Fact not Fiction – Where Next for Modern? By Michael Maxwell

Fact not Fiction – The Winners and Losers from Pro Tour Paris by Michael Maxwell


Pro Tour Philadelphia is in the boos, and the Modern metagame all over the world will be defined for the next few months by the results from this event. There are 3 questions to ask when looking at the results:

What were the most popular decks?

What were the most successful decks?

What beats those decks?


As for what was popular, the most popular decks were as follows:


16.79%Splinter Twin

15.59% – Zoo

7.67% – Affinity

6.47%Pyromancer Ascension

4.80% – Infect Combo

4.56% – Storm

3.12% – Elves

2.88%Hive Mind

2.16% – Jund

The 3 most popular decks make up over 50% of the metagame, so it’s fair to say that if there were a Modern tournament tomorrow you could expect to see plenty of 12-Post, Splinter Twin, and Zoo. If you include Affinity and Pyromancer Ascension then at least 65% of the metagame is aggro, U/R combo, and ramp, which gives us something to aim at in terms of wanting to be able to beat what was popular.


So which decks were successful? Well, the breakdown of decks in the Top8 was this:

2 x Splinter Twin

2 x Pyromancer Ascension

1 x Zoo

1 x Affinity

1 x 12-Post

1 x Infect Combo


It’s also interesting to look at the Day 2 success rates of the most popular decks, i.e. what percentage of players with each archetype made Day 2.

53.13% – Affinity

47.37% – Storm

46.15% – Zoo

40.74%Pyromancer Ascension

40.00%Splinter Twin

36.2% – Average

35.00% – Infect Combo

23.08% – Elves

21.95% – 12-Post

8.33%Hive Mind

11.11% – Jund

So playing any of Splinter Twin, Zoo, Affinity, Pyromancer Ascension, or Storm would have given you a better than average chance of making Day 2. There is one problem when looking at these statistics though: Pro Tours are split-format events and 3 of the 8 rounds on Day 1 are limited.  Whilst the majority of the rounds are constructed it is important to remember that these results have to be taken with a pinch of salt.


What conclusions can we draw from these results? Well the obvious points are these:

12-Post underperformed. It only put 1 player in the Top8 and had a much worse than average success rate. This tells us that people knew 12-Post was going to be popular, and they had a plan to beat it. If 12-Post is to remain a force in the Modern metagame then it will have to adapt. Fortunately for fans of this archetype there is plenty of room for innovation; there are mono-blue, mono-green, blue-green, and green-red versions of this deck, and choosing the right colours to give you the tools you need to fight the metagame and the hate is vital for success.

Other than 12-post, 6 of the 7 most popular archetypes all gave you a better than even chance of making Day 2, with Infect Combo only being slightly worse than average. With most of the popular decks performing well it is likely that these decks will become even more popular, probably at the expense of 12-post.

Since we now know what was popular and what was successful, we now want to know how to beat those decks. To recap, we want to beat the following:

Aggro – Zoo and Affinity

Combo – Splinter Twin, Pyromancer Ascension, Storm, 12-post

It is important to note that the Affinity deck that made Top8 was a mono-red version with Arcbound Ravager, Atog, and Fling, and therefore acts like a combo deck as much as an aggro deck at times. It also means that since there is no Thoughtcast, Master of Etherium, or Tezzeret the deck has very little late game staying power. The Zoo deck which made Top8 was created by the ChannelFireball guys, and you can expect a lot of people to copy that list. The implications of this are that you need to be prepared to beat Bant Charm and Elspeth more than Kird Ape or Goblin Guide. The Sideboard of the CFB Zoo deck also had 6 counterspells in the board, allowing it to play like a fish deck in games 2 and 3.

What this means is that wrath effects like Firespout and Engineered Explosives are a bit worse than usual against Zoo but a bit better than usual against Affinity, since there are no Myr Enforcers. Kataki is worse than usual due to 7 maindeck removal spells in the Affinity list, but it’s still game over if he lives for a turn.

Splinter Twin can be fought with the same tools as in Standard. A combination of creature removal, hand disruption and counterspells, along with a clock, should be enough to give you a fighting chance. Storm and Ascension can be fought in similar ways; by removing the key enchantment. Both those decks will struggle to do much of anything without a Pyromancer’s Swath or Pyromancer Ascension in play, so disenchant effects are quite powerful. Trinisphere will also slow both decks down considerably. If you’re relying on counterspells then make sure you’re prepared for an end-of-turn Gigadrowse.

12-Post decks can vary quite heavily depending on the colours being played, but attacking the manabase is going to be effective against any version. Any deck in the format can play Ghost Quarter or Tectonic Edge, and any deck playing red has plenty of supplementary options. Just being faster is also a legitimate option for some of the combo decks. Bribery is a particularly powerful sideboard card for blue decks against Emrakul decks too.


So if there is a Modern tournament near you sometime soon, and I hope there is since Modern is shaping up to be an interesting format, hopefully this has given you some idea as to what you need to beat and how to go about beating it. There are still hundreds of unexplored decks out there, so go out there and find them! At my local store there is a weekly Modern league starting up, and I can’t wait to get my teeth into it.

Finally, here are my top 5 cards that (almost) nobody played at the Pro Tour:

  1. Dark Confidant
  2. Thoughtseize
  3. Aether Vial
  4. Gifts Ungiven
  5. Planeswalkers


So what do you think about the results from the Pro Tour? Where will Modern go from here? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

Michael Maxwell


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