Grand Prix Boston-Worcester wrapped up on Sunday, and just a few days from now Pro Tour Magic 2015 will begin in Portland. This Grand Prix was the first stop for many players in their journey to the Pro Tour, including many pros from around the globe, which made the competition last weekend more fierce than usual. The fact that the Grand Prix was held right in the middle of a Modern PTQ season ensured many players in the field were at the top of their Modern game. This also means the metagame has had time to develop for a few weeks, and information has had time to spread, so the metagame should reflect PTQ trends and act to further develop the Modern metagame.
As it played out, the Grand Prix results do seem to reflect trends I had been seeing in PTQs, and these results should be considered when selecting and tuning decks for the remainder of the PTQ season and beyond. Here's how everything played out in Worcester:
Robin Dolar took down the event with BGw Rock. This is the traditional BG Modern rock deck with the usual hits, including lots of discard in Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, removal including a set of Abrupt Decay, a pair of Dismember, a Maelstrom Pulse, a Slaughter Pact, and even a Putrefy, which is handy for destroying Birthing Pod and Cranial Plating. The creature base is the usual Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf along with three Scavenging Ooze. Liliana of the Veil is supplemented by planeswalker Garruk Wildspeaker, which has been performing in this archetype for months in the hands of players in the know. It can be used to immediately untap mana, play a threat, and Threaten an Overrun on the next turn, and it gives this deck an excellent way to end a game quickly.
The white splash enables the final maindeck card, Lingering Souls, which is extremely valuable in any psuedo-mirror featuring Liliana of the Veil. Those without the card are at a distinct disadvantage, and with the way Modern is developing Lingering Souls seems like a necessity. Lingering Souls is also quite useful against Affinity, which composes a large piece of the metagame and is one of the most difficult matchups the Rock deck has. It's also quite the beating against Infect, which made a huge impact at the Grand Prix. The splash makes Stirring Wildwood a great card, and this deck plays one over the fourth Treetop Village, which along with three Tectonic Edge gives this deck a lot of utility from its manabase.
The splash also enables a chunk of the sideboard, including Stony Silence to punish Affinity and Urzatron decks, Aven Mindcensor to stop cards like Scapeshift, Birthing Pod, Chord of Calling, and Expedition Map, and even a Timely Reinforcements to hate on Burn and Zoo decks. Engineered Explosives also comes along for the ride, the white mana enabling a Sunburst of three. Other sideboard cards are standard, including three Fulminator Mage for a lot of matchups (such as UWr control and the mirror), a pair of Grafdigger's Cage to hate on Birthing Pod decks, Thrun, the Last Troll to troll control, an Obstinate Baloth for Burn and Zoo, and a Creeping Corrosion as an out to Etched Champion. A single Golgari Charm provides lots of utility; some notable important plays outside the top tier include destroying Leyline of Sanctity and Empty the Warrens tokens.
Overall BGw is the most well-rounded, fair deck in Modern. It attacks all resources and can shift roles with ease. It does not do any overly powerful things and plays no ways to really catch up from behind, and in most matchups it takes the role of disrupting the opponent, so in some sense it is reactive by nature and is at risk of being overwhelmed. It makes up for this by playing some of the most efficiently powerful cards in all of Modern. I'd recommend this deck to anyone going forward, and it's my go-to Modern deck going forward. Anyone who enjoys playing with Black Devotion in Standard would enjoy playing Junk in Modern.
Coming in second was Jund. This plays the same BG core as the previous deck, but it replaces the white splash with red. This deck is more committed to red than the previous is to white, which can be seen in a manabase containing a set of Blackcleave Cliffs. This enables double-red cards like Chandra, Pyromaster, and turn one red plays like Lightning Bolt and Grim Lavamancer. Red enables the versatile and efficient Terminate and Olivia Voldaren to punish creature decks.
Red out of the sideboard enables Ancient Grudge as Affinity hate rather than Stony Silence, and Shatterstorm is an upgrade over Creeping Corrosion because it gets around Welding Jar. Sowing Salt is a dedicated land-hate slot to supplement Fulminator Mage. Magma Spray is versatile but a nod to Birthing Pod and its Voice of Resurgence and Kitchen Finks. The final slot is spent on the powerful Olivia Voldaren, which is ideal against Birthing Pod, Affinity, and Infect.
Phil Napoli is an old-school player and all around good guy so congrats to him on his finish and for qualifying for the PT. He finished third with Infect which, along with another sixth place finish at the GP, marks a huge comeback for the archetype. Phil played the traditional UG version with Blighted Agent, Glistener Elf, and Inkmoth Nexus, the biggest innovation over last year being Viridian Corrupter to punish Affinity and snag some stray Birthing Pod, all the while attacking for two infect. In the sideboard is two Hunt the Hunter, which seems narrow but a powerful option against other green decks, though I might just play Dismember.
Infect holds an interesting metagame position. It's essentially a combo deck high in speed and consistency, but not so much in resiliency. This makes it great against Birthing Pod, which presents minimal interaction and resistance. Splinter Twin combo has more interaction, but Infect has a faster goldfish and is more consistent in comboing. Affinity has a slower goldfish than Infect and little ways to interact. BG has lots of interaction and card advantage in Dark Confidant and Liliana of the Veil, which makes it a tough matchup, while Lingering Souls is not welcome but overall worse than Lightning Bolt. The Infect deck can capitalize on clunky draws or prey on reactive hands with careful sequencing. UWr decks can be a nightmare, but that deck is at an all-time low. Infect has got plenty of game against everything and overall more good matchups than bad, so it's something to consider for future PTQs.
Reaching all the way to the semifinals was Affinity. Affinity has been a mainstay at the top tables of every Grand Prix this season, and it has been a big player at every local Modern event I have played. It's the de facto aggressive deck in the format, though it straddles the line with combo. It's explosive like a combo deck yet relentlessly aggressive like Zoo
Affinity continues to perform well and will likely continue to do so. It can be kept in check with lots of sideboard hate, but the deck has always performed well in face of hate and requires more credit than people are willing to give it. With the current metagame seeming to be light on UWr control decks and high on BG decks, now is an ideal time to dust off the Robots.
This version of Affinity plays an exciting new card from M15, Ensoul Artifact! Frank Karsten also used a copy maindeck and a copy sideboard in his ninth place finishing version, so this card is the real deal. For two mana it turns an artifact into a 5/5 creature, blue's answer to Shrapnel Blast turning an artifact into five damage. Ensoul Artifact can be cast on an old artifact to avoid summoning sickness, so it's actually quite powerful and not necessary easily to deal with immediately, so it avoids a lot of the downside of the potential two-for-one. It's also quite the combo with Darksteel Citadel.
This version of Infect dips into black for Plague Stinger which, as a flier, is a very potent infect creature. Where Napoli had a set of Mutagenic Growth for utility, Hovanec has a set of Rancor for raw power and for pairing with his flier. Black also enables Abrupt Decay in the sideboard, along with some Inquisition of Kozilek. Black also makes Dismember an attractive option. A full set of Viridian Corrupter can be found in the sideboard.
Another copy of Junk reached the Top 8, complete with Garruk Wildspeaker. This maindeck differs from the winning version by playing an additional discard spell over a Dismember, and it has replaced Putrefy with Maelstrom Pulse. The fourth Abrupt Decay becomes a singleton Darkblast, which is amazing against the field at the moment. It destroys Dark Confidant in the mirror, Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise against Pod decks, it destroys Inkmoth Nexus and all of the cheap infect creatures, and it Removes Signal Pest and Steel Overseer. It's a fine sideboard card but in this metagame fits right into the main.
Finally, the archetype Blue Moon reached the GP Top 8. This deck was a huge story at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, but it fell from flavor completely afterwards. On the other hand, over the last few weeks players like Owen Turtenwald and Reid Duke have wrote about URx control decks in Modern coming from another direction, essentially decks that ditched the Splinter Twin combo to become legitimate control decks. I also had strong experiences with the UR core when playing Possibility Storm combo, which I shared in a video article a few weeks back. This strong core enables a variety of decks, including Blue Moon.
Lightning Bolt is still the most efficient card in Modern, while Cryptic Command may be the most consistently useful and powerful card in the format. Bridging the two is a suite of spells including Remand, Mana Leak, Spell Snare, Electroylze, a Repeal, and even a Think Twice, which made Top 8 of a PTQ in a Possibility Storm deck. Serum Visions provides some fixing. Bringing the spell package together is Snapcaster Mage, which provides utility and value from the graveyard as the premier blue creature in Modern.
The real action here comes in the three-drops. This deck has a solid manabase full of basic lands that enable some great cards most other decks do not have access to. Blood Moon is the namesake card that punishes the mana-hungry format. The card has impact against everyone, whether it be turning off manlands or completely shutting down the opponent. Vedalken Shackles is oppressive against creature decks, especially creature decks with lots of small creatures like Affinity and Birthing Pod. Vendilion Clique provides additional disruption, though in this deck it will often cycle ones own card, and it's a proactive way to end the game for a deck light in win conditions.
Notably absent from the Top 8 were Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin, both which had plenty of pilots on day two. These decks started to fall in the final rounds, presumably against well-prepared opponents. While these decks are quite powerful, their proactive and predictable nature makes them easy to break apart. Splinter Twin can fail against a field of Abrupt Decay, while Birthing Pod can be underpowered faced with hate like Grafdigger's Cage or simply decks better positioned in the matchup, like against Infect.
The GP results are not surprising because, as metagames develop into maturity, controlling decks tend to start doing better precisely because they can better predict the metagame. An example being Dagan's maindeck Darkblast, where the proactive decks like Splinter Twin and Birthing Pod are less flexible yet more vulnerable to metagame positioning and development. Splinter Twin combo and Birthing Pod are both strong decks with a place in Modern, but I expect as the season develops they will start to slowly slide in face of decks prepared to deal with them.
The results of GP Boston-Worcester are the first place I'd turn for predicting the Modern metagame going forward. It showed that banning Deathrite Shaman did not kill the color combination going forward and that, with careful card selection, BGx decks can position themselves in the aggro-control niche of the format. Affinity proved it's not moving from the top tier of Modern and will require a lot more hate to be kept out of the metagame. Infect announced itself as a real contender and not something to be forgotten, and I expect it will see a surge in popularity for the final weeks of the PTQ season. Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin have targets on their head, and as the weeks have gone on players have become better prepared for them. UWr control was absent from the Top 8, but UR control did make it, and I expect a well-constructed U/r/w control strategy is a fine place to be going forward.
I'll answer any questions in the comments.