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Metagame Mentor: Modern Movement at Three 2024 Regional Championships

February 15, 2024
Frank Karsten

Hello, and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, your weekly guide to the top decks and latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. This past weekend, over 2,000 competitors across the world entered the Regional Championships in the United States, Canada, and Japan, resulting in a weekend of high-stakes Modern. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the dominance of cascade decks at these events and the most important new additions from Murders at Karlov Manor.

Congratulations to the Latest Regional Champions!

Yoshihiko Ikawa won the Champions Cup Final (i.e., the Regional Championship for Japan and South Korea) with a Living End deck, defeating Atsushi Nakashima, playing Temur Rhinos, in the finals. Both finalists earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30, and the top 12 players who were not yet qualified for Pro Tour Thunder Junction in Seattle earned an invitation to that tournament.

Ikawa, a Magic veteran whose best finish to date was second-place at Mythic Championship I, finally got his first major title. He chose Living End because "it seems to have a good position in the metagame, and its deck power is simply high." Indeed, Living End thrives in a metagame dominated by Crashing Footfalls. He also made good use of Murders of Karlov Manor, as his best cards of the weekend were the new surveil lands: "Too much chemistry with Living End!"

Minh Nguyen won the DreamHack U.S. Regional Championship with Temur Rhinos, defeating Aiden Lamson, playing Living End, in the finals. Both finalists earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30, and the top 32 players who were not yet qualified for Pro Tour Thunder Junction in Seattle earned an invitation to that event.

"I tested a lot and decided it was the best deck for me", the newly crowned champion said about his Temur Rhinos deck. "I felt comfortable with the play patterns, the sideboarding, and Tishana's Tidebinder. [The card] is too good not to play." His list also made good use of Hedge Maze and Thundering Falls.

Ulysse Gagnon Paradis won the F2F Tour Championship (i.e., the Regional Championship for Canada) with Living End. In the finals, he defeated Patrick Wu, making it the second time that Wu nearly missed a Regional Championship win with a controlling Azorius deck. Both finalists earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30, and the top 8 eligible players earned an invite to Pro Tour Thunder Junction in Seattle.

The new Regional Champion chose Living End because "I thought it was well positioned and people were not playing enough hate for it." While his list also exploited the new surveil lands, he said that his best card of the weekend was the single Mine Collapse in his sideboard. It's a sweet answer to Teferi, Time Raveler, and he won his final game because of it. Moreover, it's the only copy of the card to ever be registered at a Modern Regional Championship, showing the depth of the Modern card pool.

The Metagame and Win Rates

In total, 2,056 decklists were submitted across the three Regional Championships. After fixing mislabeled archetypes, I determined the combined metagame share and the match win rates (non-mirror, non-bye, non-draw) of every archetype this past weekend. In the following table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing decklist close to the aggregate of that archetype.

Archetype Percentage of Field Match Win Rate
1. Temur Rhinos 18.8% ↑↑ 51.1%
2. Golgari Yawgmoth 11.0% 51.4%
3. Amulet Titan 7.9% 49.2%
4. Rakdos Grief 7.1% ↓↓ 48.9%
5. Living End 5.6% 57.0% ✓✓
6. Izzet Murktide 5.5% 49.2%
7. Domain Zoo 4.1% 53.4%
8. Mono-Green Tron 3.4% 45.2%
9. Four-Color Omnath 3.2% 51.2%
10. Hammer Time 3.0% 47.0%
11. Boros Burn 2.8% 41.6%
12. Hardened Scales 2.6% 49.2%
13. Five-Color Creativity 2.4% 51.8%
14. Azorius Control 2.1% 55.6% ✓✓
15. Domain Rhinos 1.9% ↑↑ 60.4% ✓✓
16. Merfolk 1.6% 47.6%
17. Mono-Black Coffers 1.2% 54.7%
18. Asmo Food 1.0% 45.3%
19. Goryo's Blink 0.8% 45.1%
20. Dimir Control 0.7% 44.8%
21. Rakdos Shadow 0.7% 48.0%
22. Other 12.3% 44.0%

The "Other" category included such deck archetypes as Dimir Shadow, Grixis Wizards, Four-Color Copycat, Dimir Mill, Jund Sagavan, Grixis Shadow, Izzet Breach, Izzet Wizards, Four-Color Rhinos, Esper Control, Mono-Blue Tron, Selesnya Heliod, Goblins, Temur Prowess, Jeskai Breach, Four-Color Control, Bring to Light, Jund Midrange, Calibrated Blast, Jund Grief, Mono-Black Grief, Samwise Gamgee Combo, Azorius Martyr, Assault Loam, Mono-White Martyr, Gruul Scapeshift, and more.

The big story of last weekend was the dominance of cascade decks. Temur Rhinos was the most-played deck, Living End and Domain Rhinos were the best-performing decks, and five of the six World Championship seats were claimed by cascade players. Now would be a good time to consider additional copies of Chalice of the Void or Void Mirror. Everyone can add these artifacts to their sideboard, and they offer good counterplay to cascade strategies. In addition, Teferi, Time Raveler and Drannith Magistrate prevent the casting of spells off Violent Outburst, making them suitable answers to the current Modern metagame as well.

As indicated by the arrows in the table, the popularity of Rakdos Grief had dropped compared to the preceding Regional Championships in Europe and Brazil, while the prominence of Crashing Footfalls had ticked up. It will be interesting to see how things will develop if Modern players add more anti-cascade cards to their sideboards in the coming weeks. Azorius Control, which preys on Temur Rhinos and Living End, may also see increased adoption by players trying to attack the metagame. The newest set may expand its impact on Modern decks as well.

The Most-Played Cards from Murders at Karlov Manor

Murders of Karlov Manor introduced hundreds of new cards. The following table reveals the 20 most-played new-to-Modern cards across the decklists registered for last weekend's Regional Championships.

Card Name Total Copies Main Deck Sideboard
1. Thundering Falls 493 493 0
2. Hedge Maze 409 409 0
3. Leyline of the Guildpact 405 404 1
4. Pick Your Poison 342 1 341
5. Underground Mortuary 207 207 0
6. Commercial District 73 71 2
7. Worldsoul's Rage 69 42 27
8. Raucous Theater 65 65 0
9. Meticulous Archive 57 57 0
10. Cryptic Coat 35 14 21
11. Undercity Sewers 30 30 0
12. Deduce 25 25 0
13. Insidious Roots 23 23 0
14. Elegant Parlor 19 19 0
15. Lush Portico 14 14 0
16. Shadowy Backstreet 12 12 0
17. Doorkeeper Thrull 9 0 9
18. Break Out 7 7 0
19. Deadly Cover-Up 6 6 0
20. Archdruid's Charm 6 6 0

Clearly, the surveil lands are having a substantial impact on the format. On average, Modern decks at last weekend's Regional Championships contained 0.85 surveil lands—nearly half of the players had at least one surveil land in their deck. Ssecifically, 402 players ran one surveil land, 424 players ran two surveil lands, 41 players ran three, and one player ran four. You generally don't want to draw tapped lands, but they excel as fetchable utility options. Having at least one copy in your deck makes every fetch land better, as it allows you to get a free surveil in situations where you would otherwise find a tapped shock land.

Besides the surveil lands, new cards like Leyline of the Guildpact also had a major effect on Modern, enabling brand new strategies. Let's take a closer look at the most prominent.

Surveil Lands in Temur Rhinos

Temur Rhinos has a powerful and straightforward game plan: cast Shardless Agent or Violent Outburst on turn three to cascade into Crashing Footfalls, unleashing a horde of 4/4 Rhinos to overpower your opponent. With good matchups against Golgari Yawgmoth, Amulet Titan, and Rakdos Grief, it's well-positioned in the current metagame, even though it struggles against Living End.

The surveil lands are perfect for Temur Rhinos as, barring the occasional Dead // Gone or Fire // Ice, the deck generally doesn't have much use for its mana on turns one or two, so the drawback of entering the battlefield tapped is relatively minor. Fetching a surveil land allows you to dig deeper for a third land or a cascade spell, depending on what you need, increasing the consistency of the deck. It also allows you to keep two-landers more confidently. U.S. Regional Champion Minh Nguyen used one Thundering Falls and one Hedge Maze in his list, which was the norm. The average Temur Rhinos list last weekend contained 0.90 Thundering Falls, 0.89 Hedge Maze, and 0.06 Commercial District.

Surveil Lands in Living End

Surveil lands also fit well into Living End for similar reasons as for Temur Rhinos. Additionally, surveiling a large creature like Waker of Waves into the graveyard increases the potency of Living End, which can wipe all Rhinos from the battlefield while returning all of your cyclers. Yoshihiko Ikawa won the Regional Championship in Japan with three surveil lands, while Ulysse Gagnon Paradis won the Regional Championship in Canada with two. Afterwards, he said that he wished he had the third one.

However, there was no clear consensus among Living End players. The average Living End deck last weekend contained 0.36 Hedge Maze, 0.33 Thundering Falls, and 0.12 Commercial District, adding up to less than one copy on average. In particular, Aiden Lamson finished in second place at the U.S. Regional Championship with zero surveil lands, explaining that he would always rather draw an untapped land and use his mana to cycle. There are valid arguments in favor and against, but I find the arguments in favor of more optionality for your fetch lands to be more compelling.

Leyline of the Guildpact in Domain Decks

Leyline of the Guildpact features a remarkable combination of mana symbols and abilities. If you begin the game with it on the battlefield, then Leyline Binding costs only a single white mana, and Scion of Draco can come down on turn two. Moreover, Scion of Draco will grant every one of your creatures vigilance, hexproof, lifelink, first strike, and trample. You also won't have to worry about not drawing the right mix of colors or taking damage from your fetch lands. Rather than starting the game at effectively 16 life, Leyline of the Guildpact allows you to truly begin at 20, which can be a big difference.

While Leyline of the Guildpact made waves in Domain Zoo for all of the aforementioned reasons, it also led to the emergence of Domain Rhinos, alliteratively called Rainbow Rhinos. Mack Endress finished in the Top 8 of the U.S. Regional Championships by taking the basic Temur Rhinos shell, cutting the worst twelve cards, and adding Leyline of the Guildpact, Leyline Binding, and Scion of Draco. Since Leyline of the Guildpact counts as a blue card, it also pitches to Force of Negation and Subtlety, giving the enchantment even more uses than in Domain Zoo. With this innovation, Domain Rhinos was the breakout deck of the weekend, posting an impressive 60.4% win rate.

Pick Your Poison in Golgari Yawgmoth

Pick Your Poison is a formidable sideboard card against Urza's Saga, Murktide Regent, and The One Ring. A lot of Modern decks have multiple artifacts, enchantments, or fliers, so it's easy to find a use for it. As a result, Pick Your Poison was seen in the sideboards of Golgari Yawgmoth, Domain Zoo, Hardened Scales, Five-Color Creativity, and various other decks.

For example, Devon Straub finished in third place at the U.S. Regional Championship with two copies of Pick Your Poison in his sideboard. The card is particularly useful for Golgari Yawgmoth because it also deals with Cursed Totem—a popular sideboard card against the strategy. Even if your opponent doesn't draw Cursed Totem, Pick Your Poison will rarely be dead. Due to its flexibility, there will probably be another juicy permanent that you can force your opponent to sacrifice.

Meticulous Archive in Azorius Control

I'm not going to list the discuss the applications of surveil lands in every single Modern archetype—that would quickly get repetitive—but Meticulous Archive stands out because of its applications to Azorius Control. When the Temples were legal in Standard, Seth Manfield became the 2015 World Champion with an Abzan Control deck featuring four Temple of Malady and four Temple of Silence. In his Video Deck Tech, he explained that you ideally want to start with a scry land to sculpt your draws. The deck didn't have much use for its mana on turn one, and it could use sweepers to catch back up later. This logic also applies to Azorius Control. Although Temple of Enlightenment was always a little too weak for Modern, Meticulous Archive is fetchable and supports Leyline Binding, making it an ideal inclusion.

Azorius Control had excellent results at the Regional Championships this past weekend, as its main deck Teferi, Time Raveler give it an edge against the cascade decks. Playing nearly identical lists, Patrick Wu and Jonathan Dery finished in second and fifth place in Canada, and they didn't lose a single match against Rhinos all weekend. Notably, their version has zero hard counters in the main deck, opting for Reprieve over Counterspell. Reprieve is an effective two-for-one when targeting Crashing Footfalls or Living End, and it buys time until you can establish the prison-like lock of Narset, Parter of Veils plus Geier Reach Sanitarium or Day's Undoing. Wu is now the first-ever player to make Regional Championship Top 8s in Standard, Pioneer, and Modern with Azorius decks.

Worldsoul's Rage in Amulet Titan

Worldsoul's Rage saw a small amount of play in Amulet Titan, where it enables a wild infinite combo. For example, Jeff Weyant went 8-5 at the U.S. Regional Championship with main deck Worldsoul's Rage. When you control two copies of Amulet of Vigor, you can cast it for X=2 and copy it with Mirrorpool. When the copy of Worldsoul's Rage resolves, you'll deal two damage to your opponent and then choose Mirrorpool from your graveyard and Gruul Turf from your hand, putting the lands onto the battlefield tapped. Note that the original Worldsoul's Rage is still on the stack. Thanks to double Amulet of Vigor, your lands can tap for three mana before untapping once more. Return Gruul Turf to your hand, then sacrifice Mirrorpool to copy Worldsoul's Rage. Loop for infinite damage!

Even though the best-performing Amulet Titan lists didn't use Worldsoul's Rage, it's a fascinating new option that adds a new angle to the strategy. At worst, it's a four-mana answer to Magus of the Moon that ramps you ahead.

Looking Ahead: Pioneer at the Pro Tour

The last bunch of Modern Regional Championships will take place on March 1–3 for Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean and on March 9–10 for Australia and New Zealand, China, South East Asia, Chinese Taipei and South America. Before that, however, the best Magic players in the world will get together to test their mettle in Pioneer and Draft at Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor. This highly anticipated event starts in eight days, and the hype is building up.

In last week's article, I gave an introduction to the Pioneer format and highlighted the most promising additions from Murders at Karlov Manor. Since then, the results of the first Magic Online tournaments have provided a further glimpse into what to expect at the Pro Tour. So far, No More Lies is the most-played new-to-Pioneer card, typically seen in Azorius Control and Niv to Light. Many other cards that I mentioned in last week's article, such as Lightning Helix, Novice Inspector, Archdruid's Charm, Gleaming Geardrake, and Deadly Cover-Up are seeing play in a variety of established Pioneer archetypes as well.

But there's also one card that may singlehandedly shake up the Pioneer metagame by revitalizing Izzet Creativity, which has risen from less than 1% to nearly 6% of the winner's metagame over the past week: Deduce. With its ability to dig for Indomitable Creativity and provide an artifact to be transmogrified into Torrential Gearhulk, it provides excellent support for the strategy, which—lest we forget—propelled Reid Duke to victory at the last Pioneer Pro Tour one year ago.

This past weekend, many players found success with the newest iteration of the deck; for example, Matias Leveratto finished third in a 67-player Pioneer Challenge on Magic Online with the above-shown list. And in addition to the resurgence of Izzet Creativity, all kinds of new Pioneer strategies have emerged from Murders at Karlov Manor as well, based around cards like Cryptic Coat, Fugitive Codebreaker, Insidious Roots, and so on. With so many innovations already on Magic Online, I can't wait to see what the Pioneer metagame will look like at the Pro Tour! Live coverage of the three-day event begins 12 p.m ET (9 a.m. PT // 6 p.m. CET) Friday, February 23 at

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