Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, your weekly guide to the top decks and latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. With just nine days and counting until Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings kicks off at MagicCon: Barcelona, the excitement is palpable. As we gear up for this highly anticipated event, taking place from July 28 to 30, let's delve into the world of Modern. In this article, we'll examine the metagame landscape prior to the tournament, as well as the impact of The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™.
What is Modern?
Modern, a nonrotating 60-card format, was introduced in 2011 and has captured the hearts of Magic: the Gathering players worldwide ever since. It allows expansion sets, core sets, and Modern Horizons sets from Eight Edition forward, with the exception of cards on the banned list. Interestingly, as Eighth Edition was released on July 29, 2003, we can proudly declare during the Pro Tour that Modern is comprised of exactly twenty years of card history. This extensive pool of cards gives Modern its distinctive flavor, boasting intricate card interactions that surpass those found in Pioneer or Standard. The result is a vast array of viable strategies, offering players an exhilarating level of diversity for tournament play.
Modern has been designated as the Constructed format for the upcoming RCQ cycle, heightening its significance in the competitive Magic scene. Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings will be a landmark event, as it marks the return of Modern to the Pro Tour stage after a considerable hiatus. Pro Tours are high-prestige tournaments that invite the best Magic players from all regions to compete for World Championship invites, the coveted first-place trophy, and a staggering $500K in prizes. At the last Modern Pro Tour, the Mythic Championship IV held in Barcelona in July 2019, we witnessed the dominance of the Hogaak archetype. It was there that Thoralf Severin emerged triumphant, piloting the powerful Mono-Green Tron deck, etching his name in Modern history.
Back in 2018–19, the competitive Modern metagame was dominated by linear decks such as Phoenix, Dredge, Storm, Humans, and Scales. These decks often operated independently, with limited interaction between them. It was as if two ships passed each other in the night. However, the arrival of Modern Horizons 2 brought about a shift in this paradigm.
Modern Horizons 2 not only added proactive cards like
Middle-earth and Modern
The Lord of The Rings may not have the same volume of great cards that Modern Horizons 2 had, but its most important additions are making a huge impact. To show this, I analyzed over 1,400 successful decklists from competitive events since the set's release. Specifically, I used all published Magic Online decklists from scheduled Modern events held from June 23 through July 17 and all Melee decklists with net positive wins from the Grand Open Qualifier Bologna, NRG Series Showdown Chicagoland, and Modern Open at Players Convention Chiba.
Across these decklists, the four most-played cards overall were
|Card Name||Total Copies||Main Deck||Sideboard|
|The One Ring||1361||1245||116|
|Cast into the Fire||100||3||97|
|Stone of Erech||41||0||41|
|Boromir, Warden of the Tower||34||12||22|
|Flame of Anor||18||15||3|
The One Ring
After preventing you from taking damage and being targeted for a turn, the card allows you to draw three cards for the cost of one life, or six cards for the cost of three life. As you churn through your deck, you can use evoke Elementals or other pitch spells as free spells to defend yourself, transforming card advantage into mana advantage. And once the burden of using
These three standout cards from The Lord of The Rings: Tales from Middle-earth™ have been adopted in variety of archetypes and have jointly led to an upheaval of the Modern metagame.
The Modern Metagame
For my data set of over 1,400 successful tournament decklists from the past month, I assigned an archetype label to each deck and awarded a number of points equal to the deck's net wins, i.e., its number of match wins minus losses. For example, a deck that went 5–1 in the Swiss followed by a loss in the quarterfinals was assigned three points. The sum of these numbers for every archetype yields its record-weighted metagame share, which represents its share of total net wins.
|Archetype||Record-Weighted Metagame Share|
|1. Rakdos Evoke||11.8% ↑↑|
|2. Four-Color Omnath||10.4% ↑↑|
|3. Living End||8.3% ↑↑|
|4. Izzet Murktide||6.7% ↓↓|
|5. Yawgmoth||6.4% ↑↑|
|6. Mono-Green Tron||5.9% ↑↑|
|7. Indomitable Creativity||5.9% ↓↓|
|9. Hammer Time||4.1% ↓↓|
|10. Amulet Titan||3.8%|
|11. Rhinos||2.9% ↓↓|
|12. Grinding Breach||2.3%|
|13. Grixis Shadow||2.3%|
|14. Mono-Black Coffers||2.2%|
|15. Azorius Control||1.8%|
|16. Hardened Scales||1.4%|
|17. Domain Zoo||1.4%|
|18. Dimir Control||1.1%|
|19. Samwise Gamgee Combo||1.0%|
|21. Boros Convoke||0.8%|
|22. Jund Midrange||0.7%|
In this table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing, representative decklist. The "Other" category included Mono-Blue Tron, Izzet Breach, Humans, Mono-Black Grief, Belcher, TitanShift, Urza ThopterSword, Rakdos Midrange, Bring to Light, Goryo's Cremator, Mono-Red Midrange, Eldrazi Tron, Asmo Food, Calibrated Blast, Glimpse of Tomorrow, Devoted Druid, and more.
While the Modern metagame had been relatively stable in the first half of 2023, the introduction of
To explain the reasons behind these developments, whose ripple effects will be felt as players get ready for the Pro Tour, let's take a closer look at the top-tier archetypes one by one, in descending order of their record-weighted metagame share.
The Top 15 Modern Deck Archetypes
To introduce the 15 archetypes with the highest record-weighted metagame share, I've used a decklist aggregation algorithm that takes into account the popularity and performance of individual card choices.
Rakdos Evoke is a midrange deck that can evoke and return
The archetype is known under various names, including Rakdos Evoke, Rakdos Undying, Rakdos
Out of all Modern archetypes, Rakdos Evoke has had the best combination of popularity and performance over the past month. With main deck
Four-Color Omnath uses the namesake card
Four-Color Omnath is one of the best homes for
From The Lord of The Rings: Tales from Middle-earth™, the deck gained
Izzet Murktide combines cheap cantrips, efficient interaction, and powerful threats. The card advantage and velocity provided by
Since the release of The Lord of The Rings, Izzet Murktide has trended down. It did not gain any relevant new cards, while
Yawgmoth combines undying creatures and
Yawgmoth has put up excellent results after adopting
Mono-Green Tron is a ramp deck centered around the "Urzatron"–Urza's Mine,
The introduction of
Since the release of The Lord of The Rings: Tales from Middle-earth™, the previously dominant
Burn embodies the philosophy of fire. The goal is to unleash a flurry of damage as quickly as possible, with an ideal opening hand featuring a turn one
Burn has been a staple of the Modern format since its inception, preying on decks with painful fetch-shock mana bases. While opponents can use
Hammer Time treats the metagame like a nail. It avoids the enormous equip cost on
From The Lord of The Rings: Tales from Middle-earth™,
Amulet Titan is an intricate ramp deck that exploits the synergy between
As a big mana deck, it can go over the top of opposing Rings, and it has even adopted
Rhinos has a straightforward game plan: cast
Rhinos did not gain any new cards of note from The Lord of The Rings: Tales from Middle-earth™, and it has struggled in the face of
Grinding Breach can win in various ways. One option is to combo off by repeatedly milling yourself. This involves sacrificing
Grixis Shadow is a midrange deck that uses
Mono-Black Coffers uses
Like Mono-Green Tron, Mono-Black Coffers effectively has access to seven copies of
Azorius Control includes all the hallmarks of a traditional control deck: spot removal, countermagic, card draw, sweepers, and planeswalkers. The most prominent Modern versions have incorporated
Although Azorius Control has not gained new toys from The Lord of The Rings: Tales from Middle-earth™,
The Lord of The Rings: Tales from Middle-earth™ has shaken up the competitive Modern metagame, and the impact will be felt at the Pro Tour in Barcelona.
However, the card is not unbeatable. There are plenty of good answers, some of which were highlighted in this article, and we'll surely see more creative options at the Pro Tour. One of the most prominent cards that line up well against
This Dimir Control deck seemingly came out of nowhere, but it took down a Modern Challenge last weekend and posted great results in the other weekend Challenges on Magic Online. It features the best cards from the new set, along with a lot of permission and spot removal to take a control role.
All in all, I can't wait to see what the Pro Tour metagame will look like and how the best players in the world will use the new cards. With the format in constant upheaval and evolution ever since the release of The Lord of The Rings: Tales from Middle-earth™, I'm sure that there will be plenty of surprises. I haven't even had the chance to address new decks like Samwise Gamgee Combo or Mono-Black Grief in this article yet—Modern is just too diverse! Expect the unexpected as the deck choices get revealed in one week from now.
To follow the event live, tune in on July 28–30! As described in more detail in the viewer's guide, nearly 280 of the world's best players will compete for $500,00 in prizes, several World Championship invites, and the prestigious first-place trophy. The formats are The Lord of The Rings: Tales from Middle-earth™ Booster Draft in the morning on Friday and Saturday, followed by Modern for five rounds afterward each of those days. Modern is also the Top 8 format on Sunday. Don't miss the live video coverage on twitch.tv/magic!