The Modern Regional Championship at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence drew over 600 players who battled through ten rounds of swiss for prizes, pride, and qualification to the SCG Invitational. The nation’s largest Regionals turnout showcased the popularity of Modern as Magic’s most popular format. The scene was full of energy; as extra registrants were seated for the tournament, vendors attempted to keep pace with the price spikes preceding the top 8 of the Pro Tour, and many extra judges heeded the bat signal to help such a large event run smoothly.
The banning of Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom left many players searching for what would dominate the Modern landscape leading into Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Many former Splinter Twin pilots expressed disillusionment of the banning, describing Splinter Twin as the Force of Will of Modern. Patrick Holland, whose preferred deck was affected by the bannings, prophetically stated that the banning of Twin could lead to either design space opening up for other blue decks or an unforeseen oppressively powerful deck that could have been kept in check by Twin. Bera Dunau, a local reporter, said he was there because a friend told him Burn was good; his friend was far from wrong as Naya Burn was heavily represented in the field, and took a spot in the top 8 of the tournament.
While the Pro Tour results were anything but diverse, this tournament featured 15 different archetypes out of the 16 undefeated decks heading into round 6. The only duplicate deck was long thought dead after the banning of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. Jeskai Ascendency returned to the spotlight in a mirror match divided between the Token/Fatestitcher build and the four color mana creature version. The group of other favorites leading into top 8 included Modern mainstays Affinity, Infect, Azban Company, Big Zoo, Bogles, Uw Fish, Goryo’s Vengence, Grixis Control, Jeskai Control, and Elves. Other uncommon decks that ran through the first half of the tournament undefeated included Grixis Delver, a sweet Esper Mentor list that broke through into the top 8, and Angel’s Grace Ad Nauseam. In stark contrast to the Pro Tour, only one copy of the Pantheon Colorless Eldrazi list was represented in the undefeated decks during the first half of the tournament.
As the tournament winded down to round nine of ten, the undefeated decks fell one by one; Jared Weed was the last player left standing without a loss. His Angel’s Grace Ad Nauseam deck that featured Glittering Wish had just defeated Ben Feingersh’s Eldrazi deck at table one. Phyrexian Unlife gave Jared the extra time he needed to assemble his combo of drawing his deck, exiling Simian Spirit Guides, and casting Lightning Storm with plenty of lands in hand.
In the last round, the top four players were able to draw into the top 8. Jared Weed drew with Nick Hughes while Richard Lam playing Affinity drew with Ben Feingersh. Of the remaining four matches with top 8 implications I witnessed the eventual champion Keith Rong playing Blue Moon at table three dismantle Grixis Delver, incrementally gaining an advantage using threats difficult to answer one for one. Pia and Kiran Nalaar was the standout card of the matchup for Keith, putting on more than enough pressure on his opponent from unanswered Thopter tokens.
Top 8 was called and featured the matchups of number one seed Jared Weed’s Ad Nauseam in a rematch at table one with Ben Feingersh’s Eldrazi. Number two seed Keith Rong with Blue Moon paired against Richard Lam’s Affinity. Three seed Michael Shea conceding to Nick Hughes after a long day, and four seed Eddie Samuels battling five seed Michael Schumacher’s Affinity deck.
Keith Rong and his Blue Moon deck took down Richard Lam in three games. Pia and Kiran Nalaar combined with multiple Lightning Bolts and Electrolyzes prompted Richard to ask Keith “How many kill spells do you have?” Looking at Keith’s hand after the game after concession, the answer was… more, and Snapcaster Mage. Game two was dominated by a quick start from the Affinity deck. Vault Skirge plus Ornithopter led into Steel Overseer and then a huge Master of Etherium. A second Steel Overseer drew a Spell Snare from Keith, and then a Spell Pierce from Richard made the game too far out of reach for Blue Moon to recover. Game three was anticlimatic due to a lack of colored mana for Richard. Removal and Pia and Kiran Nalaar into Vandalblast let Keith play Batterskull into Richard’s tapped out board to secure the quarterfinals victory.
In the semifinal, TJ Collectibles restructured the prizes after consulting with the players, and the battle began for the 1st place trophy; Keith earned the concession into the finals from Nick Hughes while Ryan Schumacher met Ben Feingersh. Ryan and Ben were driving home from the event in the same car and played their match with friendly back and forth banter. Ryan jokingly asked Ben for the concession to which the very Ivan Drago-ish response was “You can’t beat him, I will crush him.” Referring to the terrible Affinity vs Blue Moon matchup Ryan would have to overcome.
Ben began with a mulligan to five while onlookers laughed at how ridiculous Ryan’s opener was. An onlooker stated Ryan should just play with his hand face up, and Ryan quipped “it will all be on the table soon enough.” He was right as he led with Darksteel Citadel, Signal Pest, Mox Opal, and a second Signal Pest. Ben played a land and passed. Ryan’s second turn started with an Inkmoth Nexus, Cranial Plating, equip, and swing which was met with a scoop.
Ben battled back in the second game with an explosive start that included an Eye of Ugin into Eldrazi Mimic. While Ryan read Eldrazi Mimic, Ben joked it was just a Savannah Lions. That Savannah Lions turned into a Reality Smasher and soon the game was in Ben’s hands. Game three’s turning point was a Thoughtseize from Ryan taking Ben’s Reality Smasher, leaving him no action in hand. Signal Pests and Vault Skirges rumbled in from the Affinity side as Eldrazi struggled to find spells off the top. Ryan Schumacher was to face off with Keith Rong in the finals.
The Affinity vs Blue Moon matchup seems like a nightmare for the Affinity player, especially being on the draw as Ryan was. The matchup played out similarly to the quarterfinals matchup with Keith Rong winning the Modern Regional Championship and hosting the red trophy.
Congratulations to the players, judges, vendors, and TJ Collectables staff for an outstanding event! No one knows what the future of the Modern format holds. One question remains; are there tools in the Modern card pool to combat a Mishra’s Workshop type deck, or will Grand Prix Detroit welcome our new Eldrazi overlords?