It has been a little over a week since one of the most impactful banlist updates Modern has ever seen. The Star City Games Open in Dallas took place in this brand new Modern format over the past weekend, and there was a very clear separation of levels into a traditional Rock-Paper-Scissors metagame. I am going to discuss each of the levels of the metagame and what it means for the Modern format going forward.

Level 1: The Fair Decks

Azorius Control, by Jacob Nordin

Creatures (8)
Snapcaster Mage
Stoneforge Mystic
Vendilion Clique

Planeswalkers (5)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Teferi, Time Raveler
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Spells (23)
Sword of Feast and Famine
Path to Exile
Force of Negation
Spell Snare
Dovin’s Veto
Logic Knot
Mana Leak
Cryptic Command
Supreme Verdict
Detention Sphere
Lands (24)
Flooded Strand
Prismatic Vista
Celestial Colonnade
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Field of Ruin

Sideboard (14)
Monastery Mentor
Lyra Dawnbringer
Timely Reinforcements
Wrath of God
Rest in Peace
Stony Silence
Celestia Purge
Disdainful Stroke
Surgical Extraction

Four Color Whirza, by Harlan Firer

Creatures (7)
Goblin Engineer
Urza, Lord High Artificer

Spells (5)
Galvanic Blast
Whir of Invention

Artifacts (28)
Thopter Foundry
Sword of the Meek
Mox Opal
Mishra’s Bauble
Arcum’s Astrolabe
Chromatic Star
Welding Jar
Pyrite Spellbomb
Nihil Spellbomb
Pithing Needle
Ichor Wellspring
Mystic Forge
Ensnaring Bridge
Lands (20)
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Spire of Industry
Breeding Pool
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Inventors’ Fair
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Assassin’s Trophy
Ceremonious Rejection
Damping Sphere
Fatal Push
Collective Brutality
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

Almost all of the Stoneforge Mystic decks fall squarely within this category. These are the decks that had the most eyes on them going into SCG Dallas—decks that are coming to interact, leveraging the fact the format is now slower with the oppressive graveyard decks hamstrung. But this category isn’t devoid of decks capable of winning the game quickly: Grixis Urza and Grixis Death’s Shadow are both considered to be on this level despite being able to win the game earlier than turn four!

As the level one decks, these were the ones that seemed to have gained the most from the bans and unbans. They were therefore the ones with targets on their heads going into the weekend. Ultimately my teammate Harlan Firer ended up winning SCG Dallas with Grixis Urza, but there were two other level one decks in the top eight with him: Grixis Shadow and Rakdos Midrange.

Level 2: The Big Mana Decks

Titanshift, by Ross Merriam

Creatures (9)
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Primeval Titan
Obstinate Baloth

Planeswalker (1)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Spells (22)
Lightning Bolt
Search for Tomorrow
Summoner’s Pact
Khalni Heart Expedition
Prismatic Omen
Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
Lands (28)
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Field of the Dead
Wooded Foothills
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Verdant Catacombs
Stomping Ground
Cinder Glade
Sheltered Thicket
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Forest

Sideboard (15)
Damping Sphere
Tireless Tracker
Collector Ouphe
Reclamation Sage
Obstinate Baloth
Force of Vigor
Veil of Summer
Anger of the Gods
Beast Within

Mono-Green Tron, by Sam Berkenbile

Creatures (7)
Walking Ballista
Wurmcoil Engine
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Planeswalkers (10)
Karn Liberated
Karn, the Great Creator
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Spells (24)
Ancient Stirrings
Sylvan Scrying
Chromatic Sphere
Chromatic Star
Expedition Map
Oblivion Stone
Lands (19)
Urza’s Tower
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Sanctum of Ugin
Blast Zone
Ghost Quarter

Sideboard (15)
Nature’s Claim
Veil of Summer
Spatial Contortion
Weather the Storm
Mythic Forge
Mycosynth Lattice
Ensnaring Bridge
Liquimetal Coating
Sorcerous Spyglass
Witchbane Orb

The next level is the big mana decks. These decks ar trying to cheat on mana to cast more expensive and powerful spells than their opponents. They are traditionally very good against the fair decks, because lands are much more difficult to interact with and the spells being cast by the big mana decks provide more of an advantage than the efficient interaction of the fair decks.

Previously, it was reasonably well-established that Tron was the best of the big mana decks, but Titanshift has entered the conversation as well because it has a significant advantage against Tron. Amulet Titan is the last of the big mana decks that has been in the Modern format for a while. Amulet has been struggling to succeed in Modern recently though; and until the dedicated Amulet players iterate on the deck enough to regain its competitiveness, I don’t expect to see much of that variant. Ultimately, we saw a copy of both Tron and Titanshift in the top eight of SCG Dallas.

Level 3: The Linear Combo Decks


Creatures (7)
Baral, Chief of Compliance
Goblin Electromancer

Spells (36)
Serum Visions
Sleight of Hand
Pyretic Ritual
Desperate Ritual
Gifts Ungiven
Past in Flames
Lands (17)
Steam Vents
Spirebluff Canal
Shivan Reef
Fiery Islet
Snow-Coverd Island

Sideboard (15)
Pyromancer Ascension
Aria of Flame
Pieces of the Puzzle
Empty the Warrens
Lightning Bolt
Echoing Truth
Spell Pierce

Burn, by Dylan Donegan

Creatures (12)
Goblin Guide
Monastery Swiftspear
Eidolon of the Great Revel

Spells (28)
Lightning Bolt
Lava Spike
Skewer the Critics
Rift Bolt
Lightning Helix
Boros Charm
Searing Blaze
Lands (20)
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Wooded Foothills
Inspiring Vantage
Sunbaked Canyon
Fiery Islet
Sacred Foundry

Sideboard (15)
Kor Firewalker
Path to Exile
Smash to Smithereens
Deflecting Palm

The final level holds the linear combo decks. These decks are traditionally unfavored against the fair decks but favored against the big mana decks. This category is separated into two sub-categories: the critical mass decks like Burn and Storm, and the lynchpin decks like Ad Nauseam and Devoted Druid.

Level three decks saw much success in Dallas. As the big mana decks quickly pulled ahead of the untuned fair decks in the format, the linear combo decks found themselves less unfavored against the fair decks while still favored against big mana. Burn specifically is a deck that many people cut sideboard slots against, and it saw overwhelming success with three copies in top eight.

Going Forward

With Grixis Urza winning the first major tournament, I expect these levels to hold for the coming weeks. Titanshift is one of the harder matchups for the Urza deck, so I expect it to continue to succeed as well. Burn can be easily adapted to however, and I expect people to respect Burn when building sideboards going forward. For this reason I expect that we will see more Storm and Devoted Druid as the linear combo decks of choice over Burn.

Grixis Shadow and Jund are decks that I expect people will continue to play, but are not the best level one deck to be playing and will be less popular than Urza in most large metagame samples. The wildcard in all of this is where the other fair decks are going to end up. No one managed to break Stoneforge Mystic, but we only had a week of iteration before the first major tournament.

There is potential still for a Stoneforge Mystic deck to break out, and if that happens we could see a major shift in the Modern metagame. For the time being I expect these levels to hold as people continue to innovate in a very new Modern format.

Thanks for reading!

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