Notes from the Battlefield: Modern at MKMS Frankfurt 2018

Time to take a look back at the Modern main event of the 2018 MKM Series Frankfurt! With 613 players, this tournament provided more stories than we could ever hope to fit into the official event coverage. There's still a lot to be said about several noteworthy players and their equally noteworthy decks!

Modern in Frankfurt had been the single largest MKM Series event for the past two years now, and once again it was unlikely to be outdone, a testament to the unwavering popularity of the format. In fact, all of the other main events of the weekend combined couldn't compare with Modern's 613 player turnout.

Players to Watch

One of the most notable players in attendance was Andreas Müller, who had made Top 8 at the Series twice before and was somewhat famous for winning big events. After all, he had finished first of 2,227 at Grand Prix Madrid 2010, at the time the largest tournament in the history of the game. 

Andreas Mueller

At MKMS Frankfurt 2018, Müller wrote another chapter of Magic history, making it through ten rounds of Swiss plus three rounds of playoffs without a single loss!

Another player who was famous for GP results was Manuel Menges, who had reached the quarterfinals of Grand Prix Lille in 2016. Now he used the same deck, his trusty Affinity, to make his first appearance in the playoffs of the MKM Series. Meanwhile, Matthias Hittel and Felix Bolland quietly made their second Top 8 at the Series each, and Nicklas Krull made his fourth.

But the list of big names didn't end here. Due to the large number of players, and because of the many byes awarded through MKM Series Trials, only people with a fewer than two losses got a shot at the trophy. Just outside the Top 8, in tenth place, landed Christian Hauck: quarterfinalist at the most recent Pro Tour, veteran of four GP Top 8s, and a virtual lock for Gold level in the Pro Players Club. He piloted a mono-green Urzatron deck, and Joshua Bausch, a semifinalist at last year's German Nationals, ended up in ninth place with, I was told, a copy of the same. Hauck said that he was using the event as a testing ground for the upcoming Modern Pro Tour in Bilbao, and that he had gained valuable insight already. Then again, I spoke with him when he was still undefeated, 14-0 in games even.

One also didn't need to look much further to find the first member of the MKMS Power 8. Justin Hayo had reached the top echelon of last season's leaderboard largely on the back of back-to-back Top 8s in Modern. At this year's first stop of the Series, he was back in form and finished in 12th place.

Decks to Watch

For the most part, the Top 8 was characterized by the same level of variety which we've come to expect from Modern. One copy each of Affinity, Humans, Jeskai Control, Death's Shadow, Black-Green Midrange, and Eldrazi/Hatebears gathered for the quarterfinals. Of course, what was a blessing for fans of diversity continued to be a bane to those who prefer to operate within a more predictable environment.

The one exception was Collected Company featuring the nowadays common combo of Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies. This archetype accounted for fifty percent of the Top 4 and, after the semifinals pitted one of its pilots against the other, for fifty percent of the Top 2 too. Other recent events corroborate the notion that one should come prepared to beat it.

Notably absent from the playoffs, meanwhile, were all of the "big mana" strategies, whether based on Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or on the trio of Urza's Tower/Urza's Power Plant/Urza's Mine. These had been on the rise for months, and Urzatron decks remained the most popular choice in Frankfurt overall. But it appeared that Ixalan's most important addition to the format, Field of Ruin, was finally making its presence felt.

Card Image

Increasingly, control decks went down to two colors, white and blue, to allow for a full four Fields, and they weren't alone in picking up a playset of the card. Traditionally, decks like Jund or Abzan Midrange had been easy prey for Tron. But a recent trend eliminated the third color in favor of Field of Ruin here as well, with additional help from Fulminator Mage out of the sideboard. Thus, Black-Green Midrange resurfaced as a possible allrounder once more.

Some doubts persist, because Modern's more unfair decks variously demand that any slower strategy be able to interact with creatures or artifacts, with cards in hands or cards in graveyards, or, indeed, with lands. (Or, more accurately, with some combination thereof.) Today's Black-Green can provide all of that, and the broad scope as well as the proactive nature of tools like Thoughtseize or Liliana of the Veil are cause for optimism. However, the principle still holds true that there are no wrong questions while there definitely are wrong answers. Historically at least, attempts to meet all of Modern's manifold challenges proved an exercise in futility. For this reason, the really unfair decks with a powerful plan of their own had always set the tone for the format; action rather than interaction ruled the day.

That's the theory anyway. In practice, Andreas Müller demonstrated that his Black-Green Midrange could very well beat everything, could literally win each and every single one of its matches. Whether this, along with the newfound popularity of White-Blue Control, indicates a paradigm shift in general, remains to be seen. The upcoming Pro Tour will provide more clarity.

At the same time, one shouldn't overstate the meaning of such developments. After all, Mono-Green Tron did still occupy both the ninth and the tenth place in the final ranking when all was said and done. Unless February brings a ban, don't expect Tron to go anywhere. For reference, here's what Christian Hauck played at MKMS Frankfurt 2018. For more decklists, full metagame info, and more, head over to the Modern event's coverage page!

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