4 Lessons from Grand Prix Lyon

The Result

Over two thousand of Europe’s finest assembled in Lyon this weekend to do battle in a Modern format that is on the brink of a monumental shift. Despite Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor not being legal for the tournament, there were nonetheless some important lessons to take away from the weekend.

It’s common knowledge that the current diversity of the Modern metagame makes it difficult to pinpoint the “best deck.” The Top 32 saw all the usual suspects, from Affinity to Humans to Burn, but even included some newer decks like Mardu Pyromancer—sneaking into 32nd place was a Blue-Black Mill deck!

The Top 8 was a different story, though, with Mono-Green Tron being hugely over-represented. A full 4 Tron decks made it to the Top 8, although none progressed to the finals. Rounding out the decks we saw on Sunday night were 2 copies of Abzan alongside Jeskai Control, and of course, the deck that won the whole thing! Grzegorz Kowalski surprised us all with his Red-Green Eldrazi list, featuring a playset of Eldrazi Obligator. Congratulations to Kowalski on his well-deserved victory!

The Moments

So much to get across this week—here is a quick rundown of some of the highlights from GP Lyon:

Martin Juza heartlessly dumps a 26-loyalty Karn:

Dana Fischer beats a Bogles opponent on 60+ life with infinite Ezuri overruns:

Andreas Schulte’s Soulflayer picks up more keywords than a locksmith’s dictionary:

Magali Villeneuve is one of the most hard-working people in Magic:

Marco De Togni locks up a Top 8 slot with a 3-for-1 Maelstrom Pulse:

The Deck

Unsurprisingly, the fact that GP Lyon was a Modern tournament meant that it was awash with all sorts of unique, inventive, or just straight-up weird decks. Perhaps none moreso than the list that took down the whole weekend. Grzegorz Kowalski had been on Red-Green Eldrazi since Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, and it finally paid dividends for him.

Red-Green Eldrazi

Grzegorz Kowalski, 1st place at GP Lyon 2018

Much of this list is reminiscent of the dreaded Eldrazi Winter, where savage Eldrazi curveouts were made all the more unbeatable with both Eye of Ugin, as well as Eldrazi Temple. While obviously not quite as explosive, Kowalski’s list still ramps hard, and doesn’t give up on interaction between Lightning Bolt, Dismember, and the mighty Forked Bolt.

Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher have been mainstays of Modern since their printing in Oath of the Gatewatch, and this strategy is the latest iteration of lists that look to exploit them. In addition to huge colorless beaters, the late-game plan of Kessig Wolf Run is a great way to push through damage, but the supremely techy land choice is Grove of the Burnwillows. Not only is it a “tri-land,” providing colorless mana for various Eldrazi, it also shrinks opposing Death’s Shadows!

The field was full of crazy and off-the-wall decks. Team Coverage got across them, and you can read Frank Karsten’s account of some of the spicier brews we saw this weekend on the mothership.

The Takeaway

Right now, all eyes are to the future as we begin to discover the role that both Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor will play in Modern after having been unbanned last week. Whether they will spawn new archetypes, slot into existing ones, or revitalize old ones remains to be seen, but the trends we’ve seen in the Modern metagame from Bilbao to Toronto to Lyon give us some ideas as to where to start.

Death’s Shadow decks continue to decline in presence in Modern, with Grixis being eclipsed by 4- or 5-Color Traverse as the configuration of choice. Jace could change that, as some posit he would be a worthy inclusion in blue-based Shadow decks. White-Blue Control, however, is sure to be the first place people look to include him in, and given that control has performed strongly in the past few weeks, it seems like a safe bet to expect more Celestial Colonnade decks moving forward.

Abzan made a surprising double-act appearance in the Top 8, signalling that Black-Green Rock strategies haven’t been left in the dust by any means. Whether we see a shift back toward Jund thanks to Bloodbraid Elf, or whether the Elf could perhaps work in a deck like Kowalski’s, will become clear in the coming weeks.

Even if Jund is put back on the map with BBE, Rock decks still have to beat their “paper”—Tron put up the numbers in Lyon, making up almost 20% of the Top 32. Time and time again in Lyon, we saw these decks assemble turn-3 Tron and slap down a Karn or Wurmcoil Engine shortly thereafter. The format can and will adjust to this, of course, and whether BBE or JTMS play a big role in that adjustment is far from certain.

In any case, it’s time to move away from Modern—next week we’re off to Memphis to reengage with Standard! After a long break from the Standard format, which has been shaken up significantly with B&R changes as well, it will be terrific to see what has been cooking since we last checked in with the format. I’ll see you in Tennessee!

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