среда, 24 января 2018 г.

MtG. Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan and Modern Metagame in general.

Some pragmatic players might say that Modern is not a format, and there is no metagame there.
I tend to disagree and agree to a certain extent.

There is a metagame, but it is so wide and complex, that King of the Hill is a very unstable position.
The metagame shifts all the time within the field, depending what gets played most at a certain time.
And yes, in general, it is pointless to predict the field and matchups for your own deck,
because overall one can face both terrible and excellent matchups.
Hence, one cannot really tune or hedge against everything and has to compromise.
However, it is much easier to calculate your deck choice for an event like a Pro Tour.
I’m not saying it is easy, but easier. Historically people tend to play certain decks there, unless there is some sudden tycoon
(Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch and Eldrazi menace).

My aims here are to make you think and somehow ease the deck choice thinking process for you.
I do think that Pro Tour meta can be somewhat read, but any given Grand Prix meta, or rather top32,
that is very unlikely to accomplish for anyone, except for some really rough estimations.
I by no means pretend to know it all, and exactly mark my opinions,
and this is also why I tried to add as much statistics as I could within one article.

But now, let’s discuss what types of decks were typical for Pro Tours and what seem to be the guidelines in choosing the deck:

  • The deck can challenge tier1 or the expected PT decks (Grixis Shadow, UW Control, Lantern Control, Tron and Valakut decks)
  • Decks to Beat atm from my view - Jeskai/UW Control, Big Mana decks, Grixis Shadow, Humans, Affinity, Burn, Dredge, GW/Bant Company, Eldrazi Tron
  • Has free wins, and also has decent amount of good matchups overall (Storm, Griselhoalbrand, Amulet Titan)
  • No big pluses, no big minuses (Abzan, Jund)
  • Best experience and a ton of practice plus comfort (Hatebears, Boggles)
  • Solid aggro, punishing bad opposing draws (Affinity, Burn, Dredge)
  • Resilience and flexibility, with chance for great impact (Vizier Company, 5C Humans)
  • Is it worth playing fair game in the unfair format (Ponza, Devotion, GW Company),
  • in other words this is about the thought process of where one wants to be in the field

SCG Dallas Open: Modern Classic side event - Top16 (in that order, from 1 to 16)

Burn, Affinity, Infect, GR Tron, Grixis Shadow, Jeskai Control, Affinity, U/R Gifts Storm, Jeskai Control, Burn, Humans, Jeskai Control, U/W Control, Burn.   

Nothing really crazy here, except for maybe Infect. Infect is a good meta deck. It suffers mainly from decks with discard spells and Chalices.
While the latter is only a real problem gain, and they have to have it fast, discard spells are much tougher to overcome.

All the decks here will be at the PT, but I just grew to hate playing Storm. It is such an emotional roller coaster.
You either leave them no chance, or get totally destroyed yourself.

SCG Classic - Columbus - Top16

Affinity, Green Tron, Blue Moon, Burn, UW Control, Affinity, Grixis Shadow, Jeskai Control, Burn,
Zoo (seriously quite old school Naya Zoo), Grixis Shadow, Lantern Control, Mardu, Merfolks, Affinity, Bant Company.  

This sort of speaks to me as Control and Anti-Control Top16. With Lantern being anti-control and Merfolks somewhere in the middle.  

StarCityGames.com Modern Open - Columbus - Top32

Jeskai Control, Jeskai Control, Storm, Grixis Shadow, GW Company, Blue Moon, Humans, Skred Red, Burn, Jeskai Tempo, Humans,
Jeskai Control, Grixis Shadow, Grixis Shadow, UW Control, Monogreen Devotion, Grixis Shadow, Humans, Bant Company, Jund, 5C Aggro,
BG Mid, Dredge, Blue Moon, Grixis Shadow, GW Company, Elves, Eldrazi Tron, UW Control.  

Same location, bigger event. More “rogue-ish” decks slicing in to the top on the back on a big diverse field,
but they all pretty much same traits as for the Classic event. There are same two camps more or less in terms of strategies, though this time aims are reversed.
That is aggro and anti-aggro is a bigger trait, than control and anti-control.  

Grand Prix Santa Clara 2018 - Team Trios - Top8

Dredge, UW Control, Mardu, BG Shadow, Lantern Control, Affinity, Eldrazi Tron, Affinity.

First of all it was Team Trios. That adds some limitations. Even though it was Standard-Modern-Legacy, and not just Modern-Modern-Modern.
The cards didn’t overlap really, yet team event structure means among things that not everything depends on one deck,
and some risks in terms of matchups are worth taking.
Regardless, deck selection process apart from personal preferences (well, team events often do tend to allure many not very active players),
I assume was like at the PT to some extent. I mean people likely thought of the “best” decks and gunned mainly against those.
I like Dredge, but it is in my view a metagame call, just like Lantern Control. I don’t particularly fancy both in a more diverse field.  

Meanwhile, the online picture (mtggoldfish.com):

I quite like all of these decks, with the exception of maybe GR Ponza.
Titan Shift could be a very good PT pick, if you happen to dodge most unfair decks.
Similar thing with Dredge. Very powerful deck, can still win through hate, but again, dicy in that regard.
In terms of risks, I think Affinity has minimal downside in that aspect. Probably best “busted” deck, when it comes to digging out of troubles.

Here we enter the zone of very sweet potent decks that are quite meta dependant.
If I would want to bring a spicy yet competitive deck to rock the house, I will select something from this pool, or from the next group below.
Basically this and next picture is full of decks that can perform either amazingly, or totally badly.
Or if you feel like you tend to be the “lucky strike” person, you can take Jund Griselhoalbrand (Reanimator), for instance.

WURG here is just Blue Zoo. With corresponding pluses and minuses. I.e. good store play or long-term deck, but never spectacular.
WUBRG is the Collected Company cousin of the Aether Vial Humans build, which is more popular right now, and better vs blue decks,
but CoCo variant is better versus midrange decks. WUB is Esper Living End. Kind of a middle ground between Jund and Monoblue builds.
Cannot say more here. But respect the strategy.  

W for Monowhite Death and Taxes. Easy deck for newcomers and not that pricy. Typical Weenie that can bring saltage.
BRG is essentially BR Hollow One with Vengevine, which are not meant to be cast.
I’d say I favor the addition. UBRG is apparently just another take on Dredge.

Yes, Boggles should be good right about now. More on that later in the article.

Difference between Gw and Gwb Elves is very small, but impactful.
Gw can go off with Devoted Druid plus Vizier of Remedies.
Gwb closes out with a full set of Shaman of the Pack.
I like both packages and myself would try to fit in bits of both.
I do like the deck right now a fair bit as a choice for premium events, since among other features it can protect from mass removals and has combos built-in.

URG refers to Temur Bring to Light Scapeshift Control with one Damnation.
The deck can still perform over long-run, but I think its time has passed. RG version is just better rounded up overall.

UW Spirits is just a cheap way to enter the format, especially if you happen to still have all the cards from the past Standard.

Merfolks have always been somehow a “secret” sleep-in in Modern.
Everybody knows about it, but tend to forget from time to time, and then get punished.
It’s like with Dredge in Legacy. Similar thing goes for Skred Red, but the deck itself is way less flexible and hunts more specific victims.  

From here on out we are looking at very niche decks with few exceptions.
And at a few distinct flavors of more common builds.

I actually quite like the non-Skred version of Monored Stompy.
I don’t see any appealing flaws on paper.

There are a few Grixis Control lists out there.
The deck is sort of dead right now, but can be just a sleeper. Bans do drop sometimes.
The lists look more like about pet cards or comfort zone, than anything real.  

And then we a bunch of various aggro decks, which are also partially about pet cards and comfort zone or wallet/collection zone.
I think that as long as you know the format, the staples, and have clear ideas, you can brew some playable concoctions.  

It is quite sad to see such decks like some DnT flavor, Infect, Bant Eldrazi and Grixis Delver this low.
I have a feeling they might grab a bigger cut at some other periods.
Those four are some of the most underestimated decks in the format in my mind.
For instance, Grixis Delver can win some games and matches, which its Shadow counterpart might really struggle with,
but Shadow builds are just much more powerful overall.

Ironworks is a sweet deck, but it never pretended to rise to any prominent level.  

Comparing last big paper events and online metagame:

Let’s start easy. By simply accumulating Top8-Top32 frequences on paper,
and see how it compares to the most popular decks online.

Paper: Top32 appearances in the events mentioned (4 events)

Humans plus other Company decks (GW and Bant) - 8
Affinity - 7
Grixis Shadow - 7
Burn - 6
Jeskai Control - 5
UW Control - 5
Blue Moon - 3
Dredge -3
Green Tron - 2
Eldrazi Tron - 2
Storm - 2
Mardu - 2

Online: Top10 most common decks

Jeskai Control, Affinity, Grixis Shadow, Humans, Burn, Green Tron, Eldrazi Tron, UW Control, Mardu, Storm.


Actually very close. With little exceptions. And with factors like matchups and pairings and pilots we get a very near picture.
I.e. paper forecasts can be to a certain degree be based on current online situation.  

We are soft of reaching a wheel here. Company decks, Affinity and Burn lose to fast combos more often than not, but kick blue decks.
Blue decks keep combos in check. Midrange keeps blue decks. Big Mana decks (Tron, Valakut) keep midranges and some blue decks sometimes.

Part of me wants to say that decks like Abzan Vizier or Elves Company should be good in a vacuum,
because there are essentially combo decks, that can just beatdown and can often try to grind.

But then, the realization of the cycle kicks in. Before the events we covered, we saw a cycle of Big Mana decks on top.
Now our statistics show resurgence of Blue Control decks as an answer to that.
At the same time, we see more aggressive Company decks, Humans, Affinity and Burn which aim to go underneath all of that.
Thus, we are somewhere at the end of that cycle.  

I think Pro Tour might end up being full of the last three decks and the like.
For example, BR Hollow One, which is not as risky or dicy like Dredge or Living End.
In which case, Abzan Midrange with a solid amount of hate in the sideboard, should be a fine safe compromise.
Lifegain (Prinos, Timely, Scooze), disruption, grindy, grave hate, solid beatsticks, white sideboard cards.           

Top5 Modern Trends (not necessarily in this order)

  1. Pro Tour metagame will not be that diverse and will feature a lot of safe decks
  2. It is still worth it to play decks that give free wins (Storm, Griselhoalbrand)
  3. Grand Prix meta is way more diverse and can feature pretty much anything
  4. It is impossible to prepare for everything and have The best deck
  5. Breaking the wheel, timely positioning or Rogue mastering (e.g. GW Boggles Auras at this period)

Here I would like to take a moment to specify. There are decks that were good, are good, or will be good, depending on the cycle of the wheel.
There are Pro Tour decks, Grand Prix decks, decks that should be on top according to the data, and decks that I will pick for myself.  

My pick for Pro Tour - Abzan Midrange, UW Control or Mardu Pyromancer Midrange.

Decks I play in Modern - Eldrazi Tron, UR Storm, UG Infect, Vizier Company, UW Spirits.

Decks I like most among my own - Infect, UR Storm.

Decks I have played in Modern - every side of the spectrum, including decks that are nearly extinct now. Nearly half of the format.

Decks I would want to play - Elves, Amulet Combo, BR Hollow One, Dredge, Monoblue Living End, Monoblue Turns, Monogreen Devotion.

That’s it, folks!
Hope you enjoyed this overview and made some decisions more clear for yourself!

- Aarne Pyulze
Until the next cruise!
Stay reasonable and listen to your guts!
OthalaBor in Hearthstone, EternalTCG and Faeria
Ekvilor or BoatBrew at other game accounts
@BoatBrew on channels and media
website-cupboard: boatbrew.com

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