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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jul 21 2015 11:00am
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Hello!

Welcome to another Modern Musings!  In my last article in this series, I assessed the implications of the new Magic Origins cards on Modern, the effects of which will be felt pretty soon I imagine.

With Magic Origins marking the last of the Core Sets, I want to look at the Core Sets' impact on Modern and what Modern owes to it. I have produced a Top 8 list of the most impactful cards as well as some honourable mentions.  I also poll you on your favourite Core Set contribution to Modern.

CONTENTS

1). My Top 8 Core Set Contributions
2). Honourable Mentions
3). Reader's Poll
4). Conclusions

TOP 8
My Top 8 Core Set Cards for Modern:

Lightning Bolt
1. Lightning Bolt
Original Printing: Alpha
First Core Set Printing: Magic 2010

Dating all the way back to the start of Magic, Alpha (the first Core Set in many ways), it's quite fitting that Lightning Bolt tops the list of the best Core Set cards for Modern. Lightning Bolt is one of the most defining cards of the format as probably its best removal spell, with the option of also going to the dome. A Modern format without Lightning Bolt would be a very different place as there is nothing nearly as powerful.

Urza's TowerUrza's Power PlantUrza's Mine
2. The Urza Lands
Original Printing: Antiquities
First Core Set Printing: 8th Edition

Technically this is three cards but to separate them would be ridiculous as without each other they are nothing.  In one of my last Modern Musings articles I assessed The Colour Wheel of Modern.  One of the things this highlighted to me was how much the existence of the Urza Lands effects what cards are playable in the format.  Without Tron chances are you wouldn't see any Wurmcoil Engines, Karn Liberateds, Ugin, the Spirit Dragons or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.  It would be a very different format indeed.

Mana Leak
3. Mana Leak
Original Printing: Stronghold
First Core Set Printing: 8th Edition

Love them or hate them counterspells are a big part of Blue's identity.  Mana Leak is one the best counterspells available since Wizards made a conscious decision to lower the power of countermagic in the game. Along with Remand, Mana Leak is a staple of Modern blue decks and a major player in the format.

Birds of Paradise
4. Birds of Paradise
Original Printing: Alpha
First Modern Core Set Printing: 8th Edition

Birds of Paradise is another card that dates all the way back to Alpha.  It's quite incredible how enduring original designs from the start of Magic can still be staples of Modern magic. Birds of Paradise has lost its home a little since the banning of Birthing Pod but I think it is still very much worthy of its high ranking on this list. There are pretenders to the throne, such as Noble Hierarch, but no creature does is quite as well as BOP has for all those years.

Primeval Titan
5. Primeval Titan
Original Printing: Magic 2011
First Core Set Printing: Magic 2011

Primeval Titan is the first Core Set original card to make my list.  Magic 2010 marked the first Core Set to feature new cards as Wizards shifted away from the Core Set being sets made entirely of reprints.  The Titan cycle was one of the big success stories of this change, featuring in M11 and M12 and being widely applauded.

Primeval Titan is the most powerful of the Titans, at least in terms of Modern, being a great way to ramp your mana while also putting a huge threat on the board. Titan is mostly used as a combo enabler though, featuring in the Amulet Bloom decks and Scapeshift decks amongst others.

Scavenging Ooze
6. Scavenging Ooze
Original Printing: Commander
First Core Set Printing: Magic 2014

Originally printed in the first Commander product it only became legal in Legacy and Vintage and not Modern.  Magic 2014 brought this powerful card into Modern legality. Since the banning of Deathrite Shaman, the weight of handling graveyard shenanigans has fallen onto the shoulders (do Oozes have shoulders? I guess not) of Scavenging Ooze. Exiling Snapcaster Mage's spells and reanimation targets while also providing a sizeable threat if it can eat enough creatures, Ooze is an extremely powerful creature.

Young Pyromancer
7. Young Pyromancer
Original Printing: Magic 2014
First Core Set Printing: Magic 2014

Another Core Set original, from Magic 2014, Young Pyromancer has had a sizeable impact on Modern. It was a major player in the UR Delver deck that dominated Modern while Treasure Cruise still roamed the format. Its power level drew comparison to other powerful two-drops such as Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage and Dark Confidant. Since the Treasure Cruise ban the Pyromancer has not managed to find a solid home for itself but remains a big contender.

Blood Moon
8. Blood Moon
Original Printing: The Dark
First Core Set Printing: 8th Edition

Blood Moon is one of the most powerful non-basic land hate cards in Modern. The format's often fetchland and Ravnica dual heavy manabases mean that Blood Moon can be a very powerful effect, stranding opponent's with very restricted mana. Blood Moon's popularity tends to rise and fall (like the Moon in the sky I guess) but it is always amazing if your opponent is unprepared for it.  I feel Blood Moon is a great check and balance on the format, helping to punish manabases that get too greedy.

Back to Contents

Honourable Mentions
This was a tough list to come up with so I thought it was worth talking about some of the cards that just missed out on making my Top 8.

Sleight of Hand
Sleight of Hand
Original Printing: Portal Second Age
First Modern Core Set Printing: 9th Edition

Sleight of Hand was previously the second one-mana blue cantrip of choice after Serum Visions.  Now, with the printing of the powerful new Delve cards, Thought Scour has pushed Sleight of Hand into the background.  This is the main reason that it has fallen just short of my list.  Still a very powerful one-mana draw spell.  Oddly, Sleight of Hand was initially printed outside of Standard legality in Portal Second Age and its first standard legal printing was not until 7th Edition.

Pyroclasm
Pyroclasm
Original Printing: Ice Age
First Modern Core Set Printing: 8th Edition

A simple but very powerful sweeping effect.  Pyroclasm still sees main deck play in RG Tron decks in Modern and remains a powerful sideboard option.  For a time Anger of the Gods managed to steal Pyroclasms thunder, particularly when Birthing Pod decks were popular with their threats that really needed to be exiled.  However, Pyroclasm is still on top of its particular field with no card doing quite what it can at the same mana cost.

Rancor
Rancor
Original Printing: Urza's Legacy
First Core Set Printing: Magic 2013

Rancor is one of the most powerful auras ever printed.  A great card for an aggressive deck as a +2/+0 power boost and trample is extremely powerful.  It is also very resilient going back to your hand if your creature is removed, limiting the chance you will suffer the card disadvantage usually associated with auras.  A very popular card in Zoo, Stompy, Bogles and Infect decks.

Grim Lavamancer
Grim Lavamancer
Original Printing: Torment
First Core Set Printing: Magic 2012

Grim Lavamancer is a very powerful one drop allowing you to repeatedly Shock by using up cards in your graveyard.  We have seen a lot of powerful one-mana red creatures printed in recent times, such as Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear, which have sidelined Grim Lavamancer to some degree.  Lavamancer holds a special place in my heart as Torment was when I started playing Magic.  Still very playable, primarily in Burn and Splinter Twin decks, but not as popular as it once was.

Treetop Village
Treetop Village
Original Printing: Urza's Legacy
First Core Set Printing: Tenth Edition

Treetop Village remains one of the most powerful manlands ever printed, despite the length of time since its original printing.  Treetop Village sees a lot of play in Jund and Abzan decks, usually as a two-of.  A 3/3 trampler is a very effective threat and difficult to deal with too.  Anytime you can get that from a land that is very good going.

Back to Contents

READER'S POLL
In my last Modern Musings, I polled you on your favourite Magic Origins card.  I thought this would be a good opportunity for another poll.  Please let me know what your favourite Core Set contribution to Modern is.  I've listed my choices but if you have another favourite then pick other and tell me your choice.

What is your favourite Core Set contribution to Modern?
Lightning Bolt
Urza's Tower
Mana Leak
Birds of Paradise
Primeval Titan
Scavenging Ooze
Young Pyromancer
Blood Moon
Other
Please Specify:
Poll Maker
 
 
 
 
 
 


Back to Contents

CONCLUSIONS
The Core Sets have added some interesting, powerful and sometimes historic cards to the Modern pool over the years.  However, it's important to remember that reprints are not the sole domain of the Core Set and I am sure we will continue to see new and exciting reprints in the future.  Starting with Magic 2010 we have been gradually moving closer and closer to the Core Sets being filled with original cards.  As such it seems like a natural progression to do away with the thing entirely and bring us something a bit more fresh and exciting. I like the move to more fully original sets but look back with fondness on the Core Sets and look forward to Magic Origins.

Hopefully Magic Origins will also have a meaningful impact on Modern and we'll get to have our hands on it soon.

That's all for this article.  I hope you enjoyed this look into the past of the Core Sets and that you can take the time to be involved in the poll above.  I will look to announce the results shortly.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)

5 Comments

Honestly I am not sure I'd by Paul Leicht at Tue, 07/21/2015 - 15:08
Paul Leicht's picture
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Honestly I am not sure I'd pick any of the above as a favorite. They have varying degrees of usefulness, Prime Time and Blood Moon being the most interesting with Ooze and Bolt probably seeing the most play. Mana Leak seems irrelevant and while Tron is important it is does not really shine as an example of a ported card. It is merely the best colorless mana in the format since post was banned. (Though the number of Tron variants shows just how popular that strategy has been in Modern.) Birds is one of my favorite cards from Alpha onward but I would not think of it as a playable card vs the cut throat decks that compromise competitive modern. (Though I used to put 3-4 in Pod anyway. :))

Of the honorable mentions, Treetop is clearly the winner for me, with Grim Lavamancer a close second. Rancor is a card you see sometimes pop up when Stompy or Auras raise their ugly heads and That's fine. Pyroclasm is a necessary sweeper if you are only able to splash red so as to avoid paying RR1 for Anger of the Gods or Volcanic Fallout.

And Sleight of Hand is what is left after all the good cantrips have been banned to avoid a Legacy feel to Modern. Not a fan.

Thanks for the comment by olaw at Wed, 07/22/2015 - 07:37
olaw's picture

Thanks for the comment Paul.

Well my list isn't necessarily my favourite cards but the cards I think are most impactful on the format. Obviously the cards that see the most play are more impactful than the marginal cards. Though I can appreciate there are a number of different ways to approach making such a list - listing the most unique effects would probably make quite a different list.

Blood Moon made the Top 8 because it is a unique effect that you can't find anywhere else in Modern - well Magus of the Moon aside.

I'm interested in how you feel Mana Leak is irrelevant. It certainly sees a lot of play or are you referring to the fact that is easily replacable. I will certainly concede that if Mana Leak wasn't in the format I'm sure we would simply see Rune Snag, Deprive and the various other counterspells available take its place.

I feel Tron is a pretty big player in the format. Yes it isn't as good as Cloudpost was but that hasn't been legal in Modern since the very early days and we have to work with what we've got. There isn't a reasonable substitute anywhere else in Modern and its the element that allows cards like Karn and Ugin to be playable in the format.

I probably rated Birds of Paradise too highly in terms of its current impact on the format. However, it was very important to Pod decks and still sees play but it's not as significant as it once was. Probably showing my own bias rating it so highly. Still very iconic.

Sleight of Hand is not an attractive option but for a while it was at least the second best we had.

Yes Mana Leak is certainly a by Paul Leicht at Wed, 07/22/2015 - 16:11
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Yes Mana Leak is certainly a good playable card. It just so ubiquitous as an effect.

And Tron of course is good. But it wasn't popular at all until Post was banned. Even in OLD extended and Over Extended. The reason being that while the effect of achieving turn 3 Tron is indeed powerful (Karn! 2-3 beaters or Wurmcoil are all insane turn 3 plays as is All is Dust) the set had been around since Antiquities (I foolishly traded away a Time Walk for a set + other cards not realizing how great the disparity was at the time) and no one really used them for powerful plays before Modern came a long.

And the reason is evolution. They were put into 8th edition because no one at WOTC ever even dreamed of Modern format back then. I just find Tron to be a sleeper is all. Similar to how Summer Bloom suddenly became a tournament staple recently despite the combo for it with Amulet had been out since 2012. I wrote an article about it then (BECAUSE it was obscure) and people were like: "oh that's cute."

True, I was turned on to Amulet Bloom by BDM who had seen mention of it on MTG Salvation (A place where much of the great discussions about card interactions start, I find.) My point being, Modern is a format with a lot of sleepers that await certain bans/restrictions or printings to become really good and relevant.

Yeah Bop is an iconic card. It was one of the most colorful cards I received in my initial Unlimited packs and I was happy to have it. It is also scarcely seen and many pod decks didn't bother with it.

If a good deck pops up again that loves having BOP in it I will consider the format a lot friendlier to fun that it is now.

Blood Moon is my favorite by CalmLittleBuddy at Tue, 07/21/2015 - 17:43
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Blood Moon is my favorite Modern card period. Funny but true, I have never played it! I probably need to go get me a deck that lets me cast Blood Moon so I can finally be the one to hose someone with it instead of getting hosed.

Why is a card I never play my favorite? It shuts down Bloom and TRON. I love love love love love love love to watch live coverage of paper matches where that turn 2 Blood Moon drops (or turn 3 or 4 or 5, actually any turn) and causes an immediate concession.

"Blood Moon. Gross. Can't beat that." Scoops.

One of my greatest thrills was as a Pod player managing to win through a turn 3 Blood Moon. It would happen a surprising amount of times with Melira, but was even more fun when I was playing Kiki Pod but the opponent through it was the ole Abzan/Junk Pod. They'd snap off that Blood Moon and I could FEEL them grinning wickedly behind their monitor. Then, I'd use all those fresh Mountains they gave me to hard cast the triple Red Kik-Jiki, ditch a 3 cmc creature to pod and Drop Restoration Angel.... did it to yourself, homie.

Ahhhhhhhhh so good to be back into Modern again.

Great article.

Yeah fighting against blood by Paul Leicht at Tue, 07/21/2015 - 20:00
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Yeah fighting against blood moon can be fun if your deck is designed to do so. That's one reason I loved pod decks. The flexibility and resilience.