The promised day, well actually weekend, finally came to pass. It feels like ages ago that we first heard of the London mulligan and the Mythic Championship for which it was named. There was talk that Tron, Dredge, and various degenerate combo decks would rule the weekend. As we will see though, London Modern looks very much like what came before. Today our dataset rips the Limited portion of the tournament out of the equation. As decided by our discussion group, today’s dataset comprises all decks that earned a 7-3 record or better in Modern Swiss; higher than the average winrate of any archetype. This leaves us with more than 70 decklists to study and our recognized archetype cutoff is 5%. This is likely the richest dataset we will see all year. All decklists have been made available here.
Oh the Humanity
It finally officially ladies and gentleman. Elvis has just left the building. Our first Event Spotlight was immediately after Guilds of Ravnica and directly before the banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks. There, at GP Oakland, Izzet Phoenix began its reign atop the Modern format. From there it was the top deck at another six Grands Prix straight, every SCG Open in between, and at SCG Regionals. It took four long months but we have finally forced the Phoenix to land. This past weekend, on the biggest stage in Magic, Humans surpassed Izzet Phoenix as the top deck. If you scroll through the Event Spotlight archive, you can track Humans trending upwards as the weeks went on. It began the year as “old news” and “worse than Spirits” but fought back to the top. Not only was it the top deck in our dataset, it comprised three of the Top 8 spots; though that ranking takes Limited performance into account. Some have said that players being presented with one another’s decklists granted Humans an advantage through Meddling Mage but I do not believe that the effect was dramatic. A skilled Humans player generally knows what to name based on the opponents Turn 1 land drop and will not be naming spicy one ofs that probably are not in hand. Either way Humans is the deck to beat going forward.
Nipping at its heels was the persistent Izzet Phoenix. It is still an amazing deck and performed very well on the weekend. A popular opinion going into the tournament was that a London mull fueled Tron with Relic of Progenitus would suppress Phoenix. However, looking through the lists it appears quite the opposite as both Alpine Moon and Blood Moon were popular among the Phoenix players. As always, keep an eye on this one. Moreover, quit sleeping on UWx Control decks. The archetype is a consistent contender but often gets a lot of flak in the community. We have seen renewed interest in Esper builds as of late. Two of the UWx pilots took a walk on the dark side but most opted for straight Azorious. It would be a grave mistake to call either archetype dead.
Just below them we had the artifact decks in Affinity and Tron. Affinity is starting to pick up steam after falling out of favor earlier this year after the Hardened Scales builds lost their new robot smell. Among them just one went with the more tradition build, adding Experimental Frenzy, but he was the highest placing when the dust settled. Tron was at the same level and unsurprisingly they were unanimously green. What is unexpected is the modest success they had. It is a touch better than they have done recently but where is the destroyed format? Where is the Turn 3 Tron every game? Well if you followed our initial calculations from two months ago, it should not be all that surprising. It helps all decks, Tron more than others, but the impact is far lesser than you would think.
The final two decks to come in above our 5% threshold were Dredge and Eldrazi. Dredge was the other deck expected to ruin Modern under the London mulligan but this just did not come to pass. The logic was that Dredge operates more effectively post-mulligan than any other deck on average. However, you must keep in mind that non-Dredge decks are now able to operate much more effectively post-mulligan than they would have been able to under Vancouver rules. You could argue that one of Dredge’s unique attributes was granted to all other decks. Outside of this, you can read about our Dredge calculations as well if you fancy. It is still a great deck but the format appears to be in balance. It does appear that the Eldrazi decks gained quite a bit from the London rules though as they are able to effectively utilize Serum Powder and Gemstone Caverns. It does not appear to have made them too powerful. It just allows them to compete with the other top decks. Something they have struggled to do for quite some time; they had never been a recognized archetype in one of our Event Spotlights. The builds were quite varied with colorless, red, and even white breaking through. All are very playable decks and did well over the weekend.
Now we come to the other successful decklists from the weekend. These may have been filed under other but keep in mind that they all earned 70% winrates or greater at the absolute highest level of competition. The best among them were BGx Midrange and Whir Prison at three pilots each. Among the BGx players there were two on Golgari and one brave soul on Jund. BGx has been a steady performer but we have not seen Whir Prison much as of late. Some time ago I tabbed it as a potential Phoenix killer but it did not live up to the hype. Clearly it is still very viable. A small step behind it we saw Ad Nauseam and Burn with two pilots a piece. The trajectory of these decks has been quite similar this year. They breakout big at a specific Grand Prix and totally disappear in time for the next one. It will be interesting to monitor their staying power this time around. Finally we come to the rogue decks with just one brave pilot bringing the strategy past our benchmark:
I must admit that I am shocked to see Grixis Shadow down here. If it did not appear as a rogue deck, I would not have even noticed its absence. It is that ubiquitous in recent tournament results. I was surprised to see Amulet Titan down here as well and initially chalked it up to few people playing it; a mistake on my part as people use the reverse excuse for Phoenix’s dominance. The winrates for all archetypes were shown on stream and both of these decks came in at a very poor 45%. I find this surprising and will be keeping an eye on it for our next Event Spotlight. Outside of that, the only surprise is Cheerios. For those unfamiliar, it is Storm’s underplayed little brother. Storm typically outperforms it because the cost reducers being removed just pushes them to play a longer, value game. Cheerios is more linear and typically cannot win without one of the white creatures in play. Perhaps the London mull has helped them to mulligan into those creatures more consistently? I think this is a flash in the pan but you never know.
I could not be more pleased with the results of Mythic Championship London. Phoenix has fallen in line and the London mulligan was a success. As long as Modern Horizons is not too wild, the second half of the year should be a fun ride. Have the results shifted any opinions on the London mulligan? Do you think the pros just failed to break it? Let’s talk it over in the 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 with a closer look at the Top 8 decklists. Until then my friends.