The Influences of Core Set 2020 for Modern

Lee Shi Tian

Lee Shi Tian


Hello all!

Modern Horizons has been released for a month and Core Set 2020 is releasing right after it. While Modern Horizons was designed to shake up the format (which it has in the form of 《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》), we should also not overlook the potential of the new Core Set. The full spoiler was released last weekend and today I want to go over some potential cards in the set.

Notable Cards from Core Set 2020

《Brought Back》

Brought Back

On the surface, 《Brought Back》 looks like it could be a double 《Rampant Growth》. However, not only does that require that you draw 2 fetchlands in the first two turns, you need to not use the fetch on turn 1, and not using mana turn 1 is not a cheap cost to pay in Modern.

I believe 《Brought Back》 actually shines with hate bears where you can combine it with 《Field of Ruin》 and 《Ghost Quarter》. In this way you could run opponent out of basic lands and create your own double 《Wasteland》!

《Spectral Sailor》

Spectral Sailor

Could 《Spectral Sailor》 be the long waited 1-drop for Spirits? The current version of Bant Spirits plays Green for 《Noble Hierarch》, a 1-drop that has little synergy with the rest of the deck. 《Spectral Sailor》 has Flash which fits the flash speed of the deck. Make sure you understand and learn how to abuse the power and the potential tempo swing of open mana. In the decks like Spirits, a lot of the time you win because of your opponent was forced to make a suboptimal play while you can always make the best counter play.

The mana sink ability is also a good late game engine despite the fact that getting past turn 6 in Modern is kind of a luxury right now.

《Scheming Symmetry》

Scheming Symmetry

《Vampiric Tutor》 is back! Tutoring effect is huge in Modern as the format is always about particular key cards. The symmetrical effect of this tutor makes it not that easy to abuse. Our goal should always be drawing the tutor card and kill your opponent before passing the turn back.

《Ad Nauseam》 could be a way to abuse it where you get a key card with two mana (one for this plus one for a cantrip). 《Goryo’s Vengeance》 could also be a deck that can abuse it. 《Insolent Neonate》 is a great card to combo with 《Scheming Symmetry》 where you cast it turn one and pick up the card tutored via 《Scheming Symmetry》 turn two without investing another mana.

《Chandra, Acolyte of Flame》

Chandra, Acolyte of Flame

《Chandra, Acolyte of Flame》 is very close to 《Snapcaster Mage》. Three mana is a little expensive but she is able to make an immediate impact to the board if you have an extra mana to cast 《Lightning Bolt》 or something like that. The remainder could provide value in the very next turn and could give way more if Chandra remains unchecked. I think this imaginary play pattern has very few constraints and is quite powerful.

I can see 《Chandra, Acolyte of Flame》 being a new addition to Mardu Pyromancer and Jund. Black-based midrange is having a hard time right now but if you think there is some banning happening soon that helps it out, Chandra could easily find her spot in the format.

《Goblin Ringleader》

Goblin Ringleader

Could Goblins actually be playable in Modern? Tribal decks are about hitting critical masses of creatures to achieve synergies and card advantage could get you back into the game even when your opponent tries to interact with you to break the synergies of your creatures. We saw 《Elvish Visionary》, 《Silvergill Adept》 and 《Kitesail Freebooter》 being key cards in existing tribal decks.

Goblins do not have a very high power level compared to Humans or other viable tribal decks and 《Goblin Ringleader》 could be a key to enable the archetype.

《Thunderkin Awakener》

Thunderkin Awakener

《Thunderkin Awakener》 can return 《Ball Lightning》 and 《Lightning Skelemental》 every turn. I have no idea if that’s good enough for the format, but having 6/1 trample attacking every turn is a Red mage’s dream.

I can foresee a deck filled with 《Unearth》, 《Claim/Fame》, 《Faithless Looting》 and enabled with 《Flamekin Harbinger》. Maybe that’s just a meme deck but I would still love to see the deck in action.

《Leyline of Abundance》

Leyline of Abundance

《Leyline of Abundance》 is a proactive leyline which is huge as it could enable some broken start for mana creature decks. Anything that is free at the beginning of the game is always potentially broken. 《Leyline of Abundance》 is also a mana sink to make sure the mana will be always useful.

I think it could be a great addition to combo-style Elves deck. The question is whether having one fewer card would damage the consistency of the deck. I believe it requires some amount of time to find out the right build and balance.

《Corpse Knight》

Corpse Knight

《Corpse Knight》 is the 5th to 8th copy of 《Wayward Servant》. This opened the possibility of Zombie deck comboing with 《Rally the Ancestors》 or 《Return to the Ranks》. We’ve now seen the power of 《Stitcher’s Supplier》, 《Gravecrawler》, and 《Carrion Feeder》 in the 《Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis》 deck. There is still 《Cryptbreaker》 and the newly printed 《Undead Augur》 to provide some solid card advantage source.

If there is some sort of banning to stop the overpowered graveyard strategies, may be Zombie can sneak its way to be a solid tier 2 deck.

《Field of the Dead》

Field of the Dead

《Field of the Dead》 looks like a 《Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle》 variant. It demands getting extra lands into play to enable it. Amulet Titan is one of the fringe decks (like it or not) in Modern, and I think 《Field of the Dead》 could be a nice alternate win condition the deck has needed for a long time.

Your opponent will always need to use their full resources to stop the 《Primeval Titan》s or to push with maximum speed to finish the game. 《Field of the Dead》 could provide you with a couple of blockers or with 《Sakura-Tribe Scout》 and 《Azusa, Lost but Seeking》, you could make multiple Zombies a turn and run opponent over with that.

《Lotus Field》

Lotus Field

Another addition to Amulet Titan. With 《Amulet of Vigor》, a bounceland could net you two extra mana whereas 《Lotus Field》 could net you three extra mana. The possibility of boosting with even more extra mana could enable lots of new interactions. I think 《Lotus Field》 can be an easy singleton for the deck.


These are the potential cards for Modern in Core Set 2020. Modern right now is in an unhealthy status where Hogaak is overwhelming the format. Our only hope would probably be that the London Mulligan could actually help other decks more than it helps Hogaak. However, I believe the chance of this is very low and it is highly likely that we see some bannings in a month or two. There is also a Modern Mythic Championship very soon in Barcelona. If there is no new B&R announcement, I could see it ended up something like 《Neoform》 vs Hogaak all the way.

NeoformHogaak, Arisen Necropolis

While I enjoy seeing broken things happen in Modern, I am not sure that is something the majority of the community would like to see. After all, Modern is a format where players play their pet deck all the time to fit into different metagames.

Let’s hope for the best for Modern.

Lee Shi Tian (Twitter / Twitch)

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Lee Shi Tian

Lee Shi Tian Lee Shi Tian is a super star from Hong Kong. He has 5 PT top 8s and 10 GP top 8s with 1 trophy and is well known as a Modern specialist. He is an outstanding player but also well known as a great community leader for Asia. Lee and his squad "Team Mint Card" made a lot of excellent results one after another at pro scene. His impressive results and contributions were rewarded and he was elected Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame 2018. Read more articles by Lee Shi Tian