Grand Prix events in 2018 got off to a flying start in Santa Clara over the weekend. Despite the weather across the U.S. being more disruptive than a Faeries deck, the weekend was a rousing success on many fronts and set an excellent precedent for what you might expect from competitive Magic throughout this year. Of course, Santa Clara was a particularly special event, as it was the first Team Trios event as we approach the team Pro Tour later on in the year.
Without much going on in Standard at the moment, attention was focused on Modern. Unsurprising, given that it will be played at the next Pro Tour in Bilbao. The lack of consensus on how best to attack this wide-open format created many interesting talking points in the wake of the event. Legacy, too, was featured heavily throughout the weekend, and it was truly excellent to see some of the silly things that are possible in this Wild West format.
There were zero non-Energy Standard decks in the Top 4, but the decks in the other two formats were all over the place, featuring everything from combo to control. Ultimately, it was the team of William Ho, John Martin, and Jeremy Frye who emerged victorious, playing 4-Color Energy, Dredge, and Grixis Delver in Standard, Modern, and Legacy, respectively!
— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) January 8, 2018
Where to begin? So much excellent stuff happened in Santa Clara, so I’ll keep it to dot points.
• The Professor makes Pauper happen:
Nearly everyone I spoke to at #gpsantaclara today was set to play in the Sunday #MTGPauper double up event! The energy was wild! People will be playing awesome decks with elves, affinity, counterspell, lightning bolts and it is going to be a blast. Pauper is here, baby! YEAH!
— Tolarian Community College (@TolarianCollege) January 6, 2018
— Tolarian Community College (@TolarianCollege) January 7, 2018
• Denis Stranjak cleans invisible windows:
— ChannelFireball (@ChannelFireball) January 6, 2018
— ChannelFireball (@ChannelFireball) January 8, 2018
— ChannelFireball (@ChannelFireball) January 7, 2018
(There are so many more of these.)
• Dana Fischer’s new mode of transport:
— Dana Fischer the Magic Planeswalker (@DanaFischerMTG) January 7, 2018
• “WHO SPILLED ALL THIS CHEESE!?”
Mardu Pyromancer has been on the fringes of Modern for a little while now. It almost feels like the best-kept secret of the format, because this deck hustles hard and plays some of the best disruptive options in the format. Galan Falakfarse showed us all how it’s done with his Top 4 appearance over the weekend, and there is a lot to unpack when it comes to the list he played.
At its core, Mardu Pyromancer looks to gain extra value from its cheap interaction—Thoughtseize, Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push—with cards like Young Pyromancer and Bedlam Reveler, both of which work excellently alongside 1-mana instants and sorceries. Playing further flexible answers—Collective Brutality and Kolaghan’s Command—in addition to a stone-cold powerhouse in Lingering Souls, these Mardu Pyromancer decks represent the bleeding edge of Modern technology.
Galan Falakfarse, Top 4 at GP Santa Clara 2018
While referred to as “Mardu,” this deck is almost entirely black-red. The only white card in the main deck is Lingering Souls, which can be discarded to Faithless Looting and Collective Brutality for extra value. A few white options exist in the board. Kambal, notably, is there to allocate zero wins to Storm post-board. Given the deck’s single white source, however, it’s somewhat puzzling to see a full 4 copies of Blood Moon in the 75! Mooning certain opponents is so good that it warrants the full playset, even hedging as far as 1 in the main.
This deck has game against many of the major players in Modern. Its removal shines against creature decks, its hand disruption is excellent against combo, Lingering Souls shores up midrange matchups, and Bedlam Reveler is the perfect post-Wrath play to refill the hand and threaten the board. You can expect to see more of this deck in the coming weeks. As the Modern format crystallizes for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, it may well be that Mardu Pyromancer emerges from Bilbao as the deck of the tournament.
With every single Standard deck in the Top 4 being some configuration of Temur or 4-Color Energy, the debate about whether the deck warrants a ban will likely heat up once again in the coming days. Energy strategies overperform due to their consistency and power level, and dominate the metagame to a point where other potentially viable angles of attack are edged out. For the sake of diversity in Standard and to preserve the sanity of Standard players who are playing their squillion, billionth Energy mirror, it’s not unreasonable to propose that Energy should get hit by a ban. Having said that, Rivals of Ixalan is about to arrive in Standard, and with it may finally come the technology to topple the Temur menace.
Both Modern and Legacy, however, remain wide open. Modern in particular is ripe for attack, and in under a month we’ll see what the best minds in Magic can pull together at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. Given that both Modern and Legacy will feature at the Pro Tour level this year, you can expect both formats to undergo some pretty significant changes as the professional community explores and tests to find the very best way to succeed. GP Santa Clara is a valuable data point for both these formats, showcased as they were in such a competitive setting.
While it’s this team Pro Tour that will headline team events this year, GP Santa Clara was the first of a great many team GPs that will run throughout the year. Team events are loved even by the spikiest and most icy-hearted competitive players, and for good reason—not only do they reward talented teams with more consistent results that reflect raw play skill, they’re also a ton of fun to play at. Given the very enjoyable weekend of Magic we had while watching team trios in Santa Clara, it’s a good example of how these tournaments will play out for the rest of the year!
Next week we’ve got the Rivals of Ixalan prerelease, and so my column on Level 1 Modern decks will continue. After that, however, we’ve got more team action from GP Indianapolis, just in time to explore the new set!