The “first” Mythic Championship took place last weekend in Cleveland. Autumn Burchett took down the event with Mono-Blue Tempo, and their success created Magic: the Gathering history as the first non-binary trans person to win a major event.

While most of us were watching Autumn make history, more Modern events also took place, online and in a paper MCQ at MagicFest Cleveland. Last few weeks saw the rise of Golgari Rock to combat Izzet Phoenix and Death’s Shadow. But what did well this week?

MCQ at MagicFest Cleveland

MagicFest Cleveland hosted another Modern qualifier for the upcoming Mythic Championship in London, which featured hundreds of competitors. The Top 8 of the event featured two copies of Azorius Control along with single copies of Dredge, Jeskai Control, Amulet Titan, Grixis Death’s Shadow, Dimir Faeries, and Hardened Affinity.

Antonio Zanutto won the event with Hardened Scales Affinity:

Hardened Affinity, by Antonio Zanutto

Creatures (21)
Arcbound Worker
Arcbound Ravager
Steel Overseer
Walking Balista
Hangarback Walker

Spells (19)
Ancient Stirrings
Hardened Scales
Mox Opal
Welding Jar
Animation Module
Throne of Geth
Lands (20)
Darksteel Citadel
Inkmoth Nexus
Llanowar Reborn
Phyrexia's Core
Horizon Canopy

Sideboard (15)
Damping Sphere
Nature's Claim
Grafdigger's Cage
Evolutionary Leap

Hardened Scales has become the popular new version of Affinity. The deck sacrifices some of the speed of older versions of Affinity to gain resilience and consistency through Ancient Stirrings, but that may not be the best strategy as the Modern metagame continues to speed up. The deck is new and wins through complex on-board interactions that can keep opponents uncertain and vulnerable. All versions of Affinity are complex and difficult both to pilot and play against, but Hardened Scales may be benefitting from being less known to opponents.

Magic Online MCQ


The online MCQ from last weekend was most notable for the five copies of Mono-Green Tron in the top 32. The successful decks were quite diverse, with Whir Prison, Hollow One, Boros Burn, Affinity, and Azorius Control all seeing multiple copies in the top 32. And yet, the winning deck was in fact a classic take on Affinity.

Affinity, by Diceshake

Creatures (23)
Arcbound Ravager
Master of Etherium
Signal Pest
Steel Overseer
Vault Skirge

Spells (20)
Galvanic Blast
Cranial Plating
Mox Opal
Springleaf Drum
Welding Jar
Experimental Frenzy
Lands (17)
Blinkmoth Nexus
Darksteel Citadel
Inkmoth Nexus

Sideboard (15)
Experimental Frenzy
Ancient Grudge
Damping Sphere
Etched Champion
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Grafdigger’s Cage
Relic of Progenitus
Spell Pierce

In such a fast Modern metagame, it makes sense that Affinity would have success. After all, it often plays its entire hand to the board by turn two. That competes with the speed of Dredge and Izzet Phoenix. But those decks have more resilience in a long game. Affinity has tried many cards to solve this problem—like Hardened Scales and Ancient Stirrings in the new version of the deck discussed above—but this deck features the newest and hottest technology: Experimental Frenzy.

Experimental Frenzy offers more value other value cards like Thoughtcast or Karn, Scion of Urza, while fitting into the general preference to play some red mana in the deck for Galvanic Blast plus sideboard all stars like Ancient Grudge and Ghirapur Aether Grid. I expect Experimental Frenzy to become a staple in this version of Affinity.

Speaking of new takes on old archetypes, we saw a sweet Jeskai Ascendacy brew in the top 16 of the online MCQ:

Jeskai Ascendancy, by Cha21

Creatures (11)
Arclight Phoenix
Young Pyromancer

Spells (30)
Faithless Looting
Serum Visions
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile
Thought Scour
Jeskai Ascendancy
Lands (19)
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Hallowed Fountain
Sacred Foundry
Spirebluff Canal
Faerie Conclave

Sideboard (15)
Path to Exile
Ancestral Vision
Celestial Purge
Izzet Staticaster
Spell Pierce
Timely Reinforcements

Jeskai Ascendency disappeared from Modern after the banning of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. Does Arclight Pheonix offer a rebirth for the archetype? This version is less “all-in” compared to the Glittering Wish version, instead going to value town with Young Pyromancer and Arclight Phoenix. Now you can win without having to get through with a single large Fatestitcher.

Although this may not be the final version, there is a lot of untapped potential here. Jeskai Ascendancy has had success in Modern combo decks before, and it’s the sort of card that encourages creative deckbuilding. Keep watching to see where this one goes.

There was also another Modern Challenge online last weekend. Though Izzet Phoenix won the event, we can see the metagame shifting away from graveyard strategies back to artifact strategies.

In fact, the winning Phoenix deck played two copies of Surgical Extraction in the main deck. It’s the perfect piece of graveyard hate for the mirror and Dredge, while it also offers a “free” spell to help trigger the essential interactions of the deck.

In response to players focusing more on beating the graveyard, Affinity, Hardened Affinity, and Mono-Green Tron have found more success. The most likely explanation is that players are cutting sideboard artifact hate to make room for more graveyard hate, which also makes sense in response to the disappearance of Krark-Clan Ironworks decks. When KCI was the best artifact deck in Modern, why would you play a weaker artifact deck that opponents have already prepared to beat with Ancient Grudge, Stony Silence, Fracturing Gust, and such? Now that attention is elsewhere, Affinity and Tron have more room to maneuver.

The Modern metagame contines to evolve, showing how broad and dynamic the format can be. Wizards of the Coast will be announcing a Modern-focused product Thursday evening, and I hope it helps further Modern’s success. Maybe they will find a way to introduce old cards to the Modern format, for example Counterspell or Sanctum Prelate. Or maybe we’ll get a new take on Event Decks? Regardless, I’m excited to hear where Modern is headed.

Emma is a writer and Modern enthusiast based in Suffolk, England. She has been involved in Magic since Khans of Tarkir’s release back in 2014, but won’t shy away from Cube and MTG Arena. Follow her on Twitter @emmmzyne to join in on the conversation!

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