Modern in the Wake of Worlds

Posted in Perilous Research on December 11, 2014

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Last week, we got a chance to watch the best players in the world battle in the 2014 World Championship. The World Championship may not have a huge number of rounds in each given format, but the decks that do well tend to have a huge effect on the metagame. Today, we'll be taking a look at the undefeated decks from the most recent Magic Online Modern Daily event and discussing their place in the post-Worlds Modern metagame.

Titan's Strength | Art by: Karl Kopinski

The most important thing to happen in Modern at the World Championship was Josh Utter-Leyton's Ascendancy combo. Previously, versions of Jeskai Ascendancy combo were less consistent and more fragile. The newest version of the deck sheds the lack of consistency and takes on the role of a control deck that just happens to be able to win with Jeskai Ascendancy combo when it's good and ready. The deck is incredibly powerful and it's likely to be a major player going forward in Modern. As a result, we can expect to see people interacting with their opponents' graveyards more often. And we'll see the blue decks be less concerned with making more one-toughness creatures and more concerned with playing real countermagic that can interact with combo strategies.

Let's take a look at some of the decks that went undefeated in the most recent Modern Magic Online Daily Events:

Emsworth's Scapeshift

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Scapeshift has been a dominant force on Magic Online since the release of Khans of Tarkir. The deck didn't show up in Nice, but we can expect the deck to remain one of the most impressive strategies in Modern going forward. The deck aims to control the game with spot removal and countermagic until it's able to get seven lands into play, once the deck has access to seven lands, Scapeshift becomes a game-winning, four-casting-cost card. Dig Through Time gives the deck tremendous longevity and makes it nearly impossible to battle through the seemingly-constant wave of Scapeshifts. I expect the deck to adopt more countermagic in the coming weeks to better combat the bigger combo strategies that have started performing well. The tremendous amount of spot removal being played in the current Modern format makes this deck even better. By playing no creatures that get trumped by spells, the deck weakens a huge portion of its opponent's deck.

Nielsieboi's Ascendancy Combo

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Josh Utter-Leyton may have broken Modern. The new Ascendancy combo sacrifices speed in favor of consistency and the ability to control the game through the early turns. The deck uses Fatesticher or Faerie Conclave as mana creatures, and starts to aggressively run through cantrips while also looting until its army is large enough to secure victory. Once the deck is able to find a second copy of Fatesticher, it can start turning every one-mana card into a ritual and the game is all but over for the opponent. Post-sideboard, the deck can transform into a Gifts Ungiven combo that can drop Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or Iona, Shield of Emeria into play out of nowhere by searching for Unburial Rites and one of the big targets with Gifts Ungiven. Both combos the deck uses lean on the graveyard, at least to some degree, and the deck may encourage people to play more Grafdigger's Cage or Relic of Progenitus, at least in the coming weeks.

Dr_Stein's Hate Bears

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Hate Bears may seem like it's weak when compared to the other decks that tend to do well in Modern, but the deck still seems to get there all the time. Leonin Arbiter combos with Ghost Quarter to create Strip Mine-like effects while the deck saves Path to Exile for the most important targets. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is particularly well-positioned in the current metagame where so many of the decks seem to be playing mostly spells. The deck has trouble with Blue-Red Delver when on the draw, but Kor Firewalker does a tremendous amount of work making that matchup better, especially when we're able to combine it with Worship or a piece of Equipment. This deck seems like it will struggle against the new combo strategies, and the Scapeshift matchup seems especially difficult. However, the cards available to a metagamed white aggro strategy are so huge in number that it's not unreasonable to imagine this deck will adapt and continue putting up good results.

MAGICDEVIL666's Skred Red

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Skred Red is an old strategy that's started to make a resurgence in a world of Delver and Scapeshift. The deck's main deck Blood Moon plan is especially strong against the format's combo decks while the tremendous amount of spot removal and Boros Reckoner make it great against the Delver decks too. Chalice of the Void comes in for games two and three against the delver decks, making that matchup even better. Relic of Progenitus makes a main deck appearance to deal with Tarmogoyf, one of the best cards against a red control deck, various graveyard-based combos, and Kitchen Finks. This deck may seem odd and inconsistent, but it's been putting up a lot of undefeated records in Magic Online Dailies and, given the current metagame, it seems like it's only going to do better. The high-impact nature of the deck's sideboard makes a lot of decks cringe and it's hard to overtake the deck with true aggression.

AlfredoTorres's Blue-Red Delver

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Blue-Red Delver has been going strong since it gained access to Treasure Cruise and Monastery Swiftspear. This was the only deck to go undefeated in the Modern portion of Worlds and it's still capable of winning tournaments, even when the entire room claims their deck has a good matchup against it. Truthfully, the deck has no bad matchups when it's on the play and some nice die rolls can make a tournament seem like a cake walk. I'm surprised we haven't already begun to see more Gut Shots in main decks as a result of this deck's popularity, but it's hard to justify the card when we'll be forced to play other matchups.

Kanister's Amulet Combo

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Amulet of Vigor combo decks have been quietly growing in popularity for the last few months. The deck uses Amulet of Vigor in conjunction with Karoo lands to produce huge amounts of mana and cast Primeval Titan. Primeval Titan finds more lands that come into play and untap because of Amulet of Vigor. The deck then often uses Primeval Titan to search for Slayers' Stronghold and Boros Garrison so that it can immediately attack with Primeval Titan and search for more lands that do more things. A lot of the deck's draws allow it to play multiple Primeval Titans as early as the fourth turn and win the game on the spot. The deck's alternate route to victory is to cast Hive Mind and use one of its pacts to force the opponent to pay a cost they're unable to.

XDaviddon's Merfolk

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Merfolk tends to be a great metagame strategy when the field is dominated by blue and/or red decks. The tremendous density of Lords that give the deck's whole team islandwalk often forces opponents to be on a plan that requires only playing removal spells and not actually applying pressure. Young Pyromancer, backed up by removal, is very good against the deck; but the main deck inclusion of Gut Shot helps alleviate that problem. Chalice of the Void also makes a main deck appearance to protect the deck from the spot-removal spells it tends to be so weak to. Once the deck gets to its top end, Master of Waves provides a huge amount of power and a "protection from red" body that often dominates the board in Modern.

Znapcaster's Junk

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Abzan seems like it's in an awkward place, with Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time in the mix. The deck can do a lot of work picking apart its opponent's hand…only to have them refill for one or two mana and a single card. That being said, if the format continues to be more and more a place where combo decks flourish, the deck could be well-positioned. Even when the combo decks have Dig Through Time or Treasure Cruise, a well-timed Thoughtseize backed up by aggression is very good at stealing the game. Ascension combo decks showed up in big numbers in Nice and this type of deck is the best strategy for punishing those kinds of decks.

Rybex's Affinity

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Last, we have Affinity. Affinity has some of the best draws in the format, and it continues to do well even in the face of main deck Forked Bolts. Ensoul Artifact is especially strong given the amount of Red removal and the scarcity of Path to Exile right now. The deck comes out swinging and puts tremendous pressure on early. Even if the opponent is able to deal with the initial onslaught, an air force of manlands is soon to be sent into the red zone and has the potential to close the game quickly with Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating.

Modern continues to be one of the most exciting Constructed formats. Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Monastery Swiftspear have all changed the way we play the format. There's an interesting push away from Abrupt Decay decks in a world of Treasure Cruise, but then there's a pull to them because of Jeskai Ascendancy and Pyromancer Ascension combos. In the coming weeks, we'll have an opportunity to see how the format continues to develop in the wake of Worlds.

Knowledge is power!

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