From a Standard-legal set, it’s hard to place a card into Modern on raw rate.
Usually, the cards that do something to the format are there because they hit close on rate but add some new, unique angle. They create a fundamental shift in the format.
From the early Magic Online Modern results, Throne of Eldraine has a lot of those cards.
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Ornithopter
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 3 Memnite
- 2 Etched Champion
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Vault Skirge
- 2 Gingerbrute
To illustrate the concept I’m talking about, Gingerbrute and All That Glitters are showing up in Affinity.
The fundamental shift is All That Glitters. It’s been a while since I was playing with Steelshaper’s Gift as an extra couple of copies of Cranial Plating, but this one costs two mana. Not the full four to find and equip that Steelshaper’s Gift did. Not even the three mana a Cranial Plating costs. Just two, and unlike Master of Etherium, all of the counting damage has “haste.”
That lets your Affinity deck go back to the hyper-aggressive starts the deck was optimized for prior to Experimental Frenzy. Hands where you stack multiple All That Glitters and Cranial Plating effects can easily deal lethal actual damage by Turn 3, where previously most of your Turn 3 kills were Inkmoth Nexus. The removal of Faithless Looting has left people kinda unprepared for that speed, and while Modern Horizons brought a ton of messed-up tools to deal with artifact decks, those cards require Affinity to be seen as a target before people show up with them. The new Paradoxical Outcome decks being largely immune to Collector Ouphe and Stony Silence is a huge upside, sreaking as someone who once went twelve wins and Stony Silence losses at a Grand Prix with this deck.
This won’t be the last we see of All That Glitters, but it’s a good lesson that redundancy can sometimes be the fundamental shift.
Emry, Lurker of the Loch wasn’t a fundamental shift for Whirza. In fact, it was largely the same card as Goblin Engineer. It costs one usually and is “on color,” but Goblin Engineer always hits Thopter Foundry and there isn’t really a concept of “on color” with Mox Opal and Arcum’s Astrolabe.
The Paradoxical Outcome deck also doesn’t get fundamentally shifted. It was already a good long-game grindy deck, so the real gain was Mox Amber tapping for mana. The thing the Paradoxical Outcome needed is a more reliable fast kill, which it doesn’t have unless it draws Urza, Lord High Artificer.
Emry also doesn’t fundamentally shift Jeskai Ascendancy. The problem with that deck was never “what happens if I untap with a creature” but actually having things survive. Emry’s second toughness does mean it isn’t de facto banned by Wrenn and Six, but it still dies to every other card.
Where we see Emry making fundamental shifts is in hybrids of these decks. Because it does a bit of everything very well, you can try to bridge some gaps that weren’t possible before. The Jeskai Ascendancy – Paradoxical Outcome version solves some of the speed issues Outcome previously had with fast Emry kills, which is a good first step.
Of course, it might end up that Emry is just best in normal Whirza as extra Goblin Engineers. Not every big shift can succeed. Emry, Lurker of the Loch just has backup opportunities as a really good card if it isn’t an archetype-definer.
I think if I left this section describing Once Upon a Time as anything other than a fundamental shift to a ton of decks, I would be lying or ignoring decades of Magic history.
Cantrips are good. Free cantrips are “what the actual heck is going on.”
This Selesnya Hexproof list is the purest proof of concept of what Once Upon a Time does. It feels like a Serum Powder that is also a Magic card instead of Darksteel Ingot, allowing you to just not play bad cards in any deck with creatures and/or lands you want to see.
This same concept of cleaning up garbage slots into a smoother shell applies to a bunch of other decks, including what I played at SCG Philadelphia.
- 1 Snow-Covered Forest
- 4 Gemstone Mine
- 1 Boros Garrison
- 1 Selesnya Sanctuary
- 1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
- 3 Gruul Turf
- 1 Ghost Quarter
- 4 Simic Growth Chamber
- 1 Vesuva
- 1 Grove of the Burnwillows
- 3 Tolaria West
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 1 Khalni Garden
- 1 Slayers' Stronghold
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Radiant Fountain
- 1 Field of the Dead
After the London mulligan, my big complaint about Amulet Titan was the inconsistency relative to other decks with similar power levels. You aren’t more powerful than Mono-Green Tron, just more flexible, so being more inconsistent is a huge issue.
Was, rather. You just have more good hands now, and you always do your thing.
To touch another set, Field of the Dead is a huge game changer as well. Being able to convert lands to tangible capital is a huge change for Amulet Titan, making it actually impossible for fair decks to compete after a Primeval Titan instead of merely super-difficult. Sadly, Vesuva has to copy a land already on the battlefield and you can’t single-search for double Field, but often you can just get Vesuva anyway, bounceland it, and play it as a Field later.
I think there’s still a ton of ground to break with Once Upon a Time. I know I’m literally reading the text of the card and breaking the [author name="Jadine Klomparens"]Jadine Klomparens[/author] Article Rule, but any deck that wants to find a land or a specific creature is fair game. A land-light Abzan Death’s Shadow deck that also has more redundant Shadows via Ranger-Captain of Eos comes to mind, and you can cycle Street Wraith into Once Upon a Time since it isn’t a spell.
Is Merchant of the Vale a fundamental shift for anything?
Ask Emma Handy if she activates the ability often in Dredge. If you can do a Faithless Looting flashback impression with repeated activations, the card is a big deal. Otherwise it’s a marginal upgrade on Insolent Neonate.
I think there’s still a ton of work to do with Mystic Sanctuary, but the card is very clearly a fundamental shift in a very basic way.
If you are willing to play almost entirely Islands in your deck, you can now fetch a relevant game action. The obvious one we have seen is Taking Turns, where lands are now Time Warp, and then Cryptic Command bouncing your land is Time Warp, and it’s just a wrap.
But I think that’s only the start of things.
The interesting part of these heavy-blue fair decks is the application of Archmage’s Charm. You now have a reason to play the mana for the card, and Mystic Sanctuary recurring it is almost always good value. I don’t know if I agree with the full list here, but the core Izzet premise here can be meshed with a lot of different end-games.
Just don’t trick yourself into playing Izzet Charm. All three effects are good. Paying two mana for them is not.
All the historical issues the Temur deck had revolved around not being able to kill Tarmogoyf-sized creatures. Those are now Elks. Everything is an Elk.
I don’t have a list, but Oko is definitely a fundamental shift to Modern. How many good Simic kill spells are there? Why is there now a repeatable one that also makes threats? Why does Whirza have a threat that beats Collector Ouphe?
You don’t beat most Modern linear decks with one piece of interaction. You need the second, third, whatever number. When you have the Azorius Control issue where you are half Path to Exiles, half Negates, you can’t reliably force the games to the point where your deck can win. Each flexible answer adds up to every hand having multiple pieces of interaction and a threat to take on anything.
I’ve been messing around with this BUG Shadow list for a bit. Best result was losing 5-0 match to Humans after taking g1 (w/many less good on the way).
Idea was to play canlands + Shadow + OuaT + Stub. OuaT helps a lot with openers since often you’re just missing land or threat. pic.twitter.com/svjhYFTs2s
— Ari Zax (@argzax) October 4, 2019
In only two deck dumps, that’s six high-profile cards making massive shifts in the Modern format. And I haven’t even seen some of the cards on my Top 10 Broken Cards list: Fires of Invention nowhere, a couple of Witchclaw Talismans but nothing outside huge of Ad Nauseam, and definitely no Bartered Cow.
For a non-rotating format, Modern really has been rendered unrecognizable by the last three non-Core sets.