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By: mazeofrith, mazeofrith
Jan 21 2016 1:00pm
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Introduction

Modern is an expansive and popular format, containing a wide range of decks and an even wider range of cards. Composed of fifty sets as of Oath of the Gatewatch, new decks are constantly rising to the forefront of the collective consciousness with each new printing of cards, and sometimes just with the rediscovery of old ones.

The Bulk Box is going to be a gradual riffle through the more interesting cards left languishing untouched, or at the very least less-touched, in previous Modern expansions in an effort to see whether there are any unique effects still waiting for their day in the sun.

While Eighth Edition would be a logical place to start, I'll be writing a Bulk Box article at a later date that explores several Core Sets at once (starting with Eighth). With that in mind, and the recent Flashback status of Mirrodin block drafts online, I thought the best place to start would be with a look into the weird world of Mirrodin, Darksteel and Fifth Dawn bulk rares.

Fifth Dawn

Several cards from the third set in the Mirrodin block have already risen from the realm of obscurity to take their place among the lofty heights of the Modern format. Krark-Clan Ironworks and Lantern of Insight have both spawned entire archetypes, with the latter especially putting up respectable performances.

With this in mind, you could be forgiven for assuming that Fifth Dawn had already been mined of any potential hidden gems, but as the Year of Flashback Drafts moves into offering Mirrodin-Darksteel-Fifth Dawn it certainly seems worth a second (or third) look!

Roar of Reclamation ($0.01)

With the banning of Second Sunrise, Open the Vaults became the next in the list of similar effects to see Modern play. While the "Eggs" deck has now fallen out of favour, and away from the tier-one spotlight, if Faith's Reward ever meets the axe and the deck's fanatical devotees still have an itch to play their favourite deck, Roar of Reclamation could be the absurdly-expensive puzzle piece they are looking for.

Artificer's Intuition ($0.55)

Part of an extended deck that used Locket of Yesterdays and Sensei's Divining Top to set up an infinite storm count for a lethal Brain Freeze, Artificer's Intuition is a cheap and potent engine just waiting for the appropriate pieces to be printed to get the engine purring once again.


Moriok Rigger ($0.01)

Moriok Rigger allows you to turn dying artifacts into +1/+1 counters, however its cost and inefficiency makes it unlikely to see play in Modern without being part of an engine that results in a lethal attack. Honestly I feel the Rigger is unlikely to ever make any waves outside of kitchen tables, but I found it interesting to note that it exists.

Plunge into Darkness ($0.79)

In Modern you often need to have methods of digging through your library looking for specific cards, especially in more combo-oriented decks, and Plunge into Darkness allows you to do this, your life total be damned!

While Plunge into Darkness is a mana more expensive than the similar-role-filling Spoils of the Vault, there is a lower risk of killing yourself out of nowhere if your deck decides not to co-operate. However, in a situation where you are desperate to find a specific card and are willing to drop to a low life total to do so, whiffing will likely end the game in your opponent's favour either way.

It's unlikely that the first effect on Plunge into Darkness would ever be relevant in the same deck as the second, in Modern at least, making the Entwine and the incidental life-gain effectively irrelevant. Plunge is at least financially cheaper than Spoils of the Vault, costing almost exactly half as much online as of the time of writing.

Granulate ($0.02)

The large amount of cards that comprise Modern are one of its greatest strengths as a format. This does mean that for every staple sideboard card, there are several other options that have fallen to the wayside, as sideboard space is limited and the Spike mindset lends itself to a view of there being no room for marginally worse cards.

Granulate's appeal comes from the fact that the two other premier four-mana artifact sweepers, Creeping Corrosion and Shatterstorm, cost $2.47 and $4.43 respectively, while a playset of Granulate (if you ever had a reason to need one) will set you back less than ten cents.

Granulate's nonland-clause is mostly irrelevant, bar some Quicken shenanigans against Blinkmoth lands, however only hitting ground creatures can be a problem when you're looking to use Granulate as your budget sweeper against Affinity: missing Vault Skirges and Ornithopters is a real cost.

I can imagine a magical Christmas land where Granulate is the specific artifact sweeper you're looking for, but realistically how often are you looking to cast Shatterstorm, have your Platinum Angel survive, and want to avoid having to pay five mana to overload Vandalblast?

Rude Awakening ($0.01)

Reprinted in the original Modern Masters, Rude Awakening has seen some extremely fringe sideboard play in previous iterations of Scapeshift, synergising with Peer through Depths, and possessing an ability to win a game through an unmolested Blood Moon.

Summoner's Egg ($0.02)

Travis Woo put Summoner's Egg on the budget player's radar in 2014 with his "Eggs Over Emrakul" brew that succeeded in briefly pushing the price of the unproven egg over a dollar on force of speculation alone. With no real proof in the pudding, the price on Summoner's Egg has returned to the expected bulk price, but who knows what the future holds for four-mana ways to cheat creatures onto the battlefield?

 

Darksteel

The second expansion of the Mirrodin block has only four cards to contribute to this week's article, but the first is certainly no slouch . . . in fact, it's a Pro Tour winning card!

Reshape ($3.00)

Less of a hidden gem, and more a card that has fallen out of favour, Reshape was played as a four-of in Stanislav Cifka's Pro Tour winning Eggs list at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, and powerful tutors in eternal formats never stay down forever:


Retract ($0.46)

As more and more sets are printed, and more and more niche effects are introduced into the card pool, the most innocuous cards can suddenly become the solution to a question you didn't know you were asking.

While Retract might not have a home in modern now, it's certainly a unique effect at instant speed, and only costs a single mana.

Flamebreak ($0.01)

In the same way Granulate is a budget card with a few restrictions too many to really have a home in Modern, Flamebreak has tight competition for a place in Modern sideboards as well. The variant of choice currently seems to be Anger of the Gods, and with the additional exile effect and less stringent mana cost, who can blame players for running it, especially with Voice of Resurgence and Persist creatures being the order of the day.

Flamebreak's one advantage over certain other sweepers is the three damage to each player, and preventing any damaged creatures from being able to regenerate. This does come at the cost of being unable to hit flying creatures. Again, another case where if many variants of an effect exist, only one is typically the correct choice in any given metagame, and in this case it's very likely not Flamebreak.

While it's unlikely the metagame ever does shift to a position where Flamebreak would be the most playable three-mana red sweeper, for a single cent it's worth bearing in mind.

Lich's Tomb ($0.01)

The first role that springs to mind for Lich's Tomb would be in serving as a more vulnerable and more expensive Phyrexian Unlife in an Ad Nauseam list with a Lightning Storm kill (the kill can be made with the permanent-sacrificing triggers on the stack), and few others pop into my head after that.

Effects that stop you from losing the game are intrinsically powerful, and if Phyrexian Unlife were to ever leave the format, perhaps it would be Lich's Tomb's time to shine.

Mirrodin

Domineer ($0.01)

An exceedingly narrow, potential sideboard card, Domineer is currently much worse than a card such as Threads of Disloyalty as an option for your Modern sideboards (but does cost seven hundred and fifty seven times less at the time of writing).

Arcbound Ravager being a core staple in one of the only decks you'd want to currently board Domineer in against further lowers its utility at the present time, but who knows what colossal artifact creatures could tromp across the battlefields of modern in the future?

Shared Fate ($0.01)

Five-mana combo pieces are often too expensive for Modern without a way to cheat them onto the battlefield or mana-ramp supporting them. But if you can deal with the cards an opponent has drawn up the point of casting Shared Fate, it is conceivable that an opponent can be put into a position where they are unable to win the game with the cards in your deck, while you use their own kill conditions to put the game away.

Spoils of the Vault ($1.63)

Spoils of the Vault is another card, similar to Reshape, that can't be claimed to be unplayed in Modern, but awareness of the card isn't perhaps as widespread as it should be. A powerful one-mana "tutor", the risk of accidentally killing yourself is a very real danger, but in decks that can either mitigate the danger (such as Ad Nauseam combo including Angel's Grace / Phyrexian Unlife) or are so all-in they have little regard for the danger (Travis Woo's Narset, Enlightened Master combo decks spring to mind) Spoils of the Vault plays a role equivalent to a one-mana Demonic Tutor.

Another interesting interaction with Angel's Grace is naming a card not present in your library to dump your entire library into exile, before using a Laboratory Maniac and a draw spell to end the game.

Trash for Treasure ($0.02)

Goblin Welder and Daretti, Scrap Savant are both cube staples, and while their effect is often repeatable, the ability to circumvent the mana cost of an artifact card in your graveyard is a potent one. Trash for Treasure certainly draws some parallels with Tinker: All you need is an artifact worth cheating into play, and a deck designed to achieve that goal and suddenly Trash for Treasure is less bulk rare and more game-winning must-counter spell.

Culling Scales ($0.01)

An artifact that I can only imagine would need to be played in a role similar to Porphyry Nodes to warrant space in a deck, Culling Scales may have too great a mana cost to be a viable choice in stabilising the board against an aggressive deck.

The amount of upkeeps left in the game after resolving a Culling Scales is important in determining the value of the card, especially in match-ups against aggressive decks where you would want this effect, and not getting the first trigger until the upkeep of your fourth turn is worlds apart from receiving the trigger as early as the start of your second.

Lightning Coils ($0.01)

Lightning Coils is a way to convert an infinite loop of creature recursion (for example two Myr Retrievers with a Heartless Summoning on the battlefield) into lethal damage on the following upkeep. Unfortunately, this is nearly always much worse than using Altar of the Brood as a way to mill an opponent for their entire library in a similar scenario for only a single mana and on the same turn the loop is established.

Lightning Coils gets a mention as generating lethal combat damage is in the realm of possibility for the card, however I can't imagine Lightning Coils ever having the chance to see competitive Modern play.

Psychogenic Probe ($0.01)

Shuffling a library is something that players already do relatively often in Modern, and without a limit on the number of times in a turn Psychogenic Probe can trigger it exists in a space where there is always the possibility that it could one day be part of an engine that deals lethal damage to an opponent.

Unfortunately Wizards of the Coast have recently become more reticent to introduce effects that include large amounts of shuffling, and this may harm any potential future Psychogenic Probe has, but the possibility remains that one day a combo will arrive and Psychogenic Probe will be a cold-hearted two-mana killer.

Quicksilver Fountain ($0.01)

Quicksilver Fountain is similar to a Blood Moon in achieving the goal you would be including it in your deck for, and sits at the same converted mana cost; however it is still a tool that can keep Tron off turn-three Tron if you're on the play, and can make it exceedingly difficult for them to reach it on any subsequent turns (at least until the Fountain overflows).

Something interesting to note with the Quicksilver Fountain is that the flood counters continue to turn the flooded lands into Islands even after Quicksilver Fountain leaves the battlefield, making it less vulnerable to Nature's Claim removing your land disruption permanent. However Quicksilver Fountain is a much worse late-game topdeck, where your opponent's ability to distribute the flood counters in a way they choose often means their mana base isn't as heavily affected as it would be by a top-decked Blood Moon.

Spellweaver Helix ($0.01)

Another Travis Woo favourite, Spellweaver Helix featured in one of his brews from the end of December 2013 where he was looking to cast a discount Worldfire into a Flame Jab to end a game, and again in 2015 after deciding Enter the Infinite and Cruel Ultimatum were both powerful spells he'd like to be casting for free.

Having not played either list, I certainly can't comment on the decks' playability, either then or now, but Spellweaver Helix is a clearly a card with an interesting and inspiring text box.

Travis Woo - Worldfire Combo
2013
Creatures
0 cards

Other Spells
4 Pyromancer Ascension
4 Faithless Looting
4 Wild Guess
4 Reforge the Soul
4 Pyretic Ritual
4 Desperate Ritual
4 Manamorphose
1 Past in Flames
4 Spellweaver Helix
4 Flame Jab
4 Worldfire
41 cards
Lands
19 Mountain
19 cards

Spellweaver Helix

 


Timesifter ($0.01)

Timesifter is a card I have dreams of playing in Lantern Control, where you can set yourself up to win the majority of the "clashes". But it's likely the case that generating additional Time Walks when you're already blanking most, if not all, of your opponent's draw steps is a win-more scenario. Timesifter doesn't actually add anything to advance the deck's core strategy or improve any matchups, and it even costs five mana.

A further downside to the card is that unless the Timesifter was played with an extra turn already in the bank, your opponent gets a turn and a draw step to answer Timesifter before any soft lock can be established. Sad times for the 'sifter.

Mirrodin Block Conclusion

While the list of cards that appear above is longer, including anything I found particularly interesting as I perused the list of cards from each set, my final list of cards with tantalizing potential is much shorter.

I believe the interesting picks from this week's bulk box include Artificer's Intuition, Reshape and Trash for Treasure as unique, inexpensive cards with powerful effects that can only improve as more artifacts are printed; and Retract and Psychogenic Probe as more speculative picks that have a remote chance at becoming useful someday. Quicksilver Fountain is the final card that interests me, and occupies an interesting space between Blood Moon and Spreading Seas as a sideboard option.

I hope you enjoyed this first delve into the Bulk Box, and that you are perhaps inspired to find some hidden treasures of your own from throughout Modern's rich history to brew with!