Modern is the Hero Pro Tour Magic Needs
Everybody is excited about the Modern Pro Tour this weekend and that's for a good reason. Since Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch in early 2016, there has been no Pro Tour featuring this constructed format despite its huge fan base, which has consistently grown since its introduction in 2011. This article elaborates on its reasons for vanishing and the necessity of its return.
Why has Modern been Removed from the Pro Tour?
Back during "Eldrazi Winter" and immediately afterwards, Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch was dominated by Thought Knot-Seer and Reality Smasher, which were easily cast using Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin, Aaron Forsythe then wrote an article published on the mothership announcing that Pro Tours would be Standard and Draft only from now on. The impetus for this decision was that Wizard's vision for the Pro Tour differed from their vision for Modern.
The Pro Tour should be exciting to watch and feature new strategies and decks that people might be interested to see. It should also encourage players to purchase booster packs and participate in organized play events at their local stores.
Since Modern is considered widely "solved" as the hive mind of players had years to brew decks and test out strategies Wizards R&Ds only option to shake up the metagame before a Modern Pro Tour was to either ban or unban cards or to print new cards that are so powerful that the pro players would be excited enough to play them and risk this important tournament.
Because of the public relations fiasco, the dominance of the new cards brought to Modern, which resulted in banning Eye of Ugin and an uproar in the player base. Following this series of events, Wizards decided that this experiment had gone wrong.
I can't blame them for their decision and focusing on the new cards in order to bring customers attention to the new product. I also can't blame them for showing pro players tackling a new format and building new decks – this makes total sense from an advertising perspective, but there is more to the Pro Tour.
Why reintroduce Modern to the Pro Tour?
There are two main arguments opponents of Modern as a Pro Tour format like to dwell on and I'd like to prove them wrong here.
First of all, pro players were very vocal about their dislike of Modern because games play out in a lopsided fashion where a single top deck or sideboard card can turn a match around and/or end the game on the spot. It can even lock one player out of the game entirely while some decks are nothing more than prey to other archetypes like the infamous GBx Midrange and Urza Tron. While that's all true, it doesn't necessarily mean that play is shallow or that player knowledge doesn't matter. In a game of Magic, there are many factors at work which decide the fate of the players.
This is true for every single format. The more cards are legal in a given format though and the more spells are cast in a game while players have options to choose from one can get some advantage over the opponent piece by piece.
Since there are nearly endless numbers of cards to know about in Modern and popular spells usually come at a cheap mana cost while often creating more options for the player casting them or denying their opponent's decisions (Looking at you, Serum Visions and Thoughtseize). Players have lots of opportunities to use their knowledge about the legal cards, their synergies and interactions to impact the outcome of their games and fight the big impact of random matchups and impactful cards.
For example, if you don't know that there is a fringe blue-red control deck that plays Blood Moon in the main deck, you might choose the wrong lands with your Verdant Catacombs and end up color screwed because you are not as familiar as you could be with all the possible decks one might face. It might feel random and like something you couldn't do anything about at first, but there is a lot of subtle information floating around in a game of Modern Magic and the more you learn about it, the better will you be able to see those hints and use them to solve the puzzle every game presents.
Watching players show off their mastery of a certain archetype on stream or have them explain their spicy take on a known archetype or simply interviewing them about their opinion on a controversial matchup is the stuff Modern fans are looking forward to seeing during the upcoming Pro Tour.
The second argument that is frequently used against Modern as a Pro Tour format is the assumption that Modern is a widely solved format and that all the major decks are known, which makes it boring to watch.
But that's not true at all. Firstly, new sets are bringing more Modern relevant cards to the format. Just have a look at the latest releases: Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, Fatal Push, Field of Ruin, Walking Ballista, Collective Brutality and Baral, Chief of Compliance are all very recently printed cards that are seeing significant Modern play. As Wizards R&D stated they want Standard cards to make a splash in Modern and since they seem to be doing just that, I expect new and exciting cards to continue finding homes in the Modern metagame moving forward.
Secondly, there are combinations of cards and strategies that have been around for a while, but have yet to find a specific metagame where they thrive. Just think about Death's Shadow. The card has been around since Worldwake, but saw no play before 2015, despite key components like Thoughtseize and Street Wraith being playable in Modern long before the rise of Death's Shadow.
When some pro players decided to try it, Death's Shadow Zoo became a popular tier one deck. After Gitaxian Probe got banned and Fatal Push was printed I expected the deck to die, but it simply changed to an even stronger version - the Grixis Death's Shadow tempo deck that has dominated Modern since its inception. Again, all those cards have been around since Fate Reforged introduced potent Delve creatures to the game, but the deck hadn't come together until players were forced to explore after a new banlist. Therefore, I believe chances are in our favor that new decks will prosper when the attention of all those gold and platinum pros is brought to the mysterious beast that is Modern in the fight for big prize money and loads of pro points.
I'm excited to find out if there are already new and interesting decks/combination of cards for Pro Tour Bilbao and if not, I expect to learn some new tricks from people who have mastered their favorite archetype. Nevertheless, it will be fun to watch, and I can't wait until some of the most powerful spells printed since Eight Edition find their way onto the stack in the feature match area, with the best players in magic battling for another Pro Tour Champion title!
Tell me in the comments what you think about my arguments for Modern's return to the Pro Tour and what cards or decks you expect to prosper at this historic weekend full of Modern Magic.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.