To continue our retrospective on the Modern format of 2018 we will be taking a look at the ten most dominant maindeck cards that defined it. Today we will take a look at numbers ten through six. As with yesterday’s article this ranking is based on mtgtop8.com’s dataset of over 6,000 results from paper and online tournaments in 2018. We will continue to approach the 2018 Modern format as a single 100 player tournament.
The following cards have been ranked by dominance rating. This is calculated by multiplying the percent of decks they appear in by the average number of copies that appear in said decks. For frame of reference, a card that appears in 25% of decks as a two of will have a 0.5 dominance rating. For our hypothetical, 100-player tourney this means that there would be 0.5 copies of said card per player in the room.
#10 Thoughtseize: 0.47
Kicking off the list is the always brutal Thoughtseize. There are times at which this card functionally wins the game on the first turn. With so many decks built on synergy, many hands in Modern are much worse when their best card is taken away. It is a dangerous card to play as it drains two life from the user and has no impact on the board. However, it is an answer to any nonland card in the format as long as it gets into play first so it earns the spot.
#9 Ancient Stirrings: 0.48
Often cited as the best cantrip in the format, Stirrings is absurd if your deck is mostly without color. Lands themselves are colorless so the success rate starts pretty fair but when you begin to factor in artifacts as well as colorless creatures, planeswalkers, etc it becomes absurd. Many Stirrings lists are built to be more than 80% colorless so this often amounts to a better, cheaper impulse. Whether assembling Tron or an elaborate artifact combo, Stirrings provides remarkable consistency.
#8 Aether Vial: 0.51
With Vial we hit the 0.5 dominance mark. This means that at our hypothetical, 100-player tournament there should be a playset of Aether Vial at every 8-man table in the venue. This comes as no surprise as Vial is a pillar of aggressive creature decks. It allows these decks to deploy their hand far faster than normal; at instant speed without the need to cast them to boot. It may be the worst topdeck around but when a creature deck leads on Vial Turn 1, they win far more often than they lose.
#7 Inquisition of Kozilek: 0.51
Much of what can be said about Inquisition describes Thoughtseize above as well. The cards are extremely similar and are often run together to provide redundancy to black decks. Inquisition’s dominance score is pushed over Thoughtseize’s by the average number of copies played; likely a result of not having a life loss clause. It will miss the more costly spells of the format but as this list demonstrates, most of the spells in Modern come in at a mana cost of three or less anyways.
#6 Faithless Looting: 0.51
As the ultimate enabler for graveyard decks Looting has soared in 2018. It is inherent card disadvantage as you will be binning Looting and two other cards in order to draw two. However, this exchange will net insane value in the right builds. The decks that are built to run it are more than happy to discard cards and build a large graveyard. Looting pulls double duty by netting value via Flashback; regardless of whether it was cast or binned by another enabler. You will be hard-pressed to build a graveyard-centric deck in Modern without it.
You should expect to see each of these cards at least once per tournament. They are often critical to how the decks function and you must build with them in mind to succeed. Tomorrow we will be moving right up the list and taking on the format’s big five. Let me know your predictions in the comments.