Like everyone else who will be attending Grand Prix San Antonio, I'm pumped for what is essentially a brand-new format! Team Unified Modern is a Constructed team event featuring Modern – The tricky part is that there can't be any overlap in cards between the three decks, excluding basic lands. This is pretty unfortunate when you suddenly realize that all three decks the team is playing are running Path to Exile (it might be time to Rethink deck choices if that is the case).
There are many decks across the Modern format, but there is also a ton of overlap between those decks. Therefore, it is important to identify which cards are most likely to be found in many Modern decks. I am not only talking about spells here, because lands are a big part of this.
Only one deck can play Stomping Ground in it! This is one of the most influential cards in the Team Unified Modern format, as there happen to be a ton of decks that play this card, even if it is only one copy. Let's take a look at some of the popular decks that have Stomping Ground:
- Jund Death's Shadow
- Red-Green Breach Titan
- Revolt Zoo
- Living End
- Red-Gree Ponza
- Knightfall Company
- Temur Delver
I'm sure there are plenty of decks which I have missed, but this is still a lot of decks! Some of the archetypes on this list like Burn, Jund Death's Shadow, Jund, and the Primeval Titan decks are incredibly popular – so what does this mean for choosing a deck on this list? Either you try to find a way to simply not play Stomping Ground, and any other potential overlapping cards, or you can just choose one deck on this list.
As a Burn player at heart, I am torn. On the one hand, Stomping Ground isn't totally necessary for Burn, but it is important. Without Stomping Ground, you have to say goodbye to Wild Nacatl and Atarka's Command for sure, as well as the Destructive Revelry in the sideboard. Arguably, the Boros version of Burn is just as strong as Naya, but both have Stomping Ground for sideboard cards. This means that without Stomping Ground in Burn, you are going to playing a less-than-optimal version of the deck.
Is it worth it? Is a sacrifice like not having Destructive Revelry meaningful enough to discount the deck completely? Personally, I have been testing my own version of Burn without Stomping Ground.
This is still the same Burn deck we know and love, and I expect that players who want to play Burn and another deck that wants Stomping Ground or Path to Exile will figure out a way to make it happen. There are other decks, however, where you simply cannot make them work together. For instance, playing Jund with Stomping Ground in order to have a Scapeshift player just doesn't seem worth it. At a certain point, it is important to realize that you can play three proven decks with zero overlap, so there isn't a need to make too many sacrifices.
Out of the decks that play Stomping Ground, I believe that the Jund Death's Shadow deck will be the most popular. We are talking about the most-hyped and best deck in the format right now. As a result the other decks that have Stomping Ground will likely be less popular than normal, and this is where many teams will start.
Besides the mana base, the discard, Fatal Push and Tarmogoyf will be taken up by this deck. I don't expect as many singleton sideboard cards, since they will be needed in other decks. We have been talking about decks that have lots of overlap with other choices, but let's talk about some choices that make a ton of sense for Team Unified Modern because they don't play many cards in other decks.
Not only is Affinity one of the top decks in the format, but in terms of the main deck it isn't fighting with other decks. The only questions come from the sideboard.
Assuming you aren't crazy enough to want both Infect and Affinity on the same team (not really possible because of Inkmoth Nexus), this deck is mostly fighting for cards like Thoughtseize and Grafdigger's Cage in the sideboard. The good thing about Affinity is it has access to every color of mana and a wealth of sideboard choices, so the replacements needed to fill up the sideboard shouldn't make the deck much worse. Expect decks like Affinity without much overlap to be more popular in Team Unified Modern. Will everyone then be on the next level of loading up on artifact hate?
Like Affinity, Tron decks aren't taking much from other decks in Modern outside of potential splash cards. This means rather than fighting for Path to Exile or Collective Brutality, we may see more Eldrazi Tron. Of course, playing Eldrazi Tron also takes Bant Eldrazi off the table. I would expect that the majority of teams will have either a Tron or Bant Eldrazi deck, which makes a lot sense alongside Death's Shadow.
This deck hasn't been around for very long, but it has been surging in popularity. Rather than going way over the top with cards like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, the Eldrazi creatures provide easy routes to victory without needing all three Tron pieces, since Eldrazi Temple can also ramp these creatures out very easily. Walking Ballista is a play for all stages of the game, and the key combo is equipping it with a Basilisk Collar in order to ping away the opponent's board. While some of the faster decks can be rough matchups in game one, the Chalice of the Void in the sideboard are gamechangers in those matchups
Playing a tribal deck makes a lot of sense in this format. The tribal creatures are only good in one specific archetype, so while right now Elves and Merfolk are going under the radar, that shouldn't be the case at all. Aether Vial isn't played in too many other decks, and taking a look at the mana base in Merfolk, the only land that could be a bit of an issue is Cavern of Souls.
This list actually only has two Cavern of Souls, so if you do want to play Bant Eldrazi alongside Merfolk, I would say the Cavern of Souls are more important in the Bant Eldrazi deck. We see almost all the creatures are Merfolk, and the Vendilion Clique isn't necessary. There will be counters and removal like Dismember to think about, but the core of the tribal decks will remain intact even if a couple cards do need to be changed.
I'm actually not expecting to see much of Snapcaster Mage in San Antonio. Looking over the decklists of the control decks, you will notice lots of cards that potentially overlap. For instance, it is going to be tough to have a Grixis Control deck without Collective Brutality and Fatal Push, which might already be in Death's Shadow. It comes down to control losing a bit of popularity, and the fact that control decks need lots of removal. Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push need to be divided up across all the decks. There are also card draw spells like Serum Visions which overlap with combo decks.
Right now, some of the most popular combo decks in the format are:
- Goryo's Vengeance
- Ad Nauseam
- Blue-Red Storm
There are others as well, but looking at these three we see some commonalities. All three have card filtering in the form of Serum Visions, and sometimes also Sleight of Hand or other forms of deck manipulation. It doesn't make sense to play more than one base-blue combo deck on a team, but there are certainly advantages to having one. I suspect that rather playing a blue control deck, teams will instead choose a combo strategy instead, because there is not nearly as much overlap with other decks. Right now, Ad Nauseam is the most popular of these.
I think one of the most popular combinations will be Death's Shadow, Ad Nauseam and Eldrazi Tron, but there are so many different potential deck combinations to play around with. Ad Nauseam is well positioned in a metagame full of midrange decks, and only really struggles against decks with a lot of disruption. There is a lot of redundancy to the combo, so you can win on turn four quite consistently.
Path to Exile
Relic of Progenitus
Leyline of Sanctity
Rest in Peace
These are just some of the cards that tend to be played often across multiple decks. Some are easy to spot, but others are easy to overlook. For instance, many decks typically have Pithing Needle in the sideboard, yet it may not be a card you think of when considering deck choices. The removal is clear, as well as certain fetch and dual lands. Expect to see decks spread out in terms of colors.
Black is one of the best colors in Modern, but doesn't almost every black deck have Collective Brutality? Teams will be in a good position if they remain flexible in terms of deck selection and specific card choices. Do not play with a friend who wants to play the same deck as you! I'm looking forward to seeing how this event plays out – I expect some last-minute scrambling in San Antonio when players start to realize that there are overlapping cards they may not have initially thought of.
Thanks for reading,