[Discussion] Categorizing Modern Decks

  • #1
    First time poster, be gentle!

    A few months ago I was lurking on Reddit and came across the following two articles:


    The first link talks about the idea of the "Metagame Clock" and then references and summarizes the second link. The second link is an old article by Mike Flores that puts forth the notion that all decks that ever could be made have been and we're just re-building them with different cards.

    This is the idea that I'd like to explore. Mike Flores's article is really old and doesn't reference any Modern decks. But, is it still applicable?

    As a thought experiment, I began trying to fit decks into Mike Flores's "archetypes". Here's what I came up with so far (using decks I'm familiar with):

    CounterSliver
    * Merfolk maybe?

    Necro
    * Is this even a real category anymore? Does anything abuse, say, Bob to this extent?

    Prison
    * None?

    Sligh
    * Zoo
    * Affinity
    * Pretty much all of the non-combo aggro decks in the format?

    Stompy
    * Bogles?

    Weissman
    * American Control is the closest to this we've got, I think?

    Toolbox
    * Melira Pod (also could go below in "The Enigma", since it's combo-oriented)
    * Esper Teachings

    Tinker
    * Tron
    * Aggro Elves?

    The Enigma
    * Storm
    * Exarch Twin
    * Scapeshift

    Here's the problem, though... I don't know where to place decks like Mono-Black Control (they're more pro-active than Weissman, using discard as their "control") or Living End (it's not really a combo deck, it just has absurd synergy). There also didn't seem to be a category for midrange-y stuff like Wx Tokens (they win through card advantage, though - is this the new "Necro"?).

    So, what are everyone's thoughts? Are there "archetypes" that didn't exist when his article was written that are here in Modern now? Did I mis-categorize anything above? How would you categorize other major Modern decks?
  • #2
    I think the idea of categories has evolved since then:

    Quote from Everything You Need to Know about Modern »
    I like to think that there are 7 different types of Modern playing styles, Tempo, Aggro, Midrange, Combo, Control, Ramp and Rogue


    Even then most Rogue decks fit into a combination of the above 6.

    This thread:

    http://forums.mtgsalvation.com/showthread.php?t=482060

    Pretty much breaks down everything.

    I deck like UWR Resto would have to be put as Sligh on his scale but his scale has no room for what we now call "Midrange" In theory you could put those in the Necro category but that's really stretching it (Jund and UWR both abuse draw power and psudo card advantage) but they certainly aren't control and they don't fit the sliver theme.

    The Counter Sliver idea is actually Midrange as well since its about growing board presence, but he defines it too narrow.
    Last edited by the_cardfather: 7/2/2013 2:23:27 AM
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  • #3
    Wow, thanks! This is a really good post!

    Like the first link I posted (about the metagame clock), though, I think I dislike the idea of having a "circle" to represent these decks... I always thought the graphs of the relative power level of a deck per turn in this article made it easier to understand:


    The other thing I kinda dislike about simply using words like "Ramp" and "Combo" to categorize decks is that there's a large continuum of strategies within those categories that are worth examining. As an example, Flores's "Toolbox" archetype and "Prison" archetype are interesting because they tell us what the deck is doing. Mono-Black Control and UWR Control are both tempo decks with control elements, but they're doing vastly different things. Mono-Black Control is working towards a "Prison" strategy by removing the opponent's hand, while UWR Control is working towards a "Permission" strategy by removing threats as they're played. They both also remove threats once they've hit the board.

    Is there possibly a secondary system of "tags" that would be helpful with deck classification? I thought of a few:

    • Swarm - For decks that just jam creatures on the board and swing.
    • Stomp? - For decks that stick just a few powerful creatures (or make a single creature powerful, like Bogles)
    • Toolbox - For decks like Melira Pod and Esper Teachings that can search for specific answers to any threat
    • Burn - For decks that primarily win with damage to the face (UR Storm, Burn, etc)
    • Prison - For proactive control decks that want you in a cage, unable to do anything (Mono-Black Control)
    • Permission - For reactive control decks that want you to ask if they can do something (UWR Control, maybe even stuff like Turbo Fog?)

    Thoughts? Or, better yet, has someone already done this, too? :p
  • #4
    The question of classification generally only matters if you are trying to generalize (or organize a forum :teach:)

    The wheel allows us to figure out what other types of decks our deck might be weak to.

    For instance a control deck generally should be week to aggro and has to decide whether to remain weak and focus on other matchups or to diverge and incorporate other strategies.
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  • #5
    I'm not so sure I agree entirely... I think it's still useful to reason about decks with their approach in mind.

    All aggro decks are similar by virtue of being aggro decks. They try to win as quickly as possible and are, in general, weak to decks like combo or midrange. So, when trying to prepare an aggro deck for a meta full of combo or midrange decks, all aggro decks are looking for the same types of cards.

    Which specific cards get chosen, however, can depend heavily on how those cards interact with the approach a specific aggro deck is taking. Decks like Bogles (which want to load up a single, hexproof creature with a ton of enchantments to smash the opponent's face in) and decks like Zoo (which want a fair number of creatures as early as possible that can swarm the opponent), despite both being aggro decks, are vastly different. One needs to prepare for "target player sacrifices a creature", because that can be devastating to their plan. The other is happy to oblige.

    Experienced players familiar with the cards in all of the tier 1 and tier 2 decks in the format make these distinctions effortlessly. Newer players familiar with only the current standard format may actually be completely unable to figure it out if the approach of a given modern deck is sufficiently different from ones they've encountered in standard.

    My thought was that if I could come up with a series of words to describe a deck's approach, it might be easier to explain to newer players the differences and similarities between given decks. Two "Swarm Aggro" decks will generally be very close in strategy and playstyle when compared to a "Stompy Aggro" deck (or something like that).
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