Modern Trends and the Three-Bye Metagame

Posted in GRAND PRIX COPENHAGEN 2015 on June 20, 2015

By Frank Karsten

Modern has changed quite a bit since Pro Tour Fate Reforged. The metagame that we saw at Grand Prix Charlotte last weekend was markedly different from the one we had at the Pro Tour, and Grand Prix Copenhagen may have more developments in store for us. In this article, I'll go over the main recent trends and give an early glimpse into the pros' deck choices.

Trend 1: Kolaghan's Command Causes Colorshift

Although Dromoka's Command and Atarka's Command have also found their way into various Modern decks, Kolaghan is the Dragonlord whose Command has had the largest impact.

The most popular deck at Grand Prix Charlotte, at 12% of the Day 2 metagame was Grixis Twin, and there were various Grixis Delver and Grixis Control decks running around the top tables as well. Contrast that with the Day 2 metagame at the Pro Tour, where almost all of the Splinter Twin and Delver players were straight up Blue/Red, and most of the control players were on Jeskai.

A key reason for this recent move towards Grixis is that Kolaghan's Command was printed in Dragons of Tarkir. The instant provides an easy two-for-one, is particularly good against Affinity, and synergizes nicely with Snapcaster Mage. As Patrick Chapin said before finishing ninth with his take on Grixis Control: "Kolaghan's Command is literally, single-handedly the thing that took Grixis up to being one of the defining decks of the format."

Likewise, midrange players have also picked up Kolaghan's Command. Tarmogoyf and Inquisition of Kozilek are as popular as always, but nowadays they are more frequently accompanied by Kolaghan's Command than by Lingering Souls. If we turn to the numbers and compare the metagame at the Pro Tour in February to the one in Charlotte last weekend, we see that Abzan has gone down from over 20% to just 5.5%, whereas Jund has gone from 2.7% to 10.3%. That's a clear color shift, and it affects how some of the games play out. Those Amulet of Vigors are not safe anymore, for instance.

Trend 2: The Birth of Collected Company Decks

In Michael Malone's winning Elf deck from Grand Prix Charlotte, Collected Company will hit 1.94 creatures on average.

Collected Company is another new addition to the format from Dragons of Tarkir. In the right deck, it hits two creatures most of the time, providing a lot of value at instant speed. It even helps assembling various creature-based combos such as Viscera Seer plus Melira, Sylvok Outcast plus Kitchen Finks.

Looking at Grand Prix Charlotte last weekend, Abzan Company, Elves Company, and Zoo Company were only 3%, 1%, and 1% of the Day 2 metagame respectively, but all of these decks did very well: Paul Rietzl finished in tenth place with Zoo Company, Ian Bosley finished sixth with Abzan Company, and Michael Malone won the event with Elves Company. Decklists can be found here and here, if you're curious. With such a good showing, I wouldn't be surprised if we see even more Collected Company decks this weekend.

Trend 3: Affinity, Burn, Infect, R/G Tron, and Others Still Around

Some things never change.

New cards come and go, but certain decks always stick around. We already touched on Splinter Twin and Jund earlier in Trend 1, but in addition to those decks you can expect to face Affinity, Burn, Infect, and R/G Tron once in any 15-round event. It's been that way pretty much ever since the inception of the Modern format, and it's no different today.

At slightly lower popularity levels, you have Amulet/Bloom, Merfolk, Zoo, and many, many others lingering around as well. Hey, "no change" can be called a trend as well, right?

Trend 4: A Resurgence in Offbeat Combo

Modern has always had its share of bizarre combo decks (from Living End to Scapeshift to Storm) but it never fails to disappoint with even wackier strategies.

In Charlotte, we suddenly saw an Ad Nauseam/Angel's Grace deck featuring Spoils of the Vault and a Goryo's Vengeance/Griselbrand deck with Nourishing Shoal in the Top 8. Many of their opponents probably had no clue what was going on! There was also a crazy Lantern of Insight/Codex Shredder deck that aimed to lock out the game with Ensnaring Bridge in the Top 16.

Of those three, the Goryo's Vengeance deck called "Grishoalbrand" generated the most excitement. Last night, questions like "How good is that deck?" or "Do you think it is going to be popular at the Grand Prix?" or "What does it even do?" were abuzz. As for that last one: It plans to (1) get a Griselbrand onto the battlefield via Goryo's Vengeance or Through the Breach, (2) chain Nourishing Shoals and draw cards with the Demon until another Through the Breach is cast with the help of several Simian Spirit Guides and Desperate Rituals which then puts Borborygmos Enraged on the table, (3) ping your opponent to death with lands. The key innovation is Nourishing Shoal, which allows to deck to go off at instant speed and do all kinds of splice-onto-arcane tricks.

The 3-Bye Metagame

What Modern concoction might rise to the top this weekend? Well, what better way to get an early indication on that than by checking out the deck choices of the select group of the sixteen players with three byes. Here is the list of Gold-level players, Platinum-level players, and Hall of Famers in attendance this weekend:

  • Anteri, Fabrizio
  • Cammilluzzi, Marco
  • Carvalho, Marcio
  • Dagen, Pierre
  • Dang, Martin
  • Del Moral León, Antonio
  • Herzog, Nicolai
  • Jensen, William
  • Jůza, Martin
  • Lantto, Magnus
  • Larson, Joel
  • Lévy, Raphaël
  • Rade, Olle
  • Stark, Ben
  • Strasky, Ondrej
  • Wilson, Jacob

Here's the archetype breakdown of what this group is playing:

Deck #
Jund 3
Goryo's Vengeance 2
Abzan Company 1
Abzan Midrange 1
Affinity 1
Amulet/Bloom 1
Burn 1
Grixis Twin 1
Infect 1
Living End 1
Loam Pox 1
Suicide Zoo 1
Zoo Company 1

So Jund is the most popular choice, and the Goryo's Vengeance deck may be the real deal.

More on Sunday, when we have a detailed breakdown of all Day 2 decks for you!