Preparing for Pittsburgh

Posted in Perilous Research on November 19, 2015

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

Welcome back to Perilous Research, DailyMTG's exclusive Magic Online column. This coming weekend, thousands of Magic players will make their way to Pittsburgh to try their hands at an explosive Modern format. Today, we'll be taking a look at the most successful Modern decks from Magic Online to prepare ourselves for a weekend of Modern excitement!

A quick examination of the strategies that went 5-0 in the Modern League reveals a diverse format that's filled with unexplored possibilities.

Combo strategies are putting up more impressive numbers than we've seen since last spring, but degenerate creature decks like Merfolk and Elves are making their presence known loudly. In the meantime, entirely new strategies are beginning to emerge, while old favorites are being resurrected to weather the impending combo winter.

Let's check out some decklists!

Jasperov's CoCo Coralhelm

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Collected Company has proven itself as a full-blown engine in Modern. Many of the decks that use Collected Company are seeking to put together specific creature combinations to win the game. This deck is very different, though. This deck simply aims to put the most powerful cards for their given mana cost into play to win the game with sheer creature power level. The combo element of the deck works with Retreat to Coralhelm, which enables us to untap Knight of the Reliquary each time we tap it for the ability, thus allowing us to generate massive amounts of mana and make our Knight of the Reliquary into a massive creature that threatens to win the game in one or two attacks. Even when the deck doesn't have Knight of the Reliquary in play, Retreat to Coralhelm provides an excellent way to manipulate combat, especially against the more fair decks in Modern.

ZippiestBard's White Weenie

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Modern White Weenie decks aim to finish games quickly with an aggressive creature plan while disrupting the opponent with mana denial in the form of Vryn Wingmare, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Leonin Arbiter. White always has the necessary answers to beat any specific opponent; the difficult part of the equation is figuring out what questions we'll be asked. Finding the right White Weenie deck for a specific tournament will always be rewarded heavily, but the current diversity of the Modern format makes this a dangerous chance to take. Still, aggressive Æther Vial decks with a strong disruption element are always going to be capable of winning some matches, and Leonin Arbiter seems like it may be in a better place than ever before.

Hunden's Infect

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Infect does a good job attacking a format that's filled with combo decks that are trying to win the game as fast as they can. "Oh, you want to race? I'll only need to go to the second or third turn!" The tremendous speed of infect makes it capable of winning just about any matchup, and its explosiveness often forces opponents to play on their heels for a long enough period of time that the infect player can protect their combo with Vines of Vastwood or Apostle's Blessing. Gitaxian Probe may seem a bit random in a deck like this, but the card essentially shrinks the deck down to 56 cards while also checking if the coast is clear for an all-in combo attempt to achieve victory. Infect preys on combo decks by simply being faster, and should therefore be considered a major contender coming into this weekend.

JackMitchellBurns's Merfolk

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Merfolk may seem like it's a bit too slow or fair for Modern, but the deck mounts a lot of pressure quickly in the form of redundancy with Lord of Atlantises. The added power offered up by Harbinger of the Tides makes the deck much more interactive, even when only working with an Æther Vial. This version of the deck is excessively focused on interacting with the opponent's mana, playing a pair of Sea's Claims in addition to Spreading Seas to perhaps combat the high density of Tron strategies on Magic Online recently. Merfolk adds a dose of trickery to the aggressive creature plan in Modern, and offers up an incredibly consistent four-turn clock that's ready to go almost every time it's shuffled up.

The_Co's Elves

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Elves is the other tribal deck that's been picking up steam. The deck is absurdly explosive thanks to Heritage Druid, and most other creature strategies quickly find themselves completely outclassed on the ground. Decks like Merfolk and White Weenie are very easy matchups for Modern Elves, and the deck is often fast enough to race combo opponents—especially when it's able to win the roll and go first. This version of the deck takes advantage of Cloudstone Curio, which combos nicely with Heritage Druid to make infinite mana, creatures, or draw triggers, depending on the combination of Elves available to go with the Heritage Druid.

Tbz82's Affinity

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Sideboard (15)
2 Ancient Grudge 3 Etched Champion 2 Galvanic Blast 2 Ghirapur Æther Grid 2 Spellskite 3 Thoughtseize 1 Whipflare

Affinity is, once again, the most successful aggressive strategy in Modern. It's hard to argue with the deck's success rate, and the lists we're seeing are continually improving to combat cards like Kolaghan's Command. In many ways, Affinity seems like it should be a bigger part of the Modern metagame, but a lot of its market share is being occupied by other creature combo decks, such as Elves and Merfolk. Affinity suffered a big hit when Jund and Grixis decks featuring Kolaghan's Command started performing well, but those decks are starting to wane a bit in popularity, and there don't seem to be any Lingering Souls anywhere. I'm thinking this could be the best weekend in quite a while for the robots!

FrankSinatra's Bring to Light Scapeshift

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Bring to Light Scapeshift decks have proven themselves to be major players in the new Modern format. With Bring to Light, the deck gets to play with a lot of additional copies of its namesake card while also having access to powerful silver bullets such as Anger of the Gods, Hunting Wilds, or powerful sideboard haymakers. Scapeshift does a good enough control impression to survive the early turns against the most aggressive opponents, and wins the game by resolving a single spell. There always seem to be at least a handful of Scapeshift players who go very deep at every major Modern event, and Pittsburgh will be their first chance to show off the new Bring to Light tech.

Ggb's Amulet Bloom

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Amulet Bloom is still the most degenerate and powerful combo deck in Modern. The deck is capable of turn-two kills, and its variety of win conditions through Hive Mind or Primeval Titan make it a nightmare for opponents who are hoping to disrupt the combo. There's little doubt that Amulet Bloom will be the combo strategy to beat this weekend, and that's because it has solidly proven itself as the most established tier 1 deck in the format.

Grand Prix Pittsburgh will give us a glimpse of the newest and most exciting toys that Modern has to offer. The last Modern Grand Prix was won by a Lantern of Insight combo deck! Could this weekend's event introduce us to another rogue strategy that's capable of taking down the format's top dogs? Be sure to check out coverage of Grand Prix Pittsburgh this weekend, right here on DailyMTG!

Knowledge is power!

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