Unified Modern Analysis (Part 1)

by Zen Takahashi on 19 December 2016, Monday

Zen Takahashi


Unified Modern Analysis (Part 1)

Hello everybody!


Over the next series of articles, I will be going through Team New Zealand’s preparation for Unified Modern at the World Magic Cup. I will initially be going over our analysis to determine the expected metagame, followed by our deck selection process, and how we came to our final deck choices.



Prioritizing Unified Modern for the World Magic Cup

From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to put a lot of emphasis into preparing for Unified Modern. Due to the restructuring of the event this year, Team Sealed was going to be significantly less relevant than it had been in prior years, as it was only to be played on Day 1. The cut to Top 48 also meant that you could make Day 2 even with a poor Team Sealed record.

Moreover we felt like we were already well prepared for Team Sealed, as we had three strong limited players on the team (Calum Gittins, Jason Chung and myself), in addition to Jason and I already having practiced a lot of Kaladesh limited for the prior Pro Tour.

On the other hand, Unified Modern was going to be played for up to 11 rounds between the two days, followed by Top 8 if we made it that far. Since the format had never been played at the premier level, we believed we could get an edge by accurately figuring out the metagame and the common patterns we expected to see in other teams’ configurations.


Finding the Overlaps

Our prominent task was to try figure out the overlapping cards between all the archetypes. Since there are a lot of different archetypes in Modern, and we wouldn’t have time for them all, we decided to do all the archetypes that were 2% or more of the metagame in the past two months at the time, based on the data from MTGTop8.com.

The following were all the overlaps we found:

Please click image for full view.

Some Notes About The Chart

  • The decks are in order of their percentage share in the metagame.
  • The dark red symbolises that those two archetypes overlap in key cards so will not work together e.g. Burn and Jund both need Lightning Bolt
  • The yellow symbolises that the two archetypes overlap in cards, but they are not crucial in either one and/or both of them, which means you can compromise to play both those decks e.g. Infect needs Noble Hierarch, but Abzan can replace it with Elves of the Deep Shadow or Birds of Paradise.



The Pillars of the Format

Our next step was to then try figure out what the various “pillars” of the format were. These were the key cards/combinations of cards that were commonly overlapped between all the archetypes. These pillars would determine what decks could be played/couldn’t be played together, and therefore would help us determine what configurations can work.

Based on the spreadsheet we created, these were the key pillars we found:


Stomping Ground Lightning Bolt

Stomping Ground/Lightning Bolt

Noble Hierarch Breeding Pool

Noble Hierarch/Breeding Pool:

  • Bant Eldrazi
  • Infect
  • Melira Company
  • White-Green Hatebears



  • Jund
  • Suicide Zoo
  • Melira Company
  • Abzan
  • Grixis Delver

Path to Exile

Path to Exile:

  • Bant Eldrazi
  • Suicide Zoo
  • Burn
  • Melira Company
  • Abzan
  • White-Green Hatebears
  • Jeskai Nahiri
  • White-Blue Control
  • Jeskai Pyromancer Ascension

Inkmoth Nexus

Inkmoth Nexus:

  • Affinity
  • Infect

Decks that don’t overlap at all on key cards:

  • Merfolk
  • Dredge
  • Tron
  • Ad Nauseum


Initial Thoughts


After we compiled this data together, we decided to analyse it all and came up with the following assumptions we believed would be the case for the World Magic Cup:


Golgari Grave-Troll Prized Amalgam Conflagrate

  • Dredge will be the most popular deck. The deck had been performing extremely well on Magic Online and doesn’t overlap on any key cards (the only exception being Faithless Looting with UWR Pyromancer Ascension, but that’s a very niche exception).

Glistener Elf Blighted Agent Inkmoth Nexus

  • Infect will also be very popular, due to its continued success in real-life events. Because of this, we expected Affinity won’t be that popular, and not nearly as popular as other teams probably believed it would be.
  • Burn, Suicide Zoo and Melira Company will all be less popular than usual as they take up too many key cards. However, Burn and Suicide Zoo will still be played as they’re both Tier 1 decks and certain teams will base their configurations around it if they have a good pilot for either decks. Melira Company on the other hand, will likely be non-existent as the deck has already fallen from grace since Dredge increased the amount of Grafdigger’s Cage being played.

Anafenza, the Foremost Grim Flayer Rest in Peace

Stomping Ground Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

  • Red-Green Valakut will be a popular deck. The main reason we believe the deck will be popular is because it’s very easy to pilot, so teams with inexperienced team members may want to put this in their line-up. The deck only needs Lightning Bolt and Stomping Ground, and can be played alongside Infect and Dredge. The deck is also well positioned as it has a favourable Dredge and Abzan matchup, while some of its unfavourable matchups such as Burn and Suicide Zoo will be less popular than usual.

Noble Hierarch

  • Similar to Affinity, we expected Bant Eldrazi wouldn’t be as popular as it normally is because it shares Noble Hierarch with Infect. However, playing Bant Eldrazi allows you to run Affinity and/or Jund alongside it, so we expected those pairs will often be played together.
  • Overall, the format is very open. Most decks only use cards from one or two pillars, which makes it easy to come up with a lot of different combinations. This is especially true because we expected Dredge and Infect will be the two most popular decks due to their dominance over the past months, but Dredge plays none of the key cards while Infect only plays Noble Hierarch and Inkmoth Nexus, which are two of the lesser played ones. This means you could run almost any configuration you wanted if you ran either of those decks.
  • Since the format can support a lot of different configurations, we decided that Tron, Merfolk and Ad Nauseum won’t be popular. None of these decks have been putting up results over the last couple of months, and the openness of the format meant you didn’t have to compromise with such decks to make your configuration work, especially when Dredge exists as that’s a Tier 1 deck that doesn’t need any key cards either.



I hope you enjoyed this article as I covered Team New Zealand’s initial metagame analysis for the World Magic Cup. Hopefully this gives you a clearer idea of the limitations and constraints that are unique to this format.

In my next article, I’ll be concluding on our metagame analysis,+ which will include discussing some of the newer decks, as well as the events leading up to the World Magic Cup, which all influenced our initial thoughts and therefore our final expected metagame. In addition, I’ll also be comparing our expected metagame against the what the actual metagame turned out to be to see how accurate we were!


Until next time!



Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter

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