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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jan 02 2018 12:00pm
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 Hello and welcome back to the State of Modern, our monthly rendez-vous with all things Modern, including big tournament reports, the decklists and prices for the archetypes that are currently the most successful in the meta, and an up-to-date ban list. If you never tried your hand at Modern, this is the right place to know everything you need to know in order to begin; and if you're already into it, it can still be a good way to make sure you know everything that's happening in the format. And by the way, if you seek a nice free online tournament, I run Modern Times every Thursday at 7:00 PM UTC.

 The series archive is here.
 Let's start a new ride!


 Here's the latest Modern events with more than 200 players, ordered chronologically. December has been a very busy month!

 December 1: StarCityGames Invitational: Roanoke
 Players: 288
 Winner: Eli Kassis with Storm (NOTE: the participants were also competing with Standard decks)
 Top 8: Storm, Lantern Control, Death's Shadow, Death's Shadow, Burn, EldraTron, UWr Control, RUG Aggro/Control

 December 2: Nebraska's War 5.0: Modern Main Event (Lucca, Italy)
 Players: 233
 Winner: Luis Alberto Martín Núñez with Blue Moon
 Top 8: Blue Moon, Jund, Merfolk, Twinless Exarch, Death's Shadow, EldraTron, U Tron, UW Control

 December 2: MMM – Monthly Modern Masters: Finals 2017 (Osaka, Japan)
 Players: 207
 Winner: Masashiro Kuroda with G Tron
 Top 8: G Tron, Ad Nauseam, Death's Shadow, Valakut, Affinity, Merfolk, G Tron, UW Control

 December 10: Grand Prix Madrid 2017 (Team)
 Players: 1875
 Winner: Spain: Adrián Ramiro Cano with Collected Chord, Rodrigo Togores with Valakut, Cristian Ortiz Ros with Storm
 Top 4: Collected Chord/Valakut/Storm, Collected Chord/Death's Shadow/UW Control, Elves/Lantern Control/Valakut (Titan Breach), Abzan/UWr Control/G Tron

 December 10: MTGO Modern PTQ
 Players: 308
 Winner: Rooney56 with Blue Moon
 Top 8: Blue Moon, Death's Shadow, Burn, Storm, Blue Moon, Humans, G Tron, UWr Control

 December 10: Grand Prix Oklahoma City 2017
 Players: 1419
 Winner: Larry Li with Valakut
 Top 8: Valakut, Valakut, G Tron, Dredge, Valakut (Titan Breach), Living End, G Tron, G Tron

 December 17: MTGO Modern PTQ
 Players: 347
 Winner: RandomDrooler with Death's Shadow
 Top 8: Death's Shadow, Lantern Control, Burn, Death's Shadow, Death's Shadow, Dredge, Dredge, Grixis Control


 Already covered: Ad NauseamAffinity, Blue MoonBloomless TitanBurnCollected Chord (aka Creatures Toolbox), Death's Shadow, DredgeEldrazi Aggro, EldraTron, Hatebears, Humans, Infect, JundJunk, Lantern Control, Merfolk, RDWStormUW ControlValakut (aka TitanShift).

 Update: Big moment for Valakut, which landed first places in December's two largest events (one of these was through teamwork with Collected Chord and Storm, both going strong as well). We're also seeing a resurgence of classic green-based UrzaTron decks, whereas the colorless EldraTron evolution appeared to be the go-to route last summer: at this point, it deserves its own specific deck tech.

 By the time you'll read this, 2017 will be ended (happy New Year!), so a meta recap is due. Out of the 5780 decks that went Top 8 during 2017 in events recorded through mtgtop8.com, here's the breakdown featuring all the decks with more than 200 registered Top 8 instances:

  1. Death's Shadow: 587 decks (10%)
  2. Eldrazi Aggro: 526 decks (9%)
  3. UW Control/Midrange: 402 (7%)
  4. Affinity: 365 decks (6%)
  5. RDW: 342 decks (6%)
  6. Valakut: 296 decks (5%)
  7. Collected Chord: 266 decks (5%)
  8. UrzaTron: 262 decks (5%)
  9. Junk: 243 decks (4%)
  10. Storm: 220 decks (4%)
  11. Hatebear: 212 decks (4%)

 And here's more analyses of selected decks that populate the current meta.

 Price (online): $420.83 

 Colors: Green with a black or white splash

 How does it work: UrzaTron is a deck that might well represent the Modern format as a whole, since it's based on an interaction that's meaningless in the greater Eternal formats where Cloudpost is legal (it does feature in Pauper, though). It's also built like an exquisite feat of deck engineering, because every element works in perfect harmony with the system. The main objective is to assemble the 7-mana Urza triplet as fast as possible, and the green base is there specifically for that purpose: Sylvan Scrying and the very powerful Ancient Stirrings (that can pretty much fetch any card in the deck) join Expedition Map in land-fetching duty; the parallel engine made up of Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Star and Relic of Progenitus (the latter a sideboard swap candidate) ensures some deck-thinning while fixing the mana, which is crucial for a deck that aims to play lands that produce colorless mana in its first few turns, but still needs colored mana early on. Such colored mana ceases to be a factor from the mid-game onward, though, as the removal suite is entirely colorless and extremely powerful: Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Oblivion Stone, with All Is Dust also a favorite, since the finishers are also typically colorless monstrosities. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger emerges here as the most desirable fattie to hardcast: it's considerably cheaper than Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, provides more or less the same degree of inevitability and resilience, and also removes the two more problematic permanents from the equation, which should disable any Ensnaring Bridge obstruction.

Once the original red splash for Pyroclasm started becoming increasingly obsolete, UrzaTron players turned to white or black as support colors, the latter being especially popular as of late. Both provide a strong maindeck option for 1-mana creature spot removal, in the form of Path to Exile or Fatal Push; both also offer a great selection of sideboard technology, with white more focused on fighting artifact decks through Stony Silence, while black is amazing at anti-combo warfare via disruption, especially with the very versatile Collective Brutality.

On its part, blue generates its own monocolored UrzaTron variant that necessarily assumes a more control-like nature, with cards like Condescend, Repeal and Cyclonic Rift exploiting the potentially large mana production, while being very effective in the early stages as well. It's a build more focused on the late game rather than on building the triplet at a furious pace (there's just Expedition Map for that), but it can count on Thirst for Knowledge and Treasure Mage for deck access, and on the amazing Mindslaver/Academy Ruins lock to seal the deal, blue mage style.

 Results: Back in July, I characterized classic UrzaTron as a solid and consistent performer that didn't grab a lot of first places anymore, but cut to six months later and, what do you know, UrzaTron's back, baby. 

 Price (online): $335.39 

 Colors: Green with a white splash

 How does it work: The Elves archetype comes from Legacy but is perfectly viable in Modern, too, considering most of the key Elves are part of the Modern pool (basically only Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, Priest of Titania, Quirion Ranger, Wirewood Symbiote and Wirewood Lodge are missing). Over the years, Elves have grown into the quintessential tribal ramp. The Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block added the Heritage Druid/Nettle Sentinel interaction, M10 provided the ultimate lord in Elvish Archdruid, then Scars of Mirrodin closed the circuit by offering an in-tribe finisher with Ezuri, Renegade Leader. Ezuri is still the endgame in contemporary Modern Elves builds, but they also borrow the amazing fetching package from the Collected Chord decks (occasionally assisted by the underrated Lead the Stampede), and even the Vizier of Remedies-fueled infinite mana combo involving the semi-forgotten tribesmember Devoted Druid. Going infinite that way is not especially critical, but it's the flashiest and most direct way to achieve the final Overrun. Should all the ramp mechanisms fail, the deck is also able to take a straightforward aggro route, and typically packs some of the classic white countermoves in the sideboard. Elvish Visionary, not featured in Salvatto's list, is often included, as a self-replacing card that increases your Elf count; the absence of any tech to return it to hand (which is Wirewood Symbiote's role in Legacy builds) makes it less desirable, though. These days, Modern Elves mostly plays like a specialized Collected Chord build, but it's still different enough to be its own archetype.

 Results:  It's definitely a lower tier deck run by aficionados, but it's awfully consistent and can still show up near the top once in a while (100 Top 8 decks in 2017 were Elves, amounting to a surprising 2% of the meta).

 Price (online): $436.24 

 Colors: Izzet (UR)

 How does it work: Well, it's what's left of Splinter Twin decks after the titular card was banned. They kind of still work, by putting the combo burden on Kiki-Jiki's shoulders entirely, and overall strengthening the control game, so that it could play as an Izzet draw-go deck while waiting for the combo to materialize. It's also able to maindeck Blood Moon, like in Alessandro Ciurli's build.

 Results: Its presence in the meta is negligible (only nine Top 8 endings in 2017), and only the most stubborn Twin fans embrace it, but it still has something to say, as Ciurli's placement proved.


 Last revised: January 9, 2017 (out: Gitaxian Probe, Golgari Grave-Troll)
 Next announcement: January 15, 2018

 Total banned cards: 35

 By Color: 

  • White: 2
  • Blue: 7
  • Black: 2 (of which 1 Golgari)
  • Red: 6 (of which 1 Gruul)
  • Green: 8 (of which 1 Golgari, 1 Gruul)
  • Colorless: 12
  • Multicolored: 2 (of which 1 Golgari, 1 Gruul)

 By Type: 

  • Creature: 4
  • Land: 8
  • Artifact: 5
  • Enchantment: 1
  • Planeswalker: 1
  • Instant: 7
  • Sorcery: 9

 By Set:

  • Core Sets: 2 (of which 1 from 9th Edition, originally from Visions, and 1 from Magic 2011)
  • Mirrodin block: 10 (of which 9 from Mirrodin, 1 from Darksteel)
  • Kamigawa block: 4 (of which 2 from Champions of Kamigawa, 2 from Betrayers of Kamigawa)
  • Ravnica block: 1 (from Ravnica)
  • Ice Age block: 2 (both from Coldsnap)
  • Time Spiral block: 2 (both from Time Spiral)
  • Lorwyn block: 1 (from Lorwyn)
  • Alara block: 1 (from Alara Reborn)
  • Zendikar block: 5 (of which 1 from Zendikar, 3 from Worldwake, 1 from Rise of the Eldrazi)
  • Scars of Mirrodin block: 4 (of which 1 from Mirrodin Besieged, 3 from New Phyrexia)
  • Innistrad block: 0
  • Return to Ravnica block: 1 (from Return to Ravnica)
  • Theros block: 0
  • Khans of Tarkir block: 2 (both from Khans of Tarkir)
  • Battle for Zendikar block: 0
  • Shadows over Innistrad block: 0
  • Kaladesh block: 0
  • Amonkhet block: 0
  • Ixalan block: 0

 See you next month, when we'll keep exploring the Modern meta. In the meantime, don't be ancient, play Modern!