31, Jul, 23

Pro Tour LOTR Showcases Meta-Warping Adaptations!

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Pro Tour Lord of the Rings has finally concluded, and there’s a lot to take away from the event. Rakdos Scam not only occupied nearly 20% of the room, but it also managed to take down the event. This is in spite of putting only way player into the top eight! The most played MTG card at the event was none other than The One Ring. The colorless Artifact continues to dominate and warp the metagame around it.

While this may not sound like an entirely healthy Modern metagame, there was at least a decent amount of innovation within players’ decklists. Even well-established archetypes have been forced to adjust to the powerful Lord of the Rings and Modern Horizons Two cards that have put a stranglehold on Modern.

Even with Rakdos Scam being the most played deck in the room by far, it still accounted for less than a fifth of the room, meaning many players still collectively brought lots of different styles of decks to the Pro Tour. Many players expected Rakdos Scam and decks featuring The One Ring to be quite popular. As a result, many players made a handful of important adjustments within top-tier archetypes to better prepare themselves against the most popular decks in the field. Some players even came with unique archetypes skewed to beat the best decks. Today, we will be looking at these various adjustments that performed well and why they were successful.

Preparing for Rakdos Scam

Strict Proctor

While Rakdos saw a lot of play at the Pro Tour, this didn’t come as much of a surprise to many players. Some of the best performing non-Rakdos decklists geared themselves relatively heavily towards fighting the archetype. For example, one of the best performing decks in the event was mono-green Tron. Tron generally has had a weak matchup against Rakdos. The combination of a quick clock, discard spells like Thoughtseize, and some hate cards like Blood Moon could pose a major problem for Tron players in general.

Interestingly, two of the three players that made top eight of the Pro Tour played multiple copies of Dismember in the maindeck. While this may seem like a minor change, it helps beat Rakdos’ fastest draws. Without Dismember, the combination of Fury and Feign Death turn one from Rakdos could simply be too much to overcome, especially on the draw.

Some players went even deeper to try to minimize the archetype. The best performing Hammer Time player with a Modern record of eight wins and two losses made some unique deckbuilding decisions out of the sideboard, including playing three copies of Strict Proctor. Strict Proctor not only taxes the Evoke Elementals, but it also affects Orcish Bowmasters and Seasoned Pyromancer. Of course, players had to be prepared for more than just Rakdos, and there’s plenty more innovative decisions to take a look at.

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Preparing for The One Ring

Questing Beast

No single card saw more play at this event than The One Ring, but again, players recognized that the card would be everywhere. As such, some adjustments needed to be made. The most notable change that many players made to various archetypes was to add cards that negated the “Protection from everything” clause on The One Ring. Kai Budde did just this by adding Questing Beast to his Temur Rhinos deck. Being able to bypass the damage prevention from The One Ring is huge.

Even if you don’t get to attack for lethal, the more you can whittle down the opponent’s life total, the less cards they can afford to draw with The One Ring. Not to mention many opponents may think they are safe to slam The One Ring if you are tapped out, only for you to play Questing Beast, attack with a bunch of Creatures, and deal a ton of damage. As mentioned during coverage, Questing Beast rarely represents four damage under Ring Protection, but usually 12 instead since the Questing Beast will likely be swinging in with some Rhinos.

Just like Questing Beast, Bonecrusher Giant can also bypass the Protection clause via the “Stomp” portion of the card. Of course, you will have to target yourself with Stomp, but this will still allow your Creatures to deal damage. Some Temur Rhinos players opted to play this Bonecrusher Giant, but most interestingly, a Living End player made top eight of the Sunday Second Chance Pro Tour Qualifier playing three copies of Bonecrusher Giant among their 75 cards. This player even played three sideboard copies of Sanctifier en-Vec as a different card to Cascade into against Rakdos!

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Unique Archetypes

Goryo's Vengeance

Some players were even daring enough to register abnormal archetypes and tune them for the expected competition. Among these archetypes was five-color Reanimator that made the top 16. This deck is similar to Esper Goryo’s Vengeance decks that have been around for a while, but with some interesting changes. First, this deck is much less reliant on the graveyard.

In addition to being able to utilize Ephemerate to allow you to keep copies of Griselbrand or Atraxa, Grand Unifier around after Reanimating them with Goryo’s Vengeance, you can use Ephemerate for value when Evoking Grief or Solitude. This deck even runs Orcish Bowmasters and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Adding these cards helps this deck play through graveyard hate that players would likely come equipped with thanks to the popularity of Living End.

Another cool archetype that performed well was Naya Scapeshift. This deck also made top eight of the Sunday Second Chance Pro Tour Qualifier. It is very similar to Gruul Scapeshift lists that have popped up here and there, maximizing the power of Wish and Wrenn and Six.

However, this deck not only plays four copies of The One Ring to both buy time to cast or dig for Scapeshift and Wish to win the game with, but it also splashes white for Reprieve and Leyline Binding. Both of these cards help manage opposing copies of The One Ring, and Binding can help keep copies of Fury in check from Rakdos. These decks are show that even in a relatively hostile environment, there is still room for innovation.

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Additional Innovation

Commandeer

There are a few other unique cards players played in these events that are worth mentioning. Beyond “damage can’t be prevented” cards like Questing Beast and Bonecrusher giant, some players did even more to beat up on decks with the One Ring. A couple top performing Temur Rhinos players went as far as to play Commandeer in the sideboard. While pitching two blue cards is a big cost, getting to gain control of The One Ring can be backbreaking for the opponent, letting you generate tons of extra card advantage over time instead of them.

One interesting adaptation some players utilized involved maximizing the mythic double-faced cards like Emeria’s Call to maximize the options of cards to pitch to the Evoke Elementals. The same Hammer Time player playing three Strict Proctors in the sideboard also played four Solitudes in the sideboard and four Emeria’s Calls in the maindeck, allowing them to pitch a “Land drop” to Solitude when necessary.

A Merfolk player with eight wins did something very similar, adding copies of Sea Gate Restoration and playing less Lands, giving them the option to pitch Sea Gate Restoration to Subtlety or Force of Negation. While some of these adaptations may seem minor, they can have a major impact over the course of a long tournament. This Pro Tour showcased that, even when the metagame appears stale, there’s always room for innovation.

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