Three Modern New Year’s Resolutions for 2016

New Year’s resolutions are the high point of every January 1st celebration. Or maybe that’s just champagne. Or bowl game blowouts so outrageous they make Jeff Hoogland’s weekend loss to Bobby Fortanely’s Amulet Bloom look fair. Whether you prefer the booze or the club bashes to the boring promises, I’m sure you made at least a dozen resolutions for 2016. If you’re like me, you’ve broken half of them less than a week later, but maybe we can get back on track by making some Modern pledges instead of taking the oath for 5:00 AM jogs or more calls to your parents.

Blood-Moon-2016-Art

Modern Nexus may have launched 2016 with a deck spotlight on the mighty BW Eldrazi strategy, but now we need to usher in the New Year with a proper round of resolutions. For today’s article, I’m hammering out three personal commitments for 2016, ones I hope you’ll share with me as we enter another 12 months of Modern. Unlike some of my other promises (I swear I’ll do those three miles tomorrow morning!), I’m already putting work into making these three resolutions a reality, so join me as I walk you through my 2016 Modern vows and why you should adopt them too!

1. Play More Blood Moon

Modern doesn’t have the same high-caliber police cards as Legacy, but we still have our fair share of regulators. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek break up synergies before they start. Lightning Bolt keeps fast creatures in order, Abrupt Decay prevents blue mages from comboing off behind countermagic, and Splinter Twin discourages you from abandoning interaction for pure race power. We also see cards like Path to Exile, Kolaghan’s Command, Spell Snare, and dozens of sideboard bullets fulfilling these roles.

I’m a fan of each and every one of these policemen, but the top cop I want to roll with in 2016 is Blood Moon.

Blood Moon

You know the relationship is getting serious when I center an image.

Longtime readers shouldn’t be surprised at my renewed love affair with the hosing enchantment. I lauded Moon’s ability to regulate Modern during Grand Prix Charlotte, got a head start on this resolution in my December Boom // Bust brew, and have always been a big fan of Jordan’s Moon-powered innovations. With 2016 starting and a solid year of metagame data in the spreadsheet, I’m doubling down on Moon and its unique dual role as regulator and win condition.

Instead of preaching an ode to Moon’s merits in a vacuum, I’m going to make a case for why this will be the defining police effect of 2016 and why you Fulminator Mageshould play it with me. As we’ve seen over the past weeks, Modern is uniquely vulnerable to big-mana strategies that depend on zany nonbasics. Amulet Bloom continues to rampage its way onto the banlist (you can bet I’ll be giving you a data-driven earful on that deck soon), Tron was the most-played deck at SCG Cincinnati, and Bx Eldrazi is making metagame and market waves. Meanwhile, the fair builds are in an arms-race to wield as much land hate as they can cram into a sideboard. Although there are noteworthy differences between the targeted land killers, such as Crumble to Dust and Fulminator Mage, and the blanket Moon effects, the overall picture shows how manabases influence the format.

We even see this in the decks packing land destruction themselves. Abzan, Grixis, Jund, and Naya depend on their nonbasic manabase to function at an optimal level. This makes them equally weak to effects that screw with lands, although you often need to apply those effects differently against these strategies. Don’t be fooled by these decks’ red cards, or even the Moons they slip into their sideboards! Intentionally dropping the enchantment is a very different experience than having it sprung on you when you’ve fetched poorly. Between these fair strategies and the less fair ramp and ramp hybrids they look to beat, a huge swath of the Modern metagame relies on fragile mana. Moon is well-positioned to exploit this context.

I know what you’re thinking. No, Moon isn’t the best way to beat Tron (Chromatic Sphere and the other green-generating, cantriping Tarmogoyfartifacts make finding/casting Nature’s Claim a trivial affair). The same goes for Bx Eldrazi, which can naturally drop fatties around the enchantment or win off basics, as well as many fair Rx(x) decks which still function under Moon and eventually get out of it. That’s why I will not rely on Moon alone in 2016. I will instead pair it with pressure. Under pressure, baby! I want to lead turn one Birds of Paradise into turn two Moon into turn three Tarmogoyf. I want to drop Goblin Guide and pals on turns 1-2 and then follow with a Moon while the opponent is busy clearing the clocks. I want to slam the enchantment on turn one like Peter Niemeier and get my slip signed. And, if all else fails, I’m maindecking this bad boy alongside Splinter Twin and calling it a day.

Whether using Moon as a self-contained win condition or dropping it as a roadblock while other finishers seal the game, I’m going to be having a lot of fun with Moon this year as I attack Modern’s fragile manabases. I strongly encourage you to do the same, either committing 2-3 of them to your main 60, or fluidly squeezing copies in your sideboard. There are just too many decks that either fold outright to the effect or slow to a crawl trying to work around it, and 2016 is the year I’m going to be Blood Mooning as many opponents as I can. As an added bonus, Moon tends to be excellent against random newcomers that show up in regional (and even larger) tournaments, giving you a versatile out no matter what you are playing with or against.

2. Test First. Board the Hype Train Later

If you tell me you avoided all of Modern’s 2015 hype trains, you’re either a liar or more fiscally conservative than the current Illinois governor (yes, it’s now 2016 and no, we still Footsteps of the Goryodon’t have last year’s budget). It’s almost impossible to not get caught up in the 24-7 Modern news cycle that encourages rampant speculation, hyperbolic deck assessments, and getting ahead of the next big thing. I certainly bought a ticket to hypeland in 2015. Grishoalbrand, the return of Bubble Hulk, and the rise of Blood Moon all prodded me to whip out the credit card and pour dollars into Magic’s secondary market. At least I stayed clear of the Sedge Sliver euphoria. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the excitement around new decks and strategies, but when that excitement sputters and burns once it hits the competitive sphere, you waste a lot of time, money, and energy that could have been better spent elsewhere. With so many trains zooming out of the Modern station, it’s hard to not get sucked into at least one.

How do you stay off the bandwagon and keep levelheaded? Test the decks and cards before you buy them or talk them up online. The vast majority of over-advertised Modern staples end up being more vulnerable, less consistent, and not nearly as powerful as they appear in the proverbial white room. Other “bad” cards end up being total monsters. And, in the vast majority of those cases, just a handful of real games against real top-tier Modern contenders will reveal those holes faster than the Seahawks defense tore through poor Bruce Arian’s offensive line last Sunday.

Disclaimer before I get too deep into this testing paradigm! Many Magic players don’t have bottomless bank accounts and limitless time to turn product around for profit. Venues like Pucatrader and eBay demand a surprising amount of hours before you see big returns. If you don’t mind committing those resources, or you’re okay with mediocre returns, then you can board hype trains as much as you want. Price memory is more of a Modern staple than Splinter Twin, so most spiked cards will hold their new price tag even after the buzz dies down. But if you don’t want to invest those hours, if you’re not good at playing the Magic market, or if you don’t want to be the boy-who-called-broken in every Modern discussion, then testing is the panacea you’ve been waiting for.

Jace ProdigyAs a community, we need to make the pledge to test cards and decks before we cry fair or foul. Don’t blast new Modern prospects until you’ve given them a whirl. Don’t prophesize an impending emergency ban until you’ve actually tested the deck (and even then, as I’ll talk about in Resolution #3, don’t immediately turn to bans). This is why so many Magic Origins evaluators went ga-ga over Goblin Piledriver while technicians like Trevor Holmes are too busy tinkering with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to involve themselves in flame wars. Obviously, in that case alone, the financial and metagame implications of those decisions and tests can be huge.

Regular testing isn’t easy. From a time perspective, it’s sometimes savvier to just hop into the buyout and post your stock to eBay than it is to grind a dozen matches against Twin. It’s almost always easier to make a snap evaluation and run. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve slipped up at least once in the past few days, getting all googly-eyed over the spoiled Eldrazi Displacer before testing it in a single Eldrazi or Death and Taxes shell. I’m getting better at this, however, and I want you to get better with me. I’ve already resolved not to post a word of Oath of the Gatewatch card analysis on this site before testing anything first. Again, I’m not advocating for us to take the week off and run the full Top Decks gauntlet. 2-3 matches will often suffice, and those games alone can give more insight into a card’s real value than 200 comments on r/spikes.

This small commitment to testing will help ground the entire community in evidence and results, not just in the rhetoric and speculation that so Oblivion Soweroften characterizes card and deck evaluation. In the worst case scenario, you waste a little time, play a few games of Magic, and take your findings back to your buddies for real or virtual upvotes. Best case scenario? You stumble on the breakout before anyone else, and you have the results to justify any dollars you dish out. You can also bask in the “I told you so points” that runs most of the internet, and get an edge on developing your new baby for the next event. Incidentally, this is exactly the dynamic we see in current Bx Eldrazi lists (which, I’m proud to say, I tested extensively before talking about yesterday). Play more, talk less, and then bring it back to the forums after you have real content. That’s how we’ll find the next Oblivion Sowers and Eldrazi Temples of Modern.

3. Don’t Make Everything About Bans

I’m ending my resolutions with an oldy I’ve been promoting since 2011. This is also a promise I will continue to advance until I sell away all my fetches and shocks and abandon the format. Even if you are the Abzan player who can’t stand the sight of Moon, or the fast-clicking prospector who can’t help but pile onto hot new decks, you should still make the pledge to remove the “____ is broken, ban please” response from your repertoire. This default reaction stifles discussion, shortsells metagame adaptation, discourages innovation, and demoralizes players who are otherwise excited about or interested in Modern.

Lantern of InsightThe recent rise of Bx Eldrazi is a perfect example of this, although we could just as easily turn to any single Grand Prix winner in 2015. Whenever a deck does well in Modern, there’s invariably a ban outcry against some element of that strategy. To a large extent, Wizards shares blame here. In advancing a relatively conservative but still regular ban policy, Wizards has made bans an inseparable part of Modern. But Wizards is much more critical in their application of that policy than the average Modern forum-goer or PPTQ competitor. Bans are their last resort when evidence demands action, and we need to treat them that way. Instead of complaining about a new deck, learn to beat it. Find its weaknesses, run some matches, and do some testing (again with that invaluable “testing” concept). This is how we realize Lantern Control, although awesome, was more lucky break than format breaker. It’s also how we’ll come to love, and ultimately beat up, our new Eldrazi contenders, instead of talking about preemptive Eldrazi Temple bans across the web.

That said, we don’t want to be banlist ostriches with our heads buried in our own pet decks. Modern has seen a ban and/or an unban every year since the format started. We don’t do anyone favors by ignoring the reality of these bannings and unbannings, or by banishing them from our thoughts as we analyze decks and metagame trends. As 2016 unfolds, we’ll need to balance our reflexive ban mania with the realities of an evolving format and a somewhat opaque banlist policy that has still done significantly more good than harm to Modern. By a similar token, we need to sharpen our understanding of bans and continually update that knowledge as we get more information. My recent “Understanding the Turn Four Rule” piece was an honest and, hopefully, helpful attempt at this, and you can bet we’ll be running more pieces like this in 2016. There’s a big difference between that sort of evidence-based, precedent-grounded conversation and the “ban all the things” mentality which often appears in Modern.

If you aren’t already minimizing the automated banlist replies, start doing it right after January ends and our upcoming announcement starts to take effect. If you’ve already pushed this out of your posting habits, speak out against the behavior when you see it. Don’t put people down though! Give them information and evidence and help them see how their comments are both inaccurate and potentially harmful for the format. Together we can fight back against this nasty Modern tendency, elevate the conversation, and improve the Modern experience for everyone.

And Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

Things got a little heavyhanded at the end there, so I’m going to step down from the podium and remind everyone (plus myself) to have fun in Modern. If you’re not having fun in this format, you’re not doing it right. Take this from someone who enters dozens of decks per week from obscure Japanese, Danish, and Italian websites just to get accurate metagame numbers. Once the fun is dead then it’s time to move on, and if the fun isn’t there online, in game stores, or at tournament tables, something needs to change. But hey, I’m the guy trying to live the turn two Blood Moon dream in 2016, so maybe I’m not the best authority on fun anyway…

I hope everyone enjoyed the piece and that these resolutions started your own Modern thought process for 2016. Let me know your feedback in the comments. Any promises you’ve made? Decks or cards you want to try? Articles you want to see on the site? Speak your mind and I’ll see everyone again tomorrow. Of course, if anyone wants to share tears/confusion/expletives for my beloved Bears and their miserable defeat to Detroit in a Soldier Field home game, the comment section is also waiting.

Sheridan is the former Editor in Chief of Modern Nexus and a current Staff Author. He comes from a background in social science data analysis, database administration, and academia. He has been playing Magic since 1998 and Modern since 2011.

17 thoughts on “Three Modern New Year’s Resolutions for 2016

  1. My new year resolution for mtg is, find a deck in modern which I enjoy. Nothing more and nothing less (easier said than done). Since the Song ban I have yet to find a deck, which makes me as much fun as Ritual Gift (and is somewhat competitive).

    @Article, especially the last point is something I hate about the Modern community. As soon as something does well, people are crying out for bans, without thinking twice. It is getting tiresome to argue with those guys -,-*

    Greetings,
    Kathal

    1. I know the feeling! I’m trying to find something I really love by working around my current Blood Moon obsession, so perhaps something will come out of that. All of my other fringe preferences are too weak in this metagame, so it’s a struggle to really invest in a deck.

      1. Most interesting Moon build I have seen atm was Bloody Jund (MD Blood Moon in Jund). Wrecks most opponents game 1 (cause, who expects Moon from Jund, especially game 1) and due to Birds + Hierarch (6 dorks) you can play Moon on turn 2, or Lilli, or w/e you just want to cast 🙂

        Greetings,
        Kathal

      2. I waffled back and forth a lot in Modern trying to find a deck I enjoyed playing, not just one that did well. Delver, Twin, Infect, I went back and forth but none of them ever felt ‘fun’ for me and my playstyle. Then I came across a Chord variant that used Bring to Light (and also almost completely folded to t2 Blood Moon) instead of Chord of Calling, and have been having an absolute blast with it in the format. Now I have something to spend the year building on and enjoying so that my love of the format continues to grow.

  2. “If you tell me you avoided all of Modern’s 2015 hype trains, you’re either a liar or more fiscally conservative than the current Illinois governor “…….I guess I should be governor of my home state?

    Here’s the prices I spent (or pucatraded) for the following cards since last Januray (each was a playset): $11 Through the Breach, $5 Huntmaster, $3 Thragtusk, $1 Ancient Stirrings, $15 O-Stones, $27 Grove of the Burnwillows, 2x $25 Ugin, $100 MM2 goyfs. This also isn’t counting the $45 spent on a deathmist raptor playset and $10 on a den protector playset.

    There’s really no big secret here I bought into R/G Breach last January because Scott Lipp’s GP Omaha deck looked like a blast (and it was!). I saved for R/G Tron for three months and bought in a week after GP Vegas when Karn stopped dropping. I used a work bonus to buy into Jund at half price because I realized I had most the cards and could obtain $150 of cards from pucatrade. For the standard cards, I bought them right before Dragons released since I was on G/W devotion and they looked like a good fit.

    The common thread is that I decided which decks I enjoyed and wanted to play based on my own preferences and goldfishing, not what was getting attention at the time. As such, I didn’t cash out on any of these cards for profit, even if my Tron deck was $250 more expensive literally three weeks after I finished it.

    1. If your home state is Illinois, you’d probably be doing a better budget job than Mr. Rauner!

      I actually don’t count those investments as hype trains. Tron, Amulet Bloom, and BGx Midrange were all pretty solid metagame calls with lots of good data behind them. Hype trains are more like Slivers, Bubble Hulk, and Restore Balance. Although there are hype train elements to something like Jund, especially back in late May and early June, those were still relatively grounded buys.

      1. Yep, home sweet suburban-Chicago! How I miss it so!

        Tron hit a lot of hype after it won both the player’s championship and accompanying open (aka “when the O-Stone bubble burst”). It’s not like it was a weird choice or anything, it was just a moment where half the community collectively realized that it was still a good deck. The same thing happens whenever a solid deck that seems to have disappears suddenly wins a tournament.

        Since we’re on the topic of hype trains, how about that cloudstone curio? I don’t want to add heritage druid to the mix since the aggro elves deck has stuck around, but evolutionary elves was literally around for one week before abruptly disappearing. At least Grishoalbrand has the decency to occasionally win an IQ!

        1. The Cloudstone Curio Combo Elves deck is more fragile than most of the currently played decks. It relies on several combo pieces, which can be all killed via Bolt. If you want to play green combo, go for Mono Green Devotion, if you want to play Elves, play Aggro CoCo Elves, which is the best Elves deck.

          Griselbanned was never that widely played, it is still a very solid deck, but not mainstream. It needs something to be Tier 1 material, cause atm it is still a little bit to inconsistent (I’m one of the innovator of the Shoal version, so trust me on this one).

          Greetings,
          Kathal

  3. Solid resolutions, and I’m loving the football references. I’m going to have to see where I sneak Moon into decks that I play, but the latter two really should be adopted by the community. The ban whining in particular is a black mark on what is otherwise a thriving group.

    1. Ban whining is the absolute worst. I’m expecting to see even more whining than usual these next months, between the banlist update, the analysis (if it can be called that) of that update, and new decks making waves in tournament scenes.

  4. Hey Sheridan,
    Awesome article as always, I found your stance on the ban list particularly level headed and honest. I have been guilty of catching ban fever every once in a while, but articles like this one help me remember that while I may hate a deck or a specific card that doesn’t mean I get to attach the label “broken” to it and call for its ouster. As poisonous to the format as I happen to think lantern is, all the ban talk is far more toxic.

    If you’re looking at blood moon decks there’s a great one in R/G turbo mmon that I’m sure you’ve seen online. Salvation has a decent rundown of it athttp://www.mtgsalvation.com/forums/the-game/modern/deck-creation-modern/569795-turbo-moon. I personally think that the deck should run utopia sprawl to help live that turn 2 moon dream of yours. But nevertheless it looks like fun.

    Cheers!

  5. You need to find a way to combine your love of T2 blood moons with your love of T4 Goblin Charbelcher activations (in Modern!). I still want that deck to work so bad.

  6. Thanks for the article, it made for an enjoyable read!
    Unlike other people submitting their comments I was lucky enough to immediately find a deck I enjoyed playing when I first got into the format about 2 years ago and I’ve yet to grow tired of my beloved artifact creatures.
    Now please don’t hate me for feeding even more (possibly unnecessary) ban talk, but I’m a bit worried about the next announcement. I share most of your views on the banlist, and believe no single card or deck deserves a ban at the moment: what worries me is that wotc might put aside its past policies only to shake up the format before the pro tour. Considering how important it is to them to show that modern is a healthy, constantly evolving format, I have a hard time believing there won’t be any changes: I just hope this time they’ll opt for a reasonable unban.
    Happy new year modernnexus folks!

    1. I actually do think Wizards needs to ban a card. Something from Bloom has to go. The deck is unquestionably top-tier and also wins too consistently before turn four. I’m writing up my rationale for next week’s article, but for now suffice to say it’s a problem. I expect either Summer Bloom to go (if Wizards follows the Storm/Song precedent), or Amulet itself (if they just want to kill the deck ala Blazing Shoal).

      Otherwise, I agree we will see no bans and hopefully at least one unban.

  7. I am just starting out Modern, woo! I got a bit bored with Commander and wanted a new competitive outlet and Legacy is out my reach so I got into this wonderful format.
    My poison of choiceÉ Lantern Control! Got my 3 BRidges today (had 1 before) so getting rolling this Firday at FNM. This deck does everything I want: 1)Annoy people 2)Play a grindy game 3)Punish my play errors mercilessely.
    GO TEAM LANTERN!

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