Kaladesh Through A Modern Lens

Standard won’t be the only format at #SCGINDY! Jennifer Long has the latest takes on what Kaladesh will do for players in the Modern Classic, from supersized Snapcaster Mages to Platinum Emperion hits!

Kaladesh is bringing us lots of beautiful art and story, but what I want to know is how the cards are likely to impact Modern. Most people will have reviews of this set for Limited or Standard play but don’t really talk about much beyond that. I have no doubt that some of these cards are going to make a huge impact on Modern and others will be tried to varying success. Some cards look promising, but I fear they will simply be traps and not actually good cards for the Modern format, even if they are perfect in Standard.

Authority of the Consuls is an interesting card with Hatebear-like abilities but probably doesn’t fit into that deck. Generally Hatebears players are looking to have these types of effects on creatures that they can also attack you with. Where I think that this card would fit nicely is the new G/W Enchantress deck that has recently become more popular due to SaffronOlive’s videos. This card reminds me of Blind Obedience, which has a similar effect for both creatures and artifacts.

Blind Obedience has extort as a life drain option, where Authority of the Consuls automatically gains life on creatures entering the battlefield.

Cataclysmic Gearhulk could see some play in Abzan at the top of the curve. It reminds me a bit of a Siege Rhino with Tragic Arrogance stapled to it instead of Lightning Helix. It does cost one more mana, which worries me about its Modern playability. In an ideal situation you would want to play Cataclysmic Gearhulk when you are already ahead, keeping it, a Tarmogoyf, and your Liliana of the Veil while taking out most opposing threats. It could take the sideboard slot of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as a pseudo-battlefield wipe, leaving behind a body instead of a Soldier generator.

I am extremely excited about Ceremonious Rejection. I can see this card being played by every deck that runs blue, even if only in the sideboard. Colorless spells are huge in Modern right now, with three of the top decks using them almost exclusively. This card will allow any blue deck to leave up a single blue mana source and stop decks like Tron, Affinity, and Eldrazi in their tracks. We finally have our one-mana counterspell to stop the fast and big-mana colorless decks.

Padeem, Consul of Innovation is an intriguing card that I could see making an appearance in a deck like Tezzerator. This definitely will not go into Affinity; by the time they could cast it, instead they could win the game. Lantern Control normally has low-cost artifacts, so they may not always get a benefit off of Padeem. This card also gets weaker against opposing Wurmcoil Engines or other artifact strategies.

Paradoxical Outcome looks like an engine for a Standard Eggs deck, so naturally it might fit in Modern Eggs. I can see a variant of Modern Eggs being built to try to support this card, but in general its strategy is to sacrifice artifacts and reanimate them, not bounce and recast them.

Where I think we are more likely to see this card in Modern is as battlefield wipe insurance. Four mana is a lot to hold up against a control deck, but when your opponent casts Supreme Verdict and you can save all of your creatures and punish them by drawing extra cards, four mana begins to seem worth it.

Torrential Gearhulk looks like a super Snapcaster Mage. It costs significantly more, but you can look at it similarly to holding up Snapcaster Mage and Cryptic Command flashed back, with lower blue mana requirements. Because you don’t have to pay for the flashed-back spell, Torrential Gearhulk may be the big sibling of Snapcaster Mage to play a single copy of.

I could also see Torrential Gearhulk slotting into the value-based Gifts Ungiven decks. When you are tutoring for four different cards, you want to be able to play them all despite what your opponent chooses. Now you can cast the ones put into the graveyard for free through a 5/6 flash creature.

Another deck I could see playing Torrential Gearhulk is Esper Teachings. It is looking to play instants and flash creatures along with Mystical Teachings to tutor up any spell in their deck. This seems like an excellent choice for a top end threat.

Harsh Scrutiny is a new variant of hand disruption most closely related to Despise, which sees no Modern play. However, the scry 1 ability may be enough to make it playable in the right situation. You can only take a creature card, which severely limits your options, but in the right metagame or in the sideboard, this could find a home.

Night Market Lookout screams combo to me, and there are two that stand out as contenders.

Presence of Gond has been used in some Modern combos before, usually with Midnight Guard. The weakness to that combo was that the tokens didn’t have haste, so you had to wait an entire turn to attack, leaving you vulnerable to Wrath of God or Pyroclasm. This version of the Presence of Gond combo can kill on the turn you make the tokens.

More attractively, you can stay in only two colors by suiting up your Night Market Lookout with Paradise Mantle and Freed from the Real, so your Lookout can generate the mana it needs to untap itself. Now we’ve taken the combo down from three cards, three colors, and seven mana to three cards, two colors, and four mana.

However, the biggest reason I don’t think combos based around this creature will make much of a splash in the format is because of Servant of Tymaret. These were all already possible on this three-mana creature with the exact inverse ability of Night Market Lookout, but they never saw any play. It’s possible that being two mana cheaper could make a difference, or that having two creatures with the effect could provide the consistency to take the archetype over the edge, but I don’t find it likely.

Cathartic Reunion is just a bigger version of Tormenting Voice, which Dredge is likely to replace with this new card. This allows Dredge players to get their engine online much more quickly than Tormenting Voice allows.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance is almost self-explanatory. She will likely play a huge role in Modern, possibly even stirring new archetypes into existence. She is a four-mana, four-ability planeswalker who can be essentially two mana if you have a spell to spend RR on after you cast her. She protects herself, draws cards, and ramps you. What more could you want? It could see play in anything from Jund to Skred Red.

Madcap Experiment has been the source of several discussions and brews. I see this card birthing a whole new archetype in Modern based on searching up a large artifact that will allow you to win the game. Great targets for this card are Platinum Emperion, Blightsteel Colossus, and Platinum Angel. Soulfire Grand Master even allows you to find any artifact without dying.

Blossoming Defense originally caught my eye as a replacement for Apostle’s Blessing or Vines of Vastwood in Infect. The more I thought about this card, the more I realized it is just a better Ranger’s Guile and probably not playable in Modern after all. It can’t replace Apostle’s Blessing because the protection is used to get through blockers, and it can’t replace Vines of Vastwood because four is a magic number for Infect math: 4+4+1+1=10.

I have been told that Contraband Kingpin is perfect for Cheerios, are a combo deck that plays zero-mana artifacts, draws cards, and kills with Grapeshot…if it can support the splash. The biggest weakness is drawing too many lands and getting stuck, so the scry will keep that from happening. Contraband Kingpin being a 1/4 seems like a sign from Wizards to try it out in a Lightning Bolt format, similar to Eidolon of Rhetoric.

Almost everyone loves to play with planeswalkers, but I’m afraid Dovin Baan will be disappointing in Modern. I think that he is generally worse than Narset Transcendent, who doesn’t see play even in planeswalker-heavy control decks. I would not be surprised to see people trying to make a Dovin Baan deck work, but I don’t expect to see it in the top tiers.

Kambal, Consul of Allocation is a shining beacon for B/W Hatebears. I imagine him seeing play in the sideboard or even the maindeck, depending on the metagame. Even though three mana is normally the top end of the Hatebears curve, Kambal will be effective against so many decks that I would be surprised not to start seeing him in lists.

Scrapheap Scrounger could be the Modern version of Ichorid. Legacy Dredge uses Ichorid to return creatures to the battlefield, and this can do the same thing for Modern. Be sure to exile Insolent Neonate or dead Narcomoebas when you return Scrapheap Scourger to the battlefield so you can still use your Bloodghasts and Prized Amalgams.

Vehicles are cool, but they will be risky in Modern. They are an inherent two-for-one because you must have a creature on the battlefield in order to animate them. If you lose your creatures or your only creature gets locked down somehow, you are now looking at a dead card. These cards may be great in Standard, but they are just too weak for Modern.

Aether Hub could see play as a replacement for Tendo Ice Bridge. Only a few decks play Tendo Ice Bridge, but Aether Hub is strictly better. The counter being separate from the land means that, if your first copy is destroyed, you still have the counter to make colored mana on a second copy. It may seem like a minor change, but you might as well play the safer version if you have the choice.

The enemy-colored fast lands are here! These are one of the most exciting parts of Kaladesh for Modern players. There are so many possibilities for these cards in so many different decks that I think it will change the format as much as adding the allied-color fetchlands to the format did.

There are many interesting things to consider with this land cycle. Fast decks like Burn, Delver, Abzan Company, and Elves have been waiting for these for a long time. These new lands will allow them to have the colors they are looking for early without as much pain.

On the face of it, you might think only fast decks that thrive in the early-game want these lands and that any deck that enjoys going past turn 3 won’t want these. That may be true in some cases: if you are looking to curve out and be able to play a four-drop on turn 4 like Master of Waves in Merfolk, these are not ideal. However, If you are looking to play multiple cheap spells in the later turns of the game, like Jund, you can still play a one-drop and two-drop on turn 4 as you play Blooming Marsh tapped.

Both Blooming Marsh and Concealed Courtyard seem like they would fit very nicely into Abzan, but does Abzan really want to run fast lands? They normally are only looking for black mana on turn 1, unlike Jund, which wants the option to Lightning Bolt or Inquisition of Kozilek on turn 1. Siege Rhino costs four mana, which also points to the fast lands being less successful in Abzan.

Jeskai Control has a more interesting decision here. Ideally they want to curve into Nahiri, the Harbinger or Cryptic Command on turn 4. It is easier for a control deck to miss curving out perfectly than it is for an aggressive deck, though. If a land must enter the battlefield tapped on turn 4, Jeskai Control can still Mana Leak and Lightning Bolt that turn.

Botanical Sanctum might seem perfect for Infect, but the deck’s reliance on fetchlands to fuel delve for Become Immense means there is not room. If at some point Become Immense is no longer available to Infect, I would expect them to start playing this fast land.

My last consideration is: does Jund want to run Blooming Marsh? I don’t think that Jund will gain much by adding Blooming Marsh into their deck. Generally they are looking for the option between black and red on turn 1, making Blackcleave Cliffs the better fast land for Jund.

Inventors’ Fair is a gift for Lantern Control. They normally want black and green early to play Inquisition of Kozilek and Ancient Stirrings, but after the early turns, most of their spells are colorless. The third ability will likely not be relevant often, but gaining one life each turn against Burn shores up the challenging matchup. They are already playing Sun Droplet for the Burn and fast aggro matchups, so this seems like a much better replacement.

The Mother of Invention

There are so many exciting cards in this set that I was not able to talk about them all, and I may have latched onto a few that will be less successful. Are there any cool cards you are looking forward to building into Modern that I missed? I’m excited to see all of the changes take place in the upcoming months. Have a good week, and as always, happy gaming!