27, Jun, 24

Ability Countering Strategy Creates New Pro Tour Archetype!

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Article at a Glance

Decklist submission for the MTG Pro Tour has now concluded. The format for this Pro Tour is Modern, which was completely upheaved by the release of Modern Horizons 3. We are in a Wild West format, but there are some standouts.

Despite this, the community has accepted that many of the best decks in the format have been kept under wraps. Magic’s best minds have reserved their words for Amsterdam’s massive Pro Tour event. Now, we’re beginning to see some of the powerful decks that many Magic players did not consider.

One of these contains echoes of a strategy commonly seen in Legacy. Sometimes, Wizards of the Coast prints extremely overpowered creatures in relation to their mana value. The thing that holds these creatures back? A problematic ability.

What happens when you counter that ability? You generally gain access to something extremely powerful. This Modern Pro Tour deck revolves around that idea. Counter problematic abilities and gain access to some truly terrifying beasts.

Consigning Abilities to Memory

Showcased on Twitter by Christian Valenti, this new Jeskai Control deck utilizes Stifle effects to get ahead on value. Both the Stifle and the Jeskai Control were archetypes that popped up in early Modern Horizons 3, and showed promise in the early stages of the format. They seem to combine seamlessly.

See, a lot of the most powerful decks coming into the Pro Tour utilize activated abilities as a major aspect of their game plan. Obviously, Consign to Memory and Dress Down work wonders at countering game-ending abilities from Thassa’s Oracle or the Eldrazi Titans. Beyond this expected use case, these two counterspells can also counter activated abilities from your own deck.

What abilities will you be countering out of your own deck? Mainly Evoke triggers and the death trigger of Phlage, Titan of Fire’s Fury. Much like Not Dead After All in Rakdos Evoke decks, this allows you to keep the threats around after playing them for utility.

Alongside Consign to Memory and Dress Down, these cards become a lot more powerful. Nulldrifter, in particular, turns into a three-mana 4/4 with Flying and Annihilator 1 that draws two cards! This is thanks to the draw trigger being on cast instead of on entry. Dress Down doesn’t synergize quite as well with Solitude or Phlage thanks to countering their beneficial ETB triggers, but a 6/6 for 3 that Lightning Helixes on attack is still incredibly powerful.

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The Energy Package

Wrath of the Skies | Modern Horizons 3

Wrath of the Skies is a heck of a Magic card. Pro players called the card out quickly as being a powerful Modern gamechanger. The trick behind this card is generating Energy ahead of casting it. This allows you to wipe the board for a meager two mana sometimes! After cleaning things up, you can quickly deploy a threat to pull ahead or keep countermagic up.

In order to fuel this idea, this deck also plays a few copies of Tune the Narrative and Galvanic Discharge. This is, admittedly, a smaller Energy package than we’ve seen in a majority of decks employing payoffs like this. This likely means that the pilots are okay with paying full costs for Wrath of the Skies more often than not.

Wrath of the Skies doesn’t just deal with creatures, either. This card blows up artifacts, enchantments and creatures, as long as their mana value is equal to or less than the number of Energy paid. This includes Urza’s Saga, a popular enchantment land in Nadu, Winged Wisdom decks. Many players expect the Bird to be the most popular deck at the Pro Tour, so having as much tech for the card as possible is likely advisable.

The Rest

The One Ring

The rest of the Jeskai Control deck comes with the common tech seen in slower strategies. We have disruption and removal in the form of things like Counterspell, Leyline Binding and Teferi, Time Raveler. The One Ring is the card advantage weapon of choice and is definitely a bit ahead of other options in the current metagame. Granting a turn of protection allows you to get this card down with little consequence. You can quickly run away with the game by drawing tons of cards afterwards.

This particular deck may be better at dealing with The One Ring’s downside better than average. The easiest way to deal with a Ring dealing you too much damage is simply to replace it. Otherwise, this particular deck can use Consign to Memory for some reprieve. This feels like an emergency option, but it’s a nice one to have nonetheless.

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Sideboard Tech

Taking a look at the sideboard, there are a lot of unique tools ready to deal with some of the strongest decks from Modern Horizons 3 coming into the Pro Tour. Deafening Silence is a lethal option against Ruby Storm decks. You can’t Storm off if you can only play one noncreature spell per turn. Damping Sphere is the common weapon of choice since it also shuts off Tron lands in that matchup, but Deafening Silence is a cheaper option if you’re specifically targeting Storm decks.

Another interesting piece of combo hate is Surgical Extraction. Should a combo piece hit your opponent’s graveyard, Extraction can take care of that card for the rest of the game. This gave Dimir Mill a lot of game against combo strategies early in the MH3 format. Extraction can also deal with Phlage, Titan of Fire’s Fury, a persistent that could give slower strategies some trouble.

A suite of free spells helps this control list deal with problematic spells that may come down too quickly. If Planeswalkers and creatures are a concern, Subtlety can help slow them down. If noncreature spells are the issue, Force of Negation can delete them from existence.

The rest of the sideboard offers a bunch of silver bullets for various purposes. Teferi, Time Raveler can win counterspell wars and stop Cascade from working. Dismember and Ghostfire Slice are great Nadu repellents. Dovin’s Veto can stop problematic noncreature spells with some amount of certainty, and Nulldrifter can come in where card a larger amount of threats are needed.

Final Thoughts

If the Pro Tour ends up being heavily populated by combo decks that this Jeskai Stifle Control deck is ready for, the deck looks like it’s in a really good spot. Tron, Nadu, and Storm feel like matchups that this deck can navigate to some degree of certainty, though Storm may be a bit tough in game one.

The bigger issue is that, since this is a Wild West format coming into the Pro Tour, it can be really difficult to prepare for an expected metagame. This makes slower controlling strategies incredibly risky since the chances of you getting attacked by an unexpected angle are higher than normal.

Judging from the Pro Tour metagame breakdown released today, however, this deck seems to have nailed it. Nadu is 25% of the field, Ruby Storm is the second-most played deck, and Jeskai Control is also rather popular. From that lens, this deck looks rather well-positioned.

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