Every few months there is a Magic Online Championship Series event online that invites the top MTGO players that previously finished in the Top 8 of a feeder tournament to qualify, along with all of the current Platinum-level Pro Tour pros. It's one of the toughest tournaments imaginable, and with the winner qualifying for the exclusive end of the year Magic Online Championship with a large prize pool, the competitors gave it their all.
I expected the decklists from the MOCS to be known quantities, but I've been blown away by the amount of innovation put into these decks. There is new technology all around, especially driven by new cards from Eldritch Moon, so today I'll take a dive into these decks and explore how they have adapted to include new cards in the ever-evolving Modern metagame.
Headlining the event is winner Jacob Wilson with his fresh take on Jund, which replaces Dark Confidant with Grim Flayer. It turns out that any deck built for Tarmogoyf will be capable of hitting Delirium, and Jund can easily bend to further support it by including cards like Mishra's Bauble and Tarfire. Jund plays only the best cards, so it's a big statement to include a new card, and an even bigger statement to have such resounding success with it. Grim Flayer is not the consistent card advantage engine Dark Confidant is, but when it hits the opponent it does offer card selection that functions similarly. Beyond that, Grim Flayer is all upside, with delirium turning it into a legitimate threat that survives Lightning Bolt and tangles in combat, and without the massive life-loss of Dark Confidant. It's this life loss that makes Dark Confidant so costly, so it's a real liability in aggressive matchups and must be sideboarded out frequently. Grim Flayer, alternatively, comes with no such risk, and instead functions as a quality piece of board presence that is highly effective against these decks.
Grim Flayer also opens up some synergy, like powering Tarmogoyf, but more importantly can dig into Lingering Souls, which is a fantastic card in the deck only held back by its mana cost. Between Grim Flayer milling it and Liliana of the Veil discarding it, the deck has plenty of ways to get Lingering Souls into the graveyard. Wilson also cut a Swamp for a Godless Shrine so he could cast it, but otherwise the deck is Jund to the core, and I'd recommend against playing or sideboarding any more white cards with just ten sources of white mana.
To help towards delirium, Seal of Fire has already proven useful in the deck combined with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and bumping up the removal to include a Tarfire fits the plan of the deck, especially considering many Jund decks sideboard a Disfigure. Tarfire does more than add tribal to delirium, it also makes Tarmogoyf better. Mishra's Bauble provides an artifact at little cost and also opens up the potential for minor synergy with Liliana of the Veil, much like Seal of Fire, allowing you to store a card in play to avoid discarding to the +1 ability.
Two Golgari Charm in Wilson's sideboard stand out. I've been a fan of Night of Soul's Betrayal, and Golgari Charm would come in against the same matchups, but the other modes are what makes the card attractive. Destroying an enchantment is particularly important against Leyline of Sanctity, and it obviously goes a long way against Bogles. Regenerating the team is strong against board sweepers like Supreme Verdict, Anger of the Gods, and even Engineered Explosives. I'm interested in exploring Collective Brutality in the sideboard, where it offers creature removal and discard in one package, works as a great delirium enabler, and can even discard Lingering Souls.
Four-Color Death's Shadow Zoo has been among the best-performing Modern decks this year, and Eldritch Moon makes the deck even better, as displayed by this by 9th-place list by Josh Utter-Leyton that was also played by Luis Scott-Vargas into the Top 32. The deck is known for its wealth of "free" cards that cycle — Gitaxian Probe, Street Wraith, and Mishra's Bauble — and they happen to combine with fetchlands to allow this deck to hit delirium for no mana and little forethought. These would normally just power delve and perhaps Tarmogoyf, but Gnarlwood Dryad changes the equation by giving the deck a one-mana threat more efficient than anything else it has available.
Compared to Wild Nacatl, deathtouch is a fantastic upside in a metagame where creature matchups are everywhere. It's especially useful against Tarmogoyf, and it provides a real edge against other Death's Shadow decks. The real benefit is it doesn't require white mana to grow, and because that was the main reason the deck included white, replacing Wild Nacatl with Gnarlwood Dryad allows the deck to re-invent itself in a more consistent three-color form. The deck is designed to explode in the early games, and being forced to worry about a fourth color means opening mana lines are always awkward, so the switch to three is a real quality-of-life improvement.
The delirium shell also enables Traverse the Ulvenwald, which acts as redundant copies of Death's Shadow and provides extra payoff for being so focused on sacrificing life. Naturally this open up the door for a creature toolbox, and this deck plays the fascinating pair of Ghor-Clan Rampager and Inner-Flame Acolyte. These are pump spells hidden as creatures, which is great deckbuilding to make the most of Traverse the Ulvenwald and also help towards delirium with disposable creatures. Ghor-Clan Rampager pushes Death's Shadow through blockers, and Inner-Flame Acolyte can give it haste to enable a Sneak Attack kill. These creatures also help power Temur Battle Rage, which takes a more important role in this deck as a combat trick and finisher because the move towards delirium means pushing out Become Immense and relying more on Death's Shadow as a large creature to double.
Traverse the Ulvenwald is best after sideboard, where it opens up access to a silver-bullet package. Bedlam Reveler is an exciting addition that gives this deck some real ability to go long against opponent trying to grind it out with removal, a common theme after sideboarding. Hoser creatures against specific matchups, like Melira, Sylon Outcast to attack Infect, make sense, which is why I've replaced a Nihil Spellbomb with Yixlid Jailer to give me more options against Dredge.
Emrakul, the Promised End has made an immediate jump to Modern, but maybe not in the first place I expected. It turns out that it's a perfect fit for Tron, not just because it's the format's big mana deck with the means to pay 13 mana, a Bargain relative to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but because Tron does a reasonable job of filling the graveyard. The deck plays multiple cheap artifacts and sorceries that easily hit the graveyard, and over the course of a game the deck could get planeswalkers, creatures, and even lands like Sanctum of Ugin into the graveyard.
This build by Jason Chung goes even further than the typical red build with Path to Exile providing an instant too, which Pyroclasm versions lack. Once this deck has developed it's likely to have three or so card types in the graveyard, putting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn around the cost of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or a Mindslaver activation. The ability is powerful in Modern, and likely to win any game that Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger would not, so they are great complements to each other and help make the deck the total package. It's going to be great against control, but especially useful in the combo matchups where Tron needs help.
Eldrazi decks took a huge hit with the banning of Eye of Ugin, but the tribe has rebuilt itself on a green core of Noble Hierarch to accelerate and Ancient Stirrings to help find the broken land it does still as have, Eldrazi Temple. The deck has received a new tool in Elder Deep-Fiend, a huge threat and powerful piece of disruption. The ability to essentially Time Walk the opponent can be extremely potent in Modern where most matchups are close races.
Looking at the Top 8 list of Ben Friedman, another new card is the sideboard technology of Blessed Alliance. First and foremost, it's great lifegain that could be compared to Kitchen Finks or Timely Reinforcements. Making the opponent sacrifice a creature is fantastic in these aggressive matchups, but the sacrifice effect alone makes it a potent sideboard card against decks like Infect and W/G Auras too.
Note the four Engineered Explosives in the sideboard, a strong statement that speaks to the efficacy of the card in the deck, a three-color deck with creatures that mostly avoid the sweeper, but also how well-positioned it is as a sideboard card in general and something more decks should look at. It's effective against any of the aggressive decks in the metagame, like Affinity, Infect, and Death's Shadow Zoo, and it has a lot of lot of potential upside as a broad and powerful sweeper in a diverse metagame.
Merfolk has risen into a real contender in Modern, highlighted by its win at Grand Prix Los Angeles this spring. It's a typical synergistic aggressive deck like any other in Modern, but compared to Infect, Affinity, or Death's Shadow Zoo, it gives up explosive potential in exchange for consistency and resiliency. It steadily applies pressure to the board to overwhelm the opponent, and the tribal lords give Islandwalk to make sure the Merfolk get past any blockers. Even against non-blue decks, Spreading Seas gives the opponent an Island to enable Islandwalk. This too is also bit of mana disruption that gives Merfolk a way to speedbump its opponents, as well as a way to handle utility lands like Inkmoth Nexus.
This decklist ups the ante by also including a set of Sea's Claim. It functions just like Spreading Seas, but without drawing a card. Paying a card might seem like a steep cost, but what if it doesn't matter? The card is deceptively powerful, and it gives the deck potent draws with multiple pieces of mana-disruption. Modern decks are acutely susceptible to their mana being disrupted, with top decks like Jund, Grixis, Jeskai, and Death's Shadow Zoo playing three or more colors and having steep color requirements. Land-based decks including those with Urzatron or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle are weak to mana disruption, and even aggressive decks are susceptible to their Inkmoth Nexus or Eldrazi Temple being targeted. These spells are especially effective when AEther Vial is in play to free up mana, which allows the deck to simultaneously apply pressure and disrupt the opponent.
If Sea's Claim doesn't excite you, another option is to use these slots on another type of disruption, like the four Vapor Snag Anssi Alkio used in the list he played to the top 8. Vapor Snag makes a lot of sense in a format where creature decks are everywhere, and it can save one's own creature against removal or even Recycle a Silvergill Adept.
The printing of Nahiri, the Harbinger has unleashed the Floodgates of non-blue control decks, and Mardu Control in particular is a fan favorite. It found some success at the last round of WMCQs, and it nearly reached top 8 of the MOCS.
Combining Nahiri, the Harbinger with Liliana of the Veil sounds too good to be true, especially when they are glued together by Lingering Souls feeding off of these Planeswalkers' discard abilities. Add four Wall of Omens to block for the Planeswalker. Fill in the rest following the typical Jund framework of disruption, including sets of Inquisition of Kozilek and Lightning Bolt and a smattering of other disruption, and you have yourself a deck with a lot of promise.
Do you have any Modern technology? Have you been using any new Eldritch Moon cards? Share your ideas in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!