I started playing modern back when Birthing Pod was legal, and never really found a deck I enjoyed. I bounced from abzan coco, to eldrazi, to Jund, to affinity, and even to weird decks like Cheerios or Eggs. But I was never happy with any of these decks, and my success was always limited. I’ve always been a fan of decks that grind the opponent out, and when Kaladesh came out I had decided to play the new card Madcap Experiment alongside Platinum Emperion. Fast forward a few 12-3s and thousands of matches later, and here I am, in the aftermath of GP Phoenix, talking about how I found success in the Vegas Slotmachine format called Modern.
People often make the claim that success in Modern is about picking a deck and sticking with it. This is an important aspect, but rarely is there an indicator for how to pick the deck. I’ve found success with Madcap Moon since its legality, not just because the deck was decent, but because I loved playing it so much that I could enjoy thousands and thousands of matches. I do, however, take breaks from playing with the deck, and as GP Phoenix was approaching I had no idea what I wanted to play. I hadn’t touched modern since the Modern PPTQ season, so I started jamming leagues with updated Madcap lists. I got destroyed. The deck really struggled against Grixis Death’s Shadow and other random tarmogoyf decks, and a lot of the fringe decks like Bogles just crushed me. I was not looking forward to a GP when I could barely 3-2 a league. So I set aside madcap to start playing other blue control decks, like Grixis Pyromancer or Jeskai Control. Field of Ruin was a huge help for these decks, so I felt pretty good. Then, the unbans happened.
When Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf were unbanned, Jace decks were everywhere. I was playing with Grixis and Jeskai, but my lists started becoming very inbred for Jace mirrors. Eventually the Bloodbraid Elf aggro decks started pushing the 3 color decks out of the metagame, and people were having success with Blue Moon variants with Thing in the Ice. This piqued my interest in the archetype again, but I was hesitant to play Platinum Emperions in a format with more Jund and Jace. So, I put modern aside to focus on my personal life, playing weekly events and the occasional league with Grixis to keep up to date. Then, a week before GP Phoenix, I started playing Julian John’s BG Tron list. My first couple of leagues were 4-1 but then I started going 2-3 multiple times. I had run out of time and was frustrated with every deck. It was then that I told myself I was just going to play Madcap Moon, not because I thought it was great, but because I’m there to have fun. Modern is such an infuriating and awful format that the only way I could convince myself to play in a Grand Prix a couple of hours away, was if I was ensuring I would enjoy the outcome. I might enjoy winning with Affinity, but if I’m losing with it I’ll be upset. But, win or lose, I would definitely enjoy playing Madcap Moon.
Fast forward to the Thursday before the GP. I’ve decided to play Madcap Moon, but I haven’t touched the deck in months, so I grab my old pile of UR cards and disassemble Grixis Pyromancer to play it. I borrow a couple of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Search for Azcanta and throw a list together. Pretty easily 4-0’d the local event, and felt pretty good about the deck. We leave for Phoenix in the afternoon on Friday, so when we get there at 9PM I hang with friends, eat some food and relax. I hadn’t really touched my list from Thursday, so I laid it out on a table and just talked out what cards I wanted to play with. Eventually, I settle on the list that I went 12-3 with (and got top 32). One of my teammates, Kyle Miller, independently decided to play Blue Moon with the Madcap Experiment package in the sideboard. I had a very unorthodox list put together, with untested maindeck and sideboard choices, but I knew if I played it well, that it could win. Ultimately I fell a little bit short of top 8, but I had a couple of variance losses, and then a really close match vs RB Hollow One.
Despite falling short of top 8, I felt great. I got to play my favorite deck in modern for two days, and had some really awesome games. And while I did get a bad matchup lottery loss, it was okay, because I had come far enough as a player to realize that Magic is a game and that it is supposed to be fun. And the strength of that realization had not dawned on me until after the GP, when many people at my LGS were congratulating me on my finish. They didn’t see any sort of self reflection in my success. All they saw was that I did well. My deck didn’t do well to them – I did well. Later, one of my close friends told me I was living the dream of modern. I was playing an interactive control deck and having success with it in a format hostile to nonlinear gameplay. I hadn’t broken the meta, I hadn’t innovated perfectly. All I had done was play the game I wanted to play. I think that’s what success is in Modern, the ability to have fun no matter the outcome. And if you’ve signed up for some high variance magic, you better be prepared to have some fun along the way.