We finally got to see the impact of the London mulligan on the Modern format and the decklists did not disappoint. Today’s pieces of technology come from some of the brightest minds in Magic today. The Mythic Championship is the top of the mountain. These are the most interesting pieces of technology that the pros brought into battle to make Top 8 at MC London. If you are interested in the wider winner’s metagame take a look at yesterday’s entry. The full length Top 8 decklists are available here.
Tron: Picking Your Battles
The maindecks choices are extremely stock, as they should be for Tron. What is striking is just how different these players sideboards were. It is clear to see that Zhu had his sights set on the aggro decks and the combo decks. He has made room for the full set of Thragtusk in the 75, with one sneaking into the main, and five pieces of spot removal. I imagine this configuration made his Humans matchup extremely favorable. There were concerns of the London mull making linear combo decks too powerful and it appears that he tried to hedge against them with three Thought-Knot Seer. While this did not come to pass, it is a quality sideboard choice for the right metagame. Hane placed his focus almost entirely elsewhere when building his sideboard. It is clear that he was looking to shatter the mirror and disrupt graveyard strategies. The key to both of these goals was the three copies of Surgical Extraction. Postboard he has three copies of Ghost Quarter which, in conjunction with Surgical, will make it impossible for his opponents to assemble Tron. Though there is no synergy between the two, those Surgicals in combination with his three Relics will cripple graveyard strategies. The lesson to be learned from these players is knowing when to pick your battles. They each opted to focus on a a couple strategies and hoped to nut-draw the others. Clearly it is a reliable approach to Tron.
Affinity: Making What is Old New Again
I am very pleased to finally have an excuse to talk about Affinity with Experimental Frenzy. It may be a controversial opinion but I believe that with the printing of Frenzy, traditional Affinity has surpassed the Hardened Scales build. I believe that the archetype as a whole, both builds, is underrated. The traditional build was a pillar of the format for years but Hardened Scales was rapidly adopted last year because it was able to grind better. However, this did reduce the deck’s average clock and severely weakened the sideboard options. Now through Experimental Frenzy the traditional build can grind reliably. A four mana enchantment is surprisingly hard to interact with in Modern and it produces massive card advantage. Standard players are very aware of how effective it is in a twenty land deck with no free spells. Affinity has only seventeen lands and eight free spells to rip past. While going off, Opals net mana and Drums will usually functions as free rolls. So now the traditional build can fight more effectively through the long games while maintaining the killer sideboard. No other deck gets to run Thoughtseize, Grudge, RiP, and a better version of Path. If you have not seen this deck in action yet, you are missing out.
Titanshift: Brutalizing Big Mana
It is clear to see that Tron was public enemy number one going into this event. No where is this more clear than in Nguyen’s Titanshift list. It is typical for these lists to have a few flex slots in the ramp package; often being Explores and/or Expeditions. For this event though, he took a page out of the Ponza playbook and chose Mwonvuli-Acid Moss. This was a masterful deckbuilding decision as it functions as Turn 3 Tron hate while furthering his own gameplan. Note that the “Forest card” can be a Stomping Ground or Cinder Glade if necessary. To compliment this strategy he has access to two Damping Sphere postboard. Also note that he has access to a full set of Relics for the graveyard matchup. They may have played different archetypes but it appears that Nguyen and Hane, the Tron player, were very much on the same wavelength. I also cannot help but to compliment his Pact box spice; Dragonlord Atarka. I am still partial to Ruric Thar but how could I not appreciate a massive 8/8 dragon with a Fireball ETB ability? I am not sure for which matchups it comes in but it seems to have paid off. Regardless, beating up on big mana was the true key to victory.
Izzet Phoenix: Hating on the Hate
Javier’s Phoenix list was fairly typical for the archetype as of late. Among the maindeck we see the now-Standard Pyromancer Ascensions with the typical one ofs in Crackling Drake, Set Adrift, and Lightning Axe. I will not that Ascension does not appreciate singletons but you can still enable it consistently. The deck is literally one third cantrips so they do come across their on ofs more often than other decks. I am really glad that he has chosen a singleton Spell Pierce as well because I have the bad (amazing) habit of jamming a Pierce into every blue deck I play. It is a larger sign that he recognized the deck’s place in the format. While there is significant focus on Tron, Phoenix has been the deck to beat for all of 2019; causing a resurgence in hate cards such as Chalice of the Void. While he ran significant Tron hate, a greater focus was placed on anti-hate. For troublesome artifacts he has added two Ceremonious Rejection to compliment the stock Abrades. The bonus to these is that they make Welding Jar irrelevant and are also great against Eldrazi decks. When your deck has a huge target on it, it is often better to reinforce your own strategy than to disrupt the opponents’.
Humans: Bringing the Bugles to Battle
Finally we come to the breakout star of the event. You can see Humans climbing up the ranks from tournament to tournament by scrolling through the Event Spotlight archive. Here it finally came to surpass Phoenix and in doing so put three players into the Top 8. The most notable similarity among their lists was that they all played Militia Bugler. As you likely have noticed in my sideboard guides for the archetype, I feel that Bugler is the optimal flex slot for the deck. I often experiment with others but I always come back to it. He is a Human and his ability finds all but one creature in the deck. He brings card selection and advantage to a deck that does not have it. He is a vigilance attacker against aggro, a card advantage engine against control, and though combo is his weakness he still digs up hate against them. There are other quality options but he is never actually a poor choice. The other notable similarity in these lists is that they all run three copies of Deputy of Detention in their 75s. Initially I was concerned about his castability but his powerful effect has been worth the perceived inconsistency. Of course Damping Sphere was also quite popular as it has been for some weeks now. As far as notable spice among the decklists we see that BBD utilized a singleton Chalice in his championship run. Kvartek really wanted to hurt the graveyard decks so he mained an Anafenza, sided two Cages, and even had a one of Leyline of the Void. Loveman reached into the past of the archetype for single copies of Izzet Staticaster and Gaddock Teeg. I will test all of these configurations out for a possible May guide but the format is in such an uncertain place that I am not sure it would be valuable.
These ideas come from the highest level of competitive Magic so I highly recommend giving them a shot. Failing that, you have an idea of what pilots of these archetypes will be utilizing in the coming weeks. What was your favorite piece of technology in this entry? How do you think that the London mull and open decklists affected these builds? 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 with the May edition of the Modern Snapshot. Until then my friends.