More than 1,600 players showed up to snowy Toronto, Ontario to heat up Modern north of the border. Coming on the heels of an exciting Pro Tour in which a wildly diverse Top 8 led to Luis Salvatto winning the tournament with Lantern Control, all eyes were on the format as players ran it back at Grand Prix Toronto.
These are the moments that stood out from the weekend.
Diversity from the Start
The big thing people love to talk about when it comes to Modern is its deck diversity. Seemingly any deck can have a good weekend and take down a tournament, and that's exactly what brings players to the format in droves. But there was some concern that the format might become more streamlined, or "solved," following its reintroduction to the Pro Tour last week in Bilbao.
That notion was dispelled early at Grand Prix Toronto, as the Last Chance Trial winner decklists proved. Seriously – just look at this spread of decks that performed well before in these events before the main tournament even began.
|1||Eldrazi and Taxes|
That diversity continued all the way through the tournament, with such diverse decks as Mono-Blue Taking Turns to Esper Goryo's Vengeance with Obzedat, Ghost Council to Jace, Memory Adept finding success in the feature match area.
Lantern Runs Out of Light
It’s safe to say opinions were… mixed… after Salvatto’s win with Lantern Control at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. While many players love the ingenuity of the deck made up largely of forgotten cards from sets long past, it’s no secret that Lantern operates in a fundamentally unique way – it seeks to prevent opponents from ever drawing their relevant cards.
Those fears were put to rest in Toronto. Players came armed with their artifact hate for the tournament, and Lantern mastermind Zac Elsik failed to advance to Day 2 with the deck. Meanwhile, a more recent convert who has put hundreds of hours into the deck – and also happens to be a former World Champion – was able to show that Lantern is strong enough to battle through hate and tough matchups.
2-1 against G/x Tron in this tournament, but getting trounced by the field. Nothing is as it should be.— Brian Braun-Duin (@BraunDuinIt) February 11, 2018
Won the last 3 rounds to finish up 11-4 and top 64. #BreadandButter #GPToronto #PleaseDontBanLanternEveryoneHadExcessiveHateAndILostALotAndItDidntTopEight— Brian Braun-Duin (@BraunDuinIt) February 11, 2018
But Braun-Duin’s finish was all fans of the archetype could hang their lanterns on – no copies finished in the Top 32. Further demonstrating the trend was that Affinity – other than Ben Ragan’s appearance in the Top 8 – also faced a difficult weekend, with no other pilots making the Top 32.
Stony Silence is alive and well in Modern, and fears of our new Lantern overlords have been assuaged.
The Power of the Graveyard, Part 1
When Hollow One was printed, few players looked twice at the quirky Hour of Devastationcard. But those who did looked long and hard, and went to work trying to break the card in Modern. The deck enjoyed its first true breakout last weekend at the Pro Tour, with Ken Yukuhiro taking the archetype all the way to the Top 8, Goblin Lores included.
But Kirk Maijala showed there’s more than one way to cheat some creatures into play.
Maijala broke the black-red mold, instead playing green and Vengevine, which created even more explosive potential for a deck already renowned for its ability to dump a punch of power into play as early as turn two. Where the archetype goes from here is an open question, but it seems that Hollow One is here to stay.
The Power of the Graveyard, Part 2
The deck is a bit complicated, but it can win as early as turn two by using Goryos’ Vengeance on Griselbrand, drawing cards and gaining life thanks to Nourishing Shoal and Worldspine Wurm to continue to draw more cards. Eventually, it generates mana through Simian Spirit Guide and Pyretic Ritual to put Borborygmos Enraged in play and pitch a grip of lands to kill an opponent.
At least, the deck is supposed to use the graveyard. As Zhang proved in an epic semifinals match against Jon Stern, it doesn’t always have to use the graveyard. What follows is a thing of beauty – if you’re into weird combo decks going off in bizarre ways at instant speed.
Ward’s Bogles Go All the Way
Dan Ward approached the coverage booth in Round 5, excited to share the story of how his Green-White Hexproof (Bogles) deck had upset three tough matchups in a row. He was feeling the fire, and not afraid to share it.
And why not after an incredible run that took him all the way to the Grand Prix Toronto title? Ward proved that any deck can find success in Modern with a confident and practiced pilot, and his run through the tournament was a clinic in how to play to your strengths. It was especially evident during a Top 8 run that forced him into a series of tough matches – against a Traverse Shadow deck trying to tear apart his hand, against a Jeskai Control deck able to counter or kill almost everything he played, to a Burn deck that pressured his life total while also holding off his Bogles with Ensnaring Bridge.
But, in the end, Ward overcame it all – and was crowned the champion of Grand Prix Toronto.