, but when you are dealing a lot of damage each turn "delay" can easily turn into "destroy". There is also a version of this deck, RUG Delver, that adds green for Tarmogoyf.

Vengeance - A deck that aims to get a powerful legendary creature, most often Griselbrand, into the graveyard so that it can be brought back by the deck's namesake spell, Goryo's Vengeance. Once that giant legendary creature is back in play, the game usually ends quite quickly.


Saturday, 2:10 p.m. – Decks to Expect in Modern

by Adam Styborski
 

Decks to Expect in Modern

What makes Modern so compelling as a format is the same as what can make it daunting: the cornucopia of decks you can find for it. With a myriad of choices to make, seeing what goes into the most common decks in the format can help make sense of the diversity on display this weekend.

 

Red-White-Blue (RWU)

While RWU was the deck behind Shahar Shenhar's incredible finish as the 2013 World Champion, his specific flavor was just one of three.

RWU Midrange - Shahar Shenhar, 2013 World Champion

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Shenhar's choice is a mix of controlling and aggressive strategies, holding opponents off their options even as the RWU players casts their own threats in Vendilion Clique and Restoration Angel. Four copies of Lightning Bolt serve as both utility removal and unexpected reach against opponents' life totals.

Players who want to quickly end games can lean on a more aggressive build that features Geist of Saint Traft and more removal to keep the path clear.

RWU Aggro

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Moving in the opposite direction is a Modern take on the classic Draw-Go control archetype. Slowing the game down with more countermagic, this version of URW relies heavily on cards like Celestial Colonnade to close games out without leaving room for an opponent to act.

RWU Control

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Rock (Redless Jund)

Another old school deck that's made a new school splash is a green-black deck best known as Rock. It's power was on display in Josh Utter-Leyton's hands during the 2013 World Championship, putting him into the Top 4.

Rock - Josh Utter-Leyton, 2013 World Championship

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Filled with ways to stymie opponents via discard, destruction, and graveyard exile, Utter-Leyton's deck can dismantle many decks before they even start. With efficient creatures like Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze, opponents often don't have the additional time they need to recover.

 

Jund

There's one deck that's often synonymous with Modern as a format: the black-red-green deck better known as Jund.

Jund

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Similar to Utter-Leyton's Rock deck, Jund can disrupt opponents' plans while providing pressure with efficient creatures. While it no longer packs the explosive punch of Bloodbraid Elf, cards like Olivia Voldaren and Raging Ravine let Jund go over the top as the game goes on.

 

Birthing Pod

If there's one deck that could be argued to be the best in the format, it would be one of the two flavors of Birthing Pod decks: Melira-Pod.

Melira-Pod - Seth Manfield, Winner Grand Prix Kansas City

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Melira-Pod is a deck that gets the best of both worlds. It's flashy side is an iterative combo using Melira, Sylvok Outcast, with a sacrifice outlet such as Viscera Seer, and either Kitchen Finks (for an arbitrary amount of life gain) or Murderous Redcap (for an arbitrary amount of damage). Getting either combo off will simply end games, but as opponents worry about instant doom the Melira Pod deck also plays efficient creatures and disruption. Even without the combo it's hard for opponents to keep up against it.

Another take on Birthing Pod decks is a hybrid with the Splinter Twin combo deck: Kiki-Pod.

Kiki-Pod - Ari Lax, Top 8 Grand Prix Kansas City

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While Lax's deck lacks the disruption of the Melira version, Kiki-Pod is filled with even more efficient creatures and toolbox options. Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker can win the game on the spot with Restoration Angel or Zealous Conscripts, and the ability to tutor up either thanks to Birthing Pod makes it deadly efficient.

 

Splinter Twin

The traditional take on creating "infinite Faeries" is Splinter Twin, and its core has remained relatively unchanged from its debut at Pro Tour Philadelphia.

Splinter Twin - Robert Berni, Top 8 Grand Prix Kansas City

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Kiki Jiki's combination with Pestermite and Deceiver Exarch is more redundant with Splinter Twin. While it's suite of card filtering spells may not seem, the ease it can get its combo off means it doesn't take much to push it over the edge.

 

Tron

Tron is another staple archetype that was around at Modern's Pro Tour start, and it's been tweaked repeatedly as the metagame developed.

Tron

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Using card draw and land tutoring to quick assemble the trio of Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Mine, and Urza's Tower with delaying opponents thanks to Pyroclasm, Tron decks aim to go over the top of everything the opposition offers thanks to both Wurmcoil Engine and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

 

Scapeshift

Scapeshift decks have been around as long as Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle has, though the core version has changed over time.

Scapeshift - Scott Hoppe, Top 8 Grand Prix Kansas City

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Scott Hoppe's take on Scapeshift includes the namesake combo, but backs it up with the raw power of an early Primeval Titan, thanks for Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder. The ability to threaten a powerful combo while attacking with a fatty is the same type of pressure Melira Pod decks deliver.

 

Burn

Burn decks can take many forms, from a monored variety of every type of Lightning Bolt printed to multicolor concoctions like that took Greg Ogreenc to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Kansas City.