War of the Spark is in action now. The set is full of planeswalkers and other powerful cards. The new static abilities of multiple planeswalkers can impact games as soon as they hit play. There is quite some number of 3-mana planeswalkers that I believe good enough to see Modern play.
Let’s not waste time and go over my selected list one by one.
《Karn, the Great Creator》 is one of the new tools for Tron. With 《Karn, the Great Creator》, you can now tutor for different types of hate cards like 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 or 《Trinisphere》 against combo decks where the good old 《Karn Liberated》 could be too slow on the draw sometimes.
The static ability comes with a one-sided 《Stony Silence》, which is also good in the mirror match in stopping the artifact cantrips in 《Chromatic Star》 and 《Chromatic Sphere》, as well as 《Expedition Map》 and 《Oblivion Stone》. It can also combo with 《Mycosynth Lattice》 to turn off all activated abilities from opponents (including mana abilities of lands!) with 《Karn, the Great Creator》 in play.
Another colorless planeswalker is able to be cast on turn 3 with Tron. While its -3 ability does not destroy lands, it has a solid +1 ability to protect itself and generate card advantage. Once again we should not overlook the static ability where now most of your colorless cantrips are free to cast.
The awkward times where you use a cantrip and don’t have enough mana remaining to cast your spell is less likely to happen with 《Ugin, the Ineffable》 in play. Also, six mana is very reachable even when your assembly of Tron is stopped by your opponent. There are matchups where assembling Tron is less likely to happen, and in those matchups, a threat can be reasonably cast even without Tron is simply great.
Finally, we have a playable 《Leovold, Emissary of Trest》-type effect in Modern. A 3-mana card is not easily played in Modern, but I believe 《Narset, Parter of Veils》 could find a spot against decks that relies on cantrips.
In Modern, lots of decks rely on cantripping to find key cards or solution – She can easily shut them off. You can always choose not to activate her to avoid her getting 《Lightning Bolt》. She also help you digging for specific answers. Digging four cards deep is not a bad rate, let alone the possibility of digging eight cards with two activations.
8-Rack has been a fringe Modern deck for a long time. I believe 8-Rack struggles from drawing too many discard spells but no way to win as well, as the reverse. It plays best on a balance of discard spells and 《The Rack》 effects. 《Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage》 fits into the deck naturally with both the activated ability and static ability covering each side of what the deck is trying to do. He is a way to discard and act as the ninth Rack effect (as you can only have one in play) to put a clock on our opponent.
A 2-drop that can win you the game is valuable in Modern and I think 《Dreadhorde Arcanist》 could fall into that category. It lets you flashback powerful 1-mana spells such as 《Thoughtseize》, 《Inquisition of Kozilek》, 《Fatal Push》, and 《Lightning Bolt》. I think the best home for it will be Jund or Mardu Pyromancer (though it is a non-combo with 《Bedlam Reveler》 in the latter) where you can use discard to stop your opponent’s removal and have your own removal to clear 《Dreadhorde Arcanist》’s path to attack.
Two Words:《Arclight Phoenix》. 《Finale of Promise》 can bring back 《Arclight Phoenix》 by itself with X = 1. With 《Finale of Promise》 kicking in, we might want to have an evenly distributed ratio of sorceries and instants.
I suppose the trend will follow Javier Dominguez’s Mythic Championship top 8 with a playset of 《Sleight of Hand》 instead of 《Opt》 which is completely reasonable considering you wanna make a perfect decision with the deck instead of keeping mana open in opponent’s turn. At this point, we seem to have more sorceries than instants at the 1-mana slot. On the other hand, 《Finale of Promise》 is likely a late game for the deck and I don’t think we are casting it by turn 3 often. I suppose time will tell the ratio of instants and sorceries and the number of 《Finale of Promise》 in Izzet Phoenix.
I think there are two characters on the Boar God: 1. Legendary, 2. Cheating creatures into play. And what do these two characteristics lead us?
Grishoalbrand recently fell out of favor somewhat as it is fragile against 《Surgical Extraction》 where people started to maindeck it more often.
《Ilharg, the Raze-Boar》 is a great proxy to discard to 《Faithless Looting》 turn one. If our opponent gets to 《Surgical Extraction》 the Boar God, we can still keep 《Griselbrand》 in the deck to go off. We could easily have 21 damage via cheating a 《Worldspine Wurm》 into play even when 《Griselbrand》 was exiled anyway. I think 《Ilharg, the Raze-Boar》 could improve some consistency to Grishoalbrand as a duplicate win condition and enable more turn 2 kills with a turn 1 《Faithless Looting》 set up.
Imagine a Blue-White Control mirror. You are on the play and think you are going to win easily off 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》 with 《Dispel》 backup on turn 5. It might be true before War of the Spark. But now 《Dovin’s Veto》 can overrule any counter war. A cheap uncounterable counterspell could break the formula in the format.
One thing I dislike is that it will cause people to play in a more conservative way. On the other hand, it also means you can easily tap low with only two mana up and guarantee you can stop the opponent from resolving key spell. It is always fascinating to see how a simple card lead to a change of play pattern in some matchup.
《Neoform》 is the hot topic of discussion in Modern right now. It could be one of the most consistent turn 2 kill decks ever since the major banning after first Modern Pro Tour. It turns 《Allosaurus Rider》 into 《Griselbrand》 and go off from there. With 《Summoner’s Pact》 and 《Eldritch Evolution》 serving as extra copies of 《Neoform》 and 《Allosaurus Rider》, the deck is extremely consistent under the London Mulligan. I am not sure if it is still broken under the current Vancouver Mulligan, but a two-card combo going off turn 2 with no setup needed could just break the rules of Modern easily.
The static ability of 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 is so strong against any counterspell-based decks. Resolving it on turn 2 with 《Noble Hierarch》 could be a way for Bant Spirits to turn the tide against Blue-based control decks. 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 also combos with 《Spell Queller》. If you bounce 《Spell Queller》 with Teferi, your opponent can’t cast the exiled spell with Teferi in play. As a result, you return a hard counter to your hand and you can do it over and over again.
The static ability of 《Ashiok, Dream Render》 stops fetchlands or any tutoring effect. If Amulet Titan is as good as advertised, this is a hate card against the deck, and also against 《Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle》.
The -1 ability exiles graveyards and it is a neat win condition milling twenty cards off your opponent’s library. Maybe it could get a natural home in Blue-Black mill as it covers its weakness to graveyard based strategies, and the activated ability is in line with what the deck doing.
《Saheeli, Sublime Artificer》 is a 3-mana 《Young Pyromancer》, but it’s harder to interact with it without creatures. It can certainly shine in a Blue deck with lots of cantrips, yet I think it could also shine in decks like Mardu Pyromancer where you protect 《Saheeli, Sublime Artificer》 with discard and removals and squeeze card advantage here and there.
《Blast Zone》 is a card that fits into the colorless strategy. It can easily be a silver bullet in Tron as we can tutor it out and charge it easily. This could be the best way to stop 《Damping Sphere》 even while drawing all the land tutoring spells.
I can also see it as a 3-of or 4-of in Colorless Eldrazi where the converted mana cost of the majority of the permanents in the deck is higher than your opponent’s, meaning it won’t cost you much damage when you crack the land. 《Blast Zone》 also makes 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 embarrassing against dredge with 《Life from the Loam》 bringing it back all days.
These are the cards that I think we could see play in Modern. I think the power level of the set is quite high. Although the planeswalkers cost 3-mana and that sets a high bar for them to enter Modern playability, their static ability is quite impactful once they hit play.
Tron seems to be the deck that gains most new tools from the set. I begin to worry that if London Mulligan becomes the new rule, Tron might damage the format too much as it is a deck able to do powerful thing in both the short and long games and it is not an easy deck to hate out.
On the other hand, 《Neoform》 does look threatening to me as it breaks the “turn 4 rule” of the format. I am not a fan of banning cards. I think we will need to observe these cards a little bit more to see where they end up.
Modern Horizons is coming out in June. I have high hopes that it shakes the whole format a little bit more than what we are used to from regular Standard-legal sets. With Mythic Championship Barcelona being Modern with the new set, the format certainly will become a brewer’s paradise.
Until next time,