Triple GP Analysis!

Ah, Triple Modern GP Weekend. Nothing compares. Chocolate and peanut butter falls short, metalcore music comes close, dominating unsuspecting children in a friendly game of chess in the local park almost beats it, but still: nothing beats Modern GP Weekend. Today, we’ve got a ton of information to go through, a mountain of decklists to analyze, and a few essential pieces of tech hidden in the mound. Let’s break it down.

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By The Numbers

Before going into each individual Grand Prix, it makes sense to first evaluate this weekend’s results as a whole. In doing so, we can gain some surface-level insight about the metagame as a whole before delving deeper into each specific event. While a lot of important information can get lost when looking at the “big picture,” value still exists in first taking a broad-level approach regarding results analysis. We can still miss things, like a niche archetype winning a big event, but as long we look at data side by side we can gain a better understanding of the results without the risk of some fatal misconceptions.

So, how was the weekend as a whole? Aggregating the three events together, here is the representation of every archetype that managed a Top 16 or better result for the three events:

Infect 6
Bant Eldrazi 5
Zooicide (Death’s Shadow Zoo) 6
Affinity 4
Naya Burn 4
Jund 3
RG Breach 3
Ad Nauseam 2
Green-White Hatebears 2
Abzan 1
Amulet-Scout 1
B/R Eldrazi 1
Blood Moon Jund 1
Dredge 1
Goryo’s Vengeance 1
Green-Black Elves 1
Grixis Delver 1
Knightfall 1
Living End 1
Nahiri Mardu 1
Thing Ascension 1
White-Blue Control 1

So, what does this table tell us? Looking purely at representation numbers without weighting by results only does so much for us, but as we said before, it’s a start. Here, we can use it to get a snapshot of the metagame at the top tables, and determine if any archetype is over- or under-performing according to their representation. Starting at the top, we can see relatively unsurprising numbers out of Infect, Bant Eldrazi, Zooicide, Affinity, Naya Burn and Jund, which are all major players in the format. In the middle of the pack we have RG Breach, Ad Nauseam, and GW Hatebears threatening to break into top-tier levels of representation, and then fringe strategies and “rogue” decks rounding out the bottom.

Prized AmalgamImmediately, the first major takeaway for me is the poor performance of Dredge. One of the most common top performing decks on MTGO in the past few weeks, Dredge’s showing here at GP Weekend is surprising, considering how consistent its performance has been both online and in paper events recently. This suggests, (emphasis on suggests) that Dredge either met an actively hostile field in all three events, or some other archetype’s natural rise has proven unfavorable for the deck’s overall position in the metagame.

Second, Bant Eldrazi’s performance suggests my analysis of last weekend’s events was correct, and we are witnessing an archetype on the rise. Elves only managed to put one copy into the combined results, while Bant Eldrazi takes the bronze medal for “most represented” on the weekend. We can safely say that either the right list has been found, or the format has shifted to a point where Eldrazi is here to stay until the format adjusts to fight it. If it wasn’t on your personal radar, it should be now.

Grand Prix Guangzhou

1st Grixis Delver
2nd Naya Burn
3rd Zooicide
4th Knightfall
5th Thing Ascension
6th Naya Burn
7th Goryo’s Vengeance
8th Jund
9th B/R Eldrazi
10th Infect
11th Ad Nauseam
12th Zooicide
13th Nahiri Mardu
14th Infect
15th Infect
16th Infect

I chose to start with Grand Prix Guangzhou as, for me, its results are the most interesting. Seven different archetypes in the Top 8, with Naya Burn taking two slots, is immediately attention grabbing—not to mention the winning list.

Grixis Delver, by Albertus Law (1st, GP Guangzhou)

Creatures (15)
Delver of Secrets
Gurmag Angler
Snapcaster Mage
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Young Pyromancer

Instants (18)
Terminate
Spell Snare
Thought Scour
Kolaghan’s Command
Spell Pierce
Lightning Bolt
Mana Leak
Murderous Cut
Electrolyze
Countersquall

Sorceries (8)
Serum Visions
Gitaxian Probe
Dreadbore

Lands (19)
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Sulfur Falls
Swamp
Blood Crypt
Bloodstained Mire
Darkslick Shores
Island
Mountain
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Sideboard (15)
Blood Moon
Dismember
Dispel
Dreadbore
Engineered Explosives
Flashfreeze
Izzet Staticaster
Magma Spray
Spell Pierce
Surgical Extraction
Vandalblast
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Grixis Delver is one of those archetypes that I never seem to do well with when I pick it up, but still puts up amazing results here and there. You rarely see a large portion of the field playing Delver of Secrets, yet when it pops up in a Top 8 it often tends to take home the trophy. The fact that Delver even beat Naya Burn in the finals to take the trophy (one of its worst matchups) is even more impressive to me. While other people continue to show up in large numbers with Infect, Zooicide, and fast combo, Grixis Delver will continue to do well. Its combination of fast, cheap threats and plentiful, cheap interaction work together to quickly apply pressure and disrupt the opponent until they are dead. While the collective “unfairness” of the format keeps down decks like Abzan, Jund, and Naya Burn, you can expect (with a bit of luck and a lot of play skill) to do well with this deck.

Kolaghans CommandLooking at the list specifically, four delve creatures and more Kolaghan’s Command is exactly what I like to see. For me, Grixis Delver always played second chair to Grixis Control as they cut what were, in my mind, the best reasons to be in the color in an attempt to support Delver of Secrets. In this list, Albertus Law chose to trim a lot of the reactive counterspells in exchange for more creatures and more individually powerful spells. When you can go Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, Gurmag Angler, Kolaghan’s Command, you don’t really care if your opponent killed off a few of your creatures along the way. Eventually their removal will run out, and if not, spending time casting removal spells plays right into our Snapcaster Mage/Kolaghan’s Command long-game.

As a final note, pay attention to the two copies of Blood Moon in the board. With Eldrazi Temple picking up in popularity, along with Blood Moon’s continued strength in the format, the time has come again to expect a possible Blood Moon out of any archetype that has access to red mana.

Bant Knightfall, by Kelvin Chew (4th, GP Guangzhou)

Creatures (27)
Knight of the Reliquary
Birds of Paradise
Noble Hierarch
Qasali Pridemage
Scavenging Ooze
Selfless Spirit
Spell Queller
Spellskite
Voice of Resurgence
Courser of Kruphix

Enchantments (3)
Retreat to Coralhelm

Instants (8)
Path to Exile
Collected Company

Lands (22)
Plains
Flooded Strand
Breeding Pool
Forest
Gavony Township
Ghost Quarter
Hallowed Fountain
Horizon Canopy
Kessig Wolf Run
Misty Rainforest
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Windswept Heath
Sideboard (15)
Blessed Alliance
Ghost Quarter
Izzet Staticaster
Kitchen Finks
Negate
Scavenging Ooze
Worship
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Knightfall placing 4th in a Grand Prix is a big deal. This archetype has been poking around the edge of the format for about a year now (check out my Video Series on the deck!) but has only managed a couple strong performances, and never a Top 4. The fact that we’re seeing it now suggests either a major format change or some new technology that improved the deck.

Spell QuellerFour Spell Queller definitely counts as new technology! I’ve been having a ton of success with Spell Queller in Modern and I know from experience that it definitely fits in here. For those who have yet to play with/against the card, it can be awkward at times versus opponents with lots of removal, but the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. For a creature-based combo archetype like this, a lightning rod for removal that can interact with/disrupt the opponent while also just applying pressure if need be is exactly what the deck wants access to. Alongside Selfless Spirit and Collected Company, Bant Knightfall has successfully incorporated enough tools and tricks to make the opponent’s plays consistently awkward. This list is definitely one I plan on picking up and testing out soon.

Grand Prix Lille

1st         Infect

2nd       Zooicide

4th        Green-White Hatebears

4th        Jund

8th        Affinity

8th        Bant Eldrazi

8th        RG Breach

8th        White-Blue Control

9th        Amulet-Scout

10th      Jund

11th      Blood Moon Jund

12th      Ad Nauseam

13th      Green-Black Elves

14th      Bant Eldrazi

15th      Death’s Shadow Zoo

16th      Infect

Not to be defeated by Guangzhou’s Top 8 diversity, GP Lille featured a full eight different archetypes in the Top 8, with Infect taking home the trophy! Zooicide taking second is surprising to me, as they are generally faster and more disruptive than Infect, and only have to worry about their precarious life total in some obscure scenarios. Still, Infect can deploy to the board faster with mana creatures, and Spell Pierce can slow down Zooicide enough on their pivotal turn to swing the race the other way. While I would rather be on the Thoughtseize side of things, Infect remains a consistent choice.

Blade SplicerGW Hatebears in the semifinals is the only other major point of interest for me here, this time with Blade Splicer! Blade Splicer, Flickerwisp, Restoration Angel, Collected Company, and Eternal Witness give the deck a lot of power and help to make up for the lackluster performance of Leonin Arbiter. Cutting away a lot of the flair, playing only Noble Hierarch as acceleration, and a playset of Scavenging Ooze to both hate on Dredge and provide a cheap, hard-hitting threat against removal-heavy decks all are steps in the right direction for me.

So, the big takeaway from Lille for me is more of a question than anything else: is this the new normal going forward? With archetypes like GW Hatebears taking steps to reduce Dredge’s effectiveness in the metagame, we could possibly be seeing a shift in the market share at the top, with archetypes like GW and Bant Eldrazi taking some of the points once held by Dredge. Whether the metagame will shift towards a “fairer” Hatebears style approach or a “trump” style of Blood Moon-type haymakers is yet to be seen.

Before moving on to Indianapolis, I have to mention the UW Control list Daniel Ballestin used to make his way to the quarterfinals:

UW Control, by Daniel Ballestin (7th, GP Lille)

Creatures (11)
Kitchen Finks
Restoration Angel
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique
Wall of Omens

Instants (16)
Blessed Alliance
Condemn
Cryptic Command
Spell Snare
Mana Leak
Negate
Path to Exile

Enchantments (1)
Detention Sphere

Planeswalkers (1)
Gideon Jura

Sorceries (6)
Ancestral Vision
Supreme Verdict

Land (25)
Mystic Gate
Tectonic Edge
Celestial Colonnade
Flooded Strand
Ghost Quarter
Plains
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Island
Sideboard (15)
Blessed Alliance
Crucible of Worlds
Dispel
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Engineered Explosives
Grafdigger’s Cage
Hallowed Burial
Negate
Rest in Peace
Stony Silence
Timely Reinforcements
Vendilion Clique
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Daniel’s list is pretty usual, full of “good stuff” UW cards that when combined together buy enough time to land some haymaker or other and win the game in convincing fashion. The thing I like the most about this list is exactly how unremarkable it is—no spicy bomb or over-the-top synergy to distract from the goal. Kitchen Finks and Restoration Angel block and gain life just as well as they attack, and Gideon Jura can play excellent defense or offense depending on our position when he comes down. Really, the true win condition in a list like this is Ancestral Vision, as an opponent low on resources will often just concede when this thing comes off suspend and we get to draw four cards to their one. Still, taking complete control and attacking with the old one-two of Gideon Jura and Celestial Colonnade for two turns is just good fun. If you’re interested in picking up this archetype, I think now is the time to do so. It’s not often that Supreme Verdict is good against such a large percentage of the field. We know we’re in a bubble when cards like Blessed Alliance and Blood Moon pop up in maindecks.

Grand Prix Indianapolis

1st         Naya Burn

2nd       RG Breach

4th        Green-White Hatebears

4th        RG Breach

8th        Affinity

8th        Affinity

8th        Bant Eldrazi

8th        Zooicide

9th        Naya Burn

10th      Zooicide

11th      Bant Eldrazi

12th      Bant Eldrazi

13th      Dredge

14th      Living End

15th      Abzan

16th      Affinity

Naya Burn, by Brandon Burton (1st, GP Indianapolis)

Creatures (17)
Wild Nacatl
Monastery Swiftspear
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Goblin Guide
Grim Lavamancer

Instants (16)
Searing Blaze
Lightning Bolt
Atarka’s Command
Boros Charm

Sorceries (7)
Lava Spike
Rift Bolt

Lands (20)
Copperline Gorge
Sacred Foundry
Stomping Ground
Mountain
Bloodstained Mire
Arid Mesa
Wooded Foothills
Sideboard (15)
Deflecting Palm
Destructive Revelry
Kor Firewalker
Lightning Helix
Path to Exile
Skullcrack
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Burn wins a Grand Prix! For weeks Burn has been almost non-existent in the metagame, thanks in large part to Dredge and Gnaw to the Bone keeping it down. With Dredge on the downswing, and most players dedicating hate slots to fight it, Brandon Burton picked the exact right week to play Burn, while everyone else was focused elsewhere. I think we’ve finally come all the way around to the origin point, where Burn has been off the radar for so long, until the format got soft and allowed it to crush an event, at which point it will start to get hated out again. Worship is a fine plan against them, but keep in mind that more people are playing Worship now compared to a few weeks ago, and you won’t always “get em’” like you could in some games. Burn players know to bring in Destructive Revelry, or can afford to “wait and see” for Game 3 as they are still winning most Game 1s. While the rest of the format continues to spend slots hating on Dredge, Burn will capitalize on a favorable field.

As for RG Breach, I’m still calling it a bad deck that the rest of the format allows to exist. It’s slower than Tron, almost as slow as Scapeshift, and doesn’t even have access to blue. It’s my opinion that Breach is held up singlehandedly by the strength of Lightning Bolt, and the fact that everyone else is messing around with things like Wall of Omens and Blessed Alliance. While the control decks are dropping Nahiri, the Harbinger and durdling for a few turns after that before they win, Breach has all the time in the world to just get to lands naturally, or play threat after threat through control’s limited counterspells. This lets Breach skew their sideboard to fight all the aggro decks and help a bit against unfair combo, but it still just feels really lackluster. Everyone else is doing better, more powerful things faster, and I feel like we might just want to play Tron. Still, if people are starting to play more Blood Moon, Breach isn’t the worst option for those that want to do unfair things with their lands.

Takeaways

So, to recap, Eldrazi put up strong numbers, but didn’t translate well to the Top 8. This suggests to me that the deck is still the “real deal” but players came prepared for it this week. Dredge was successfully hated out of three different tournaments simultaneously, and Burn took advantage, putting up two finals performances and taking home one trophy. Worship is picking up in popularity as a strong trump for all the linear creature decks running around, but the surprise factor is gone now and most lists are starting to adapt to handle it. What happens next is anyone’s guess! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!

 

Trevor Holmes

The_Architect on MTGO

Twitch.tv/Architect_Gaming

Twitter.com/7he4rchitect

Trevor started playing Magic in 2011. He plays primarily online and studies Architecture at UNCC. Recent paper Magic accomplishments include a 2015 Regional PTQ win qualifying for Pro Tour: Magic Origins and a Day Two performance at GP Charlotte. He also streams weekdays at twitch.tv/Architect_Gaming! Follow him at twitter.com/7he4rchitect and architectgaming.wordpress.com!

18 thoughts on “Triple GP Analysis!

  1. I think one of the most surprising things about the three GPs is how there was no Jeskai in any of the top 16s. It is currently the 5th most played deck per your last analysis. Jeskai (removal.dec) should do well against infect, burn, and zooicide, yet failed to produce any results. I find this odd.

      1. Hello, Michael and Francois. The answer is RG Breach’s breakout performance, which is a poor matchup for Jeskai (roughly 40-60). Also. Bant Eldrazi solidifying its position pushes the deck further down.

        Indeed, Jeskai has even to favored matchups against Jund and, as Michael notes, decks like Affinity, Infect or Suicide Zoo. Players even packed RiP and more Angers for Dredge and did well. Sadly, 11-4 is not good enough to Top8 a GP.

        As long as Modern is a diverse format, Jeskai will have a hard time keeping up with the metagame. It can surely be Tier 1 but the Bogles, Ad Nauseams, Valakuts and Trons of the format will keep it at bay.

        1. I agree with all these points, my extensive experience playing Jeskai felt similar to how Jund plays out; you are doing strong things, but you’re often left hoping to draw the right half of your deck against most of the field.

          Trevor

    1. Personally, I think that it comes down to how the deck is being constructed. When Jeskai draws its removal in the correct order then it is very favored in many matchups. However, the (I say inexplicable) trend towards not playing any sweepers means that it struggles to come from behind. If Supreme Verdict and Anger of the Gods saw more play the deck would be less vulnerable to aggro decks going wide and Eldrazi, which may have boosted its numbers enough to crack the Top 8s.

  2. Like always, I enjoyed the article.

    On a side note, I can understand the hesitancy with R/G breach, but having three of them make top 16 and also seeing no tron in the top 16 says something. Maybe it has something to do with the prevalence rates of both Jund and Infect? On the one end you would expect Tron to be present with Jund being such a large portion of the meta. On the other end, is there a value that Infect has to exceed in prevalence that really halters Tron in events of this size? I can’t imagine that R/G breach has a better match up against Infect, but there had to be some niche the deck was fulfilling for each event?

    1. It’s not about Infect by itself; it’s about the sheer volume of linear decks. Tron struggles against Burn, Affinity, Dredge, Infect, Zooicide, in addition to the obviously poor Infect matchup. Being good against 10% of the field (Jund) doesn’t mean much when you’re a huge dog to 75% of the field.

    2. Breach isn’t great against infect either, but it preys on the midrange decks almost as well as tron while being able to also beat tron. Plus it gets bonus points for being able to have turn 3 wins every once in a while. Those bonus points give it game against the hyper aggressive strategies.

  3. I love your analysis pieces. I appreciate you showcasing the most interesting/unique decks that broke the top table, and as usual, you offer some great insight as to why these archetypes were successful at this time. I am surprised that you did not give any mention at all to the Amulet/Scout deck in 9th. I believe it is just a blip, as the variety of the t16 shows, but I also feel it is worthy of mention. I’m not convinced its a better choice than any other deck, but perhaps a pointer to the fact that many decks are viable if you pilot them well?

    1. Modern is slowly moving away from this fact, but not so long ago you really could play “anything” and do well with it. It seems that Bant Eldrazi’s rise is pushing decks to do “more faster” which reduces the list of viable decks a bit, but still, Modern is in a great place right now, where a bunch of archetypes are in play for the top tables every week. I’m holding out for another showing from Amulet/Scout 🙂

  4. I’m glad to see Burn win a big tournament. It’s one of the pillars of the format, but it’s been giving ground to a wide variety of other linears of late. However, it’s not to be dismissed, as it tends to punish Death’s Shadow Zoo and Infect players pretty harshly, in addition to making anything not trying to win on T4 sweat. And yeah, Bant Eldrazi is the real deal. I would not sleep on that deck.

    Regarding the Breach deck… I think you’re being a bit harsh on it. The fact that the deck can rip a T4 finish when its ramp package lines up right (similar to Ad Nauseam) while also presenting quality interaction against creature decks and attack on a weird enough axis to give midrange and control decks problems means that it can’t be dismissed out of hand. I think consistency is an issue for a lot of the shells out there (as it tends to be for most non-Tron ramp decks), but that can be mitigated once an optimal build is put together (and as this site mentioned earlier, the community’s not quite there yet).

    1. You make good points and I agree with all of them! On a pure deckbuilding level I tend to normally be biased against most ramp strategies, yet I can’t deny their results. It’s one of my shortcomings that I tend to work on.

      Trevor

  5. I’m considering UWx control to work on next, but honestly I’d rather run it with a gifts package of board sweepers, something like 2-3 gifts ungiven and 1 each of day of judgment, damnation, wrath of god, supreme verdict and/or anger of the gods, depending on the exact color combination. That’s how control did the job back in the day – use cheap counters or removal to stop 1-2 threats early on then board wipe to reset things. UW control vs Ravager Affinity standard…crazy times.

  6. At first I thought Dredge didnt put up results but then I analyzed 192 decks from top64s and found out that Dredge was in 95% confidence interval of its metagame share predicted by this site’s metagame table.
    So there WAS NOT enough hate to put Dredge on decline
    Top16 and Top8 have a lot more variance so I dont like to draw conclusions from them

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