Rishadan Dockhand Is Coming For Your Lands In Modern

Rishadan Dockhand from Modern Horizons 2 is here to tap lands and take names. But does it live up to Rishadan Port’s reputation? Ari Lax investigates.

Getting frozen at the top of the SCG Tour Leaderboard for a year is really giving Zach the confidence to fire off some bad ideas. Rishadan Port in Modern? Really, who would do that?

Rishadan Dockhand Rishadan Port


Rishadan Dockhand isn’t Rishadan Port, but it sure looks like a Rishadan Port.

Maybe I’m the one with the called shot?

Is Rishadan Dockhand a Rishadan Port or something completely new and unique?

Does It Tap for Mana?

Patrick Sullivan, who survived the Rishadan Port era of Standard to tell us about it today, had some solid words on the card in his Recurring Insight series a few weeks ago. Add to the view count to keep him trapped in his attic making these videos, or just read my choice quotes and let him stay there of his own free will.

How powerful is it to have the option to spend two of your mana to prevent an opposing mana… on a card that otherwise produces colorless mana?”

This big thing that makes Rishadan Dockhand not Rishadan Port is this opportunity cost. Instead of a colorless land, the non-tap functionality of Rishadan Dockhand is a one-mana 1/2 Merfolk with islandwalk. You can lower that opportunity cost by doing things with that body, but you really have to sit down and ask yourself if playing Merfolk isn’t just accepting all that cost and then some.

Aside: In yet another medium I will voice my confusion with the lack of a job subtype on Rishadan Dockhand. It at least deserves to be a Merfolk Citizen or something.

How powerful is it to trade two of your mana for an opposing mana?

But there’s a flip side of Rishadan Dockhand not being a land. Since it doesn’t produce mana, activating it to tap a land doesn’t cost you the opportunity to use it for mana. Tapping a land with Rishadan Dockhand costs a single mana, which means you’ll be using it way more aggressively to attack your opponent’s mana.

Wasteland Strip Mine

That’s the rate of Strip Mine or Wasteland. Not bad at all. Rishadan Dockhand still looks a lot like spending a card to Wasteland your opponent and then getting refunded a fraction of that card when you don’t want to have that Wasteland applied to the game state. I’m fine with all of that.

Overall, Rishadan Dockhand will be less of a freeroll than Rishadan Port, but also less tactical mana denial and more brute force. With Rishadan Port, a lot of the gameplay in tight spots is knowing when you want to make the mana exchange to deny your opponent their most important plays. With Rishadan Dockhand, it’s more of the reverse where not tapping a land will be the exception because the raw mana cost is so much lower.

Aether Vial

Rishadan Port is mostly associated with Aether Vial these days, and a lot of that has to do with mitigating the investment of all your mana into Port. Dockhand also will pair with Aether Vial a lot, but the pairing is a bit less effective. It simply takes a card more to have a functional Dockhand-Vial-land hand than a Port-Vial hand where Port is the land, and that’s one less card that can be a creature to Vial in while both players are stunted on lands.

Import Fees

While part of Rishadan Port is just getting free game wins when your opponent comes up short a land, it does have a set of things it punishes harder than the rest. What will Rishadan Dockhand exploit in Modern?

If you play with a lot of expensive cards, if you play with a lot of cards of different colors, if you play primarily on your main phase, Rishadan Port can be a very, very hard card to beat.

Thanks for the answer Mr. Sullivan.

Ketria Triome Bring to Light Niv-Mizzet Reborn

There are a bunch of three-color or even five-color decks in Modern these days and they almost all involve tapping out for a sorcery. Rishadan Dockhand won’t make that easy for them.

Supreme Verdict

Supreme Verdict might take the single biggest hit against Rishadan Dockhand. It’s an expensive card, one the decks playing it leaned heavily on against Dockhand, and it has an excessively restrictive cost on colors. If you put Supreme Verdict in a tri-color deck, it may as well be a six-drop against Rishadan Dockhand cutting your lands and colors.

To mirror this, three-drop sweepers get a big boost from Rishadan Dockhand. The window of how long it takes them to get out from the Dockhand for Anger of the Gods isn’t really long enough for you to actually kill them, though spiraling Merfolk sizes might get you out of range. These cards usually cost double-red or double-black too, so you will still have the really hard three-color issues if you put them in one of those decks.

Death's Shadow Expressive Iteration

Even the three-color decks without some giant spell to cast will struggle because they’re built to be hyper-mana-efficient. In Legacy, about half the time the mana-efficient Delver decks get to ignore Rishadan Port because they get out ahead and the game is about stopping their action, and the other half they just get absolutely shredded by Rishadan Port keeping them at one or zero lands a turn. Expect Modern Prowess and Death’s Shadow to label Turn 1 Dockhand a must-kill card.

Fatal Push Lightning Bolt

While the first thing you think of when you have a creature version of a noncreature effect is “Cool, now I can Lightning Bolt it,” I think that often ends up as a net positive for the Dockhand player. They’re trading their critical removal spell for your least critical body, and it’s a one-drop to boot so you aren’t even down mana.

The one issue is that passing with Rishadan Dockhand up to stop a critical expensive spell is a bit riskier when your opponent has mana up. It’s easy for them to end-step Lightning Bolt the Dockhand and free up the mana you were going to lock down, letting them combo off or cast a sweeper.

Urza's Tower Simic Growth Chamber Utopia Sprawl

A lot of the issue for multicolor decks comes down to needing to tap a specific land to cast their spells, and that’s only amplified for the ramp decks against Dockhand. I have no clue how a Tron deck plans to beat this card, and Amulet Titan has to be really careful with its sequencing. Dockhand is also a push back towards normal ramp creatures from Utopia Sprawl in a similar “don’t get double Stone Rained” fashion.

Spreading Seas

A lot of these things I’m talking about also apply to Spreading Seas, and it’s worth discussing that card a bit alongside Dockhand. I think whether you want to pair these cards depends on your specific goal, and weirdly I think Merfolk is the worst place to combine the two.

You’ll play Spreading Seas with Rishadan Dockhand if you think averaging two Stone Rains a game will stop your opponent from ever casting a spell. You’ll want to play just Dockhand if you’re trying to use the mana denial as a buffer to a quicker kill, where you use all your mana on things that aren’t casting Spreading Seas. That second one sure sounds like Merfolk to me, while the Spreading Seas example sounds a lot like an Azorius Taxes deck to me.

The Merfolk Dilemma

Rishadan Dockhand Lord of Atlantis

If you’re playing Merfolk, you’ll play four Rishadan Dockhand. But I think you’ll be activating the card a bit less than you think. A big part of Modern Merfolk with all of the Lord of Atlantis variants is that your deck is less about interacting with your opponent, and more about spending the minimum amount of mana and cards on interaction while spamming out pump effects and putting your opponent’s life total in the dumpster. Rishadan Dockhand as another good one-drop Merfolk will matter as much as or more than the game text on the card.

When you play Merfolk with Rishadan Dockhand, you’ll really want to do the math on whether using the ability or attacking is better for your clock. It’ll be really deterministic. I bet a lot of the same scenarios happen over and over since Master of the Pearl Trident and Merfolk Mistbinder are all interchangeable damage output in these spots. I’m just not enough of a Merfolk mathematician to tell you here what the answers are.

With that goal of maximizing another good one-drop Merfolk in mind, here’s the Merfolk deck I would start with in a post-Dockhand format.

There really isn’t a ton new going on here, but I wanted to emphasize the importance of the low-to-the-ground strategy of twelve Lord of Atlantis and extra one-drops. I’m even going for more Lord of Atlantis with Phantasmal Image, though you might just want the more stable Merfolk Reejerey over those since Rishadan Dockhand points towards games where on your final turn you will end up with more lands to actually cast a three-drop.

Please, Anything but Merfolk

We built the deck that basically builds itself with the card deliberately added for it.

Is that it? Is Rishadan Dockhand relegated to Merfolk, where only the fanciest copies will get played with the other Merfolk cards the deck’s owner has accumulated over a decade of playing it in every format?

Glasspool Mimic Flickerwisp

The other obvious shell for Rishadan Dockhand is Azorius Taxes, and that’s already a deck I’m interested in playing. I really liked the lists from late last year that had the Flickerwisp my Glasspool Shore interaction, and moving from there into some of the heavier blink synergies we have seen in the recently successful Ozhov version of this deck.

Grief Ephemerate

It honestly feels stupid to propose this deck without knowing the white member of the mythic Elemental Incarnation cycle, but I have to imagine they didn’t make that card super-broken with Ephemerate… right? Who knows, they’re printing Grief, so maybe they just gave up and gave white a broken card too.

Watcher for Tomorrow Soulherder

If you’re moving into more blinking in Azorius, you really should be playing Watcher for Tomorrow. While there’s usually a “best thing to blink” in any given matchup, the odds Watcher just finds you that thing in each four-card peek are so high it’s typically close enough.

I don’t know if this deck is quite in Soulherder range though. If Recruiter of the Guard is in Modern Horizons 2, I would snap off a copy to find, but for now I’m interested in maximizing my Lava Dart resistance and minimizing the things I lose access to under my own Sanctum Prelate.

Hokori, Dust Drinker

And if you want to really dream big, you sure can. Rising Waters plus Rishadan Port comes to a new era, only better since Dockhand only costs the one land you untap each turn to use.

Overall, the cost to play Rishadan Dockhand is a lot higher than Rishadan Port. And that’s a good thing, because putting Port into Modern would just result in the same Rishadan Port decks we have seen over and over rolling through one more format. But once you go through the effort of building a deck that’s fine with playing Dockhand and it ends up on the battlefield, it will provide the same effect when activated.

That’s good news for you and terrible news for your opponent casting spells.