Adventures In The Forgotten Realms First Impressions: Modern

SCG’s First Impressions of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms finish with Modern. Will Demilich find its niche? Will a mill spell have the last laugh?

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, illustrated by Ilse Gort

Welcome back to D&D: Adventures In The Forgotten Realms First Impressions week!

All week long, various members of the SCG Staff will share their thoughts on the Top 5 Adventures In The Forgotten Realm cards in each format. On Monday we showed our love for Ranger Class in Standard, on Tuesday we gushed about Werewolf Pack Leader’s impact on Historic, and yesterday we scratched and clawed our way to impactful cards in Pioneer. Today, we’ll close things out with Modern.

To add a little fun to the mix, a scoring system has been put in place so that we can get an idea of what card ranked in what place in the aggregate to close out each article. The scoring system is as follows:

  • 1st — 5 points
  • 2nd — 4 points
  • 3rd — 3 points
  • 4th — 2 points
  • 5th — 1 point

Today we kick things off with the host of the Arena Decklists Podcast and Pro Tour Amonkhet champion, Gerry Thompson!

Gerry Thompson

  1. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter
  2. Portable Hole
  3. Demilich
  4. Treasure Vault
  5. Ingenious Smith

Tasha's Hideous Laughter Portable Hole Demilich Treasure Vault Ingenious Smith

I wasn’t expecting much from a Standard-legal set but this isn’t too bad. All five of these cards have already shown up in winning decklists. The card responsible for the most hilarity is Tasha’s Hideous Laughter. Modern is full of decks running Lurrus of the Dream-Den as their companion, driving down their average converted mana cost. In those matchups, Laughter can burn through a massive amount of cards. 

Portable Hole is a solid addition to white’s growing removal suite. Its main upside is being an artifact, meaning it can be recurred with Emry, Lurker in the Loch; tapped for mana with Urza, Lord High Artificer; or searched for with Whir of Invention. As a result, having access to Portable Hole means the Whirza decks are solidly Azorius at this point. Rest in peace Goblin Engineer.

Another fun card to add to Modern’s card pool is Demilich. So far, it’s shown up as an Arclight Phoenix lookalike that also happens to have some upside. Due to the massive amount of work necessary to make it work, I don’t expect it to stick around. 

If you want an additional Darksteel Citadel or two, now you have Treasure Vault. Finally, we have Ingenious Smith, which has won a Modern Challenge in Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus). I don’t think it’s particularly playable and it still finished in the Top 5. All things considered, that’s roughly what I expect from a Standard set. 

Todd Anderson

  1. Demilich
  2. Portable Hole
  3. Oswald Fiddlebender
  4. Ebondeath, Dracolich
  5. Den of the Bugbear

Demilich Portable Hole Oswald Fiddlebender Ebondeath, Dracolich Den of the Bugbear

Demilich has already shown promise in Izzet Phoenix in Modern. While we don’t have Faithless Looting, the build that aspiringspike has been playing looks sick. Demilich fits right at home with all the other cards in Izzet Phoenix, working flawlessly alongside Arclight Phoenix and all its enablers. Faithless Salvaging has been a lot better than I originally thought, adding to the “free” spell aspect while fueling all your discard synergies. Without Faithless Looting, there aren’t a whole lot of other viable options that make sense. Demilich doesn’t work all that well with Thing in the Ice, but it can still be cast for free after getting bounced more often than not.

Portable Hole is similar to Prismatic Ending in the stuff it targets, but happens to stick around if devotion or “permanents matter” is your thing. It’s also an artifact, which means it can be grabbed by all manner of spicy tutors. It’s cheap, and likely better than some of the options that already see play in the format. I’m a huge fan of this card and have been since it was previewed over a month ago. If Prismatic Ending weren’t just printed in Modern Horizons 2, I would have expected this to become a staple. Now, it will just play an additional removal role.

Oswald Fiddlebender is more of a guess than an actual rating for the card. Birthing Pod was always ludicrous and this card is similar in how you want to abuse it. I love pairing it with all sorts of cheap cards with expensive mana values in Affinity: Frogmite, Myr Enforcer, and Sojourner’s Companion. I’ve already watched some folks splash Neoform into those strategies, but I could easily see them sticking to one or two colors. There are plenty of beefy artifacts you could play singletons of. I’m particularly fond of Paradox Engine, as it can untap Oswald Fiddlebender multiple times in a single turn and is a five-drop for snagging when you sacrifice Frogmite.

Ebondeath, Dracolich has some legs in all types of sacrifice strategies. Its high power and evasion mean it can win the game without much help. Flash means it can work well in a control strategy, “turning on” from the graveyard when you kill an opposing creature. In a format where Fatal Push sees a lot of play, Ebondeath, Dracolich could end up being one of the stronger control finishers in the format.

Den of the Bugbear is exactly the type of creature-land that you want for a deck like Burn. Any archetype that wants to play Lurrus of the Dream-Den needs their lands to enter the battlefield untapped on the first few turns. Mutavault doesn’t tap for red, so can’t really be a consideration since Burn and the like don’t have colorless mana symbols in their casting costs too often. A Burn deck’s losses usually come when you face extreme prejudice or you flood out. Den of the Bugbear helps solve that second one well without sacrificing the things that matter for a Burn deck.

Shaheen Soorani

  1. Demilich
  2. Treasure Vault
  3. Ingenious Smith
  4. Portable Hole
  5. Den of the Bugbear

Demilich Treasure Vault Ingenious Smith Portable Hole Den of the Bugbear

This is my first Top 5 list that is not dominated by the creature-lands in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.  Den of the Bugbear is the only one to make the cut, based solely on the red-based aggro potential that’s there.  Most of these aggro decks dip into Boros or Izzet, but it’s tough to count out such a strong land. 

The necessity of mana efficiency, access to Equipment, and the speed of Modern require a different set of tools that may not be as effective in other formats.  I would not identify Portable Hole and Ingenious Smith as inherently powerful cards, but they are great role-fillers in the low-mana-value white decks of the format.

Portable Hole will see play as a one-mana answer-all to cheap threats of Modern.  Being able to hit any nonland permanent is huge, making it a slam dunk in any white-based aggro or Urza, Lord High Artificer deck out there.  I have been looking for artifacts to enhance my second-favorite archetype in Modern, which is why Treasure Vault, Portable Hole, and Ingenious Smith all piqued my interest immediately after being previewed.

Treasure Vault is the freest of the list, adding seamlessly to the manabase of any artifact-based deck of the format.   I expect big things from this land in Modern, much more so than the other competitive formats.  Ingenious Smith is a card I’m still a bit suspicious of, but folks seem to think it enhances Stoneforge Mystic.  It fits best in the aggro variants, such as Mono-White Hammer (Lurrus), where there’s a pile of targets to hit.  I prefer the gentleman’s version of Stoneblade, with a control shell, making this addition to the format lackluster for me personally.

At the top of the list is Demilich, a card I identified as boom-or-bust early on.  This creature has the most upside and potential in Modern, having access to cheaper spells and more specifically Manamorphose.  Izzet decks that utilize these cheap spells will have to change slightly to accommodate Demilich and the result will either be groundbreaking or mediocre.  I’m leaning toward the former, envisioning this spell hitting the battlefield for a couple of mana and then having the potential to do devastating things with graveyard assistance.

Ari Lax

  1. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter
  2. Demilich
  3. Portable Hole
  4. Lair of the Hydra
  5. Acererak the Archlich

Tasha's Hideous Laughter Demilich Portable Hole Lair of the Hydra Acererak the Archlich

I’ll admit I was wrong about Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, but at least all it took was counting the total cost of a Lurrus deck exactly once. While the average Modern deck isn’t that vulnerable to the card, it’s easy to two-shot a Lurrus deck with Laughter and any other solid mill card. With Lurrus being one of the best things in the Modern format even after an extra three mana was added to its cost, it’s a good bet that Lurrus exploits have a place in the format for a long time to come.

I’ll continue to take my bets on Demilich just like every other day this week, even more so in a Manamorphose format.

I’ll give credit to my podcast cohost Dom Harvey for convincing me on the next two cards, one with action and one with words. Portable Hole has card type artifact and mana value one, and covers a card on entering the battlefield. Even if Prismatic Ending has broader applications, there’s a lot of Arcum’s Astrolabe-style value to be had. Lair of the Hydra is also just the biggest doofus to Primeval Titan for that also casts Elvish Reclaimer on Turn 1, so the floor is pretty high on that card showing up as a one-of.

After that, I’m holding out hope for Rooftop Storm plus Acererak the Archlich making an appearance at some future date. I don’t know what would need to happen to make that combo surpass Ad Nauseam, but my old love for Hive Mind appears to be bleeding into other 5U-costed enchantment combo kills.

Dom Harvey

  1. Portable Hole
  2. Demilich
  3. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter
  4. Deadly Dispute
  5. Treasure Vault

Portable Hole Demilich Tasha's Hideous Laughter Deadly Dispute Treasure Vault

I was optimistic about Portable Hole in Modern from the beginning and was able to Top 8 the Modern Challenge on Magic Online this Sunday with Jeskai Whirza, leaning on Portable Hole as a key piece of cheap interaction that bolstered my overall artifact count and allowed Whir of Invention to become a removal spell. Prismatic Ending is a stronger card across the board but Portable Hole is a better fit for some strategies.

I feel Demilich should be on the list but I have no idea where or even if it will be on the list at all in a few weeks. Modern has Manamorphose and a lot of free spells or ways to cast several spells with one card, so it’s easier to cast here than anywhere, but also more vulnerable than ever when Lightning Bolt is back on top.

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter has started to show up in Dimir Mill (Lurrus) despite my initial skepticism. Though it has more inherent variance than any other mill card you might play and is more expensive than most, the upside is so high against Lurrus decks in particular that it’s apparently still worth it.

Exiling rather than milling helps with the ever-present danger of enabling your opponent’s graveyard synergies for them. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter has an odd dynamic against the original Eldrazi like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn used in sideboards as a counter to Mill — hitting Emrakul means Laughter will only exile a few cards, but this is better than milling Emrakul and having its trigger undo all your hard work, and the Emrakul is now gone so you can resume your regular programming.

Deadly Dispute and Treasure Vault are a pair of speculative picks that may show up together. The return on Deadly Dispute is incredible if you can trigger it easily or get some benefit in the process, and one of Modern’s broken combo decks in the past relied on sacrificing Chromatic Star, Terrarion, and Ichor Wellspring repeatedly. Perilous Research was always around but Dispute ramps you towards artifact incentives like Urza, Lord High Artificer or Karn, the Great Creator. Treasure Vault as another untapped artifact land may belong in a classic Affinity shell with less strict colored mana requirements.

And now, without further ado, the SCG Staff’s Top 5 Adventures In The Forgotten Realms cards for Modern are…

5. Ingenious Smith — 4 points

Ingenious Smith

4. Treasure Vault — 7 points

Treasure Vault

3. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter — 13 points

Tasha's Hideous Laughter

2. Portable Hole — 18 points

Portable Hole

1. Demilich — 21 points


We hope you enjoyed our first impressions on Adventures In The Forgotten Realms‘ impact on Standard, Historic, Pioneer, and Modern. Be sure to keep your eyes our for our Adventures In The Forgotten Realms Exit Interviews right before Innistrad: Midnight Hunt preview season so you can see how well (or not well!) the SCG Staff did with their initial thoughts on Magic’s newest set.

Until then, have fun venturing dungeons in Adventures In The Forgotten Realms!