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Metagame Mentor: Modern with Phyrexia: All Will Be One

March 23, 2023
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. With several large Regional Championship Qualifiers (RCQs) coming up in the Modern format, today I'm taking a look at the biggest innovations in Modern since the release of Phyrexia: All Will Be One.

Before analyzing the Modern metagame, I have an announcement to share, courtesy of the Premier Play team: The Constructed format for the Pro Tour at MagicCon: Barcelona will be Modern! This Pro Tour will be held on July 28–30, several weeks after the release of The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™. As this set will be Modern-legal, the Pro Tour will be one place these new cards shine and I'm looking forward to seeing the format at the Pro Tour stage in a few months.

The Modern Metagame

Modern, created in 2011, is a nonrotating, 60-card format that allows expansion sets, core sets, and Modern Horizons sets from Eight Edition forward, save for cards on the banned list. Compared to Standard and Pioneer, it has a deeper card pool, features more complex card interactions, and enables a larger diversity of strategies. If you're new or returning to the format, then I recommend first reading "everything to know about Modern to win your RCQ" as a thorough introduction to the top-tier decks.

To grasp the latest Modern developments, I analyzed over 1,680 successful decklists from competitive events over the past month. Specifically, I used all published Magic Online decklists from scheduled Modern events held from February 21 through March 20, as well as all MTG Melee decklists with net positive wins from the Apex Gaming Invitational, $20K RCQ at SCG Con Charlotte, $10K RCQ at SCG CON Charlotte, Players Convention Yokohama Open, Owl Central Games RCQ, and 2023 Hunter Burton Memorial Open. In addition, I used Top 8 decks from the RCQ at Fire & Dice, RCQ at Card Monster Games, Modern Main Event at 4Seasons Tournaments, F2F Tour Stop Calgary, and F2F Tour Stop Toronto. Many of these events provided Regional Championship invites, with the biggest events drawing hundreds of players to compete for large prizes. Their winners will be among the players to watch at their Regional Championships in June.

To provide a metagame snapshot that combines popularity and performance, 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. It may be interpreted as a winner's metagame that you can expect to see at the top tables.

Archetype Record-Weighted Metagame Share
1. Izzet Murktide 12.6%
2. Indomitable Creativity 11.4% ↑↑
3. Rhinos 8.3%
4. Hammer Time 7.2% ↓↓
5. Rakdos Undying 7.0%
6. Amulet Titan 4.6%
7. Four-Color Omnath 4.2%
8. Burn 4.0%
9. Yawgmoth 3.0%
10. Jund Midrange 2.7% ↑↑
11. Jeskai Breach 2.6% ↓↓
12. Living End 2.0%
13. Jund Reanimator 1.9%
14. Izzet Prowess 1.9%
15. Domain Zoo 1.8%
16. Merfolk 1.8%
17. Mono-Green Tron 1.8%
18. Azorius Control 1.6%
19. Izzet Breach 1.3%
20. Mill 1.2%
21. Hardened Scales 1.1%
22. Mono-Red Obosh 1.1%
23. Affinity 0.9%
24. Asmo Reanimator 0.8%
25. Shift to Light 0.7%
26. Grixis Shadow 0.6%
27. Mono-Red Prowess 0.6%
28. Humans 0.6%
29. Dredge 0.6%
30. Other 10.2%

In this table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing, representative decklist, and the arrows represent the biggest changes compared to my Modern metagame snapshot from January. The "Other" category, continuing the descending order, includes Five-Color Reanimator, Jeskai Prowess, Steelseeker Food, Belcher, Eldrazi Tron, Mono-Blue Tron, Boros Obosh, Death and Taxes, Devoted Druid, Urza ThopterSword, Esper Control, Rakdos Midrange, Gruul Sagavan, Rakdos Skelemental, Mono-Black Coffers, CrabVine, Neobrand, Bant Soulherder, Mono-Red Midrange, Ponza, Infect, Bant Control, Grixis Midrange, Calibrated Blast, Jeskai Control, Glimpse of Tomorrow, Goblins, Enchantress, Twiddle Breach, Elementals, 8-Whack, TitanShift, Bogles, Azorius Stoneblade, Prison Tron, Gruul Storm, and more. The number of competitively viable Modern archetypes remains enormous, and deck familiarity is a significant success factor. My advice for navigating the Modern format is to invest time in mastering your preferred deck. A skilled player who is well-versed in their deck's interactions and matchup strategies can win with almost everything.

The five top-tier decks that you can expect to face the most are Izzet Murktide, Indomitable Creativity, Rhinos, Rakdos Undying, and Hammer Time. There hasn't been much innovation in these archetypes over the past month, but they remain dominant. Indomitable Creativity gained a few percentage points and Hammer Time lost a few, so perhaps you'll want to shave a Force of Vigor from your sideboard and add an Orvar, the All-Form, but these are small fluctuations. The downtick of Jeskai Breach was more impactful, dropping from 7.5% to 2.6% of the record-weighted metagame as players have learned how to counter the strategy.

Meanwhile, now that the ripple effects of the ban of Yorion, Sky Nomad have sunk in, Jund Midrange is back on the menu. The pairing of Tarmogoyf, Lightning Bolt, and Inquisition of Kozilek evokes memories of Modern's decade-old past, although new inclusions like Wrenn and Six and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer have been added since then. Most, but not all, Jund Midrange decks use Urza's Saga; these specific lists are sometimes referred to as Jund Sagavan. Urza's Saga seems like a worthwhile inclusion, as the land enchantment synergizes with Tarmogoyf and Wrenn and Six, but since Jund doesn't have as much use for colorless mana, it's not a universal choice.

The Most-Played Modern Cards

The defining staples of the format (more specifically, the most-played non-land cards across all main decks and sideboards) remain Lightning Bolt; Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer; Fury; Spell Pierce; Expressive Iteration; and Mishra's Bauble. This is nothing new—it was pretty much the same in January. However, the top ten is now rounded out by newcomers Wrenn and Six, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Blood Moon, Endurance.

The rise of Wrenn and Six means that your one-toughness creatures are more at risk. The prevalence of Blood Moon implies that you should run fewer colors or fetch basic lands more frequently. And the uptick in Endurance means that graveyard-based plans are more vulnerable. Keep these developments in mind when building your decks.

Next, let's zoom in on the impact of Phyrexia: All Will Be One. The following table has the 25 most-played new-to-Modern cards from this latest expansion set across my data set of over 1,680 successful Modern decklists over the past month.

Card Name Total Copies Main Deck Sideboard
The Mycosynth Gardens 225 225 0
Minor Misstep 123 50 73
Atraxa, Grand Unifier 122 115 7
Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines 122 95 27
Jace, the Perfected Mind 78 75 3
Soulless Jailer 58 0 58
Sheoldred's Edict 41 26 15
Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler 39 37 2
Mirrex 33 33 0
Venerated Rotpriest 20 20 0
Skrelv, Defector Mite 16 16 0
Melira, the Living Cure 14 13 1
The Filigree Sylex 13 0 13
Gleeful Demolition 12 12 0
Migloz, Maze Crusher 12 12 0
Tyvar's Stand 11 11 0
Tyrranax Rex 10 1 9
Green Sun's Twilight 8 8 0
Capricious Hellraiser 8 8 0
Thrun, Breaker of Silence 7 0 7
Kemba, Kha Enduring 6 6 0
Graaz, Unstoppable Juggernaut 6 6 0
Nahiri, the Unforgiving 5 5 0
All Will Be One 4 4 0
Mercurial Spelldancer 4 4 0

To illustrate where the most popular new cards have found a home and to get players who didn't follow Modern over the past two months back up to speed, let's go over various decks that have gained the most from these new additions.

Modern Decks Compleat with Phyrexia: All Will Be One

To take a closer look at eight archetypes that were boosted by Phyrexia: All Will Be One, I've used a decklist aggregation algorithm that takes into account the popularity and performance of individual card choices.

Amulet Titan, with a 4.6% share of the record-weighted metagame, is an intricate ramp deck that exploits the synergy between Amulet of Vigor and bounce lands to power out Primeval Titan. From Phyrexia: All Will Be One, the archetype received a substantial boost in the form of The Mycosynth Gardens. Draws with double Amulet of Vigor were always the best, as they allow a single Simic Growth Chamber to provide four mana right away. The Mycosynth Gardens provides easy access to a second Amulet of Vigor, making the explosive turn-three Primeval Titan draws even more likely.

When you control two Amulets, a single Titan is deadly: You first fetch Boros Garrison and Slayers' Stronghold, activate the Garrison twice, attack, fetch Vesuva and Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion, and win the game with a 10-power double striker. Now, with The Mycosynth Gardens in the deck, two attacking Titans are also lethal through a few blockers when you control one Amulet—you fetch The Mycosynth Gardens with the first attack trigger, turn it into a second Amulet of Vigor, fetch Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion with the second attack trigger, and use it to give both Titans double strike. All in all, The Mycosynth Gardens is the most important addition from Phyrexia: All Will Be One to Modern.

Four-Color Omnath, with a 4.2% of the record-weighted metagame, comes in many variations, but the most prominent build nowadays eschews a companion and has adopted a singleton Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines. A five-mana creature without an enters-the-battlefield ability has a high bar to clear before seeing play in Modern, but her abilities are amazing in the current metagame, turning her into an ideal tutor target for Eladamri's Call.

First of all, Elesh Norn makes it an absolute delight to evoke Solitude while controlling Risen Reef, as all your triggers get doubled. In addition, due to the wording on Omnath, Locus of Creation, if you play a land while controlling Elesh Norn, you'll gain 4 life and add four mana. Moreover, Elesh Norn is unfazed by Unholy Heat or Fatal Push, and she nullifies opposing Leyline Binding and Solitude, making her nearly impossible to kill. On top of all that, Elesh Norn stops enters-the-battlefield triggers from Dwarven Mine; Sigarda's Aid; Primeval Titan; Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle; and Grinding Station, thereby disrupting various combos. As a result, Elesh Norn has found her way into various Modern decks, most commonly into Four-Color Omnath.

Domain Zoo, with a 1.8% share of the winner's metagame, is an aggressive deck that uses Triomes to power up Territorial Kavu, Scion of Draco, and Tribal Flames. From Phyrexia: All Will Be One, many successful Domain Zoo players have adopted one or more copies of Minor Misstep or Migloz, Maze Crusher.

Minor Misstep, which is included in a small fraction of Izzet Murktide lists as well, provides Domain Zoo with a fifth Stubborn Denial that can counter opposing Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer; Lightning Bolt; Crashing Footfalls; Colossus Hammer; Amulet of Vigor, and so on—pretty much every deck will have relevant targets. Migloz, Maze Crusher is the first Modern-legal three-mana threat that enables Stubborn Denial, dodges Lightning Bolt, and destroys Leyline Binding. Although these new cards aren't game changers, they provide new options for the flex slots in this deck.

Mill, with a 1.2% share of the winner's metagame, has the straightforward game plan of depleting the opponent's library as quickly as possible. From Phyrexia: All Will Be One, the archetype gained Jace, the Perfected Mind, which can mill 9 cards for three mana, mill 15 cards for four mana, or yield card advantage over time in grindy matchups. It's a perfect fit, and without 80-card Yorion decks to worry about, Mill seems to be making a comeback.

However, some players are already responding by adding a singleton Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to their sideboard, which can make life difficult for Mill players.

Hardened Scales, with a 1.1% share of the winner's metagame, uses Arcbound Ravager to produce lethal damage out of thin air. The aggregate list adds two cards from Phyrexia: All Will Be One. First of all, the main deck features Mirrex, which not only adds any color of mana for Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp but also provides steady food for Arcbound Ravager. The second addition is found in the sideboard: a singleton Soulless Jailer, which stops cards like Violent Outburst, Undying Malice, and Persist. Soulless Jailer fits snugly into Hardened Scales because it triggers Patchwork Automaton and can be found with Ancient Stirrings.

Devoted Druid, with a 0.4% share of the record-weighted metagame, uses its namesake card in conjunction with Vizier of Remedies to add infinite green mana, setting up an immediate win with Walking Ballista. The big addition from Phyrexia: All Will Be One is Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler. The static ability allows you to tap your Druid for mana immediately, depriving your opponent of a full turn to find an answer. In addition, Tyvar's -2 ability digs or returns key combo creatures, improving your consistency and resiliency.

Infect, with a tiny 0.2% share of the record-weighted metagame, hasn't put up big numbers, but several players have been trying out Venerated Rotpriest in the archetype. Venerated Rotpriest will poison your opponent when you target your own creatures with pump spells or when they target your creatures with removal spells, making it easier to reach 10 poison counters. I've also seen a stray combo list with Ground Rift, but by and large, Venerated Rotpriest has not made a major impact on Modern yet.

Looking Ahead

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Now that the impact of Phyrexia: All Will Be One has started to be understood, the coming two weekends will be awesome for fans of the Modern formats, as several huge Modern RCQs at destination events are coming up. These events will send numerous competitors to their Regional Championships in June and are poised to show further Modern innovation:

Meanwhile, the current cycle of Regional Championships is happening around the globe. Last weekend, Jesus Adan Calzada won the one in Mexico City with Rakdos Reanimator, and four more are coming up:

Join me next week as I analyze the latest Standard results from these Regional Championships!

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