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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jan 21 2020 1:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Modern Musings!  It's been a while since I have done a set review which is probably for the best as I imagine I would have grossly underestimated the power of Oko among other things. 

The previous Theros set may have been one of the weaker sets in Modern's back catalogue with Anger of the Gods really being the main card that still sees play from the set.  However, Wizards' F.I.R.E philosophy of increasing the power level of Standard sets (for better or worse) and their spectacular misses in the past few sets there may be more to talk about than average.

THE CARDS

White

Alseid of Life's Bounty
Alseid of Life's Bounty
Potentially an interesting card for Bogles players, perhaps as a sideboard option.  While not overly exciting in its own right the Alseid adds to your enchantment count while also providing a protective ability that can counter Disenchant-effects.  I'm not sure Bogles really wants to have to keep mana up for that type of ability though - it's a shame that there is a mana cost associated with the sacrifice effect as otherwise this might be a more enticing prospect.

Eidolon of Obstruction
Eidolon of Obstruction
While not nearly good enough as it goes it's nice to see Wizards is acknowledging that planeswalker hate cards need to exist.  Planeswalkers as a card type have been overprotected by WOTC despite their huge upswing in power and reduction in mana-cost in recent times.  Eidolon of Obstruction isn't the hate card we need or deserve but it's a step in the right direction.

Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Heliod, Sun-Crowned
The general excitement around Heliod is that it combos with Walking Ballista, if you give the Ballista lifelink then it can ping the opponent to death.  It also combos with Spike Feeder in Modern for infinite life.  I can't really get too excited about the Heliod/Ballista combo as I think it is just considerably worse than the Devoted Druid/Vizier of Remedies combo that we already have in the format.  You need to have Heliod in play and cast a Ballista for 4 mana to get a second counter on it and then pay the two mana to activate Heliod so 6-mana if you want to do it in one turn.  In Modern, that is pretty slow.  I can see having this combo as an option in the deck as an alternate kill but I'm not sure it's necessarily worth it.

Considerably more interesting in Pioneer than it is in Modern.

Taranika, Akroan Veteran
Taranika, Akroan Veteran
Taranika can do a lot of damage very quickly with the help of a Noble Hierarch or other ramp creature.  That said a 3/3 is very vulnerable in Modern and I think there are better options for 3-drop humans available in the format.  Potentially a consideration for Humans decks but I'm not sure Taranika quite gets there in terms of power level.

Sentinel's Eyes
Sentinel's Eyes
A strong and cheap aura.  I don't think it successfully beats out the other options in Modern but it is powerful and the ability to recast it cheaply from the graveyard is nice your opponent happens to deal with your hexproof creature.  It would be interesting if there was a way to pair this with a sacrifice outlet and an Enchantress effect to draw through your deck.

Blue

Callaphe, Beloved of the Sea
Callaphe, Beloved of the Sea
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner was once an occasional player in Merfolk.  Callaphe can play a similar role with the potential to be a more significant threat in a deck with so many blue pips.  However, not being a Merfolk hurts and so I would be surprised if Callaphe is too much of a revelation in the deck.

Omen of the Sea
Omen of the Sea
While not a overly exciting card on the face of it, Omen of the Sea does provide a nice addition to the card draw spells already in the format.  As an instant speed draw with Scry 2 it's pretty solid particularly if your decks is just looking to put specific pieces together.

Thassa's Intervention
Thassa's Intervention
Cards that let you counter spells or draw cards at instant speed tend to be pretty powerful - which makes Thassa's Intervention an enticing package.  Thassa's Intervention is slightly overpriced at lower costs but scales very nicely.  Cost efficiency is the name of the game in Modern though which might limit the reach of this card.  However, I could see control decks running a copy or two.

Black

Aphemia, the Cacophony
Aphemia, the Cacophany
Aphemia has the potential to be a very powerful token producer but putting enchantments into your graveyard is a little harder than other card types which limits Aphemia's power level.

Cling to Dust
Cling to Dust
A solid recursive graveyard hate card that can replace itself if used to target non-creatures.  A nice option to add to the existing suite of graveyard hate cards.

Erebos's Intervention
Erebos's Intervention
An instant-speed removal spell that scales with your mana is a solid card and it also doubles up as decent graveyard hate.  The size of Modern threats probably just doesn't make this very mana efficient but it's a solid card.

Tymaret Calls the Dead
Tymaret Calls the Dead
It's the classic interesting card that makes me want to try and make Zombies work in Modern, though inevitably it never does (unless you count the Hogaak decks).  Ideally you dump six cards into the graveyard and produce two 2/2 Zombies and then gain some life and scry the following turn.  It's certainly not a bad deal and even better if you are flipping Gravecrawlers and Bloodghasts into the yard.  It's a shame the last chapter doesn't draw you cards because then this might be more exciting.

Red

Ox of Agonas
Ox of Agonas
Ox of Agonas feels like a Dredge version of Bedlam Reveler.  Eight cards to escape is quite steep but I guess if you convert those draws into more dredges then you can easily restock your graveyard.  I'm not fully sure how the Ox will play in Modern Dredge but Sodek, the Modern Dredge master, appears to be excited about it so that bodes well for the ox.  Certainly a very powerful graveyard synergy card and one that is likely to get some interest.

Phoenix of Ash
Phoenix of Ash
Worth a mention as both Arclight Phoenix and Flamewake Phoenix have had some time in the spotlight in Modern, however, I think crucial to their success was that there was no mana-cost to return them.  Phoenix escapes the grave fairly easily but the 4-mana investment is quite a lot.  You can certainly do worse for a hasty threat and it's a nice card to give your deck a late game threat that is hard to permanently deal with.  A solid card but I think it's unlikely to be powerful enough for Modern consideration.

Satyr's Cunning
Satyr's Cunning
While not the most exciting of cards this is a repeatable token producer and an easy mana-sink for additional mana.  The fact that the tokens generated can't block is definitely a setback.  Combines nicely with Gallia of the Endless Dance (see below) in a 8-Whack type shell or could work in a deck that cares about adding a creature to the board each turn, such as the Norin, the Wary decks of old.

Storm's Wrath
Storm's Wrath
A strong mass removal card and one that hits planeswalkers too, which seems increasingly relevant in Modern.

Underworld Breach
Underworld Breach
This seems like a really powerful card but with there being so many powerful Storm cards already in the format I am not sure if this really adds a new dimension to that deck.  Definitely feels like it has the potential to very powerful but it's more of the same as the Storm combo which hasn't really been doing well in the format as of late.

The best suggestion I have seen so far is to use Underworld Breach with a 0 cost artifact and Grinding Station to repeatedly cast and sacrifice that artifact and mill yourself.  However, you still need a way to actually win the game from there, such as a Grapeshot.  I'm not sure that is overly exciting.

Green

Arasta of the Endless Web
Arasta of the Endless Web
A solid 4-drop that punishes the opponent for playing instants and sorceries is definitely interesting.  Against some decks you could get a lot of value out of dropping Arasta but as a punisher card it's probably not quite punishing enough on the opponent.  This card would be significantly more exciting if it triggered on all non-creature spells.

Destiny Spinner
Destiny Spinner
A solid rate hatebear that is also a Human, which has its advantages in Modern.  I'm not sure the format is in a place where it really calls for Destiny Spinner to be played but it definitely has its uses.  Also, if you can make use of its activated ability it becomes even more powerful but that's no likely to happen in the existing Humans shell.

I expect Destiny Spinner to be a very useful two drop in Standard but I don't think it does enough for Modern.

Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
The Dryad is an interesting card that adds itself to a number of similar creatures already in the format.  Courser of Kruphix and Oracle of Mul Daya are some obvious comparisons.  Dryad has the same stats at Courser and allows you to play an additional each land each turn like Oracle.  It doesn't have the card advantage aspect of playing off the top of your library but it instead has the Prismatic Omen ability of giving your lands each basic land type.  This can be colour-fixing or can assist with meeting the requirements of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle's mountain count.

The Dryad is definitely powerful and potentially has some powerful applications in TitanShift or Amulet decks.

Nyxbloom Ancient
Nyxbloom Ancient
This card makes a stupid amount of mana.  While it seems like it more of a Standard or Commander card I wouldn't want to completely discount any card capable of this kind of mana-generation.

Multi-Coloured

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
Ashiok seems relatively powerful.  Certainly a +1 that generates a 2/3 creature with a milling ability is an interesting start.  Ashiok can defend himself too but at significant cost.  The ultimate isn't anything to overly shout about unless your are lucky enough to exile very powerful cards from your opponent.  It feels like playing Jace, the Mind Sculptor would almost always be preferable to playing Ashiok.

Gallia of the Endless Dance
Gallia of the Endless Dance
Gallia would be a much more interesting card if it supported a more powerful tribe and so its second ability was more relevant.  The most interesting part of the card is certainly the third ability though which is a slightly risky form of card advantage for attacking with three or more creatures.  Gallia could be interesting in a Gruul Zoo, Naya Zoo or 8-Whack shell but I can't help but feel that the Satyr would feel a bit underpowered compared to other two-drops available.  As I say, this weakness could be overcome if the second ability were more relevant but there currently aren't enough powerful Satyrs to get much incidental value from the Lord (or Lady?) aspect of the card.

Hero of the Nyxborn
Hero of Nyxborn
While Hero of Nyxborn doesn't have the most exciting stats it's a 3-drop Human that generates another Human token.  That makes for excellent synergy with Humans staples Champion of the Parish and Thalia's Lieutenant.  The Modern Humans deck already has some very solid 3-drop staples but it would be interesting to see how Hero of Nyxborn plays in the deck.  The current Humans shell doesn't really accommodate the Hero of Nyxborn's heroic ability of giving the team +1/+0, as it runs little to no spells to target the Hero with.  Perhaps a different Humans shell entirely would better accommodate Hero of Nyxborn.

Certainly a card that has me interested to test it out.

Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
The first of two mythic Titans in Theros Beyond Death.  There is quite a lot going on with these cards so it's worth breaking down.

  • The Titans abilities trigger, like the original titan cycle, on entering the battlefield and whenever the creature attacks.
  • You can cast the Titans normally for their casting cost in which case, like an evoke creature, their ETB ability is triggered and they are sacrificed to the graveyard.  This is a good way to get them into the graveyard.
  • The Titans both have the Escape ability allowing you to cast them from the graveyard for a mana cost and exiling other cards in the graveyard. 

Kroxa is certainly a powerful creature.  Getting it into the graveyard shouldn't be a problem as you simply cast Kroxa for 2-mana and force a discard to get it there.  It has to be said though that Kroxa's ability isn't nearly as powerful as Uro's ability in terms of recursive use.  Though a 6/6 with a repeated discard/damage ability is nothing to be sniffed at for just 4-mana.

In terms of homes for Kroxa, it feels like it would be perfect for an 8-Rack deck.  It works as a discard spell but is also a recursive threat to close out the game with.  Rakdos Burn is also a contender as a use for excess burn spells in the graveyard.  In terms of the more mainstream decks perhaps you could stick a copy in Grixis Death's Shadow as an alternative to the usual Delve creatures or in Dredge - however, 4-mana is a lot for those decks and the lack of a mana-cost reduction makes Kroxa a less attractive option for decks like Death's Shadow.

Kunoros, Hound of Athreos
Kunoros, Hound of Athreos
A powerful hatebear (hound?) though obviously one that has Lightning Bolt to contend with in Modern.  It has a medley of abilities that let it swing in, gain you life and neuter graveyard strategies.  Seems like a decent card for Death & Taxes strategies or at least a nice sideboard option.

Polukranos, Unchained
Polukranos, Unchained
Polukranos is a very bulky creature and certainly has the potential to be very powerful in slower formats.  However, I don't think it does enough in Modern to justify the expense and it seems unlikely that you would get too many opportunities to escape this mighty hydra in Modern.  I imagine Polukranos will be a powerhouse in Standard and maybe even Pioneer but I don't think it quite cuts it in Modern.

Siona, Captain of the Pyleas
Siona, Captain of the Pyleas
A very solid aura tutor which also provides a body and an ability that rewards you for playing additional auras.  Siona seems like a natural fit for Bogles but the spaces in that deck are quite tight and it generally operates on a tight curve.  Siona is a very strong card but I just don't think she quite makes the cut in Bogles.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
Just when you thought they might stop printing busted Simic cards they go and do it again.  Uro seems like a crazy card and I am sure it will dominate slower formats.  Three mana for an Explore with some life gain is slightly over the odds but once you put Uro into play and can repeat that ability it quickly gets out of hand.  Uro is like Primeval Titan-lite and is definitely an enticing option for any deck looking to replicate that type of ability.  It seems like a slam dunk for the Simic TitanField decks that have recently emerged (though they have just lost Oko at time of writing) but is perhaps less likely to make an impact on Amulet or TitanShift decks.  Uro is also a tremendous threat against aggro decks, gaining you life and putting a huge body onto the board.

The conflict with Uro in Modern is the following:

  1. Firstly, Uro is competing with Primeval Titan and Titan decks are already looking to drop Titan on Turn 3 or 4 where possible and a slower Explore, while not completely counter to those efforts, may hinder the speed at which Titan hits.
  2. Secondly, Uro is looking for Titan decks to do something that they aren't necessarily already doing - filling the graveyard.  Uro needs cards in the graveyard to Escape and while there are fetchlands and spells in those decks I don't know how consistently those decks are going to have five other cards in the graveyard as early as Turn 3 or 4, without running Thought Scour or something to assist with that.  Only testing will find out whether Uro is worth remodelling your deck for.

Uro definitely has the potential to make a big splash in Modern but time will tell just how powerful the card really is.  Will a deck designed to power out Uro break the format, only time will tell.

Lands

Labyrinth of Skophos
Labyrinth of Skophos
It's a modern day Maze of Ith!  This card is pretty interesting and adds to the slew of colourless utility lands already in the format.  Another potential tool for Tron, Eldrazi or really any other deck capable of supporting it.  While expensive it can be a powerful response to threats.

MY TOP 8 THEROS BEYOND DEATH CARDS FOR MODERN

  1. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
    The most obviously powerful card in the set.  Uro seems pretty busted but it remains to be seen how it will play in Modern.  Uro doesn't quite slot into most of the traditional Titan decks but it may just end up breaking those moulds.
  2. Ox of Agonas
    One to get Dredge players excited.  The Ox has the potential to generate huge dredge turns which could be the boost the deck needs to make a major comeback.  I hope the Ox isn't too good as Dredge is quite an obnoxious deck.
  3. Hero of Nyxborn
    I am intrigued as to how powerful this card is combined with Champion of the Parish and Thalia's Lieutenant.
  4. Underworld Breach
    A card that certainly feels like it should be or will one day become broken.  It's just a matter of figuring out how.
  5. Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
    The other titan in this slightly odd two-card cycle.  Kroxa is not as impressive as Uro but a recursive threat of this caliber is not to be dismissed too easily.  It feels like it could have some uses.
  6. Labyrinth of Skophos
    Another solid colourless utility lands.  Tron and Eldrazi decks might find a use for it or perhaps you could use it in a Wilderness Reclamation deck to repeatedly invalidate an opponent's threat each turn.
  7. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
    Does this Courser of Kruphix/Oracle of Mul Daya hybrid have what it takes to make it in Modern?  I have my doubts but the fact that it fixes your mana and boosts Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle make it worthy of consideration.
  8. Kuneros, Hound of Athreos
    It may not be the most exciting card but it's addition to Modern's brimming hatebear suite.

CONCLUSIONS

Theros Beyond Death doesn't look as though it will have as much of an impact on Modern as Throne of Eldraine did, which thankfully is a relief.  We could really do with some stability in Modern at the moment and I am cautiously optimistic that these cards will not break Modern asunder.

The format is renewed with the ban of Oko and Mox Opal, and also Mycosynth Lattice for reasons that are less clear, so we will see how that melting pot comes together.  I feel excited for Modern again and will be interested to see what rises to the top.

Have I got it all terribly wrong?  Did I miss the top card in the set?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)