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Five Big Changes You May Have Missed in Modern MTG

Ari’s noticed a lot of change in Modern while it’s been out of the spotlight.

Whether The Brothers’ War has a significant impact on Modern remains to be seen, but a lot has happened to the format since October regardless of new cards. If you have been tied to the Pioneer screens with the barrage of Regional Championships happening in that format, this is what you may have missed going on in Modern.

Over the last months, Indomitable Creativity has slowly progressed from a curiosity to a possibility to the best deck in Modern. Then between mid-October and it has started a gradual decline back to the middle of that range. What happened?

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There’s some subtle stuff at play with people just learning what matters when facing off against Creativity, but there’s also Orvar, the All-Form. When I last wrote about Modern in early October, Orvar was fresh untested tech. Over the next couple of weeks, Indomitable Creativity decks started running into a scary conundrum. If they have an Orvar to copy an Archon, your Creativity is ruined or on thin ice. You could try to dodge that with effects like Veil of Summer to hexproof out of the copy trigger, but anyone could have an Orvar. Are you going to sideboard in Veil of Summer against everyone? That’s just not functional, what if they just didn’t spend the sideboard slots on a narrow card against only your deck?

 

Turns out there’s a class of decks that will definitely do that (more in this in a minute), and then some percentage of everyone else who will also slap an Orvar on their sideboard and call it a day. Eventually your “free wins on power level!” edge starts disappearing into their “who plays Orvar in that deck” edge. People can’t play enough Orvar to make Indomitable Creativity really bad and Creativity can still play through it, but there’s enough of a minefield to keep Creativity below best deck status.

 

The impossible has occurred. Merfolk and Fury are coexisting in the Modern metagame.

On one side, you have the story of Izzet Murktide losing ground to Rakdos Evoke. With the Yorion, Sky Nomad ban, the Ragavan decks of Modern have had less incentive to worry about attrition. Leyline Binding has also become one of the best removal spells in the format, making Murktide Regent’s unique mana value less of an incentive to play it. With less reason to play blue, Rakdos became an attractive way to make things easy. You win games with Fury or Dauthi Voidwalker on the spot that Izzet can easily lose, and free wins are much better than tough ones.

On the other side, the effects of Dominaria United continue to boost the results of Merfolk and Goblins. Rundvelt Hordemaster and Voldalian Hexcatcher are great cards, and never having to play against Four-Color Yorion again is also great. Goblins is also the natural home for finding Orvar, the All-Form via Goblin Matron, and both decks exploit any weird twist and turns Modern takes by being loaded up on threats and disruption because so many of their cards are both at the same time.

Both of these make sense, I just don’t know how they make sense together because neither Merfolk or Goblins can beat Fury. I’ve certainly seen them try to beat Fury, but I’ve never seen them succeed on any larger scale. So show your respect for Rakdos Evoke, show your respect for Merfolk and Goblins, and just wait for that whole situation to sort itself out the natural way.

 

 

I’m checking in… and Cascade isn’t there. Once a pillar of the Modern metagame and recently bolstered by Leyline Binding as an “expensive” cheap removal spell, the three major Cascade decks now struggle to jointly put up a Top 8 result on many weekends.The shift towards Rakdos Evoke has been a problem. Dauthi Voidwalker is really tough for Living End to deal with, and still tough for Crashing Footfalls. The shift from Four-Color Yorion to Azorius Control and Chalice of the Void is another issue, and sixty card decks just draw Teferi, Time Raveler more. The rest of Modern has only gotten better over time, so the power gap between uncontested Cascade decks and the rest of the format has started closing and that’s a problem.

But there is a shortage of dedicated Cascade hate behind these issues, and that gives me hope. Much of this mess is more pronounced for Living End than any other Cascade deck, and even more of this stems from Crashing Footfalls leaning into Leyline Binding and exposing itself to Blood Moon. There’s room for a Cascade comeback if you just build the deck as a classic three-color list that isn’t trying to play or win fair games. If Footfalls or Glimpse of Tomorrow is your jam, I would stick with it for the next few weeks and wait for lightning to strike.

 

In the absence of Cascade decks, other decks that lost to Force of Vigor have made a comeback. Hammer Time has had some solid weekends, and even weirdo decks like Hardened Scales, Azorius Urza, and Mono-Red with Cranial Plating and Shrapnel Blast are putting up results. It feels like Urza’s Saga decks are having good weeks more and more these days.

If you don’t have Cascade decks around, that’s a strike against Force of Vigor counts. If Golgari Yawgmoth is pushed out by the nightmare matchup of Rakdos Evoke, that’s another strike. And really, there aren’t a lot of other Force of Vigors left to strike from the metagame after that.

Without Force of Vigor around, any deck trying to beat Urza’s Saga is playing fair. Free wins is the theme of this week, and playing against Urza’s Saga without Force of Vigor is the opposite of free wins.

What about Grinding Breach? It’s an Urza’s Saga deck, but isn’t quite in the same group as the rest of these. The whole premise of Grinding Breach is you sacrifice a bit on any of your individual plans to present so many different problems for your opponent. If Urza’s Saga is just going to be a problem every time because your opponent doesn’t have Force of Vigor, there’s less of a draw to playing a deck that doesn’t maximize Saga. There’s nothing wrong with playing Grinding Breach these days, but a lot of the momentum it had as this impossible to assail pile has crumbled because that isn’t what the Modern format is about right now.

 

 

Put these last four points together and I think you have a good case for playing Amulet Titan right now.

The Creativity matchup was dicey, so less of that is a win for Amulet Titan. Merfolk and Goblins aren’t the best equipped to stop Amulet Titan, and if they can survive the Rakdos Evoke matchup so can Amulet Titan. If no one else is playing Force of Vigor that’s good for Amulet Titan, and it’s great that you also get to be the Force of Vigor and Boseiju, Who Endures deck against all the other artifact decks. And the lack of Cascade is a point in favor of Amulet Titan over Scapeshift since Remand and other counterspells matter less.

There’s even some recent results to back this all up, and I think the big takeaway is to cut the Hydroid Krasis and Inferno Titan package. That was mostly a concession to fighting through Counterspell and Blood Moon out of Izzet Murktide, and the less Izzet you expect the more sideboard slots you can spend on cards with higher impact elsewhere.

Advertising for Amulet Titan might be a moot point because it feels like who is or isn’t an Amulet Titan player has been set in stone for a long time, but it’s nice that even as Modern feels like it’s changing at its fastest pace ever some things just stay the same.

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