Last weekend featured two MagicFests in Bilbao and Tampa, with Modern taking center stage. In addition to the two main events, MF Bilbao also hosted two Modern MCQs. Four different decks won these events—two with Ancient Stirrings and two with Faithless Looting. Let’s look a little deeper.

Modern MCQs in Bilbao

The first MCQ of the weekend saw five archetypes represented in the Top 8, with three Izzet Phoenix and two Tron decks alongside single copies of Titanshift, Dredge, and Hardened Scales. Roald Smet won the event with Mono-Green Tron.

Mono-Green Tron, by Roald Smet

Creatures (8)
Walking Ballista
World Breaker
Wurmcoil Engine
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Spells (33)
Karn Liberated
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Ancient Stirrings
Sylvan Scrying
Chromatic Sphere
Chromatic Star
Expedition Map
Relic of Progenitus
Oblivion Stone
Lands (19)
Horizon Canopy
Ghost Quarter
Sanctum of Ugin
Urza's Mine
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Tower

Sideboard (15)
Nature's Claim
Surgical Extraction
Thought-Knot Seer
Life from the Loam
Spatial Contortion
Grafdigger's Cage

World Breaker is a nice addition that does a lot against the top decks in the metagame. The exile ability comes up at lot, and the 5/7 body with reach blocks basically everything, phoenixes included. Tron does well against Dredge, so it makes sense to shore up the Izzet Phoenix matchup. Expect to see more World Breaker in Tron over the coming months.

Wurmcoil Engine should make a big resurgence too in this aggressive metagame. People have stopped playing Path to Exile. Will that change?

The second MCQ had six different decks in the Top 8. (Yes, Phoenix got two.) Alvaro Fernandez took the top prize piloting Hardened Scales Affinity.

Hardened Affinity, by Alvaro Fernandez

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

Spells (19)
Animation Module
Mox Opal
Welding Jar
Ancient Stirrings
Hardened Scales
Lands (16)
Blinkmoth Nexus
Horizon Canopy
Inkmoth Nexus
Llanowar Reborn
Phyrexia’s Core

Sideboard (14)
Damping Sphere
Evolutionary Leap
Grafdigger’s Cage
Pithing Needle
Nature’s Claim

Hardened Affinity is one of the best Ancient Stirrings decks, but it takes heavy practice to play well. Seasoned pilots can achieve success with such an intricate deck. It’s important to remember that if a deck is under-represented, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s terrible. We’re beginning to see the Affinity archetype on the rise once again, with Frenzied Affinity also making waves. Modern is all about explosiveness, so expect the Affinity trend to continue.

MF Main Events

Roughly 1600 players came to Bilbao, Spain to battle Modern in the main event. The day two metagame was full of Izzet Phoenix, with more than 20% of day two decks on that archetype. The next most represented decks were Tron, Burn, Humans, Dredge, and Golgari Midrange.

Two of the Phoenix pilots landed in the Top 8. They were joined by three copies of Dregde plus RG Valakut, Death’s Shadow Zoo, and Whir Prison. In the end, Guillaume Matignon claimed the trophy, flying his phoenixes past Louis-Samuel Deltour’s Whir Prison in the finals.

Izzet Phoenix, by Guillaume Matignon

Creatures (10)
Arclight Phoenix
Crackling Drake
Thing in the Ice

Spells (32)
Faithless Looting
Gut Shot
Izzet Charm
Lightning Axe
Lightning Bolt
Pyromancer Ascension
Serum Visions
Surgical Extraction
Thought Scour
Echoing Truth
Lands (18)
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Spirebluff Canal
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls

Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Blood Moon
Ceremonious Rejection
Dragon's Claw
Flame Slash
Hurkyl's Recall
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Ravenous Trap
Spell Pierce

Another thousand players sleeved up for the Modern main event at MagicFest Tampa. Just like in Bilbao, Izzet Phoenix was by far the most represented deck in day two, with just under 20%. Similarly, the four other decks with more than 5% of the day two field were Burn, Tron, Humans, and Dredge.

Humans have made a bit of a comeback in these events, thanks in large part to Anafenza, the Foremost. She does a number on graveyard strategies that rely on creatures, since she exiles them from hitting the bin. With the help of Aether Vial, you can drop her at any time.

The Top 8 in Tampa starred four phoenix decks, but Rosen Eapan won it all with Grixis Death’s Shadow.

Grixis Death's Shadow, by Rosen Eapan

Creatures (14)
Death's Shadow
Gurmag Angler
Snapcaster Mage
Street Wraith

Spells (29)
Faithless Looting
Fatal Push
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lightning Bolt
Mishra's Bauble
Sleight of Hand
Stubborn Denial
Temur Battle Rage
Thought Scour
Lands (17)
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Cast Down
Ceremonious Rejection
Collective Brutality
Disdainful Stroke
Echoing Truth
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Liliana, the Last Hope
Snapcaster Mage
Surgical Extraction

Grixis Death’s Shadow offers a quick, disruptive deck with solid matchups across the metagame. It can be difficult to learn and play because of the counter-intuitive use of your life as a resource, but the deck rewards practice.

Note that Sleight of Hand is becoming popular in the deck. Like Faithless Looting, Sleight of Hand lets you select a key card from the top of your deck. Modern demands that you dig for and play a cheap threat on the same turn. Serum Visions can be too slow.

Overall, we’re continuing to see Izzet Phoenix become the lynchpin of Modern. Cards such as Chalice of the Void and Anafenza the Foremost have been cropping up to fight phoenixes—both are good cards against the metagame in general. Despite Izzet Phoenix’s success, the rest of the metagame looks diverse and fun.

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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