R Koster's picture
By: R Koster, Rob Koster
Sep 20 2019 12:00pm

Modern is a format where people's perception of the format varies significantly upon the environment they play in. Be it kitchen table, FNM or something like an Open or a Magicfest or even the Mythic Championship. These events and groups of people use the same banned list but play a very different game, and I feel like it is one of the reasons for the big divide in the perception of the format by many. 

I personally divide it into Kitchen table Modern and Competitive Modern. Today I'll talk about Kitchen table Modern.


Kitchen table Modern.

This is a format where people play whatever they like and how they like it. It is a way of playing the format for fun and without all the all too serious decks. This is the biggest group of players, and it has a lot of differences compared to the Competitive Modern.


What are you talking about?

It's filled with people who want the most interesting and exciting games. No matter the result, their main goal is fun. They want to play the style of deck they enjoy and will stick to it for years. They love games to be interesting, and a boring game is a lost cause for them. It doesn't matter if they are unfavored against all the 'real' decks. It's all about getting that insane play or that beautiful combo to work as they dreamed it up. People who play these kinds of decks don't like the 'real' decks in the format very much because they are just too linear, to consistent and too dull to them. It's always the same game with those decks, and it becomes a chore to them. Instead, they want to have a Sliver mirror or a Zubera combo tribal. They want their (Enduring Ideals) to fetch up that sweet, sweet Form of the Dragon and be the dragon that annihilates his opponent with raging fire while laughing at them from the sky. They want to mill themselves out with a Mirror of Fate, only to then uptick their Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. They want to kill their opponents with something sweet, something new and enticing and something that usually makes both players think they had a ton of fun.


The other thing they truly enjoy is to make an actual game out of it. They like living on 1 life against the burn player for two or three turns. Not because it was cool that they played against Burn, but because it became more than a simple 3x7= 21. But because it gave them a rush and a good story about how they were in the game and it got really close, and they almost had it. They want Randy Buehler to announce it like it's the Lightning Helix of the top (Seriously, check out that clip. It's so awesome.) when they topdeck the final card while it's do or die and they draw the good one. The other 50 times they died to double Goblin Guide into a bunch of burn spells they feel like they wasted their time because it wasn't enjoyable.


These are the people that won't bring tier 1 decks to FNM and always win a few or lose a few depending on how the night goes. But it doesn't matter to them. There were drinks, there were close-calls, there were misplays but most important. It was a ton of fun. They can have fun with every caliber of player as long as whatever they are playing makes for fun games. A lot of their time is reminiscing about how Siege Rhino and Kitchen Finks used to be playable cards and how their Delver of Secrets will flip and be a great card! (It will not, you will be attacking on turn 12 with a 1/1 as you make your 12th land drop with 4 Fetchlands in play up to use the power of the Scry the Delver of Secrets provides as you think very unkind things about yourself and why you registered this deck as your opponent sends 60 power your way as they smile and tell you math is for blockers.)


Don't mistake all of this as me saying they are bad or unsuccessful players. When they want to, they can absolutely hang with the competitive crowd. Most of them have played their pet decks since the beginning of time and can pilot them with so much skill that they can give even seasoned Hall of Famers a run for their money at times. The Hall of Famer might be better in all other formats and matchups, but this is their turf, and they will school you about how it's done in their territory. Think about it, when you get paired against someone like Craig Wescoe, and he goes: Turn 1 Plains, random 2/1 Dorko Creature, Go. You might feel like you are ahead when you are playing the newest and techiest version of Tron or Dredge but you've got another thing coming because he probably has over 9000 games played with the deck that he tuned to a machine as deadly as Robocop or Terminator and knows everything about every matchup for the deck ever and could drill up a how-to-play or sideboard plan in a matter of mere seconds against even the most fringe of decks. Let's be honest, I wouldn't take the guy with the new tier 1 hotness over the guy that has been tuning his list like it's his last resort at survival any day.


Think about it. When I tried playing Blue Tron for a while, my thoughts were mostly. "This deck is a *notniceword* garbage pile that should be shot into the moon to never return to the earth. I had a ton of fun with the deck, but I can't pilot it, so I was off the deck after handing out free wins like candy.

When you start playing more Magic Online, you get familiar with people's usernames and the decks they play, so that when you find yourself playing in a fancy-pantsy real event and your opponent goes: Turn 1, Tronland. You think to yourself. Okay, good old-fashioned Tron. I know what's going to happen. I need to destroy their lands, make them not resolve Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger run them out of threats, and it'll be fine, and I can win. Game 2 I know that I have to bring in card Blabla and card More Blablaness. This is good. I know what I need to do here. You do your super-uper-duper-awesome turn 1 play that involves all the fancy goodness you know and love and pass the turn back. Your opponent draws their card and plays an Island. You laugh at them profoundly for the full-idiots that they are bringing such a garbage pile to a "Real" Event. (Nobody can hear the other side of the screen after all.) Then you think about it for a second. Why would they bring U-Tron? Did they lose a bet or something? Are they drunk, did they register the wrong deck? 

Then you look at the username, and all the smiles disappear as fast as if someone had taken your entire foil Modern collection that is worth more than your house and the neighbor's house combined and shoved it in the toilet, then did their toilet business on it and flushed. The name that usually says 'Weak-willed opponent that doesn't know what he's doing, and is keeping me from my winnings' shows a name you recognize from the 5-0's. He's been there every week. You drop your drink as you tremble in terror against what's going to happen to you. You shakily click random cards because you don't know your gameplan anymore and get outplayed, outsmarted and just flat out Murdered in the match after spending game 2 staring at your beautiful and fancy foil sideboard cards that apparently do nothing at all because of reasons unknown to yourself, they say they do relevant stuff but they don't, because who knows why, who knows his blue Tron matchup as good as he would want in a situation like that? After this match, you pull yourself away from the computer as you sit yourself down in a corner and tears start dropping from your eyes.


 That is what happens when you underestimate someone playing a "Garbagepile" in a high stakes event. So be warned, be very warned.


 Decks that fall under this category tend to vary wildly in power level and consistency. Some of them are very close to the actual tier 1 deck, these are usually the ones that do something original and cool with a known successful shell like Blue Tron (We all know Tron lands are busted after all.) Other's couldn't beat a draft deck if their life depended on it. ("If only it weren't for that one little card and if I would have topdecked the one-off in my deck that it needs to do basic Magicy things you better believe I would have lived the dream! All my Enduring Ideal would be Trampling over your stupid face right now!)


Sometimes their ideas work though, and you get very new tier 1 deck all of a sudden. Grixis Death's Shadow is a deck that was just a brainchild from a handful of people at first but only a while later had people clamoring for their most beloved hammer, the Banhammer.


The gap has widened on average in the last few years between these decks and the tier 1 decks though. As should be expected when more and more cards get added to a format the decks get better and more heavily tuned and not every deck receives a significant upgrade every set. These decks sometimes have years of drought while waiting for that one final card or significant upgrade they need to compete again while the other decks aren't going to wait for them and get stronger.


I mentioned another Modern as well, but I'll get to that in another article on another day. For now, I just wish you all the enjoyment you can get out of the format. No matter how you play it!