What happens when a format gets reforged? While Grand Prix Omaha covered the Modern format a month ago, it was the swan song for Birthing Pod's place in the format. The shuffle of cards and decks came as Birthing Pod, Dig Through Time, and Treasure Cruise sailed away.
What happened was Siege Rhino rushed in to fill the void. This is the complete breakdown of every archetype at Pro Tour Fate Reforged:
|Martyr of Sands||2||0.50%|
|Five-Color Temur Ascendancy||1||0.20%|
|Through the Breach||1||0.20%|
|White-Red Kiki Control||1||0.20%|
That's…a lot of Siege Rhinos.
Nearly thirty percent of all competitors arrived with Abzan decks, including several prominent teams. While it was one of “the obvious” decks coming into the weekend, there wasn't consensus on the best way to build it. Many opted into adding Tasigur, the Golden Fang to provide both another cheap body—Tasigur could delve into play for perhaps just one black mana—and an engine to pull ahead on cards. If players expected mirror matches it would help find ways to break through the stalemates. Others maintained the traditional builds seen in Omaha, through with variable counts of Lingering Souls, Voice of Resurgence, and other tools in the main deck. A final splinter group eschewed Tasigur as well, though accelerated the power of the deck with cards like Loxodon Smiter and Wilt-Leaf Liege.
The surprise breakouts, at least from a metagame standpoint, are the rise of Burn and Infect towards the top. While Affinity was always a lurking aggressive menace, and Zoo varieties saw a resurgence (due in no small part to Siege Rhino flavors arriving) for a Top 8 in Omaha, the addition of Become Immense from Khans of Tarkir helped push Infect up the threat ladder. In Omaha, back-to-back World Champion and fourth-ranked Shahar Shenhar narrowly missed Top 8 on tiebreakers with a Burn deck in hand. The ability to simply pressure and outrace decks is what enticed players to all three archetypes, and there's no doubt these players were counting on slower, long-game-aiming Abzan decks appearing here in force.
What hasn't happened is the return of other powerful decks that have appeared in the format. Blue-Red Twin decks, once supplanted by Blue-Red Delver of Secrets options leveraging Treasure Cruise for all its might, didn't appear in force as they had before Khans of Tarkir was released. However, Grixis-flavored versions took a note from Abzan decks to adopt Tasigur, the Golden Fang as well.
The old khan Tasigur has been a popular inclusion in Abzan decks this weekend, but it has also shown up in Splinter Twin archetypes as well.
Scapeshift, a powerful deck with a multiple Grand Prix Top 8 pedigree, lost Dig Through Time but had won a Grand Prix well before the Instant had ever appeared. It, too, didn't rise in popularity. Red-Green Tron appeared flat against the previous event, though those that arrive almost universally adopted a copy or two of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to team up with the other colorless Planeswalker, Karn Liberated. Similarly flat was Amulet Bloom, the Amulet of Vigor-meets-Summer Bloom deck that reached the finals of Grand Prix Omaha. If a Grand Prix winning deck couldn't increase in an unknown field it makes sense a runner-up deck wouldn't rise either.
Beyond these archetypes lie a slew of options that always hover in Modern: Storm (the Pyromancer Ascension deck), Jund (including Life from the Loam variants), Merfolk (another Omaha Top 8 deck), Living End, White-Black Tokens, and Jeskai Control among many more.
For this weekend, several questions remain that players will have to answer:
- Is there a key way to break the Abzan mirror match?
- Which of the other decks can survive the gauntlet of Abzan players?
- Is there a breakthrough deck hidden in the weeds of singleton players?
This weekend, Modern was to be put through the crucible. Right now, it looks like it's holding its form just fine.