On August 26th Wizards of the Coast dropped a bombshell on the Modern Format. Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Faithless Looting were banned while Stoneforge Mystic was unbanned.  There was a lot of mystery surrounding what the format was going to look like. The only thing that was certain is that the Hogaak deck in its previous iteration was gone. Many further theorized that Dredge was doomed and that Stoneforge Mystic would be running the streets.

The first week of tournaments included SCG Dallas, the SCG Modern Classic, an MTGO PTQ, and an MTGO Challenge.  I took a look at the top 32 decks from the SCG Open, the top 16 decks from the Classic, the 8-1 or better decks from the PTQ, and the 7-2 or better decks from the Challenge, and the data is below:

And, a more precise breakdown of the 81 total decks:

  • 9 Burn
  • 9 Jund
  • 8 Grixis Death’s Shadow
  • 4 Four-Color Urza
  • 4 TitanShift
  • 4 Azorious Control (3/4 with Stoneforge Mystic)
  • 4 Dredge
  • 4 Amulet Titan
  • 3 Mono Green Tron
  • 3 Merfolk
  • 3 Eldrazi Tron
  • 2 Humans
  • 2 Gifts Storm
  • 2 Orzhov Stoneblade
  • 1 Rakdos Midrange
  • 1 Selesnya Druid Blade
  • 1 Abzan Collected Company
  • 1 Selesnya Eldrazi
  • 1 Esper Control
  • 1 Esper Urza (with Stoneforge Mystic)
  • 1 Jeskai Stoneblade
  • 1 Affinity
  • 1 Azorious Spirits
  • 1 Bring to Light Scapeshift
  • 1 Martyr Proc (With Stoneforge Mystic)
  • 1 Jeskai Urza (With Stoneforge Mystic)
  • 1 Jeskai Midrange (With Stoneforge Mystic)
  • 1 Bant Spirits
  • 1 Izzet As Foretold
  • 1 Five-Color Elementals
  • 1 Hardened Scales
  • 1 Jeskai Asendancy Combo
  • 1 Living End
  • 1 Mono Red Prowess
  • 1 Gruul Ponza

Where in the World is Stoneforge Mystic?

Stoneforge Mystic was doing a great job at flying under the radar this weekend, which is just another way to say that it was underrepresented at the top tables, given its expectations.  Taking a quick look at this data there are only ten decks containing Stoneforge Mystic out of a possible eighty-one, for a reasonable 12.3%. Of those ten decks only Azorius Control and Orzhov Stoneblade put up at least two copies. This level of representation among the winner’s metagame is much lower than many people expected and feared.

Grind ‘em Out

These early results in Modern seemed to favor the midrange decks. Jund and Grixis Death’s Shadow were two decks with more than four copies on the list.  Not only do these decks excel at beating up Stoneforge Mystic—packing a ton of removal and discard spells to blunt the effectiveness of the 1/2—but they also tend to be good against the decks that prey on the Stoneforge Mystic shells, too.

Outside of playing a midrange deck equipped with Thoughtseize and Kolaghan’s Command, you can try playing a strategy like Four-Color Urza, Merfolk, or Gifts Storm that can largely ignore the whole Stoneforge package. If these decks make a resurgence to combat the blade decks, that is excellent news for the midrange decks of the format. It also provides a welcome respite from the dominance of Hogaak.

Breaking out the Big Guns

Big-mana decks like Tron, TitanShift, and Amulet Titan all did relatively well for themselves over the weekend. They tend to be able to ignore most of what the blade decks are doing while having a pretty reasonable matchup against the Jund decks, but these decks do not want to see Death’s Shadow continue to gain momentum. Tron and TitanShift specifically also tend to be vulnerable to combo decks. On the flipside, if people pick up control decks the big mana decks look to be in excellent position. It’s an interesting balance, and one that might tip from event to event.

I’m Not Dead Yet!

creeping chill

“Wait! Faithless Looting is banned—isn’t Dredge dead?”

Not quite. It will take more than that to kill the undying horde for good. The common replacement for Faithless Looting that I have seen is Tome Scour, which functions similarly to Stinkweed ImpIn my article last week, I cautioned against reducing your sideboard card against graveyard decks, and Dredge certainly showed up to prove my point. Slide some of those countermeasures back into your sideboard because Dredge is going to continue being a real player in the format, especially if midrange decks continue to gain ground.

Light it Up!

“Wait! Aren’t you forgetting Burn? It’s even the first deck on the list!”

No, no I am not; I’m saving the best for last. Burn came out swinging this weekend, putting up the most results with a solid nine! When the format is midrange and big-mana centric, Burn goes from its perennial 6/10 to somewhere around an 8/10.  The combination of speed and consistency punishes decks that are trying to win the game after turn five. Burn has been—wait for it—on fire.

Where We’re Going

Now that we see the top tables of of last week’s tournaments were Burn, Jund, Grixis Death’s Shadow, Four-Color Urza, TitanShift, Azorius Control, Dredge, and Amulet Titan, where do we go from here? This metagame is top-loaded with combo and interactive decks, so choosing a deck that can beat up the combo decks while standing up to interaction is key. Decks like Burn, Grixis Death’s Shadow, and Four-Color Urza excel at this.

Burn picks up a lot of points when the format slows down. Thanks to Stoneforge Mystic (or at least the idea of it), Modern has slowed down at least an entire turn on average. With people loading their sideboards with ways to beat big mana and Stoneforge Mystic decks, that opens up the door for Lava Spike to be a force in the metagame.

Grixis Death’s Shadow is personally my favorite deck, but for once I actually recommend it. Grixis Shadow is a deck built to beat up on combo decks while grinding with the best of them.  When creature decks like Humans are on the decline and the format has powerful combo decks, it’s the perfect time to pick this one up!

Urza has a powerful and malleable game plan that is eerily similar to Krark-Clan Ironworks. Urza, Lord High Artificer will often win the game as soon as it hits the table. Coupled with another easy-to-assemble combo in Thoper Foundry plus Sword of the Meek, this deck has multiple strong and accessible angles of attack. Both able to shrug off hate with ease and win with remarkable consistency, this shell makes it a solid pick.

Michael Rapp is a Boston-area grinder who started playing competitively in 2014. Loves Modern but plays everything. His favorite card is Thoughtseize has a soft spot for Tarmogoyf. GP Toronto 2019 Champion. Always happy to answer questions or just chat on Twitter or Facebook.

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