Aether Revolt Constructed Review: Green

PREVIOUS AETHER REVOLT SET REVIEWS

Limited:  White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts, Gold and Lands

Constructed: White | Blue | Black | Red

Alright, welcome to the Aether Revolt Constructed Review!

Let’s take a look at the grading scale. Keep in mind that that the written evaluation of the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade. The grading scale is a little different than the one for the Limited format.

GRADING SCALE

(Also known as the “Jace” Scale)

5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren.Painful TruthsHissing Quagmire.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat.Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept.AnticipateTransgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living GuildpactNaturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing.)

Aetherwind Basker

Constructed: 2.0

I’m not normally a fan of 7 drops in Constructed, but this is potentially a 15/15 trample the first time it attacks. It also fuels energy cards like Aetherworks Marvel, and the ability to make massive amounts of energy is worth taking into account.

Greenbelt Rampager

Constructed: 3.0

This is one of the more interesting cards in the set. By itself, it’s GGG for a 3/4, and that payment can be split up among multiple turns. That’s okay, but not fantastic. Combine it with energy cards and you either get a cheap 3/4 or an energy-generation engine, and those 2 abilities add up to a very appealing 1 drop. Where I see this fitting best is an aggressive energy deck, as it can utilize both halves of this card.

Greenwheel Liberator

Constructed: 2.0

I like this more for Modern than Standard, though a 2 mana 4/3 isn’t quite there either. Without fetchlands, this is a bit too much work for too little payoff.

Heroic Intervention

Constructed: 2.5

I like the look of this. It strikes me as a sideboard card, and an effective one. It counters sweepers (Yahenni’s Expertise aside), is relevant in combat, and can stop any targeted removal spell or ability. That’s a lot of card for just 2 mana, and removal-based decks are going to need to watch out.

Hidden Herbalists

Constructed: 2.5

Burning-Tree Emissary got a new friend, and this could lead to more sweet Reckless Bushwhacker turns in Modern. Fetchlands make this a great turn 2 play, and there are plenty of ways to take advantage of a 0 mana 2/2.

Maulfist Revolutionary

Constructed: 2.0

The 3/3 for 3 part of this is a little less impressive in Constructed, but the counter synergy is much easier to pull off. This will often end up as 4/4 or 5/5 in stats overall, which is worth it in a deck built to maximize that.

Narnam Renegade

Constructed: 2.5

This is one of the Revolt cards that I like best. A 2/3 deathtouch is a solid little fighter, and costing only 1 mana makes it that much more likely it will be on. It’s also relevant without Revolt, and the combination of all that makes this intriguing. At the very least, it’s a super Kird Ape in Modern.

Natural Obsolescence

Constructed: 2.0

Purely sideboard material, Natural Obsolescence gives you a good option against cards you don’t want to send to the graveyard, or cards that are indestructible.

Rishkar, Peema Renegade

Constructed: 3.5

Rishkar is the sweet combination of a lot of stats and a very powerful ability, all for just 3 mana. Any deck with a lot of 1- and 2-drops should consider Rishkar, as this is one of the most powerful cards in the set.

Rishkar’s Expertise

Constructed: 2.5

The idea of drawing 3 to 5 cards and playing something large for free definitely appeals to me, and it doesn’t seem impossible to get that to work enough of the time. The drawback of your 6 drop doing nothing is a big one, don’t get me wrong, but when this works it will be strong enough to risk that drawback.

Unbridled Growth

Constructed: 2.5

I don’t know exactly where this goes yet, but a 1 mana Revolt enabler that you can sacrifice later (making it cost zero on the turn you need it to) that doesn’t cost a card is worth noting.

Top 3 Green Cards

  1. Rishkar, Peema Renegade
  2. Greenbelt Rampager
  3. Rishkar’s Expertise

Rishkar is no joke, and Greenbelt Rampager is a solid dude. Past that, green got a lot of speculative cards, and is not as obviously powerful as some of the other colors.

Aether Revolt Constructed Review: Red

PREVIOUS AETHER REVOLT SET REVIEWS

Limited:  White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts, Gold and Lands

Constructed: White | Blue | Black

Alright, welcome to the Aether Revolt Constructed Review!

Let’s take a look at the grading scale. Keep in mind that that the written evaluation of the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade. The grading scale is a little different than the one for the Limited format.

GRADING SCALE

(Also known as the “Jace” Scale)

5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren.Painful TruthsHissing Quagmire.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat.Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept.AnticipateTransgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living GuildpactNaturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing.)

Aether Chaser

Constructed: 2.0

If this is good enough, it’s barely good enough. The dream is somewhat worth chasing, as a 2/1 that makes a 1/1 is a good deal for 2 mana, but it’s really going to depend on what aggressive red decks look like and how many x/3 blockers are running around.

Enraged Giant

Constructed: 2.0

Between this and Freejam Regent, red may have enough Improvise payoffs to really go aggro on a deck full of cheap artifacts. If this gets down to about 3 cost, it’s a real beating, and that seems doable if the rest of the deck is made up of good enough cards.

Freejam Regent

Constructed: 2.5

The same caveats about Enraged Giant apply before you should feel free to jam this, with flying and firebreathing being enough better than trample and haste to get a slightly better grade.

Hungry Flames

Constructed: 3.0

Searing Blaze this is not, but it’s close enough for government work. Hungry Flames will kill enough of the creatures that matter, while pinging the opponent for a relevant bit of damage. Whether this sees play is contingent on there being a highly aggressive red deck, but that seems at least somewhat likely.

Indomitable Creativity

Constructed: 2.0

The main use this has is in a deck that can create tokens (either artifact or creature). You then blow them up creatively, and it finds the great artifacts or creatures from your deck, of which you are only playing a couple. That seems worth exploring, even if cards like this have never quite gotten there. It can also downgrade opposing cards, but that’s less exciting.

Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

Constructed: 2.0

Kari Zev is pretty close to a 3 power creature for 2 mana, and that’s something aggressive red decks may be interested in. She triggers Revolt each turn, is hard to interact with in combat, and can create a Monkey each turn for sacrificial fodder (though that seems a little cruel to poor Ragavan).

Kari Zev’s Expertise

Constructed: 2.5

The power level on this is high enough that it threatens some big turns in Constructed. If you side this in against a deck with large creatures, you can set up a pretty sick combat by playing this and a free removal spell at once. It does still seem like a sideboard card rather than a main deck one, but a good one at that.

Quicksmith Rebel

Constructed: 2.5

This looks like another potent sideboard card. Against a deck with many 2 toughness creatures, playing the Rebel and starting to gun them down sounds appealing. You do need artifacts lying around, but Improvise decks may be in the right place to take advantage.

Release the Gremlins

Constructed: 2.5

I don’t know if it’s Sideboard Day or something, but red is getting a lot of cards that look quite powerful out of the board. Release the Gremlins is one of them, as it’s an effective way to punish artifact based decks, though not a card I’d run in the main deck.

Shock

Constructed: 3.0

This will see a fair amount of play, it’s cheap, efficient, and gets the job done. The format will dictate exactly how much play, as a wealth of 3 toughness creatures will clearly reduce the effectiveness of Shock, but I still see this as a staple.

Siege Modification

Constructed: 1.0

No. I don’t care how big the 7/11 is, still no.

Top 3 Red Cards

  1. Shock
  2. Hungry Flames
  3. Freejam Regent

Red didn’t knock it out of the park here, but it got some good removal spells, a couple big Improvise threats, and a lot of sideboard options. For a small set, that isn’t bad.

Aether Revolt Constructed Review: Black

PREVIOUS AETHER REVOLT SET REVIEWS

Limited:  White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts, Gold and Lands

Constructed: White | Blue

Alright, welcome to the Aether Revolt Constructed Review!

Let’s take a look at the grading scale. Keep in mind that that the written evaluation of the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade. The grading scale is a little different than the one for the Limited format.

GRADING SCALE

(Also known as the “Jace” Scale)

5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren.Painful TruthsHissing Quagmire.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat.Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept.AnticipateTransgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living GuildpactNaturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing.)

Battle at the Bridge

Constructed: 2.0

You need to be deep on Improvise before this becomes good enough. Straight-up casting it isn’t acceptable outside of Limited, but if you can make it a 2 mana deal 5 (or the like), it could be worth it. Another use I could see is as a sideboard card, because it does punish aggro decks if you have a decent number of artifacts to fuel it.

Daring Demolition

Constructed: 2.0

I’d be really surprised if this got there, but maybe there’s a black deck that really wants to kill large Vehicles and has no other outs.

Fatal Push

Constructed: 5.0

If you were wondering what the best card in the set was, wonder no more. This is pushed enough to see play across every format, especially the ones with fetchlands. In Standard, cheap revolt enablers, make Push go big, and even the non-revolt version has plenty of targets. Once you do introduce fetches, this becomes absurd, and will kill everything from Tarmogoyf to Lodestone Golem without batting an eye. It’s funny that Smuggler’s Copter got banned before this came out to kick it around, but regardless, Fatal Push is the real deal. It will also incentivize 5 drops over 4 drops when it’s close, which is nice for diversity of threats and costs.

Fen Hauler

Constructed: 2.0

Anything with Improvise has at least some potential, but I’m not a big fan of this. The ability and stats just don’t do quite enough for me.

Fourth Bridge Prowler

Constructed: 2.5

I really like this as a sideboard card in the right metagame. Against an aggro deck full of 1/1s and 2/1s, this is a huge beating. It may even cross the bridge to the main deck, though that seems a lot less likely to me.

Gifted Aetherborn

Constructed: 2.5

This is a pretty good deal if you can get BB early. It’s big enough to survive most combats and doesn’t die to Shock, all while giving you life to play with and taking down anything it fights. I’ve loved Vampire Nighthawk in sideboards before, so this could also be a great Side Board option against aggro, as well as a main-deck option in a black-based aggro or midrange deck.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner

Constructed: 3.0

Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I like the look of this. It’s a nice little beater that threatens to draw a bunch of extra cards, and at a very low cost. If you have just 1 energy before you play it, it’s already going to replace itself if it lives to your next turn, and it can fuel itself easily. Aether Hub and Harnessed Lightning combine nicely with the Siphoner, and it’s already good on its own.

Herald of Anguish

Constructed: 3.0

Now this is an improvise card worth building toward. It’s immune to Fatal Push, it can come out for 3 or 4 mana, and it eats a card essentially right away. It also flies over for a substantial amount of damage, and can throw your Prophetic Prisms at the opponent’s creatures, making it a threat against both aggro and control. I like Herald of Anguish, and can see it being the gas an improvise deck is looking for.

Midnight Entourage

Constructed: 2.5

Getting a card back whenever one of your creatures dies is an intriguing enough textbox that I’m in for playing a glorified Hill Giant. This can let you get good attacks in with the right curve, and punishes removal decks well. The biggest challenge is finding enough good Aetherborn, but that does seem doable.

Secret Salvage

Constructed: 1.0

Is the secret Relentless Rats? Tell me it’s Relentless Rats. Otherwise, this is too expensive and fiddly to really be worth the effort.

Vengeful Rebel

Constructed: 3.0

I’ve got high hopes for Flametongue Kavu Jr. here. If you can cheaply enable revolt, this is a very powerful play, and in the creature based format that is Standard, one that can generate a lot of value. Renegade Map is a big part of this, as is Terrarion, at which point you may be able to verge on improvise if you want. This also has merit as a sideboard card for creature mirrors, where you have a higher likelihood of just trading guys and then being able to play this without doing anything fancy.

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

Constructed: 2.5

Yahenni doesn’t quite match up to their Expertise, but still has some interesting things going on. Being indestructible and triggering revolt at will is nice, as is growing whenever you kill off an opposing creature. As a 3 mana 2/2, that’s still not quite enough to make this a Falkenrath Aristocrat, but mana-less sacrifice outlets are always valuable (see: Nantuko Husk).

Yahenni’s Expertise

Constructed: 3.5

Mini Languish plus a 3 mana voucher is an enticing card. It is context-dependent, and being this powerful naturally pushes people to reduce the number of creatures that die to it, but it’s still got a ton of potential. I expect this to be played in control, midrange (especially with 4 toughness creatures), and even out of the board in all sorts of decks.

Top 3 Black Cards

  1. Fatal Push
  2. Yahenni’s Expertise
  3. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner

Getting the best card in the set is a nice way to start, and black even picks up a great sweeper, a great 2 drop, and Herald of Anguish (the next best card). That’s a lot for a small set, and I’m very impressed with black’s offerings.

Aether Revolt Constructed Review: Blue

PREVIOUS AETHER REVOLT SET REVIEWS

Limited:  White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts, Gold and Lands

Constructed: White

Alright, welcome to the Aether Revolt Constructed Review!

Let’s take a look at the grading scale. Keep in mind that that the written evaluation of the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade. The grading scale is a little different than the one for the Limited format.

GRADING SCALE

(Also known as the “Jace” Scale)

5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren.Painful TruthsHissing Quagmire.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat.Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept.AnticipateTransgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living GuildpactNaturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing.)

Aethertide Whale
Constructed: 2.0

I do like that this is a control finisher that protects itself, though we’ve flown past the days where Aetherling-style finishers are what end games. High-end cards these days need to play defense and offense better than the Whale, though in a removal-heavy mirror it could be annoying.

Baral, Chief of Compliance

Constructed: 3.0

Baral looks pretty sweet to me. Getting a 1 mana discount on any spell is a powerful ability in either a combo or control deck, and the loot effect helps you churn through cards. You can even play more copies of Baral than you would otherwise because of that effect, which is nice on a legendary card.

Baral’s Expertise

Constructed: 2.5

This Expertise is a little harder to build around, because triple-bounce is a fairly narrow effect. It can help you combo off with Sram or Aetherflux Reservoir by bouncing 0 drops, or you can slot it into a tempo deck and try and get ahead on board. I’m more skeptical of the second plan, and would think Baral’s Expertise lends itself more to combo shenanigans.

Bastion Inventor

 

Constructed: 2.5

Hexproof plus cost reduction makes me interested in inventing an improvise deck immediately. Playing a 4/4 hexproof beater for 2 or 3 mana is a real dream, and given enough cheap artifacts this could be the finisher that these engine decks are looking for. Make sure not to have your cheap artifacts do stone nothing. I’m thinking Prophetic Prism and Terrarion more than Ornithopter.

Disallow

Constructed: 3.5

A 3 mana counterspell with significant upside is a nice addition to Standard. This owns planeswalker ultimates, stops anything you need to stop, and even fights against Aetherworks Marvel. Disallow is going to be a staple in blue control decks.

Efficient Construction

Constructed: 2.0

This is potentially a replacement for Aetherflux Reservoir in this theoretical nonsense deck, but I don’t think that’s the deck’s weak spot. As a fair engine card, I don’t see this being efficient enough to construct a deck around it.

Mechanized Production

Constructed: 2.0

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the combo of this plus Clues, ideally off Tireless Tracker, but I don’t have high hopes for making the full 8 needed to win the game.

Metallic Rebuke

Constructed: 3.0

It would be a huge leak if I didn’t mention how good this card is going to be in Standard. It’s a 2 mana counterspell with just one artifact in play, and a 1 mana counter if you have two. Given how powerful cheap counterspells are, this is very much worth building around. How many random artifacts you can fit into a deck is yet to be seen, but the power level of this card is so high that it’s worth looking at fitting as many as possible. Clues, Prophetic Prism, Vehicles, and more, these all make Rebuke into a powerhouse.

Negate

Constructed: 2.5

Negate is great.

Quicksmith Spy

Constructed: 2.0

This looks to me like a sideboard card for matchups where there isn’t much removal. Siding this in if you are a control deck could be awesome, as it is a card-drawing machine if it lives. It’s a little expensive and unreliable to play when it’s just going to die, hence the sideboard trickery.

Reverse Engineer

Constructed: 3.0

I really like improvise in Constructed. It’s not that hard to build a deck that casts these cards for a 1 or 2 mana discount, and Reverse Engineer is the exact kind of card that can fuel crazy combos and decks full of cheap or free artifacts. It can also be a value card in an artifact based control deck, and all those possibilities add up to a card with high potential.

Skyship Plunderer

 

 Constructed: 2.5

2 cost 2/1 flier isn’t quite there, though we have playtested plenty of blue aggro decks that contain Welkin Tern. Getting an energy counter or a +1/+1 counter per hit is a real upside, with +1/+1 counters sounding better to me. If you can get enough cards that care about this trigger into an aggressive deck, this card has a chance.

Trophy Mage
 
Constructed: 2.5

I like the value here, and if you can assemble enough powerful 3 drops, Trophy Mage can put in some good work. A 2/2 is a real card, and getting card selection out of the card you draw is worth a trophy when the right tutor targets are present.

Whir of Invention
 
Constructed: 2.5

This one is slightly harder to get working than Reverse Engineer, but it still strikes a chord with me. Being able to search for all sorts of different artifacts is powerful, and with enough trinkets, this can be cast for a very big discount.

Top 3 Blue Cards

  1. Disallow
  2. Metallic Rebuke
  3. Reverse Engineer

Two counterspells and a card drawing spell. Sounds pretty blue to me, and these three cards are all quite good. It’s a good time to be a blue mage.

Aether Revolt Constructed Review: White

PREVIOUS AETHER REVOLT SET REVIEWS

Limited:  White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts, Gold and Lands

Alright, welcome to the Aether Revolt Constructed Review!

Let’s take a look at the grading scale. Keep in mind that that the written evaluation of the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade. The grading scale is a little different than the one for the Limited format.

GRADING SCALE

(Also known as the “Jace” Scale)

5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Painful TruthsHissing Quagmire.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. AnticipateTransgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living GuildpactNaturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing.)

Aethergeode Miner

Constructed: 2.5

This isn’t quite there on the rate, but it has some good combo potential alongside Decoction Module, Saheeli Rai, and Aetherstorm Roc. Combine enough of those effects and you get infinite energy, at which point Whirler Virtuoso can go off. This also does protect itself and attack for 3, which is a moderate back-up plan if you need it.

Consulate Crackdown

Constructed: 2.0

Purely a sideboard card, Consulate Crackdown will only show up if decks with 20+ artifacts are appearing in Standard.

Decommission

Constructed: 2.0

Another sideboard option, Decommission is barely above playable even if you assume Revolt is on, so I’m not very excited about this.

Felidar Guardian

Constructed: 3.5

The combo with Saheeli Rai where you make infinite Cats is clearly one that is worth testing for Standard. I’d be surprised if the combo wasn’t good, in either a control or combo shell, and Felidar Guardian as a card isn’t that bad either. It works with various Enter The Battlefield abilities, and has decent stats. You might get sick of this Cat come Standard season.

Sram, Senior Edificer

Constructed: 2.5

Bone Saw is ready! Sram has the ability to go off with 0 drop artifacts, and could see play in a Vehicles deck. You need to either use him as an engine if you are going full out, or draw probably 2 cards off him if you want him as a value play. Both those seem achievable, and Sram is cheap enough to see play.

Sram’s Expertise

Constructed: 3.0

Three tokens and a 3 drop is a good deal for 4 mana, though you do have to supply the 3 drop yourself. All the Expertise cards seem promising, as cheating on mana is traditionally a huge game. This could fuel some gross turns, and dropping a bunch of tokens in a beatdown deck alongside something bigger or a pump spell is dangerous.

Thopter Arrest

Constructed: 2.5

This effect always sees play to some degree, though this being unable to hit planeswalkers or enchantments is a big drop-off from Banishing Light.

Top 3 White Cards

  1. Felidar Guardian
  2. Sram’s Expertise
  3. Sram, Senior Edificer

Besides the potentially broken Felidar Guardian, White didn’t get anything insane. Still, one shot at a format-warping combo is nothing to complain about, even if the rest of the cards are various build-arounds that may not get there.

How to Build your Sideboard in Legacy

Sideboarded games are very important, and you play them roughly 50% more than you play preboard games, so they are disproportionately important in increasing your win percentage. Feel free to skip the following section if you are uninterested in the math.

Match-Win Percentage Formula

Let X be your presideboard win percentage. Let Y be your post-sideboard win percentage. Let Z be your match-win percentage. Then:
Z = Probability (win G1 and G2) + Probability (win G1, lose G2, win G3) + Probability (lose G1, win G2 and G3)

probabilityone

Which simplifies to:

probabilitytwo

There isn’t an easy conclusion to draw from this formula, but I personally keep track of all of my wins and losses and use this formula to determine my match win percentage for every deck I play. How does it relate back to sideboarding?

Well, the use of the formula shows that post sideboard games are extremely important. If you win 50% of your game ones, then your match win percentage is the exact same as your post sideboard win percentage (Y). But, if you win 50% of your post sideboard games, then your match win percentage is just 0.5X+0.25.

Plugging in some numbers, this implies that if you win 60% of your game ones, your match win percentage is 55% and if you win 90% of your game ones, then your match win percentage is still just 70%. To contrast, a 90% post sideboard win percentage would mean that you win 90% of your matches!

Of course post sideboard games are important, but I just wanted to highlight mathematically just how important they are. When comparing decks, make sure to use the above formula instead of a “raw win percentage.”

In Legacy, this translates directly to the fact that for the most part, fair decks tend to perform better in long tournaments than unfair decks. The sideboard cards against degenerate strategies are a lot more powerful than the sideboard cards against fair strategies.

Sideboard Construction

Now, onto some actual sideboard construction guidelines. The most important thing is to make sure you have a complete sideboard plan against all of the decks you are trying to beat, and understand what trade-offs you are making. Typically, when I first start exploring an archetype, I take a look at successful lists with the archetype and pick and choose the flexible main-deck slots based on what I expect to be popular. Typically, I hedge toward beating fair decks game 1, as combo decks can generally be managed post-sideboard. Then, once I have my main deck, I go through all of the top tier archetypes and determine how many cards I would like to cut from my main deck. Then I slowly construct a sideboard by adding cards and checking off the decks I am attempting to beat in order of priority.

For example, my first order of priority these days is beating Miracles. Let’s say I wish to cut 5 cards against Miracles when I am playing Grixis Delver. Then, I pick a specific coherent 5-card sideboard plan against them and add those 5 cards so that I have 5 of 15 sideboard slots. A card like Flusterstorm has applications for beating Miracles and beating combo decks, so I check off a couple slots for the combo decks I plan to bring them in against. Then I look at the next deck on my list and continue this process. By building from the bottom up, I ensure that I know exactly where my 15 valuable slots are going and what matchup trade-offs I’ll make, as well as which cards make up the last few slots of my sideboard. Knowing the “last few” tells you which cards should be the first to go if you are trying to tweak your sideboards to beat specific strategies.

Coherent Sideboard Plans

Another critical aspect of your sideboard plan is coherency. These days, I see Delver decks running Painful Truths, partly as an attempt to outgrind Miracles. Now, if Painful Truths is a key part of your game plan, then I think you should A) have an answer to Counterbalance and B) cut all your Dazes. If you have all the cards in the world but are under a Counterbalance lock, it won’t do you much good. Similarly, if you are trying to outgrind Miracles, drawing cards like Daze when the game goes long is awful.

Along with coherency is effectiveness. I personally don’t find the Painful Truths grind them out plan effective in Grixis. The cards simply aren’t there to outdraw Predict Miracles in most situations. But the new 4 color Snapcaster Delver lists have a lot more built in card advantage and this is a potential path to beating Miracles. In my opinion, Grixis Delver should leave in some number of Dazes against Miracles and focus partly on the tempo plan, whereas 4 color Snapcaster Delver should side out all of the Dazes and try to play a midrange game.

I will split the next section of the guide into 3 categories: fair blue cantrip decks, fair non cantrip decks, and unfair decks. Using Wishes doesn’t really change any of these macro-categorizations, it merely limits your sideboard slots.

Fair Blue Cantrip Decks

Let’s take a look at a couple of sideboards:

Grixis Delver

Noah Walker

Sideboard :

1 Cabal Therapy
1 Darkblast
1 Painful Truths
1 Forked Bolt
2 Pyroblast
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Sulfuric Vortex
2 Baleful Strix
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Pithing Needle
1 Winter Orb
2 Surgical Extraction

Miracles

Joe Lossett

Sideboard :

2 Moat
3 Flusterstorm
2 Back to Basics
1 Pyroblast
2 Red Elemental Blast
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Kozilek's Return
1 Wear/Tear

One major advantage of playing cantrips is that it allows you to build a diverse sideboard, and that magnifies the power of your silver bullets. One reason Delver is such an effective strategy is that it has access to a variety of post-sideboard “bombs,” and adding even just 1 copy of a card like Surgical Extraction, Winter Orb, or Price of Progress can swing the game entirely. Noah’s list has a lot of these 1 ofs, but he also has a couple copies of the cards Baleful Strix and Pyroblast because they can come in in a variety of matchups. That way, he is able to first cover a wide swath of the metagame and then judiciously use his remaining slots to play these powerful haymakers. So, if you are playing the full suite of Ponders and Brainstorms, I recommend determining your popular bad matchups and adding some powerful 1 ofs.

Joe’s list has fewer 1 ofs than Noah’s, but he is still focusing more on haymakers. Miracles has a few specific weaknesses game 1, namely Chalice of the Void decks and combo decks because he plays a lot of useless removal. His sideboard has a variety of ways to interact with those weaknesses, and he has determined that Moat is worth 2 slots because it is almost unbeatable if it lands against Eldrazi.

Fair Non-Cantrip Decks

Eldrazi

NoLoam from Magic Online

Sideboard :

4 Leyline of the Void
2 Pithing Needle
2 Ratchet Bomb
4 Thorn of Amethyst
2 All Is Dust
1 Karakas

NoLoam is one of the most successful Eldrazi players on Magic Online and I like how his sideboard is crafted. Eldrazi is a deck with no manipulation, so you need to play more copies of cards to guarantee seeing them. Leyline of the Void is the graveyard hate option of choice for Eldrazi because it is free and the most powerful option for beating decks like Reanimator and Lands. The sideboard cards from Eldrazi also need to be versatile because they are playing fewer distinct cards. So, you see the anti combo catch-all, Thorn of Amethyst.

Death and Taxes

Mack Doyle

Sideboard :

2 Enlightened Tutor
1 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Path to Exile
1 Pithing Needle
2 Containment Priest
1 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Council's Judgment
2 Rest in Peace
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Cataclysm
1 Wilt-Leaf Liege

Death and Taxes

David Baumann

Sideboard :

2 Path to Exile
1 Pithing Needle
1 Containment Priest
1 Disenchant
2 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
2 Rest in Peace
1 Veteran Armorer
1 Cataclysm
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
1 Council's Judgment
 Here, two very different sideboard strategies are used for D&T. Mack’s list runs 2 Enlightened Tutors in order to find bomb sideboard cards such as Grafdigger’s Cage and Rest in Peace. This strategy is at its best against unfair matchups where card advantage matters less than card quality. David, on the other hand, opts to play more tutorable threats for his Recruiter of the Guards. His list is better against most fair strategies as he includes more removal and a second Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Both sideboards are clearly viable, and the one you prefer depends on your metagame call.

Unfair Decks

ANT

Rodrigo Togores

Sideboard :

2 Tendrils of Agony
4 Abrupt Decay
2 Krosan Grip
2 Flusterstorm
2 Echoing Truth
1 Xantid Swarm
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Sensei's Divining Top

Unfair decks are almost universally favored against fair decks game 1 and if they could get away with it, they would simply not sideboard. A deck like ANT only needs a sideboard in order to beat cards that they could not easily beat otherwise, such as Counterbalance or Chalice of the Void. So, you can see Rodrigo’s list packs a lot of answers to the above cards and not much else. His game plan against Delver probably only involves sideboarding 1 or 2 cards because his main deck is already geared toward beating counterspells and discard.

Lands

Daryl Ayers

Sideboard :

4 Chalice of the Void
4 Tireless Tracker
4 Krosan Grip
1 Molten Vortex
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Bojuka Bog

Lands sits at a weird intersection between fair and unfair. It even has some similarities with blue decks, because of the consistency that 8 effective tutors in Gamble and Crop Rotation provide. But in terms of sideboarding, I see it most akin to unfair decks because it only wants to enact its game plan. Most mana bases in Legacy run very few basic lands, and with 4 Ghost Quarters being the new norm, Lands seeks to lock out other decks from casting spells. So, the sideboard cards are there to counter anything that would stop Lands from enacting its game plan. Krosan Grip is a good answer to Counterbalance and Blood Moon, the Molten Vortex helps Lands against Sanctum Prelate, and the Tireless Trackers can serve as a second avenue of victory if your Life from the Loams get hit by Surgical Extraction. Daryl’s sideboard also demonstrates an almost “transformational” plan against a deck like Miracles. He brings in at least 12 cards because Lands’ game plan typically gets trumped by Miracles’. But, with the presence of Chalice of the Void and Tireless Tracker, he has more avenues to power through Swords to Plowshares.

Legacy has far too many strategies for me to go through them all, but that’s part of the beauty of the format. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a “horrible” matchup and choose not to hedge against it. Sometimes, a matchup is so bad that it would take too many sideboard slots to fix, and it’s often better to just ignore it altogether. Legacy is so diverse that you wouldn’t even expect to play against the most popular decks more than a couple of times.

Conclusion

  1. Post-sideboard games are significantly more important than pre-sideboard games. This means that over the long run, fair decks generally outperform unfair decks in Legacy.
  2. Make sure that you have a coherent and effective sideboard plan against the decks you are trying to beat. Put in the time testing your sideboard plans so that you can ensure that they work in practice as well as in theory.
  3. Have a metagame in mind when constructing your sideboard. Depending on which decks you expect, you can vary your options by building a sideboard like Mack’s to hedge against combo or a sideboard like David’s to hedge against fair strategies.
  4. Blue cantrip decks get to play more powerful haymakers because they see more cards in post-sideboard games.
  5. Non-cantrip fair decks should rely on redundancy because there is no guarantee they will have the time to draw the cards they need.
  6. Unfair decks don’t need to sideboard except to beat hate cards.

Thanks for reading

Team Unified Modern For WMC – Part 2: The Metagame

Team Unified Modern will be played at the World Magic Cup in Rotterdam (November 18-20) as well as 2 Grand Prix events in 2017. In this format, each team has to submit 3 Modern decks in which, other than basic lands, no 2 decks may contain the same card.

Yesterday, I restricted myself to 14 top-tier Modern decks (Affinity, Dredge, Jund, Bant Eldrazi, Naya Burn, Death’s Shadow Zoo, R/G Valakut, Infect, Abzan, Jeskai Control, Tron, Merfolk, Ad Nauseam, and Elves) and analyzed the overlap between them. Today, I will use yesterday’s overview as an input to determine all configurations with little-to-no overlap in essential cards. I will also offer my thoughts on the metagame implications. Let’s get started!

Methodology and Definitions

To identify feasible combinations, I restricted myself to the essential cards. Specifically, I only considered overlap in cards from the categories “Overlap in Key Cards,” “Overlap in Shock Duals,” and “Overlap in Fetchlands” (if the fetchland was a 3 of or 4 of in both decks) as described in yesterday’s article. I disregarded the overlap in all other cards, which I considered to be non essential.

Some card-specific notes:

Subsequently, I enumerated all 364 three-deck configurations that could be made from my pool of 14 decks. For each configuration, I added up the overlap of all essential cards between the three decks. If a configuration led to overlap in at most one essential card between at most two decks, then I took it to the next step. Otherwise, it was discarded.

In the next step, I determined a number to represent how reasonable it would be for a team to end up with a certain three-deck configuration. As an input for this, I took the average of the most recent metagame numbers for various archetypes (loosely defined) from the MTGGoldfish website, which yielded the following table:

Deck Individual-tournament metagame percentage
Dredge 7.6%
Affinity 7.4%
Naya Burn 7.3%
Infect 7.1%
Bant Eldrazi 6.6%
Jund 5.4%
R/G Valakut 4.3%
Abzan 3.5%
Tron 3.3%
Jeskai Control 3.1%
Merfolk 2.6%
Suicide Zoo 1.6%
Ad Nauseam 1.6%
Elves 1.6%

The numbers only add up to 63% because Modern is a pretty diverse format, and we cannot catch everything in our pool of 14 decks.

To determine how likely it would be for a team to end up with a certain 3-deck configuration, I imagined the following scenario. Out of the 4 members of a WMC team, there are 3 players who are proficient with certain Modern archetypes. The probability that a player is an expert with a certain archetype is described by the individual tournament metagame percentages from the above table. The fourth player does not have a lot of experience in Modern, and they will sit out as the coach. So for example, the probability that a team contains an Affinity aficionado, a dedicated Bant Eldrazi player, and a Jund master is 7.4% times 6.6% times 5.4% times 6, or 0.158%. (The multiplication by 6 is because there are 6 different ways to order 3 team members. Essentially, I’m using the multinomial distribution here.) Likewise, the probability that a team contains an Affinity aficionado, a dedicated Bant Eldrazi player, and a R/G Valakut master is 7.4% times 6.6% times 4.3% times 6, or 0.126%.

If there is no overlap between the 3 decks, as in the case of Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and Jund, then 0.158% represents the likelihood that a team will have this combination as their first choice. The number can be interpreted as the probability that these three archetypes match the expertise of the Modern veterans on the team. Alternatively, for a team with no prior Modern experience, it can act as an indicator of how popular the 3 decks were in recent individual Modern events.

If there is overlap between the 3 decks, as in the case of Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and R/G Valakut due to Windswept Heath, then assume that the team flips a coin. If it comes up heads, then the team looks elsewhere. If it comes up tails, then the team adjusts mana bases but sticks with their preferred deck choices. Hence, half of 0.126% (i.e., 0.063%) would be the likelihood that a team ends up with Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and R/G Valakut.

This way of assigning likelihood percentages to deck configurations doesn’t say what an Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and R/G Valakut team would do if they want to look elsewhere. It also doesn’t indicate what a team consisting of 1 Affinity player and 2 Bant Eldrazi players would choose. And it doesn’t take into account how overlap in a large number of non essential cards could influence decisions. So it doesn’t capture everything, but it’s a simple way of estimating how likely it is that a certain configuration is a team’s first choice. I find that to be a good metric.

Results

In yesterday’s article, I asked everyone around to share what they expected the “best” 3-deck configuration to be. Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and a feasible Stomping Ground deck (Dredge, Jund, or Naya Burn) was an often seen answer in the comments, and it is indeed a good way to get 3 top tier decks with no overlap. But there were many other possibilities. In total, there were 197 different 3-deck combinations with overlap in at most 1 essential card between at most 2 decks. Sorted by their likelihood percentage, here is the full list:

Deck A Deck B Deck C Likelihood % and overlap indication
Affinity Dredge Bant Eldrazi 0.2227 (No overlap)}
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn 0.2139 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Bant Eldrazi 0.1582 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Infect 0.1198 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Dredge Abzan 0.1181 (No overlap)
Affinity Naya Burn Infect 0.1151 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Naya Burn Abzan 0.1134 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Tron 0.1114 (No overlap)
Affinity Naya Burn Tron 0.1070 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Tron 0.1068 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Infect Tron 0.1026 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Merfolk 0.0877 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Infect 0.0851 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Naya Burn Merfolk 0.0843 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Tron 0.0791 (No overlap)
Dredge Bant Eldrazi Merfolk 0.0782 (No overlap)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Merfolk 0.0762 (No overlap)
Jund Infect Tron 0.0759 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn Merfolk 0.0752 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge R/G Valakut 0.0726 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi R/G Valakut 0.0630 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Affinity R/G Valakut Tron 0.0630 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Merfolk 0.0623 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Abzan 0.0567 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Jund Bant Eldrazi Merfolk 0.0556 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Infect Abzan 0.0544 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Affinity Dredge Elves 0.0540 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Ad Nauseam 0.0540 (No overlap)
Dredge Abzan Tron 0.0527 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Jeskai Control 0.0523 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Affinity Infect Tron 0.0520 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Naya Burn Elves 0.0519 (No overlap)
Affinity Naya Burn Ad Nauseam 0.0519 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Elves 0.0518 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0518 (No overlap)
Affinity Abzan Tron 0.0513 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Abzan Tron 0.0506 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Jeskai Control 0.0502 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Naya Burn Infect Elves 0.0498 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0498 (No overlap)
Dredge Bant Eldrazi Tron 0.0497 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Affinity R/G Valakut Merfolk 0.0496 (No overlap)
Affinity Infect Jeskai Control 0.0489 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Tron 0.0484 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Dredge Bant Eldrazi Elves 0.0482 (No overlap)
Dredge Bant Eldrazi Ad Nauseam 0.0482 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn Tron 0.0477 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Elves 0.0469 (No overlap)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Ad Nauseam 0.0469 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn Elves 0.0463 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn Ad Nauseam 0.0463 (No overlap)
Affinity Jeskai Control Tron 0.0454 (No overlap)
Infect Jeskai Control Tron 0.0436 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Merfolk 0.0421 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Dredge Abzan Merfolk 0.0415 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Infect Merfolk 0.0405 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Affinity Abzan Merfolk 0.0404 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Abzan Merfolk 0.0399 (No overlap)
Dredge Tron Merfolk 0.0391 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Elves 0.0384 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Ad Nauseam 0.0384 (No overlap)
Affinity Tron Merfolk 0.0381 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Tron Merfolk 0.0376 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Jeskai Control 0.0372 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Infect Elves 0.0368 (No overlap)
Jund Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0368 (No overlap)
Affinity Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0358 (No overlap)
Jund Infect Jeskai Control 0.0357 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Bant Eldrazi Tron 0.0353 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Jund Bant Eldrazi Elves 0.0342 (No overlap)
Jund Bant Eldrazi Ad Nauseam 0.0342 (No overlap)
Affinity R/G Valakut Abzan 0.0334 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Dredge R/G Valakut Tron 0.0324 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
Affinity R/G Valakut Elves 0.0305 (No overlap)
Affinity R/G Valakut Ad Nauseam 0.0305 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Infect Tron 0.0302 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Jund Infect Merfolk 0.0299 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Affinity R/G Valakut Jeskai Control 0.0296 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Tron Merfolk 0.0278 (No overlap)
Dredge R/G Valakut Merfolk 0.0255 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
Dredge Abzan Elves 0.0255 (No overlap)
Dredge Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0255 (No overlap)
Affinity Infect Elves 0.0252 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0252 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Abzan Elves 0.0249 (No overlap)
Affinity Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0249 (No overlap)
Infect Abzan Tron 0.0246 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Naya Burn Abzan Elves 0.0245 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0245 (No overlap)
Affinity Abzan Jeskai Control 0.0241 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
Dredge Tron Elves 0.0241 (No overlap)
Dredge Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0241 (No overlap)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Suicide Zoo 0.0235 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Affinity Tron Elves 0.0234 (No overlap)
Affinity Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0234 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Tron 0.0234 (No overlap)
Dredge Jeskai Control Tron 0.0233 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Naya Burn Tron Elves 0.0231 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0231 (No overlap)
Infect Tron Elves 0.0225 (No overlap)
Infect Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0225 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi R/G Valakut Merfolk 0.0222 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Tron Merfolk 0.0221 (No overlap)
Affinity Jeskai Control Elves 0.0220 (No overlap)
Affinity Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0220 (No overlap)
Infect Jeskai Control Elves 0.0211 (No overlap)
Infect Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0211 (No overlap)
Dredge Merfolk Elves 0.0190 (No overlap)
Dredge Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0190 (No overlap)
Affinity Merfolk Elves 0.0185 (No overlap)
Affinity Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0185 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Merfolk 0.0185 (No overlap)
Dredge Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0184 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Infect Tron Merfolk 0.0183 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Naya Burn Merfolk Elves 0.0182 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0182 (No overlap)
Abzan Tron Merfolk 0.0180 (No overlap)
Infect Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0172 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Jund Tron Elves 0.0171 (No overlap)
Jund Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0171 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Tron Merfolk 0.0170 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Jund Jeskai Control Tron 0.0166 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Bant Eldrazi Merfolk Elves 0.0165 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0165 (No overlap)
Jeskai Control Tron Merfolk 0.0160 (No overlap)
Dredge R/G Valakut Elves 0.0157 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
Dredge R/G Valakut Ad Nauseam 0.0157 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
R/G Valakut Abzan Tron 0.0149 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Infect Elves 0.0147 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0147 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Bant Eldrazi R/G Valakut Elves 0.0136 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Bant Eldrazi R/G Valakut Ad Nauseam 0.0136 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Tron Elves 0.0136 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0136 (No overlap)
Jund Merfolk Elves 0.0135 (No overlap)
Jund Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0135 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Jeskai Control Tron 0.0132 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0131 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Infect Abzan Elves 0.0120 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Infect Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0120 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Abzan Merfolk 0.0118 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Dredge Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0117 (No overlap)
Affinity Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0114 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Elves 0.0114 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Ad Nauseam 0.0114 (No overlap)
Dredge Jeskai Control Elves 0.0113 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Dredge Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0113 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Naya Burn Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0112 (No overlap)
Abzan Tron Elves 0.0111 (No overlap)
Abzan Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0111 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control 0.0110 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)
Infect Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0109 (No overlap)
Abzan Jeskai Control Tron 0.0108 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
R/G Valakut Merfolk Elves 0.0107 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0107 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Tron Elves 0.0105 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Bant Eldrazi Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0105 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
R/G Valakut Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0104 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Bant Eldrazi Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0101 (No overlap)
Jeskai Control Tron Elves 0.0098 (No overlap)
Jeskai Control Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0098 (No overlap)
Infect Merfolk Elves 0.0089 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Infect Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0089 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Abzan Merfolk Elves 0.0087 (No overlap)
Abzan Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0087 (No overlap)
Abzan Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0085 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
Jund Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0083 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Suicide Zoo Merfolk 0.0083 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Tron Merfolk Elves 0.0082 (No overlap)
Tron Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0082 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Tron Merfolk 0.0082 (No overlap)
Jund Jeskai Control Elves 0.0081 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0081 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jeskai Control Merfolk Elves 0.0077 (No overlap)
Jeskai Control Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0077 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Abzan Elves 0.0072 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0072 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0066 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Jeskai Control Elves 0.0064 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
R/G Valakut Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0064 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Abzan Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0054 (No overlap)
Abzan Jeskai Control Elves 0.0052 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
Abzan Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0052 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
Tron Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0051 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Tron Elves 0.0051 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0051 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Suicide Zoo Elves 0.0051 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Bant Eldrazi Suicide Zoo Ad Nauseam 0.0051 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control Tron 0.0049 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)
Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0048 (No overlap)
Merfolk Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0040 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Merfolk Elves 0.0040 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0040 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0039 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)
Suicide Zoo Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0025 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control Elves 0.0024 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)
Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0024 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)

This, in fact, is a lot of options. Let’s break it down.

Metagame Implications

For each deck, I determined the sum of the likelihood numbers of each configuration that it was part of. Subsequently, I divided this sum by the total amount of likelihood numbers assigned to all decks in order to predict a metagame fraction for each deck. In other words, if the probability that any team would choose a certain configuration is proportional to their likelihood numbers, then we get the following metagame fractions.

Deck Percentage in the metagame
Affinity 17.1%
Dredge 9.9%
Tron 9.8%
Bant Eldrazi 8.5%
Infect 8.5%
Naya Burn 7.8%
Merfolk 7.8%
Ad Nauseam 5.8%
Elves 5.8%
Jund 5.2%
Abzan 5.2%
Jeskai 3.9%
R/G Valakut 3.7%
Suicide Zoo 0.8%

Note that this adds up to 100%, it doesn’t account for the plethora of fringe Modern decks that I left out of my analysis.

As a result, this table overestimates the metagame fractions that you would see at an actual Team Unified Modern event.

Certain things start to become clear. First of all, decks that don’t rely on fetchlands and shock duals (Tron, Merfolk, Ad Nauseam, and Elves) will likely be more popular in Team Unified Modern than in individual Modern tournaments. I think that’s nice, Team Unified Modern may showcase a slightly different metagame and an opportunity for fringe decks to shine.

But the more important observation is that Affinity might be more popular than at individual Modern tournaments. Indeed, it doesn’t share many cards with other decks. The “Level 0” prediction in the above table, which as I mentioned is an overestimation, indicates that over one half of the teams (so 1 in 6 players) will run an Affinity deck. That’s really a lot.

Then again, everyone else will know about this, and people can go to “Level 1” by picking their decks and cards with a sea of Affinity in mind. For instance, you could pick a deck that has a good matchup against Affinity, like Infect. Affinity is a deck that loses to cards, not decks. Artifact hate is powerful and will pay off against the “Level 0” metagame. You can only have one deck with Stony Silence, but as I explained last week, there are enough artifact hate cards in all colors that it shouldn’t be difficult to put a 3 or 4 copies of a different artifact hate card in every sideboard. Affinity can definitely be beaten with enough sideboard hate, and if everyone is ready, then Affinity won’t be well-positioned. In my view, the upside of experience and familiarity with a deck outweighs the downside of potentially facing more hate cards.

At the WMC I would expect teams without an Affinity expert to shy away from the deck, for good reason. At the same time, if everyone is on Level 1, then there will be relatively few Affinity decks, and all the sideboard hate may be wasted. Teams could also go to Level 2: forego artifact hate cards completely, instead dedicating slots to different matchups in the expectation that almost no one will dare to show up with Affinity. But then it loops back to Level 0, you can beat Level 2 by simply slotting Affinity into your lineup.

It will be a bit of a guessing game when it comes to next-leveling the WMC, but I would imagine that most teams will be on Level 0 or Level 1. Ultimately, I wouldn’t go too deep. I recommend relying on what you and your team members know best, and a big factor behind your deck choice could be whether or not you have an Affinity aficionado on your team.

Concluding Thoughts on the Format

There are a lot of possibilities in Team Unified Modern. I showed a table with 197 different 3-deck combinations with little-to-no overlap! It would easily be possible for every single team at the World Magic Cup to show up with a different configuration. That diversity would be good for coverage. The underlying deck construction puzzle also adds something unique to the format.

But the overlap restriction has several downsides regarding gameplay and team choice for the Grand Prix. In Modern, many players have grown fond of one particular deck. That’s one thing I like about the format, you can pick up a deck and keep playing it for years, mastering it along the way. But, for example, if an Affinity player would team up with a Bant Eldrazi player, then the Affinity player would have a hard time helping them in their game against Infect simply because he have no clue about that matchup. As a result, one of the aspects that I find fun about team tournaments (helping each other during the games) is diminished because of how Modern rewards experience with a certain deck.

Moreover, if I would want to team up with my best buddy, then we’re in trouble if we’re both diehard Affinity players. One of us will have to choose another deck or join a different team, which feels bad. A final issue is that lists from Team Unified Modern may not be relevant for individual Modern: If a team wins a Unified Modern tournament with a regular Bant Eldrazi deck plus an Abzan deck without Noble Hierarch and Temple Garden, then the corresponding deck list won’t be useful for regular Abzan players.

Personally, I would be fine with Team Unified Modern with literally no overlap restriction. I acknowledge that it would probably lead to less diversity in coverage and would destroy one interesting aspect of the team event (the deck construction puzzle) but I would place a lot of value on the resulting benefits (in particular, being better able to help each other during the games). I would be curious to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

Team Unified Modern For WMC – Part 1: The Overlap

Team Unified Modern is a brand new format that will debut at the World Magic Cup in Rotterdam on November 18 to 20. With the WMC being in a few day from today, it’s time to offer an overview and primer on the format.

Team Unified Constructed is not new, you may remember Team Unified Standard from the previous World Magic Cups. There, each team had to construct 3 decks with no more than 4 copies of any Standard legal card (except for basic lands) across them. In other words, each team had access to one trade binder with 4 of every card in Standard, along with as many basic lands as they wanted, and they had to build 3 decks from that pool. This year, two things have changed. First of all, we’re playing Modern instead of Standard. That much is obvious. But in addition, the rules of Unified Constructed have undergone a change. As announced earlier this year: “Unified Constructed will be undergoing a rules change. To build a legal deck for a Unified Constructed tournament, other than basic lands, no two decks on the same team may contain the same card. This will replace the previous rule of only being able to use a combined 4 of any non-basic-land card in any of your team’s decks. Modern Constructed is an expansive format, and we do not anticipate any shortage of options for teams playing in this tournament”.

So what this means is that if I have a Naya Burn deck with 1 Stomping Ground, then my teammate with Jund cannot play any copies of Stomping Ground anywhere in their deck, not even a single copy. Likewise, if I have a Bant Eldrazi deck with 1 Breeding Pool, then my teammate with Infect cannot play any copies of Breeding Pool anymore. Given that Modern mana bases often revolve around fetchlands with 1 copy of each appropriate shock dual, this new Unified Constructed rule has a massive impact.

The restriction leads to an interesting deck construction puzzle. Today, I’ll start with a list of pivotal Modern cards that can cause overlap between decks. This is essentially the input for the deeper analysis that I’ll do tomorrow, where I’ll provide the “best” 3 deck configurations with little to no overlap and offer my thoughts on the metagame implications.

Methodology

There is a staggering number of viable decks in Modern, but we have to draw the line somewhere, as it’s fair to assume that most teams want to present three top-tier competitive decks. Based on recent metagame breakdowns from MTGGoldfish, I selected the 10 archetypes that were most played and best performing recently:

  • Affinity
  • Dredge
  • Jund
  • Bant Eldrazi
  • Naya Burn
  • Death’s Shadow Zoo
  • R/G Valakut
  • Infect
  • Abzan
  • Jeskai Control

In addition, I added 4 strong decks that do not rely on shock duals for their mana bases (and would thus, I think, not cause too much overlap):

  • Tron
  • Merfolk
  • Ad Nauseam
  • Elves

By restricting myself to these 14 decks, I obviously left out a bunch of viable decks (such as Grixis Control, Delver, Abzan Company, Pyromancer Ascension, Living End, etc.) but I have to keep the analysis manageable, and all of these example decks may cause problematic overlap due to their shock dual mana bases.

I got reasonable lists of all the 14 selected archetypes, and the full resulting data set that I used is available here. With these 14 aggregate lists in hand, I then went over every single card (that is, I sorted the data set by card name) and noted all possible overlap. I split them up in reasonable categories for ease of overview.

Overlap in Key Cards

All cards in this category are crucial to the extent where your decks would get substantially weaker if they can’t play a certain card. Practically speaking, overlap from this category can cause decks to be mutually exclusive.

This is a 4 of in Bant Eldrazi and Tron. It offers a lot of consistency to these decks, and it will be hard to replace.

This is included as a 3 of or 4 of in both Death’s Shadow Zoo and Infect. It’s effectively a +12/+12 card for one mana in both decks, and I wouldn’t like to play either of them without it.

Gitaxian Probe is part of the reason why Become Immense is easy to cast, so it’s a 4 of in Death’s Shadow Zoo and Infect.

Same deal: 4 in Death’s Shadow Zoo and 4 in Infect. It appears that these 2 decks are mutually exclusive.

An easy 4 of in Affinity and Infect, and it’s the main overlap problem that these 2 decks face. Although I boost Inkmoth Nexus with Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating, the land is more important for Infect. If you really want to play both decks in the same team, then I could see replacing Affinity’s Inkmoth Nexus with Mutavault, Sanctum of Ugin (with Myr Enforcer), Sea Gate Wreckage, and/or just another basic land. It would weaken the deck, but it would still be playable.

A 3 of or 4 of in Jund and Abzan, but I also saw 2 copies in the sideboard of Death’s Shadow Zoo. That deck can probably go without, however.

Typically a 3 of in Jund, Abzan, and Death’s Shadow Zoo. It also sees play as a 1 of or 2 of in the sideboards of Affinity and Ad Nauseam, but it’s not as important for those decks.

Well, it’s a 4 of in Jund, Naya Burn, R/G Valakut, and Jeskai Control. That’s a lot of overlap! Of those decks, maybe R/G Valakut could go without, but the other decks would be much worse without Lightning Bolt. Additionally, it’s a 2 of in Death’s Shadow Zoo and is sometimes played in Tron, but it’s not as essential for those decks.

This is the other premium 1 mana removal spell in Modern. It’s a 4 of in the main deck of Bant Eldrazi, Abzan, and Jeskai Control, and it’s a 4 of in the sideboard of Naya Burn. Once again, that’s a huge amount of overlap! Moreover, if you opt for white in your Tron deck, then you will also want to have access to Path to Exile. Finally, it’s a 2 of in the sideboard of Death’s Shadow Zoo and Elves, but it’s probably not as important for those decks.

Liliana is a 4 of in Jund and Abzan. Clearly, these 2 decks are not compatible.

These are some of the best 1 drops for Naya Burn and Death’s Shadow Zoo, so both decks run 4. It will be hard to fit both decks together.

It’s a 3 of in most Abzan lists, but historically the deck has often gone without Noble Hierarch, so it’s not as essential. It’s more important in Bant Eldrazi and Infect, where it’s an easy 4 of and pretty hard to replace. You could run Birds of Paradise in Bant Eldrazi if need be, but it would be clearly worse.

A 4 of in Jeskai Control and Ad Nauseam. I wouldn’t play these decks without it.

It’s the best 2 drop for Jund and Abzan, and an essential 4 of in those decks that for reason. In addition, Death’s Shadow Zoo tends to run a few copies in their 75 as well.

Overlap in Sideboard Artifact Hate

Most Modern decks dedicate around 3 sideboard slots to anti Affinity cards, so there is bound to be a bit of overlap here.

Found in the sideboard of Affinity, Dredge, Jund, Death’s Shadow Zoo, and R/G Valakut, usually as a 2 of. Put simply, it’s one of the best anti Affinity hate cards for decks with access to both red and green mana, and it’s nearly essential in Dredge because it synergizes so well with their self mill cards.

It’s often a 2 of or 3 of in the sideboard of Dredge, R/G Valakut, Infect, and Tron. Since it can also hit enchantments, it has more applications against a variety of matchups.

A 4 of in the sideboard of Merfolk and a 2 of in the sideboard of Ad Nauseam. It’s not as good as some of the other artifact hate cards because it’s only a temporary fix, but it’s the best if you don’t have access to green, red, or white mana.

This is single handedly the best artifact hate card in Modern. Bant Eldrazi and Abzan definitely want it as a 2 of or 3 of. In addition, Jeskai Control and Death’s Shadow Zoo also tend to play a copy.

All in all, there are so many alternative artifact hate cards in Modern that I don’t see this overlap as a problem. There are even more options that didn’t even show up here, such as ShatterstormCreeping Corrosion, or Vandalblast. It shouldn’t be hard to find 3 different artifact hate cards for 3 different sideboards.

Overlap in Sideboard Graveyard Hate

Most Modern decks dedicate around 2 sideboard slots to anti Dredge cards, so there is also a bit of overlap here.

It showed up as a 1 of or 2 of in the sideboards of Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, Infect, Abzan, and Merfolk. Grafdigger’s Cage is not only good against Dredge, but it also stops Collected Company, Chord of Calling, and Kitchen Finks recursion.

It was played, most often as a 2 of in the sideboard, in Jeskai Control, Tron, and Merfolk.

It was seen, most often as a 2 of in the sideboard, in Dredge and Jund.

Like with artifact hate cards, there are so many alternative graveyard hate cards in Modern that I don’t see this overlap as a problem. You could also run Tormod’s Crypt or Rest in Peace if you like. It shouldn’t be hard to find 3 different graveyard hate cards for 3 different sideboards.

Overlap in Shock Duals

Now we get to the big problems. Let’s start with the shock duals.

This dual land is played in Dredge, Jund, and Death’s Shadow Zoo.

This dual land is played in Bant Eldrazi and Infect.

This dual land is played in Death’s Shadow Zoo and Abzan.

This dual land is played in Bant Eldrazi and Jeskai Control.

This dual land is played in Naya Burn, Death’s Shadow Zoo, and Jeskai Control.

This dual land is played in Jund, Death’s Shadow Zoo, and Abzan.

This dual land is played in Dredge and Jeskai Control.

This may be one of the most important cards when it comes to Team Unified Modern. It sees play in Dredge, Jund, Naya Burn, Death’s Shadow Zoo, and R/G Valakut.

This dual land is played in Bant Eldrazi and Abzan.

Nope, this one isn’t played anywhere in my list of 14 top decks!

Now, is this overlap in shock duals surmountable? I believe it might be, but it will require revamped mana bases. For example, if you want to put Bant Eldrazi and Abzan together, then you could just keep the mana base of Bant Eldrazi intact and adjust that of Abzan: you could run Murmuring Bosk or Canopy Vista as a replacement for Temple Garden, replace Windswept Heath with Polluted Delta (which can still fetch Godless Shrine and Overgrown Tomb) and end up with a mana base that is slightly worse but still reasonable.

As another example, if you want to run Death’s Shadow Zoo and Jeskai Control together, then you could adjust some things for Jeskai (as one deck simply needs the painful mana base to make Death’s Shadow viable). Specifically, you could replace Sacred Foundry and several other lands with Inspiring Vantage. The enemy fast lands from Kaladesh definitely brought new mana base possibilities. This Jeskai Control deck would still have Steam Vents so that Flooded Strand can still fetch a red source, and the resulting mana base would be reasonable enough.

Of course, it’s easier to just avoid any of this overlap, but if you have 2 team members who are experts with certain archetypes, then it would be prudent to take their skills into account and try to work around it with revamped mana bases along the lines I sketched. It’s tough, but there are enough dual lands available in Modern to make things possible.

Overlap in Fetch Lands

Fetch lands are not as big of a problem as shock duals. As I sketched, replacing Windswept Heath with Polluted Delta in Abzan still leaves you with a land that can count as a green, white, and black source. It’s worse, but it’s not as bad as an Abzan deck without Overgrown Tomb. As you’ll see, there are actually only 5 fetch lands that cause overlap in the first place in Modern.

The aggregate Naya Burn list had 3, and the aggregate Death’s Shadow Zoo list had 1.

There were 4 copies in Dredge, Jund, Naya Burn, and Death’s Shadow Zoo.

A 4 of in Jund and Abzan, and a 2 of in the aggregate Infect and Death’s Shadow Zoo lists.

There were 3 or 4 copies in Bant Eldrazi, Death’s Shadow Zoo, Infect, Abzan, and R/G Valakut.

A 4 of in Naya Burn and R/G Valakut, and there are 1 or 2 copies in Dredge, Jund, Death’s Shadow Zoo, and Infect as well.

Overlap in Non-Essential Cards

For the cards in this category, you may have to discuss which deck gets it, but I believe none of these cards are essential to any deck, and reasonable replacements exist. Your decks may get a little weaker because you have to manage the overlap somehow, but I don’t think that the cards from category should drive your deck choice decisions.

This is a 4 of in Jund because it allows you to cast Inquisition of Kozilek and Lightning Bolt on turn 1. It’s also a one of in the aggregate Dredge list, but you don’t need it there.

Since it taps for colorless, this land belongs to Bant Eldrazi. Elves decks tend to run a few copies, but they could just run some extra basic Forests or Horizon Canopy instead.

It’s a 4-of in the aggregate Dredge list (for sideboard cards) and a 2-of in the aggregate Naya Burn list. This overlap can likely be solved by replacing them by extra Stomping Ground or fetch lands in Naya Burn.

A 2 of in Infect, where the pump is effectively doubled through the infect ability. It’s also a 1 of in Elves, but you could just replace it by a basic Forest there.

Many Jund and Abzan decks run 1 2 copies, but we can’t have these 2 decks in the same team anyway.

It’s often a 2 of in the main deck of Jund and Abzan and a 2 of in the sideboard of Dredge. It’s not essential to any of these archetypes but a versatile, well costed answer against many strategies.

It sees play in R/G Valakut and Jeskai Control, but it’s typically only a 1 of in the sideboard of Jeskai Control, and it shouldn’t be a problem to cut it.

I saw 2 in the sideboard of Bant Eldrazi and 2 in the sideboard of Tron (which often splashes white over red nowadays). It’s pretty good against decks like Burn or Infect, but it’s not an essential card.

This card saw play in Dredge, Jund, and Abzan. It acts as a discard outlet for Dredge, and it’s an excellent piece of interaction against decks like Burn for the midrange decks. While not an essential inclusion, your decks may be a little bit weaker if you want to put Dredge and Jund/Abzan in the same team.

For completeness’ sake: It’s a 1 of in the sideboard of both Jund and Abzan, but I think it was pretty clear already that those 2 decks are not compatible.

Dismember is such a powerful removal spell for any color. It’s a 1 of in Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, Death’s Shadow Zoo, but these decks have access to alternative removal spells. It’s a 2 of in Merfolk and it’s a 3 of in Infect, where it’s a bit harder to replace.

It showed up as a 1 of in the sideboards of Infect, Jeskai Control, and Merfolk, but it’s not an essential card by any means.

There can be as many as 4 Engineered Explosives in the 75 of Bant Eldrazi. It also showed up as a 1 of or 2 of in the sideboards of Jund, Abzan, R/G Valakut, and Jeskai Control, but these decks could still work without Engineered Explosives.

Frequently seen as a 2 of or 3 of in the sideboards of Jund and Abzan.

I saw 1 in both the aggregate Jund list and the aggregate Naya Burn list, but it’s not an essential card.

A frequently seen sideboard option against decks like Burn. It was a 4 of in Infect, a 2 of in Jund, and a 2 of in Elves. I think replacing it with Obstinate Baloth is doable for Jund and Elves, but Infect probably needs Kitchen Finks.

This is a 1 of in the sideboard of Naya Burn and a 3 of in the 75 of Jeskai Control. Just cut them from the Naya Burn deck if need be.

A 4 of centerpiece of Abzan, but also a 2 of in the sideboard of Death’s Shadow Zoo, where it is not as important.

Typically only a 1 of in Jund and Abzan.

A 4 of in Death’s Shadow Zoo, where it helps smooth out your draws and fill up your graveyard for Become Immense. It has also showed up as a 1 of in Abzan (to help Grim Flayer and Tarmogoyf) but that deck doesn’t really need them.

There were some stray copies in the sideboards of Jeskai Control and Merfolk, but the card is not that important.

A 2 of or 3 of in Jund and Abzan, as well as a 1 of in Elves. It’s nice to have one in the deck with Chord of Calling, but I think it’s more important in Jund and Abzan.

It sees play in Affinity, Infect, and Merfolk. It’s easily replaced by Stubborn Denial in the sideboard of Affinity, but Infect and Merfolk typically have 3 copies in their 75. While not essential to main game plan of these decks, it’s a relevant amount of overlap. You could still put Merfolk and Infect together, but when you add up Dismember and Spell Pierce, it’s not ideal.

It sees play in the sideboards of Affinity and Bant Eldrazi. But it’s easy to replace with Spell Pierce if need be.

Spellskite is included in Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, Tron, Ad Nauseam, and Elves. It’s a good sideboard card against decks like Infect, but it’s not essential. Tron had the most copies from all aggregate lists and Elves runs Chord of Calling, so Spellskite is probably the most important for those decks.

This was a 1 of in the sideboard of Jeskai Control and Tron. Assign it to the deck with Snapcaster Mage.

Conclusion

As I mentioned, this article is mainly the set up for the deeper analysis that I’ll provide tomorrow. There, I’ll provide the “best” 3 deck configurations with little to no overlap and offer my thoughts on the metagame implications. But I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the most important cards in Modern, even if you aren’t even interested in competition in a Team Unified Modern tournament anytime soon.

I’ll leave you with a rudimentary look at certain clear conflicts with overlap in at least 2 cards:

  • Naya Burn and Death’s Shadow Zoo (Monastery Swiftspear, Wild Nacatl, Sacred Foundry, Stomping Ground)
  • Infect and Death’s Shadow Zoo (Mutagenic Growth, Gitaxian Probe, Become Immense)
  • Jund and Abzan (Tarmogoyf, Liliana of the Veil, Inquisition of Kozilek, Overgrown Tomb)
  • Bant Eldrazi and Abzan (Path to Exile, Temple Garden, possibly Noble Hierarch)
  • Bant Eldrazi and Infect (Noble Hierarch, Breeding Pool)
  • Bant Eldrazi and Jeskai (Path to Exile, Hallowed Fountain)
  • Death’s Shadow Zoo and Jund (Thoughtseize, Tarmogoyf, Stomping Ground)
  • Death’s Shadow Zoo and Abzan (Thoughtseize, Tarmogoyf, Godless Shrine)
  • Jund and Naya Burn (Lightning Bolt, Stomping Ground)
  • Jund and RG Valakut (Lightning Bolt, Stomping Ground)
  • Naya Burn and Valakut (Lightning Bolt, Stomping Ground)
  • Burn and Jeskai (Lightning Bolt, Sacred Foundry)

With these “impossibilities” in mind, what would you expect to be the best 3 deck configuration? Obviously this depends on the experience and preferences of your team members, as Modern is a format that heavily rewards familiarity with a deck, its sideboard, and its matchups. But focusing purely on minimizing overlap, try to see if you can find some zero overlap configurations, it’s a fun puzzle!

See you tomorrow, when I will have instructed my computer to enumerate all three deck configurations and rank them by overlap.

Thanks for reading

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.

ancestral-visionstasigur-the-golden-fangcryptic-command

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.

skredkoth-othblood-moon

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.

glistener-elfblinkmoth-nexusblighted-agent

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.

liliana-of-the-veiltarmogoffo

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.

Legacy Metagame Analysis

Hello, today we talk about the Legacy Metagame, right after the European Eternal Weekend.

For this analysis, I am defining “top finishing deck” as finishing in the top 10% of tournaments with 75+ players. This methodology means that we are looking at a winner’s metagame, not necessarily a complete metagame. There are decks that are more “midrange” in scope and can play both aggro and control roles, but I decided to stick to aggro, control, and combo to keep things simple. The percentages are the number of top decks in the archetype divided by the total number of top finishing decks.

Aggro
Total %
Eldrazi 40 8.0%
Pyromancer Grixis Delver 37 7.4%
UR Delver 18 3.6%
BUG Delver 14 2.8%
RUG Delver 13 2.6%
4C Delver 4 0.8%
Bant Blade 3 0.6%
Gurmag Grixis Delver 2 0.4%
Goblin Stompy 1 0.2%
Slivers 1 0.2%
Zombardment 1 0.2%
Affinity 1 0.2%
Merfolk 1 0.2%
UWR Delver 1 0.2%
Total 137 27.5%
Control
Total %
Miracles 83 16.6%
Shardless BUG 36 7.2%
Death and Taxes 23 4.6%
Lands 17 3.4%
4C Loam 9 1.8%
Jund 8 1.6%
Maverick 7 1.4%
EsperBlade 5 1.0%
Nic Fit 5 1.0%
Goblins 5 1.0%
12Post 3 0.6%
DeathBlade 3 0.6%
UWR StoneBlade 2 0.4%
BUG Midrange 2 0.4%
BUG Opposition 2 0.4%
RUG Lands 1 0.2%
Abzan Midrange 1 0.2%
Grixis Control 1 0.2%
Tezzeret 1 0.2%
BG Midrange 1 0.2%
UR Control 1 0.2%
4C Control 1 0.2%
BW Smallpox 1 0.2%
Total 218 43.7%
Combo
Total %
ANT 28 5.6%
Infect 18 3.6%
Sneak and Show 18 3.6%
Elves 16 3.2%
Belcher 11 2.2%
Reanimator 9 1.8%
OmniTell 7 1.4%
Dredge 6 1.2%
Burn 6 1.2%
Tin Fins 5 1.0%
Imperial Painter 4 0.8%
Big Red 4 0.8%
TES 3 0.6%
Manaless Dredge 3 0.6%
Aluren 3 0.6%
Doomsday 1 0.2%
Dark Depths 1 0.2%
MUD 1 0.2%
Total 144 28.9%

Here are the top performing decks since the release of Shadows over Innistrad:

  1. Miracles (16.6%)
  2. Eldrazi (8.0%)
  3. Pyromancer Grixis Delver (7.4%)
  4. Shardless BUG (7.2%)
  5. ANT (5.6%)
  6. Death and Taxes (4.6%)
  7. Sneak and Show (3.6%)
  8. U/R Delver (3.6%)
  9. Infect (3.6%)
  10. Lands (3.4%)
  11. Elves (3.2%)

These 11 decks each have at least a 3% share of the winner’s metagame. In total, they make up 67% of the winner’s metagame.

Now, let’s talk about the top decks.

Miracles (16.6%) :

Miracles has been one of the top one or two decks since 2014, and its position on the throne looks more solid than ever. Despite the swift rise of the Eldrazi, which is one of Miracles’ worst matchups, it has managed to remain utterly dominant, totaling more in metagame share than both Eldrazi and Pyromancer Grixis Delver. Currently, there are a few variants of Miracles, with the recent Predict lists being the most popular.

Brian Braun-Duin from ChannelFireball wrote an excellent article covering the list so I won’t go into too much detail.

For once, I am okay with the current state of Legacy and would advocate for no changes to the Banned and Restricted list. Yes, Miracles is likely the best deck. But due to the recent adoption of Monastery Mentor, tournaments have generally ended on time without too much delay. Furthermore, I think there are enough strategies and cards currently seeing play that are strong against the archetype, and I do not feel as behind against it with Delver as I used to. One of the key strengths of the deck lies in its flexibility. It has access to a variety of other tools to beat any of the cards that are good against it.

monastery-mentor

Out of the tier decks, Predict Miracles is favored against Pyromancer Grixis Delver, Shardless BUG, Lands, and Elves. It is close to even against ANT, Death and Taxes, Sneak and Show, UR Delver, and Infect. It is unfavored against Eldrazi. Take all of these with a strong grain of salt, though, as pilot skill is a far more important factor than the matchup itself. Miracles is a skill-intensive deck, and I think a good pilot would have a strong chance of beating any of these matchups. Conversely, a good player on a different deck who has tested the Miracles matchup also has the ability to defeat the deck. Legacy has reached the point where knowing your deck, knowing which cards to sideboard, and playing well are is the keys to success.

Eldrazi (8.o%) :

The newest kid on the block, Eldrazi, has wasted no time overrunning Legacy. Chalice of the Void has always been an excellent card, but there weren’t enough consistently powerful support cards to go along with it. Now, with the advent of Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher, as well as access to Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin, the deck has a potent mix of fast mana, devastating threats, and strong disruption. Furthermore, many lists play Cavern of Souls, which is excellent at blanking a huge swathe of the format’s interaction. There are a few variants of Eldrazi running around, from straight colorless to a white splash, featuring a whopping 8 Thalia’s.

Eric Froelich from ChannelFireball wrote a nice DeckGuide.

eldrazi-templeeye-of-ugin

I’m glad there is a powerful stompy deck in the format as I think it increases format diversity. It’s also one of the cheapest tier 1 options in some time, and it is also one of the easier tier 1 decks to pilot. Against other tier decks, Eldrazi is favored against Miracles and ANT. It is even against Grixis Delver. It is unfavored against Shardless BUG and Lands. I’m not sure about matchups against Death and Taxes, Infect, Sneak and Show, U/R Delver, and Elves, but they are dependent on specific card choices and obviously player skill.

Pyromancer Grixis Delver (7.4%) :

This is the new top Delver deck. His monstrosity has achieved a unique blend of consistency, flexibility, and power. Need the best utility creature in the format? You have Deathrite Shaman. Need the best beatsick? Hello, Delver. Need card advantage and disruption? Pyromancer plus Therapy is potent as ever. Need a big fatty? Goodbye Tarmogoyf, hello Gurmag Angler.

deathrite-shamandelver of secrets.jpgyoung-pyrogurmag-angler

The threats in this deck are incredible, and the synergy of the spells is also high. The mana base is also solid, as it can operate smoothly on 2 lands. If you can cast your spells, with this deck you usually can’t lose! Out of all of the Delver variants, I think this one has the most even matchups across the board. It is favored against ANT, Infect, and Sneak and Show. It is even against Eldrazi, Shardless BUG, Death and Taxes, U/R Delver, and Elves. It is unfavored against Miracles and Lands.

Here’s a Deck List and a Brakdown of the deck for reference.

Shardless BUG (7.2%) :

Shardless BUG has been the midrange option of choice for a long time, and it still remains a viable option. Personally, I am not a big fan of the clunky draws, but it does admittedly have a strong Eldrazi matchup. But it is no longer favored against the new Predict Miracles variants as those decks can keep up in card quantity and quality. Miracles also gets to play Pyroblast for Ancestral Visions, so the days where Shardless players were excited to face Miracles are now over. There has been a decline in the popularity of Shardless in recent months as Predict Miracles has become more popular, so we will see if this trend continues.

shardless-agent

Overall, Shardless is a solid choice for the current metagame and again, playskill is going to be more important than deck selection in Legacy, so if drawing 3 cards is your cup of tea, Shardless remains a viable option.

Here’s a Deck List and a Brakdown of the deck for reference.

Ad Nauseam Tendrils or ANT (5.6&) :

ANT is still an excellent choice, if you can figure out how to play the Miracles matchup. In my experience, the matchup is fairly even if both players are excellent, with ANT possibly even being favored. But if the ANT player is inexperienced, they are likely to be slaughtered even by a mediocre Miracles pilot. ANT is the default combo deck of the format, and its powerful disruption and speed make it a personal favorite of mine.

tendrils-of-agony

 

 

 

ANT is favored against Shardless BUG, Lands, and Elves. ANT is even against Miracles and U/R Delver. ANT is unfavored against Eldrazi and Grixis Delver.

Here’s a Deck List and a Brakdown of the deck for reference.

Death and Taxes (4.6%) :

D&T remains a major player, and with the recent printings in Eternal Masters and Conspiracy 2, it is poised for a major incursion into the top tier of Legacy. I’ve seen Recruiter of the Guard and Sanctum Prelate in action, and I think what was once an even matchup against Grixis Delver gets more difficult if the D&T player has access to Sanctum Prelate. As more cards enter the pool, D&T should also get cheaper, which may also have a significant effect on metagame share.

recruiter-of-the-guardsanctum-prelate

Here’s a Deck List and a Brakdown of the deck for reference.

Sneak & Show (3.6%) :

Sneak and Show has begun to incorporate Omniscience.  It is also a faster avenue to victory and allows for the versatility with Cunning Wish.

omniscienceshow-and-tellsneak-attack

Sneak and Show will always be a solid deck, but in general, you can beat it if you prepare your sideboard accordingly.

Here’s a Deck List and a Brakdown of the deck for reference.

Blue/Red Delver (3.6%) :

Oath of the Gatewatch was notable for its introduction of the Eldrazi, but Stormchaser Mage also made waves. Along with Bedlam Reveler, U/R Delver-Burn has received a few new tools. Stormchaser Mage gives the deck another powerful hasty threat and the deck is one of the most consistent aggressive options in the format. Bedlam Reveler is also an excellent way to refuel, with the potential to be as powerful as a 4 for 1. But the restrictive casting cost means that it will never be as dominant as Treasure Cruise.

stormchaser-magebedlam-revelerdelver-of-secrets

Here’s a Deck List and a Brakdown of the deck for reference.

Infect (3.6%), Lands (3.4%), and Elves (3.2%) :

Not too much to say here. These decks are very powerful and remain contenders for any tournament they enter.

Here are the DeckLists for reference: Infect, Lands, Elves.

Conclusion

I’m excited to see the continued evolution of Eldrazi, as well as how well D&T fares with its new toys. Playing well and knowing your deck is still the key to success in Legacy. I hope to continue writing Legacy-centric articles in the coming months as I know the Legacy community has seen a decrease in content.