First, I’d like to apologize for the lack of content coming out the last couple of months. For those who don’t know, I work in collegiate athletics and the spring season gets to be very busy with the constant weather changing in the Midwest. Additionally, my wife and I bought a house late in 2018 and getting a 2.2 acre property up to standards takes time. Both of those things aren’t excuses though, and I vow to do a better job at producing content for the rest of 2019 and beyond.
A lot has happened since the last posting in Modern. A Modern-only set, Modern Horizons, was announced, Izzet Pheonix rose to the top of the Modern metagame, a Modern Pro Tour took place and most importantly, Wizards of the Coast tested a new mulligan rule that’s been named the “London Mulligan” (the city in which the first big tournament had the rule implemented).
Let’s unpack these a bit, starting with Modern Horizons. I don’t think anyone can really predict what the set will bring. What we do know, however, is the cards in the set that are new have been designed specifically for Modern and the reprinted cards will be currently not from Modern-legal sets, making them legal in Modern after the sets release in late summer/early fall of this year. I’m hoping for a playable ritual and/or cantrip in this set for Storm. I do think, however, that the set’s contents will give us an idea of what WOTC wants to do with the format. Modern has always been the people’s format and has great diversity, the problem right now and for the past months follows a trend typical of eternal formats – the longer the format exists and the more cards enter the pool, the more degenerate the format gets. Basically, Modern has become largely non-interactive. Even though Storm is considered a non-interactive deck, I believe formats are the most healthy when interaction is high. Will Modern Horizons change the direction of Modern? Only time will tell.
Second, where has the Modern metagame been over the past couple months and how does that impact Storm? Simply put, I don’t think Storm has been well positioned in the early part of this year. Several people I trust who play Storm shared the same feelings, which were confirmed at the Mythic Championships (the artist formerly known as the Pro Tour).
In my opinion, Izzet Pheonix has really made life difficult for Storm in Modern. The matchup between the two decks wasn’t bad for Storm (though it got worse once Pheonix replaced Gut Shot with Surgical Extraction in the main deck), it was what Pheonix’s position in the format made other decks do. Although Izzet Pheonix isn’t a combo deck, it operates on a similar axis to Storm – plays a lot of cantrips, those cantrips find key cards and uses the graveyard. This alongside an uptick of Dredge meant decks were packing a lot of graveyard hate.
Additionally, decks like Grixis Death’s Shadow, Whir Prison and, as we saw at the Pro Tour, Humans popped up. Shadow, particularly Grixis, as Prison decks are among Storm’s worst matchups and though Humans can be close, it hasn’t been in my experience as Humans decks have adapted to the degeneracy of Modern.
Finally, I’d like touch on the London Mulligan rule. I don’t play much Limited at all and only dabble in Standard, but from everything I’ve heard, the rule seems great for those formats. The issue I have with it in Modern is two-fold. First, it incentives people to play linear decks (as I said above, I think a healthy format usually involves more interaction). Second, those linear decks can now be more inconsistent in nature. Certain combo decks in Modern (and other eternal formats) have fail rates (Allosaurus Rider combo, Serum Powder decks, etc.). Those fail rates decrease with the London Mulligan rule.
One of the biggest strengths of Storm in my opinion is its consistency. The cantrips allow the deck to function the same way the majority of games. The London Mulligan rule does help Storm become more consistent, but not nearly as much as the other “glass-cannony” decks. As an example, if Storm had a consistency rating (ie: how often does it execute its game plan uninterrupted) of 8-of-10 without the London Mulligan rule, that might increase to a 9-of-10. The other combo decks that don’t play cantrips might be a 3-of-10 on the consistency scale with the Vancouver (Scry) Mulligan rule, but that number bumps up to a 7-of-10 with the London Mulligan. These numbers are just made up, obviously, but they illustrate well my theory that Storm doesn’t gain near as much as other linear decks do with the London Mulligan rule.
Man, it feels good to be back writing again. Look for an article on War of the Spark’s impact on Modern Storm later this week.