There are 54 sets in Modern containing over 10,000 cards to choose from to build a 60-card deck.
8th Edition, the earliest legal set in Modern, was released July 28, 2003. It’s not surprising that, thirteen-and-a-half years later, some cards have been forgotten in the shuffle.
Today I’m going to revisit a few cards I’ve played long ago that I’m surprised not to see popping up in Modern decklists.
Immediately after Golgari-Grave Troll was unbanned, it looked like Vengevine was due for a comeback. Lotleth Troll, Gravecrawler, and Ghoultree gave the deck a Zombie sub-theme that was resilient and powerful.
Now Prized Amalgam gives the deck another Zombie to bring back Gravecrawler.
During the latter half of 2016 we saw Dredge go wild, ultimately leading to the re-banning of Golgari Grave-Troll. It was generally accepted that milling half of your deck with Cathartic Reunion and hitting a bunch of Narcomeobas and such was the way to go.
Now that Dredge is weakened, it may be time to look for other graveyard elements to take advantage of.
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Hedron Crab
- 4 Vengevine
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Prized Amalgam
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 1 Haunted Dead
From Ravnica block, Burning-Tree Shaman was a great creature in the Standard R/G beatdown decks of long ago.
It’d be a long list if I were to name each and every activated ability in Modern. Taxing fetchlands will be the most common. The bottom line is that it’s simply a great card that will accumulate some extra damage without you having to try too hard.
Certain combo decks get stopped by Burning-Tree Emissary. Viscera Seer and Saffi Eriksdotter will have their loops stopped if Kitchen Finks or two Essence Wardens aren’t involved.
Imagine a Gurmag Angler, Platinum Emperion, or Tasigur, the Golden Fang on the battlefield earlier than usual. Your Burn deck has a tough time cobbling together enough to remove it. Things are looking bleak.
Now imagine making them sacrifice their big thing. Oh, and you get rid of about a third of their life total while you’re at it.
Hit // Run was a big player in Ravinca Block Constructed, often being the best card in the Mardu Burn deck, so good it was played alongside Dark Confidant with the risk of taking eight damage.
Burn often has trouble deciding on killing creatures or aiming the Burn at the opponent. This is why Searing Blaze is so good when it’s good. Hit // Run is basically a super Searing Blaze that has been long forgotten.
Bant Charm is one of the best removal spells I’ve had the pleasure of casting. It’s a shame that it’s nowhere to be seen in Modern. I remember loading up on Bant Charms in my Extended Zoo deck for Grand Prix Oakland 2010.
It “kills” any creature, even those that can regenerate or have indestructible. It counters instant spells, acting like Dispel in a format where Dispel is a passable maindeck card. Destroying an artifact is also convenient for a deck to have access to when it can’t really afford too many reactive cards (if any).
Bant Charm isn’t efficient, but that’s okay with me. It’s going to solve the problem, no matter what it is. It’s closer to Vindicate, Maelstrom Pulse, and Consul’s Judgment.
Legacy has Force of Will. Modern has Disrupting Shoal. Few know that there’s also another “free” counterspell legal in Modern.
Two cards to exile is much larger than one. Cathartic Reunion runs into some late-game situations where it can’t be cast while Tormented Voice could.
You also can’t take creatures, which can be trouble against something like a Primeval Titan. It also won’t stop you from getting beaten down by Wild Nacatl.
What can you take?
Well, how about Karn Liberated or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon? Really, any planeswalker is great to steal. How about an Ancestral Vision or Cathartic Reunion? Or, more recently, something like a Beck // Call?
Commandeer may not be the most efficient, but it’s undeniably great sometimes. Often enough in my opinion that it deserves to see some Modern play.
I played a lot with Force Spike in my time. It was great, and that was a time when Force Spike was expected. Still, much like Daze in Legacy, players simply don’t have time to wait and play around everything.
- 4 Figure of Destiny
- 4 Ethersworn Canonist
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 2 Ranger of Eos
- 4 Steppe Lynx
- 4 Student of Warfare
Once you get someone once with Mana Tithe, they will be playing around it for the rest of the match. Sometimes people are so shaken by “getting got” by a Mana Tithe they’ll be traumatized for the rest of the tournament.
Seriously, though, Mana Tithe is a sweet maindeck card that the Modern format hasn’t seen in years. I’d be proud to pilot a mono-white deck with Mana Tithe, sideboard them out after every Game 1, and then have my opponents leaving a mana open every turn. Better yet, I’d show up to the tournament with Mono-White without Mana Tithe in my deck at all and have people play around it! It worked with Stifle in Legacy Infect.
We see Trinisphere in Legacy decks, but why not Modern decks? The lack of Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors certainly makes Trinisphere slower, but I can see it being great against anything combo-oriented.
Puresteel Paladin decks, Ad Nauseam, and Storm simply can’t beat a Trinisphere on the battlefield. An early enough Trinisphere will be great against most anything, really.
Trinisphere likely needs to be paired with fast mana to operate at full efficiency. Simian Spirit Guide and Desperate Ritual come to mind.
I’m curious if something can be done with Trinisphere and the improvise mechanic, perhaps something along the lines of casting Metallic Rebuke to counter your opponent’s big spell and then firing off some cheaper cards once Trinisphere is tapped. Yeah, the old “turns off when it’s tapped” wording is on Trinisphere, just waiting for its symmetry to be broken.
Braid of Fire was printed in Coldsnap, a set that had the standards of Magic slightly bent. Dark Depths and Counterbalance emerged from the snowy set. Most of the other cards were unplayable.
Back then, you used to take mana burn for unspent mana each phase at the price of one life per one mana unspent. Now there is no drawback for generating copious amounts of mana.
With Braid of Fire, you’re limited to instants and activated abilities to use during your upkeep. Honestly, I’m not sure myself how to best use a bunch of red mana. I do believe that Braid of Fire is inherently abuseable as a card.
Lightning Bolt and Skred are good starts. From there I’d look into ways to dump off mana. Perhaps everyone’s favorite, Walking Ballista?
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver makes a rare appearance in mill decks occasionally, but effectively nowhere else. Why not?
Ashiok is a three-mana planeswalker that has five loyalty after the first activation, which is pretty sturdy for a three-drop.
The best payoffs in my mind are the extreme angle Ashiok attacks from, as it’s so hard to remove and ultimates fairly quickly, and how Ashiok can exile huge chunks of the opponent’s library, possibly exiling enough where their deck doesn’t function anymore. Against a Valakut deck, you could exile enough Mountains and/or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacles that they can no longer kill you. Against Ad Nauseam, you could get their Lightning Storm and Laboratory Maniac. Against any deck with fetchlands, you can exile the valid targets in their deck to where fetchlands are rendered blank.
If I were to play a Sultai or Esper deck in Modern, I would look into having Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver in my sideboard.
Most decks have a Plan A and then a backup Plan B. What if your deck had plans all the way from A to Z?
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 4 Eternal Witness
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 1 Kataki, War's Wage
- 1 Orzhov Pontiff
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 1 Reveillark
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Wild Nacatl
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Qasali Pridemage
- 4 Wall of Omens
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Primeval Titan
- 4 Spellskite
- 4 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Geist of Saint Traft
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
- 1 Pendelhaven
- 2 Forest
- 4 Wooded Foothills
- 2 Plains
- 2 Mountain
- 2 Island
- 4 Windswept Heath
- 4 Polluted Delta
- 4 Flooded Strand
- 4 Bloodstained Mire
- 1 Overgrown Tomb
- 4 Sacred Foundry
- 4 Temple Garden
- 1 Steam Vents
- 4 Stomping Ground
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Ghost Quarter
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Dryad Arbor
- 4 Horizon Canopy
- 4 Fire-Lit Thicket
- 4 Arid Mesa
- 4 Marsh Flats
- 4 Misty Rainforest
- 4 Scalding Tarn
- 4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
- 4 Verdant Catacombs
- 2 Celestial Colonnade
- 4 Raging Ravine
- 1 Sejiri Steppe
- 4 Stirring Wildwood
- 2 Tectonic Edge
- 1 Kessig Wolf Run
- 2 Gavony Township
This build isn’t perfect, of course. It does represent what’s possible when deck size constraints are thrown out the window. I’m just surprised no one has tried it.
I know; Battle of Wits is unwieldy and inconsistent. Some of those unpleasant elements can be mitigated.
First is the fear of getting the entire deck knocked over. Upright, rectangular plastic “shoes” can help keep a large deck in place.
Next is dealing with the fact that four Battle of Wits are so few and your deck is so big. My response to this is to build a “real” deck full of good cards that have intermixing draws that work together.
With 235 cards, you also want to take advantage of the fact that, if you play a one-of, you probably will never draw it. This makes one-of “silver bullets” even more powerful. Kataki, War’s Wage fits this criterion of a card that’s amazing against Affinity and largely nothing else. Here I’m going with toolbox cards like Fauna Shaman, Chord of Calling, and Knight of the Reliquary that can find others within the huge deck.
Scapeshift, Primeval Titan, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle represent another possible winning route without a huge cost in deckbuilding space. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Restoration Angel pose another way to win the game out of nowhere.
Then there’s always the beatdown plan of curving Wild Nacatl into Qasali Pridemage into Geist of Saint Traft.
Every game is something fresh and new to discover!