Zendikar Rising, Omnath, and My Current Thoughts on Modern

Jacob Nagro

Jacob Nagro

Introduction

The Zendikar Rising full set has now been previewed and my first impression is that this looks like a huge decline in power level compared to what we’ve seen the last couple years. While some of the cards look good enough to see a little play in Modern, a lot of it looks outclassed by cards from the last year and a half that have also completely overtaken Modern.

Omnath, Locus of Creation

With that being said, the card I’m most excited to start playing with in Modern is 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》. I believe 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 has the power it needs to compete in Modern right now, and I’m excited to see its impact on the format in the next few months.

To start I’m going to go over some of the other cards in Zendikar Rising that I think will make a showing in Modern. I don’t really expect any of these to become major roleplayers, but just find their homes and improve some archetypes.

Cards That Could Have an Impact on Modern

Modal lands

Emeria's CallSea Gate RestorationAgadeem's Awakening
Shatterskull SmashingTurntimber Symbiosis

For the most part I’m only looking at the cycle of Mythic Sorcery/Land cards, 《Emeria’s Call》, 《Sea Gate Restoration》, 《Agadeem’s Awakening》, 《Shatterskull Smashing》, and 《Turntimber Symbiosis》. All of these cards will likely see some amount of Modern play because the opportunity cost is rather low.

That being said most 3 or more color decks don’t have a lot of room for lands that only produce 1 color, and on top of that cards like 《Lava Dart》 and 《Mystic Sanctuary》 would reward a player for just playing a basic land over these cards if they really didn’t value the options.

In the history of Modern it always seems like modal cards come up short. With the exception of 《Archmage’s Charm》, 《Cryptic Command》, and 《Boros Charm》, most cards never make the cut. They always seem to be competing with efficient cards that would better suit a more narrow gameplan of the deck.

Archmage's CharmCryptic CommandBoros CharmIzzet Charm

《Izzet Charm》 always comes to mind as the card I’ve frequently seen show up in early iterations of various Modern decks and eventually never making the cut as a list becomes more tuned. Luckily these cards are competing with lands, which gives them the best shot of seeing Modern play.

Turntimber SymbiosisPrimeval Titan

《Turntimber Symbiosis》 seems the most likely to have the biggest impact on Modern given its use in Amulet Titan. While you can’t find the land half with 《Primeval Titan》, it can increase your density of threats while still functioning as a land drop in the early game that can be picked up with a bounceland later on.

Will Pulliam, someone I consider an expert at the archetype, believes that 4 copies of 《Turntimber Symbiosis》 will be normal in Amulet Titan moving forward, and I’m inclined to agree with him.

《Ancient Greenwarden》

Ancient Greenwarden

《Turntimber Symbiosis》 might not be the only new inclusion for Amulet Titan or similar decks however. Occasionally in these 《Primeval Titan》 archetypes we will see them sideboard a 《Ramunap Excavator》, and while the cheap cost of 《Ramunap Excavator》 can be quite appealing, the high ceiling of 《Ancient Greenwarden》 might prove itself more valuable.

Field of the DeadValakut, the Molten Pinnacle

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this popping up as a 1 of in the occasional ramp deck to have access to with 《Summoner’s Pact》 or 《Eladamri’s Call》. While not great with bouncelands, this offers nice closing power with 《Field of the Dead》 or 《Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle》, and is still nice to pair with something like 《Ghost Quarter》 in Amulet Titan.

《Sea Gate Stormcaller》 and 《Magmatic Channeler》

Sea Gate StormcallerMagmatic Channeler

These are both cards that I expect to see more play in Legacy than in Modern. There is a common trend for this to be the case with many cards that care a lot about instants and sorceries, like 《Delver of Secrets》 or 《Dreadhorde Arcanist》, and this is mostly just due to a better selection of cantrips in Legacy compared to Modern.

I expect 《Sea Gate Stormcaller》 likely won’t be much of a player due to this, but I could see 《Magmatic Channeler》 making its way into the Red Prowess decks as those decks seem to be getting increasingly better at playing a long game and turning the corner quickly when they need to.

New Land Hate

Confounding ConundrumLithoform BlightCleansing Wildfire

Zendikar Rising is offering a new selection of land hate in the form of 《Confounding Conundrum》, 《Lithoform Blight》, and 《Cleansing Wildfire》.

None of these feel like heavy hitters as 《Lithoform Blight》 and 《Cleansing Wildfire》 feel very similar to 《Spreading Seas》, which isn’t seeing much play either, but they are all welcome additions to the format. I’m a big fan of cards like this existing in order to reduce the number of potential bans in Modern, so I’m happy to see potential problems being solved by new printings instead.

Ghost QuarterField of Ruin

《Confounding Conundrum》 and 《Cleansing Wildfire》 might also spark some new decks trying to lock out your opponent’s lands in the early turns. Both play well with 《Ghost Quarter》 and 《Field of Ruin》, and as someone that’s played a Mono White 《Martyr of Sands》 deck a reasonable amount, I can appreciate the angle of exploiting the low amounts of basics players usually use in Modern.

Aggressive Landfall Cards

Skyclave Pick-AxeAkoum HellhoundBrushfire Elemental

《Skyclave Pick-Axe》, 《Akoum Hellhound》, and 《Brushfire Elemental》 all can pack a serious punch in a Landfall aggro deck alongside 《Steppe Lynx》 and 《Plated Geopede》. I actually think this deck could now be built in a way to consistently goldfish a lot of turn 3 kills with turn 4 being the failcase.

The issue is it’s incredibly one-dimensional and your deck is almost entirely 1 toughness creatures, leaving you vulnerable to cards like 《Lava Dart》 and 《Wrenn and Six》.

ScapeshiftValakut, the Molten Pinnacle

I know a while ago in Modern I’ve seen some Landfall aggro decks utilizing 《Scapeshift》 as not only a way to just get 4 triggers off 1 card, but also to include a couple 《Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle》s and still give yourself the classic 7 land 18 damage combo.

I’m sure these Landfall cards will make whatever that deck was trying to do better, but I doubt it will be good enough for the current era of Modern.

《Crawling Barrens》

Crawling Barrens

I expect this card to see play in both regular Tron and Eldrazi Tron. It seems like a really low cost to find room for at least 1 copy if not more, and it also seems like a great payoff to have access to if you’re flooded as a Tron deck.

While it can be pretty simply answered by a 《Fatal Push》 or 《Path to Exile》, having 1 more threat than your opponent has answers is all it takes to win the game, and especially against attrition decks, turning your top deck 《Expedition Map》s or 《Sylvan Scrying》s into a very quickly clock should determine a good amount of games of Modern.

I would actually expect Eldrazi Tron specifically to maybe lower their current toolbox of various lands to get with 《Expedition Map》 or even increase their land count in order to use more copies of 《Crawling Barrens》.

《Omnath, Locus of Creation》

Omnath, Locus of Creation

As I said before, this is the card I’m most excited to see in Modern. Currently Modern seems dominated by 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 decks, and the lists I see are all playing similar Midrange/Control gameplans across Sultai, Temur, and Bant.

I expect 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 will now open the door for RGUW 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 midrange to take over. In my mind this card is just so good in every spot you’d want a 4 mana card in Modern, and the most challenging part of deckbuilding with it won’t be playing 4 colors, but how to best spend the mana from the 2nd part of its Landfall trigger.

Flooded StrandMisty RainforestScalding Tarn

This would usually mean you’d want to find cards that you can spend mana on proactively, because the frequent play pattern would be to play 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 and a fetchland in the same turn, meaning you’d have 5 mana available to you after you get 4 mana from the 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》.

I don’t think it’s incredibly necessary to use all 5 mana in that scenario, and I like the idea of not going out of my way to find some awkward 5 drop like 《Golos, Tireless Pilgrim》 to feel like I’m getting more out of that scenario.

Here’s an example deck showing what the current 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 Midrange decks could look like if they started using 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 as well.

Lightning BoltSnapcaster MageShark Typhoon

Naturally a deck with a lot of reactive elements will need to be tuned for the expected field. I liked the idea of using 《Lightning Bolt》 as my primary removal spell as the damage you can threaten from 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》’s 3rd Landfall trigger is quite high. I also could see leaning higher on 《Snapcaster Mage》 and 《Shark Typhoon》 in order to further leverage that pressure.

The other notable thing about 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 is you don’t really have to leverage its 2nd or 3rd Landfall triggers to make it amazing. In an aggressive matchup every fetchland with 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 represents 8 life if you just wait until your opponent’s turn to fetch, which seems quite hard to overcome.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 could also be played in something like 4C 《Saheeli Rai》, but I think right now it’s just too good to be playing it alongside 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, mostly because I think not playing with 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 in Modern right now is just a mistake.

My Thoughts on Modern

Right now I’m not playing as much Magic as I would like to be. For the most part I’m just paying attention to Modern and Legacy to see how the formats are continuing to develop.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

I really just wish 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 would get banned in Modern at this point, while I see some archetypes like Prowess or Big Mana strategies finding success, those decks just seem like they are taking turns being the opposite of whatever the 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 Midrange decks are trying to tune themselves to beat from week to week.

I find 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 to just simply be too good in every matchup, and in combination with 《Force of Negation》, these decks cover a lot of what felt like used to be their weaknesses.

Around the time I hit Gold in the Pro Player Club back in 2018, my answer to “Why do you like Modern so much?” was usually something like, “I like finding whatever broken strategy is being least prepared for at the moment.”

Mox OpalAd NauseamGrapeshotGlistener Elf

Whether that meant graveyard strategies, 《Mox Opal》 strategies, spell based combo like Ad Nauseam or Storm, or creature combo like Infect or 《Devoted Druid》, I tried to keep myself prepared to pick up any archetype I thought could be correct for the weekend, and usually avoided midrange or control strategies.

This is because I really dislike the idea of showing up to a tournament with a deck like Jund that’s historically felt like it had close matchups across the board.

My favorite part about Magic comes in deck selection and deck tuning, while there are a few standout decks like Amulet Bloom that I really got attached to and would play every tournament with, for the most part I used to really try to get some games in with every deck I think could be the sleeper choice for a weekend.

Right now I think that’s not the best thing you could be doing in Modern because the midrange and control strategies have just been given too many tools in the past couple years.

Force of NegationMystic SanctuaryUro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

I feel the needle has shifted from midrange strategies feeling close to 50-50 in every matchup to them feeling like they are 55-45 or better in almost every matchup. I think the main 3 culprits that are causing this are 《Force of Negation》, 《Mystic Sanctuary》, and 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》.

Of them I would really like to see 《Mystic Sanctuary》 and 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 banned in the near future. Not only do I find these cards both lead to unfun and repetitive gameplay in game, but they also are just homogenizing Modern midrange and control strategies into what feels like one big archetype.

Now instead of playing against Jund, Azorius Control, and some Temur midrange brew, I’m playing against Sultai Uro, Bant Uro, and Temur Uro. 《Force of Negation》 I think isn’t as much of a problem if the decks that are playing with it don’t have cards like 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 or 《Mystic Sanctuary》 to play to.

NeoformCathartic Reunion

《Force of Negation》 is admittedly a nice card to punish decks like 《Neoform》 or Dredge that are using the London Mulligan as effective card selection for their combo at the start of the game. I just dislike that in the mid game I feel like my blue opponents are effectively assembling their own combo of “tap out to Escape 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 but have 《Force of Negation》 to cover me for the turn I put my shields down”.

A lot of playing combo in Modern used to feel like you were finding the right moment to find your combo turn, you would find ways to pressure your opponent into spending their mana with things like attacking with 《Scrap Trawler》 or casting Ad Nauseam without 《Angel’s Grace》/《Phyrexian Unlife》. Now instead it feels like the control player is the one dictating the pace of the game, and the combo player is left with much less agency.

《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 being a 6/6 is threatening enough to end the game quickly, it helps stabilize against aggressive strategies, and if the game goes long the blue deck doesn’t have to worry about getting flooded with their higher land count, because 《Mystic Sanctuary》 and 《Field of the Dead》 have them covered.

Dig Through TimeTreasure CruiseDeathrite Shaman

As I said earlier, I’m not really a fan of banning cards, but right now I feel like 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 and 《Mystic Sanctuary》 have become bigger offenders of the format than previous bans. Banning them doesn’t feel that much harder to justify than 《Dig Through Time》, 《Treasure Cruise》, or 《Deathrite Shaman》 because all of them are just absurd with fetchlands, and Modern is effectively the lowest power level fetchland format.

Conclusion

I really hope something changes the format soon, it obviously doesn’t help that tabletop Magic doesn’t exist right now, but Magic just really feels like a different game when the premier midrange/control strategy in almost every format is built around 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》.

I know this article ended up more of a rant than usual, but I appreciate those of you that read it. As always, thank you, and feel free to contact me on twitter @jacobnagro.

Jacob Nagro (Twitter / Twitch)

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Jacob Nagro

Jacob Nagro Jacob Nagro is a pro player from United States. His first appearance was GP Denver 2016 where he made top 8 with UW Flash. He keeps trying hard and his effort was paid off as the Silver Level Pro in the 2016-2017 season. He played a spicy RB Bridgevine deck featuring Greater Gargadon and Bloodghast at the Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. His team went 7th place and he became a Gold Level Pro with the impressive record. Read more articles by Jacob Nagro

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