Team Trios Constructed at the Pro Tour – Modern and Legacy

Posted in Top Decks on August 2, 2018

By Simon Görtzen

Simon Görtzen ist begeisterter Magicspieler, wobei sein größter Erfolg der Sieg bei der Pro Tour San Diego 2010 ist. Neben eigenen Projekten ist er seit 2012 fester Bestandteil der offiziellen Magic-Berichterstattung in Europa.

Welcome to the second part of my Pro Tour 25th Anniversary preview. You can find the first part here, which covers Team Trios Constructed and the Standard metagame. This part concludes my metagame sweep with overviews of Modern and Legacy.

What to Expect in Modern

Modern has not changed much with the release of Core Set 2019. Despite the printing of Damping Sphere, which helps to fight Tron and storm strategies, Mono-Green Tron is still one of the most popular decks in Modern. There are also more aggressive strategies than in the past, with Humans and Hollow One joining Modern mainstays Burn and Affinity. Even if you expect an aggressive metagame, these four decks operate so differently that it is becoming increasingly difficult to build reactive decks. While there are White-Blue Control decks with Jace and Teferi, Modern players are favoring proactive strategies over reactive ones.

Expect Ancient Stirrings

By now there is no doubt that Ancient Stirrings is one of the most powerful cards in Modern. I wasn't too surprised to see even Affinity decks running a playset, even though that's not the norm—yet. Ancient Stirrings powers up Mono-Green Tron, Lantern Control, Red-Green Eldrazi, and of course Krank-Clan Ironworks. Combo master Matt Nass championed the KCI deck early on and was rewarded handsomely. He played three Modern Grand Prix between March and June, and his 3rd-place finish in Phoenix was his worst result. He won GP Hartford and Las Vegas, claiming $22,500 and 21 Pro Points within three months.

Matt Nass's Krank-Clan Ironworks

It must be said that Matt Nass pilots this deck masterfully, and it's not a deck to just pick up and play at a Pro Tour. However, the number of KCI players is steadily rising, and Pro Tour 25th Anniversary competitors should have had sufficient time to learn the intricacies of this resilient combo deck.

Expect Faithless Looting

It's funny that a few years ago, Thoughtseize would have been the number-one sorcery of Modern, and today, it's not even close to making my list. As it turns out, Faithless Looting is one of the best cards in decks built around it. Careful Study was already very Constructed-playable even during an era in which card advantage was generally valued over tempo and board presence. Adding flashback to a card that naturally enables graveyard strategies certainly didn't make it worse.

The Modern decks benefitting most from Faithless Looting are Dredge, Mardu Pyromancer, and Hollow One. In a way, Mardu Pyromancer and Hollow One can be considered two sides of the same coin, both black-red graveyard decks that quickly churn through many cards. Mardu Pyromancer executes this strategy within a midrange-control shell, while Hollow One is all-out aggressive:

Mike Sigrist's Hollow One

Hollow One wins out over Mardu Pyromancer in raw metagame share, which matches the general Modern trend toward proactive decks. One big downside of playing Hollow One is the randomness of cards like Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore. With two teammates to buffer a bit of variance, I expect Hollow One to show up in high numbers at PT 25A.

Expect Noble Hierarch

What a Modern powerhouse. Noble Hierarch quietly enables Humans, Infect, Green-White Company, and the occasional Bant deck. Humans is a five-color deck by nature, but I find it telling nonetheless that Noble Hierarch is usually the only green card in the 75. This recent list incorporates Core Set 2019's Militia Bugler for additional late-game fuel:

mell0n's Humans

This deck has proven that it has what it takes to compete in Modern, and the disruptive two-drops make it extremely strong against non-interactive combo decks. I have no doubt that Humans will show up in high numbers, but I imagine several pros shying away from a deck that has severe deck-building restrictions and such a one-dimensional game plan.

Conclusion

Modern is too vast a format to cover in half an article, but I managed to at least mention the decks I would personally consider for this Pro Tour. I would not want to play a control deck right now, and despite my love for Bloodbraid Elf, Jund has not been well-positioned for a while. Death's Shadow decks are somewhat struggling with the aggressive metagame, and the fact that there are fewer combo decks to prey on.

For me, the big question for Modern is how dominant artifact- and graveyard-based strategies will be at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, and what players bring to combat those decks.

What to Expect in Legacy

First, let me tell you what not to expect: Gitaxian Probe and Deathrite Shaman. The recent banning of these two cards, especially the latter, has shaken up Legacy in a major way. Four-color decks with Leovold, Emissary of Trest have almost disappeared. But Temur Delver and Death and Taxes decks are already making a comeback to fill the void in the metagame.

Expect Lotus Petal

There are fair decks that want to make their land drops, and then there are decks playing Lotus Petal. If someone is willing to effectively discard a card for a single mana, they are valuing tempo over card utility in maybe the most extreme way possible. Hence, Lotus Petal decks are among the most aggressive combo decks in Legacy. Some of them happen to have Force of Will, but it's never an answer card, only a backup for the combo piece of choice.

Lotus Petal shows up in virtually all combo decks in Legacy: Sneak and Show, Reanimator, Ad Nauseam Tendrils, Turbo Depths, and Goblin Charbelcher. A classic Legacy deck that can theoretically win on turn one, but also in drawn-out late games, is Ad Nauseam Tendrils.

Bryant Cook's Ad Nauseam Tendrils

I expect a lot of decks with "unfair" mana at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. Some teams, especially those without a true Legacy expert, could gravitate toward combo decks that promise quick wins. However, I'm always impressed how experienced combo players manage to position themselves in long games that shouldn't favor them from a strategic perspective. It's these games which ultimately make the difference.

Expect Stoneforge Mystic

Stoneforge Mystic is back, and thankfully I'm not talking about Modern. White-Blue Stoneblade decks with and without red splashes are seeing play again, and Death and Taxes is back in force. The tempo gained with a turn-one Deathrite Shaman almost negated the threat of a turn-two Stoneforge Mystic, while providing the mana to circumvent the taxing effects of Death and Taxes. Now that the Shaman's reign is over, Stoneforge Mystic is once again well positioned.

Jonathan Caez's Death and Taxes

I started my look at Legacy with the unfair decks because of how popular they are. Almost all of them are low on mana sources, which holds true for aggressive Brainstorm decks as well. This makes Death and Taxes a great choice for this Pro Tour.

Expect Brainstorm

All right, I'm admittedly cheating a bit with this classification, given that Brainstorm also shows up in blue Stoneforge decks and some combo decks. Brainstorm is one of the format's best but also one of the most challenging cards. It is particularly important for Miracles, setting up Terminus and Counterbalance:

TempletonPeckFanClub's Miracles

Miracles has been competing for the top spot in the Legacy metagame for a while, and—to my surprise—survived the banning of Sensei's Divining Top without much trouble. As difficult as it is to play control in Modern right now, Legacy has a pure control deck that will attract a lot of players.

The other Brainstorm deck I want to highlight is Delver, which was almost pushed out of the metagame by four-color Leovold decks before the ban. The most popular variant is Temur Delver.

Harlan Firer's Temur Delver

This list makes me nostalgic, reminding me of the times when Nimble Mongoose was such a premier threat in Legacy that everyone feared "Canadian Threshold" decks like this one. There is something poetic about a Delver master operating on one or two lands for a full game, generating just enough tempo and resources to scrape out a win.

Delver decks, with their Dazes, Spell Pierces, and Stifles, excel at punishing you for playing around the wrong cards. This means that Delver benefits disproportionally from the banning of Gitaxian Probe. More hidden information means more opportunities to outplay your opponents.

Conclusion

Even more than Modern, deck choice in Legacy will be dominated by individual preference. I expect even more Brainstorms than usual, because pro players like to be in control of their fate, and this might be their one chance to play Brainstorm at a Pro Tour. But that requires a certain confidence, because you will face the world's best players in Stoneblade, Miracle, or Delver mirrors.

Other good deck choices are a tier 1 combo deck, or Death and Taxes, which I would prefer over the more extreme Red Prison decks. Finally, we shouldn't count out Lands and Four-Color Loam. More decks with Swords to Plowshares means that Marit Lage is not quite as scary as before, but some decks simply can't beat the value generated by Life from the Loam recursion.

This concludes my overview of Legacy, and my preview of the Pro Tour 25th Anniversary metagame. It's a truly special event for all kinds of reasons, and I'm confident that the Constructed formats will do it justice. Apart from the deck choice alone, I'm most curious to find out how pro teams approached their testing and preparation, and if there is any kind of consensus on Team Trios Constructed.

Tune in to twitch.tv/magic beginning at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET/9 p.m. UTC today (August 2) when we bring you four days of anniversary Magic live from Minneapolis, Minnesota!

—Simon

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