I am always excited to view the results of Japanese events. Japanese players appear to be more innovative with their deck choices so there are always surprises in the Top 32. This time it was in Yokohama and it did not disappoint. Today we will break down the Top 32 decklists and sort out where the format is headed before War of the Spark is legal. All decklists are available here.
Soaring Over the Competition
I I have to continue to use this heading because Phoenix has been the most represented archetype at seven straight Modern Grands Prix; every one at which it has been legal. At least last time Humans tied with it. The deck is extremely good and I would argue that it is the best in the format. The format has adapted but the changes we, as a community, have made cannot force the Phoenix to land. The most persistent arguments against the deck’s status is that “it only does well because everyone is playing it” and “it does not have the best win rate”. First of all, high-level grinders and professional players do not just choose decks based on other player’s results. They test many decks between events and usually opt for the one that they have the most success with. Everyone is playing it because it is very good. As far as winrates go, you must also look at sample sizes. You will notice that because “everyone is playing it”, Phoenix has an abnormally large sample size. In statistics a larger sample size provides greater accuracy. In the recent win rate studies, Phoenix has had a greater sample size than any other two decks combined. Despite this, it is still among the best winrates. When looking at the most recent of these studies, you will see that the only decks ahead of Phoenix had less than a third of its sample size. I will defer to Tobi and agree that “we certainly can’t turn the page on Izzet Phoenix. The deck still won 55% of its 1,406 non-mirror matches in Bilbao. An actual 50% deck wins this much or more with a probability of only 0.007%”. This comes after months of us adapting to beat it. The deck is absurdly good. I am not calling for a ban though. I do not play the deck but I do enjoy it. I would hate to see it banned right before the London mulligan and Modern Horizons change everything we know about the format. Furthermore, only one Phoenix pilot made it into Top 8. Admittedly, that is a very small data point and the Top 32 is more relevant, but it does matter.
Unsurprisingly, Humans was just behind Phoenix among Top 32 placements. It was on top in 2018 but fell off when Spirits rose to the top. However, a much better Phoenix matchup has swung things back in Humans’ favor. It is worth noting though that it missed out on the Top 8 entirely. On the flipside, you would assume that these are pretty medium results for Dredge. However, every Dredge player in our sample made it into the Top 8. It was the only archetype that put more than one player into the Top 8. Japan has a reputation for great Dredge players but this is still very surprising considering its placement at other recent events. Between the two we saw Burn which was also a bit of a surprise. I have also been told that Burn is quite popular in Japan and it appears that this affinity had a part to play in its apparent resurgence. Regardless, they would not just play a deck because they love it. These decks have solid Phoenix matchups and the decklists appear well-tuned for the matchup.
The final recognized archetypes were Affinity, GBx Midrange, and Bogles. The Affinity players were split between the two builds with the Hardened Scales variant ending up in the Top 8. As has been the norm for some time now, GBx Midrange was the straight Golgari build; one of them made it into the Top 8. Finally we had the Bogles players. This deck has made a bit of a comeback in the past month and will continue to perform due to the relative lack of combo decks. This was an unusual tournament throughout as the rogue decks deserve special attention. They may have been flying solo within the Top 32 but Spirits pulled off its first Top 8 finish in months. Also the only UWx Control deck among the Top 32 was a planeswalker heavy Esper Miracles and it ended up in the Top 8. There were many other rogue decks outside of the Top 32 though including Grixis Shadow, Tron, 8 Rack, Eldrazi Taxes, Whir Prison, and Grishoalbrand. I do always enjoy going over the results of Japanese events as the players seem much more willing to go off the beaten path. Again, all decklists are available here.
A few members of our reading audience requested that we cover the Legacy Grand Prix in Niagra Falls as well. While Legacy content is a bit niche we would have obliged. Unfortunately, CFB has not made the Top 32 available for analysis. You can view the Top 8 decklists here though.
Again, I am not calling for a Phoenix ban. However, it is very clear from the data that Phoenix has been more dominant throughout the quarter than Humans in 2018 or Shadow in 2017. It is an unprecedented hot streak; Eye of Ugin Eldrazi was much more powerful but that lead to a quick ban. Regardless, Phoenix was not that far ahead of the other decks this time around so I think the format is just fine. A tad stale but more than playable. I do wish that we could have at least provided you with a chart for the Legacy Top 32 but it was not meant to be. Did anything stick out to you among the Legacy Top 8? Are there any War of the Spark cards that you expect to see in Modern? We would love to hear about it 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 break down the Top 8 tech of Yokohama. Until then my friends.