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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jun 25 2020 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Modern Musings!  I take a look at the Core Set 2021 spoiler and review the cards that could make an impact on Modern.

White

Angelic Ascension
Angelic Ascension
A Beast Within style removal spell that answers creatures or planeswalkers, perhaps moreso than with Beast Within, can also be used offensively to create a threat.  Two-mana to exile any creature of planeswalker is a great deal but giving your opponent a 4/4 flying Angel token is a significant price to pay.  Alternatively, a 4/4 flyer for just two-mana is a pretty good deal even in Modern so you can use this as an aggressive card instead.

This feels like a card that could have some real utility and has an interesting balance of risk and reward.  Certainly any deck that can negate the impact of the Angel token could be interested in this as removal - particularly if they do not have access to Assassin's Trophy.

Basri Ket
Basri Ket
Basri Ket is the latest planeswalker to be added to the Magic pantheon.  Basri is from Amonkhet and a past follower of Oketra.  Let's look at those abilities:

  • +1 - Nothing to write home about.  A +1/+1 counter and indestructible is fine but it's nothing overly exciting and requires you to have a creature on board to take advantage of it.
  • -2 - This is Basri's truly interesting ability.  A mass token production if you can swarm the board sufficient.  It's good but as it doesn't count token creatures it's tricky to activate this for a massive impact until much later in the game.
  • -6 - The ultimate is not bad but certainly not game ending in a format like Modern.  You amass creatures eventually but a simple Wrath effect will set you back a long way.

Not overly excited by Basri or his abilities.  Not really on Modern power level for my money.

Containment Priest
Containment Priest
This is a card that is finally seeing a print into Modern legality.  I was quite surprised that Contaimnent Priest did not make it into Modern Horizons at the time, when it could potentially have thwarted Arclight Phoenix and Dredge decks that were very prominent at that time. It now feels like Containment Priest may have arrived too late to be really useful in the format as the AEther Vial, Collected Company and Dredge decks do not quite have the metagame share they used to.  Containment Priest cannot contain the Escape of Titans from the graveyard sadly. 

It does give a nice new answer against Neoform decks which can be very obnoxious.

Idol of Endurance
Idol of Endurance
This card is pretty interesting and has the potential to be very powerful.  However, it can only ever cast creatures it exiled so you need to have a pretty well stocked graveyard when you cast Idol of Endurance.  Also, with a two-mana activation cost you are only truly getting a CMC discount on the cost of any three-mana creatures in your graveyard.  The best existing home for this card in Modern might be Devoted Druid combo decks with Idol giving those decks a chance to recast the various low CMC creatures in the deck including the combo pieces themselves.

Could have some cool potential uses but I don't feel like this card has the power level to be impactful in Modern.

Nine Lives
Nine Lives
Another one of those nasty cards that can make it a nightmare to finish off your opponent - in the ilk of Worship and Phyrexian Unlife.  It doesn't combo with Ad Nauseam like Phyrexian Unlife so it isn't replacing Unlife's position in that deck.  It could fit in some sort of Enchantment Prison deck and forms a psuedo-lock with Solemnity against any deck looking to kill you with damage.

Speaker of the Heavens
Speaker of the Heavens
Once upon a time, Soul Sisters was a viable strategy in Modern but that was a long time ago.  I don't think Soul Sisters is still a good strategy in Modern but if it were this is certainly a good package for the deck.  A card like Martyr of Sands can get Speaker of the Heavens' ability on line fast ready to swamp the battlefield with Angels.

Blue

Frantic Inventory
Frantic Inventory
The fixed version of Accumulated Knowledge for modern templating purposes.  This card definitely feels good but whether it's Modern playable good I'm not so sure.  The first Frantic Inventory you cast is pretty underwhelming, basically cycling a card.  However, thereafter they become increasingly potent instant-speed draw.  Storm or other Pyromancer Ascension decks could be interested in this card - certainly copying Frantic Inventory with two or more copies already in the graveyard is a nice way to draw a lot of cards.  Really any deck looking to filter through it's deck quickly could find a use for Frantic Inventory.

However, on the other hand, there are a lot of efficient one-mana cantrips already in Modern.

Miscast
Miscast
One-mana counterspells can be useful sideboard cards.  I think Miscast is likely to be to narrow for Modern with Spell Pierce providing a broader option.

See the Truth
See the Truth
A sorcery speed Anticipate that turns into a two-mana Ancestral Recall if you cast it from anywhere other than your hand.  This could potentially find use in Storm, as Past in Flames turns copies of See the Truth into significant draw spells.

Stormwing Entity
Stormwing Entity
The discount on this elemental is sizeable when you cast an instant and sorcery spell and a 3/3 flyer with Prowess that scries for 2 on entry is not a bad deal.  However, in a world without Gitaxian Probe you probably aren't casting Stormwing Entity until turn 3 which seems pretty late on.

Sublime Epiphany
Sublime Epiphany
The super Cryptic Command is probably too expensive for Modern but it definitely does a lot and you should be able to use five of its effects at once (provided you have a creature) which is great value.  If you can get to the position where you are casting this then it will certainly put you in the ascendancy.

Teferi, Master of Time
Teferi, Master of Time
Teferi is the first planeswalker to be able to activate at instant-speed which means you can activate him in your turn and your opponent's.  As such Teferi activates more regularly than any planeswalker we have previously seen.  Let's take a look at those abilities:

  • Teferi's +1 is a looting effect.  Drawing two cards a turn does seem far too powerful so looting seems like a reasonable alternative.  Looting twice a turn is nothing to be sniffed at and nicely bumps Teferi's loyalty out of the range of most removal.
  • Teferi's -3 is a slightly strange temporary removal ability.  I am very surprised to see them reintroduce phasing into Standard as it is far from straightforward.  I guess there is a cool factor to having a unique ability associated with Teferi but having to brush off your rules book in order to play with Teferi is a level of complexity I am surprised they put into Standard.  The advantage of phasing over some type of long term blink is that the creature doesn't leave or enter the battlefield again so you don't trigger ETB abilities.
  • Teferi's -10 ultimate you would expect to be pretty game ending.  Taking three turns in a row should certainly wrap things up but it will take some time looting to get to that stage.

Teferi seems strong.  He lets you see a lot of additional cards for as long as he is on the battlefield and isn't easily removed.  As we've never had a planeswalker that can activate at instant speed it's hard to assess just how good Teferi will be.  However, my impression is that he isn't on Jace, the Mind Sculptor's level and even Jace struggles to make waves in the current Modern environment.

Teferi's Ageless Insight
Teferi's Ageless Insight
This card is a four-mana enchantment that does nothing as it comes into play.  However, once it is in play it can lead to huge card advantage.  Ultimately though it seems like a win more card (that could accidentally deck you) and not something I can see gaining much traction in Modern.

Black

Archfiend's Vessel
Archfiend's Vessel
A 1-drop that can turn into a 5/5 flying Demon if you can resurrect it from the graveyard.  There are quite a lot of ways to do that in Modern, including Unearth, Proclamation of Rebirth and Return to the Ranks.

Eliminate
Eliminate
It's certainly a relief to see Wizards finally printing reasonably costed and useful removal spells that can answer planeswalkers.  Eliminate feels like it could see some play in Modern as it answers mosts creatures and planeswalkers in the format and is easily splashable.

Grim Tutor
Grim Tutor
This is a reprint from Starter 1999, which is definitely going back some way. A real tutor for 3-mana and 3 life is intriguing prospect.  We don't really have anything similar in Modern at this cost and there are definitely decks that would like to be able to find a specific card at any given time.  However, tapping out for Grim Tutor on turn 3 seems like a dangerous prospect - particularly with the hand disruption available in the format.

Liliana's Devotee
Liliana's Devotee
This is an interesting three-drop that could have its uses.  As a Human you could play Devotee in a version of Humans (with a differently skewed manabase) that allows you to convert any of your dead creatures into 2/2 Zombies.  Alternatively, the Devotee could be a psuedo-Lord in a Zombies deck where you can use sacrifice effects like Carrion Feeder and the recursion of cards like Gravecrawler to maximise generate more Zombies.

Possibly a bit too slow and clunky for Modern, particularly the two-mana activation cost, but certainly an interesting design.

Liliana's Standard Bearer
Liliana's Standard Bearer
A black Caller of the Claw of sorts but instead rewarding you with card draw rather than a board presence.  I always felt that (Caller of Claw) was a nice design and was surprised they never printed anything similar into Modern.  Having sacrifice outlets seems like the best way to abuse Liliana's Standard Bearer and guarantee maximum value but it's just generally a pretty solid value card.

Thieves' Guild Enforcer
Thieves' Guild Enforcer
An interesting little one drop that has quite a lot going on.  Rogue Mill isn't really an archetype of any description and with only effect of this type it seems hard to truly build around.  I suppose you could slot this in a Mill deck as a one-mana removal spell of sorts, being a flash 3/2 blocker with deathtouch that also mills a couple of cards as it comes down.

Red

Chandra's Incinerator
Chandra's Incinerator
A powerful top-end creature for a Burn deck - particularly if you are casting it for one-mana.  The quality of Modern burn spells means it would be easy enough to cast Incinerator on Turn 3.  At which point you have a trampling 6/6 that is out of range for most commonly played Modern removal.  The downside is that it's a terrible top deck and needs to be supported by at least a couple of burn spells to be cast for one-mana.  Also, Burn decks tend to have a low curve that allows them to miss their third land drop without issue which Incinerator doesn't really play into.  

There also various other ways to rack up non-combat damage if you want to skew your deck in that direction.  However, I'm not sure Incinerator truly justifies that level of building around.

Conspicuous Snoop
Conspicious Snoop
A Goblin card advantage engine at 2-mana is definitely an odd sight.  Being able to play Goblins off the top of your deck is effectively card draw which is nothing to sniffed at. 

Also, while there aren't tons of exciting Goblin activated abilities there are some that could potentially be abused, including Krenko, Mob Boss and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker that spring to mind.  There is a potential turn 3 combo kill here that goes as follows:

Turn 2: Cast Conspicious Snoop
Turn 3: Cast Boggart Harbinger putting Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on top of your library.  Conspicious Snoop can then make infinite copies of itself.  Finally copy the Boggart Harbinger to put Mogg Fanatic on top and sacrifice the Conspicious Snoop copies for lethal damage.

I'd be interested to see how well this slots into existing Rakdos Goblin shells.

Green

Elder Gargaroth
Elder Gargaroth
Elder Gargaroth does feel a bit like it was created on the R&D keyword dart board.  However, what they have made is certainly a formidable beast for just 5-mana.  Gargaroth is a huge threat that is a one creature board stall - it's very difficult to attack past and allowing the Gargaroth to block is not an attractive prospect as it draws a card, creates a 3/3 beast or gains life.  It's opportunity to both attack and block is also enhanced by having vigilance.

Five-mana is certainly expensive in a format as fast as Modern, however, Gargaroth is a threat not easily answered by most popular Modern removal and one that can quickly create a large advantage.  The only downside is that it doesn't have an ETB ability and it's lack of immediate board impact is a disadvantage over other options at a similar cost. 

I think green ramp decks, that aren't Primeval Titan decks, would certainly be interested in this powerhouse.  It's an exceptional road block against any deck trying to win the game through traditional combat.  If Elder Gargaroth doesn't make the main deck I could see it being a viable sideboard option to bring in against matchups like Burn, Humans, Eldrazi Tron.

Garruk's Harbinger
Garruk's Harbinger
A solid three-drop with an inbuilt immunity to Fatal Push.  The current Modern metagame seems to be pushing away from black and so it's perhaps not the best time for Harbinger.  However, if the metagame pushes back into a direction where Fatal Push is the best removal spell then Harbinger could be a valuable card.  The card advantage gained from hitting with it while being a solid beatstick for the mana investment makes it a decent card.

With Elder Gargaroth and Garruk's Harbinger and the recent printing of Kaheera, the Orphanguard it would be interesting to see if there is a viable Beast deck in Modern.

Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse
Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse
A 2-drop Human legend with a decent ability.  Sadly, not one that fits in any deck that I can really think of.  Jolrael is a very blue card for green and while her first ability can be very potent the rest of this package is pretty feeble.  Jolrael doesn't really do anything on her own and is a 1/2.  There might be some sweet combo to make Jolrael go infinite somewhere but otherwise Jolrael is sadly lacking.

Multi-Coloured

Niambi, Esteemed Speaker
Niambi, Esteemed Speaker
Niambi seems like a card that is almost playable in Modern Humans decks.  Niambi can fizzle a removal spell or be used to buy back uses of ETB creatures, such as Reflector Mage and Thalia's Lieutenant.  You can also pitch excess copies of legendary creatures, such as Thalia, General Kudro or Niambi, for value which is a nice upside.  I think the uses of Niambi are probably a bit too fringe to make it a Humans staple but it's another fine option - I'd think the existing lists are probably just a bit too tight to make room.

Radha, Heart of Keld
Radha, Heart of Keld
Radha, Heart of Keld is an aggro Courser of Kruphix which is a solid card but dying to bolt and with Dryad of the Ilysian Grove being the more popular option in Modern I can't see Radha really adds much.  I can't see Elves being interested in Radha either as they have a low land count because of their high number of mana-producing creatures.

MY TOP 8 CARDS FOR MODERN FROM CORE SET 2021

Here are my Top 8 picks for cards from Core Set 2021 to impact Modern:

  1. Eliminate
    A cheap answer to creatures and more importantly planeswalkers I can see Eliminate being a card that sees some play in Modern.
  2. Elder Gargaroth
    It may end up being another big fattie for the pile but Elder Gargaroth's ability to swing a combat situation in your favour is impressive.  There is a ton of value to be had from having Gargaroth on the field and I think that's enticing.
  3. Containment Priest
    A solid hatebear that has arrived at the wrong time for the format.  Contaiment Priest still remains a strong card and one that might find another time to shine in the future.
  4. Frantic Inventory
    This seems like it has potential as a draw spell in Storm and perhaps elsewhere but Modern has a lot of high class one-mana draw spells that might outshine Frantic Inventory.
  5. Conspicious Snoop
    A solid Goblin with some combo potential.  I could see this getting played or at least trialed in Rakdos Goblins.
  6. Teferi, Master of Time
    I have my doubts about the power level of the new Teferi but cards that do new things can surprise you.  Teferi's double activations may make it more powerful than it looks.
  7. Sublime Epiphany
    In a similar vein to Cruel Ultimatum, this card has the potential to be crushing while being considerably easier to cast.  It's probably too expensive for Modern but could be interesting to experiment with.
  8. Stormwing Entity
    If more solid free spells become available then this could be very powerful.  I'm not sure (Gutshot) make this viable on its own but I could be wrong and Prowess decks have seen success in the past.

CONCLUSIONS

I often say that I don't think a set will have a massive impact on Modern but in recent times that has regularly not proven true.  Theros Beyond Death and Ikoria had much bigger impacts on the format than I had initially anticipated.  With Core Set 2021, I feel much more confident with that prediction as there really aren't the game breaking cards we've seen previously.  I don't expect to see Core Set 2021 having a major impact on Modern's current state.  With the recent tumult in the format some stability would certainly be appreciated so I'm fairly happy that Core Set 2021 doesn't offer much but a few fringe pieces and a decent planeswalker removal spell.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)