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Metagame Mentor: Modern Decks for the Magic 30 Beta Draft

November 03, 2022
Frank Karsten

Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, the weekly column in which I highlight the decks to beat and the latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. Today, I'll provide the top Modern decklists from the Magic 30 Championship, where the Top 8 got to participate in an incredible Limited Edition Beta Rochester Draft.

The Magic 30 Championship was the biggest Modern event since the Yorion, Sky Nomad ban, and the winner's metagame held several surprises.

The World Championship

But first, allow me to say congratulations to Magic's new World Champion, Nathan Steuer!


Nathan Steuer, one of the youngest members of the Magic World Championship XXVIII field, had risen through the ranks of competitive play online over the past few years. But his main previous successes were on Magic Online, where he had won the prestigious Champions Showcase twice. Last weekend, he was able to prove that he's also the best of the best at the highest possible competitive Magic stage. You can find all the details on the Magic World Championship XXVIII event coverage page, but he impressed everyone by navigating complicated matchups with a level of skill befitting a World Champion.

To clinch the trophy and to have the honor of having his likeness feature on a future Magic card, he had to display mastery in both Standard and Explorer. In Standard, the most popular deck by far was Esper Midrange. It went 19-19 in non-mirror matches throughout all the World Championship Standard rounds. Many of those losses were at the hands of Nathan Steuer and his Grixis Midrange deck; Corpse Appraiser turned out to be an excellent way to break the metagame. Izzet Tempo and Mono-Blue Tempo went 3-0 against Esper Midrange, so Haughty Djinn was a good choice as well. Jund Midrange and Jund Reanimator went 0-5 and 1-6 respectively against Esper Midrange, so they turned out to be poor choices for the field.

In Explorer, Mono-Blue Spirits was the best deck choice for the field by far. With a 17-5 non-mirror record, it put multiple players into the Top 4 playoffs. Most other archetypes hovered around the 50% winrate mark, with small sample sizes making it difficult to point out significant results. Rakdos Midrange, however, had the worst performance of all: 0-6 against the field. While Explorer differs from Pioneerβ€”for example, Nythkos, Shrine to Nyx is not legal, which means fewer Devotion decks with Karn, the Great Creator, more artifact-reliant decks that crush Rakdos Midrange, and fewer anti-Devotion aggro decks that are weak to Rakdos Midrange–I have to imagine that the metagame in both Explorer and Pioneer will shift towards less Rakdos Midrange. Also, even though Spell Queller is not available in Explorer, fans of the tribe may want to give another look at Mono-Blue Spirits in Pioneer, as Curious Obsession can single-handedly win games.

The Modern Qualifiers for the Magic 30 Beta Draft

While Nathan Steuer was winning the World Championship, there was another major event on the other side of the Magic 30 event hall: the Magic 30 Championship. Friday and Saturday featured four 224-player Modern qualifiers, making for nearly 1000 entrants in total, and the Top 8 from each qualifier advanced to the Top 32 on Sunday.

After two brutal single-elimination rounds, again with their Modern decks, the last eight standing on Sunday then get to the Limited Edition Beta Rochester Draft. In Rochester Draft, players take turns drafting from all cards opened in a booster pack, and all picks are known by each player. It's a high skill way to draft as there's no hidden information of what cards were opened and who may be playing them.

It was quite a spectacle, as iconic cards like Time Walk, Plateau, and Underground Sea were opened to the cheers of the crowd.

I received the paper Modern decklists of almost all 32 players who advanced to Sunday, and I'm excited to share them in this article today. First, here is the overall metagame breakdown.

Archetype Decks in the Top 32 Decks in the Top 8
Indomitable Creativity 5 2
Jeskai Breach 5 2
Rakdos Undying 4 0
Hammer Time 3 0
Merfolk 2 2
Rhinos 2 1
Burn 2 0
Four-Color Omnath 1 1
Jeskai Tempo 1 0
Dredge 1 0
Izzet Murktide 1 0
Domain Zoo 1 0
Amulet Titan 1 0
Azorius Control 1 0
Prison Tron 1 0
Grixis Shadow 1 0

Based on these results, Indomitable Creativity and Jeskai Breach are the Decks to Beat in Modern now. Both put many players in the Top 32, plus two in the Top 8. Rakdos Undying, Hammer Time, and Rhinos all put up solid results as well.

One of the biggest surprises was Merfolk, which put two players in the Top 8. The archetype has been growing in popularity ever since Dominaria United added Vodalian Hexcatcher, and this weekend marked its breakout. If you venture into a Modern tournament now, then be sure to factor in the possibility that an untapped Aether Vial on two counters may result in your noncreature spells getting countered.

Another surprise was a relatively poor showing of Izzet Murktide, Yawgmoth, and Living End. I don't know if they simply weren't popular in the qualifiers or whether they were unable to convert into the Top 32, but I had expected to see more of them.

In the remainder of this article, I'll provide all available decklists, grouped by archetype. I included the names of only the players who made the Top 8 because many others were not properly legible. The decklists that I received contained one duplicate, which I removed, and missed one Jeskai Breach player that other sources indicated had made the Top 8. So, I operate under the assumption that these two paper decklists were unfortunately swapped while collecting them for this article. Additional errors may not be impossible, but I was able to independently verify most lists as belonging to Sunday competitors. In any case, the remaining 31 decklists give an excellent snapshot of the current Modern metagame.

Indomitable Creativity

Indomitable Creativity is a top-tier deck in the current Modern metagame. The game plan is to fetch for Dwarven Mine, then use the namesake spell to transform the 1/1 token into a game-winning creature. Archon of Cruelty is the most common one. Thanks to Leyline Binding and Wrenn and Six, there's plenty of interaction in the early game.

The card choices of the two Top 8 players patch specific strategic holes. For context, Blood Moon and Orvar, the All-Form have became more prominent in recent weeks as answers to the ever-more-popular Indomitable Creativity archetype. Yet the lists of the Top 8 players show ways around them:

  • Justin Rouse's sideboard contains Abundant Growth, which helps beat Blood Moon.
  • Wan Tingfeng's decklist contains Serra's Emissary, which is not affected by Orvar, the All-Form. (Orvar can be discarded to Archon of Cruelty to copy it and take over the game, so it's awesome sideboard tech, but it's useless against Serra's Emissary.)

Jeskai Breach

Jeskai Breach is also a top-tier Modern deck, and it can win in various ways. One option is to combo off by repeatedly milling yourself. This involves sacrificing Mishra's Bauble or Mox Amber to Grinding Station and recasting the zero-mana artifact via Underworld Breach. You loop until you win the game with Thassa's Oracle. But if you don't draw the combo, then you can also win a fair game by attacking with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer; Ledger Shredder; or Urza's Saga tokens.

I unfortunately did not receive the decklist of Michael Lee, one of the two Jeskai Breach players in the Top 8. The other, Chas Hinkle, made the most of his Beta draft experience.

Rakdos Undying

The dream with Rakdos Undying is to evoke Grief of Fury on turn one, then cast Feign Death or Undying Malice to return it to the battlefield. In case of Grief, this yields two pain-free Thoughtseizes and a 4/3 menace on turn one. In case of Fury, it produces a 4/4 double striker on turn one. Both can leave opponents feeling like they were scammed out of playing a fair game.

One list has a fascinating combo: Lightning Skelemental plus Village Rites. The 6/1 haster gives the deck a more aggressive bent, and being able to sacrifice it to draw two cards is a sweet deal. Note that there is no synergy with Undying Malice because you also have to sacrifice Lightning Skelemental at the end of the opponent's end step.

Hammer Time

Hammer Time put three players in the Top 32, but all fell in the single-elimination rounds. The main goal of the deck is to attach Colossus Hammer for free with Sigarda's Aid or Puresteel Paladin. A turn-two kill is even possible with the right opening hand: Sigarda's Aid and Ornithopter on turn one, followed by double Colossus Hammer on turn two. Kills on turn three or turn four are more realistic and, thanks to Urza's Saga and Stoneforge Mystic, consistent.

Merfolk

Two Merfolk players made it to the Top 8, marking a breakout performance for the tribe. It has been slowly growing in popularity ever since Dominaria United added Vodalian Hexcatcher, which is particularly powerful against combo decks relying on expensive spells like Indomitable Creativity.

The two decklists have small differences in their creature bases, such as whether to use Harbinger of the Tides or Cursecatcher. Sideboard tweaks like Spreading Seas are also spicy, as they can turn on the islandwalk ability on Lord of Atlantis. If you have to decide between the two decklists, then I would trust the card choices of legendary Merfolk master Jonathon "Nikachu" Zaczek!

Rhinos

Rhinos doesn't use Yorion, Sky Nomad anymore, and there are now several variants involving either Leyline Binding or Blood Moon in the main deck. But all of them try to cascade into Crashing Footfalls on turn three. I like the spicy Become Immense in one of the lists; it can lead to a lot of damage when pumping targeting trampling Rhinos or a double-striking Fury.

Burn

The one surprise to point out here is two copies of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer in the main deck of one of the two lists. I recently proposed this change several weeks ago because in my experience, the best draws from Burn are the ones where you stick one or two early creatures as repetitive damage sources. By going from 12 to 14 creatures, you increase the probability of having a creature in your opening hand from 81% to 86%, which is significant. It's nice to see other players find success with this as well.

Four-Color Omnath

This 60-card list is how Four-Color Omnath can look like with Kaheera, the Orphanguard instead of Yorion, Sky Nomad. The list is controlling in nature and almost seems like an Azorius Control deck splashing for Omnath, Locus of Creation; Expressive Iteration; and Wrenn and Six. Indeed, with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in the flex slots, there is a lot of interaction and card advantage in the late game. This may be the new look of Four-Color Omnath.

Other Archetypes

The remaining archetypes are singletons that did not survive the single-elimination rounds yet showcase the diversity of the Modern format.

Looking Ahead

This weekend, November 5-6, there is the NRG Series Trial Weekend in Fort Wayne, IN, featuring a $10K Pioneer/Modern/Legacy team event and a $5K Pioneer event. Coverage will be broadcast on Twitch.

Next weekend, November 11-13, highlights include the Black Lotus Prerelease at the Magic Summit and the $30K Pioneer tournament at SCG CON Philadelphia.

And later in the month, starting on November 19-20 in Europe, U.S.A., and Brazil, we have the first Regional Championships! An excellent team of casters has already been announced for the livestream of the European event. These Regional Championships are all Pioneer, and my column every Thursday will have you covered with all the Pioneer metagame developments and event summaries throughout the Regional Championship season.

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