Post-Worlds, Pre-Fate Reforged Modern Metagame

Posted in GRAND PRIX OMAHA 2015 on January 10, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

For a while, Modern was the least definable metagame.  With a staggering amount of playable decklists that were all “good enough”—looking a lot like Legacy—Modern was a format that allowed people to play whatever cards they wanted, as long as the deck could execute most of its plan by turn three or four.  But within the last year or so, and especially with the release of Khans of Tarkir, the format has had more shape, and more predictability.  This weekend is the last Modern Grand Prix before Pro Tour Fate Reforged, which will likely shake up the Modern metagame yet again.  So what should players be expecting today?

Before the World Championship, behind closed doors, people will say that Birthing Pod–based decks were indeed the best decks.  Offering the most variability, not requiring a full hand, and threatening from every angle, Birthing Pod decks gave pilots exactly what they needed.  (This was, of course, after the Jeskai Ascendancy scare had been all but “figured out”.)

Then the World Championships happened.  There were a few Birthing Pod decks, but there was a new Jeskai Ascendancy deck, a couple decks that had been presumed dead before Khans of Tarkir—and then there was this Standard menace, Abzan, that all of a sudden believed a discard deck could work in a format full of cheap card draw.

And now we’re back where we started.  So where do we begin?  And how should we presume?  What are a few of the decks that will show up today?  Though the World Championships were a small metagame, and tuned to beat a specific field, it’s a good place to start.

World Championship 2014

Archetypes

Percentage

Count

Jeskai Ascendancy

17%

4

Blue-Red Delver

17%

4

Birthing Pod

13%

3

Pyromancer Ascension

13%

3

Scapeshift

13%

3

Temur Delver

8%

2

Burn

8%

2

Abzan

4%

1

Jeskai

4%

1

Jeskai Delver

4%

1

The decks can break down in a variety of ways, but here’s a quick rundown:

Blue-Red Delver was the deck that everyone knew was happening since more card draw entered the format, but it was still good enough.  Looking a lot like a Legacy deck, Delver uses Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, and a bevy of cheap effects to overwhelm the board, while at the same time, stopping whatever’s being thrown at them with cards like Lightning Bolt, Spell Snare, et al.  Using powerful Delve cards like Treasure Cruise and/or Dig Through Time, the deck can re-fuel after it runs out of cards to keep the train going.

(13) Stanislav Cifka – Blue-Red Delver, World Championship 2014

There were three players who brought Birthing Pod to the Championships, including No. 11 Sam Black, No. 14 Jacob Wilson, and Raymond Perez, Jr.  One of the reasons Pod is such a good deck is the variety of attacks—either combo or aggro.  The combo of choice, like Perez’s deck played, is often Spike Feeder and Archangel of Thuneor Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Viscera Seer, and Kitchen Finksor both (see both ways you can gain infinite life?).  But some decks even take out any semblance of a combo finish and just give a bunch of value creatures and a couple Gavony Township. You never really know what you’re facing, because the Pod allows almost everything in the library to be available at the drop of a hat.  When you think of a “toolbox deck” there are few better examples than Birthing Pod.  Just look at that sideboard with fourteen different cards!

(11) Sam Black – Birthing Pod, World Championship 2014

Another variable archetype like Birthing Pod, is Twin.  With Pestermite and Splinter Twin, you can make an arbitrarily large amount of Faeries to smash face (even if your opponent has gained infinite life).  So the deck tries to assemble those two cards.  There is a straight-up combo version, usually Blue and Red, that just try to delay until they can find and cast the two cards.  But there is also a  more “Pod-like” version of Twin, that can win with either its game-breaking combo, or a straight-up fight, called TarmoTwin.  Patrick Dickmann is the most famous of the pilots, but he also started playing the straight version since Dig Through Time became a thing.  He called this version of the deck “Dig for the (T)win”:

Patrick Dickmann – Splinter Twin, Grand Prix Madrid, 9th place

There are also three combo decks that don’t really have a beatdown plan option.  It’s either combo or die (usually).  These decks include Pyromancer Ascension, Scapeshift, and the new fangled Wrapter–approved Jeskai Ascendancy.

The original Jeskai Ascendancy deck was believed to be too good in the early days of Khans of Tarkir, but it was quickly disrupted.  Then it was thought, well, not “dead,” per se, but not even close to the menace it was presumed, until No. 16 Josh Utter-Leyton showed up at the World Championship with a more controlling, more unstoppable version of the deck.  Instead of going for the combo as quickly as possible, his deck aims to stop the opponent from winning, then just go off at his leisure.  The deck uses Fatestitcher (usually Unearthed) to untap Faerie Conclave, then Jeskai Ascendancy plus a cantrip to untap the ‘Stitcher and the Conclave.  With a flurry of cheap spells this can make for two huge creatures.

(16) Josh Utter-Leyton – Jeskai Ascendancy, World Championship 2014

Another straight combo deck that was thought “dead” before Khans of Tarkir is Scapeshift.  The “one-card combo” uses Scapeshift and a critical mass of lands to grab Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and a bunch of Mountains at the same time.  When all the lands come into play, this causes the Valakut to deal massive damage directly to the opponent’s face.  Dig Through Time gave this deck new life and showed up in larger numbers than it had been seen in years at the World Championship.  No. 5 Jeremy Dezani was the highest-ranked player of the three to play it.

(5) Jérémy Dezani – Scapeshift, World Championship 2014

The last combo deck that made a significant showing at the Worlds Championship was Pyromancer Ascension.  Just looking at the card itself, you can imagine what to do with it.  No. 4 Reid Duke, No. 1 Owen Turtenwald, and No. 6 William Jensen did just that.  Play quick, cheap, redundant spells that draw into more cards, and hopefully a Pyromancer Ascension; Start copying spells; eventually copy a large Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens; win.  This is yet another deck that got a boost thanks to the Khans of Tarkir delve-based card draw.

(4) Reid Duke – Pyromancer Ascension, World Championship 2014

There are just about a zillion other decks out there—including Burn, Abzan, and even a Temur deck or two—but this is just a quick recap of what the World Championship added to fold.  What will come from the last Modern Grand Prix before Pro Tour Fate Reforged shuffles everything up?  We’ll find out this weekend.

Happy hunting, everyone!

We use cookies on this site to personalize content and ads, provide social media features and analyze web traffic. By clicking YES, you are consenting for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more