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By: olaw, Oliver Law
May 11 2019 4:21pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Modern Musings!  In the first part of this article, I took a look at the mono-coloured cards from War of the Spark.  In this article, I am tackling the Gold cards, artifacts, colourless and land cards from the set.

THE CARDS

Multi-Coloured

Angrath's Rampage
Angrath's Rampage
Angrath's Rampage is a solid utility card that can act as removal for creatures, planeswalkers or artifacts as required.  It's sorcery speed though and it's arguable that there are better options available.  Kolaghan's Command has similar versatility and is probably the more objectively powerful card so the question is how much value is added by having this versatility.  You also have to take into account that Rampage is not targeted removal, so while it can get past Hexproof, it does not guarantee you will hit what you want.  Causing Affinity, Lantern Control or Whir Prison to sacrifice an artifact is unlikely to be very effective when they can just sacrifice their Welding Jar or Mox Opal to keep their Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating or Ensnaring Bridge.  As such, it feels like the other two modes have the greatest utility.

I think this card is being overrated somewhat currently.  It's good but I feel there are better options in the format.

Ashiok, Dream Render
Ashiok, Dream Render
Ashiok has a very powerful effect in prevent your opponents search their libraries.  Search prevention has seen some play in various guises in Modern largely due to the reliance on fetchlands, from Shadow of Doubt, Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor.  Some of these became less popular when Birthing Pod left the format and if you cannot drop Ashiok early perhaps it suffers the same problem.  Milling and exiling the opponent's graveyard is good in various matchups too which does give Ashiok added utility.  Potentially a solid sideboard card in certain matchups, with Dredge being a potential benefactor, and possibly a main deck playable in Mill or some sort of Land Destruction strategy, though Ashiok's colours make land destruction more difficult.

I think this card is also being overhyped.  Turn 3 graveyard hate is nothing to shout about, often being too late, and turning off fetchlands is a lot less exciting on Turn 3 or later than it is in the early turns of the game.  I could be wrong but I don't feel like Ashiok will see as much play as people are predicting.

Cruel Celebrant
Cruel Celebrant
Cruel Celebrant is another Blood Artist which makes a total of 12 in the format, taking into account Zulaport Cutthroat.  There have already been decks designed around Blood Artist in Modern in the past and now with 12 copies available it seems like an interesting time to give the archetype another shot.

Domri, Anarch of Bolas
Domri, Anarch of Bolas
A new 3-mana Domri proves an enticing prospect.  Domri's static ability plays into aggressive strategies but boosting your creatures attack.  Domri also is a mana-accelerant providing mana with his +1 ability and has a removal option in using his -2 fight ability.  There have been a number of Gruul Zoo decks built in Modern over the years and Domri could certainly fit into that mold nicely.  I would probably rate this above Domri Rade in terms of board impact and that was a card that some a bit of play back in the day.  Worth experimenting with.

Feather, the Redeemed
Feather, the Redeemed
Creatures with unique effects like this will always attract attention, especially from people trying to break them.  So far I haven't heard anything truly game breaking as a combo with Feather.  The best one was probably SaffronOlive's suggestion of casting Gigadrowse targeting Feather and then using the Replicate copies to tap all your opponent's lands, a process which can then be rinsed and repeated.  However, the mana required for that is pretty crippling.  The other potential combo is with Aurelia's Fury which lets you lock down creatures and prevent your opponent casting non-creature spells.

Huatli's Raptor
Huatli's Raptor
A solid two-drop with the ability to proliferate when it comes onto the battlefield.  There were some counters-based Stompy decks in the past that could potentially use this card or maybe it could find a slot in Hardened Scales Affinity.

Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
The new Kiora has a huge amount of loyalty and provides a cheaper untapping planeswalker than the Garruk Wildspeaker and Kiora, Master of the Depths.  These cards tend to see play in Utopia Sprawl or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx fueled big mana decks, that tend to ramp in Tooth and Nail and other big threats.

Living Twister
Living Twister
Living Twister is a creature with some impressive stats and interesting abilities.  Once upon a time, Aggro Loam was a viable deck in Modern, which combined Seismic Assault with Life from the Loam to churn out damage.  Living Twister seems like a nice addition to this type of strategy, putting a powerful roadblock on the ground and giving a slightly more pricey Seismic Assault ability to work with.

Neoform
Neoform
A new and intriguing take on the Birthing Pod ability, which follows up the printing of Vannifar.  Unlike other effects of this type we have seen, Neoform requires you to find a creature with precisely the sacrificed creature's converted mana-cost +1.  So, if you sacrifice a 1-mana creature you have to find a 2-drop and cannot find another one-drop instead.  As such, the budget cost of Neoform does come at a price in terms of flexibility.  That said it's interesting to have this ability at such a low cost at it still seems very abusable.  Eldritch Evolution exiled itself whereas Neoform doesn't which opens up some shenanigans with Eternal Witness which could be quite powerful.

This card could take the Devoted Druid/Vizier of Remedies combo to the next level, given that deck only needs to tutor for a couple of 2-drops it can run mana dorks and Neoform to find the missing piece.

A sweet brew that was brought to my attention by Matt Nass and LSV's video on War of the Spark in Modern, is casting Neoform on Allosaurus Rider to put Griselbrand into play.  This is potentially a Turn 1 kill with the help of Chancellor of the Tangle.  It's probably not a long-term viable deck but it is very cool.

Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Saheeli is a Young Pyromancer on a planeswalker which is by far the most significant effect of the card.  It provides a potential win condition that is immune to the usual removal and can be protected with the tokens it produces.  The -2 seems less exciting but Saheeli creates artifact tokens to use the ability on and it can let you duplicate other artifacts and creatures you control, which is no bad thing.  That said I think most of the time you will be happy to keep Saheeli at 5 loyalty and benefit from her static ability.

There are lots of decks that could use Saheeli, either as a main deck or sideboard threat.  Saheeli could be an alternate win condition for Izzet Phoenix, Whir Prison, Storm among other decks.

Teferi, Time Raveler
Teferi, Time Raveler
Teferi, Time Raveler is a very powerful card and certainly one to watch for Modern. 

  • Teferi's static ability prevents opponents from casting spells at instant speed which can be very powerful protection for your creatures and spells.  There is certainly a lot of value from this ability alone which is part of what makes Teferi so exciting.  All your spells become uncounterable and your opponent is locked out of interacting with you on your turn.
  • Teferi's +1 ability is probably the least exciting part of the card in general.  It seems unlikely that the ability is going to be valuable every turn you use it.  That said in UW Control you can cast Wrath effects at instant speed which is very powerful.  It can also be a powerful combo enabler but it is difficult to say how well that fits in with Teferi's colours.
  • Teferi's -3 is very powerful and instantly nets you a card to boot so even if Teferi dies shortly thereafter it is guaranteed to have earned you some value.  Bouncing a creature, artifact or enchantment means it can be an answer to a lot of problematic permanents and you are more than likely to have a target when you cast Teferi.

Overall I think the new Teferi is a very exciting and powerful card and certainly a card I expect to see some play in Modern.  UW Control seems like his natural home, though he will have to contend with other planeswalkers in those decks.  That said I think Teferi probably nets you more value than a Detention Sphere or other cards of that ilk on average so I can see there being room for the new Teferi in these lists.  Others seem to disagree and see Teferi as sideboard fodder but I'm thinking Teferi is powerful enough to make the main deck.

Artifacts

God-Pharaoh's Statue
God-Pharaoh's Statue
The first of a number potential Tron cards to discuss.  God-Pharaoh's Statue generates a very taxing effect on the opponent and, less relevantly, slowing kills them.  Although the taxing effect is powerful it's probably less so in Modern, where the general converted mana cost of cards is very low.  As such, unless this is backed up with additional effects or land destruction it just doesn't feel like it will be effective enough.  Also, when you compare this to casting a Karn Liberated or some of the options available it really does not stack up.

Colourless

Karn, the Great Creator
Karn, the Great Creator
Karn, the Great Creator is a card that I first disregarded but has since been hyped quite considerably.  Lets discuss the abilities:

  • Karn's static ability prevents opponents using activated abilities of artifacts.  It's questionable how good this ability is.  There are certainly a lot of cards that it turns off, including AEther Vial, Mox Opal, Chromatic Sphere and Arcbound Ravager to name a few.  However, I am just not sure how good it is against the artifact-based decks in the format.  It's strong against Affinity but by the time you are casting Karn it might be a bit too late, Tron suffers but still has its planeswalkers and Wurmcoil Engines to handle the situation and Whir Prison plays a lot of cards that don't care about this effect, such as Ensnaring Bridge and Chalice of the Void so can probably just use an alternative win condition to play around it.
  • Karn's +1 ability animates an artifact into a creature.  This is probably the least exciting of Karn's abilities but can potentially be used to produce a threat if you have managed to lock down the board.
  • Karn's -2 ability is a powerful tutor effect, allowing your to obtain an artifact from exile or outside of the game.  This opens the opportunity to have a silver bullet sideboard filled with situationally good artifacts which can be tutored and cast.

The main revelation with Karn has been the combo with Mycosynth Lattice.  As Lattice makes all permanents into artifacts it works with Karn to prevent your opponent from tapping their lands for mana as the activated abilities of their lands cannot be used.  It's a powerful lock that can only be broken by killing Karn or floating mana to destroy the Lattice.  Also, the idea isn't nearly as implausible it might seem, as thanks to Karn's -2 ability you can tutor up Mycosynth Lattice from your sideboard rather than having to play multiple copies of the otherwise redundant artifact in your main deck.  Karn also gives some viability to a silver bullet sideboard for Tron decks which could also be enticing.

Ugin's Conjurant
Ugin's Conjurant
The main talk around this card is how it combines with Celestial Kirin to provide a targeted Engineered Explosives, thanks to being a Spirit.  It's a sweet interaction, though I doubt it's hugely viable in Modern.

Ugin, the Ineffable
Ugin, the Ineffable
Colourless planeswalkers will always turn a Tron players head.  The new Ugin grants a powerful cost reduction effect, however, sadly without some major building around it I don't think Ugin does enough to justify its mana cost.  If there were a home for this card, I guess it would be Eldrazi Tron as it gives a nice cost reduction on your Eldrazi while giving you a removal spell or a way to generate additional threats.

Lands

Blast Zone
Blast Zone
This card is extremely exciting.  A land that doubles up as an Engineered Explosives is insane and there is no real drawback, it doesn't even come into play tapped.  As such, I think Blast Zone will find its way into various decks in the same way that we see Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin in the two colours decks.  It cannot destroy 0-mana permanents so tokens are safe but everything else is fair game.  This is a really strong card and feels like something that fell out of the Modern Horizons folder.

Emergence Zone
Emergence Zone
This is a land with an ability that is pretty powerful, however, it has been somewhat overshadowed by the printing of Teferi, Time Raveler who can do the same thing in a more impressive package.  It is important to note that Emergence Zone actually allows you to cast all spells with flash so you drop artifacts, enchantments, planeswalkers, creatures or sorceries at instant speed which could be exciting.  However, sacrificing the land to obtain that one-time ability and also paying an additional mana to do so makes this seem like a significantly worse deal than it otherwise might be.

Mobilized District
Mobilized District
Mobilized District is an interesting creatureland.  On the face of it, it is far to expensive but the cost of activation it can be reduced to 0 if you control enough legendary creatures/planeswalkers.  This sits alongside Mox Amber as incentives to build a legendary heavy deck, however, I am just not sure it adds enough to make this a legitimate strategy.  The fact it only counts creatures and planeswalkers makes it much harder to get to the point where you are activating this card for 0.

MY TOP 8 WAR OF THE SPARK CARDS FOR MODERN

It has been an exciting and very eventful spoiler season for War of the Spark and it has to be said that the set is extremely exciting.  The power level of the set feels really high and I honestly haven't had this much to talk about in a single set since I started writing these articles.  That makes this list a lot trickier to write than my usual lists.  With that said, here are my Top 8 cards for impacting Modern:

  1. Blast Zone
    An Engineered Explosives on a land that taps for colourless mana and it doesn't come into play tapped?  This is just an incredible utility land that seems like it will see play all over the place.  An extremely powerful card.
  2. Finale of Promise
    This card seems really powerful.  It can return an Arclight Phoenix to play or be a blazing 3-drop for Burn decks.  It also works as an Electrodominance if you pitch your Suspend card into graveyard.  This card has a ton of potentail applications and time will tell just how good those interactions are.
  3. Teferi, Time Raveler
    To my mind this is a new staple for UW Control decks.  I might be proven wrong about this but it seems very strong and one that I feel is likely to see a lot of play in UW Modern decks moving forwards.
  4. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
    A non-creature Young Pyromancer provides a valuable and less vulnerable win condition for a variety of decks.
  5. Karn, the Great Creator
    It might end up being a pipe dream but the Mycosynth Lattice lock and other options Karn, the Great Creator provides at least has the potential to turn Tron-players heads.  Whether this is actually a useful and viable strategy remains to be seen but I for one would be keen to try it out.
  6. Neoform
    Perhaps one of the more exciting Birthing Pod-lite cards printed so far.  Two-mana is nice and cheap and unlike Eldritch Evolution you can get this back from the graveyard with Eternal Witness.  This card has real potential.
  7. Finale of Devastation
    The fixed version of Green Sun's Zenith is a tutor effect to be feared, however, it has a lot of competition in the format.  Time will tell if it proves to be better than the other options available for creature tutoring.
  8. Liliana's Triumph
    Diabolic Edict has never been printed in Modern and now it doesn't matter because this card is better most of the time.  With Liliana being one of the most planeswalkers in Modern, in her various guises, the additional instant speed discard could be relevant too.   The fact it can hit through a Leyline of Sanctity is also pretty relevant, particularly if we see the London mulligan sticking around in Modern.

CONCLUSIONS
War of the Spark seems like a very powerful set with a lot of cards that feel like they have viable Modern applications.  Planeswalkers have an interesting history in Modern, as they were once very much on the sidelines with the exclusion of Liliana of the Veil and Karn Liberated.  However, in more recent times an increasing number of viable planeswalkers have entered the fray, including the unbanned Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and planeswalkers are slightly more commonplace in the Modern metagame.  With an unprecedented number of planeswalkers entering the Modern cardpool at once it will be interesting to see how things shake out.

War of the Spark has provided a very entertaining spoiler season with lots of pushed power cards that could impact Modern.  It will be very exciting to see how that plays out in the format.  Also, with Modern Horizons coming in mid-June it looks the format is in for some serious shakeups.

As always, let me know your thoughts on the War of the Spark cards and any thought or feelings you have in the comments section.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)
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