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The State of Modern & A First Look at Modern Masters 2017 Draft



So after this weekend's two Grand Prix, we finally get closure to this rather stupid Standard Format. Sure, there will be PPTQs online as well as in real life, but other than that, no premier events will be held until Amonketh is released. So what to do now except maybe grind some trophies on Magic Online?

Today I will talk about some little things, as I figured there really is no interest in other topics. We approach the Modern season in a couple of weeks, but that is still some time away from now. So let's talk about some random stuff, shall we.

The State of Modern

So when my next article is due, Modern Grand Prix will be upon us, and I will be covering some possible deck choices. The thing is, with the rise of the new Death's Shadow build, there isn't that much competition in there as well. Yes, there was some discussion that the traditional Jund lists are probably the only deck favored against the format's new oppressor, but with a format as diverse as Modern, people will still play what they want and I doubt that Death's Shadow's popularity will rise to more than 10%.

This brings up an interesting discussion in which Arne and I are currently in and what first derived from the latest Standard Grand Prix - how to know when you should train yourself to play the "best deck" in the format (in this case probably 4-Color Saheeli in Standard or Death's Shadow in Modern respectively) and when to pick up another deck and try to master it. The other deck should of course be at least close to the power level of the top dog and then also be favorable in direct comparison. Paulo Vitor wrote a segment on exactly that in one of his latest articles and it is hard to argue against his stance.

So why shouldn't anyone play Death's Shadow right now in Modern?

Honestly, I don't see much of a compelling reason. Yes, it has a giant target on its forehead right now, but exactly what do you want to do against the deck. With that much hand disruption there is no particular strategy that can exploit a weakness, if there even is one in the first place. A lot of spot removal does not really help, when they just grind through it with Liliana, the Last Hope and Kolaghan's Command and anything fancy is just disrupted by Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. Probably the best thing you can do is to either try and race with Burn or Merfolk, or just play their game a little bit better; that is what traditional Jund is doing. Even Affinity is not an option I would consider, as Death's Shadow now got multiple Kolaghan's Command in the deck and also puts a lot of pressure on the Affinity player with Temur Battle Rage. What is the solution for Las Vegas, Kobe and Copenhagen? Probably just playing the elephant in the room. But that isn't a reason to not try and find something else to play.

Modern Masters 2017 Draft

This weekend was the paper release of the latest Modern Masters set, and of course we had to dedicate a whole day to draft this sweet format. I for myself was just an observer but it looked fun as hell. With a combined Grand Prix Top 8 count of nine, I figured that a little interview with some of the players in my group about how they approached the format and how they experienced it was in order.

Interviewed players: Thoralf Toffel Severin (GP Top 8 Gothenburg 2013), Robin Steinborn (GP Top 8 Gothenburg 2013 and GP Florence 2015), Amit Cohen (GP Top 8 Prague 2013 and GP Florence 2015) 

How Was the Overall Feeling of the Format?

Toffel: The anticipation for the boosters is cool, the picks are very interesting because the power level is so close, resembling nothing we had in the last several formats. In Aether Revolt the picks are pretty clearly defined - if I am white, I pick the best white card out of the pack. A lot of the cards are exciting to play, the archetypes are fun to play overall and you actually want to try a lot of the stuff that is going on. This is a deep format.

Amit: Really, it felt a bit like Cube. But then again, there can be multiple copies of a specific card, so there are more synergies. But the power level is there and it is what really makes this fun.

Robin: Well, you go in with a certain expectation. Ripping boosters is a lot of fun and here more than ever, so the suspense is back. I did some simulations online in preparation and Bant looked really good, having all the solid commons. Also, Mogg Flunkies are a force together with Burning-Tree Emissary. The latter is the cornerstone of most of the aggro decks. And that's certainly a new thing in the playing experience when you swarm the battlefield with four to five creatures on turn 2.

How Fast Is the Format?

Toffel: It can be very fast, especially with a lot of Burning-Tree Emissarys, which are common and it's not so uncommon to have a lot of. I suppose it is not a bad strategy to draft a fast deck when most of the other players try to durdle a lot with Signets and Guildgates. Because there is a lot of good spot removal, aggro can also punish decks which depend on their big 4-drop to hold the ground. In general though, the format seems more on the slow side.

Amit: My first three decks were red and thus aggressive. I actually only lost to slow decks, with Boros against Control. I would say it is not that fast overall, the control decks can handle the aggressive decks really well. You just have to know the right tools for stopping the early assault and then draft accordingly. These include Pyroclasm as well as the various 1/3s like Augur of Bolas and Sea Gate Oracle, which are particularly nice because they also get you to your answers faster while blocking very well.

Robin: A lot of decks want to be as fast as possible, practically every red deck. Selesnya also looked very tempo oriented, but in the late game can grind very hard. Every color has good 2-drops, so in the end it comes down to your own preference and how you approach the format. G/W especially is the ultimate stop sign for aggro, with all their 3/3 creatures and lifegain. The good fixing makes going 5-color pretty easy and the archetype has a lot of value plays, so it kind of is a rock-paper-scissors format. The aggressive decks need some form of reach to get the last points of damage through, but there are a lot of good options in Falkenrath Noble, Chandra's Outrage and Teleportal, just to name a few. Of course, cheap removal is a must.

What Were the Best Performing Archetypes?

Toffel: 5-Color was surprisingly good. I also loved the look of the Rakdos sacrifice deck, the synergy is overwhelming. You can do a lot of things with the Threaten effect because in this format there are so many nice creatures to take control over. Dimir or Grixis performed very nicely, which isn't that surprising when you realise that U/B got the most gold cards in the common and uncommon slots. Jund also was very good, Ogre Jailbreaker is a house, often the best creature as 4/4 are good stats in this format. Gates are very easy to get.

Amit: I would say blue control decks. Playing at least three colors should not be that hard, the mana fixing is really good and then you can support multiple gold cards which really push your power level. There was a cool Blink deck with a lot of golem makers, blink effects and Thragtusk. Oh, that Thragtusk. These blink and flicker effects are super good in this format because almost every deck creates tokens in one way or the other and against them it becomes straight up removal.

Robin: Grixis control, control decks in general - or even more specific, blue. Dimir looked very strong, with all these gold cards, which also go very well together. Dimir also has the most cohesive direction in which it wants to go. As much as it pains me to say, aggressive decks probably aren't the best this time around.

Will You Play Modern Masters 2017 Again Once it Comes Online?

Toffel: I think so, yeah. Because of said depth, you can play it pretty long before it gets boring.

Amit: Yes, but I will play it mostly for the value. I am always hyped about these because I like high power level and the gameplay sure is nice, but here you can get so much value and also tickets out of it. Also, #fetchlandhype.

Robin: Of course, I will earn millions!

Well, that's it for today. Join me next time for more preparation for the upcoming Modern tournaments.

Until then,


Jasper Grimmer
Jasper Grimmer

About Jasper Grimmer

Jasper is a player from Germany who can be found at almost every European Grand Prix and prepares a lot for them. Being on the GP circuit since 2011, he has had a number of good finishes: 

  • Top 8 GP Malm√∂ 2012
  • Top 8 GP Paris 2015 
  • Top 4 Team GP Florence 2015 (with Amit Cohen & Robin Steinborn)
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