Event Spotlight: Grand Prix Toronto (2/19)

It is a new week here at Good Grief Games and this past weekend was an exciting one. Some time has passed since the KCI ban but a Grand Prix level event had not taken place. This past weekend we finally had GP Toronto to show us, not literally thanks to WotC, what the state of Modern truly is. Last week we reached out to our discussion group for predictions about the deck that would come out on top. The consensus was that Phoenix would come out on top so we went over the various builds to close out the week. They were absolutely right; Phoenix decks dominated the tournament.
Note: Channel Fireball has bungled the reporting with multiple decklist issues so our data only contains thirty-one of the Top 32 decklists. The Top 8 decklists are available here and the remaining decklists are available here.
Update: The missing list has been provided. It was an Experimental Frenzy build of the more traditional Affinity lists. We likely would have changed “Hardened Scales” to “Artifact Aggro” which would then be tied for second best archetype with Ad Nauseam and GBx Midrange.

Soaring Over the Competition
The final Modern GP with KCI legal saw Phoenix and KCI decks comprising half of the Top 16; the 16-32 placing decklists were not made public. While KCI ate the hammer, Phoenix continued to soar and managed to put more pilots into the Top 32 than any other two archetypes combined. Interestingly, all of these successful players did not opt for the Mono-Red or Temur build that we have seen recently. As Luke stated in Friday’s article, Izzet appears to be the all-around best build and with recent results in mind it appears that Phoenix is the best deck in Modern. It is worth noting that they did not go home with the trophy though.
The two decks that were behind Phoenix, far behind mind you, were Ad Nauseam and GBx Midrange. Ad Nauseam has not been on many players’ radars for some time now. However, it boasts a positive Phoenix matchup and is very good against Burn; which was tabbed as the Phoenix-killer going into this weekend. It appears to be a metagame call and it paid off for them. The GBx Midrange decks were comprised of two Golgari builds and a Jund list. For some time these decks have been judged as poor choices but time and time again dedicated pilots, such as our very own Michael Kidd, put up results with them. These decks are a pillar of the format and will continue to adapt and stay relevant.
Beyond the aforementioned decks we see archetypes with only two pilots each. Humans is on the upswing, outpacing Spirits, as aggression takes precedence over reaction in the current metagame. A detailed sideboard guide by yours truly is available here. We also see Hardened Scales continue to outpace traditional Affinity builds; even those bolstered by Experimental Frenzy. The KCI ban has taken away a poor matchup for them and somewhat drawn the community’s focus away from artifact hate. Tron is seeing a similar renascence despite a poor Phoenix matchup. One pilot splashed white while the other stuck with green but regardless of colors it will never really go away without a ban. Despite putting two pilots in the Top 32, many people are surprised about Burn’s performance at the event. As stated above it was supposed to be the deck to beat Phoenix but the results are somewhat unremarkable. Furthermore, both Burn lists were traditional Boros builds that have added Skewer the Critics. The Rakdos builds with Light Up the Stage that have received significant coverage recently had no showings at all. We also saw Dredge continue to be a player as it has since Creeping Chill reanimated it. By nature it will be a solid choice as long as it is not being hated out for overperforming. The last couple two-pilot archetypes came way out of left field. Taking Turns is not a highly respected or played deck; kicking around Tier 3 for years. I am honestly not sure why but these two players were successful with their extremely similar Izzet builds this weekend. It will be interesting to see whether these are real players going forward or if this was just a flash in the pan. After this we see the dreaded artifact prison decks. One was an old-fashioned GB Lantern deck and the other was a four color Whir of Invention deck with Chalice of the Void. While these lists are a bit different they play out much the same. They lock you out of playing the game and then slowly mill you out. My assumption is that they are favored against Phoenix decks so they may continue to pick up steam.
Finally we come to the rogue’s gallery. These decks may have only put one player each into the Top 32 but they all are quality decks and you should prepare for them. In particular, Grixis Shadow continued its climb back to the top and won the trophy. We also saw Titanshift and Jeskai, which were predicted to rise with KCI out of the format. I would have liked to see how these decks played out against Phoenix but, again, video coverage at GPs is no more. The final two rogue decks were Spirits and Counters Company. Spirits may not be as well positioned as Humans right now but it is still a quality deck that demands respect. Counters Company continues its trend of sneaking into Top 32s and never making Top 8s. It is still the best creature-based combo deck in the format and it is only a matter of time before we see a breakout performance. Do not overlook any of these decks when testing and constructing your sideboard.

Despite the recent controversies with coverage, we are still very excited about the direction of the Modern format. It may be due to the larger sample size relative to GP Oakland, but we are seeing greater diversity than what we say with KCI on the throne. We hope that this data will help you to prepare for your next tournament. The dominance of Phoenix aside, this tournament showed the state of the format and brought forth some very interesting decks. We are in talks with some of these players to share their experiences with us this week so stay tuned. Until then my friends.

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