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By: olaw, Oliver Law
May 20 2016 12:00pm
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Welcome to another Modern Musings!  There was a lot of exciting Modern action last weekend with the MTGO Championship and the SCG Modern Open in Indianapolis.  In this article I will be taking a look at the decks that did well and anything else that caught my eye from the standings.

SCG Indianapolis Modern Open
It's been some time since we've had a major Modern event which is particularly interesting given the banning of Eye of Ugin and the unbanning of Ancestral Vision and Sword of the Meek.  There was room for new innovation and to find out what may be the new best deck in the format. 

The Top 8
So let's take a look at how the Top 8 worked out:

  1. Pete Ingram (Jeskai Control)
  2. Andrew Jessup (UG Infect)
  3. Daniel Hendrickson (RG Valakut)
  4. Alex Zurawski (BG Infect)
  5. Ryan Overtuf (Grixis Delver)
  6. Stephen Dykman (RG Tron)
  7. Dylan Jones (Jund)
  8. John Pellman (WR Control)

This is a very interesting Top 8, primarily because it is hugely diverse.  Infect is the only archetype that appears more than once but even those decks are not the same.  This is very promising given Wizards' express aims for the Modern format and is certainly a relief after Eldrazi Winter.

I guess it only makes sense to start by looking at Pete Ingram's winning Jeskai Control deck:

Nahiri, the Harbinger is the most exciting new addition to this deck.  I have to admit that I grossly underestimated Nahiri in my Modern review of Shadows over Innistrad. Nahiri's high loyalty makes her difficult to deal with and using her ultimate to fetch up Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to just finish the game is apparently a legitimate strategy.  Nahiri gives the deck a level of inevitability while also having the option of acting as removal.  Whether she will last the test of time remains to be seen but right now a lot of players are putting stock in Nahiri and it seems to be paying off.

Another interesting thing about this deck is that the only copies of Ancestral Vision are in the sideboard of the deck.  Vision was seen as a potential saviour for Modern Control decks but so far it really hasn't made as much of an impact as expected.

Next up, I want to look at Daniel Hendrickson's Valakut deck.  You may be thinking 'Why do I want to look at another Scapeshift deck?', well what if I told you that this Valakut deck doesn't even run Scapeshift.

This deck isn't looking to Scapeshift to victory but instead power out Primeval Titan to power up the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle combo and deal lethal damage.  It does that by ramping mana and then either hardcasting Titan or putting it into play with haste via Through the Breach.  Mattias Hunt did a video deck tech for the deck to explain how it works if you want to check it out.  He advised that they worked on the deck as response to the banning of Summer Bloom.

Now to look at the most prominent archetype in the Top 8.  I want to look at Alex Zurawski's list as it is a less common version of the Infect deck:

BG Infect
4th Place Decklist SCG Indianapolis Modern Open by Alex Zurawski
4 Glistener Elf
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Phyrexian Crusader
4 Plague Stinger
16 cards

Other Spells
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Become Immense
3 Groundswell
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Might of Old Krosa
4 Vines of Vastwood
3 Rancor
23 cards
1 Forest
4 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Pendelhaven
2 Swamp
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Verdant Catacombs
21 cards

Phyrexian Crusader

Phyrexian Crusader seems particularly well positioned at the moment with a lot of Lightning Bolts and Path to Exiles around for it to dodge.  Its power only increases if Jeskai Control continues to do well in the format.

Another interesting inclusion in the Top 8 is RG Tron.  Tron took a hit with the banning of Eye of Ugin and it was questionable whether it would be able to recover from that.  The results of the Open indicate that Tron is still very much alive and well.

Not too much has changed to the RG Tron list.  However, it is still embracing the World Breaker tech from the Eldrazi Winter and has replaced Eye of Ugin with Sanctum of Ugin.

The most interesting deck in the whole Top 8 though has to be John Pellman's WR Control deck.

This deck is a rather crazy mixture of a Blood Moon deck and a Superfriends deck.  There are 9 planeswalkers main deck and those are backed up by significant amounts of removal and hate cards.  The deck is well prepared for an aggro-based metagame and the hate cards give it game against various other decks in the metagame.  I feel like this tournament might have just ended up being a perfect storm for this deck to succeed but it would be interesting to see if it can continue to work going forwards.

Outside the Top 8
There were a number of intriguing decks sitting just outside the Top 8 of the tournament.

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside without a coat, that familiar chill of winter creeps up on you.  That's right the Eldrazi are still around and managing to put in some good results:

Todd Stevens ran this rather potent 3-coloured Eldrazi deck to 11th Place.  The deck ramps into huge creatures that takeover the board with ease.  The viability of Eldrazi after Eye of Ugin got banned was certainly questionable but it seems Eldrazi Temple is enough to make them still powerful.  Gregory Matthews managed take 20th Place with Eldrazi & Taxes, a Death & Taxes style deck that abuses Eldrazi Displacer and various other Eldrazi cards.  Also, Frank Venderwall ran an interesting RG Eldrazi deck to 22nd Place.

Next up we have incredible performance by Adam Bowman who took 16th Place with Slivers:

A huge underdog in the world of Modern, this is the first time a long while I have seen a Slivers deck to so well.  Collected Company certainly adds a lot to the Slivers tribe and Adam Bowman seems to have capitalised well on it here.  I am always cautious about playing a deck with no real main deck removal, other than Necrotic Sliver, but it seems to have been successful.

Finally, I want to take a look at Jeff Hoogland's 19th Place Bring to Light deck.  After seeing a deck that looks like a Scapeshift deck but doesn't run Scapeshift, how about a deck that looks like Jeskai Control but is actually a Scapeshift deck.

This is a very clever deck that runs like Jeskai Control but then has a game ending combo in the form of Scapeshift.  There is also a nice toolbox of other spells to tutor up with Bring to Light should the combo route be taken away from you.

2015 Magic Online Championship
The 2015 Magic Online Championship took place last weekend.  The tournament featured 4 rounds of Modern at the end of the Swiss portion.  As only a 16-person tournament you often get a rather distorted metagame as there are significant advantages to playing the deck that nobody prepared for.  So while the tournament was probably not properly reflective of the broader metagame it was interesting.

The only man to go 4-0 in the Modern portion of the tournament was eventual winner, Niels Noorlander, with his UG Infect deck:

By far the most innovative deck brought to the Championship was Sam Black's Temur Traverse deck:

As you can see from the 1-3 result the deck isn't won of Sam Black's most successful concotions but it certainly earns points from innovation.  The deck powers up Delirium with cards like Mishra's Bauble and Tarfire to make Traverse the Ulvenwald it into a powerful tutor.  The deck also uses Standard staple Tireless Tracker which feels like a card that is one the verge of Modern playability.  I'm not sure if Sam was on to something here or whether to consider it a failed experiment but it's definitely one to get you thinking.

There were a lot of interesting decklist coming out of this weekend and loads that I can't wait to give a try.  The format certainly looks pretty healthy and it's not clear that there is really any standout best deck just yet.  It's very interesting that Abzan Company, which many have been touting as the new best deck, had a very quiet weekend at the Modern Open. 

Also, Ancestral Vision and Sword of the Meek appear to have been safe unbans for the format.  If those cards can be broken in Modern it certainly hasn't been done yet.  There is a difficult balance to be reached with unbannings, you do want them to have some impact but at the same time you don't want them to be dominating the format.  I think both cards open up some interesting options but as I say haven't made a huge impact.

I look forward to see how things develop from here.  Grand Prix Charlotte is coming up this weekend so we will see how things turn out there.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)
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