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Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings Modern Metagame Breakdown

July 27, 2023
Frank Karsten

After four years of metagame evolution since the last Modern Pro Tour, Modern returns to the big stage! At Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings, taking place July 28—30 at MagicCon: Barcelona, 269 of the world's best Magic: The Gathering players will compete with their best Modern decks for $500,000 in prizes, invitations to the World Championship, and a prestigious trophy. After all, there can be only one winner to rule them all. While most competitors earned their invitation via Regional Championships, the field also includes Magic Hall of Famers, top online players, and the reigning World Champion and Pro Tour champion: Nathan Steuer.

The formats are The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™ Booster Draft in the morning of Friday and Saturday, followed by Modern for five rounds afterward each of those days. Modern is also the Top 8 format on Sunday. To follow all the action, catch the stream at, which begins at 11 a.m. Central European Time on Friday and Saturday and at 10 a.m. Central European Time on Sunday. Take a look at the viewer's guide for more information.

Modern Metagame Breakdown

Modern is a nonrotating 60-card format that allows non-banned cards from expansion sets, core sets, and straight-to-Modern sets from Eighth Edition forward. As Eighth Edition was released on July 29, 2003, we can proudly declare during the Pro Tour that Modern is comprised of exactly twenty years of card history. With this deep card pool, including the newly added cards from The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™, the metagame at the Pro Tour breaks down as follows.

Deck Archetype Count % Field
1. Rakdos Evoke 52 19.3%
2. Four-Color Omnath 30 11.2%
3. Rhinos 29 10.8%
4. Mono-Green Tron 24 8.9%
5. Golgari Yawgmoth 19 7.1%
6. Dimir Control 16 5.9%
7. Living End 11 4.1%
8. Burn 11 4.1%
9. Izzet Murktide 9 3.3%
10. Five-Color Creativity 8 3.0%
11. Jeskai Breach 7 2.6%
12. Esper Control 6 2.2%
13. Four-Color Control 5 1.9%
14. Samwise Gamgee Combo 5 1.9%
15. Hammer Time 5 1.9%
16. Mono-Black Coffers 4 1.5%
17. Amulet Titan 4 1.5%
18. Urza ThopterSword 2 0.7%
19. Mono-Black Grief 2 0.7%
20. Naya Scapeshift 2 0.7%
21. Five-Color Bring to Light 2 0.7%
22. Dimir Mill 2 0.7%
23. Jeskai Control 1 0.4%
24. Asmo Food 1 0.4%
25. Gruul Valakut 1 0.4%
26. Merfolk 1 0.4%
27. Grixis Shadow 1 0.4%
28. Jund Sagavan 1 0.4%
29. Five-Color Omnath 1 0.4%
30. Azorius Control 1 0.4%
31. Five-color Reanimator 1 0.4%
32. Dimir Murktide 1 0.4%
33. Izzet Breach 1 0.4%
34. Affinity 1 0.4%
35. Oops! All Spells! 1 0.4%
36. Izzet Control 1 0.4%

The most-played archetypes are Rakdos Evoke and Four-Color Omnath, which make good use of the newly added Orcish Bowmasters and The One Ring, respectively. In last week's format primer, which introduces the game plans for all top Modern archetypes in more detail, I explained that Rakdos Evoke and Four-Color Omnath were the most prominent Modern archetypes in the weeks leading up to the event. So, their popularity at the Pro Tour is not a big surprise.

Yet Modern has been evolving rapidly. Compared to last week's metagame snapshot, Mono-Green Tron and Temur Rhinos have surged in popularity for Modern players , and Dimir Control has emerged as a major contender. To better understand these developments, let's take a closer look at the most-played cards, both overall and from the newest set.

Most-Played Modern Cards

The following table breaks down the 20 most-played cards across Modern decklists submitted for the Pro Tour.

Card name Total number of copies Main deck Sideboard
The One Ring 450 415 35
Orcish Bowmasters 413 406 7
Fury 376 290 86
Chalice of the Void 355 2 353
Misty Rainforest 328 328 0
Thoughtseize 303 230 73
Force of Negation 302 276 26
Boseiju, Who Endures 287 172 115
Swamp 285 285 0
Endurance 272 27 245
Subtlety 271 233 38
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer 270 266 4
Grief 266 264 2
Leyline Binding 258 258 0
Flooded Strand 255 255 0
Lightning Bolt 253 248 5
Island 251 251 0
Bloodstained Mire 236 236 0
Lórien Revealed 233 233 0
Polluted Delta 225 225 0

617076 616933 522202 442211 522326 571383

The most-played nonland cards across all main decks and sideboards were The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters. These new cards from The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™, which have been adopted in a variety of decks, are even more popular than long-time format staples like Fury, Chalice of the Void, Misty Rainforest, and Force of Negation. With these changes, even time-tested decks are being forced to adapt.

So, let's zoom in. The following table breaks down all new cards from The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™ across Modern decklists submitted for the Pro Tour.

Card name Total number of copies Main deck Sideboard
The One Ring 450 415 35
Orcish Bowmasters 413 406 7
Lórien Revealed 233 233 0
Delighted Halfling 220 220 0
Sauron's Ransom 87 87 0
Stern Scolding 56 7 49
Generous Ent 41 38 3
Reprieve 30 21 9
Oliphaunt 28 28 0
Cast into the Fire 27 2 25
Samwise Gamgee 23 23 0
Stone of Erech 22 2 20
Elven Chorus 21 1 20
Flame of Anor 12 4 8
Forge Anew 7 7 0
Mount Doom 7 7 0
Boromir, Warden of the Tower 3 0 3
Troll of Khazad-dûm 2 2 0
Palantír of Orthanc 2 1 1

617076 616933

As mentioned, the most important new additions are The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters, which together have led to an upheaval of the Modern metagame. They have reinvigorated old archetypes, enabled new ones, and pushed previously popular ones to the fringes. For example, Five-Color Creativity struggles against The One Ring, and Izzet Murktide is weak to Orcish Bowmasters, so these previously popular archetypes have dwindled to merely 3% of the metagame each. Meanwhile, other decks have surged, and it's all due to these new cards.

The One Ring, after preventing you from taking damage and being targeted for a turn, can quickly bury the opponent in card advantage. The card has led to a resurgence of Four-Color Omnath, Mono-Green Tron, Dimir Control, Jeskai Breach, Esper Control, and various other decks. These decks are the best at exploiting the legendary artifact, by either bouncing it with Teferi, Time Raveler, grabbing it from the sideboard with Karn, the Great Creator, combining it with a huge number of free pitch spells, and/or looping multiple copies with Emry, Lurker of the Loch. After all, once the burden of using the Ring becomes too great, you can use the legend rule to your advantage.

Orcish Bowmasters removes one-toughness creatures and punishes opponents for drawing too many cards with The One Ring, making it an all-star in a format dominated by the legendary artifact. It's the two-drop that Rakdos Evoke was waiting for, and the archetype has become a whopping 19.3% of the field. In addition, Dimir Control and Esper Control make good use of Orcish Bowmasters as well, leading to the emergence of brand-new archetypes. The popularity of Orcish Bowmasters has even prompted various red players at the Pro Tour to shave Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer from their decks, and it might keep The One Ring in check.

616999 616890

The Lord of The Rings also introduced a cycle of one-cost landcyclers. Generous Ent and Oliphaunt have been added to Living End, where they act like fetch lands that can be reanimated as huge creatures. Lórien Revealed is an excellent addition to decks with Force of Negation and Subtlety, as it's like a land that can be pitched as a blue card. It can also be used as a late-game card draw spell if necessary, providing both flexibility and consistency. New builds of Rhinos, Dimir Control, and Esper Control make good use of Lórien Revealed in this way, and they make up a sizable part of the Pro Tour as a result.

616988 617055

Besides these standouts, The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™ introduced numerous other cards that boosted various archetypes. For example, Delighted Halfling has been a big upgrade for Four-Color Omnath and Golgari Yawgmoth, as it has enough toughness to survive Orcish Bowmasters and allows legendary spells (like The One Ring) to dodge countermagic. Moreover, Samwise Gamgee has enabled new infinite combos with Cauldron Familiar and a sacrifice outlet, while Sauron's Ransom provides card advantage for Dimir Control.

The rise of Dimir Control, which didn't even exist a few weeks ago, is one of the biggest metagame stories to come out of the Pro Tour. While some players might ask what the best card from The Lord of The Rings is, Dimir Control simply runs all of them. Featuring The One Ring, Orcish Bowmasters, Lórien Revealed, and Sauron's Ransom, it is filled to the brim with new cards. The deck uses them in an attrition-based, interactive flash game with Subtlety and Force of Negation before recouping the pitch spell's card disadvantage with The One Ring and Sauron's Ransom. Esper Control, an innovative offshoot, has a very similar game plan with a small white splash. Both versions combined are over 8% of the metagame, which is a lot for a completely novel Modern strategy.

616901 616948

The Lord of The Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™ also added various new sideboard options. Stern Scolding is like a blue Fatal Push. Cast into the Fire can deal with The One Ring. And Stone of Erech is a new option to stop Feign Death, Living End, or graveyard loops. These sideboard cards might not have lead to massive metagame shifts, but they'll surely have an impact during the Modern rounds at the Pro Tour.

One-Sentence Archetype Summaries

All Modern Constructed decklists for the tournament will be published on the Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings event page on Friday, July 28 at the beginning of Round 4 gameplay, approximately at 2 p.m. Central European Time. Until then, you can find one-sentence descriptions of each archetype below.

Rakdos Evoke (52 players): Rakdos Evoke is a midrange deck that can evoke Grief or Fury and return them to the battlefield with Feign Death or Undying Malice, potentially producing a 4/3 menace with double discard or a 4/4 double striker on turn one.

Four-Color Omnath (30 players): Four-Color Omnath not only leverages interactive spells like Leyline Binding but also uses Delighted Halfling to ramp into Teferi, Time Raveler; The One Ring; and Omnath, Locus of Creation, which can be triggered multiple times per turn thanks to fetch lands.

Rhinos (29 players): The straightforward plan is to cast Shardless Agent or Violent Outburst on turn three to cascade into Crashing Footfalls, unleashing a horde of 4/4 Rhinos to quickly overpower the opponent. Twenty Rhinos players are based in the Temur colors; with nine adding white for Leyline Binding.

Mono-Green Tron (24 players): The archetype that won the previous Modern Pro Tour is built around the trio of Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower—dubbed the "Urzatron" in the 90s as a reference to the Voltron TV series—which together unlocks seven mana by turn three.

Golgari Yawgmoth (19 players): Yawgmoth, Thran Physician can sacrifice undying creatures like Young Wolf to generate card advantage, and since +1/+1 counters cancel out against -1/-1 counters, an infinite loop is possible with two undying creatures.

Dimir Control (16 players): Dimir Control makes the most of the new set, exploiting card advantage from The One Ring and Sauron's Ransom along with free interaction like Force of Negation and Subtlety to take control.

Living End (11 players): The game plan is to cycle several creatures, including the newly added Generous Ent and Oliphaunt, and then use Violent Outburst or Shardless Agent to cascade into Living End, wiping all creatures from the battlefield while returning the cyclers.

Burn (11 players): The goal is to unleash a flurry of damage as quickly as possible, with an ideal opening hand featuring a turn one Goblin Guide, turn two double Lava Spike, and turn three triple Lightning Bolt for a staggering 21 damage. Ten of the Burn players use the Boros colors; one added black for Orcish Bowmasters.

Izzet Murktide (9 players): Izzet Murktide combines cheap cantrips like Mishra's Bauble and efficient interaction like Counterspell to quickly turn Murktide Regent into a powerful two-mana 8/8 flier.

Five-Color Creativity (8 players): Any fetch land can grab Dwarven Mine, whose token is subsequently turned into Archon of Cruelty by Indomitable Creativity.

Jeskai Breach (7 players): Mishra's Bauble or Mox Amber can be repeatedly sacrificed to Grinding Station and recast with Underworld Breach, milling yourself until you win the game with Thassa's Oracle.

Esper Control (6 players): This is basically Dimir Control, splashing for Leyline Binding and possibly additional white cards such as Teferi, Time Raveler.

Hammer Time (5 players): With Sigarda's Aid and Puresteel Paladin, the enormous equip cost on Colossus Hammer can be sidestepped, turning the equipment into a +10/+10 effect for one mana. Three Hammer Time players are splashing blue for Spell Pierce, and the other two are mono-white.

Samwise Gamgee Combo (5 players): Samwise Gamgee, Cauldron Familiar, and a sacrifice outlet provides infinite Cauldron Familiar triggers, while Collected Company and Chord of Calling help assemble all the pieces.

Four-Color Control (5 players): This deck controls the game with spot removal like Prismatic Ending, countermagic like Counterspell, and planeswalkers like Teferi, Time Raveler, while splashing for two or three copies of Omnath, Locus of Creation.

Mono-Black Coffers (4 players): The combination of Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth can produce enormous amounts of mana, which can be sunk into powerful spells like March of Wretched Sorrow or Karn, the Great Creator.

Amulet Titan (4 players): Amulet Titan is an intricate ramp deck that exploits the synergy between Amulet of Vigor and bounce lands like Simic Growth Chamber to power out Primeval Titan, which can subsequently grab Slayers' Stronghold and Boros Garrison to attack right away.

Dimir Mill (2 players): Mill has the straightforward game plan of depleting the opponent's library as quickly as possible, using cards like Hedron Crab and Archive Trap to great effect.

Urza ThopterSword (2 players): After sacrificing Sword of the Meek to Thopter Foundry, the created Thopter token brings back the Sword, allowing you to create a Thopter for every mana you have, and the addition of Urza, Lord High Artificer allows you to go infinite.

Mono-Black Grief (2 players): This mono-color midrange deck exploits Orcish Bowmasters and The One Ring, has access to the powerful turn-one play of Grief into Malakir Rebirth, and makes of us Field of Ruin and Demolition Field in its mana base.

Naya Scapeshift (2 players): Scapeshift can search for Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and six Mountains, roasting your opponent for 18 damage, while the white splash provides interactive spells.

Five-Color Bring to Light (2 players): Bring to Light can find Scapeshift, which can win the game with seven or eight lands, or Valki, God of Lies, which can be cast as Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor for free.

Grixis Shadow (1 player): Grixis Shadow aims to win the game with Death's Shadow while using interactive spells like Thoughtseize and a painful mana base to control their own life total.

Jeskai Control (1 player): This deck controls the battlefield with Lightning Bolt and Supreme Verdict, and it uses Narset, Parter of Veils in conjunction with Day's Undoing as a game-winning combo.

Asmo Food (1 player): Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar searches for The Underworld Cookbook, which loops with Ovalchase Daredevil to create Food tokens, which in turn feeds the activated abilities of Samwise Gamgee.

Azorius Control (1 player): This deck controls the game with spot removal like Prismatic Ending, countermagic like Counterspell, sweepers like Supreme Verdict, and planeswalkers like Teferi, Time Raveler.

Gruul Valakut (1 player): This deck uses Primeval Titan or Wish to search for Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, whose ability is supercharged by Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and green land-search spells that fetch more Mountains.

Merfolk (1 player): The original Lord of Atlantis dates all the way back to Alpha, and newer versions like Vodalian Hexcatcher provide more interaction while keeping the overall theme of the deck intact.

Jund Sagavan (1 player): A portmanteau of Urza's Saga and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Jund Sagavan represents a midrange deck with efficient threats, spot removal, and discard spells.

Five-Color Omnath (1 player): This is basically Four-Color Omnath, splashing for Orcish Bowmasters.

Five-Color Reanimator (1 player): After discarding Atraxa, Grand Unifier to Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, she can be returned to the battlefield with Goryo's Vengeance and, ideally, blinked by Ephemerate.

Dimir Murktide (1 player): This is basically Dimir Control without The One Ring and more emphasis on Murktide Regent.

Izzet Breach (1 player): This is basically Izzet Murktide without the big flier, instead using Underworld Breach as a fair card that can produce enough value to win the game.

Affinity (1 player): Artifact lands like Darksteel Citadel reduce the cost of Thought Monitor and Sojourner's Companion, and they power up Cranial Plating and Arcbound Ravager to unlock a fast damage clock.

Izzet Control (1 player): Izzet Control has some overlap in cards and strategy with Dimir Control, but the combo of Flame of Anor and Snapcaster Mage is a good reason to play red.

Oops! All Spells! (1 player): This deck features zero land cards, so when you use modal double-faced spell/land cards to cast Balustrade Spy or Undercity Informer, you can say "Oops! All Spells", put your entire library into your graveyard, and win with Creeping Chill and Vengevine.

With so many different strategies, Modern allows you to play any style of deck you want. As the gameplay and interactions can get complex, players are usually rewarded for having deep format knowledge and experience with their decks. Indeed, several big teams did not conform to a unanimous deck choice; instead, their members are mostly playing different archetypes, which may bring them more success if they can leverage their familiarity with that deck.

In any case, we'll find out during the event how powerful The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters truly are. If you're eager to find out which cards and strategies will come out on top and who will carve their name into competitive Magic history, then don't miss all the live action. Coverage begins Friday, July 28 at!

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