Modern History

Posted in GRAND PRIX CHARLOTTE 2015 on June 13, 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.

Friday, September 2, 2011. It was a unique day in Magic history, the first day of Pro Tour Philadelphia and the debut of Modern at its highest level of play. Hundreds of the game's greatest players worked and pulled the format apart, beginning a new era of powerful decks and strategies. That rocket launch of a start reached the stars and over the next four years the format grew and evolved. 2,870 players came to Charlotte this weekend, making it one of the largest Constructed tournaments in history.

Players, it seems, like playing Modern.

One of the players that has been there throughout it all is Josh Utter-Leyton. The No. 14-ranked player earned his second Pro Tour Top 8 appearance there and didn't look back, adding several Grand Prix Top 8s in Modern to his resume thereafter. As one of the mainstays of testing on the Channel Fireball team.

"It's definitely changed a lot from that first Pro Tour," Utter-Leyton said. "That Pro Tour was all about combo decks, and most have gone that way where everybody tries to find the forgotten about combo deck. After the Pro Tours when the format settles out and the best decks become clearer, decks move towards midrange."

Josh Utter-Leyton

"Twin has always been the best Pro Tour deck since it beats all the other combos. It's not the fastest but it has the most disruption packed into the deck. Blue counterspells match up well against the other combo decks; It's well suited for playing the control role."

"That pattern of combo at the Pro Tour and midrange after it settles has been consistent over the four years. It's interesting how that's played out. Pro Tours always share some shakeup so the format is not longer stagnant as players gravitate towards playing broken decks, but once you know what's there you play other decks."

"Your Jund deck has basically been the default fair deck of the format. You can beat everything once your sideboard gets involved. The field needs to be narrow enough that you can cover everything with your 15 sideboard slots. If you had 30 cards, Jund – and midrange and control decks – could cover all the different linear decks.

Over the years I mostly have been playing the fair decks. At the Pro Tour I played Zoo that was disruption loaded. I played Jund for two years. I played straight black-green. The strength of Jund is in the sideboard. Jund's plan is to one-for-one and be left with a Tarmogoyf and lands that's better than the one card in their hand. That does require being able to interact with your opponent, which is really hard: There are so many decks doing different things in the format."

"People were pretty on the ball about finding all the combos that existed I think. The biggest surprise to me has been how consistently good Splinter Twin has been. Twin somehow keeps being not that popular despite being well-positioned at every Pro Tour."

"The biggest lesson I'd say is that sideboards are the most important thing. Specific cards have huge value in many matchups: Shatterstorm against Affinity, Blood Moon against Amulet Bloom. Sideboards impact decisions so much more than Standard. Mulligans hurt less and matter more so you mulligan aggressively: Those specific cards matter so much."

Naya Burn - Josh Utter-leyton

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