Pro Tour Born of the Gods was an event unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Unfortunately for me I was quite sick during my week in Valencia, and it is possible that this hurt my chances of doing well. However this did not stop me from being fully immersed in preparing for the tournament.
Pro Tours have become so important that this time around Team TCGplayer decided that we were going to have a Skype call each week to talk about and go over Modern. While I do feel like this was helpful, there was only so much work we could put in before the banned and restricted updates were announced.
As many magic players quickly realized, the unbanning of Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom, coupled with the banning of Deathrite Shaman, certainly changed the format. We only had a few short weeks to dissect what these changes meant, and anticipate the metagame of the Pro Tour.
Storm had been one of our most powerful decks even before the banning of Deathrite Shaman, so once Deathrite Shaman did get banned, Storm jumped to being many of the team's top deck choice. We suspected that Storm would be on the radar of the top teams, as players such as John Finkel were suspected to run it no matter what, but we didn't think that the average competitor would test versus Storm very much.
This prediction ended up being right on the money, as we heard firsthand that Storm was not even on some of the team's radar. I have to admit that I was personally a bit scared to run Storm because I didn't know how much hate people were going to bring. It is also a deck that can be quite difficult to play, and picking up a deck like Storm for a Pro Tour felt like a high risk/high reward choice.
In the end though Storm was the best deck at Pro Tour Born of the Gods with a win percentage of almost 60%. Half of the Storm players were represented by Team TCGplayer, and we managed to put a pilot into the Top 8, in the form of Chris Fennell. This was Team TCGplayer's biggest accomplishment at Pro Tour Born of the Gods.
I have already been hearing a lot of talk about our Storm list, and about how it is strictly worse than John Finkel's list from The Pantheon. While Finkel is arguably the best magic player of all time, I have to say that in this case my opinion is that our list with Faithless Looting, designed by Andrew Shrout, is faster than the other version.
Here is the deck that Chris Fennel piloted to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Born of the Gods:
Yes, this list plays three Goblin Electromancer; I know there are no Desperate Ravings or Thought Scours. While these cards make the deck a bit more resilient to discard, and create a little more inevitability, I think that our list does goldfish faster, and I am very happy with it. I will let the players from the team that did play the deck go into it in a bit more detail.
Four members of Team TCGplayer including myself ended up deciding that while we knew Storm was a very good deck, we felt more comfortable playing the other deck that we had been tuning, and had been performing very well. We decided to run Hexproof Auras, otherwise known as Bogles.
The one deck we thought would show up in large numbers for sure was Zoo, and it did turn out to be the most popular deck. The fact that Bogles is known to have a good matchup versus UWR control and Zoo decks made it a very appealing choice. This is not why I decided to play the deck however.
Our sideboard allows us to board in specific hate cards for almost all the combo decks. It is true that infect is a very bad matchup, and Living End is not easy either, but those decks were not decks we were expecting to show up in large numbers. I think that Bogles was a safe but solid choice for Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Out of the most prevalent archetypes it ended up having the third best win percentage at 52.66%. This is not a bad win percentage at all, though it is about 7% less than Storm. Here is the list I played at the Pro Tour:
I have seen lists that don't run Kor Spiritdancer, but I think she is necessary. Against decks like Affinity, Birthing Pod, and most combo decks that don't have a way to kill her quickly, Kor Spiritdancer presents a very fast clock, helped along by card advantage from each enchantment cast. It is very unusual that Bogles won't have a turn four win after a turn two Kor Spiritdancer.
The Path to Exile are here to have a maindeck answer to the Splinter Twin combo, as well as being a card most players wouldn't expect maindeck. In fact the Paths coupled with the sideboard hate gave us a positive win percentage versus Splinter Twin during the tournament.
Besides Bogles and Storm we had two other decks played by one team member each. These deck were Knight Pod by Conley Woods and BW Tokens by Craig Wescoe.
Going into the tournament it was my initial hope we could break the format, and each TCGplayer member would play the same deck. We quickly learned that breaking modern is near impossible, and we made our deck choices based on our individual styles of play, the strength of the deck, and the expected metagame.
After Pro Tour Born of the Gods I have learned that going into a modern tournament you may play against anything. It is very difficult to prepare for all the potential matchups that are out there, so my advice is to play a deck you are comfortable with. Modern matches are about being able to adjust your gameplan, and make things difficult for your opponent.
I would now like to talk about the other seven decks in the Top 8, and about some of the specific card choices that make them unique. For reference the Top 8 decklists are here.
Splinter Twin was the second most popular archetype at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, and while across the board results did vary, three players were able to navigate their way to the Top 8, each with very different versions.
Patrick Dickmann has been one of the faces behind the Splinter Twin archetype for quite a while now. He ran Tarmo-Twin or RUG Twin, which is a version of Twin that hadn't been seeing too much play. He doesn't rely too heavily on the combo, as he doesn't need it to win. At this point it is well known that Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze are quite capable of putting a fast clock on your opponent. Along with Snapcaster Mage Dickmann plays an aggro- control game, and has plenty of threats, so that he can still win through a couple of removal spells.
I was somewhat surprised to see Dickmann running Gitaxian Probe, but he used it to great effect. He decided the value of knowing if his opponent could stop the Splinter Twin combo was worth running it. It wouldn't be surprising to me if moving forward Flame Slash gets the nod over Lightning Bolt in Splinter Twin. Flame Slash is able to kill troublesome creatures like Spellskite and Linvala, which is a big deal in the Pod matchup.
Tim Rivera decided to run UWR Twin, as the deck is very good against a Zoo based metagame. Wall of Omens and Restoration Angel, alongside a plethora of removal spells make it very difficult for an aggro deck to beat UWR Twin. The tradeoff is that there are less cards dedicated to control and combo, as the only countermagic are four Remand. We see Tim Rivera running three copies of Anger of the Gods in his sideboard, which is card that is very good against small Zoo, and more importantly Birthing Pod. Interested in what the most played card at the Pro Tour was? Yes, it was Anger of the Gods, and I expect Anger of the Gods to be a modern staple moving forward.
The last version of Splinter Twin in the Top 8 is the regular blue/red version, piloted by Anssi Alkio. This deck is nothing new to modern, so I won't go into too much detail here. I am surprised how many copies of Electrolyze were in the Top 8 though, as Electrolyze is a card Team TCGplayer dismissed because of its inability to kill the Zoo creatures.
Blue was certainly the dominant color at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, and the breakout deck of the tournament may have been Blue Moon, piloted by Lee Shi-Tian. I was able to watch Lee Shi-Tian play some of his matches, and I will say that this deck has a lot going on. It plays the role of a true control deck with Vedalken Shackles, while still having the ability to simply drop a Blood Moon into play, and win the game on the spot, if the opponent has the wrong lands in play.
It remains to be seen if Blue Moon will become a popular archetype in Modern, or if it will die out. It could be that Lee-Shi Tian won some of his matches because of the surprise factor of Blood Moon, and moving forward I think players are more likely to make sure to fetch up their basics when seeing islands across the table. Blue Moon has a good matchup against most combo decks because of its disruption and countermagic, but can't beat Bogles, and struggles against Zoo. It seems like a deck that was a metagame call, but it certainly worked out for Lee Shi-Tian.
In our metagame prediction team TCGplayer predicted that Affinity would lose some popularity, but it definitely showed up in full force. It seemed like there wasn't as much affinity hate as normal, and the deck made it to the Top 8 in the hands of Christian Seibold. While there are only two copies of Master of Etherium in Seibold's list, I saw Master of Etherium in most of the affinity decks at the Pro Tour, so it seems that card is making a comeback. Seibold showed that Affinity doesn't need to worry too much about Wild Nacatl being unbanned, and the deck is just as good as ever.
Okay so let's talk about the deck of Pro Tour Born of the Gods finalist, Jacob Wilson. Team FacetoFace certainly performed the best in terms of players running Melira Pod. I expect the list Jacob ran to become the standard for Melira Pod players moving forward.
Noble Hierarch was an easy swap for Deathrite Shaman, and an additional Wall of Roots is good versus Zoo while giving the deck more ramp. Scavenging Ooze is an important maindeck inclusion to fight Storm, Living End, the mirror, and other graveyard decks, as well as being just a good card in general. Where previously the deck ran Lingering Souls there are now additional removal spells, and Slaughter Pact, which took Splinter Twin players by surprise when attempting to combo. The Entomber Exarch is primarily there for an additional Sin Collector effect, but can have other uses as well. Melira Pod was one of the decks that most players were prepared for, yet it still made the finals of the tournament, which shows a lot about the power of the deck.
Lastly, we have the winner of the Pro Tour Shaun McLaren. Shaun played UWR Control, much like the deck we saw at the World Championships. The only creatures he runs are four Snapcaster Mage and one Vendilion Clique. His primary win condition is Ajani Vengeant, which we saw blow up Jacob Wilson's lands in game four of the finals. Celestial Colonnade is the other way that McLaren is able to ensure he has enough ways to actually kill his opponent. McLaren proved that control decks with Sphinx's Revelation aren't relegated to Standard, as he has Sphinx's Revelation to ensure he will not lose in late game situations.
I am a fan of the diversity in McLaren's sideboard. By having so many one and two-ofs, it can be very hard to anticipate what card McLaren may have drawn from his sideboard. Crucible of Worlds is awesome versus land destruction, or control mirrors, so as to ensure he doesn't run out of Celestial Colonnades. The Izzet Staticaster is a sweet card against the one toughness creatures from Pod, and tokens. Perhaps the card that is being talked about the most is Porphyry Nodes, which McLaren used to great effect, to destroy Jacob Wilson's creatures. This is a card that was completely under the radar, but I expect Porphyry Nodes to be seen in a lot more sideboards in modern, moving forward.
All told, I think wizards did what they intended to do with modern. It is currently a very diverse format, with many different decks, capable of winning. I am excited to see how the format continues to develop, and expect a massive turnout for Grand Prix Richmond. I am pleased with the results of Team TCGplayer, and I will have to wait for the next Pro Tour, to get another chance to make a Pro Tour Top 8.
Thanks for reading!