Hey all, and welcome to another Modern Musings, where this week we’re going to talk about what the modern metagame looks like after GP Vegas, and which decks I think gained stock and which lost stock in our post-Vegas world.  Another thing that I’ll briefly touch on this week is the talk of bans and if anything needs to receive the hammer now that the metagame has had a week to adjust.


Affinity– Winning a GP, especially one as large as Vegas is a sure sign that a deck is good, and affinity has once again shown us that if you don’t respect it, you lose to it.  Affinity claimed 5 spots in the top 16, three of those being in the top 8.  For a diverse format like modern, claiming 3 spots in the top 8 is a particularly impressive feat, and illustrates that many decks probably went light on artifact removal that weekend.  In retrospect, with the death’s shadow deck looming  over the tournament, aggressive decks that go over the top like affinity were a really good choice.  The irony of this victory for affinity is, of course, that people will be well prepared for it at the next modern GP.
Hate Bears– A bit of a surprise to see two copies of this deck in the top 8, though they weren’t exactly the same as one was the old mono white version while the other was the more common green-white version.  I have to give the mono white player credit as they were running 2 Dusk // Dawn’s in their sideboard, a card I think is perfect for that deck.

Walks– If you haven’t heard of this deck, I wouldn’t blame you, it’s a fairly obscure combo deck that uses “take an extra turn” effects to eventually kill you with Part the Waterveil and Inkmoth Nexus.  The only reason I know of it is because a good friend of mine plays it as his main modern deck.  One of the big drawbacks to playing a deck like this at a GP is that it’s a very trigger intensive deck with it running 7 howling mine effects.  What makes that punishing is that since howling mine is your trigger, it’s your responsibility to make sure your opponent draws the extra card(s).  Even day 1, enough missed triggers can lead to a game loss.  Given that fact, your opponent is incentivized to never remember the howling mine trigger.  It gets very taxing very quickly, especially when you’ve been playing magic all day.


Vizier Combo- Despite all the hype that this deck had going into GP Vegas, it didn’t do very well.  Zero copies of the deck in the top 16.  While I did lose to a slightly different version of this deck, when I was walking around the top tables in between rounds, I didn’t really see anyone else playing the vizier combo.  Honestly, I’m not really sure why this deck wasn’t a little more popular.


Grixis Death Shadow– a lot of people came prepared to fight this deck during the weekend, and given that there were only 2 copies of what was expected to be the dominant deck in the top 16, and 0 copies in the top 8, I would say that they were successful.  This is not to say the deck isn’t powerful, it clearly is.  But what has been shown, I think, is that the deck can be reasonably beaten.  The deck does have some pretty significant weaknesses, like how it more or less folds to chalice of the void for 1 and it can die to burn/affinity very quickly.

Is anything ban worthy?

Though lately their bans have been following looser criteria than they used to, the principles are still mostly the same.  For WOTC to ban a card in modern it has roughly do one or more of these things:

  1. Be able to consistently win before the fourth turn (Summer Bloom, Gitaxian Probe, Eye of Ugin)
  2. Pushes the game towards sideboard battles (Golgari Grave-Troll)
  3. Reduce diversity in the format (Splinter Twin)
  4. It’s too dominant and not fun to play against (Eye of Ugin, Gitaxian Probe)

These are the criterion we’ve seen them use for recent bannings in modern.  This is relevent to us as there’s been a couple pros saying that death’s shadow should be banned, so lets take a look at Death’s Shadow.  Specifically we are going to be talking about the card in the context of the Grixis deck.  So does the deck fall into any of these categories?

  1. Be able to consistently win before the fourth turn? In a literal sense, this deck cannot consistently kill its opponent before turn 4.  But that’s not really the whole question.  Does this deck effectively win before turn 4?  Meaning has it accrued such an advantage that there’s really no chance of your opponent coming back?  This is a bit trickier to answer, but I would say there are definitely games where this is the case.  Games where the deck drops a turn 2 Tasigur into turn 3 shadow, and suddenly the deck potentially has anywhere between 5 and 17 power on board depending on how much life loss can happen.  On turn 3.  Realistically though it’ll be about 9-10 power on board.  This is fairly reminiscent of the kind of draws that the eldrazi deck could get.  Answer: Maybe 
  2. Pushes the game towards sideboard battles? There isn’t really a simple sideboard answer to this deck, I feel that for many decks more removal is probably the answer that they want.  Answer: No
  3. Reduce diversity in the format? Looking at GP Vegas, there were 9 unique decks represented in the top 16, 11 at GP kobe, and 11 at Copenhagen.  Compare this to GP Bologna in March of last year, during the height of eldrazi dominance where there were 6 unique decks in the top 16.  Clearly not as bad, but probably a little closer than many would like.  Ironically though, the problem with Vegas was not that there were too many affinity decks, not death’s shadow decks.  Answer: A little, I think that shadow decks push other midrange g/b/x strategies out of the meta.  It also seems to have made modern even more tempo oriented than it already was.
  4. It’s too dominant and not fun to play against? Something being fun to play against is a bit subjective, but dominance is measurable.  Of the last 3 modern GPs (Vegas, Kobe, and Copenhagen) Shadow decks made up 18.75% of the top 16 decks.  Compare this to eldrazi where it was 58.3% of top 16 decks at the height of it’s dominance.  Clearly death’s shadow is not as bad as eldrazi was, but everyone already knew that.  The question is where is the line?  The answer is its probably somewhere around 40% for standard and 25% or so for modern.  The reason for lower percentage in modern is the diversity of decks available.  With that threshold in mind shadow decks are getting close, but haven’t quite gotten there yet. Answer: Not Too Dominant 

Conclusion: Don’t ban. It’s close though, close enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it gone next B&R announcement.  To be honest though, I think mox opal is far more ban worthy than death’s shadow.  Who knows, with wizards banning record lately, we might see both cards banned.

Anyway that’s all for this week, tune in next week when I look at the spicy new Hour of Devastation spoilers and talk about the impact they might have in modern.

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