Constructed Modern Analysis

Before Grand Prix Dallas two weekend ago, my expectation, along with many other players, was to see the fast decks of Modern do very well. The “fast decks” are those decks capable of winning as early as turn three. However the results were not exactly what I expected, to be honest, since the winning decks were not, for the majority, aggro decks.

Why didn’t the fast decks win it all, if they are so great? The fact remains that Modern is a vast and diverse format with a variety of different strategies. Many of the slower decks were able to adjust and make card choices in preparation for the aggro decks, and that paid off. Control players want to be able to tune their decks to be good against aggro, while keeping their late game engine in intact, and though it isn’t easy it was effective last weekend.

While he did not win the Grand Prix itself, the award for the most impressive performance from the weekend should go to Corey Burkhart. He has been playing Grixis Control for quite a while, and knowing a deck inside and out definitely has its advantages. Grixis Control is not a deck many players actually prepared for, and this helped him catch the field a bit off guard. Over the course of the tournament he dropped only a single match, in the finals of the Grand Prix. You can see the list and a Deck Guide here.

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The deck that was able to take the title of Grand Prix champion away from him is Skred Red, a deck that has been in the format but does not typically see much play at all. To see the deck win an event like this is a shock, but means this deck has a lot more going for it than some people gave it credit for after Kevin Mackie’s win. You can see the list and a Deck Guide here.

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While Skred Red and Grixis Control were dominating the tournament, Infect was the most played deck on Day 2 of the GP. It was probably the most consistent and represented deck of the weekend, even putting 3 copies into the Top 8.

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Let’s take a look now at the best archetypes at the GP. This data were collected among the Top 100 finishing players, and the result is that we have 34 different archetypes.

Archetype # in Top 100
Infect 11
Bant Eldrazi 8
Dredge 8
Naya Burn 7
Affinity 6
Death’s Shadow Aggro 6
Titanshift 6
Jund 5
Abzan 4
Lantern Control 4
Abzan Company 2
Bant Knightfall 2
Blue-Red Prowess 2
Bring to Light Scapeshift 2
Grixis Delver 2
Jeskai Nahiri 2
Living End 2
Madcap Moon 2
Red-Green Tron 2
Thing Ascension 2
White-Black Eldrazi 2
Black-Green Elves 1
Black-Green Midrange 1
Black-Green Tron 1
Breach Titan 1
Goryo’s Vengeance 1
Grixis Control 1
Jeskai Control 1
Jeskai Delver 1
Kiki-Chord 1
Mardu Nahiri 1
Merfolk 1
Red-Green Through the Breach 1
Skred Red 1

Sometimes its worthwhile to collapse this into various main archetypes, but after various iterations, nothing aptly represented the data better than this.

Though there has been wanton fear concerning Dredge, so far, that seems overblown. It’s the second-best-performing archetype, representing 8% of the metagame, and its ceiling doesn’t seem much higher. At best, Dredge looks like it will settle into the format as an Affinity analogue. When players start shaving their sideboard removal because they lost the fear, it will rise. But when people respect it and Dredge has to win by casting Golgari Grave-Trolls and Stinkweed Imps, it is quite the beatable deck.

golgari-grave-trollstinkweed-imp

As a larger statement about the format, the top six performing archetypes are eminently aggressive, with Bant Eldrazi being the closest thing to “Midrange” in the bunch. Totaling that up, it’s 46 decks in the Top 100 where you can expect pressure early and strong just from the top-performing archetypes. (Yes, I didn’t include TitanShift as “aggro.”)

thought-knot-seerlightning-boltarcbound-ravagerdeaths-shadowprimeval titan.jpg

Right below the aggro and TitanShifts are Jund and Abzan, just shy of 10% of the metagame (unless you lump in Abzan Company too). These seem the reactive decks of choice, but that’s only if you haven’t already chosen an aggressive strategy.

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The “true” combo decks seem a thing of the past, even no Ad Nauseam to be found, with the pure Scapeshift seeming the closest we have. The biggest difficulty of the archetype names so far is the constant merging and unmerging of the Scapeshift and Through the Breach combos. Some decks are just Scapeshift, some add Through the Breach. Some just have Through the Breach and Valakut, and some have just one Scapeshift, and sometimes just Scapeshift in the board.

scapeshiftthrough-the-breachvalakut-the-molten-pinnacle

As far as fun archetypes that have shown up more recently outside of Dredge, I’m a big fan of Madcap Moon. It’s the latest evolution of Blue Moon which has adapted to include the two-card combo of Madcap Experiment and Platinum Emperion. Another fun deck that has shown up is U/R Prowess. This is a deck that hasn’t been around for very long, but definitely kills a lot on turn three, and you could even had a turn two kill! That doesn’t mean the deck is perfect, but after my experience playing the Blue/Red Prowess deck it is good, and definitely has a place in the metagame. You can find a Decklist here.

madcap-experimentplatinum-emperiumbedlam-revelerkiln-fiend

The hidden data from this chart is the number of decks with maindeck Blood Moon. They don’t rise to the level of an archetype, but more and more players talk about the power of dropping that in the first game, and preferably on the second turn with Simian Spirit Guide. “Hate cards” like Blood Moon and Chalice of the Void are still extremely powerful early. There’s even one TitanShift player cutting the Lightning Bolts from his main deck for a full suite of Chalices.

blood-moonchalice-of-the-void

Aggro is still good in Modern, and even the Midrange and Control decks must interact very early on, but the fall of combo, the rise of Dredge, and the advantage gained from Blood Moon are just some of the takeways from the Top 100 Players’ Archetypes after Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth.

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