Third Sunrise? Breaking Brought Back In Modern

Brought Back is a “fixed” Second Sunrise, only able to return two permanent cards, but it’s also a mana cheaper than the banned spell! Todd Anderson explores its strange and wonderful possibilities in Modern.

“Ban fetchlands.”

That might be a sentence that comes to mind in the coming weeks as we explore the impact of Core Set 2020 on Modern. Specifically, this one oddball card comes to mind:

The first thing I thought of when I saw Brought Back was pairing it with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. The powerful planeswalker has been a relative nuisance in Standard over the last year, but the fact that it broke into older formats with ease led me to believe that it was one of the best planeswalkers ever printed. And now we have a white ramp spell to help us get there faster, as well as a spell that can bring it back if your opponent kills it.

Brought Back, for the most part, should be paired with fetchlands. For two mana and two fetchlands, you ramp right from two to five mana on the third turn. And while that’s nothing new for Modern, as people cast Karn Liberated on the third turn, it’s rare that control strategies get such a potent ramp effect.

We all know what control decks can do with a few extra mana. Cards like Snapcaster Mage get powered up. You get to cast a planeswalker spell and leave up mana to protect it with removal or a counterspell. And in the control mirrors, having a bit of extra mana is hugely important. But what else can Brought Back do?

Getting Aggressive

Brought Back offers a bit of resilience in the face of sweeper effects. At its core, I feel like this is the intended use. Much like Second Sunrise probably wasn’t meant to be a combo enabler, Brought Back is a way for you to fight back cheaply against control decks while still giving yourself a bit of utility in other spots. The worst type of card is one that’s too linear, and I think Brought Back pushes the line of “good” and “broken” depending on the way you’re trying to use it.

Alongside Steppe Lynx and/or Plated Geopede, Brought Back can offer some really fast kills. Landfall is an easy mechanic to break with a card that allows you to bring back two fetchlands, and these two are likely the cheapest creatures to pair with it. And interestingly enough, Brought Back can potentially give you some resilience in the face of spot removal.

I’m not sure I love it here, as it feels like you’re too vulnerable to normal interaction. I want Brought Back to be difficult to interact with in a positive way, which means focusing on ramping as opposed to “enters-the-battlefield” effects. Additionally, cards like Brought Back only get better as a game progresses, and you want to close games quickly with cards like Steppe Lynx.

In the past, I’ve seen some Scapeshift decks work nicely with Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede, so anything is possible. I’m actually just stoked that this could go in the same deck as these three cards and have great functionality all along the curve (and with every single card, to boot!).

Self-contained ways to generate two permanents heading to the graveyard is awesome. Knight of the Reliquary allows you to turn one of your Forests into Ghost Quarter or Horizon Canopy, and then Brought Back can let you…well…bring them back. I love the idea of using Knight of the Reliquary with Brought Back, as it does some of the least degenerate stuff imaginable while still feeling like it’s a pretty good effect.

I’m still looking for more reasons to play Knight of the Reliquary in Modern. And while Brought Back probably isn’t “it,” we just need a Green Sun’s Zenith unban and we’re back in business!

I’ve always like Renegade Rallier as a card, and it seems like Brought Back would be slotting into some of the same archetypes. Renegade Rallier focuses on the same types of deckbuilding as Brought Back, so the two should pair naturally. In some spots, you’ll want to use it like a ramp effect. At other times, you can use sacrifice outlets like Carrion Feeder or Viscera Seer to generate some additional value, returning three creatures all at once!

In a few weeks, I’m expecting Altar of Dementia to get banned. When that happens, I’m going to be looking for the new best graveyard deck to take its place. That deck will almost assuredly be Dredge, but I wouldn’t discount a value deck that plays some sort of infinite combo with protection in the form of Brought Back.

I’ve heard some chatter that this is just a fixed Second Sunrise. To an extent, I agree. They’re very similar, to be honest, but everyone who plays Magic understands the delta between mana costs. This is certainly less powerful than Second Sunrise, a card that singlehandedly fueled a degenerate combo deck (and that has a similar effect to a six-mana card), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also broken. In some ways, Yawgmoth’s Bargain is a worse Necropotence, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less busted.

Specialty Lands

The easiest way to break Brought Back is with lands, so let’s take a look at some of the more powerful lands to pair with this new instant.

The fetches seem like the obvious place to start. With two fetches, the baseline is ramping from two mana to five mana on the third turn. A lot of decks can utilize that extra mana, especially those that are trying to use a bunch of different utility lands. We all know that Aether Vial is good in white creature decks, but most people assume it’s because your creatures come in at instant speed and can’t be countered. The best part about Aether Vial is that you’re generating an absurd amount of extra mana for a very small investment.

Ramping up in a deck that normally doesn’t have mana acceleration is potentially dangerous, but the best part is that you just get to play a fine spell in a matchup where your opponent is killing your stuff. I love the idea of Brought Back as a defensive spell. It’s the proactive usage that people will try to break.

I love the idea of busting up lands with Brought Back. One of the downsides to cards like Ghost Quarter is that it’s negative card economy. That has been mitigated in the past by creatures like Leonin Arbiter, or just through brute force by Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Ramunap Excavator. Now, we have a reasonable, fair way to keep your opponent’s lands in check without much of a downside. And in the case of Field of Ruin, we actually get one mana back to help cast the Brought Back and don’t end up losing a land in the process.

In conjunction with Ghost Quarter (and maybe Steppe Lynx), Flagstones of Trokair seems like a great pairing with Brought Back. Cards that replace themselves while going to the graveyard are perfect for Brought Back, because you don’t mind sacrificing them for some amount of value. The trick is sacrificing them without spending much (or any) mana so that you have enough left over to cast the Brought Back.

Flagstones of Trokair is an old favorite of mine. I love combining it with Smallpox-type spells, so cards like Brought Back inspire me to go hard on building weird manabases to max out on value for these cheap cards.

The Horizon lands seem like a home run with Brought Back, giving you some added value in the later turns of the game. Cycling those lands and then bringing them back to cycle again on the following turn is some pretty neat interaction. This especially true if you’re returning a creature that your opponent killed that turn as well!

Two Eggs, Over Easy

As we already discussed, this card does function a lot like a fixed Second Sunrise, only bringing back two permanents. But what kind of cool stuff can we sacrifice then bring back for next turn? Those permanents returning tapped means we’re probably not combo-killing our opponent, but what if we just get a ton of added value over the course of multiple turns?

Lotus Bloom is used primarily as a combo enabler, but what if it paired up alongside Brought Back to give you large boosts of mana over the course of multiple turns? Second Sunrise and Lotus Bloom were like peanut butter and jelly in the old Eggs deck.

These two seem easy to get value from because they replace themselves at zero cost. And while they don’t ramp you, they do draw you some cards and cycle through your deck. They also allow you to cast Brought Back easily without taking a ton of damage from your fetchland manabase.

I’ve heard a few people talk about how this card could be disgusting if combined with Amulet of Vigor. Having those lands (or permanents) come back untapped can lead to some gross combo potential. While Amulet of Vigor doesn’t need any help becoming more degenerate, it’s always nice to see people exploring new cards that could potentially work with older cards, even if they’re not particularly interactive.

Of all the cards I’ve listed so far, not one scares me as much as the next one.

Is this a fixed Lotus Vale? Perhaps. But it’s still absolutely busted with Brought Back. It’s a self-contained way to put two permanents in the graveyard. And when you combine this with Brought Back and Amulet of Vigor, you get an absurd amount of mana in a very short time frame.

One of the downsides to playing Amulet Titan is that traditional spot removal occasionally screws you over because your opponent can kill your mana accelerant. But what if we were able to ramp without using any creatures at all? Many lists have already moved to Coalition Relic, but what if Brought Back is just better when you start to pair it with stuff like Lotus Field and fetches? I’m far too dumb to build it, but I expect Edgar Magalhaes and Matthew Dilks are already looking hard at this card for upcoming Modern events. Here’s a “big mana” deck akin to Tron but that isn’t bottlenecked by having to play all colorless cards.

I’m looking for ways to abuse mana, and Time Warp seems like a fine card for this deck. If we get a quick planeswalker and pair it with a Time Warp, I think it’ll be difficult to lose to any other fair deck in the format. Selesnya-based strategies often struggle with combo decks in Modern, so I’m not really trying to play a ton of disruption. Instead, I’m hoping the format regulates itself enough for something like this to be viable.

I’d also like to get a few more versatile casting cost cards in the deck (think Walking Ballista, but more fitting to the strategy). I want stuff that’s pretty good in the early turns but ultimately ends up being a powerhouse given enough time and mana. Those types of cards are hard to find, and especially so in such a hostile format as Modern.

Third Sunrise

The point of Brought Back is not to do degenerate things. It’s obviously a sort of homage to Second Sunrise in some ways, but this type of effect is always going to have people looking to abuse it. Fetchlands are the primary reason these types of cards get attention in the first place, but free ways to sacrifice large amounts of permanents (or mana-neutral) give you a cheap way to accrue extra value. Imagine using Brought Back with Eternal Witness!

I think there are certain limitations to putting Brought Back into control decks. For example, you are a deck featuring a ton of instants and sorceries, so Brought Back will almost always be getting lands or planeswalkers, or end up being a dead card. But the turns where you get to rebuy your dead Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Field of Ruin are disgusting. The fact that it is an instant means if your opponent does try to interact with you, you can immediately punish them by returning both permanents. And if you start to look at this card with Snapcaster Mage, you get a miniature recursive combo.

In an aggressive deck, you get a versatile tool that provides burst damage with the likes of Steppe Lynx and/or Ghost Quarter and Flagstones of Trokair, while also having some protection from sweeper effects. In a midrange deck, you can string together some busted interactions between Knight of the Reliquary and utility lands, while still having that same creature protection.

I think the interaction I’m most afraid of is with artifacts, if only because that’s how we’ve been burned in the past. I think Brought Back is significantly less threatening in those types of decks than Second Sunrise, if only because it’s a self-contained combo. You can’t go past two like Second Sunrise, so you’re just generating a little bit of value instead of going full-on ballistic.

I’m looking forward to brewing some sweet decks with Brought Back, if only because this type of value card really speaks to me.