4 Lessons from Grand Prix Atlanta

The Result

With most of the professional Magic community in Atlanta in the lead-up to the Pro Tour, the stars were really out at the GP this past weekend. With Modern on the menu, and a deep pool of talent in attendance, the tournament was sure to provide plenty of excitement.

Modern is still in a state of week-to-week flux, and the results this weekend supported that. There is still no long-lasting “best deck,” as archetypes are tweaked and tuned to beat out the expected field. The Top 8 featured seven distinct archetypes, including Infect! Bant Spirits, the deck that won the tournament, was well-represented among the top decks, but not to a point where it could be described as dominant.

It was a notably global Top 8, with contenders from all over the world battling it out on Sunday evening. Among them was Martin Juza in his one-billionth GP Top 8, Christopher Larsen on a casual back-to-back Top 8 performance, and Piotr “Kanister” Glogowski running back his signature mono-brown mono-game-actions style with KCI Combo.

Ultimately, Peiyuan Zheng claimed the crown for himself with the help of his Bant Spirits deck, its powerful white sideboard cards well-positioned to tussle with the broad composure of the Top 8. Congratulations!

The Moments

Yam Wing Chun reveals possibly the most Thoughtseize-proof hand you’re likely to see:

Emmara Tandris made an appearance in the GRN Draft queues:

Caleb Scherer’s Shivan Reefs reverse his double-Bolt plan in Martin Juza’s favor:

How… how does he even do this?

Just the casual Possibility Storm into Emrakul:

The Deck

After its unbanning, Bitterblossom never really gained the traction many thought it would. Once the scourge of Standard, Blue-Black Faeries has been a fringe player, at best, in Modern. Faeries master Yuta Takahashi, however, is never one to abandon the faith, and was rewarded with a Top 16 finish in Atlanta.

Blue-Black Faeries

Yuta Takahashi, 13th pace at GP Atlanta 2018

While ultimately unable to make the Top 8, Takahashi is a noted Faeries enthusiast, having had a lot of success with the deck in the past.

Takahashi’s success this weekend highlights the strength of the Faeries deck, which is filled with individually powerful cards. Inquisition, Snapcaster, Fatal Push, Jace, and Liliana are all tier 1 Modern staples, and Bitterblossom is one of the most resilient engine cards ever printed. Why, then, is Faeries not counted among the best decks in the format?

The problems are twofold. Firstly, restricting yourself to just blue and black results in a few issues: a lack of access to powerhouse removal like Terminate or Assassin’s Trophy (hence, Hero’s Downfall), and a lack of hard answers to artifact strategies, which all reside in the Naya colors.

Secondly, this deck is not enormously quick, and not as powerful as Modern’s other Teferi-based defensive decks. It’s caught in this awkward middle ground on the speed vs. power axis, doing both reasonably well, but not as well as other competing decks.

Still, the deck is both super sweet and very powerful in its own right. If you’re looking to rumble with Faeries, a final word of advice—target prioritization is critical with this list. You need to know the format cold, and be judicious about where you deploy your interaction or whether you adopt an attacking or a defensive posture at any point. In other words, it’s a hard deck to play well.

The Takeaway

While Modern—unfortunately—isn’t the format for this weekend’s Pro Tour, GP Atlanta still gives us a lot to work with as we continue to follow the fortunes of different archetypes within the format. Of note, and despite individual deck diversity being generally high among the top decks, there are several common threads to pick apart.

Of the best decks, a large proportion were highly linear and noninteractive. Infect, KCI, Hollow One—these decks skimp on disruption to instead deliver a focused, “glass cannon” game plan. Some are more capable of grinding out a longer game than others, but the fact remains that the Plan A of this weekend’s successful decks was to do their thing without worrying about interaction.

Consequently, interactive decks took a back seat. Teferi-based control was nowhere to be seen, and black-green-based “fair” decks also had a bad time. Instead, streamlined aggressive decks rose to the fore, with Humans and Spirits both appearing in high numbers.

What does this mean moving forward? Generally speaking, having a strong disruption suite that targets these linear decks is an excellent idea, as once crippled, decks like KCI, Hollow One, etc. have a difficult time recovering. In particular, look for ways to attack the graveyard first and then focus on artifact hate second. KCI is hosed by both, and decks like Hollow One and Bridgevine can’t do much when held back by Rest in Peace of Leyline of the Void.

Next week, it’s time for the Pro Tour! I’ll be there with the rest of the PT coverage team to bring you all the action from Atlanta. See you there!


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