Last weekend featured a Modern Grand Prix triple-header with events all around the world, in Indianapolis, Lille, and Guangzhou. Taken together they act as a barometer for the Modern metagame, which looks to be as diverse as ever. There were 13 distinctly different decks represented between the Top 8 of each event combined, and an additional 27 different decks in the combined Top 64 decklists, which adds up to the simple fact that there are no less than forty different competitive Modern decks.
Many of these decks are Modern standbys, and indeed these events proved the continued health of Modern's old guard. The Grand Prix elimination rounds contained a combined three Affinity decks, three Burn decks, three Death's Shadow Zoo decks, three R/G Breach-Titan decks, two Jund decks, two Bant Eldrazi decks, and even two W/G Hatebears decks. Infect won GP Lille, which saw a W/U Control deck slip into the top 8, while Grixis Delver won in Guangzhou, which saw the return of the Bant Knightfall deck to a Grand Prix top 8. That accounts for 22 of our top 24 decks, and it is here where we will start out journey through the most innovative decks from the Modern Grand Prix weekend. The Modern classics had an absolutely fantastic weekend, but it's the unorthodox decks that have captured my attention.
I first saw this deck emerge from the last round of World Magic Cup Qualifiers from Japan, where two copies made the top 8. It saw some minor play on Magic Online, and its original developers have continued to refine it, because it has now broken through to the Top 8 of a Grand Prix and into the global Modern consciousness.
At its simplest, the deck revolves around Pyromancer Ascension as a value-generating engine that allows the deck to grind out anyone and anything in the format. The deck is built to find it, play it, and enable it as soon as possible, with a large number of cheap card-drawing spells, which also form the backbone of the card advantage engine. Visions of Beyond is the big payoff, and when fully powered and doubled, will give this deck endless fuel.
Manamorphose in an all-star, not only helping to enable Pyromancer Ascension for free, but it's the best card to copy because it allows the deck to get ahead on mana. Pyromancer Ascension is also a win condition when combined with burn spells, which the deck uses as disruption against the creature-dominated metagame. Thing in the Ice gives the deck an additional angle of disruption against creature synergy decks, but it's also a massive threat that this deck can easily flip, allowing it to quickly close out the game against any opponent, which is especially important against combo decks that won't allow the deck to go long and grind.
Grixis Goryo's Vengeance-Through the Breach decks aren't new to Modern, but as the final top 8 deck I need to mention it because it was a big winner from Eldritch Moon and the addition of Collective Brutality to the format.
This deck takes full advantage of Collective Brutality by hacking its discard cost and turning it into a benefit as a graveyard enabler for Goryo's Vengeance. The discard mode clears away their disruption, which is invaluable for a combo deck like this, and its -2/-2 mode slows down aggressive decks and disrupts creature synergy decks. Draining two life might not seem important, but gaining two life is very relevant with Griselbrand in the deck; the difference between six and eight life can be the difference between victory and defeat.
The Amulet-Bloom combo deck, reeling from the Summer Bloom ban, nearly missed the elimination rounds in Lille.
This deck operates by the same basic principle as before: get a Primeval Titan into play as quickly as possible and then win from there. The deck is no longer as fast, and has lost its capacity for a turn two (or even turn one) pseudo-kill, but it is still fully capable of playing a turn-three Primeval Titan. Once the deck resolves one Primeval Titan it will chain it into more by finding Tolaria West and using it to find Summoner's Pact, so it can go long against even Modern's most grindy decks: Jund and Jeskai Control. Speed was an asset for the deck, but its true strength was always resiliency, and it hasn't lost that. In fact it may be even more capable of playing an extended game with Sakura-Tribe Scout providing steady and measured acceleration.
The deck has also gained a new addition in Crumbling Vestige. It comes into play tapped, but it also makes a mana when it comes into play, so it almost functions like a bounceland in that it makes two mana when combined with Amulet of Vigor untapping it. It's valuable because unlike a bounceland it can always be played, so it's better on turn one, and it helps to fix colors. It's also useful because Primeval Titan can find it to get an extra mana if necessary, even without Amulet of Vigor.
Compared to when the deck was a major factor in the metagame, there are far fewer Blood Moon and other forms of land hosers, and fewer Counterspells, so the metagame is ripe for a deck like this to come out of nowhere and catch the field by surprise.
In a remarkably similar fashion, an update to the Eldrazi deck, which also suffered from a crippling ban to its fast mana capabilities, finished just outside looking in at Guangzhou. With a little more luck, this could have won the Grand Prix and become the next big thing.
This Eldrazi deck has a Rakdos twist that makes it feel very similar to a Jund deck, except its threats like Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze are replaced by Eldrazi. Lightning Bolt is the gold standard creature removal spell of the format, and combining it with Eldrazi is an obvious alternative to Bant Eldrazi and Path to Exile. Inquisition of Kozilek is a centerpiece of Jund, and it gives this deck the capacity for the same disruptive start. Terminate gives the deck an extra dose of removal.
This deck includes a literal relic from the original Modern Eldrazi decks, Relic of Progenitus, which not only hoses the metagame, it also enables Wasteland Strangler as extra removal against a creature-oriented metagame. Hangarback Walker stands out as a difficult to deal with creature that fills the otherwise empty two-mana slot. With Eye of Ugin banned, Eldrazi Mimic and Endless One are too slow. Bant Eldrazi forgoes this aggressive slot entirely, replacing it removal or a couple Spellskite as utility, but without Noble Hierarch to accelerate, this deck is more reliant on having a two mana play. Hangarback Walker is the perfect fit into the plan of grinding backed up by hard to deal with threats. Kolaghan's Command is ideal for returning fallen Eldrazi and gives the deck some disruptive utility. Like Jund decks, this deck also uses creature lands, but in this case Mutavault as a colorless land to help enable Eldrazi.
Moving deeper into the Top 64 of the events provides a wealth of innovative ideas. One deck that stands out is this Esper Prison deck that takes advantage of the synergy between Collective Brutality and Ensnaring Bridge.
This deck revolves around Ensnaring Bridge, which shuts down most decks in Modern and will allow this deck to take over the game with something like Liliana of the Veil. The most interesting card here is Collective Brutality, which makes it all possible. It's a key aspect of disruptive plan, doubling as discard and creature removal wrapped into one, and it's extremely good with Ensnaring Bridge because of its ability to empty the hand! Lingering Souls is also great with Collective Brutality, and it's the deck's main source of board presence and win condition; it's also a great defensive tool. A handful of Spellskite attacks specific parts of the metagame, as does Ghost Quarter. Trinket Mage accompanies a toolbox package to attack nearly any variety of threat, and even includes a threat of its own with Hangarback Walker.
Disrupting the opponent's ability to play Magic is a viable strategy in Modern where most decks are extremely tunnel-visioned in focus and limited in their abilities. This adaptation of Jund, Modern's most disruptive deck, includes Blood Moon to go beyond discard and removal to attack opponent's ability to even cast spells.
Blood Moon specifically hoses Bant Eldrazi, Modern's fastest growing deck and a tough matchup for Jund. It also goes along way against Jund's classic worst matchup, Urzatron, it can lock out Death's Shadow Zoo, and it shuts down troublesome creature land against Infect and Affinity.
Eldritch Moon's Bedlam Reveler has been regarded as a powerful card with Modern potential, and it has now put up a finish as part of this Grixis Control deck.
Grixis Control is all about disrupting the opponent with cheap spells in the early turns, and it even has Thought Scour to self-mill, so Bedlam Reveler will come at a reduced rate even after a few turns. Its card advantage will be welcome for a player low on resources after an early game spend trading, and it will provide the push necessary to take control.
Liliana, the Last Hope has a lot of synergy in this deck. It self-mill ability is the perfect way to fuel Bedlam Reveler and Delve on Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and it finds action for Snapcaster Mage, which is also an ideal creature to return to hand for re-casting.
One of the coolest decks from the weekend is this Zoo deck that takes advantage of Scapeshift as a Landfall enabler by combining it with Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede. I haven't seen Scapeshift Zoo since the last extended format before Modern existed, and it's a welcome addition to a metagame where being aggressive, proactive, and a little bit broken is the name of the game.
Scapeshift is a knock-out punch on a board with landfall creatures, especially because it can find multiple copies of Flagstones of Trokair, extra copies of which will go to the graveyard because of the legend rule and find even more lands to get extra landfall triggers.
Where the old Scapeshift Zoo decks tried to otherwise play a fair game, this deck pushes the combo aspect to the fullest by including Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Prismatic Omen to combo with Scapeshift . With Prismatic Omen in play, Scapeshift is lethal with just six lands. It makes every land a Mountain, so in late-game situations it can help grind out the opponent one Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle trigger at a time, especially with fetchlands doubling up. Explore provides extra Landfall triggers and helps the deck along towards a normal Scapeshift kill. Manamorphose thins the deck while providing some fixing, especially for casting Scapeshift. Knight of the Reliquary is a threat that also grows larger with Scapeshift. It can tap to generate extra Landfall triggers, or it can can find Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to set up a late game grinding plan.
The death of control in Modern has long been stated, but is proven wrong time and time again whenever dedicated players work on attacking the metagame. W/U Control had a good weekend, putting up a Top 8 and three additional Top 64 finishes. Classic versions of Jeskai and Grixis Control each put up a Top 64 finish, and an old-school Pro put up a finish with an old-school control deck that only a blue player could love, combining the best of Jeskai and Grixis into a four-color control deck resembling a Modern version of the old Jeskai Black Standard deck.
This deck is four colors, so it has a little bit of everything. Discard takes precedence over Counterspells, with a set of Inquisition of Kozilek. It accompanies other cheap disruption like Path to Exile to provide plenty of options for Snapcaster Mage. Esper Charm is a source of card advantage, and attacking the opponent's hand directly with the Mind Rot mode can be extremely powerful against synergistic decks. Kolaghan's Command chains with Snapcaster Mage to provide action deep into the game, and Sphinx's Revelation will provide a knock-out blow against any deck if X is large enough. The biggest strength of a four-color control deck like this is its sideboard, which can be tuned for any metagame, and contain nearly any of the most effective hosers in Modern.
I've shared my favorite decks from the weekend, but there are a lot more, so dig through the rest here, here, and here and let me know which ones are your favorites! Share your thoughts in the comments, and I'll answer any questions.