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Pro Tour Fate Reforged: Day One Round-by-Round


Today was day one of Pro Tour Fate Reforged, the first real test of the Modern format since the bannings of Treasure Cruise, Birthing Pod, and Dig Through Time. I knew I wanted to write a review of day one, but I wasn't exactly sure how to go about it, so I just started writing as I watched the coverage, social media, vendor sites, and Magic Online. This developed into the round-by-round breakdown you're reading now. Part of it is financial — when I'm watching magic, I pretty much always have financial ramifications in mind — but the other part is more general, a bit random even. I should warn you up front that since I was writing this piece in real-time, it is less research-based than most of the other articles, but I hope that it is enjoyable and enlightening nonetheless.

Round Four

After waiting through three rounds of limited and a lunch break where I learn that Sarkhan means "super president," it is finally time for Modern to begin. Round 4-8 are the rounds we have been talking about, discussing, and analyzing since the B&R announcement weeks ago, and now it's finally here. Sort of.

"Man I can't wait for this Pro Tour!" Welcome to round one of Modern. I'm Rashad Miller here with a burn mirror. "F*** this stupid format"

— Travis Allen (@wizardbumpin) February 6, 2015

Yup, the burn mirror. The most riveting 2 minutes in the multiverse as both players draw, Lightning Bolt their opponent's face, and pass the turn. Thankfully, the games of the Manfield vs Shenhar burn mirror are quick enough that we get actually get to see some real magic before the round ends (sorry "Burn" players, but do you really think "cast seven Lava Spikes ranks that far above Dredge in the "Magic the way Garfield intended scale?")

I mentioned Inkmoth Nexus in my preview article yesterday when I was talking about Affinity. Little did I know that one of the most influential teams at the event (CFB: Pantheon) would show up playing Infect. Now it still remains to be seen how well the deck will perform, but judging by the caliber of players on Pantheon (including Mr. Infect Tom Ross), at least a couple of good finishes seem likely. Since there are not a whole lot of MTG finance targets in the deck (it's mostly Giant Growths), it almost has to be Inkmoth Nexus that sees a price increase based on this performance. Another possibility is Wild Defiance, which is currently in $1 range and is seeing maindeck play in the Pantheon build. I wouldn't be surprised to see Wild Defiance spike to $2-$3 dollars, but the problem is, I'm not sure that buylists will reflect this to the extent where you'll be able to cash out easily. 

Other highlights from round four included Jon Stern getting four Noble Hierarchs on the battlefield at the same time in an interesting and non-traditional build of Junk featuring Lingering Souls and Gavony Township, and then proceeding to ride the gaggle of 0/1's to victory over a more traditional Liliana of the Veil/Tarmogoyf Junk build. We also saw a nearly Mono-Green Elves deck (splashing White for Thalia, Guardian of Thraben) which looked pretty sweet from the short peak we were given, but it ended up falling to Pestermite beats and special deck tech designed for Mono-Red Aggro (which has been getting a lot of hype from the commentators).

Round Five

While the on-camera feature match for round five was Paul Cheon on traditional Junk with more Noble Hierarchs and Tasigur, the Golden Fang against Stanislav Cifka playing a Bitterblossom-based Black/White tokens build, most of the excitement was about a match that was on one of the back tables where Chapin was casting this card:

At this point we haven't seen Chapin's whole list because there was a Rest in Peace in play ruining the spotlight, but we do know is that it's an Esper Delve deck that's looking to beat down with Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Hopefully he gets some more camera time in the coming rounds (although his loss to Affinity brings him to 3-2), or at least a deck tech, because I'm very curious about what he is using to fill his graveyard and fuel delve. The other interesting aspect of round five included another Infect deck, this time from a player not connected to Pantheon, which suggests a lot of players came to a similar conclusions about the format. Plus, we almost saw a classic, game-ending topdeck of Splinter Twin.

Jelger planning on getting the perfect top deck, get there, only to have to read the card Wear//Tear #MTGFRF Loving it

— Tristan Gregson (@TristanGregson) February 6, 2015

So far we are only two rounds in, but a few clear winners are already emerging. Apart from all the pieces of the Infect deck, Noble Hierarch seems to be everywhere, which is important because it shows that the card is playable without Birthing Pod. When Birthing Pod was banned, the TCG low price on Noble Hierarch dropped almost overnight by $10, and while a reprinting in Modern Masters 2015 is likely, she could creep back towards $55 until spoilers are announced. The second big winner is Tasigur, the Golden Fang. The fact that he is seeing play in Junk isn't really a surprise, but the fact that pros think he is good enough in Modern to build entire archetypes around him is unexpected. Even so, it's going to be difficult for him to maintain much more than his current $10 because more packs of Fate Reforged are being opened every day.

Round Six

Wild Defiance disappearing from eBay as Pantheon's Infect deck continues to look good on camera. Weak to Lingering Souls though.

— Chas Andres (@chasandres) February 6, 2015

Just as I'm starting to fear sounding like a broken record — Infect, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Abzan, Infect, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Abzan — we get a feature match with UWR Control. The problem is, not only is it playing against Junk, but against a Junk build running four maindeck Voice of Resurgence and Lingering Souls, both of which are both pretty miserable to fight from the control side. One card that hasn't shown up at all in the first three rounds is Geist of Saint Traft. Both UWR players on camera thus far have opted for the control build of the deck, and decided to leave the spirit on the sidelines. 

Of course we have another Infect player on camera, and while this is not a surprise any longer, the fact that this player is Andrew Cuneo (credited as the inventor of draw-go control decks back in the '90s) either means that control in Modern is just bad, or that Infect is just really, really good (edit: we find out later than Finkel is on Infect too, which probably means the same thing about Storm). A third possibility involves Tom Ross somehow hypnotizing or drugging his new teammates, or maybe something to do with backwards song lyrics. Oh, and BBD is apparently playing Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in his Tron deck, according to his deck tech, but he hasn't gotten a feature match as of yet.

 

 

Since there really were not many novel cards to highlight in round six, I might as well give a shout-out to Voice of Resurgence. This was another card (like Noble Hierarch) that seemed to get hurt the most from the Birthing Pod banning. Seeing it played as a 4-of is encouraging. If it becomes widely adapted, the price could really move. It's safe from a Modern Masters 2015 reprinting, and is a mythic from a low-supply set. While it's too early to make a good guess as to whether or not this will happen, it did (predictably) look quite good against the UWR Control deck. 

Round Seven

So Makihito Mihara, the mad genius who unleashed the power of Mono-Green Devotion on Standard a little over a year ago, shows up in the feature match area playing a Grixis Twin deck featuring Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize. Oh, and he's running four Humble Defectors, and then actually looked awesome playing them. It didn't take more than a handful of turns before Mihara untapped with with Humble Defector, tapped it to draw two cards, cast a Pestermite, untapped the Humble Defector, and drew two more cards before shipping the 2/1 to his opponent. You can also create a copy of Humble Defector with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and draw two cards for free, since the copy is exiled at the end of your turn. So much synergy. So much value.

This doesn't mean that foil copies (as pictured above) are a good buy at $7, but it's starting to look like Humble Defector may be a little more playable in eternal formats than I initially gave him credit for. It seems like Twitter agrees:

Humble Defector in Twin is a master stroke

— Jason Alt (@JasonEAlt) February 6, 2015

Humble Defector in modern . . OMG I love this.

— Matty (@MattyStudios) February 6, 2015

Stoked to see Humble Defector in #PTFRF, but his foils are already moderately pricey.

— Guo Heng Chin (@theguoheng) February 6, 2015

Humble Defector in Modern. Ok. I don't care what gets banned. Best Pro Tour ever. I concede. GG. #PTFRF #mtg

— TMS Wedge (@TheManaSource) February 6, 2015

Other round seven highlights include a GW beatdown deck looking to curve Voice of Resurgence into Loxodon Smiter into Wilt-Leaf Liege. I had forgot about the liege cycle, and seeing Wilt-Leaf Liege back in action made me wonder if these could show up in Modern Masters 2015. Jacob Wilson won a match with his Azban deck where he got Cryptic Commanded six times from a Splinter Twin attached to a Snapcaster Mage on the backs of Lingering Souls and Gavony Township. UW Merfolk fell to 6-1 after getting double Boros Charmed with a useless Spellskite on board. 

On another note, I haven't seen a single card bought out earlier this week show up on in any way, shape, or form. This means no Ghostway, no Magus of the Bazaar, and no Dredge cards whatsoever. Actually, Chapin's deck is the only graveyard-based strategy that has been mentioned, and he doesn't appear to be playing any of the most hyped post-banning Dredge cards. At this point, the big winner is still Infect, although Lingering Souls has probably been the most impressive card on camera. It's good against Infect, control, and Liliana of the Veil, which means it's good against a large portion of the field.

Between Round Seven and Eight

The Mothership posted a breakdown of the day one metagame breakdown. While I plan to do a big write-up next week like I did for the first week of Fate Reforged, here are my initial reactions. Junk and Affinity being the the first and third place decks comes as no surprise. These are the two decks that have been seeing the most play on Magic Online since the bannings, and are the decks that most people would have picked to be among the most played. Junk making up nearly 1/3 of the field, however, is a little bit disappointing (where's the creativity?), but from the matches on camera so far, there seems to be more variation within the archetype that I expected. 

The big surprises are Burn and Infect coming in at two and four. In fact, Infect actually makes up the same percentage of the field as Affinity, which is shocking. I wrote a preview article yesterday where I listed 10 decks I would be on the lookout for in DC. Infect wasn't even on the list, only being mentioned in passing when I discusses the potential of Inkmoth Nexus

The big losers are Tarmo-Twin, which was the default Splinter Twin build heading into the tournament, but is vastly outpaced by both UR Twin and even the Grixis Twin deck Mihara is on. UWR came in 10th place at less than 3%, and Dredge — the most (irrationally) hyped deck of Modern — ended up being played by exactly one player. This ties Dredge with such Modern staples as WR Kiki-Control, The Aristocrats, and something called "Storm Zoo." I take back what I said about creativity a minute ago. I want to see "Storm Zoo" on camera every round, I don't care if it's in a 0-7 match.

Round Eight

Oh wow, Faeries?! I am absolutely rooting for Ozguney here. #MTG #PTFRF

— Joey Pasco (@AffinityForBlue) February 6, 2015

Round eight starts with Magic Online grinder Osman Ozguney on UB Faeries in a 6-1 matchup against Frank Karsten with Affinity. Bitterblossom is only half of its price a year ago, but it's still over $30. I'm not sure if the deck is a good choice going forward, but there is little doubt it's powerful in the right meta. Speaking of decks I'm uncertain about, is Infect good next week? What about next month? I know the Legacy deck has been around the top tables for a while now, but the Modern build seems far more all-in, lacking Daze and Force of Will. On the other hand, it also benefits from not having to play against Wasteland. It also seems pretty miserable against Lingering Souls, although maybe that could be fixed with more Distortion Strikes or even Electrickery out of the board. The coverage mentioned that team Pantheon decided to run the deck because it was good against Junk, but that they didn't expect Junk to be so aggressive and invested in Lingering Souls, so I guess time will tell.

 

On the other hand, Faeries is another Cryptic Command deck, so even though true control is basically non-existent in DC, it's still been a pretty good weekend for the modal counter so far. While we don't have decklists, it looks like about 10 percent of the field is on Cryptic Command. Unfortunately, the Faeries deck didn't put up much of a fight against Affinity, although I'm still routing for Ozguney to put together a run tomorrow, mostly because Mistbind Clique is sweet. 

Conclusion

That's all for today, I plan on being back here tomorrow with some more #PTFRF coverage, although I'm really looking forward to breaking down the data once it is published on Sunday. As always, leave your thoughts in the comments, or find me on Twitter @SaffronOlive. 

 


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