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By: MindlessMarty, Filipe Rodrigues
Feb 12 2018 1:00pm
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It has been two long years since we last saw a Modern Pro Tour, but Rivals of Ixalan showed us a diverse, healthy Modern format where 15 different decks had 8 or more wins. This diversity made for some fun matches to be seen throughout the weekend for more than 40 000 viewers and a lot happened over the course of the weekend. In this article we will talk about some moments, cards and decks that performed “surprisingly” well and that are for sure to stay present in the Modern metagame. 

Let’s start with the winning decklist : Lantern Control

Lantern Control showed it first results at GP Oklahoma City back in 2015, when Zac Elsik took this, until then tier 2 deck, filled with uncommon cards that weren’t any good for competitive play until someone mashed them together and made a deck by locking the game by controlling libraries, both yours and your opponent.  That’s right, thanks to Lantern of Insight both you and your opponent play with the top card revealed and then you can select both players draws with cards such as Codex Shredder and Ghoulcaller's Bell. This is a huge advantage, of course, but the deck also has cards such as Ensnaring Bridge , Pyrite Spellbomb and Abrupt Decay, against more aggressive decks.

 However, it was greatly due to the printing of Whir of Invention that this deck solidified itself as a tier1 choice. Due to Improvise it is easier to cast and it can search for cards you need and place them directly on the battlefield. Also, if you think this deck is too slow, or just can’t finish the game quickly or powerfully enough, how about using Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas to make your artifacts 5/5 creatures or ultimating, forcing the opponent to “lose x life “ where x is equal to two times the number of artifacts you control. This is surprise tech from Lantern Control’s sideboard and that's how Luis Salvatto won this Pro Tour!  We actually saw a Pro Tour final being won by ultimating your Planeswalker. How epic is that? Also, Lantern Control, again, not such a "boring" deck as we end up seeing in Round 14, when Luis Salvatto (the winner) played against Jon Stern (who was playing Burn) and won the game through casting Collective Brutality multiple times for 2 damage thanks to Codex Shredder and Academy Ruins. For such a “boring” deck at its surface, it was super exciting to see new tech such as Collective Brutality and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.

Speaking of “new tech”, if you enjoy more explosive and aggressive decks,then you need to watch the Black-Red Hollow One deck. I mean, who doesn't like having two 4/4 creatures on turn 1!?  Just watch Ken Yukihiro achieving that by using Burning Inquiry. But he also has Faithless Looting and Goblin Lore for that effect.  Gurmag Angler, Bloodghast, Tasigur, the Golden Fang also make fine threats alongside Standard’s 1-drop Flameblade Adept and surprise phoenix Flamewake Phoenix which proved to be a good card as well. This deck was definitely fun to watch and while I think it’s less consistent than Lantern Control, it will definitely still be present when you play in stores because it is so fun. Also, if you are not careful this deck can do some pretty incredible starts.

Talking about cards of recent sets and new interactions, it was also good to see Opt showing up instead of Preordain (because playing Preordain would have led to a lot of game losses!) in a lot of decklists such as Jeskai Control and Blue-Red Pyromancer, and also Field of Ruin in Corey Burkhart's top16 Grixis Control alongside the proven Search for Azcanta which is always a great addition to any blue control deck. If Blood Moon is great right now, since there are so few basic lands in decks, the downside of Field of Ruin is not so down right now. Funny enough though, no Blood Sun in the top decks. However, another surprise was, Hostage Taker, which made its appearance in Traverse Shadow’s sideboards. Only as a singleton, but with great usage, in order to exile opponent’s Ensnaring Bridge for example. It’s was good to see Standard cards from Rivals of Ixalan also making an impact on the Modern format.

             

One of the true rivalries of this Pro Tour was the one between Bedlam Reveler and Thing in the Ice. There were 1 copies of Blue-Red Pyromancer in the top8, all of which had no Bedlam Reveler but 4 Thing in the Ice each. People were already suspicious someday, Bedlam Reveler would no longer be an underdog and this Pro Tour, it took the spotlight. Gerry Thompson was one of those people that believed in the power of this card. Gerry and his Mardu Pyromancer decklist had no Thing in the Ice but 4 Bedlam Reveler. This decklist had so much removal that it was easy to make Bedlam Reveler cheaper. Also, combo that with some Lingering Souls tokens and you have a pretty aggressive battlefield. Both cards are great sources of card advantage, as Thing in the Ice makes practically “all” opponent’s creature return to their owner’s hand and is also a ⅞ and Bedlam Reveler not only can enter the battlefield for cheap but also draws three cards when it enters the battlefield fueling its prowess even more sometimes. In the end, it seems the time for Bedlam Reveler has finally came, as Gerry Thompson finished with a solid 2nd place with his Mardu Pyromancer decklist equipped with great skill and humble humour but Pascal Vieren made an incredible 16-0 run only losing to Thopmson in the semis. 

Another surprise, was how the most present deck : Humans, didn’t quite make it. Being the most present deck in the Top8, being  piloted by both Javier Domingez and Andrea Mengucci, nobody denies the power of (Thalia's Lieutenant), Champion of the Parish and all the other humans in the deck. Despite their team name, “Connected Company”, both were on 5 colour list and with no copies of Collected Company present. I guess if you have 4 Aether Vials and your objective is to curve, Collected Company isn’t such a plus. This seems to be the case for Merfolk, another linear Modern deck, as well. Nonetheless, Humans have more “enter the battlefield” effects from their creatures like Kitesail Freebooter and Thalia’s Lieutenant while Merfolk only has Silvergill Adept and Harbinger of the Tides?

That being said, i was sad there was no new Merfolk list doing great, but even the more powerful humans did not win this Pro Tour. Synergy is an important strategy to win at Magic: The Gathering and I like to see how it is progressing and getting even more pushed as time goes by. Don’t forget this is Magic’s 25th anniversary and there are still decks such as Mono-Red, Elves, Merfolk, and now Humans!

This Pro Tour was one of the best I have ever watched in my opinion, and I think it was because I really wasn’t expecting all this diversity and new decks. In all honesty, I like Standard a lot more than Modern because it is constantly changing, however, for somebody who was thinking Modern was an “old and stale” format, this event really took me for a ride. Yes, Lantern may not be an exciting deck and Black-Red Hollow One may not be consistent enough to ever appear again, there was the storytelling around the decks and their new tech and all the different matchups that made it ultra-entertaining. It was the Ken Yukihiro’s expressions and plays, it was the Salvatto’s mistakes in round 16, it was the small talk banter from Gerry Thompson in the finals, it was all the different decks and breakout cards (old and new). It was unexpected but it was fun. Wizards of the Coast Banning announcement scheduled for the 12th of February and I honestly hope nothing changes. I might be wrong, but at least I hope this Pro Tour shows that once in a while, a Modern Pro Tour can be a good thing and that indeed, Modern is a healthy format. Can’t wait for the next one!

Keep planeswalking everyone.