Ambiguous Futures: Five Decks in Light of the August B&R Update

Yesterday brought what was arguably the most shocking Modern ban update of all time. In the hours after the update we presented, based on data from Tobi Henke, what we considered to be the biggest winners and losers from the ban update. Despite the data available, the futures of some decks are quite difficult to predict. Today we will look at five more and present the pros and cons of these decks going forward.

Thopter Sword
I do believe that Thopter Sword may be the best deck in the format now. It has many lines of play, a nut draw, and powerful disruption. The build has not been perfected yet but it was already landing Top 8 finishes at Grands Prix. At the Mythic Championship its winrate was less than 1% behind that of Hogvine; 3% ahead of the rest of the pack. It also has a 57.7% MWP against UW Control; the deck that is seemingly on top. It may even adopt SFM as an alternate wincon that can find Sword of the Meek for the combo when need be. It even had a positive Hogvine matchup; though that is no longer relevant.

In fact, it had positive matchups against every deck that we listed as a “loser” yesterday. That may be its downfall though. Was Thopter Sword’s success a result of the metagame bubble that just popped? You could argue that it succeeded in part because of the focus on graveyard hate over artifact hate. This hate does prevent the Thopter combo win but artifact hate is much better at beating the deck itself. While the deck may do well against UW Control, it goes nearly even against Jund, and has an awful 30.4% MWP against Tron. It is a great deck but the metagame conditions are extremely relevant here.

Devoted Vizier
This is a personal favorite but one with merit. Devoted Druid decks in my opinion are the most underrated in the format today. Historically, it was never beyond Tier 2 but 2019 has been extremely kind to the deck. The London mulligan favors A+B combo decks. Giver of Runes is the ideal one drop to protect the combo. Most importantly, Eladamri’s Call is nearly Demonic Tutor for this deck. The deck has gained much and just recently missed Top 8 again at GP Birmingham. It has Turn 3 wins, exceptional consistency, and a fair amount of resiliency. It even has access to StoneSkull for grindy and/or aggressive matchups.

The sample size for the deck’s matchups is somewhat small and builds vary wildly so we cannot rely too heavily on the conclusions. It goes even against Tron and is quite favored against UW Control decks; nearly ignoring Stone-Skull. It also is very happy to see Phoenix gone; the matchup against both builds was around a 30% MWP. However, the Jund matchup is equally abysmal and that deck is not going anywhere. This deck also had one of the best Hogvine matchups in the format, so it will be missed. This deck continues to have a big question mark looming over it.

Eldrazi Tron
Eldrazi Tron is such an odd case going forward. The deck largely rose on the back of Chalice of the Void‘s efficacy in the format. It was effective against Hogvine until they began running Force of Vigor but it stayed effective against both Phoenix builds. Some are calling this deck dead as these matchups are all gone. Admittedly, the Phoenix matchup will be missed but the Hogvine matchup was actually a 41.1% MWP. At first glance, it seems that Chalice will no longer be good so Eldrazi Tron will no longer be good.

On the other hand, the deck is still plenty powerful in the games it does not draw Chalice. There are positive matchups in which Chalice is underwhelming. Thanks to Karn the Great Creator, the days of this deck being a one-trick pony are far behind it. In fact, it goes positive against every deck we listed as a winner in yesterday’s article:
Against Jund- 67.0% MWP
Against UW Control- 57.3% MWP
Against Tron- 54.9% MWP

So Chalice may have lost stock in the format but the metagame conditions seem to benefit the actual archetype. Especially if the next deck on our list sees widespread play. That being said, the format is a lot wider than just these decks and until things shake out we cannot be certain.

Burn’s standing in the format may be questionable but if the metagame develops in the way we predicted yesterday, Burn may be among the format’s best decks. It struggled against Hogvine but performed well against Phoenix decks. That mixed bag has now been thrown out the window. If Chalice’s weakness causes an Eldrazi Tron dropoff, Burn will be happy to kiss that 38.5% MWP goodbye. The most important part is that, like Eldrazi Tron, Burn is favored against all of our predicted winners:
Against Jund- 68.9% MWP
Against UW Control- 53.6% MWP
Against Tron- 56.1% MWP

The largest barrier to the deck’s success now will be Stone-Skull. A 4/4 vigilance, lifelink creature is a nightmare for the archetype. When it swings, it deletes a Bolt and a ping. When it blocks, it deletes two Bolts. Thanks to the vigilance it can do both in a single turn rotation. Skullcrack exists but it will only stop one of those lifegain events. The best option is to Bolt the SFM but taking your winning burn spells and aiming them at creatures against a control deck is not where you want to be. Searing Blaze typically comes out against control as well due to lack of targets and I’m not sure it is reasonable to leave it in now. It will be heavily played in the coming weeks/months and that calls Burn’s potential into question.

The final deck on my mind is the one that never strays far from it. Where does Humans go from here? It had favorable matchups against Hogaak and both Phoenix decks; something it will no longer enjoy. On top of that, it has iffy matchups against yesterday’s three winners:
Against Jund- 28.6% MWP
Against UW Control- 51.7% MWP
Against Tron- 45.5% MWP

That abysmal Jund matchup is a huge red flag and although Humans was favored against UW Control, it may not be anymore. Stone-Skull as already explained above is the bane of aggressive creature decks. But between Reflector Mage, Deputy of Detention, and Dismember the deck is very capable of answering it. Even Kitesail Freebooter can be Vial‘d in responding to an SFM activation to nab the Batterskull.

Outside of these matchups matchups though, Humans is not looking too bad. In fact, the two decks listed immediately above it are quite positive; 57.5% MWP against Eldrazi and 60.9% MWP against Burn. No matter which one of those decks rises to beat the slowed down format, Humans will be happy to face them. What is more important though, at least in my opinion, is the intrinsic qualities of the deck. It seems that this deck can adapt because the core gameplan is so fundamentally powerful. You supplement it with a few creatures that help a little, often times you double them with Image, and then your opponent just dies. For example, finding room in the 75 for some combination of Buglers, Necromancers, and Kambals swings the Jund matchup significantly. So I personally still believe in the deck but I cannot deny that this ban update appears to be a negative for the archetype.

Metagame prediction is never easy. Throw in two bans with an unban and things really start to become complicated. Regardless of whether the decks in today’s article rise or fall, they are certainly not dead. Like many of you, in these uncertain times I will stick to what I know. But I would be lying if I said I did not feel the brewer’s itch. What do you think is the best deck in the new Modern format? What will you be carrying into battle to bring it down? Tell us 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 with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

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