Another week, another set of Modern results and data to study. Last weekend saw various SCG Regionals take place as well as the Modern Challenge on Magic Online. We also saw an announcement to the Banned and Restricted update on Monday. While there was plenty of calls for Faithless Looting to be banned, the Modern metagame is still adapting to the banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks, which occurred back in January. Does the metagame look to be settling anytime soon? Let’s dig in and find out!

SCG Regionals

There were 10 Modern SCG Regionals which took place across various local game stores across America last weekend. Hundreds of players attended these events in an attempt to win an invite to the Star City Games Invitational in June. SCG kindly supplied the Top 8 data from these Regionals, so let’s start by combining this data to see what was represented the most across these events.

18 x Izzet Phoenix
6 x Tron
6 x Affinity
5 x Azorius Control
4 x Amulet Titan
4 x Ad Nauseam
4 x Dredge
3 x Death’s Shadow

It’s not surprising to see Izzet Phoenix at the top as it’s become the de facto choice for competitive players. Izzet Phoenix is both potent and a safe bet if you want to put up a strong finish at an event, especially in an unknown meta. Izzet Phoenix is reaching the same levels of popularity Five-Color Humans once had last year, where players were picking up the deck due to its success rate and notable finishes. Besides, the learning curve is lower compared to the other top decks of the format. Despite this, we’re continuing to see an uptick in Affinity and Tron archetypes, too, which are trying to fill the void Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo left.

Going back to Regionals data, we saw various decks with two copies in the various Top 8s, such as Titanshift, Golgari Rock, Merfolk, Five-Color Humans, Martyr Proc, Burn, Spirits, Whir Prison, Colorless Eldrazi, and As Foretold. Tailing off there were also a handful of decks which had one copy: Bogles, Infect, Abzan, Grixis Delver, Counters Company, Jeskai Control, Grixis Control, Storm, Jund, and Eldrazi Taxes. Overall, 28 decks were represented across the SCG Regionals, which I think proves that the Modern is in a healthy place currently, despite Izzet Phoenix’s impressive reputation at present.

Modern Challenge

Another weekend also means another Modern Challenge on Magic Online. Izzet Phoenix and Dredge continue to make a strong impression on Magic Online as well as in paper, with seven other decks getting multiple copies into the Top 32.

6 x Izzet Phoenix
4 x Dredge
2 x Humans
2 x Azorius Control
2 x Hardened Affinity
2 x Grixis Death’s Shadow
2 x Boros Burn
2 x Titanshift
2 x Mono-Red Phoenix

Filling out the Top 32 were eight decks with one copy each, which were Frenzied Affinity, Death’s Shadow Zoo, Amulet Titan, Eldrazi Tron, Izzet Wizards, Four-Color Whir, Jeskai Ascendency and Izzet Storm. Once again, despite Izzet Phoenix being the most represented, there was plenty of variety.

Modern over the last few months has been a tug of war with Faithless Looting and Ancient Stirrings. Since Krak-Clan Ironworks‘ banning, decks such as Izzet Phoenix have dominated due to its unfavorable matchup being removed. Currently, it feels that Faithless Looting archetypes are everywhere in Modern but doesn’t mean these decks are unbeatable by any means. We saw proof of this in the Modern Challenge where Michael Coyle (Susurrus_MTG) took down the event with Four-Color Whir.

Four-Color Whir by Michael Coyle (Susurrus_MTG), 1st Place @ Modern Challenge MTGO

Spells (39)
Ancient Stirrings
Whir of Invention
Bottled Cloister
Chalice of the Void
Crucible of Worlds
Damping Sphere
Engineered Explosives
Ensnaring Bridge
Mishra’s Bauble
Mox Opal
Pyrite Spellbomb
Sorcerous Spyglass
Tormod’s Crypt
Welding Jar
Witchbane Orb
Lands (21)
Academy Ruins
Botanical Sanctum
Inventors’ Fair
Ipnu Rivulet
Snow-Covered Island
Spire of Industry
Tectonic Edge
Tolaria West

Sideboard (15)
Sorcerous Spyglass
Darksteel Forge
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Grafdigger’s Cage
Sai, Master Thopterist
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Torpor Orb

Four-Color Whir is the proposed substitute for Ironworks Combo and is an evolution on Lantern Control, which won a Mythic Championship last year. Four-Color Whir does well to deny resources given how fast-paced Modern is currently. Ancient Stirrings archetypes are still finding their footing since Krark-Clan Ironworks left Modern, and I wouldn’t write it off yet despite Faithless Looting being the more represented in the metagame.

Although Krark-Clan Ironworks offered the best shell for Ancient Stirrings strategies, I think another reason we’re currently seeing fewer Ancient Stirrings decks is due to the high degree of skill those decks require to play optimally. Ancient Stirrings promotes more intricate combo decks such as Amulet Titan, Four-Color Whir, and Hardened Affinity, all of which need significant time and effort to play well. As a result, I think this can discourage players as there plenty of fine lines which are learned over time, whereas Faithless Looting archetypes are more linear combos, which makes these decks easier to pick up.

I’m not saying that Dredge and Izzet Phoenix require any less skill to play, but the skill threshold is a lot lower compared to the top Ancient Stirrings archetypes (except maybe Tron). I believe if you put a considerable amount of time, effort and knowledge into a deck such as Amulet Titan, you’d achieve a lot of success. With this, I think the top decks of the format are more than just Izzet Phoenix and Dredge. I would say Amulet Titan, Hardened Affinity, Grixis Death’s Shadow, and Four-Color Whir are in there too—but these rely more on the skill of the pilot to be successful.

Banned and Restricted Announcement

Monday brought the announcement of the Banned & Restricted update. The last update created a massive impact in Modern with the predicted banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks coming true, but what happened this time around?

Unsurprisingly, we saw no changes announcement, which is to be expected. I think it would’ve been bold of Wizard’s initiate any changes, especially with the last update still affecting the Modern metagame. Modern will be going through a transition with the Mythic Championships in London next month, as well as the proposed mulligan rule being used at the event. We also have Modern Horizons on the, er, horizon and I foresee the set shaking up Modern in a big way. It may seem that Faithless Looting archetypes are everywhere, but the format isn’t defined by it, and I don’t think it should be banned yet. There may be a scenario in the future where it could be banned, but I don’t believe that time is now.

Although it may seem we are in a sea of Izzet Phoenix and Dredge, these decks aren’t unbeatable by any means. Overall, the Modern metagame looks to be relatively healthy with a wide variety of decks available, and success is achievable with various archetypes. High representation doesn’t necessarily mean success, it only raises the chances of being more successful—and I think plenty of players are choosing Izzet Phoenix due to its popularity, as well as it’s power. If I were going into a Modern event, I’d happily sleeve up Grixis Death’s Shadow or Amulet Titan, as I think these two decks are well positioned and reward intricate plays as well as format knowledge.

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