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By: The Milk Man, Michael Mulcahy
Feb 04 2016 1:00pm
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Plan C

Following on from my previous article where I discussed my Plan A deck, Splinter Twin and my back up deck (Affinity) I am going to look at other choices after not being particularly impressed with (Affinity) in the expected post ban meta - both one where Affinity's place in the field hasn't gotten stronger with the ban of its worst matchups and it will likely have a big target on its back being one of the top decks that has the numbers to support its position at the top.

In reference to these articles (Metagame Breakdown and 28k Games of Modern Analyzed) which is becoming a little dated (thanks to a C&D letter from WOTC) is likely not to be updated anytime soon, the information provided can still give us an idea of Affinity's place in the meta. Of the most popular decks, Affinity has the highest win percentage against the field amongst tier one decks (55.31%) and is currently the second most popular winning archetype @ 8.39% - note that the most popular @ 8.69% is the recently banned Splinter Twin.

One of the big winners from the banning of Summer Bloom and Splinter Twin is Tron. Tron players used to loathe playing against Splinter Twin. New toys from BFZ have made Tron a much better deck – a genuine top tier deck. No longer does Remand effectively Time Walk the Tron player. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger cares not for your endless stream of Remands. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger revels in them. UR Tempo decks lose a lot of tempo when multiple lands keep getting exiled. Tron got better before the twin ban. I watched a match from SCG DFW where another UR combo/control deck, Scapeshift got obliterated by Tron with these new tools - a matchup that used to be all but unwinnable from the Tron side of the fence. 

The removal of both Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom means that the big decks; Tron and the new B/x Eldrazi decks don't need to spend as much space on beating combo decks - they can dedicate more of this space to beating their other poor matchups - burn, affinity and infect. This does not bode well for the affinity player. Kozilek's Return is playable in both of these decks too, and they can trigger the flashback mode by casting the big Eldrazi. Affinity may end up like Tron with a big target on its back. Unlike Tron though, Affinity is more susceptible to the hate people bring - Tron seems to have this unending resilience. Blood Moon? Haha! Still play Oblivion Stone on 3 and crack it on 5. So my Plan B, Affinity, that I was pretty comfortable with, I am no longer as happy about - I will need to play a lot of games and see how they pan out in the post ban meta.

Tron even got a perfectly main-boardable utility from the new set - Oath of the Gatewatch in Warping Wail.

Warping Wail is exactly want Tron wants. Even though it would have been perfect against Splinter Twin, it is still really good against other match ups where Tron has traditionally failed;  

- It kills the 3 main infect creatures in UG Infect, can counter some of their spells like Gitaxian Probe and Distortion Strike and it can also provide you with a blocker at instant speed - this is huge if the opponent 'goes for it' when their creature can be blocked.

- It has utility in the Naya Burn matchup - being able to kill Monastery Swiftspears (sans prowess triggers, or in response to), it can counter Lava Spike, Rift Bolt and very importantly Molten Rain. The ability to make a blocker can often be the difference between life and death when your opponent's board is saturated with Goblin Guides and Wild Nacatls. You might not be able to stop them from casting Atarka's Command, but you may be able to stop some of the damage from the +1/+1 mode.

- Against Affinity Warping Wail kills every creature except for Etched Champion (which isn't a problem for Tron anyway and normally gets sided out against Tron.) Occasionally you will be able to counter a Thoughtcast, Thoughtseize and with more recent tech and the change in the meta - Crumble to Dust.

Much like the charm cycles, Warping Wail is not a strictly powerful magic card on its own, but it is extremely versatile. The 3 modes are all very relevant in a multitude of matches - it really does sure up the weaknesses of the deck. The first mode is critical against aggro decks - Tron's Achilles Heel. The second mode on Warping Wail is amazing for the Tron player against hate and disruption - so many opposing sorcery spells are game breakers that hose the Tron player; Molten Rain, Sowing Salt and Crumble to Dust that hate on the important mana base of the Tron player. It is also another tool against quintessential powerhouse cards like Thoughtseize, Scapeshift and Lava Spike. Warping Wail is going to help Tron beat the hate that Affinity normally just can't overcome.

So why not play Tron?

I had built a GR Tron deck in paper when Modern Masters 2015 came out - similar to my decision to build Affinity - I opened some staples and picked up the rest at prices that seem impossibly discounted by current standard - Karns were AUD$ 40 - now they're over 90 each. Unfortunately at the time the price on Grove of the Burnwillows made me buy Karplusan Forests as I just wanted to play the deck - long before I had considered what deck I would be playing or what would be banned in 2016. Not owning Grove of the Burnwillows, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, mean that I am somewhat priced out of playing with Tron which is disappointing. I also sold most of my Tron pieces on MTGO to buy in to a 'better' Splinter Twin deck - upgrading my Flooded Strands to Scalding Tarns and my Polluted Deltas to Misty Rainforests, so even if I did have the deck in paper, I would not be able to practice with it on MTGO. Tron can't really be my deck choice for the GP then, as it is unrealistic that I can come up with over $600 just for 8 cards in such a short time frame (assuming they still have reasonable availability and no further price increases). Plan C failed before it began. Who would have thought 2 years ago that Tron, a tier 2 $200 deck would be $1200 and the top dog of the format? There is also the problem of having the biggest target on your back - hate. There are decks that are running mainboard Blood Moon, Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge, Magus of the Moon, Slaughter Games and Crumble to Dust. That makes it much harder to win when you're trying to cast 10cmc spells the old fashioned way. Back to the drawing board! 

Plan D - Naya Burn

 Naya Burn is a deck that I have accumulated the cards for over a period of time - having played various iterations of Burn and RDW in standard has meant that a lot of the staples were already in my collection Skullcrack, Boros Charm, Eidolon of the Great Revel. Monastery Swiftspear, Atarka's Command etc. Naya Burn is also a great deck to play from the point of view of having a focused game plan - mana efficiency is so important as is the sequencing of the spells - concentrate on these two points and the wins will come. It is a reasonably fun deck to play and seems like a great choice for a GP. I am only missing one card in paper - Goblin Guide - which just happens to be the quintessential Burn card. Goblin Guides also seem to be continuing their upward price increase and reaching a previously unknown scarcity. I wish I had of picked up a playset for AUD$100 a few weeks ago when I had the chance - now a playset is $240 - yes a 240% increase. I am just going to discuss this issue for a moment. The price of modern at the moment is insane - not just the outright cost of individual cards, but everything; the cost of entry to the format, the volatility of card prices, the cost of complete decks and for format staples. This isn't an easy issue to fix and there are a lot of factors at play.

In summary the items that are creating price pressures on the format include both primary and secondary factors:

The format is awesome.

There are of course a fair share of people who disagree with this sentiment, but the numbers support this absolutely. Coverage of events is one way that this can be seen. Last year GP Vancouver (Modern) and GP Memphis (Standard) were held at the same time, where the Modern format had as many as 12,000 viewers on Twitch watching the stream compared to 4,000 watching the Standard stream from GP Memphis. There was even uproar when Wizards announced they were canning the Modern Pro Tour, so much so that they did a complete about face.

Further to this, players are playing far more Modern than Standard. Looking at the top decks on, in Standard we have Abzan Aggro, with 59 decks @ 20.70% of the meta meaning there are approximately 285 winnings decklists compared to Modern's top deck Affinity which at 67 decks @ 9.70% of the meta means there approximately 690 winning decklists. Some would put this down to it currently being Modern season, however these numbers have been like this for a much longer than the Modern season.

It is Modern Season

Those who are new to the game, or to the competitive side of the game may not be aware that Wizards Organized play holds 4 distinct season of play for the year. Different seasons have a focus on different formats for Grand Prix, Pro Tours and the PTQ system. Due to the upcoming Modern Pro Tour and several Modern Grand Prix there is a broad increase in demand for cards across the format.

Standard Sucks

This might be hard for some to swallow, but the current standard sucks. For the same reason that Modern is awesome, Standard sucks - the top deck is over 20% of the format! That is insane! When was the last time that happened? Mono Black Devotion? Another terrible Standard format. If a deck made up over 20% of Modern, you'd better believe it would be getting hit with the banhammer. Standard sucks because it is too expensive and lacks diversity (you know, the same thing that Splinter Twin was banned for).

The main cause for the high cost of entry to Standard is the mana base - the same fetchlands that are being used in Modern are even more played in Standard. This is causing the manabases of both Standard and Modern to be unusually expensive. It also means that the colour restrictions in Standard are non-existent - with terrible names like Dark Jeskai and Mardu Green the lack of limitations in mana bases mean that people are able to play all of the best cards in the format leading to a lack of distinctive archetypes among different colours - or why we have so many 3/4 colour midrange decks.

If I were in charge of naming these 4 colour decks it would be a lot less glamorous - "Not Black", "No White", or "Redless".  The cost of Standard is one of the things that is making it really unenjoyable for me. There is no budget deck in the upper tiers of the format - no Red Deck Wins or GW Aggro. Decks like Not Green Midrange (Jeskai Black) and Not Red (4C) Rally are comparable in price to some tier 1 Modern decks; except your Affinity deck is always going to be good and valuable and not really change a great deal, whereas Not Green midrange is going to rotate out of the format in 3 months. Players are smart enough to see the value there.

Because Standard sucks, a lot of people are shifting to other constructed formats which is putting further pressure on the price of Modern as supply remains static and demand increases rapidly.

Star City Games Events

I don't want to demonize Star City Games as being responsible for the cost of Modern, as I genuinely believe they do a fantastic job of organizing and covering events, providing content and employ a very sound business model, however the decision to shift away from the Legacy Opens and showcase more Modern events at multiple levels has given a lot of players a reason to play Modern that may not have previously played Modern, as well as showcasing the format on stream for all viewers to see. So while SCG may not be directly responsible for increasing the cost of the format, they have certainly done a good job of increasing demand for the format - and I love seeing their Modern content and events (If anyone from SCG is reading, keep em coming)

Speculation & Investing

Speculators and investors somewhat relates to the previous point, that the people who follow #mtgfinance take advantage of the popularity of cards and decks, flipping them for a profit to players who wish to play with those cards and decks. The successful decks get the screen time as the tournaments play out, which leads to players that want to play those decks and speculators and investors who are more than willing to buy up these cards and then sell them for a profit. #mtgfinance has gotten insane to the point that there are 2 distinctive parties involved - those who follow #mtgfinance, benefitting from that information and those who don't follow #mtgfinance and unknowingly fall victim to it.

The investors and speculators have seen an opportunity with Modern that never really existed with Standard and Legacy - they're able to take advantage of the cyclical nature of the Organized Play rotation, while keeping in a format that doesn't rotate. This is important as they are basically able to buy low after Modern season and sell high during the Modern season each year. Another important factor is that the format is a lot more dynamic than Legacy due to shake ups with the ban list and introduction of new cards from the Standard format. 

A reality that has come to bear is that there is a lot more potential profit to be made and volume to be turned over from cards that that have a lower initial investment value - a Goblin Guide at 5 tickets has a much greater percentage profit that can be gained than a Wasteland at 90 tickets. The same is even more true for paper mtg cards with $500 Underground Seas and $30 Cryptic Commands. This is more apparent in paper as the Reserve List protects the large investments in legacy and vintage staples from being reprinted. This might seem like it protects players from speculators and investors, however reprints help both as speculators and investors can sell card short and then rebuy when they're at a lower price. (Please check the flashback draft schedule for MTGO and the value of cards in those sets here). Using this method I have been able to sell cards like Molten Rain and Chromatic Sphere for near 1 ticket each, and then buy them back a couple of weeks later for sub 0.30 Tickets - a profit of 2.8 tickets for each playset.


Wizards have a policy on reprinting cards that was formally announced at the creation of the Modern format to actively support the format. This has brought us sets such as Modern Master and Modern Masters 2015 as well as some big reprints in Thoughtseize, the painlands and the Khans fetch lands. I am grateful for these important reprints, however I think that Wizards could and should be doing more to keep up with supply for the format. Consistent, sustained reprints from Wizards is the only way that the format is going to remain accessible and reduce the opportunities for predatory financial tactics.

This is one area that Modern Masters 2015 failed somewhat, by having too much of a focus on being a good format to draft, rather than a set loaded with reprints. Cards like Gitaxian Probe, Lava Spike, Ancient Stirrings are common staples that are enjoying some pretty large price gains and were all passed over for Modern Masters 2015. Wizards needs to increase the frequency of the Modern Masters releases from biannually to annually and target the staples more effectively. If Wizards honestly wants to test the theory that a reprint heavy set that will not sell as successfully as a draft friendly set

The argument could be made that stores would sell above MSRP due to high EV, or that they would artificially lower supply or crack the packs to sell the singles. A simple solution to this that Wizards could do to combat this is by having the sets be redeemable from MTGO, in the same way that the Standard sets are redeemable. Making Modern Masters 2016 (hopefully) redeemable on MTGO causes the paper cards to be linked to the price of packs on MTGO, reducing the ability of stores to charge above MSRP ("Well why would I pay 'x' above retail for the set when I can just redeem it from MTGO?")

/End Rant

Back to my Plan D.
Naya Burn may be a better deck than Affinity as the current builds deal with hate quite well - Path to Exile for Kor Firewalker and Auriok Champion, Destructive Revelry for Spellskite and Leyline of Sanctity and an critical volume of quality creatures like Wild Nacatl to attack from a different angle than Lava Spike (the all burn version being particularly weak to disruption and losing momentum. Atarka's Command is also a nice addition to the deck as an objectively better Skullcrack. Skullcrack itself is still good enough to see play out of the board in matchups where the lifegain or protection is going to be important. The sideboard options in Naya are fantastic - you can bring in some of the strongest hosers in the format; Stony Silence, Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Rest in Peace and Back to Nature are all 2 mana and can be game winning bombs against their respective matchups.

This is the decklist that I have been playing on MTGO : 


The deck consistently kills on turn 4, with turn 3 kills well inside the realm of possibility. Playing three 1cmc creatures on turn 1 and 2 followed up by an Atarka's Command and a hastey creature on turn 3 can produce as much as 23 damage on turn 3 if it goes uncontested.

Turn 1 - 2 Damage - Goblin Guide

Turn 2 - 6 Damage - Goblin Guide, Goblin Guide

Turn 3 - 15 Damage - Monastery Swiftspear, Atarka's Command

Even with interruption from something like a Path to Exile or Lightning Bolt might not be enough to disrupt this amount of damage. Of course 3 Goblin Guide is an insane opener, but even replacing the turn 1 Goblin Guide with a Wild Nacatl can do the same amount of damage by turn 3 in this scenario (0, 3, 4 as opposed to 2, 2, 3). Replace the turn 1 Goblin Guide with a Monastery Swiftspear and the total tally is a little less, but 5 damage (1,1,3) will still contribute enough to get the job done.

All of this is assuming the opponent takes no damage from their own land base, in a format where fetchlands and shocklands are the norm, so you're opening hand doesn't need to be anywhere near this good. Speaking of fetchlands and shocklands, I have a little bit of an unusual choice in the form of Temple Garden in the deck. Temple Garden may seem like an incorrect choice in a base red deck, but the colour intensive mana requirements mean that often you have access to red already but need access to white and green the following turn. It may be worth swapping it for a basic land in this place to avoid Blood Moon, however there were plenty of times when playing when I had Wild Nacatl in hand and only basic 
Mountains on the field. Fetching the miser Temple Garden allows me to not only cast the Wild Nacatl, but for it to survive a Pyroclasm or block something smaller.

Temple Garden 

The deck itself is a far better deck than where burn was 2 years ago. Atarka's Command has been strong enough to push the deck in to Green, where previously many burn decks were mono red or red/white. Running the green splash makes Destructive Revelry out of the board a really easy decision and it is a card that matches up extremely well against burns common weaknesses - cards like Sun Droplet, Dragon's Claw and Leyline of Sanctity

Atarka's Command  Destructive Revelry  Wild Nacatl  

Shifting in to the Naya colours has made Wild Nacatl a natural choice for the deck, being a high quality creature of the same vein as Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear - all of which can put in 6 damage by the end of turn 3. Lacking the Haste keyword is a minor drawback, however Wild Nacatl has other advantages - being green can allow it to attack through pro-red creatures, 3/3 power and toughness can survive a lot of early combats, Pyroclasms and paired with Atarka's Command can live through Lightning Bolt and Anger of the Gods

Naya Burn still retains all of the advantages of the white splash - Boros Charm has got one of the best damage per spell rates of any instant 2cmc spells as well as occasionally having utility with the other 2 modes of the spell - enough Prowess triggers on Monastery Swiftspear could make the Double Strike option viable and the indestructible mode comes up more often than you would think - protecting creatures from sweepers like Anger of the Gods or Wrath of God as well as protecting you land base. Ghost Quarters won't have to lock you out of a colour if you have a Boros Charm at the ready - they will ramp you up instead. As for the other white spells in the deck - Path to Exile can rid you of pro-red creatures, a big blocker or creatures with lifelink or some other incremental lifegain such as Scavenging Ooze or Kitchen Finks. Lightning Helix is a reasonable quality spell on its own and is also a great card when racing other aggressive decks

The white cards out of the sideboard are absolute haymakers in their ideal matchups - Rest in Peace is one of the best graveyard hate cards ever printed, Path to Exile is the best non-Lightning Bolt removal spell in the format and Kor Firewalker is practically unbeatable in the mirror match. Deflecting Palm can be a hard card to judge as there are a lot of variables in its value. The best matchups for Deflecting Palm are against the big creature decks - the Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungers and Emrakul, the Aeons Torns of the game or small creatures that get pumped up like Blighted Agent and Slippery Bogle. Yup. That's right - Emrakul, The Aeons Torn that has protection from coloured spells and Slippery Bogle, that has hexproof, can be selected as a source of damage from Deflecting Palm as the wording on Deflecting Palm specifically doesn't use the term target, instead it creates a delayed trigger for "a source of your choice".

Let's take it for a spin in a league:

I am reasonably happy with the deck, although it really does feel like it runs out of puff against some matchups. The Pro Tour is coming up this weekend - maybe I will find some Inspiration there.... or just play a Seance deck. I don't know yet. I wouldn't have ever thought that the banning of a single card would be so problematic for me. I still feel guilty for not playing with the Scalding Tarns and Misty Rainforests - I will try out some other URx decks to see if they can scratch my combo/tempo itch.