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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Mar 11 2016 1:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Modern Musings! There were three Modern Grand Prix events over last weekend in Detroit, Bologna and Melbourne at which thousands of people were playing Modern.  In this article I will be taking a look at the results of those events.

Eldrazi Winter Draws On
Eldrazi dominance is still very much the story of the format. With so many people playing Wizards haven't provided a full metagame breakdown, I assume for practicality reasons, however, they did provide a metagame breakdown of the Top 100 decks at each event at the end of Day 1. Eldrazi decks were far and away the most prevalent decks in these fields - making up 39% of the Top 100 in Bologna, 43% in Melbourne and 47% in Detroit.

UW Eldrazi, as at the SCG Open in Louisville, was the Eldrazi deck of choice and seemed to put up the best results.  There were four UW Eldrazi players in the Top 8 of GP Detroit, three in the Top 8 of GP Bologna (two of which were in the Finals) and two in the Top 8 of GP Melbourne (both of which made it to the Finals).
Here is the list that, a fellow Brit, Kayure Patel ran to 1st Place at GP Bologna:

This deck very much feels like the final form of Eldrazi.  It has all the tools to fight the mirror match and access to the sideboard cards to challenge the decks that can combat the deck. 
Rest in PeaceGrafdigger's CageStony SilenceHurkyl's Recall
Rest in Peace and Grafdigger's Cage are very powerful against the graveyard-based decks that seem to be rising up out of Eldrazi's dominance.  Stony Silence and Hurkyl's Recall are great Affinity hate cards.

The other Eldrazi deck that did very well this weekend was the RG Eldrazi deck.  Putting 2 copies in the Top 8 of  GP Detroit and GP Bologna and 1 copy in the Top 8 of GP Melbourne.


This wasn't the only version of RG Eldrazi going around.  Alexander Hayne and various others had some success with a more aggressively focused RG Eldrazi deck that ran Eldrazi Mimic and Eldrazi Obligator over some of the bigger creatures.  This deck obviously also forgoes Kozilek's Return in the main deck.

 

Still Fighting the Good Fight

The Graveyard Decks
The most popular non-Eldrazi archetype in the Top 100 decks of GP Detroit and Bologna and second most popular in Melbourne was Abzan Company, which is a deck that really shone this weekend.  Ralph Betesh was the Intrepid Hero of the story, managing to win GP Detroit with his Abzan Company deck and prevent a clean sweep of UW Eldrazi decks taking home the GP titles.

The deck looks to put together the Viscera Seer + Kitchen FinksAnafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit/Melira, Sylvok Outcast combo which allows you to Persist your Finks infinitely and scry your whole deck.  You then just Scry the singleton Murderous Redcap to the top of your deck to deal infinite damage.  The deck benefits from the lack of graveyard hate being played as players focus on handling Eldrazi.  Also the lack of removal in the Eldrazi decks makes it difficult for them to disrupt the combo - particularly as the deck can put the pieces back together fairly quickly and cheaply with cards like Collected Company.  Meanwhile, the deck can fill out the board with creatures to keep the game going.

Another non-Eldrazi deck that put in a great performance was Living EndLiving End put three players into the Grand Prix Melbourne Top 8.  Two Japanese players, Yuuki Ichikawa and Kentaro Yamamoto, ran the same list to 3rd and 6th Place respectively.  Lee Shi Tian rounded out the Living End players finishing in 7th Place.  Giuseppe Reale also made Top 8 with Living End in Bologna.

There was a lot of talk about Living End being strong against an Eldrazi dominated field but until now that didn't seem to materialise.  GP Melbourne seemed like a real breakthrough for the deck.

Continuing the theme of graveyard-based deck success, my personal favourite Top 8 deck of the weekend is Jason Chung's Dredge deck:

I've built this deck on MTGO and I am still working out all the tricks, however, it is a very fun if unorthodox deck.  There is a lot of great tech though as Melbourne didn't have much coverage I haven't seen the deck in action against the Eldrazi.  I imagine (Vengeful Pharoah) does quite a lot of work in that matchup as it takes out their Eldrazi, while Zombie Infestation and Bloodghast give you a constant stream of creatures.

The Combo Decks

The traditional combo decks have had a rough time of it in Eldrazi Winter.  However, Storm always felt like a deck that had a chance.  A fast non-interactive combo deck seemed like it could succeed but until this weekend the results just weren't there.  James Zornes changed that by making the Top 8 of GP Detroit, also Jose Luis Velazquez managed to come 12th in Bologna with Storm.

Zornes list is interesting in that it doesn't use Storm staple Pyromancer Ascension and instead uses Gifts Ungiven to set up the combo.

A Scapeshift deck also managed to make it in the Top 16 this weekend in a more surprising room.

This is a combo deck that managed to be successful without using the graveyard.  I felt that Scapeshift would be too slow to beat Eldrazi but Kyle managed to be very successful.  Bring to Light has been a strong potential addition to Scapeshift since it was printed and here it really shines as an additional way to combo or find that card you really need.

The Control Deck

Control decks have taken a real hit in Eldrazi Winter but some brave players managed to have some real success with UW Control.

This was certainly the biggest surprise for me in the top decks of the weekend.  There are a lot of very expensive but powerful spells in this deck.  Is this the formula for Control to survive in the Eldrazi world?

Fair Warning
Aaron Forsythe gave a surprisingly frank interview on WOTC's position regarding the Eldrazi in Modern at GP Detroit.  He told us that Wizards attention was piqued by the dominance of Eldrazi at the Pro Tour at the results of the weekend had further confirmed their concerns.  He advised that they were still collecting data and he attended GP Detroit to get a more human view on the situation. However, he advised that his current position was that something will be getting banned from the Eldrazi deck in Modern.

As far as I am aware this is the closest thing we have ever had to an early warning of a banning.  Aaron did not make clear what would be banned and actually made it very clear that he didn't want to obliterate the deck.  That leads me to believe that we may be looking at a ban of one of the Eldrazi lands rather than both hitting the banned list.  That said Aaron Forsythe isn't the only person who has a say in these matters so there is no definitive position yet.  The other option would be to ban Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher or both but it's clear that the problem is the fast mana and not so much the cards you can play with that fast mana (though they are very powerful).  I don't think Wizards would be as short-sighted as to not ban the lands that make the deck tick.

So basically do not expect Eldrazi to get through April unscathed and if you decide to hang on to your Eldrazi deck staples come April do not be surprised if you don't have a Tier 1 deck anymore.  Consider this a fair warning.

Winners & Losers of the Grand Prix Weekend
So let's take a look at the winners and the losers of the Grand Prix Weekend.

Winners

Thought_Knot_Seer.jpgReality_Smasher.jpg
Eldrazi can obviously consider itself a winner as it continued to dominate the format.  UW Eldrazi took 5 of the 6 available seats at the Finals of the three Grand Prix events, which is only part of a much bigger story of the Eldrazi's hold on the tournament.  There were 3 Eldrazi decks in the Melbourne Top 8, 5 in Bologna and 6 in Detroit.

Living EndMelira, Sylvok OutcastGolgari Grave-Troll
The graveyard-based decks had a real coming out this weekend.  Abzan Company and Living End managed to put in some great results that we haven't seen previously.  We also saw a sweet Dredge deck doing well in the hands of Jason Chung.  Eldrazi being Public Enemy Number 1 has certainly benefited these decks as you have to believe it was a lack of graveyard hate that allowed these decks to thrive.  The only problem is that these results will allow the metagame to correct itself and if players up their graveyard hate then these decks are bound to have a harder time of it.

Collected_Company.jpgChord of Calling
Collected Company/Chord of Calling and creature-toolbox decks of its ilk seem to be proving strong against the Eldrazi, much like we saw with Jeff Hoogland's Chord deck at the SCG Open.  These strategies really seem to shining through with varying combo elements being used to steal a win if the board cannot be controlled.

Losers
Eldrazi TempleEye of Ugin
Ironically, Eldrazi is also a loser coming out of this weekend as a victim of its own success.  There was hope that the format would balance itself out after the blowout performance of the deck at the Pro Tour.  People weren't ready for Eldrazi at the Pro Tour but now they could be prepared.  Unfortunately even expecting an Eldrazi-dominated field doesn't mean you can necessarily beat it.  The Eldrazi decks were able to adapt to the hate and carrying on dominating.  It has been all but confirmed that we will be seeing a ban to the Eldrazi deck in the next Banned & Restricted Update. 

Arcbound RavagerMox Opal
Affinity was seemingly the second-best deck coming into the Grand Prix weekend but was surprisingly quiet.  Only a single Affinity deck made the Top 8 (piloted by Ruben Perez in Bologna) this weekend and in general the deck just did not see the success he has had in the past in this format. I assume this was because people were prepared for Affinity and Affinity is a deck that it is much easier to hate out than Eldrazi.

Painter's ServantEnsnaring BridgeBlood Moon
The hate cards that have been touted as the Eldrazi beaters were largely absent from the top decks this weekend.  I think Painter's Servant was always overrated as an Eldrazi beater - it simply slows them down if they don't have the removal for it and late game they could probably care less about it.  Ensnaring Bridge has seen some success in Affinity sideboards and Lantern Control decks, however, I imagine it probably got caught by the artifact-hate ready decks that held down Affinity in general.  Blood Moon has proved equally unsuccessful - some Eldrazi decks now run Mind Stone or Talismans to protect themselves against Blood Moon but even without that Eldrazi still seems to manage to win through.

CONCLUSIONS
I think it's unlikely that we will be seeing the format in its current configuration for too much longer with the release of Shadows of Innistrad and the new B&R list coming relatively soon.  Wizards have also given a strong indication that this is their intention.  My thoughts on how the format would develop from here is that there would be a backlash against the graveyard decks with graveyard hate becoming more prominent in sideboard.  This might open the way back in for Affinity, meanwhile Eldrazi just laughs on top of its throne until April swings around.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)