Pro Tour Fate Reforged Modern Primer

Posted in Perilous Research on February 5, 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,'s exclusive Magic Online column! Fate Reforged is finally available on Magic Online. The release of the new set in conjunction with the new bannings have made the new Modern format an entirely new entity. Today, we'll be taking a look at the best performing Modern decks from this week's Daily Events in an effort to better understand what this weekend's Pro Tour Constructed format might look like.

As we discussed last week, Thoughtseize seems to be the biggest winner in the bannings. Now, we're starting to see some exceptionally interesting decks pop up that could be major players on the biggest stage next weekend. Let's take a look at some of the decks that have gone undefeated in Daily Events this last weekend.

Path to Exile | Art by Todd Lockwood

DaPokpok's Abzan

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Abzan decks have been taking the most 4–0 slots of any archetype in virtually every Modern Daily event since the bannings took effect. The combination of the format's best threats, removal, and disruption make the Abzan deck an incredibly strong choice in the new Modern. Like its Jund cousins, the Abzan deck has very few bad matchups thanks to its disruption suite. A player can jam a bunch of cards in their deck specifically because they're good against the Abzan decks and still have a difficult time with the matchup. To beat decks like Abzan, one must go completely over the top: Scapeshift and Tron can passively use their turns to put lands into play and one card off the top like Scapeshift or Wurmcoil Engine will be very difficult for the Abzan deck to beat. It's safe to expect this to be the most-played deck at next week's Pro Tour, and we shouldn't be surprised if Tasigur, the Golden Fang finds its way into the main deck.


Alice_'s Zoo

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Zoo was one of the best decks in Modern before Wild Nacatl was banned and, now that the deck's trademark one-drop has been removed from the banned list, it seems like it could be a big factor this coming weekend. Zoo aims to get an aggressive start where it plays efficient threats that usually cost less mana than the cards an opponent would use to get rid of them. In most matchups, the deck can play a medium-length game and win around turn-seven or -eight simply because of its mana efficiency. Against combo strategies, the Zoo deck is capable of turn-four kills to simply race the opponent.


Horstimaus's Jund

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Jund decks are another major factor for this upcoming weekend. The deck trades in Lingering Souls, Path to Exile, and Siege Rhino for Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Dark Confidant, and sideboard options like Sulfur Elemental (which are strong against Lingering Souls decks) and Sowing Salt (strong against Scapeshift and Tron). The deck's goal is similar to that of the Abzan strategies, but it plays better removal and slightly less efficient threats. This version of the deck really wants to empty the opponent's hand with four copies of Liliana of the Veil, Thoughtseize, and Inquisition of Kozilek. An opponent without any removal will usually have a very difficult time dealing with Olivia Voldaren on the top end. Jund can look different from day to day, and the deck has potential to be shoved together with Abzan for a version of the deck that gets to play all the best threats, disruption, and removal, but sacrifices a lot of value like in the Red matchups. Jund seems a likely candidate for the second- or third-most played deck at this weekend's Pro Tour.

Jeskai Tempo

pacoelflaco's Jeskai Tempo

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Jeskai decks, like the one Shaun McLaren won the last Modern Pro Tour with, are currently outgunned by the BGx strategies that were pushed out of the format by Birthing Pod. As a result, we're seeing more aggressive versions of the deck pop up. The combination of Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt, and Snapcaster Mage help this deck do very well against most creature matchups. And its access to countermagic, which it can use to backup a fast clock, make combo matchups winnable. Many versions of these decks will play Geist of Saint Traft and Restoration Angel over the haste creatures, but this version wants to end games as quickly as possible. It's clear that the pilot feels there will be a lot less combo in the new Modern.

Splinter Twin

Blue-Red Splinter Twin

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Splinter Twin struggles to beat decks, like Jund and Abzan, that have four copies of Abrupt Decay and tons of targeted discard. Nevertheless, the deck's ability to win games out of nowhere makes it a force to be reckoned with. In a long game, the deck can engineer turns where it can protect the combo with as many as three or four different spell or effects. Beating Splinter Twin requires a fast clock combined with good disruption. I expect this to be the most popular combo strategy at the Pro Tour, and assume the deck will continue to slow down in an effort to be stronger against the BGx decks.


Chiralane's Infect

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One combo strategy that seems to be flying under the radar is Infect. The deck is very good in a world without Treasure Cruise delver strategies, and the addition of Become Immense makes it more dangerous than ever. The deck used to lose a lot of games haphazardly to Melira, Sylvok Outcast…but Birthing Pod's absence will likely make that a non-issue. This seems like a great place to be and I'm guess there will be at least a few players going deep with Infect strategies at the Pro Tour. Many of the decks draws can struggle to beat Lingering Souls, especially when it's backed up by removal. It's important that players find a good plan to beat the new wave of Abzan decks they should be expecting.

Big Zoo

MisterT1980's Big Zoo

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Going slightly bigger with a Zoo strategy sacrifices a lot in combo matchups, but it makes the deck much better against the BGx decks. Loxodon Smiter is tremendously strong against Liliana of the Veil and access to Wild Nacatl, a 3/3 for one mana in the vast majority of situations, is something that's hard to overlook. This version of the deck splashes black for Siege Rhino. Bigger Zoo decks seem great against Jund, Junk, and other creature strategies. And a good sideboard plus soft disruption (like Qasali Pridemage) give the deck a better shot against most other strategies. This is the type of deck that can easily be overlooked and then win the entire tournament. Brian Kibler used a deck like this to win Pro Tour Austin, and I wouldn't be surprised to see these types of decks crushing a field filled with Abzan and Jund.

The new Modern is already shaping up to be one of the most interesting formats in recent memory. Join me and the rest of the Wizards of the Coast coverage team next weekend at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. The Pro Tour is sure to showcase exciting new Modern strategies that we're still unaware of. Don't miss your chance to experience all the action as it unfolds.

Knowledge is power!

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