So Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom is gone in Modern, what now? By Fabrizio Anteri
I remember how people often used to say, “Modern is a very skill intensive format, good players who put a lot of time on it get rewarded all the time.”
What happened? What changed now? Why I don’t hear this any more?
I know very few people who either hate Modern or are disinterested in the format. Most players love the format, and this is why there has been so much talking already about how the recent bans are going to change the metagame going forward.
The most common reactions I’ve heard or read so far are:
- “Tron’s worst matchup is gone! With no Splinter Twin decks around, now the Urza lands are taking over the format!”
- “Best Lightning Bolt–Snapcaster Mage deck gone? Time to sleeve up the Affinity and Infect decks again!”
- “Jund and Junk had a good matchup against Splinter Twin. Now that it is gone the reasons to play GBx decks are less appealing.”
Secondly, Amulet Bloom was a deck very hard to interact with. Many of the games can be summarised like this, “Do you have the Turn 2 kill? OK, then let’s move to the next game,” and “Did you keep a bad hand and now you can’t kill me before Turn 4? OK then I win, let’s move on.”
The deck was extremely difficult to play, and there was not much you could do if your Amulet opponent knew what he was doing and his draws were decent enough. It didn’t really matter what deck your opponent was playing. So the deck getting banned doesn’t really change much in Modern, other than maybe the number of Blood Moons people are running in their sideboards.
Something else I’ve heard around is, “I am a Splinter Twin player, the card got banned, what now? Do I replace it with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker? Or do I jump into Jeskai Resto-Kiki? What about Grixis Control? It plays about 50 of the same cards! It’s quite similar, right?”
Where do I begin? I don’t think replacing Splinter Twin with Kiki-Jiki will keep the deck at remotely the same level. The difference between a Turn 4 kill and Turn 5 is just too much. You are also vulnerable to Lightning Bolt and the three red mana symbols in Kiki-Jiki’s cost.
Regarding Jeskai and Grixis: Yes, you can play those decks. Modern is quite an open format with plenty of options. Those two decks existed before the banning and will still exist now on. The only point I want to make in here is that you don’t “have to” find the closest option to Splinter Twin now that the deck is gone. You have the option to move on and find a different archetype that perhaps will give you more success than Jeskai or Grixis.
Getting back to what do I think will change in Modern, I do agree that Tron, Affinity and Infect look like the winners now with the ban of Splinter Twin. That’s just the obvious conclusion, so I will try to go further:
- If Affinity and Infect are going to see more play, do I really want to be playing Tron? Tron is known to have a bad match against both these decks, so maybe it’s not that appealing after all?
- If people are not going to play Tron, because they are afraid of Infect and Affinity, should I actually play Jund? I am sure I can beat Affinity and Infect with the proper list. If I don’t need to worry about Splinter Twin, I will surely have enough space for hate cards for the rest of the decks!
- What about Burn? Isn’t Burn good against Infect, Jund, Tron, and Affinity with enough sideboard hate?
- And what about the new Eldrazi deck? There are plenty of versions around already that seem to perform and the new set is giving potential new additions. Should I just play Eldrazi then?
As you can see, the possible conclusions are just too many. You can just go on for a long time with the list of things people can deduce about the future of the format. The truth is that Modern is a really big format with way too many possible decks. Even the “most dominant and played decks” normally don’t reach the 10% of people playing it in a given event. So instead of telling you what decks are going to be the most popular and telling you what to play (not because I don’t want to, just because I don’t know), I will give you some tips and thoughts that hopefully will give you a better idea about the future of the format:
- Remand will most likely see very little play now. This was an excellent counterspell in Splinter Twin decks. Many decks or cards stopped seeing play in Modern because Remand was really good against them, and Twin was very popular. Remand‘s advantage was against important spells such as Scapeshift, Living End, Through the Breach, and Chord of Calling.
- Blood Moon was probably the best hate card against Amulet Bloom, even if Turn 3 was sometimes too late. Splinter Twin sideboards was a natural place for this enchantment. With Tron likely to rise in popularity, and all the promises of the new Eldrazi tribal deck, I wouldn’t put those Blood Moons too far from reach.
- Many “fair decks” are known to be bad against “unfair decks” (aka combo decks). Combo decks can be split in two categories: The ones that attack with little creatures that become bigger (Affinity and Infect) and everything else (Twin, Amulet, Griselshoal). Now that the two most popular “do something else” decks are gone, is probably time to re-evaluate which “fair decks” are still bad against the “unfair decks”. I am sure it will be possible to build some fair control-ish decks that can deal with unfair decks, now that they don’t have to care about Deceiver Exarch or Primeval Titan. They can now focus on small creatures. Lightning Bolt anyone?
- WB Tokens used to be, in my opinion, a bad deck. Not competitive enough to fight against the main archetypes. While everyone is talking about the bannings and the new Eldrazi, this deck was given some tools it didn’t have before: Bitterblossom is Modern legal (it’s been Modern legal for almost two years now, did you know that?), Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, and Shambling Vent are other good Modern options for WB Tokens. I am not saying this deck is broken or that it’s the future of Modern, I am just pointing out something that most people haven’t even given it a second thought. Both Affinity and Infect are very good at attacking in the air with Inkmoth Nexus, Blinkmoth Nexus, Plague Stinger, Signal Pest, and so many more. I can imagine they wouldn’t be very happy if you spend your Turns 2, 3 and 4 casting Bitterblossom, Spectral Procession and Lingering Souls. Also, WB Tokens has access to excellent one mana interaction spells such as Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize, and Path to Exile are all excellent one mana interaction spells.
As a final note, I want to remind people how deep and complicated Modern is. I remember how often people used to say, “Modern is a very skill intensive format, good players who put a lot of time on it get rewarded all the time.” What happened? What changed now? Why I don’t hear that anymore?
It’s because people as learned how to play the format, they got used to the matches and the sideboard plans, so those “good players who put lot of time in Modern” are not alone anymore. Everyone eventually learned what those few players knew when the format was only 2-3 years old. The format is still very skill intensive and there is still a way to get an edge over other people.
How do you do this? Play something they are not used to playing against. I know it’s hard to find something new, but there are still some decks people have barely played against and are more likely to make mistakes. Try to find one of those decks and I can promise you will get plenty of wins out of opponents’ mistakes, at least until they finally understand what is going on and what is your deck is exactly trying to do.
I’m currently in Mexico City with my teammates from Eureka trying to figure out the format for the Pro Tour. I hope to get some good insights from the testing to share with you once I am back in few weeks. I will (hopefully) have internet access in the hotels and I will be interested in hearing what you have to say in the comments. Reply with any questions you may have, and please don’t hesitate in letting me know what you think!
Thanks for reading,
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