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Analyzing the Top 8 of Grand Prix: Lincoln


Grand Prix: Lincoln is in the books, and we have some great results from this exciting, wide open format. Last weekend’s GP was the first ever held in Nebraska, and it was also the first Modern GP, so it was definitely worth going to. The actual location was not very special; we were surrounded by ice-covered cornfields, and there was nothing to do besides play Magic. The venue was really far away from everything, so after I was out of contention for Day 2, I stayed at the tournament site to watch the live video stream of the feature matches. I learned a lot about Modern this weekend and would like to share that information with you.

My prediction for Grand Prix: Lincoln was that combo decks would be the most successful decks in the tournament. That was true to an extent. There was a ton of U/R Twin and Storm decks running rampant, and quite a few of them made Day 2. However, they failed to dominate the tournament. Instead, the Top 8 consisted mostly of midrange, three-colored decks. Jund, Melira Pod, and Aggro Loam took four of the Top 8 slots. Affinity took two slots, and W/U Tron and mono-blue Faeries took the remaining two.

The mid-ranged decks ruled in Lincoln for a few reasons. One, they have excellent mana bases and have no trouble accessing their colors. There are so many interesting choices for nonbasic lands. There are fetches and shock lands in addition to filter lands (Graven Cairns, Fire-lit Thicket, and the like) for mana fixing. There are even a wide variety of man lands. Because of that, the decks are very consistent, and as long as you properly mulligan, you will rarely get bad draws.

The second reason that midrange decks dominated the event was they have a ton of disruption and removal. With Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and all of the removal spells that these decks have access to, you can stop your opponent from doing practically anything.

Finally, these decks play powerful card-advantage engines, including Dark Confidant, Birthing Pod, cascade spells, and Life from the Loam. All of this card advantage makes it very hard for the control decks to keep up.

What is the best deck to play at the next PTQ? What is the best way to qualify for Pro Tour: Avacyn Restored? Let’s analyze a few of the Top 8 decks of the Grand Prix to find out.

To win a PTQ, you need to be doing broken things. This deck can gain infinite life and deal infinite damage, so it accomplishes that goal perfectly. To go infinite, you need a Melira, Sylvok Outcast, a Viscera Seer, and a Murderous Redcap or Kitchen Finks in play. Sacrifice the persist creature to scry 1, then when the creature comes back through persist, it will not receive a -1/-1 counter because of Melira’s ability. You can repeat this action indefinitely with a Murderous Redcap to deal infinite damage or with a Kitchen Finks to gain infinite life.

Melira Pod’s combo is very consistent because it uses fast mana creatures such as Birds of Paradise and Wall of Roots to cast Chord of Calling to search for the missing pieces. It also plays Birthing Pod to search for the combo creatures or for utility creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities to gain board presence and card advantage.

Sometimes, your opponents play cards to ruin your plans. Graveyard hate is the best way to stop this combo. If the creature is removed from your graveyard while the persist trigger is on the stack, it will not return to the battlefield, and your combo won’t work. It’s a good thing Melira Pod doesn’t rely on only the combo to win.

Melira Pod is can also play the role of a beatdown deck. It plays powerful creatures that attack very well. Birthing Pod allows you to upgrade your creatures every turn—all the way to Mikaeus, the Unhallowed at the top of the curve. So if your combo is disrupted, you have a Plan B. Melira Pod is can play different roles depending on what your opponent is doing, which is why it’s an excellent choice for your next PTQ.


Aggro Loam has always been among my favorite decks because of all of the card advantage that it generates and because of all of the disruption that it plays. I used to play this deck a lot during the days of Terravore, Devastating Dreams, and cycling lands, and the deck was a blast.

This deck abuses Life from the Loam to gain card advantage. It can use the extra lands that it returns to retrace Raven's Crime—and strip your opponent of all of his cards—or Flame Jab to kill all of his creatures. It can also use Seismic Assault to either kill creatures as needed or just burn your opponent to death.

Liliana of the Veil is an all-star in this deck. Her +1 ability will always result in your favor because you will have so many extra lands to discard. Because of all of the ways you have to burn little creatures, Liliana’s -2 ability should always take out your opponent’s best creature.

This deck, like Melira Pod, also has a Plan B. If your opponent disrupts your Loam engine, you still have creatures to attack with. Aggro Loam plays one of the most efficient creatures in the format: Tarmogoyf. It also plays Countryside Crusher, which has the potential to become huge very quickly. Another great thing about Countryside Crusher is that once he is in play, you will never draw a land for the rest of the game, so it will be easier to access your other threats and win conditions. Also, if you reveal a card that does nothing in the late game, such as Inquisition of Kozilek, you can always dredge it away instead of drawing the card.

Aggro Loam has all of the tools to beat every deck in the format. It has hand disruption for combo decks, excellent card advantage engines for control, and a great removal package against the aggro decks. That, combined with efficient creatures, makes Aggro Loam an amazing choice for your next PTQ.


I’ve written two articles about Affinity already, and there isn’t any new tech in this list. For reference, you can view my PTQ-winning tournament report here.

Affinity is still a powerful, consistent aggro deck. It can get extremely powerful draws and has a very high Game 1 win percentage. However, the deck is easy to hate out for games two and three, so if you decide to play Affinity, you have to beware.

Some interesting choices in this list are the four Steel Overseers. The Overseer is easily the most powerful creature, and if you are able to untap with it, you should win the game easily. The other change from other successful lists is the inclusion of eight man lands instead of the usual seven (four Blinkmoth Nexus and three Inkmoth Nexus. The man lands in Affinity are huge threats, especially with a Cranial Plating attached. Usually, an equipped Inkmoth Nexus can be lethal in one swing. In addition, the fact that they’re lands makes them harder to kill than normal creatures because sorcery-speed removal can’t kill them. Therefore, playing the full set of four seems right.

One sideboard card that I had dismissed in my tournament report is Ethersworn Canonist. This little guy is actually very versatile. Affinity is weak to combo decks, and Canonist is pretty good against all of them. It stops Living End decks, storm decks, and Hive Mind decks. It doesn’t stop Splinter Twin decks, but it does stop them from casting Dispel after you try to burn a Deceiver Exarch that has been targeted by a Splinter Twin. It’s even good against Aggro Loam because with it in play, the opponent can’t retrace Flame Jab or set up multiple Loam plays. Ethersworn Canonist must be killed in order for these decks to function properly. Most of the time, your opponents will have to leave your better threats alone and deal with Canonist first.

Overall, Affinity is a great deck, and you will see it in PTQ Top 8s for the rest of the season. However, with the way the metagame has shaped up, it is extremely difficult to win a PTQ with this deck. There is a lot of hate for this deck, and to fight against it for three rounds of a PTQ Top 8 is very challenging.


As I’ve stated previously, if you want to win a PTQ, you need to be doing broken things. Urzatron decks have always been known for doing that. The Urza lands let you accelerate your mana at an incredibly fast rate, allowing you to hard-cast your Eldrazi creatures early in the game. It also plays a ton of card-draw, so assembling Urzatron is simple.

This version of the deck also plays Gifts Ungiven, allowing you to do a few things. The first thing, and probably what you will be doing most often, is searching for Unburial Rites and either an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or an Iona, Shield of Emeria. Searching for only these two cards will force both of them to go into your graveyard. Then, you can Unburial Rites the creature into play as early as turn three. The God draw is this:

Turn one: Urza land

Turn two: Different Urza land, Azorius Signet

Turn three: Play final Urzatron piece, generating 8 mana; Gifts Ungiven for Unburial Rites and Iona; then flash back Unburial Rites

This draw doesn’t happen that often, but this deck is capable of making this play on turn four quite frequently.

Gifts Ungiven also allows you to search your library for your missing Urzatron pieces by searching for an Expedition Map, Academy Ruins, the missing piece, and something else, such as another Gifts Ungiven or a Thirst for Knowledge. Then, no matter what your opponent gives you, you will have your lands assembled within two turns. You can also search for four of any answers that you need at the time, making Gifts Ungiven an amazing, versatile card.

W/U Urzatron is a great choice for your next PTQ because it can do powerful and unfair things, and a lot of decks in the format have no answers to an early Iona or Elesh Norn.


Overall, the GP: Lincoln Top 8 was very diverse. With six different archetypes in the Top 8, it’s pretty clear that any well-tuned deck can post good results. When choosing a deck for a PTQ, the most important thing to remember is to play the deck you know best. If you aren’t comfortable with a deck, you won’t do very well. It’s no different when it comes to Modern. Every player I watched in the Top 8 played his or her deck very well.

This weekend, I’ll be in Baltimore for the next Grand Prix. The format is Standard, and I can’t wait to see what new decks that Grand Prix will give us. Join me next week for my next article. I hope to do well in Baltimore so I can have a report for you. Good luck qualifying for Pro Tour: Avacyn Restored.

Follow me on Twitter @AllWeDoIsWinMTG

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