I don’t know if this says more about the set or about me, but Blood Fountain is the Innistrad: Crimson Vow card that excites me most for Modern.
There’s a lot going on with Blood Fountain but you don’t need to care about all of it or even most of it at once.
You can simplify Blood Fountain to ‘two artifacts for one mana.’ The Modern card pool offers up many reasons to want this (even with the tragic loss of Mox Opal) but surprisingly few ways to actually get it even at a higher price point. A card that did that alone would already merit consideration, and Blood Fountain doesn’t stop there.
Other artifact payoffs are so appealing precisely because they don’t require much setup but their strength scales with any prior support. A pair of trinkets from Blood Fountain lets Urza, Lord High Artificer generate a more impressive battlefield presence while coming closer to paying for itself (or even netting mana!). Conversely, Urza’s Saga ties up your mana for a turn or two, but that’s easier to justify when Blood Fountain helps those Constructs become the biggest threats around.
Unlike other widgets like Food or Clue tokens, there’s no reason to care about the identity of Blood tokens in themselves — the cards that check for those are suspect for Standard, let alone Modern. Luckily, there are enough incidental and explicit graveyard synergies in Modern that Blood tokens have more to offer. This one-off rummaging is better for dredge than for Dredge — a dedicated graveyard deck probably wants more effective and efficient tools — but it’s useful support for individual interactions that already belong in your deck.
The final ability on Blood Fountain seems like an afterthought; taking a turn off to buy back threats is fine in Limited but a tough sell in a format where most opponents can trivially generate similar value in a more immediate way or end the game before it reaches that point.
The shells that might fit Blood Fountain vary widely in how many creatures they can support. The natural loop with Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion is off-limits for artifact-centric decks hoping to use Blood Fountain for a bargain on Thought Monitor and friends.
A more charitable comparison might be Witching Well. A similar combination of relevant card types, early smoothing, and late-game card advantage earned one of Throne of Eldraine‘s more balanced cards a spot in various successful Urza decks. By the time you’re sacrificing either, you might prefer the guarantee of buying back your namesake threats that the deck is built to enable.
Whir of Invention is a phenomenal card in these shells despite its tension with colourless lands like Urza’s Saga or other expensive artifact payoffs. Its biggest drawback is its inherent clunkiness — unlike its creature/convoke equivalent in Chord of Calling, your artifacts can’t contribute to the coloured mana requirement (only Thopter Foundry could do this anyway) and you need a developed battlefield to make it ‘just’ a three-drop.
Blood Fountain gives you the improvise fodder necessary to power Whir, freeing up your mana on other turns. A more extensive Whir toolbox might contain highly polarized cards like Ensnaring Bridge that are phenomenal against some opponents and dead against others; Blood Fountain can cash in those cards when they aren’t wanted.
Metallic Rebuke is fine as Mana Leak and exceptional at one mana, but the pace of current Modern doesn’t let you wait around to amass artifacts. Blood Fountain guarantees that Rebuke will be fully online as early as Turn 2 with a mana spare for another play.
I mused about building around Deadly Dispute before. Blood Fountain is another good excuse to do that, allowing you to ramp towards something like Urza, Lord High Artificer or Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas while having an artifact left over to profit from that immediately.
Dimir Whirza is a natural starting point (and likely the most solid list here overall), but leaning harder on Blood Fountain opens up some wild experiments:
The original Grinding Station combo deck first appeared during the reign of Krark-Clan Ironworks but was less consistent than it while being weak to the same cards. This isn’t even the most prominent Grinding Station combo deck now thanks to Underworld Breach, but I have a soft spot for this deck and am glad to revisit it.
The main draw to this version is that it gets to leverage the Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek combo against fair decks (still a fantastic plan there, even if it’s more vulnerable now thanks to Prismatic Ending) while also using it as part of a larger web of combos to race linear decks. Blood Fountain helps you improvise Sly Requisitioner quickly (harder now than it used to be without Mox Opal as another free artifact) and lets Grinding Station tear through your deck in search of Sword of the Meek or targets for Scrap Trawler and Emry. Scrap Trawler can set up a loop with Blood Fountain, but it’s also an essential combo piece, making a Fountain activation a serious threat.
This is a fun space to explore, but there’s an artifact-heavy Dimir deck that has already posted some success and wants every part of Blood Fountain:
- 4 Ovalchase Daredevil
- 3 Urza, Lord High Artificer
- 4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
- 4 Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar
- 4 Thought Monitor
Before Asmor all but vanished from Modern, this was an exciting step in the deck’s development that used the Food package to its full potential while embracing the blue artifact payoffs that seemed like the sole preserve of a dedicated artifact deck.
Unfortunately, both plans were overly reliant on The Underworld Cookbook. You had to dilute the deck with Street Wraith or other marginal discard outlets to enable Asmor without Cookbook and these cards were liabilities outside of that specific situation. Urza’s Saga could find Cookbook (which in turn makes Saga’s Constructs massive), but this took time you didn’t always have. The other half of the deck couldn’t help you here; you simply didn’t have enough cheap artifacts (or enough artifacts at all) to start chaining Thought Monitors or going off with Urza without the raw resources provided by Cookbook.
Blood Fountain is the unlikely design that can address all of these problems at once. It doesn’t enable the ideal Turn 1 Asmor draws as Street Wraith can, but you can activate the Blood token on Turn 2 to meet Asmor’s condition, and Fountain’s overall strength makes up for that difference. Meanwhile, a Turn 1 Fountain sets up Turn 3 Thought Monitor (or Turn 2 Emry + Metallic Rebuke with no other help) when you don’t have the deck’s central cog. Ovalchase Daredevil can be ‘cycled’ with the Blood token and rebought right away with something else.
Unlike the creature-light Whirza lists, Dimir Food is full of game-changing creatures that you’d love to recur with Fountain in longer games. Urza is as strong here as always, but Emry, Asmor, and Thought Monitor are all effectively one-drops, making it more likely that you can buy them back and recast one immediately without taking the whole turn off.
We can move into other colours for one final experiment:
- 1 Sundering Titan
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Myr Battlesphere
- 4 Goblin Engineer
- 1 Breya's Apprentice
- 1 Archon of Cruelty
The hybrid Reanimator + Goblin Welder decks were a fan favourite for dinosaurs like me in Extended back in the day, but neither half of that equation was viable in Modern until recently. Welder itself remains off-limits and the closest analogue in Goblin Engineer has some understandable safeguards, but Trash for Treasure is a riff on this effect that I’ve had my eye on for a while. Blood Fountain acts as a cheap, instant-speed discard outlet that leaves Trash fodder behind to be upgraded into some giant robot.
The more conventional Reanimator lists have had to find backup plans, as you can’t assemble the one-two punch of Persist + Unmarked Grave every game. With Trash for Treasure and Goblin Engineer respectively as redundant versions of these (as long as the intended target is an artifact), you can double down on being a Reanimator deck. The Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek combo appears here as a secondary plan that dodges removal like Solitude, with the Entomb effects offering on-demand access to Sword of the Meek with minimal risk of drawing it by itself.
Blood Fountain isn’t a sure bet or a flashy card in its own right, but it’s exactly the sort of role-player that makes the charming stuff in Modern possible.