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Metagame Mentor: The Best Decks at Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings

August 03, 2023
Frank Karsten

The Modern Pro Tour lived up to the hype. The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters from The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™ led to a huge metagame upheaval, and we had an awesome weekend all around. Jake Beardsley sliced through the field with Rakdos Evoke, clinching the trophy in his very first Pro Tour!

Congratulations to Jake Beardsley, the Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings Champion!

While the Pro Tour rewarded performance in both Limited and Modern, today's article will consider the win rates and standout decks from the Modern rounds only. By removing the Draft portion and looking beyond the Top 8, we'll get a better sense of the biggest Modern lessons from the event. Let's run the numbers!

Modern Win Rates

The most popular Modern deck archetypes, as per the Pro Tour metagame breakdown, were Rakdos Evoke, Four-Color Omnath, Rhinos, and Mono-Green Tron. After splitting Rhinos into more granular Temur and four-color variants, I determined the non-mirror, non-draw, non-bye match record and win rate of every archetype in the Modern Swiss rounds. The results are provided in the following table, where each archetype name links to a representative decklist.

Archetype Number of Players Record and Win Rate
Merfolk 1 8-2 (80.0%)
Five-Color Reanimator 1 7-3 (70.0%)
Azorius Hammer 3 16-7 (69.6%)
Urza ThopterSword 2 9-5 (64.3%)
Mono-White Hammer 2 9-6 (60.0%)
Dimir Mill 2 10-7 (58.8%)
Amulet Titan 4 20-15 (57.1%)
Temur Rhinos 20 75-59 (56.0%)
Four-Color Rhinos 9 41-33 (55.4%)
Mono-Green Tron 24 95-79 (54.6%)
Rakdos Evoke 52 200-169 (54.2%)
Four-color Control 5 21-21 (50.0%)
Samwise Gamgee Combo 5 17-17 (50.0%)
Naya Scapeshift 2 5-5 (50.0%)
Five-Color Bring to Light 2 2-2 (50.0%)
Grixis Shadow 1 5-5 (50.0%)
Five-Color Omnath 1 5-5 (50.0%)
Izzet Breach 1 5-5 (50.0%)
Affinity 1 5-5 (50.0%)
Izzet Murktide 9 28-29 (49.1%)
Living End 11 44-47 (48.4%)
Five-Color Creativity 8 29-31 (48.3%)
Mono-Black Grief 2 7-8 (46.7%)
Dimir Control 16 51-62 (45.1%)
Boros Burn 10 31-38 (44.9%)
Golgari Yawgmoth 19 57-71 (44.5%)
Four-Color Omnath 30 85-111 (43.4%)
Jeskai Breach 7 19-28 (40.4%)
Esper Control 6 12-18 (40.0%)
Gruul Valakut 1 2-3 (40.0%)
Azorius Control 1 2-3 (40.0%)
Dimir Murktide 1 4-6 (40.0%)
Mono-Black Coffers 4 12-20 (37.5%)
Jund Sagavan 1 1-2 (33.3%)
Izzet Control 1 3-6 (33.3%)
Jeskai Control 1 2-4 (33.3%)
Oops! All Spells! 1 1-4 (20.0%)
Asmo Food 1 0-4 (0.0%)

Sample sizes were relatively small (for example, the 95% confidence interval for Rakdos Evoke's win rate ranged from 49.0% to 59.4%) but the numbers suggest that in today's Modern metagame, Rhinos, Mono-Green Tron, and Rakdos Evoke are the top-tier decks to beat. These "big three" decks were boosted by Lórien Revealed, The One Ring, and Orcish Bowmasters respectively, so The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth had a huge impact on the format. As Modern evolves, a rock-paper-scissors metagame might emerge where Rakdos beats Tron; Tron beats Rhinos; and Rhinos beats Rakdos.

Other popular decks underperformed in the Pro Tour metagame. Four-Color Omnath struggled against Mono-Green Tron and Rhinos, Golgari Yawgmoth had a bad matchup against both Rakdos Evoke and Rhinos, and newcomer Dimir Control struggled against all of the "big three" decks, leading to disappointing results overall.

Out of 269 Modern decks that were submitted for the Pro Tour, 114 players (42.4% of the field) ran The One Ring in their main deck and 106 players (39.4% of the field) used Orcish Bowmasters in their main deck. Collectively, the set of The One Ring players scored a 45.2% win rate against players not using the legendary artifact main deck, and the set of Bowmasters players scored a 49.8% win rate against players not using the Orc Archer main deck. So, despite their popularity, these two new cards did not guarantee excellent results. In fact, many top-performing archetypes (like Merfolk, Hammer Time, and Rhinos) did not use The One Ring or Orcish Bowmasters at all, showing the depth of competitive diversity in Modern.

Modern Decks with 7+ Wins

As a reference, here are all decks with at least 7 Modern non-bye wins at Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings, along with their combined non-bye Swiss and Top 8 record, in descending order of their win rate:

Standout Modern Decks

Let's take a closer look at six standout Modern decks from this group of 7+ wins decks. Based on their great showing at the Pro Tour, these decks may rise in popularity in the coming months.

This is the deck that clinched the trophy, which newly crowned champion Jake Beardsley took to a 11-1-1 record across all the Modern rounds. Beardsley started playing Magic in 2004, qualified for his first Pro Tour at the U.S. Regional Championship, and tested with Team Sanctum of All. With his crisp play, he crushed the event, becoming the first player in 17 years to win in their first Pro Tour.

522163 Feign Death Fable of the Mirror-Breaker

Due to Beardsley's card choices, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker won all three Pro Tours this year! While most Rakdos Evoke lists did not use the Saga, the more ubiquitous Seasoned Pyromancer gets wrecked by Orcish Bowmasters, whereas Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is not as weak to the Orc Archer. In addition, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker enables revolt with ease, making Fatal Push a more natural removal option over Lightning Bolt, and it can eventually copy Grief or Fury for ultimate value later on. Another spicy inclusion was Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, which excels in the mirror match. All of these card choices were perfect for the metagame, and they resulted in Beardsley hoisting the trophy at the end of the weekend.

Robert Graves, who qualified through the U.S. Regional Championship, finished 55th with a deck that few saw coming. In the Modern rounds, he leveraged his experience with creature-based combos, going 7-1-2 with Urza ThopterSword.

622738 Thopter Foundry 586609

The deck's game plan revolves around assembling the three-card infinite combo of Urza, Lord High Artificer; Thopter Foundry; and Sword of the Meek. For consistency, his list uses Goblin Engineer to put Sword of the Meek into the graveyard. The addition of The One Ring fits neatly with Thopter Foundry and Goblin Engineer as excellent ways to sacrifice The One Ring at will. When the burden of drawing too many cards becomes too great, The One Ring is easily sacrificed for some value. This deck looked like a great home for the legendary artifact, and the results played that out.

Dan Kristoff has had an excellent year on the Pro Tour. He finished 16th at Pro Tour Phyrexia, 40th at Pro Tour March of the Machine, and now 90th at Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings. Thanks to his consistent results, he earned a slot for Magic World Championship XXIX based on the Adjusted Match Point leaderboard. He scored his final points by going 8-2 in the Modern rounds as the only Merfolk player at the Pro Tour. Dan had played Merfolk in Modern for years, so he knew what deck he was going to bring long in advance, and it worked out well for him.

Lord of Atlantis 574555 Silvergill Adept

My column-mate Corbin Hosler is a big fan of Merfolk and was delighted to see his favorite deck at the top of the winrate chart. Yet it didn't surprise him, as he felt that the deck was well-positioned in today's metagame: "Modern has slowed down, which always makes Silvergill Adept better, and when Silvergill is a good turn-two play, Merfolk is a good deck." In addition, Hosler pointed out that Merfolk has "a lot more relevant interaction than people realize". For example, Vodalian Hexcatcher counters The One Ring, Tide Shaper stops Urza's lands, and Merfolk Trickster can have Fury lose the undying ability granted by Feign Death. Combining a fast clock, versatile interaction, and reactive gameplay, Merfolk has no major weaknesses. One fin to rule them all?

Thomas Gunn finished 54th with Hammer Time, going 8-2 in the Modern rounds. It was the culmination of a special journey for him: "I'd scheduled the Dallas Regional Championship alongside a music tour with my partner, ended up spiking Top 16 after a solid local season, and so Barcelona is now our surprise final destination on a 60+ day journey around the US. Playing the Pro Tour has been an aspiration of mine from very early on and to see that coming to fruition now, alongside so much music and travel and awe, has just been an incredible ride."

Colossus Hammer Sigarda's Aid Forge Anew

Hammer Time had been trending down after the release of The Lord of The Rings because the protection from The One Ring completely stalls you for a turn and Orcish Bowmasters is deadly against Esper Sentinel. Nevertheless, Hammer Time posted excellent results at the Pro Tour, both the mono-white versions and the lists with splashing blue. It was one of the best-performing archetypes overall. So don't count it out, especially after the recent addition of Forge Anew, which adds to Sigarda's Aid or Puresteel Paladin as the 9th and 10th free equipper, making the deck more consistent.

Pro Tour Avacyn Restored champion Alexander Hayne finished 9th with Mono-Green Tron, going 7-1-2 in the Modern rounds. His version was also played by team Handshake members Simon Nielsen, Zachary Kiihne, Anthony Lee, Javier Dominguez, Nathan Steuer, Joonas Eloranta, Abe Corrigan, and Matti Kuisma. In slots traditionally occupied by Sanctum of Ugin and Chromatic Star, their list used Urza's Saga for its synergy with both Expedition Map and Dismember as early-game removal spell. This build became known as "Handshake Tron", and together they went 50-28 (64.1%) in non-mirror, non-draw, non-bye Modern rounds, which was much better than the 53-59 (47.3%) record posted by other Tron players.

Urza's Mine Urza's Power Plant Urza's Tower

As a bit of a historical overview, the "Urzatron"–Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower—debuted in Antiquities in 1994, and even though it was named after the Voltron TV series in the '90s, it didn't make much of an impact on competitive MTG at first. It wasn't until Mirrodin Block in 2003 that they started to power out powerful spells like Mindslaver or Tooth and Nail. When Modern was introduced in 2011, Tron was outclassed by Cloudpost at first, but the Tron strategy appeared after Cloudpost was banned, and the deck's core has remained the same throughout. Thoralf Severin used Mono-Green Tron to win the previous Modern Pro Tour in 2019, and even though Mono-Green Tron largely disappeared from the Modern metagame after Modern Horizons 2, it has made a huge resurgence after the release of The One Ring in Tales of Middle-earth. In addition to the adoption of The One Ring, the new Tron builds also use Karn, the Great Creator, replacing Karn Liberated. This makes them better in games where they are unable to assemble Tron by turn three, allowing them to play a reasonable game even if their land search spells got discarded or countered.

Jitse Goutbeek followed up a 27th place finish at Pro Tour Phyrexia with a 29th place finish at Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings, going 8-2 in Modern with Four-Color Rhinos. His consistent results also put him high enough on the Adjusted Match Point leaderboard for an invitation to Magic World Championship XXIX, which will be held at MagicCon: Las Vegas on September 22–24.

Crashing Footfalls 574504 Lórien Revealed

Lórien Revealed is like a land that can be pitched to Force of Negation or Subtlety, providing both flexibility and consistency. Its addition propelled Rhinos towards great results. While the Top 8 featured three Temur Rhinos decks, the group of Four-Color Rhinos players had almost identical winrates throughout the Modern rounds—they just did slightly worse in the draft rounds. The addition of Leyline Binding provides great counterplay against the ubiquitous Chalice of the Void and Ardent Plea provides more consistent access to a turn-three Crashing Footfalls. Based on the match results from the Swiss, whether or not to splash white remains an open question.

The Secret Lair Showdown

Besides hosting Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings and the second-chance PTQ for Pro Tour competitors, MagicCon: Barcelona also featured several awesome premier events that were open to anyone. The Limited Open, which awarded eight Pro Tour invites and $75,000 in prizes, was won by Mattia Rizzi, a Pro Tour veteran from Italy. And the Secret Lair Showdown, which awards exclusive versions of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Brainstorm as prizes, was won by Isaac Queralt Garriga.

The Secret Lair Showdown is a premiere tournament series found only at MagicCons. Four qualifying events on Friday and Saturday propel a total of 32 players to a culminating Sunday event. In this Sunday Championship, each participant receives a beautiful Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, and the winner receives an exclusive Brainstorm Secret Lair Card and an oversized card to match. At the end of the year, there will only be 128 copies of this Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and four copies of this Brainstorm in existence, making them really cool and coveted prizes.

The format for the Secret Lair Showdown at MagicCon: Barcelona was Modern, and Isaac Queralt Garriga emerged victorious with a Jeskai Breach deck built by Pro Tour commentator Corey Baumeister. While Jeskai Breach disappointed at the Pro Tour, it excelled in the Secret Lair Showdown. Indeed, in the semifinals, Isaac Queralt Garriga defeated Brad Nelson, who was using pretty much the same Jeskai Breach list. In the finals, he faced Luke Greenslade on Dimir Mill, an archetype that did surprisingly well at the Pro Tour. In a close third game, many of Isaac Queralt Garriga's key cards were exiled and milled, but on the brink of defeat, he turned the tables with Thassa's Oracle. His dangerously small library size suddenly became an advantage, allowing Thassa's Oracle to enter the battlefield and win the match.

If you're a competitive player and planning to attend MagicCon: Las Vegas on September 22–24, which also features the World Championship, then you should not miss the next Secret Lair Showdown! It's a really awesome event with unique prizes.


The weekend in Barcelona showed that there's a wide range of powerful archetypes that can achieve competitive success in Modern. While Mono-Green Tron, Rhinos, and Rakdos Evoke are the new top-tier decks to beat, Modern features sufficiently powerful answers to attack any metagame, and less popular archetypes like Merfolk, Hammer Time, Urza ThopterSword, Jeskai Breach, and Dimir Mill also posted great results. In Modern, anything is possible, and deck familiarity often remains a critical element of success.

Modern players can look forward to the weekend of August 12—13, which will feature a $20K Modern event at MXP Tacoma and a $10K Modern event at NRG Series Detroit. In addition, the Constructed format for the next cycle of Regional Championship Qualifiers, which runs from September 9 until December 17, will be Modern. You can be sure that I'll closely follow the evolution of the Modern metagame the Metagame Mentor column throughout the cycle.

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