4 Lessons from the Magic Online Championship

The Result

After grinding away on Magic Online for the past year, the time had finally come for this year’s crop of players qualified for the MOCS to prove their might. After flying to Seattle, 23 players sat down to compete across both Rivals of Ixalan Draft as well as Modern—and all weekend, the sparks flew.

There was an enormous amount to learn from the Modern portion of the tournament. Most importantly, Jund is back. After having died for the sins of Deathrite Shaman, Bloodbraid Elf rolled away her stone and rewarded all those true believers who have kept the faith during Jund’s darkest hours. Jund was overwhelmingly popular among MOCS competitors, with seven copies of the deck registered and two in the Top 4.

Outside of this, however, the format remained very diverse, with players bringing everything from Mardu Pyromancer to Burn to 5-Color Zoo. Ultimately it was Bogles that—once again—rose above all others, this time in the hands of the once and future MOCS Champion, Dmitriy Butakov!

The Moment

Butakov’s victory with Bogles produced some pretty spectacular moments, more than one of which occurred in the finals against Steve Rubin. Bogles can have some insanely explosive draws that are difficult to answer no matter what you’re playing, but it doesn’t get too much better than the thirty-second game in which Butakov absolutely eviscerated Rubin.

Not only was there a Leyline in Butakov’s opener—a great card against much of the hand disruption from Rubin’s Jund—Butakov had a near-perfect start with creature into double-Aura. Rubin, who had a hand that looked more like a foot, had no targets for his Thoughtseizes or Lightning Bolts, and packed it up on turn 2 (and unfortunately for fans of top-notch BM everywhere, this denied Butakov the chance to give Rubin a tall, frosty “still had all deez,” given that he was holding Daybreak Coronet).

Believe it or not, this wasn’t the only incredible moment that the Bogles deck produced in the finals. With Rubin looking to start attacking after stabilizing behind a BBE, Butakov’s lone Kor Spiritdancer looked pretty ordinary. That is, until Butakov somehow turned it into a 20-power trampling first-striker, and taught Rubin a rather profound lesson.

Bogles certainly served Butakov well this weekend. Although he was very upfront about his deck choice going into the tournament, he admitted to strongly disliking the deck. His reason for playing it, however, provoked discussion around the world, and perhaps taught us all something, too.

The Deck

We watched the Modern format continue to develop this weekend, now that Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf have settled into their new homes. We saw plenty of engaging innovation, such as Manamorphose and Bedlam Reveler in Burn, and some unintuitive choices, like pairing Serum Visions with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

The list that turned the most heads, however, was the Bant deck brought to the tournament by Guillaume Matignon. Loosely referred to as Ramp-Control, this is unlike any other mainstream Modern list we see these days. Playing a motley collection of past Standard all-stars such as Courser of Kruphix and Emrakul, the Promised End, this list also is one of the many decks into which Jace, the Mind Sculptor has found his way.

Bant Trade Binder

Guillaume Matignon, MOCS 2018

At first glance, this deck seems haphazard and all over the place, but then you take a second look and realize: wow, I was right—this deck really is all over the place. Tons of creatures plus multiple Wrath effects and Search for Azcanta? Cantrips, ramp spells, counterspells, and Time Walk effects? 2 Explores?

It seems that Matignon sought to build a deck that could—if it drew the right cards—beat any deck in the format. I can’t wrap my head around half of it, but hey, he missed the Top 4 by under a hundredth of a percent on breakers, so he clearly knows something the rest of the world doesn’t.
Besides, there’s so much going on in this deck that is just excellent. Sakura-Tribe Elder demands you play a lot of basics, meaning a less painful mana base (nevermind ever casting Cryptic Command), resiliency to Blood Moon, and best of all, the opportunity to make the most of Field of Ruin.

Additionally, there are all sorts of tiny things at work here—splitting Wrath effects across Verdict/Wrath/Day means extra game against 5-Color Humans, including plenty of fetchlands for Jace, getting almost-guaranteed value off every creature, and packing industry-leading post-board disruption. I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like, and I like this deck. A lot.

The Takeaway

Things have changed in Modern, and Bloodbraid Elf has proven that she hasn’t gone out of style during her time away. Parallel to this, Jace, the Mind Sculptor continues to underperform—these outcomes are almost the exact reversal of what many (myself included, oops) anticipated as a consequence of these unbannings.

Happily, neither of these unbans have undermined the health and stability of the format. Jund was overrepresented at the MOCS, but overall diversity seems to be at the same high watermark of pre-unban Modern. This augurs well for a format widely considered to be at its peak. If all goes well, we’ll continue to enjoy interesting, decision-based gameplay that rewards good deck building and high player skill.

Bogles continues to win tournaments, and should be on your radar heading into Modern events (if only for the notoriety that comes with overperformance). Bolster your Fatal Pushes with Abrupt Decays, make the most of Liliana’s sacrifice effect, and maybe even dig through those old binders for Fracturing Gust! Bogles is beatable—it’s too much of a glass cannon to be anything else—but make sure that you come prepared.

I’m back in the booth this weekend, as we get underway with another Team Trios event in Madrid! I’m very excited to see more Modern, with the added bonus of catching up with Standard, but it’s showcasing Legacy on the big stage that will really be the highlight of next weekend. I’ll see you there!


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