Hello everyone, and welcome back to another Modern article here on Strictly Average MTG. As we near the end of the year it is time to look back on the new cards we received that have impacted the Modern format in Magic: the Gathering. Every new set that’s released in Standard will always have some number of cards people play in Modern. Sometimes new cards will provide better options to an existing archetype, or create a new archetype all together. Now we won’t talk about all of the cards that did, but in my opinion these are the cards that have appeared the most among decklists and opponents I play against.
Before we start I do have an honorable mention.
Honorable Mention: Sarkhan, Fireblood
When the core sets returned this year with Core Set 2019 we were provided five new mono color planeswalkers, and there was one that has appeared in Modern over the others. That card is Sarkhan, Fireblood. Arguably the best version of Sarkhan this card helps you cast your Dragon spells at a cheaper rate. Any card, especially a permanent, that reduces the mana cost of other cards in your hand can be quite powerful. Let’s take a look at a possible deck this card can be in.
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Dragon Tempest
4 Draconic Roar
3 Anger of the Gods
In my spotlight on Sarkhan (which seems like an eternity ago) I initially spoke of a Modern “Dragon Stompy” deck. This deck takes a similar approach, by adding in a few more “Dragons matter” cards, and making it feel more like a tribal deck. Joining Sarkhan is Chandra, Torch of Defiance. With both of them on the battlefield all it takes is tapping Cavern of Souls for non-colorless mana, and you can get a heavily discounted Stormbreath Dragon.
10: Wizard’s Retort & Wizard’s Lightning
Dominaria was released in the Spring of this year to much fanfare. We were finally going back to largest, and best known world in the games history. Being able to travel to Llanowar, see Teferi, and witness The Weatherlight fly by brought back memories to a lot of established players of Magic: the Gathering. Many of us were hoping that for this set’s release, which helped celebrate the game’s 25th year anniversary, that we would see powerful cards like Counterspell and/or Lightning Bolt return to Standard.
Well… not quite.
With both Wizard’s Retort, and Wizard’s Lightning, Wizards of the Coast was giving a nod to what the original idea of the game was: two wizards battling against each other across a battlefield. While these spells cost three mana respectfully they are cheaper if you control a Wizard. It did not take long for players to run to Gatherer and look for how many creatures with the type “Wizard” they can find.
Fellow content creator Jeff Hoogland created the first list for Izzet Wizards, a true tempo deck focused around these two cards. If I were to build this deck here is how it would look.
As you can see you want to load up on creatures with the “Wizard” archetype. Using these cheap creatures, with cheap early interaction you can out tempo your opponent. While Wizard’s Retort is used in Standard for this archetype it was dropped in Modern in favor of other spells. This deck is not only more tempo oriented than Jeskai “Control”, but also (in my opinion) the best Delver of Secrets deck in the format.
When looking over the top ten new cards for Modern one of the things I primarily looked for was a card’s impact in the format. I will admit that when I worked on my review of Dimir cards in Guilds of Ravnica that I missed this one. Discovery // Dispersal has been seeing play in one of Modern’s most known multi-colored decks, and also primarily used for it’s Discovery side I can see either side being played. This card is currently a centerpiece for the combo focused in the four colored Goryo’s Vengeance deck.
This Glint-Eye colored (UBRG) deck is base Rakdos while splashing both blue and green for the other cards needed. The deck’s focus is to get a large creature in the graveyard to bring back a giant legendary creature with Griselbrand. Where Discovery // Dispersal helps is with it’s Surveil mechanic. Looking at the top two cards, and choosing to leave any on top, or put any into the graveyard, helps support Faithless Looting allowing you to go through your deck quickly to set up a game winning play.
This example deck was played by Nadher Tabash at a recent Star City Games Modern Classic in Baltimore.
8: Karn, Scion of Urza
When we returned to Dominaria one of the planeswalkers we were re-introduced to was none other than Karn. Nicknamed “Corporate Karn” (due to this version having pants compared to Karn Liberated) this version may not be as powerful as his previous version, however he does still see play. While the majority of any main deck play has appeared in Mono Red Prison, and Steel Stompy decks in Legacy this does appear in sideboards of decks in Modern such as Hardened Scales Affinity. Let’s look at an example deck.
4 Ancient Stirrings
While Karn, Scion of Urza may not have necessarily pushed this deck it did provide this deck additional artifacts with the -2 ability on the card. Keep in mind the tokens created are not getting counters, but can become arbitrarily large when you make a lot of thopters with Hangarback Walker. This deck also has room for customization so Karn can easily be played either in the main deck, or the sideboard (usually as two copies). Karn, Scion of Urza also can see play in traditional Affinity decks, and Eldrazi decks in Modern.
Of the cards on this list this is the one that doesn’t necessarily have one home so having a few copies in your collection can lead you towards a number of decks.
7: Elvish Clancaller
Core Set 2019 brought many unexpected cards to us. It felt like a core set of old where we would have new cards along with reprints that either spark new ideas, or are able to add to an existing deck. In the case of Elvish Clancaller it was the additional lord Elves players needed.
I recently wrote about the history of Elves, and their place in Modern. You can read about it here.
3 Lead the Stampede
Elvish Clancaller into Elvish Archdruid can really power out stronger Elves as the game goes on. Sometimes you can even use Elvish Clancaller as a combat trick allowing you to go put another one into play in response to blockers (or direct damage).
6: Supreme Phantom
Once again we stop by Core Set 2019 for another card to impact Modern, and this time it may have made an existing deck a contender for the best in the format. The deck I’m mentioning is Bant Spirits. Let’s quickly take a look.
3 Aether Vial
3 Botanical Sanctum
3 Flooded Strand
3 Horizon Canopy
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Windswept Heath
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Temple Garden
Perhaps the best Aether Vial deck in the format the creatures in the deck can disrupt a lot of decks that try to interact with removal spells. On top of being hard to remove this deck highlights why Terminus is needed due to the presence of Drogskol Captain, Spell Queller, and Selfless Spirit. Against decks that have blocked a non-spirit in Reflector Mage acts as a removal spell thanks to the inclusion of Collected Company.
This deck is quite powerful, and with the evasion of most creatures it can end games fairly, but quickly. If you have played during the period in Standard that included Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon you could do no wrong by building this deck.
This is only half of the top ten of this year so you’ll have to wait until next week. This is one of the great things about the Modern format is that often times new Standard cards can not only enhance it, but also change it’s direction. Will I mention a new deck that came from Guilds of Ravnica next week? (SPOILER ALERT: Yes) Is Teferi on my list? (Are you really asking that?) Come back next week for the second half of my top ten.
Until next week…
TAP MORE MANA!!!
Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.