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Metagame Mentor: Modern at the January 2024 Regional Championships

February 01, 2024
Frank Karsten

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. This past weekend, hundreds of competitors entered the first-ever Regional Championships in the Modern format, resulting in a weekend full of high-level gameplay. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the Modern metagame and the hottest decks from these events.

Congratulations to the Regional Champions!

Marco del Pivo won the Legacy European Championship (i.e., the Regional Championship for Europe/Middle East/Africa) with a Temur Rhinos deck, defeating Borja Yañez Carvajal, playing Golgari Yawgmoth, in the finals. Both finalists earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30, and the top 24 players who were not yet qualified for Pro Tour Thunder Junction in Seattle earned an invitation to that event.

Marco del Pivo, the new European champion, has cemented himself as the master of Temur Rhinos. Six months ago, he made Top 8 at Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings with the archetype. This past weekend, now with Tishana's Tidebinder and Mutavault as Wizards for Flame of Anor, he took the trophy.

His list and thought-out sideboard plans gave him an edge against the metagame. For example, his tweaks included a singleton Dismember to deal with Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, as well as two Murktide Regent and an Ertai's Scorn for the mirror match. Every little choice matters!

Finalist Borja Yañez Carvajal, a 25-year-old player from Madrid, Spain, qualified via RCQ and immediately hit success at his first premier event. He was one of the three Golgari Yawgmoth players in the Top 8, and the performance of the deck was one of the big stories coming out of the European Championship. As one of the largest benefactors of the ban of Fury, the deck had an excellent weekend. Yañez Carvajal's list was a relatively stock version, featuring all the typical card choices.

Guilherme Merjam won the City Class Games Showdown (i.e., the Regional Championship for Brazil) with Rakdos Grief, earning an invitation to Magic World Championship 30. The top 4 eligible players earned an invite to Pro Tour Thunder Junction in Seattle.

Guilherme Merjam is one of the most experienced Pro Tour veterans from Brazil, and he cemented himself as the undisputed master of Rakdos Grief this past weekend. His decklist not only resulted in the trophy for himself but also put three other players in the Top 8! That's one of the most dominant performances of a deck I've ever seen.

A unique tweak in his list is the pair of Bonecrusher Giant in the main deck, improving the mirror match and providing additional counterplay to The One Ring's protection. His choice to run Legion's End over Cursed Totem in the sideboard also worked out well, given that Temur Rhinos was more popular than Golgari Yawgmoth. With these modifications and a solid sideboard plan, Merjam's list dominated the tournament.

The Metagame and Win Rates

In total, 1,117 decklists were submitted across the two Regional Championships. After fixing mislabeled archetypes, I determined the combined metagame share and the match win rates (non-mirror, non-bye, non-draw) of every archetype this past weekend. In the following table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing decklist close to the aggregate of that archetype.

Archetype Percentage of Field Match Win Rate
1. Rakdos Grief 15.5% 47.5%
2. Temur Rhinos 15.0% 53.2%
3. Golgari Yawgmoth 11.5% 53.7%
4. Izzet Murktide 8.5% 49.3%
5. Amulet Titan 8.4% 51.5%
6. Hardened Scales 4.9% 49.6%
7. Living End 4.5% 51.9%
8. Hammer Time 3.8% 46.3%
9. Four-Color Omnath 3.0% 54.9%
10. Mono-Green Tron 2.8% 45.9%
11. Domain Zoo 2.5% 51.4%
12. Mono-Black Coffers 2.5% 47.8%
13. Merfolk 1.5% 43.0%
14. Azorius Control 1.4% 44.5%
15. Five-Color Creativity 1.3% 55.4%
16. Boros Burn 1.2% 41.1%
17. Dimir Shadow 0.7% 53.3%
18. Izzet Wizards 0.7% 50.0%
19. Temur Prowess 0.7% 47.4%
20. Heliod Combo 0.6% 47.1%
21. Asmo Food 0.6% 39.5%
22. Other 8.3% 45.6%

The "Other" category included such deck archetypes as Grixis Shadow, Jeskai Breach, Dimir Mill, Izzet Breach, Grixis Wizards, Jund Sagavan, Four-Color Copycat, Four-Color Rhinos, Four-Color Control, Dimir Control, Bring to Light, Goryo's Blink, Gruul Valakut, Azorius Martyr, Dredge, Jund Grief, Mono-Blue Tron, Jeskai Control, Urza ThopterSword, Orzhov Grief, Jeskai Wizards, Infect, Mono-White Martyr, and more.

The metagame across both Regional Championships was very similar to the Magic Online winner's metagame that I analyzed in last week's format primer. The share of Temur Rhinos and Hammer Time players grew two or three percentage points last weekend, but the overall distribution of decks was very much in line with expectation. Crashing Footfalls; Yawgmoth, Thran Physician; and Grief all sent one player towards Magic World Championship 30, and these cards will surely herald the decks to defeat for the remaining Modern Regional Championships cycle.

The performance of decks differed between regions, though. The Top 8 in Brazil featured four Rakdos Grief players, whereas the archetype flopped in Europe. Instead, the Top 8 in Europe featured three Temur Rhinos decks and three Golgari Yawgmoth decks. Combining the win rates across all of last weekend's matches, as provided in the table, provides no strong conclusion: There was no archetype that performed significantly better or worse, considering the sample size, than 50% against the field. For now, the combined data from the first two Modern Regional Championships suggests that the format is reasonably healthy and balanced. The biggest drivers of success are experience with your archetype and having the right card choices for the top-table metagame.

Spice Corner

Even though I covered 20 different archetypes in last week's format primer, the number of competitively viable Modern archetypes remains enormous. Let's take a closer look at seven innovative off-meta decks that also found success this past weekend.

Izzet Breach had a breakout performance this past weekend, as Nils Gutiérrez von Porat piloted the evolution of his deck from Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings to the Top 4 of the European Championship. "It's my pet deck," he explained. "I brewed value Breach a year and a half ago and have kept playing the deck since then. Ledger Shredder was my best card of the weekend; it's insane the amount of work the Bird does."

The deck does not need Grinding Station combos to make use of Underworld Breach. Recasting Mishra's Bauble or Lightning Bolt several times can already yield a game-winning advantage, especially when you're triggering Dragon's Rage Channeler along the way. As a result, the list is close to an Izzet Murktide deck, except with Underworld Breach instead of Murktide Regent. The four players who ran this Izzet Breach strategy at the European Championship (Nils Gutiérrez von Porat, Oscar Garcia, Francisco Sanchez, and Eric Torres) posted a combined 33-17 record, which corresponds to a 66% match win rate. That's a really impressive performance, so this is definitely a deck to put on your Modern radar.

For Nils Gutiérrez von Porat, this marked his second semifinal loss at a Regional Championship, as he fell in the same round during the Regional Championship in Athens in June 2023. While the coveted World Championship slot keeps eluding him, he has established himself as a true end boss of the European Championships, always crushing with Izzet decks of his own design.

Davi Mangolin Filho went 6-1-1 in Brazil, narrowly missing the Top 8 on tiebreakers. His deck can be described as a Four-Color Omnath variant that incorporates the so-called Copycat combo. Saheeli Rai's -2 ability creates a copy of Felidar Guardian, which blinks Saheeli Rai, who in turn copies the Cat, and so on. You can loop this for an infinite number of Felidar Guardian tokens with haste, resulting in a lethal attack.

Even if you don't assemble the two-card combo, the pieces can provide value on their own. For example, Felidar Guardian can blink Omnath, Locus of Creation to draw an additional card, and Saheeli Rai can create a copy of Solitude to get ahead on board. Either card can also help you deal with The One Ring if it has too many burden counters. All in all, the Copycat angle provides an interesting way to build the deck, and Davi Mangolin Filho came very close to a Top 8 slot.

Albert Cordobés went 11-4 in Ghent, narrowly missing a Pro Tour invite on tiebreakers. His deck is a unique take on a Death's Shadow strategy, with two notable tweaks. First of all, while most Dimir Shadow decks use Drown in the Loch or Counterspell, Cordobés included the combo of Grief and Not Dead After All instead. The power of a double Grief on turn one is well-known, but Rakdos Grief is not the only deck that can exploit it. It also slots perfectly into this Dimir Shadow deck.

The other tweak that I want to highlight is the sideboard. Although I classified the list as Dimir Shadow because all spells in the main deck are blue or black, there are several red cards in the sideboard. Castable by fetching for Blood Crypt, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker can provide value in grindy matchups, and Alpine Moon offers an answer to land-based strategies. Overall, it's a nicely built list with several good ideas.

Markus Leicht was the only European Championship competitor to use Keruga, the Macrosage as a companion, and he came very close to a Pro Tour invite. Last year, he won the 1,055-player Grand Open Qualifier in Prague with basically the same deck, proving that experience is the key to success in Modern. Since then, The One Ring has replaced Risen Reef and Tishana's Tidebinder has replaced Fury, but the core of the deck remains the same.

The companion restriction of Keruga, the Macrosage means that you can't run Delighted Halfling, Wrenn and Six, or Prismatic Ending. However, the free card provided by the companion is adequate compensation, and Leicht's 11-4 record at the European Championship proves that this is a perfectly viable way to exploit Omnath, Locus of Creation, especially now that the archetype has to be rebuilt after the banning of Fury and Up the Beanstalk.

Ekain Arrieta went 10-4-1 at the European Championship with an archetype that many players did not have on their radar: Mono-White Martyr! "Martyr of Sands abuses The One Ring super well," he told me. "The life loss doesn't really matter; you can keep drawing cards. The deck is terrible against combo, but it's great against Rakdos and Rhinos."

In the late game, the deck can return Martyr of Sands every turn with Abiding Grace or Emeria, the Sky Ruin, leading to absurdly high life totals. Winning is an afterthought, as the deck is filled with countermagic, sweepers, and removal. In fact, it was the only deck at the tournament to include the iconic Wrath of God. The deck is also capable of running the opponent out of basic lands, as Field of Ruin, Demolition Field, and Winds of Abandon all add up. All things considered, Mono-White Martyr is a formidable deck that looks well-positioned and that shouldn't be underestimated.

Eliott Boussaud went 9-6 at the European Championship, following up a 10-5 result at last month's Grand Open Qualifier in Barcelona. He was already playing an Izzet Wizards deck for months, making great use of Flame of Anor in Modern. Boussaud's list not only features Snapcaster Mage and Tishana's Tidebinder to support the Wizard clause but also includes Sleep-Cursed Faerie and Spellstutter Sprite. With a critical mass of Wizard creatures, Wizard's Lightning is close to Lightning Bolt most of the time.

"The cards in the deck are less powerful than Ragavan decks, but the synergy is really cool," he told me. "It plays a great flash/tempo control game, and opponents are not used to that strategy... With all the Bolts, I can beat The One Ring decks." It's definitely a sweet brew to keep an eye on.

The final deck that I wanted to highlight today 10-5 at the European Championship. Played by Javier Faustino, it features numerous combos. First of all, Heliod, Sun-Crowned plus Spike Feeder is infinite life. Moreover, Heliod, Sun-Crowned plus Walking Ballista is infinite damage. Alternatively, Scurry Oak plus Rosie Cotton of South Lane is infinite power. And finally, the three-card combo of Auriok Champion, Heliod, Sun-Crowned, and Scurry Oak provides infinite power and infinite life.

Most Heliod combo decks do not include Scurry Oak or Rosie Cotton of South Lane—Javier Faustino was the only player to use those cards last weekend. However, the additional combo creatures provide new lines and new puzzles every game. This is a particularly sweet option if you like Collected Company decks or if you really want to defeat Boros Burn.

Looking Ahead

In Modern, a skilled player who is well-versed in their deck's interactions and matchup strategies, with a well-adapted list for the metagame, can win with almost everything. I look forward to seeing how the metagame keeps developing, especially after Murders at Karlov Manor is released. I have my eye in particular on the following four cards:

  • The surveil lands, such as Commercial District; the first copy could prove useful as a fetchable utility option in a large variety of decks.
  • Pick Your Poison looks like a formidable sideboard card against Urza's Saga, Murktide Regent, and The One Ring.
  • Insidious Roots might do something for Golgari Yawgmoth or other graveyard engine decks.
  • Archdruid's Charm could be a nice land tutor for Gruul Valakut decks.

The schedule for the remaining Regional Championships in this second cycle of the 2023–24 season is as follows:

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