War of the Spark preview season is over. With the full list of cards being public we finally know how the whole Gatewatch/Nicol Bolas arc ends.
However, this is not a lore article, I am here to tell you about what I think are the best cards for the older formats. Even though the power level of the set doesn’t seem particularly high compared to other sets, there are some very unique cards that could make the jump to at least Modern.
Let’s get into it!
Possibilities of War of the Spark
《Tomik, Distinguished Advokist》 is clearly designed with the older formats in mind. What 《Tomik》 does best is being a complete foil to the 《Dark Depths》 + 《Thespian’s Stage》 combo, nullifying not only the combo but also other cards that play very well with it like 《Life from the Loam》 and 《Crucible of Worlds》.
I think this could easily earn a spot on the sideboard of decks like Death and Taxes in Legacy, where funnily the 3 toughness point could actually be a drawback since it can’t be fetched with 《Recruiter of the Guard》. This could be one of those rare cases where a card being larger (better) makes it less playable, somehow.
《Fblthp, the Lost》 finally found its way into a real Magic card, and it’s actually a fine one. On the surface, it’s a legendary 《Elvish Visionary》, but it could actually become better if we find ways to put it directly into play.
This could be part of a creature engine by providing “Free” sacrifice fodder in a color that usually doesn’t get this kind of effect. It also enables without losing a card, a combination we might even see in Standard.
《Jace, Wielder of Mysteries》 isn’t very powerful, as it’s just a harder to cast 《Laboratory Maniac》. In exchange, it’s also harder to kill and provides a source of card advantage against control decks. Enough 《Laboratory Maniac》 effects might be enough to make a whole new deck somewhat similar to the Ad Nauseam decks we’re seeing now.
8-Rack isn’t exactly a tier1 deck, but it’s also the kind of deck that can become much better if things go right. 《Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage》 might have enough power to be playable in that deck. Even though it’s probably lacking a little bit of power for a 3-mana Planeswalker even in that deck.
《Liliana’s Triumph》 is a strict upgrade from 《Diabolic Edict》, a card that already sees plenty of Legacy play. It’s also not that of a minor upgrade, because some of the decks interested in playing this kind of effect are already also interested in playing cards like 《Liliana of the Veil》.
《Dreadhorde Arcanist》 is the kind of card that looks powerful enough to be played but is also hard to put in existing shells. The fact that it needs a whole turn to generate advantage makes it relatively similar to 《Dark Confidant》, and non-black decks that are heavy on spells might want to play 《Dreadhorde Arcanist》.
《Finale of Promise》 is interesting. It can net a clean two for one for only three mana and can also escalate well on the late game.
However, the biggest potential comes from being able to replay cards like 《Ancestral Vision》 or 《Restore Balance》. Most decks that play those cards are built to cast the Suspend spells from a Cascade trigger or to cheat them via 《As Foretold》.
《Finale of Promise》 could create a whole different deck based on the Suspend spells, and I could also see Finale being played along with 《Faithless Looting》, since the card has a natural synergy with Finale discarding both the Suspend spells themselves and also some instant spells we could be using, like 《Thought Scour》.
I could see 《Return to Nature》 replace 《Seal of Primordium》 in the rare situations where that card is played. 《Naturalize》 never sees play over the 《Seal of Primordium》 in the rare situations where that card is played.
《Naturalize》 or cards like 《Deglamer》/《Unravel the Aether》 but I think 《Return to Nature》 could take that spot, since the ability to exile cards like 《Arclight Phoenix》, 《Griselbrand》, or just be overall a fine card against Dredge probably outweighs the situations where the other spells are better.
《Angrath’s Rampage》 will have to fight with 《Kolaghan’s Command》, which is a very high bar. I think there are situations where this card is better, mainly when the Planeswalker part relevant, but those are probably too rare.
Overall, I think 《Kolaghan’s Command》 is a better card since sorcery speed is pretty bad in a card like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this showed up as a 1-of in some sideboards.
《Dovin’s Veto》 might replace 《Negate》 in both UW and Jeskai/Esper decks at least for some time. UW on the mana cost is clearly harder to cast than 1U even if a deck has enough white sources, so it would really depend on how often the “can’t be countered” text is going to be relevant.
As long as Amulet Titan is a relevant player on the Modern metagame, 《Pact of Negation》 will be around and therefore 《Dovin’s Veto》 is likely to be better. On the other matchups, though, I would probably still prefer to play 《Negate》. The upside here is very small but the increase in the mana cost is also small.
We saw 《Eldritch Evolution》 fuel some 《Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker》 powered combos, but we also saw it being played as a way to search for sideboard cards like 《Kataki, War’s Wage》 or 《Eidolon of Rhetoric》.
Nicol Bolas (presumably) final appearance didn’t disappoint. The mana cost is not exactly easy to fit in a deck but the power level of the card is high enough that I would at least try.
Grixis Midrange/Control has been doing relatively fine in hands of some experts like Corey Burkhart for enough time to make me think this card could make them a strong deck the same way 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 made UW/x control decks better.
I think a key point here is going to be how good the +1 ability is compared to 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》’s one. Untapping two lands is a very powerful effect, but getting a clean two-for-one out of a +1 ability is also very strong. It also checks other boxes, like having a good ability against other Planeswalkers and surviving to 《Lightning Bolt》.
《Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God》 can also act as a finisher with the -8, which will literally often win the game on the spot. I think whether we see Nicol Bolas or not in Modern will have more to do with how good the rest of the deck is because the raw power of the card is very high as long as we can pay the mana cost.
Also……instant kill with 《Doubling Season》!
I think 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 could be a fine sideboard card for the Control mirrors on older formats like Legacy or Vintage as long as it also has some applications against the combo matchups. It could also be used as a 《Defense Grid》, even though most UW decks are not interested in that effect.
In Modern, we can combo it with 《Isochron Scepter》 + 《Silence》 which should be able to just destroy a few decks out of the metagame if we can deal with what’s on the battlefield, effectively locking our opponent’s out of playing a single spell for the rest of the game. We can even do it through artifact destruction spells!
All we need to do is untap with 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 on the battlefield and then cast our 《Isochron Scepter》. That way, even if our opponent has an instant, they wouldn’t be able to deal with our 《Isochron Scepter》 as long as we have enough mana to keep the lock up. I think we could see that as a B-plan for decks that already want cards like 《Silence》 on the sideboard, like Ad Nauseam.
《Ashiok, Dream Render》 could be very good in the UB mill deck. Unchecked, 《Ashiok, Dream Render》 offers enough power to mill up to 20 cards, which should be enough to win the game on its own in that deck. That won’t alone make 《Ashiok, Dream Render》 playable, but the fact that it shuts down fetchlands and cards like 《Primeval Titan》 might make it playable.
《Saheeli, Sublime Artificer》 seems to me like a worse version of 《Sai, Master Thopterist》 with one big exception: she dodges creature removal. This could catch some opponents off guard in decks like Whir Prison, where most opponents would expect us to have Sai.
《Karn, the Great Creator》 seems very powerful to me.
Its static ability means if you combo 《Karn, the Great Creator》 with 《Mycosynth Lattice》 our opponent won’t be able to use any ability from any land or any other permanent for that matter. It also means cards like 《Engineered Explosives》 won’t be able to deal with 《Karn, the Great Creator》 as well.
I think the biggest strength of 《Karn, the Great Creator》 is giving us access to sideboard conditional cards that we only want under certain circumstances like 《Sorcerous Spyglass》. This is an effect we’ve seen played in cards like 《Glittering Wish》, but having this effect in an artifact prison deck is a whole different thing.
I also think 《Karn, the Great Creator》 plays very well with 《Ensnaring Bridge》 since we can play 《Karn, the Great Creator》 as an additional way of tutoring 《Ensnaring Bridge》 or any other lock pieces we would need. I think both Lantern Control and Whir Prison could use a card like this.
《Blast Zone》 is a card that seems interesting as a 1-of in decks that can tutor for it.
In Modern, it has to compete with 《Engineered Explosives》 on the 《Tolaria West》 decks, and I don’t think this land is better than the artifact. The biggest upside 《Blast Zone》 has to offer there is being a land card to combine with 《Crucible of Worlds》 or 《Life from the Loam》.
That’s it for today!
I can’t wait to play the new War of the Spark cards. This set looks great, doesn’t it?