World Magic Cup Qualifiers offer players the chance to earn a position on the national team representing their country against the best in the world at the World Magic Cup. This fantastic opportunity for glory is without comparison in the Magic world, so these qualifiers draw out the most competitive players for a grueling event where only the winner leaves with something tangible to show for their efforts. Players hold nothing back, and their decklists reflect that. I've been poring through the results from events all over the world, and a few decklists jumped out at me because of their creativity and innovation. They resonated with me so strongly that I had to share them, because I know you'll enjoy them too, and with our collective focus on the impending release of Eldritch Moon they were otherwise liable to be lost in the shuffle.
Splinter Twin getting banned in Modern completely gutted the top deck in the format and left a void that has been filled by the most diverse metagame in memory. I'll admit it has been somewhat of a surprise to me, because the deck still remains fully functional with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker as a replacement for Splinter Twin. As it turns out, the more expensive and color-restrictive mana cost has proven to be a major hurdle, but maybe players have given up too soon.
This deck reached the Top 8 of the Denmark WMCQ using the Deceiver Exarch and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo in a shell resembling the Grixis Twin deck that was so successful before the banning. With the combo less efficient than before, this deck has less focus on it, trimming down to just three and two copies of each half to fit more robust threats like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Pia and Kiran Nalaar. The deck has additional control elements, including counterspells like Logic Knot and Deprive. The sideboard allows it to shift into a full-fledged control deck with sweepers like Damnation and win conditions including Keranos, God of Storms and even Chandra, Flamecaller!
Jund has been among the top decks in Modern since the release of Liliana of the Veil created the archetype as we know it, but it's not the only deck able to take advantage of the planeswalker. Green has typically been included for threats like Tarmogoyf and Raging Ravine, but the core of the deck has always been centered around black and red disruption. This decklist from the South Korean WMCQ takes that to heart by discarding green and focusing on the best disruption red and black has to offer:
This deck moves beyond the typical disruption like Lightning Bolt and Thoughtseize towards a more extreme position that includes Shadow of Doubt and Blood Moon to directly attack the mana of the format. This adds a new element to the typical Jund strategy, and I can't help but think it's the reason that this deck found so much success. Crippling the opponent's mana, especially unexpectedly, leads to easy wins, and much of the metagame is woefully unprepared to deal with these cards.
The creatures here are a nod to the other key feature of Jund decks, the ability to grind and win an attrition war over a longer game. Gravecrawler and Relentless Dead exhaust removal spells, Gatekeeper of Malakir is a two-for-one, and Vampire Nighthawk is impressive against aggressive decks as a supplement to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Geralf's Messenger from the sideboard is punishing against decks relying on creature removal, especially Jund decks. I have to mention Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which backs up the small threats with a knockout blow.
I could imagine reworking this strategy to include a different package of threats to suit my needs. Dark Confidant, for example, would seem to be right at home, or the deck could take a more aggressive approach with something like Gurmag Angler.
The unbanning of Sword of the Meek means the return of Thopter Foundry to Modern. Players have been working to break this combo for months, but it hasn't made much of a mark competitively. That has changed with its victory in the Portugal WMCQ:
This Jeskai variant puts the combo into a control shell alongside Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix, which makes sense given that the metagame is infested by creature decks. This decklist takes things a step further by including a pair of maindeck Supreme Verdict to Sweep Away everything, a rare maindeck inclusion in the format but extremely effective against the correct metagame. This isn't the deck to field against other combo decks and Tron, but it looks perfect against any creature-dominated metagame. Its colors give it access to premium sideboard options for beating tough matchups, like Crumble to Dust against Tron, and Geist of Saint Traft in any matchup where the combo will be too slow and a faster clock is necessary.
Gifts Ungiven used to frequently be played in black/green Rock decks in Extended to give them a wide-ranging graveyard toolbox with cards like dredge and Ffashback, along with Eternal Witness to return key tools and to make especially good sacrifice fodder for Cabal Therapy. There isn't much time for fooling around with value in Modern, so nowadays the best use of Gifts Ungiven in Modern is to find Unburial Rites and something powerful to reanimate that will hopefully end the game on the spot. "Gifts Rock" decks with this combo has seen some fringe Modern play, but it hardly been a serious metagame mainstay. This decklist from the Canada WMCQ changes the equation by putting Gifts Ungiven and Unburial Rites into an otherwise typical Abzan shell:
Tarmogoyf, Liliana of the Veil, and Lingering Souls gives this deck a proactive element that doesn't rely on Gifts Ungiven, which was my misgiving with previous incarnations of the deck. They back up the disruption plan of discard and removal that has served B/G/x decks so well in Modern, and they mean that this deck will win the majority of its games the old fashioned way. Unburial Rites will shine in matchups that can't beat Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, but otherwise Gifts Ungiven can be cast for value, especially after sideboarding when the deck has access to Life from the Loam and Raven's Crime and great bullets like Darkblast and Ghost Quarter.
Nahiri, the Harbinger has been heralded as the perfect card for Modern, and it's spawned a resurgence in W/R/x decks, like Jeskai Control. Everyone knows that the card would be perfect in Jund, but it has proven difficult to include because playing four colors is so inconsistent and costly. This fact has compelled some players to simply forgo green. Mardu has typically struggled in Modern, until two players figured out the decklist en route to finishing first and second in the China WMCQ:
These two decks do have some subtle differences in card choices, but it's the similarities that stand out. Wall of Omens screams out as a fantastic addition to the strategy, a perfect way to contain the rise of Wild Nacatl, and a great way to protect Nahiri, the Harbinger from aggression. It's also an ideal creature to return with Kolaghan's Command. These decks are loaded with creature removal, so they are clearly a response to the rise of decks like Zoo and Infect, which will struggle getting through everything Mardu has to stop them. The sideboards are focused on fighting against combo and control decks, and like Jund this deck will find itself struggling against land decks, which explains cards like Fulminator and Molten Rain.
Pyromancer Ascension is used almost exclusively as an engine for the Storm combo deck, but I have had great experiences playing it as a value card in decks designed to abuse it. It generates massive card advantage with the same cheap blue card drawing spells that enable it, and it's an easy way to close out a game alongside burn spells like Lightning Bolt. A high spell density can be taken advantage of in all sorts of ways, like with Thing in the Ice, which two players took to the top 8 of the Japan WMCQ:
The card that belies the fact that this deck is trying to be degenerate is Manamorphose, which doesn't have much use here as mana-fixing, but it's the best card to copy with Pyromancer Ascension because it nets mana.
Note that one of these decklists contains Sleight of Hand, the other Visions of Beyond. The tradeoff here is clear, with Sleight of Hand being more reliable early on, while Visions of Beyond becomes much more powerful later in the game. I definitely value the ability to "go off" later in the game by chaining and copying multiple Visions of Beyond, but I also see the value of Sleight of Hand for setting up the early game, especially on turn one, compared to Visions of Beyond simply cycling. I initially thought the power Visions of Beyond provides was too important, but now I think that it might be too "win-more" and that the consistency of Sleight of Hand is preferable. The deck has been copied and put up some strong results on MTGO, but they seem split on their opinion of what card to use. What card do you think is better for the deck, Sleight of Hand or Visions of Beyond? Something else entirely?
The Japan WMCQ also produced a beautiful four-color Collected Company Human Aggro deck that must be seen to be understood:
Reflector Mage and Mantis Rider are efficient enough for Modern, and taking advantage of their human status is the best way to make the most of them. Thalia's Lieutenant is joined by Mayor of Avabruck to pump humans, and Champion of the Parish grows along with them. What might be the best feature of this deck is making such great use of Noble Hierarch, a human, as acceleration. The high creature count allows the deck to include Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Cavern of Souls punishes counterspells, and Collected Company combats attrition strategies, so there is more going on than just putting creatures into play and hoping they race the opponent. Meddling Mage is especially effective for disrupting the opponent while beating down, and extra copies can be found in the sideboard where they can be used for nearly any matchup.
The banning of Eye of Ugin was a blow to Eldrazi decks and Urzatron decks, but it wasn't a death knell. These two colorless menaces have joined forces in a deck that combines Eldrazi's affinity for colorless mana with Urzatron's lands and massive threats:
This decklist reminds me a lot of the R/G Eldrazi deck that was popular before the banning, complete with Talisman of Impulse as acceleration, and Ancient Stirrings holdings the two halves of the deck together, finding either tron pieces or Eldrazi threats. One of the best cards here is Kozilek's Return, which is excellent against a metagame dominated by small creature threats. It's notable that this deck passes up on Wurmcoil Engine completely in favor of Conduit of Ruin, which tutors up massive threats like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or World Breaker. Without the Eye of Ugin endgame, it makes sense to pass up on Oblivion Sower in favor of this tutor effect.
Players have been using cascade to abuse suspend spells since they have been in print. It's very powerful, good enough to get Hypergenesis banned in Modern. The typical way to do this in Modern is to cast Living End off a three-mana cascade spell. It means not playing any other spells that cost under three mana, so the deck is filled with cycling cards that it can spend its mana on in the early game, which perfectly fits the Living End game plan. Another Modern option is to cast Restore Balance off of Cascade spells, breaking the parity by first suspending Gargadon and sacrificing your side of the board, and using other suspend creatures like Riftwing Cloudskate to pressure the opponent. The strategy has been tried time and again in Modern to minor success, but it's never been more than a gimmick. Nahiri, the Harbinger changes all that by giving the deck a legitimate threat that doesn't interfere with cascade and survives Restore Balance. It gives the deck the ability to disrupt the opponent and to filter its draws, and this extra ability to play Magic makes it a much more capable, consistent, and well-rounded deck than before.
Do you have any insights into these decks, or any questions about them? Have you come across any novel Modern decks recently? Eldritch Moon adds some new tools to the format, are you excited about any new cards in specific? Share your thoughts in the comments!