Modern Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Event Coverage on August 27, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

The metagame of a 24 player tournament is an interesting exercise in skew. Having just a handful of players coming to the same decision for a deck to play tilts the balance of things into a few directions.

For the Modern portion of this year's World Championship, the shift in landscape was clear:

Modern Archetype Players % of Field
Affinity 6 25%
Living End 4 17%
Hexproof Auras 3 13%
White-Black Tokens 2 8%
Abzan 1 4%
Blue-Red Pyromancer 1 4%
Blue-Red Twin 1 4%
Grixis Twin 1 4%
Jund 1 4%
Merfolk 1 4%
Temur Twin 1 4%
White-Blue Control 1 4%
Red-White Burn 1 4%
TOTAL 24 100%

Affinity, one of the staple archetypes of Modern, was the weapon of choice for a variety of players. Most surprising among its number was eighth-ranked Samuel Black, renowned deck builder that helped to popularize the Amulet Bloom combo deck that his teammate Justin Cohen carried to a finalist finish at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. Others rocking the robots included sixth-ranked Jacob Wilson, tenth-ranked Owen Turenwald, second-ranked Mike Sigrist, third-ranked Paul Rietzl, and nineteenth-ranked Alexander Hayne. Efficient and known, Affinity promised plenty of fast, aggressive matches.

The second most popular deck caught some eyes: Living End. Brought in by a contingent of European competitors that tested together for the tournament—Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir winner Martin Dang, Magic Online champion Magnus Lantto, Pro Tour Magic Origins champion and sixteenth-ranked Joel Larsson, and captain of the Danish World Magic Cup winning team Martin Müller—it's a less-popular combo deck based on its namesake Living End. Cascading into it with Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread after filling the graveyard with creatures, it's the type of deck that sideboards can handle if they're prepared.

Another deck known to take advantage of unprepared players is the one Reid Duke piloted to a finals appearance at the 2013 World Championship: Hexproof Auras. Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir winner and seventh-ranked Ari Lax, fourth-ranked Seth Manfield, and seventeenth-ranked Steve Rubin had similarly prepared together—alongside ninth-ranked Brad Nelson who had settled on Jund well in advance of the weekend—all planned to play out the same rise as Duke against a field perhaps unprepared for the attack.

From here, the choices begin to vary. Back-to-back World Champion and thirteenth-ranked Shahar Shenhar and first-ranked Eric Froehlich collaborated in the lead up to bring White-Black Tokens as their answer. Twenty-first-ranked Antonio Del Moral León was wielding Blue-Red Splinter Twin, a deck he was famous for both playing well and piloting to his win at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. Thiago Saporito had an Abzan deck familiar to anyone that's followed him and fellow Brazilian Pro Tour Hall of Fame elect Willy Edel through Modern in recent tournaments. Twenty-fifth-ranked Kentaro Yamamoto, skilled at tuning decks through Magic Online play, had a Tarmogoyf-packed Temur Splinter Twin deck. Fifth-ranked Lee Shi Tian had his famous Red-White Burn deck that took him to the quarterfinals of Pro Tour Fate Reforged.

And then there were some more peculiar choices, as you always find in Modern.

Twenty-fourth-ranked Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa had Grixis Splinter Twin, though it was just a splash of black making the deck. A singleton Kolaghan's Command in the main with a matching one in the sideboard alongside three copies of Tasigur, the Golden Fang gave him an almost transformational deck that could grind out value in matchups where it was needed.

Fourteenth-ranked Shaun McLaren had Blue-Red Young Pyromancer, an evolution of the previously popular Delver of Secrets deck that now was without the transform card, instead doubling down on counterspells and burn to build and protect the tempo needed to take games.

Rounding out the competitors was eleventh-ranked Ondřej Stráský with Merfolk, a deck he often played that always seems to circle the waters of Day 2 at Modern Grand Prix and finally found its breakthrough at Grand Prix Copenhagen in Przemek Knocinski's hands.

The major takeaways from the total field were fascinating:

  • Splinter Twin was largely missing. The most venerable and arguably consistent deck in Modern was a threat from just two players.
  • Living End and Hexproof Auras promised that sideboards would be tested. Unprepared players would likely fall before the unusual angles of attack.
  • Affinity, as the most represented deck, would be a deck that everyone was likely to face off against, again calling upon sideboard choices.
  • Like every Modern event, there were plenty of unique choices to test the edges of expectations.

Four rounds of Modern would set the stage for Day 2 and determine the rising contenders of the 2015 World Championship.

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