February 2019 Modern Metagame Analysis

by Andreas Petersen on 25 February 2019, Monday

Andreas Petersen

Hey there fellow magicians and welcome back to another article from my hand. Today I'll go back to basics and take a look at the recent results of the Magic Online Mythic Championship Qualifier that took place February 16 in the Modern format. I have statistics, sweet tech and stand-out performers, so get ready!

Top 32 Breakdown: The Winner’s Metagame

The event had almost 300 players which was good enough for nine rounds of swiss, so I feel like looking at the top 32. Those are mostly players with 7-2 or better records, but it also includes eight 6-3 players with good tiebreakers. That seems to be relevant and significant enough to paint a picture of the Modern landscape of February 2019. Here are the decks that made up the top 32 spots of the event.

9 Dredge

4 Izzet Phoenix

3 Hardened Scales

3 BG(x) Midrange

2 Hollow One

2 Mono Red Phoenix

1 Mono Red Prison

1 Bant Spirits

1 Bant Company

1 Boros Burn

1 Grixis Shadow

1 Shadow Zoo

1 White-Black Eldrazi & Taxes

1 Colorless Eldrazi

1 Whir Prison

The Card Selection in the Room: Faithless Looting was really popular

Let me first address the elephant in the room. As you can see, more than half of the above decks run Faithless Looting. And in each case it is used as a facilitator of broken things. The one exception is the singleton copy in Grixis Death’s Shadow, that’s used to filter lands into spells in the mid and late game. I don't mind the card in fair decks like Mardu Midrange or Death's Shadow variants where it’s mostly an additional card filtering spell. But once the graveyard is in the picture, things can get out of hand quickly whether it's hasty phoenixes, zero mana 4/4's or 20 cards in the graveyard by turn two out of Dredge. If Faithless Looting continues to be the most played card in Modern over the next month or two, I expect Wizards of the Coast to get rid of it.

Speaking of Faithless Looting, Dredge was more than 25% of the winner's metagame this tournament, which is extremely high for any Modern deck. I would not be surprised if the metagame adapts with more graveyard hate in the sideboard and possibly a bunch of Blue-White Control with maindeck Rest in Peace like we saw a few months back.

The Prison Deck Strikes Back

It is fairly cemented by now that Faithless Looting and Ancient Stirrings are two of the most powerful things you can do in Modern these days. While one might argue that these two culprits don't do anything powerful by themselves, they provide the consistency and explosiveness that their respective decks need in order to win. Their mutual converted mana cost of 1 is where Chalice of the Void comes in. Players already started to explore new options to prey on a metagame that’s dominated by 1-cost spells. Let's have a look at this sweet Mono-Red Prison deck that made top 8:

As in Legacy, this deck is built on the premise that Chalice of the Void and Blood Moon can win games by themselves. In the Legacy version, there's access to Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors to support the Simian Spirit Guides to produce these hateful permanents early enough to matter. In Modern however, we can't have that sort of luxury. Instead, they decided that the two-mana rituals could do a reasonable impression.

Ensnaring Bridge provides the third lockdown option as some decks are simply unable to beat the combo of a Bridge and an empty hand.

The Prison Guards

After the opposition's one-drops and/or manabase are locked up, Mono-Red Prison plans to win the game with the dynamic duo of Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss which both fit the bill of a cheap casting cost and the ability to finish the game quickly.

They also found spots for some 4-drops that can apply additional pressure or finish the game with Ensnaring Bridge on the battlefield. These chosen ones are Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Hazoret the Fervent, and Pia and Kiran Nalaar. Chandra is the 4-drop of choice thanks to her versatility between card advantage, removal and clock while the others have their strenghts against different parts of the metagame.

I also like how they got creative with the manabase and figured that they would rarely take any damage from Ramunap Ruins, but there might be some "free" damage in the late game to gain from playing the card. Gemstone Caverns makes it more bearable to lose the die roll and will add more consistency to the plan of "you get to play a single one-drop and not more after that", also known as Chalice of the Void.

The sideboard looks like an assorted bag of candy aside from the playset of Leyline of the Void and three copies of Anger of the Gods. Those cards suggest that they felt unfavored against Dredge and wanted some additional tools to make sure they wouldn't get run over by other aggressive decks. Looking at the above metagame, those seven slots were spot on. Time will tell if this deck will be a mainstay in the metagame or if it was only a good choice for this particular weekend.

Modern is as interesting as ever, but don’t forget to pack your graveyard hate

I could've easily talked about the old school Death's Shadow Zoo that won the event without any graveyard hate in their 75 or the lack of Burn and Amulet in the top 32. I also think it’s exciting to have a tier one strategy with a manabase that consists of 18 Mountains and it’s interesting that Spirits and Humans seem outmatched right now, but I will save that for another day. My point is that, despite the unhealthy metagame on the surface, there are plenty interesting things to pick from when we look closer at a tournament like this one. Choosing the right deck and building the correct sideboard has never been more important in Modern.

If you play any Modern events before I see you again, remember to pack your Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, Grafdigger's Cage, Tormod's Crypt, Nihil Spellbomb, Relic of Progenitus, Scavenging Ooze, Remorseful Clerics or whatever the preferred graveyard hate card for your specific deck is.

This article was written by Andreas Petersen in a media collaboration with Snapcardster.com.

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