Top 100 Day 1 Players' Archetype Breakdown

Posted in Event Coverage on May 22, 2016

By Marc Calderaro

Just because the format is open, doesn't mean there aren't edges to be gleaned, and trends to be found within. This weekend, among the Top 100 performing competitors, there were 34 distinct archetypes represented, which can be a lot to parse. But let's do our best.

Here's the initial breakdown:

Archetype #
Abzan Company 13
Affinity 10
Merfolk 8
Naya Burn 8
Infect 6
Jund 6
Jeskai Harbinger 5
Grixis Control 4
Red-Green Tron 6
Elves 3
Abzan 2
Bant Eldrazi 2
Four-Color Scapeshift 2
Green-White Hatebears 2
Grixis Midrange 2
Kiki Chord 2
Scapeshift 2
Zoo 2
Amulet Titan 1
Black-Green Midrange 1
Blue Moon 1
Blue-Black Faeries 1
Blue-Black Mill 1
BreachScape 1
Dredge 1
Four-Color Midrange 1
Green-White Tokens 1
Grishoalbrand 1
Hexproof Auras 1
Jeskai Control 1
Jeskai Midrange 1
Mono-Blue Tron 1
Temur Delver 1
Total 100

Some of this is not surprising. Abzan Company is a well-established deck in the format, and its resiliency shown through even during Eldrazi Winter. Additionally, the re-rise of Affinity was predicted by many. As Frank Karsten always says, the best time to play the deck is right when people stop paying it respect. This weekend, fewer people sleeved up Stony Silence, and Tony Soprano punished them for it. And perhaps similar predictions could have been made for Burn, Infect, and Jund.

However, few would have signed up for Merfolk being tied for the third-best archetype, except for coverage writer Corbin Hosler, of course—who will play the deck until his Lord of Atlantis crumbles into dust. The rumble fish have equipped their fins for war this weekend, and it showed.

However, in the end, this data looks a bit messy. To get bigger trends in the format, you have to look broader. Though there will be infinite argument about the ins and outs of these next charts, they provide a modicum of perspective in this topsy-turvy Modern world.

Multiple Pros have recently discussed the rise of the “Fair” decks in Modern. Those decks that aren't aiming to combo with a Lightning Storm, or flood with fast artifacts or infecters. Not usually “Control” decks per se—most are more akin to Midrange decks—they are the more reactive builds, looking to halt proactive, hyper-aggressive strategies.

Thirteenth-ranked Alex Hayne described it by saying that these fair decks are the only ones that aren't doing some form of “combo” in the format. He said the fair decks are “power” and “value” driven, while everything else is synergy driven. Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad winner, third-ranked Steve Rubin added that for example even Zoo runs Goblin Bushwhacker, which is pretty darn close to “combo” in its effect.

So we can speak very broadly of “Combo” versus “Fair” in Modern. The apparent rise of fair decks is interesting because Modern is often thought of as an “unfair” format. But if fair decks can figure out how to contain the myriad “unfair” decks, perhaps it could indicate a larger format shift.

For the table below, I split the archetypes into “Aggro-Combo,” “Ramp-Combo,” “Combo-Combo,” and “Fair.” Yes, that is jokey, but it does reveal a certain truth of the format. As Hayne and Rubin said, there's not a good deck in the format that doesn't have some real busted draws.

Here's the table, and below the breakdown of what archetype went where:

Broad Strategy #
"Aggro-Combo" 43
"Fair" 26
"Combo-Combo" 10
"Ramp-Combo" 8

As you can see, that chart is missing 13 decks out of the 100. That thirteen is Abzan Company. I couldn't in good conscience fit it in any of those other four categories. Perhaps that's why it's the best performing archetype overall. It doesn't fit neatly into Combo or Fair. It's an Aggro-Midrange-Fair-Combo cluster that sits on its own perch atop the fracas, laying judgment where it deems it should.

But from this we can see that the rise of fair is real. Though still dwarfed by Aggro-Combo decks, the Grixis, Abzan, Jeskai, Jund, and Mardu value decks have a strong home in the format.

If that can grow and perpetuate, we might see a more shifting Modern format. Only time will tell.

For Reference, here's how I broke down into the above categories. Feel free to strongly disagree with me on the internet:

Four-Color Scapeshift
Kiki Chord
Blue-Black Mill
Jeskai Harbinger
Grixis Control
Grixis Midrange
Black-Green Midrange
Blue Moon
Blue-Black Faeries
Four-Color Midrange
Jeskai Control
Jeskai Midrange
Temur Delver
Red-Green Tron
Mono-Blue Tron
Amulet Titan
Naya Burn
Hexproof Auras
Bant Eldrazi
Green-White Hatebears
Green-White Tokens
Abzan Company

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