Mythic Championship IV Modern Preview

Posted in Event Coverage on July 24, 2019

By Frank Karsten

Mythic Championship IV starts on Friday, July 26, in Barcelona, Spain. Friday and Saturday will both begin with three mechanically rich rounds of Modern Horizons Booster Draft, but I'm particularly excited about the five rounds of Modern that will follow each afternoon.

The goal of this article is to set the stage for fans who watched Mythic Championship II in London but haven't kept up with the Modern metagame developments since then. After reading this article, you should be well equipped as a viewer going into the Mythic Championship IV broadcast.


Eli Loveman, champion of Mythic Championship II. He emerged victorious with Humans as his Modern deck.

At Mythic Championship II in London, where the new mulligan rule was favorably tested, the most popular decks were Tron, Izzet Phoenix, Humans, Blue-White Control, and Dredge, in that order. At Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona, these five decks will surely form a large part of the metagame again—but they will be using newly printed cards, and the rest of the metagame has changed considerably.

Three New Sets Were Added; One Card Was Banned

War of the Spark and Modern Horizons rank among the two most impactful set releases in the entire history of the format, and Core Set 2020 has added several relevant cards as well. As none of these three sets were available for MC II, it's clear that Modern at MC IV will look vastly different.

What's more, the exact Modern format for Barcelona is relatively uncharted because two weeks ago, Bridge from Below was banned.

This ban was warranted because since the release of Modern Horizons, the format had been warped by Hogaak BridgeVine—a deck that would use self-mill or discard effects to exploit Hogaak, Vengevine, and Bridge from Below. Using these cards, the deck could easily get 10 power in play on turn two and then use Altar Of Dementia to mill out the opponent on turn three. Every deck was forced to load up on anti-graveyard cards to compete, which was problematic for the health of the metagame, and R&D took action.

I won't analyze the differences between Modern before the ban and Modern after the ban—my focus will be on the differences between MC II to MC IV—but what you should know is that the Modern format for Barcelona is very fresh. It began in earnest only two weeks ago.

What Modern Archetypes Have Found Success in This Format?

To provide an overview of successful Modern decklists in the two weeks since the ban of Bridge from Below, I collected the decklists from the July 12 MTGO league, the Warsaw MCQ, several StarCityGames.com (SCG) Invitational Qualifiers, the Modern Challenge, the SCG Classic in Worcester, the July 16 MTGO league, the July 19 MTGO league, the Modern MOCS, and the SCG Team Open in Philadelphia.

I then used a point system to rank decks based on popularity and performance. Specifically, I gave each deck a number of points equal to its number of match wins minus its number of match losses. The resulting numbers don't translate directly to a deck's score-weighted metagame percentage because Magic Online leagues publish all 5-0 decks that are at least 20 cards different from each other. But they do adequately show how often decks appear in published data, weighted by performance.

Which Major Decks Got Better?

As the above graphic shows, almost every deck got relevant upgrades in recent months. But from the established, top-tier Modern decks, I would pick four winners in particular.

  • Aria of Flame
  • Finale of Promise
  • Magmatic Sinkhole
  • Lava Dart

 

  • Fiery Islet
  • Force of Negation
  • Narset, Parter of Veils
  • Saheeli, Sublime Artificer

Izzet Phoenix: Earlier this year, Izzet Phoenix was already one of the decks to beat. Now, it picked up Aria of Flame as an alternative win condition that circumvents both creature removal and anti-graveyard cards. Finale of Promise is also a strong addition because it returns Arclight Phoenix by itself. The rest of the new cards are mostly one-ofs or sideboard options, but thanks to Faithless Looting, Manamorphose, Thought Scour, and Serum Visions, they'll be easy to find.

Blue-White Control: Control players could already say "no" to spells and "no" to creatures. War of the Spark extends this range. Narset, Parter of Veils says "no" to drawing extra cards, which is huge when Faithless Looting and Serum Visions are heavily played, and Teferi, Time Raveler says "no" to casting spells while things are resolving, which nullifies Bring to Light, Finale of Promise, Bloodbraid Elf's cascade, and Rift Bolt's suspend. Since Blue-White Control also benefits from Force of Negation and from the open decklist policy at Mythic Championships, I expect it to do well.

Eldrazi Tron: Karn, the Great Creator is arguably War of the Spark's most important addition to Modern. Karn can fetch such cards as Mycosynth Lattice for an instant win on an empty board, Ensnaring Bridge to lock down attackers, or Grafdigger's Cage to stop graveyard recursion. While Karn has found a home in a variety of decks, it is at its best when you can ramp into Mycosynth Lattice with Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower, and protect Karn with blockers like Matter Reshaper and Thought-Knot Seer. This is exactly why we've seen a resurgence of Eldrazi Tron, which also picked up Ugin, the Ineffable and Blast Zone as minor additions.

  • Wrenn and Six
  • Seasoned Pyromancer
  • Plague Engineer
  • Nurturing Peatland
  • Collector Ouphe
  • Weather the Storm

Jund: Wrenn and Six does it all. It answers Noble Hierarch and Champion of the Parish. It returns Bloodstained Mire to help hit your land drops or to break the discard symmetry on Liliana of the Veil. It returns Nurturing Peatland to help you grind in a long game. And the threat of its ultimate demands an answer from control players. All in all, Wrenn and Six is a great reason to leave behind The Rock and to pick up Jund. In addition, the deck benefits from effective new creatures and powerful new sideboard options.

Which Major Decks Got Less Viable?

At Mythic Championship II in London, the sixth and seventh most popular decks were Hardened Scales and Grixis Shadow. Yet neither of them were present in the table pictured above. So, what happened?

It pains me to say this, given that I've been an Arcbound Ravager aficionado for years, but Hardened Scales and Affinity have both gotten less viable in recent months. They gained nothing of relevance while the rest of the format improved considerably. To make matters even worse, Modern now features an abundance of Karn, Scion of Urza in main decks along with Collector Ouphe or Force of Vigor in sideboards. As long as these new cards remain popular, it's hard to succeed with Arcbound Ravager.

Grixis Shadow, which aims to stay below 13 life, was hurt a little bit by the adoption of Aria of Flame in Izzet Phoenix. But the prime reason for its fall in popularity was the introduction of Ranger-Captain of Eos. The new card fetches Death's Shadow and cripples Snapcaster Mage, so it encouraged players to move toward white versions (usually Esper or Mardu) instead.

What New Decks Emerged?

Modern now features many new decks that couldn't exist a few months ago.

HogaakVine — u_mad_bro (7th at the Modern MOCS on July 14)

Even without Bridge from Below, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is a very powerful card. In the right deck, it's a zero-mana 8/8 trampler, so you can be sure that Mythic Championship competitors will try to break it. There is no consensus yet on the best configuration, and debates will rage over the relative merits of Satyr Wayfinder, Hedron Crab, and Stinkweed Imp.

In any case, most lists are capable of playing Bloodstained Mire and Carrion Feeder on turn one, followed by Stitcher's Supplier and Faithless Looting on turn two. You could then cast Hogaak from the graveyard, trigger Vengevine, and pass with 14 power on the battlefield and a potentially lethal attack on turn three. Even Rest in Peace might come too late against that start.

Urza ThopterSword — Lyserg (6-2 at the Modern Challenge on July 13)

When you have Urza, High Lord Artificer and Thopter Foundry on the battlefield, you can repeatedly tap Sword of the Meek for mana and sacrifice it to create a Thopter, returning the Sword. This produces a loop that generates infinite Thopters, infinite life, infinite mana, and infinite Urza activations. With Goblin Engineer, Whir of Invention, and cheap artifact cantrips to assemble the key pieces, it's a powerful and popular strategy.

As a note: this archetype has sometimes been referred to as Grixis Urza, but I opted for a different name to encompass the extremely similar versions that splash white for Teferi, Time Raveler.

Goblins — Elibaechan (5-0 in a Modern League on July 19)

The reprintings of Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader have brought back the core that has made the Goblin tribe so successful in past formats. Munitions Expert is also a perfect fit for the deck, and Sling-Gang Lieutenant and Pashalik Mons can produce challenging and fun "Can you win this turn?" puzzles.

I don't expect to see many Goblins at the Mythic Championship, but given that multiple Goblin builds put up 5-0 league finishes on Magic Online in the last two weeks, it's at least a deck to keep an eye on.

B/R Skelemental — Lantto (5-0 in a Modern League on July 12)

Lightning Skelemental combines the pressure of a Ball Lightning with the disruption of a Mind Rot, making for a powerful card overall.

And if you already liked a three-mana Lightning Skelemental, then how about the low-low price offered by Thunderkin Awakener or Unearth? Whether you fit Lightning Skelemental in a Hollow One shell or a midrange shell, there is a lot of potential here.

SnowShift — CyrusCG (6-2 at the Modern MOCS on July 14)

While Red-Green Valakut decks have fallen in popularity, the hottest new thing is a Bring to Light Scapeshift version that exploits Ice-Fang Coatl. Between Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder, it's easy enough to find the necessary snow-covered lands for its deathtouch ability. This allows Ice-Fang Coatl to trade for big attackers while providing card advantage, which is exactly what this deck needs to reach a game-winning Scapeshift.

Neobrand — Saluman (6-2 the Modern Challenge on July 13)

To my recollection, no other deck in Modern has been able to kill on turn one or two with the rate that Neobrand can, especially with the London mulligan rule. A five-card opening hand of Chancellor of the Tangle, Allosaurus Rider, Allosaurus Rider, Neoform, and Botanical Sanctum will get Griselbrand onto the battlefield on turn one. Then, you could chain multiple Nourishing Shoals to draw your entire deck and eventually win with Laboratory Maniac. Although the deck is vulnerable to disruption like Grafdigger's Cage or Pact of Negation, it is scarily fast.

This concludes my overview of the most prominent new decks, but the possibilities in Modern are nearly endless. How about Mystic Forge in Dice Factory? Spectral Sailor in Blue-White Spirits? Hexdrinker in The Rock? Smiting Helix in Mardu Pyromancer? The list goes on, and I can't wait to see what the Mythic Championship IV competitors will bring to the table.

Tune In!

Compared to Modern at Mythic Championship II in London, the format still plays the same in broad strokes, but the new sets have brought significant upgrades to existing archetypes and have enabled the refreshing emergence of new archetypes.

Given that most of the developments are brand new, the format remains in flux, and there is no clearly established metagame yet. As a result, Mythic Championship IV will be a great event for viewers. Be sure to tune in to the twitch.tv/magic stream this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 9 a.m. Barcelona time (7 a.m. UTC / 3 a.m. ET / midnight PT) to root for your favorite players and your favorite decks!

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