Modern Snapshot: April 2019

Yesterday’s article was a fun stab at people that do not read the articles. However, that is not the focus of the site; we prefer to work with the data. We would have liked to review the results of GP Calgary today but they still have not been made publicly available. However, with February and March in the books we are pulling the data to prepare you for the coming weeks. We will comb over the expansive data set to establish the leading archetypes as well as the best performing mainboard and sideboard cards in the Modern format. It is especially interesting to compare this data side-by-side with last month’s data.

All data has been pulled from The data set contains 1189 decklists from February and March 2019 tournament results. Archetypes that comprised more than 3% of the data set have been identified above. Individual 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 a hypothetical, 100-player tourney this means that there would be 0.5 copies of said card per player in the room.

Top Archetypes
If you have any knowledge of Modern in 2019, it should be no surprise to see Phoenix is ahead of the pack. It has been the top deck at five straight Grands Prix and was the best deck among Regional Top 8s. We are still waiting to see how it fared in Calgary though; it had a pilot in Top 8 at least. I will not harp on this as it is common knowledge and we are all keeping an eye on it at this point. Behind this we see three decks that somehow manage to always fly under the radar. I have spoken about this a bit in the past but GBx strategies are underrated because these strategies are extremely similar but Jund, Golgari, and Abzan are often listed separately. This leads to many players individually underrating them and calling them “too fair”. The same could be said of UW Miracles and Jeskai Control. They require much skill to pilot but dedicated players consistently put up results with them. Tron, on the other hand, is one of a kind, easy to play, and wins decisively. It is a pillar of the format but has received little attention since the printing of Wet Ball. However, it is still a top performer and a great pick right now.
A small step behind this we see Dredge, Burn, Shadow, and Affinity. Dredge and Burn are great decks but they are in a somewhat awkward position right now as they are suppressed by the presence of Phoenix. It is not that they have a poor Phoenix matchup. It is that, as stated in the previous snapshot, Phoenix hybridizes their strategies and incentivizes players to run hate that incidentally hits each. Shadow and Affinity are also doing very well despite not being the titans that they once were. The final two recognized archetypes are the Blue-White Tribal decks. Humans and Spirits are similar but ebb and flow past one another based on whether the format rewards aggression or disruption, respectively. These decks may not be in the Top 4 at the moment but Modern is pretty wide open. Yes, Phoenix is the best performing deck by a significant margin. However, that does not mean it wins every tournament and you could do very well with any of the listed archetypes.

Top 10 Mainboard Cards
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From last month we saw Phoenix decks continue to take up more of the metagame so, unsurprisingly, the cards from the deck are on top as well. Lightning Bolt is always the most played spell in Modern but seeing seven of the top ten cards being Phoenix cards is pretty shocking. Stirrings, Push, and Path are the key reasons to play non-Phoenix decks so they fight their way in as well. The main thing to keep in mind is that these decks earn these spots by seeing play in a large percentage of decks. However, the average number of copies played is also relevant. Arclight Phoenix making the top ten is pretty outrageous. There is only one deck that wants this card. But that deck wants four copies and that deck is doing so well that it forces Phoenix into the top ten singlehandedly. Quite the anomaly.

Top 10 Sideboard Cards
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With Phoenix on top we continue to see graveyard hate outpace artifact hate. Three of the top five cards are dedicated to hating out grave-based strategies. I am very surprised to see Stony Silence did not even make the Top 10 for the period despite being a key draw to white decks for years. Instead the focus is on Shatter effects such as Ancient Grudge and Abrade. Nature’s Claim always sticks around as the best way to hate out hate cards and Sphere is a versatile hate piece for most any deck. Dispel managed to get Blue into the top ten for the period after it did not appear previously. I do not think that this is an indicator of Blue sideboard cards being weak. They simply have very similar effects so they reduce one another’s dominance ratings; think Dispel, Spell Pierce, and Negate. The grave hate and exile effects seem aimed directly at Phoenix; these pilots wanted to kill it and have it stay dead.

Modern may be a bit stale under Phoenix’s reign but we have seen much worse in the past. It is a bit of a lame duck format right now but there is much change rolling down the line to keep things fresh. Again, I find it most interesting to look at this data and compare it to what we saw last month. So what would you bring to your next Modern tournament? We would love to talk it over in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow to hopefully break down the results of GP Calgary. Until then my friends.

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