Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan delivered on all of the excitement and action we were hoping to get out of the first Modern Pro Tour in ages. Luis Salvatto was one of nine players to risk the ire of the community by piloting Lantern Control at the Pro Tour and the decision paid off greatly for him as he took home the title of Pro Tour champion.

The swiss pairings portion of the weekend was full of amazing moments, starting with a U/W control mirror match in round four on Friday and ending with Salvatto squeaking into the top 8 despite some burnout from playing 16 rounds of Magic in two days.

Over 45 thousand fans tuned in to watch the finals on Sunday, but if you weren’t one of them I highly recommend catching the replays when you have some time, especially if you enjoy Modern as a format. Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan will definitely be one that people remember for a while. Let’s dig in to why.

What We Learned About Lantern Control

So apparently people have some strong opinions about this deck. The debate around whether or not Lantern Control should be banned from Modern is about as fun to participate in as a match against the actual deck in question. We’re not going to get into the details of whether or not the deck should be banned but rather why the deck is so polarizing within the community. Bottom line: This deck is not fun to play against.

Fun is an important part of Magic and when people feel that their fun is being threatened they get very defensive. Instead of Lantern Control, lets talk about the role of control in Magic’s metagame. Here’s a fun article from 12 years ago about a little deck called U/R Tron, or Wildfire Tron if you prefer. Gavin Verhey, who now works in Wizards of the Coast R&D, ran a deck that had full sets of Mana Leak and Remand to buy it enough time to resolve Wildfire to destroy all of the opponents’ lands. Sound like fun?

Land destruction as a mechanic simply isn’t fun to play against. It’s why cards like Stone Rain and Boomerang don’t get printed anymore. By attacking your resources you don’t get to play Magic anymore. Your opponent does, but you become a spectator in your own match. That doesn’t lead to fun games.

Other similarly un-fun cards to play against are Stasis, Rishadan Port, Smokestacks, and Winter Orb. Effects like this don’t really see the light of day, especially not in Standard-legal expansions, anymore. However, they’re still part of the game’s history and relegated to Legacy and Vintage.

For the most part, Wizards stopped designing these types of un-fun cards before Modern became a format, with one exception, which is the 8th Edition Core Set, and a little gem called Ensnaring Bridge. Unlike the cards above, Ensnaring Bridge doesn’t really attack resources, but it does attempt to prevent your opponent from playing a specific type of Magic, the kind where they attack with creatures. Unfortunately, the bulk of Modern set design relies on attacking with creatures.

So yes, the deck is un-fun, and yes, in generally Wizards doesn’t design cards like this anymore because they know that the decks that are created as a result are not fun to play against. The challenge though is that the community reaction is amplified greatly compared to a deck like Birthing Pod or Splinter Twin.

Lets not beat around the bush here, Lantern Control is not a dominant deck in the way Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin were (or may have been depending on your point of view on the latter). But, people are calling for its neck to be put under the guillotine because it’s not fun to play against. Pod and Twin were, to be fair, decks you could interact with. Lantern eventually locks you out of the game. Players aren’t afraid of losing. We lose all the time. But we want to be able to play, and hence the magnified reaction to Lantern Control.

Will it get banned? If something has to get banned, I would throw my hat in for banning Ensnaring Bridge, not because I think Lantern Control is a problem in the format, but because the card generally just isn’t fun, and is more representative of an era of Magic that pre-dates the Modern format and the way Wizards designs cards for Modern.

What We Learned About Modern Overall

Speaking of Modern as a format, it’s pretty awesome right now and there’s a wild mix of decks that are all competitive and fun! Hopefully the success of Lantern Control at a single tournament doesn’t result in it suddenly being 50% of the format, but in the meantime know that there’s a lot of excitement around Modern and that as long as people don’t ruin it by playing nothing but Lantern for the next few months (which is a great way to get any deck banned by the way) then Modern will be fine.

Looking for a deck to play? You can find oodles here, grouped by how many points they finished with at the Pro Tour:

Surviving the Pro Tour for the first time without any major decks needing to be banned from the format is just about the biggest mark of success that Modern could achieve. I hope Wizards throws more support behind it through reprint sets and event decks.

What We Learned About Rivals of Ixalan Limited

Did anyone play any limited at the Pro Tour? Oh yeah they did, and seven players managed an astonishing 6-0 record while doing so. What we can learn from them is that black is the king of this format and White/Black mid-range is probably the format’s top deck. Across the 14 decks drafted by those seven undefeated players, here’s the breakdown:

  • 6 White/Black Midrange
  • 3 Blue/Green Merfolk
  • 2 Blue/Black Ascend
  • 2 Red/Green Dinosaurs
  • 1 Grixis Pirates

That’s probably indicative of where the format is right now. Andrea Mengucci explained the popularity of the top deck, “White-Black is the best color combination because it is so deep. You don’t really need specific cards and our strategy was to pick all kinds of removal spells extremely high.”

So, if you can draft that deck, go for it, but know that you’ll be up against the rest of the table for cards. Personally, I’ll stick to forcing Merfolk, the most underappreciated tribe in the format in my opinion.

What We Learned About the Pro Tour Team Series

There was some shuffling in the standings after the dust settled last night. Ultimate Guard jumped up into the top spot but Musashi made an even larger jump to sneak up behind them. Genesis held on to 3rd place thanks to their strong performance at Pro Tour Ixalan and Hareruya Latin, who had the single best performance at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, rounds out the top four teams.

Ultimate Guard is, interestingly, the only consistent team in the top 8, posting 47 points at PTIXL and 45 at PTXLN. Every other team in the top 8 has at least a 19-point spread between their performances at the two events, with the most spectacular being MetaGame Gurus Sun who had 18 points at PTIXL and 58 at PTRIX.

If Ultimate Guard can continue putting up performances this consistently, they should be a lock to run away with the title this season. But, anything can happen and the season is only halfway over with Pro Tour Dominaria and Pro Tour 25th Anniversary to close things out.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13.

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