MTG Vegas is coming up and for many (myself included) it will be the first major Modern event in years. What should we expect? And how will this be different from the results we see coming off of Magic Online? I’ll tell you five archetypes that you should definitely prepare to face in the Modern main event at MTG Vegas. But first, a short primer on the logistics of a big tabletop tournament.
Playing tabletop Magic has a much different feel from playing online. For my money, a big in-person Magic event is some of the most fun you can have.
There’s no need to be frightened of playing in paper. It is, after all, just playing Magic. However, you do want to go in feeling comfortable and prepared to play your best in a new environment. If you can, I highly recommend playing at least a few matches with your deck ahead of time, in a way that simulates the tabletop tournament conditions.
Here are a few things that might make MTG Vegas different from the environment you’re used to playing in.
- You have an opponent sitting across the table from you. If you’re used to playing online, you might also be used to wearing your heart on your sleeve, muttering at an unlucky draw or talking through your options as you think. Having an actual opponent requires an additional level of awareness. Don’t give away information, and be sure to shuffle and hold your cards in a way that the opponent can’t see them. And of course, remember to show courtesy and sportsmanship to those around you. Particularly given the Covid-19 crisis, you’ll want to be extra respectful of people’s personal space.
- It’s a tournament. That means it’s on you to play crisply and clearly, with no takebacks and as few missed triggers as possible. There’s no software to do your accounting for you, like there is when you play Magic Online or MTG Arena. Call a judge whenever you have a question, or if something unusual happens in your game. Judges are there to help, and there’s no need to be intimidated by them. Even if you get issued a warning for a minor error, don’t sweat it – that’s a normal part of the tournament experience.
- Mind the clock. You’ll need to be in your seat before the round starts, and you’ll need to finish your matches in the allotted 50 minutes. Don’t take too long to sideboard, and don’t take an unreasonable amount of time on any single decision.
- Mind your sideboard. Put your deck back in its registered configuration before game one of every match. Sideboard legally and strategically between games. Reveal your companion before the start of every game.
Modern Burn by sandydogmtg
Card availability is going to be a factor for this event. Modern has always been an expensive format, and now we have another issue on top of that, which is that some players may not have kept their collection up to date through the years of the pandemic. In particular, the Mythic Rares from Modern Horizons 2 are in high demand. I’m not certain there will be enough copies of Urza’s Saga, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Solitude in the room for everyone to play their first choice deck. In fact, I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t given card availability some thought in my own deck choice.
Sure, there will be some number of sharks who fly in for the event, prepared with a fully-built, top-tier deck. But there will also be plenty of locals showing up for a convenient, fun time. There will be folks who might be more interested in the Limited main event (or any of the other cool stuff that’s going on) and just enter the Modern main event to see if they can run hot. In short, there will be plenty of players who have to settle for the cards they have, or for borrowing a buddy’s “second-best” deck.
Burn is relatively affordable and straightforward to play. Best of all, it looks extremely similar to the way it did three, five, or even seven years ago! People will have Burn decks already built, sitting on their shelves from the old days.
Best of all, Burn is simply a good deck. I ranked it #8 in my most recent Power Rankings. So you have the perfect intersection of a strategy that’s accessible and effective.
I predict that Burn will be massively popular on day one of the event, and is even likely to make a showing deep into day two, and in the top 8. It might not be a bad idea to find room for a couple of dedicated sideboard cards for the matchup.
Modern Grixis Death's Shadow by Corey Baumeister
Four Thoughtseize, four Lightning Bolt, Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion. And the rest… who cares? These strategies are infinitely customizable, and the card quality is through the roof. It’s impossible to wind up with a bad deck if you’re playing a reasonable selection of red and black cards with Lurrus as a companion.
Jund Sagavan is probably the most popular and successful of these decks, but you should prepare for a wide range of them. Rakdos, Mardu and Grixis can all work. You can play with or without Death’s Shadow. You can play fast and aggressive, or slower and more grindy.
The threats available are so efficient and effective. These decks can deploy a steady stream of one and two-mana spells, while never running out of gas due to the presence of Lurrus, Kolaghan’s Command and whatever other card advantage the pilot might choose.
To beat these decks, you’ll want a plan for beating turn one Ragavan when you lose the die roll. You’ll also want plenty of staying power for the games where you trade off a lot of resources early on. A companion of your own can be very useful when the dust settles after a flurry of Thoughtseizes.
While it’s certainly not a budget deck, Azorius Control will be appealing in its familiarity to long-time Modern players. You don’t need access to Urza’s Saga or Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, and much of people’s old-time format knowledge can still be applied to playing control.
This archetype seeks to control the game with permission spells and removal, and get ahead with either incremental card advantage or an unanswered planeswalker. Teferi, Time Raveler is an extremely valuable card right now, particularly with multiple popular decks built around the cascade mechanic.
Lots of people have been waiting years to play with Counterspell, and MTG Vegas might be their chance.
The best ways to beat Azorius Control are to go under it or to go over it. In other words, you can be fast and aggressive and try to deal some damage before their shields are up with permission spells. Alternatively, you can work towards some kind of ultra-powerful lategame involving Eldrazi, Primeval Titan with Cavern of Souls or the infinite stream of card advantage that some of these Omnath, Locus of Creation decks can produce.
Modern Jeskai Murktide by Cameron Sullivan
Just like the R/B Ragavan decks, it’s difficult to go wrong with the R/U Ragavan decks. Cheap burn spells, card selection, Expressive Iteration and Counterspell makes for a well-oiled machine. Oh, and I almost forgot the two mana 8/8 flying!
I’ve always valued the quality of having access to a single card that simply wins the game when it goes unanswered. No matter how bad the matchup or the situation you’re facing, you’ll probably win if you draw Murktide Regent and the opponent doesn’t have an answer. Combine that with an extremely effective and well-rounded shell that gives you plenty of ways to smooth your draws and you have an very appealing deck.
It’s hard to target Izzet and Jeskai Murktide decks because they’re so well-rounded. But your checklist should include a plan for turn one Ragavan, and plenty of answers to giant Murktide Regents. Note that you might need to go out of your way for this, since the best removal spells in Modern (Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push, Prismatic Ending, etc.) tend to miss Murktide.
I’ve had a decent experience with Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace against Izzet Murktide, but you need to make sure those cards come in as part of a complete package. Don’t just clumsily sideboard in four copies and think that’ll be enough for a favorable matchup. And note that single-shot graveyard hate cards like Soul-Guide Lantern don’t pack quite the same punch.
Modern Hammertime by Nico Bohny
Colossus Hammer is the best deck in Modern. It has the fastest, most explosive draws of any top tier deck. But it also has Urza’s Saga, Stoneforge Mystic and Lurrus of the Dream-Den to give it an insane amount of staying power. In some games, this deck seems to outclass the opposition on every single axis at once.
If that wasn’t enough, Colossus Hammer also has access to Sanctifier en-Vec, which is one of the very best sideboard cards in the format. Look at how effective it is against just the small selection of decks I’ve featured in this article!
Colossus Hammer is multidimensional, and thus difficult to attack. It also rewards the skill of its pilot, and performs very well in the hands of experienced players. I expect it to be both well represented and highly successful at MTG Vegas. That means that if you want to have a deep run in the event, you may have to beat strong players with Colossus Hammer in some of the later rounds.
My favorite sideboard card against Colossus Hammer is Ancient Grudge. And yet I almost never see it in Modern sideboards these days. This is a rare case where an old common can perform better than the new Mythic Rares, and I believe players are overthinking things. Don’t over prepare for killing the actual card Urza’s Saga when the plain, simple efficiency of something like Ancient Grudge can serve you better.
One way or another, Modern is in a great (granted highly powerful) place right now, and MTG Vegas ought to be a blast. Best of luck if you choose to enter the Modern main event. And regardless, I hope you get some enjoyment out of one of the first big tabletop events in years!