With Standard reclaiming the attention of the community, some may have forgotten about Modern. Magic Fest Toronto and the Magic Online Modern Challenge, both helped jog our memory. The headliner tournament in Toronto offered a clearer picture of the post-Krark-Clan Ironworks Modern metagame. Although recent SCG Opens (and our new columnist, Zack Kanner) suggest that Grixis Death’s Shadow and Izzet Phoenix are the best decks, does this continue to hold true? Modern is known for adapting quickly, reworking old archetypes to new metagames. We saw plenty of that over the past weekend.

Magic Fest Toronto

Despite the lack of communication from Wizards regarding the future of competitive paper Magic tournaments, Magic Fest Toronto attracted 1300 players. Let’s digest the data from the from the weekend, beginning with the top 32 decks from Magic Fest Toronto. Eight archetypes put multiple copies into the top 32:

  • Izzet Phoenix—6
  • Ad Nauseam—3
  • Hardened Affinity—2
  • Dredge—2
  • Taking Turns—2
  • Humans—2
  • Golgari Midrange—2
  • Burn—2

Along with those, these eleven decks each got in there once: Frenzied Affinity, Titanshift, Grixis Death’s Shadow, Jeskai Control, Jund, Bant Spirits, Lantern Control, Mono-Green Tron, Whir Prison, Selesnya Tron, Abzan Collected Company.

One of the predicted top decks, Izzet Phoenix, represents 20% of the top 32. That shows it’s still one of most consistent and popular decks of the format—two copies made the top 8. After that, the assortment of decks is wide open. Nineteen different decks is a diverse format. Three Ad Nauseam decks seems high, but the deck looks surprisingly well-positioned because fewer Humans means fewer Meddling Mages to get in the way. And there’s the general trend of Modern is becoming a faster format, which tends to favor combo decks.

Grixis Death’s Shadow, the other predicted pillar of the format, continues to grow in popularity despite leading only one pilot into the top 32. There’s a catch, however: Michael Rapp went on to win the entire tournament with the one-mana 13/13.

Grixis Death's Shadow, by MF Toronto Champion Michael Rapp

Creatures (15)
Death’s Shadow
Street Wraith
Gurmag Angler
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (28)
Mishra’s Bauble
Fatal Push
Thought Scour
Stubborn Denial
Inquisition of Kozilek
Serum Visions
Faithless Looting
Temur Battle Rage
Lands (17)
Polluted Delta
Bloodstained Mire
Scalding Tarn
Blood Crypt
Watery Grave
Steam Vents

Sideboard (15)
Collective Brutality
Lightning Bolt
Kolaghan’s Command
Disdainful Stroke
Surgical Extraction
Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana of the Veil
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Ceremonious Rejection
Shattering Blow
Grim Lavamancer

Grixis Death’s Shadow lists are beginning to shy away from Lightning Bolt; it doesn’t offer much compared to Fatal Push. Bolt can hit planeswalkers though, so it keeps a spot in the sideboard. Speaking of which, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is doing good work out of the sideboard lately. It offers plenty of fuel for Gurmag Angler and Snapcaster Mage, as well as setting up the Jace, Telepath Unbound backside that is amazing in the slower matchups.

On the other side of the docket, you can’t hold a Modern event without a rogue list making an impression in the tournament halls. This was a recurring theme over the weekend. Let’s take Russ Jeffery’s Boros Soldiers list from Magic Fest Toronto as an example:

Boros Soldiers, by Russ Jeffery

Creatures (29)
Champion of the Parish
Thalia’s Lieutenant
Tithe Taker
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Soldier of the Pantheon
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Precinct Captain
Field Marshal
Brimaz, King of Oreskos

Spells (10)
Path to Exile
Lightning Helix
Lightning Bolt
Lands (21)
Cavern of Souls
Arid Mesa
Inspiring Vantage
Sacred Foundry

Sideboard (15)
Wear // Tear
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Stony Silence
Rest in Peace
Damping Sphere
Relic of Progenitus
Boros Charm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Brave the Elements

Boros Soldiers finished undefeated on day one but fell short on day two. The deck is a different take on Humans that incorporates more taxing effects instead and burn instead of disruption and removal. That doesn’t sound so rogue in a general sense, but the deck doesn’t have much name recognition. Although I don’t think Boros Soldiers will replace Five Colour Humans, but it’s a different route to take that can catch opponents by surprise.

Once again, Modern makes rewards playing what you know and mastering a specific deck. Russ has been refining Boros Soldiers for quite a while, and days like this are part of the payoff for the hard work.

Magic Online Modern Challenge

Last weekend also saw the Modern Challenge on Magic Online, which we saw Amulet Titan branching into different iterations as predicted by Dom Harvey of Amulet Titan with Through the Breach fame. The Modern Challenge pushed the concept further with Nicholas Bruno (PuntThenWhine) winning the event with Amulet Titan featuring Hive Mind.

Amulet Titan Hive Mind, by Nicholas Bruno (PuntThenWhine)

Creatures (7)
Azusa, Lost bu Seeking
Primeval Titan

Spells (25)
Amulet of Vigor
Anciest Stirrings
Lotus Bloom
Summoner’s Pact
Pact of Negation
Hive Mind
Coalition Relic
Serum Visions
Engineered Explosives
Lands (28)
Gemstone Mine
Aether Hub
Crumbling Vestige
Simic Growth Chamber
Gruul Turf
Selesnya Sanctuary
Golgari Rot Farm
Boros Garrison
Temple of Mystery
Tolaria West
Khalni Garden
Slayers’ Stronghold
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
Radiant Fountain

Sideboard (15)
Hornet Queen
Walking Ballista
Reclamation Sage
Obstinate Baloth
Kozilek’s Return
Nature’s Claim
Tormod’s Crypt
Ghost Quarter
Bojuka Bog
Swan Song
Slaughter Pact

The Hive Mind variant of Amulet Titan has been around for quite a while, and it proved to be an astute call for the Modern Challenge. The Hive-Pact combo can win the game when you can’t attack with Primeval Titan, so that dodges some of the usual countermeasures against Amulet Titan’s main strategy. Lotus Bloom is a nice addition here as well—easy to grab off Ancient Stirrings and gives you bursts of mana off suspend. Although it can be slower compared to its predecessor, Hive Mind Titan can win games that were otherwise unwinnable. Amulet Titan is becoming more of an archetype than merely a deck, and its toolbox continues to expand.

Finally, we’re seeing Standard game-changer Wilderness Reclamation starting to bubble up into Modern. As with any powerful Standard card, the Modern potential is there and demands to be tested. Zach Meekcoms brought this concept to an Axion Now Modern event in England over the weekend.

Sultai Reclamation, by Zach Meekcoms

Creatures (3)
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (32)
Wilderness Reclamation
Search for Azcanta
Mystical Teachings
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Cryptic Command
Nexus of Fate
Blue Sun’s Zenith
Fatal Push
Abrupt Decay
Assassin’s Trophy
Logic Knot
Growth Spiral
Spell Snare
Pulse of Murasa
Devour Flesh
Lands (25)
Polluted Delta
Misty Rainforest
Breeding Pool
Watery Grave
Creeping Tar Pit
Flooded Grove
Hinterland Harbor
Drowned Catacomb
Field of Ruin

Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Shadow of Doubt
Hero’s Downfall
Surgical Extraction
Fatal Push
Life Goes On
Fracturing Gust
Consume the Meek
Pulse of Murasa
Ceremonious Rejection

Wilderness Reclamation has some interesting build-around potential in Modern with the large card pool available. Modern boasts plenty of powerful instants to cast in your end step with double mana. You can extend further than just Sultai, as cards like Secure the Wastes and Sphinx’s Revelation seem promising if you want to move into Bant. This archetype is in its infancy, and we are far from the optimal build for Wilderness Reclamation yet. I’m excited to see what it can bring to Modern.

Last weekend brought us plenty of Modern and highlighted unique brews. Modern is a format that you can’t metagame the way you can in Standard. The Modern metagame depends more on familiarity and understanding the various decks. With that knowledge in mind, you can play a rogue build to keep opponents off guard. The critical element is to play what you enjoy—that will promote a high win percentage in the long run, and make practice more fun. Even though Ravnica Allegiance is making waves in Modern, it’s important to note that brews are coming through without Allegiance’s influence. That’s a testament to how broad Modern can be.

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!

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.