Bonde’s Modern Picks for Grand Prix Bilbao

by Michael Bonde on 15 March 2019, Friday

Michael Bonde

Living the Grand Prix and Mythic Championship Grind is a real thing. Not many days after I got home from Mythic Championship Cleveland, my preparation for the next big event started. MagicFest Bilbao is on the horizon and with the next Mythic Championship featuring the Modern format with no new cards added, there are no diminishing returns in the preparation for this event – saddle up!

 My experience with the format so far

 I am not a newcomer to the Modern scene, and I follow it closely. Primarily in my endeavors to grind points for all the format challenges, but I also enjoy to occasionally play some leagues with a random deck from my collection.

 Fun or not, the Modern format has a polarized fan base – it’s all love or all hate. I myself was a bit concerned regarding major tournaments with the format. But with more than 500 games under my belt on MTGO, at GPs and the Pro Tour, I think the format deserves way more credit than it gets.

 An MPL player who has addressed his concerns about the Modern format is Andrea Mengucci from Italy. But his latest tweet had somewhat of a different tone than usual to it:

 One could imagine that having gotten to play with a deck that felt great, and being able to leverage his skill, could have changed his mind – we might never know.

 Skill Gets Rewarded

 One thing that is important though, is deciding which deck to play and why. The format has a somewhat steep entry cost, and a lot of the expensive cards don’t overlap. However, being a Modern Master is not only knowing the metagame, and acting accordingly, it is also a lot about knowing what you do in almost every situation. In what is probably Magic’s fastest format, there are some key determinants for a win or loss: Know what your role is, what to look out for, what to expect and what play is necessary in the specific situation.

 Let me give you an example.

 Choosing Your Role

 When you play Affinity, you mulligan quite badly. After all, you need to accumulate a board presence early, before a lot of hate cards will hit the battlefield from our opponents side. This makes for really tough decisions with a lot of opening hands, since you need to figure out how fast it is against the field. Against a random opponent, this can be put into a matrix and with enough entries, you will have a systematic understanding of mulligan decisions. This then gets lifted when you need to figure out the same thing for the twenty or so top-tier decks and the potential sideboard cards that are in the metagame. This is almost impossible data to collect let alone trying to remember it. But the more hours you played with the deck, the more you will understand these roles and the calls for keep and mull will become more intuitive for you.

 Then, when you play Jund or other BGx decks, the early turns are important in a completely different way. These decks work around some strong creatures and a lot of discard and removal. Those discard spells are essential in understanding what to do in the different matchups.

 Without a way to manipulate your deck, Jund needs to figure out how to attack the opponent not only with the cards in hand, but also with potential draws in the future. All of this information is deciphered when you get to see your opponent’s hand, which is quite opposite to how Affinity works.

 This is only two decks, but for every deck, there is a different way of building a game plan. However, what’s the same is the importance of knowing your deck in and out. That way you can take an according role in any given situation.

 Change On the Horizon

 That said, the metagame can change with new cards getting banned or added to the format. And if you can’t make your deck of choice work in the new metagame, you will need to adapt with a new deck. Otherwise you have to accept that you lose equity if you stick to your old deck.

 The reason I’m writing this, is that this is the current situation of the Modern format. Not only was Krark-Clan Ironworks recently banned, but people have become better at figuring out how far they can go. Look at all the decks built around the new kid on the block, Arclight Phoenix. Exactly this is why I deem it important to continuously stay attuned with the Modern format. Going into GP Bilbao I’ll know that Modern is a bit different than what we were used to.

 My Top 3 Modern Picks

 This leads me to my initial premise for this article. I want to show three decks that are extremely potent, two of which are still slightly under the radar. And they all are firmly in the category of broken strategies.

 I’m convinced that mastering one of these decks going into GP Bilbao will definitely up your chances of winning the tournament and taking home the trophy. To this end I bought two of the decks on MTGO so I could get roughly 50 games under my belt before I decide which I want to compete with. One thing is certain however: I am going to play one of the three decks.

 Arclight Phoenix: The elephant (chicken) in the room

4 Arclight Phoenix

2 Crackling Drake

2 Pteramander

4 Thing in the Ice

1 Chart a Course

4 Faithless Looting

4 Opt

2 Gut Shot

2 Lightning Axe

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Manamorphose

4 Serum Visions

1 Surgical Extraction

4 Thought Scour

3 Island

2 Mountain

2 Polluted Delta

4 Scalding Tarn

4 Spirebluff Canal

3 Steam Vents


2 Surgical Extraction

1 Spell Pierce

1 Shattering Spree

1 Rending Volley

2 Dragon's Claw

2 Dispel

1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

2 Blood Moon

1 Anger of the Gods

2 Abrade

After the banning of KCI, this deck has been on everyone’s lips. Not only is it resilient, it is also extremely fast, to a point where some openers make it unable to lose. On average, it’s too fast, if the opponent missteps just slightly. The core of the deck are its cheap cantrips that fulfill two bonus roles, next to card selection. On the one hand, the let you fight with ground creatures thanks to Thing in the Ice. On the other hand, they let you put an absurd amount of power on the board in conjunction with Manamorphose, Faithless Looting and Arclight Phoenix. I think the attendance numbers for this deck will be like GP Los Angeles.

 So be prepared to beat them or join them if you want to compete for the golden ticket. My approach to dealing with this deck has been to play KCI or faster decks. But since the bannings, I had a large amount of respect for both Dredge and Phoenix, so that I played four cards that target the graveyard. And I would go to lengths to find some overlapping cards for other matchups that could help, since I see this as the best deck in the format.

 Whir Prison: Lantern Control 2.0

 1 Bottled Cloister

4 Chalice of the Void

1 Crucible of Worlds

1 Damping Sphere

3 Engineered Explosives

4 Ensnaring Bridge

4 Mishra's Bauble

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

2 Sorcerous Spyglass

1 Tormod's Crypt

4 Welding Jar

1 Witchbane Orb

4 Whir of Invention

4 Mox Opal

4 Ancient Stirrings

1 Island

4 Botanical Sanctum

4 Glimmervoid

1 Ipnu Rivulet

4 Spire of Industry

1 Tectonic Edge

4 Tolaria West

1 Academy Ruins

1 Inventors' Fair


1 Grafdigger's Cage

2 Sorcerous Spyglass

1 Sun Droplet

1 Torpor Orb

4 Spellskite

1 Ghirapur Aether Grid

2 Sai, Master Thopterist

1 Tezzeret the Seeker

2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

Those of you who haven’t been playing lately probably haven’t seen these new iterations of the good ol’ fan favorite Lantern Control. They have become even more toolbox oriented and run all sorts of different win conditions. This version wins with either Pyrite Spellbomb or Ipnu Rivulet, whereas others win with the Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek combo. Between this and the ongoing popularity of Hardened Scales, I would fit in some artifact hate cards alongside the graveyard hate cards that I mentioned above.

 Amulet Titan

1 Walking Ballista

4 Primeval Titan

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

2 Trinket Mage

4 Azusa, Lost but Seeking

4 Amulet of Vigor

3 Coalition Relic

1 Engineered Explosives

1 Pact of Negation

4 Summoner's Pact

4 Ancient Stirrings

4 Forest

1 Bojuka Bog

1 Boros Garrison

1 Cavern of Souls

1 Ghost Quarter

1 Kabira Crossroads

1 Khalni Garden

4 Selesnya Sanctuary

4 Simic Growth Chamber

1 Slayers' Stronghold

1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion

3 Tolaria West

1 Vesuva

4 Gemstone Caverns


2 Engineered Explosives

1 Chameleon Colossus

1 Hornet Queen

1 Obstinate Baloth

1 Reclamation Sage

2 Negate

4 Path to Exile

1 Spell Pierce

1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

1 Cavern of Souls

Last but not least, an old friend has returned from a time when summers were blooming (get it?) There were a lot of tier 2 builds for ages but mostly the deck didn’t rise to any meaningful success. But lately innovators like Edgar Magalhaes have started tuning the list again. They pushed the limits of speed, power and resilience to hate cards. This puts Amulet Titan back onto the map. The only meaningful card against it that is in current sideboards is Fulminator Mage from the BGx decks. There is the occasional Blood Moon, which is hard to beat for the deck, but overall this seems like a really skill testing and fun deck to try out.

 What to Expect

 Where I am standing right now, I am leaning more and more towards playing Amulet Titan to simply catch the Modern meta off-guard. The deck does come fresh off of a finals showing however. But given all the hype of Phoenix and Dredge at GP LA, and Amulet’s defeat in the end, I am under the impression that people simply disregard the deck.

 My advice for MagicFest Bilbao:

 Be prepared for graveyard decks and respect the top 2 in that category: Phoenix and Dredge.

 Play a deck that you know well enough to know our role against the different decks and minimize your own mistakes in game.

 Take a quick look at the recent lists posted online, to see the “newest” lists from the grinders and check out what they have in their sideboard. People that play in their LGS can sometimes build to beat a specific local meta, and that could give you a bad start to a GP.

 Have fun!

 Thank you all for reading, I hope to see many of you at MagicFest Bilbao – if you see me, come say hi!

 Michael Bonde

 This article was written by Michael Bonde in a media collaboration with

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