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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jul 09 2018 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Modern Musings!  It's time again where we have the spoiler for the latest set, this time the return of the Core Set.

THE CARDS

White

Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
An interesting new version of Ajani.  Lets take a look at those abilities:

  • The +1 is unremarkable.  The +1/+1 counters are good but you need to have the creatures for these to give them to.
  • The -2 is more exciting.  A powerful reanimation ability for 2-mana cost creatures which is similar to Proclamation of Rebirth.
  • The -7 is a long way off.  Obviously pretty good if you get there but I imagine you are playing Ajani to tick him down rather than up.

Not overly exciting.

Isolate
Isolate
An interesting, if quite narrow, removal spell.  Isolate can hit a lot of different permanents in the low mana-curve world of Modern which has many powerful and commonly played one-drops.  These can be creatures such as Birds of Paradise, Goblin Guide, Signal Pest or Champion of the Parish or other permanents such as AEther Vial, Codex Shredder or Expedition Map.  There is some nice versatility here but there are decks such as Jund and Scapeshift where there just aren't really any meaningful targets.  I see Isolate as primarily a sideboard card but one that can be very good against certain matchups, like Humans and Lantern Control.

Leonin Warleader
Leonin Warleader
Very similar to Brimaz, being a large creature that generates two tokens on an attack.  Perhaps combined they can be more powerful than they are individually or maybe Cat tribal becomes more viable.  I'm not currently convinced but it would interesting to test out.

Militia Bugler
Militia Bugler
One of a series of creatures that allow you to look at top X number of cards and pick out a card to put into hand.  The abilities are useful but I think most of the cards are too expensive to be useful.  Militia Bugler has some utility in the Humans deck but I am just not sure it's quite good enough.  I'm not sure the value of playing a fairly mediocre three-drop that puts another creature into hand is quite there.  It's not quite on the level of a Ranger of Eos in my mind.

Remorseful Cleric
Remorseful Cleric
One of a number of interesting additions to the Spirit tribe in Magic 2019.  Remorseful Cleric is a solid creature with graveyard hate tacked on, which makes it strong against Dredge, Delve creatures/cards, flashback and other graveyard shenanigans.  A solid utility creature.

Resplendent Angel
Resplendent Angel
A nice card but even in Modern gaining 5 life in one turn can be a bit tricky.  Soul Sisters would be the best fit but as the Angel itself doesn't naturally have lifelink it ends up being a bit of a win more card.

Suncleanser
Suncleanser
Suncleanser seems like a missed opportunity to make a much more interesting card.  Sadly, Suncleanser can only remove counters from opponents so works as an anti-Energy card but not an anti-Infect card as I had hoped when I first read it.  Also, removing counters from creatures isn't all that impressive.  I had hoped this would be able to switch off an AEther Vial or something more useful.  I suppose allowing Suncleanser to remove counters from any permanent would allow it to kill Planeswalkers and make a nasty combo with Dark Depths.  A cool design but unfortunately currently I cannot see any good uses for Suncleanser - however, there is potential for it to be a combo piece of the future with its unusual ability.

Blue

Departed Deckhand
Departed Deckhand
Departed Deckhand is a nice aggressive two-drop for a Spirit tribal deck, which also got other support in Magic 2019.  I'm not sure it sees out Rattlechains, Selfless Spirit or Supreme Phantom (below) but it gives the deck another option in the two-drop slot.

Gearsmith Prodigy
Gearsmith Prodigy
A one-mana 2/2 in blue is an unusual sight.  Unfortunately as a non-artifact I cannot see this making its way into Affinity decks.  Not quite powerful enough most likely.

Metamorphic AlterationMirror Image
Metamorphic Alteration/Mirror Image
A couple of interesting and cheap Clone effects.  I imagine there is some cool combo that these can help pull towards.  At the very least it makes winning with Biovisionary a more plausible concept.

Mistcaller
Mistcaller
An interesting new one-drop option for Merfolk decks with an ability that mimics Containment Priest.  The ability is very strong against cards like Collected Company but not so strong against AEther Vial as you have to sacrifice Mistcaller in response to the Vial's activation and the opponent can then choose not to use the Vial's ability.  With Collected Company decks on the downswing at the moment I'm not sure how popular Mistcaller will prove.

Sai, Master Thopterist
Sai, Master Thopterist
Sai creates quite the engine in the right deck, generating lots of tokens that you can then sacrifice to draw more cards.  Unfortunately I imagine Sai is a bit slow for Modern as you will expect to have emptied your hand of cheap artifacts at that point.  Could work as a cog in a Krark-Clan Ironworks deck as you push towards infinite mana but not sure it's necessary.

Skilled Animator
Skilled Animator
Ensoul Artifact has seen some play in Modern before and the prospect of sticking that onto a creature body is quite interesting.  It could be played in Affinity, though the additional cost seems steep.  It also could see play in a deck like Humans, turning the AEther Vial into a 5/5 body could be quite powerful.

Supreme Phantom
Supreme Phantom
I played an interesting UW Spirits deck a while back in a Becoming A Modern Man article.  I didn't exactly get on with the deck but Supreme Phantom could certainly help increase the power level of the deck.  It might even be possible to ditch the hatebears aspect of the deck and become a more dedicated Spirit tribal deck.

Tezzeret, Artifice Master
Tezzeret, Artifice Master
The new Tezzeret is certainly impressive.  Lets take a look at those abilities:

  • The +1 helps protect Tezzeret generating a 1/1 flying Thopter token.  This builds up Tezzeret's loyalty while also helping to protect him against opposing threats.  It's also easy to underestimate but 1/1 flyers are real threats and you can build these up to a lethal threat given time.
  • The +0 is very tasty as it should draw you 2 cards in any deck you are looking to play Tezzeret in.  As such you can get a lot of value out of Tezzeret every turn he remains on the board.  Being able to draw 3 cards a turn is pretty insane and that is precisely what Tezzeret allows you to do.
  • Tezzere'ts ultimate is a -9 so it takes some time to build to but the reward is quite insane.  You get an emblem that allows you to search your library for any permanent and put in into play.  That's a pretty terrifying end game and one that is incredibly difficult to beat in the right setup.

The new Tezzeret certainly has potential as a Modern playable but as a 5-mana planeswalker it's difficult to say exactly where his best home is.  He could fit in a Lantern Control/Artifact Lock deck quite well as he draws through you deck or ultimates to seek out your win conditions.  He seems perfect sat behind an Ensnaring Bridge and you can even generate 1/1 evasive attackers to attack under the Bridge on your turn before playing your last card.

Black

Demon of Catastrophes
Demon of Catastrophes
A 6/6 flying trampler for 4-mana is a pretty powerful deal and this has a much less substantial setback than Abyssal Persecutor.  That said it's probably too slow for Modern play.

Doomed Dissenter
Doomed Dissenter
There have been a few decks with sacrifice themes in Modern and cards like this that produce a further creature after sacrificing can be useful.

Graveyard Marshal
Graveyard Marshal
A nice addition in the two-drop slot for Zombie decks, though not sure if it works out better than Relentless Dead.  It is nice and aggressive though.

Infernal Reckoning
Infernal Reckoning
Some much warranted colourless creature hate.  Infernal Reckoning is a nice answer to the powerful creatures of Affinity and Eldrazi creatures.  A very handy sideboard card that not only removes the threat but also gains you life to keep you healthy.  The fact that it exiles rather than destroys, although an affront to the colour wheel, also means you can answer creatures like the Indestructible Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and can answer Wurmcoil Engine without giving any tokens.  Useful against Affinity, Tron and Eldrazi decks.

Liliana, Untouched by Death
Liliana, Untouched by Death
A new Zombie-centric Liliana.

  • The +1 is self-mill with a bonus for playing Zombies.  Not terribly exciting but works into the ultimate.
  • The -2 can be powerful removal in a Zombie centred deck.
  • The ultimate can be used immediately, though you probably want additional mana before using the ability.

I think a little too niche and too expensive to really see play.

Open the Graves
Open the Graves
The PureMTGO preview card is a pretty powerful enchantment.  If it was a little cheaper it would be insane but at 5-mana I think it is probably a bit too difficult to build around.

Stitcher's Supplier
Stitcher's Supplier
A cheap graveyard filler for just a single mana.  Stitcher's Supplier can help fuel Delve or Dredge strategies among other uses while also having a useful tribal synergy.

Red

Alpine Moon
Alpine Moon
Another Blood Moon variant.  Alpine Moon is cheaper but more targeted hate against a specific non-basic land.  It also turns that line into a land that generates mana of any colour so it's not so useful at stopping Cavern of Souls, unless you are looking to counter the creatures, or Unclaimed Territory.  It is however very effective against Tron pieces, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in Scapeshift and creaturelands.  The cheap nature of the card does make it an enticing sideboard option, particularly for decks with lower curves like Burn and Hollow One.  However, it does not have the hampering effect that Blood Moon has and is not nearly as stifling.

Goblin Instigator
Goblin Instigator
Dragon Fodder on a creature spell.  Useful for making the newly Modern legal Skirk Prospector into a better card.  Also benefits from the cost reduction of Goblin Warchief in a way that Dragon Fodder does not.

Sarkhan, Fireblood
Sarkhan, Fireblood
Another rather niche planeswalker but at a good cost.

  • The +1 is solid as a draw ability to dig deeper through your deck.
  • The other +1 is a little niche as you can only use the mana to cast Dragons which, even in Modern, has limited utility.
  • The ultimate is very powerful but at -7 you have to tick up Sarkhan for four turns before you get to ultimate without Sarkhan taking any damage which seems like a game you probably already won.

Again, probably too niche for Modern play.

Thud
Thud
A one-mana sorcery speed Fling could be an interesting combo piece.

Green

Elvish Clancaller
Elvish Clancaller
Elvish Clancaller is another Elf Lord for just two-mana.  It can also tutor further copies of itself to further grow the team, which is a realistic option given the mana-generating nature of Elves.  That said it is only a 1/1 and Elves already has lots of options and some that are more impactful than Clancaller.  Not being an avid Elves player I am not sure how good this is but I would be surprised if it was overly special.  I'm not sure it will see out Dwynen's Elite in the two drop slot.

Gigantosaurus
Gigantosaurus
A huge creature for just 5-mana.  Probably still too slow for Modern but could be a crazy top-end for Mono-Green Stompy I guess.

Runic Armasaur
Runic Armasaur
A green value creature that would not be out of place in Selesnya Value.  I think generally you aren't going to get as much value out of this as you would Courser of Kruphix but it does fit into a similar mold.  The question is really how often are activated abilities used on creatures and lands.  Fetchlands and creaturelands all trigger the Armasaur as do creatures like Steel Overseer and Grim Lavamancer.  Also, with five toughness Armasaur is big wall to get past on the ground.  It would be interesting to play with this to see exactly how much value you get against different decks - I think the trouble is that against some decks you would struggle to draw any cards off the Armasaur.

Scapeshift
Scapeshift
Not a new card but a long overdue reprint.  Scapeshift is probably not a Tier 1 deck in Modern at the moment but it is still a top deck and one that has been around for a long-time.  Scapeshift was originally printed as a rare in Lorwyn and has not been reprinted since.  It's nice to see this high value Modern staple getting a reprint.

Thorn Lieutenant
Thorn Lieutenant
Elvish Warrior has come a long way in recent years.  Thorn Lieutenant is a very good two-drop but is it good enough Elves?  Maybe for a more aggressive version of Elves.  The fact that it cannot be removed favourably is nice and with all the Elf lords it could easily be a very aggressive attacker.

Vivien Reid
Vivien Reid
A new planeswalker for the Core Set.  Viven is from the plane of Skalla, which was destroyed by Nicol Bolas.  She saved the spirits of the animals of Skalla in her powerful artifact bow, the Arkbow.

  • The +1 is a powerful ability allowing you to pick a creature or land out of your top 4 cards.
  • The -3 is removal of a sort.  It's closer to a Naturalize but can be used to kill flyers too.  A bit odd really and of questionable usefulness.
  • The -8 emblem is rather powerful and it should hopefully be pretty easy to win thereafter.  It only take two turns of using the +1 to get to the ultimate which is relatively speedy if you can protect Vivien.

Probably too expensive for Modern but a powerful enough card.  I imagine if you were to play Vivien she would best fit in a deck like Elves where she can tutor and be protected and then the ultimate will finish the game.

Artifact

Amulet of Safekeeping
Amulet of Safekeeping
A rather ham-fistedly designed hate card.  Amulet appears to be deliberately targeted at Storm, making a Grapeshot kill impossible and making Empty the Warrens tokens into 0/1s.  There is utility against other decks too.  A Scapehift is not possible, but they still have Primeval Titan, and Burn decks have a harder time but more in a slowing way.

Desecrated Tomb
Desecrated Tomb
A really interesting card.  Could be really powerful in a Dredge shell or maybe even a deck that empties its deck into the graveyard and then exiles its graveyard (as the creatures just need to leave the graveyard, it does not say where to).  However, I think ultimately it's probably just too expensive to build that much of your deck around.  Also, it's not terribly compatible with a self-mill or Dredge strategy because you need it in hand.  A cool design though.

Lands

Detection Tower
Detection Tower
This is an interesting land looking to deal with the menaces of Hexproof.  This could be handy for a deck that is badly effected by cards like Leyline of Sanctity, such as The Rack.  It's also an option for Scapeshift as a tutorable land that can allow you can kill with Valakut through Leyline.  It's also good against Bogles but that doesn't make up enough of the metagame to be worth playing for that reason alone.

MY TOP 8 MAGIC 2019 CARDS FOR MODERN

Here are the cards that I think are most likely to make an impact on Modern:

  1. Tezzeret, Artifice Master
    Tezzeret seems like a very good planeswalker and one that could find its way into Lantern Control and other Artifact Prison decks.  I would interested to play with Tezzeret.
  2. Infernal Reckoning
    Since Eldrazi Winter, it seems like colourless has some of the best creatures in the format and Affinity already had a lot of powerful options.  I think colourless hate cards need to be made to balance this and Infernal Reckoning will be a useful option for that purpose.  A strong sideboard card against Eldrazi, Tron and Affinity.
  3. Alpine Moon
    A one-mana Blood Moon type effect to answer problem lands could be very handy.  The problem is it's not a devastating as Blood Moon and is much more targeted.  However, the cheap mana-cost means it can slip into decks with lower curves more easily.
  4. Isolate
    Another interesting sideboard card that could find a home.  I would see UW or Jeskai Control being interested in running a small number of copies of this in the sideboard.
  5. Supreme Phantom
    A two-mana lord for Spirits with some very healthy toughness.  May allow UW Spirits to become a more aggressive and successful deck.
  6. Runic Armasaur
    A solid value creature and a big wall on the ground.  Could find a home in Selesnya Value or elsewhere in theory.
  7. Stitcher's Supplier
    If Faithless Looting ever got banned, which people have discussed, I think we would be looking to cards like Stitcher's Supplier to fuel Dredge and other graveyard based decks.
  8. Detection Tower
    Gives an out to Leyline of Sanctity to decks that struggle to answer it.  A useful inclusion for some, admittedly niche, decks.

CONCLUSIONS

I do not imagine that Core Set 2019 will be hugely impactful on Modern but there are more cards of interest than I expected.  For the most part there are some interesting sideboard cards which I imagine will see play and some decent additions to tribes like Spirits and Elves.  The new Tezzeret is also quite exciting in terms of cards that might see main deck play.  I do not think there is anything truly game changing in the set but there's enough that I think it will give us enough new cards to work with and try out.

Please let me know your thoughts on Core Set 2019's impact on Modern and any potential standout cards in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)