Identifying Modern Playables in Kaladesh

In my opinion, recent sets have done a great job of influencing the Modern format. The two-block model increases the need for flagship cards in individual sets, which lines up with the fact that more Standard-legal cards are making their way into Modern. Some recent additions to the format have been less welcome than others, though I would say that overall Wizards has done a great job of printing new cards that impact older formats.

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Oath of the Gatewatch definitely impacted Modern too heavily, though actually breaking Modern is a pretty difficult feat to accomplish. I think that Kaladesh has a handful of interesting cards for the format without adding anything broken, which is great for a Standard-legal set. Today I’d like to cover all the cards that I’ve identified as potential Modern players. I’ll explain what deck(s) I see each card fitting into and how likely it is to make a splash.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

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I won’t guarantee that Chandra will see Modern play, though four-mana planeswalkers have a way of making their way in. Nahiri, the Harbinger, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Elspeth, Knight-Errant are all within the range of Modern playability. Chandra seems like a solid four-mana spell for a Primeval Titan deck. Casting a Rampant Growth effect on turns two and three enables a turn four Titan, and just playing Chandra on three instead gives you some interaction against aggressive decks that also lets you Titan a turn earlier if your Chandra survives. Not to mention that if you don’t have the Titan, Chandra offers a small amount of draw power to help find it. I don’t know that Chandra necessarily fits anywhere else in Modern, though I think it shows promise in Titan decks.

Toolcraft Exemplar

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Does this card have a home in Affinity? Hard to say. Affinity decks definitely spend more time attacking than blocking, so they don’t really care about a card being bad on defense. What they might care about is wanting early white mana. Theoretically you can jam this guy and Dispatch, which are both powerful spells, but it’s unclear that Affinity is looking to adapt. Toolcraft Exemplar does seem like one of the better things you can have on the battlefield when your opponent casts Stony Silence. But when it comes to hate I’m pretty sure Affinity players have accepted their lot in life. Unless a one-mana three-power creature proves to be worth caring about white mana in a more general sense, this one might not make it. I fully expect it to be tried by Affinity players though.

Inventor’s Apprentice

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Inventor’s Apprentice is just worse than Toolcraft Exemplar when you think of textboxes that Affinity wants to play, though being red fits with the Galvanic Blasts you see in many lists. This one seems significantly less likely to make the cut, but it’s hardly a laughable inclusion.

Lost Legacy

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I won’t be the first to tell you this isn’t a very powerful card for Standard play, though it just might fit the bill for some Modern sideboards. If Ad Nauseam is popular in your area they’ll have a hard time beating this without Leyline of Sanctity. This can also be quite solid against particular Valakut decks, and it seems phenomenal against Living End. Keep in mind that this card is inherent card disadvantage. I fully expect it to be overplayed, but against decks that are extremely focused on one spell, the fact that this card costs three instead of the four mana of most Cranial Extraction effects is significant.

Ceremonious Rejection

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I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss this card, though I expect it to be extremely overvalued for Modern play. Ceremonious Rejection counters most everything that matters out of Affinity and Lantern Control at a great rate, though against Eldrazi and Tron I believe this card falls a bit shy of the mark. Countering Expedition Map can be brutal, though blue decks already have Mana Leak for the big hits out of either deck. The problem is that Tron now features a fistful of cast triggers and Eldrazi can just blank all of your counters with Cavern of Souls. If this card said “exile” instead of “counter” I would be more on board with it, though as is I imagine it’s too narrow for most blue sideboards. I could see Merfolk picking up a couple copies for their sideboard, but as a Snapcaster Mage player I can say this counter doesn’t matter against the things I care about. This card seems much better for Vintage and Legacy than it does for Modern.

Cathartic Reunion

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The obvious starting point for Cathartic Reunion is Dredge, but I think decks featuring Pyromancer Ascension and Jeskai Ascendancy can really benefit from this one too. Combo decks in Modern suffer from having to live with the cards they draw naturally as opposed to Legacy where they can be Brainstormed away. Cathartic Reunion cycles away two cards you’d prefer to have in the graveyard, and it’s a significant upgrade over Tormenting Voice. Obviously getting this one countered is miserable, though counter-heavy decks are not terribly popular in Modern. Drawing three cards for two mana is also very powerful relative to the other options available in Modern. Getting hit by a Spell Snare is a huge blowout, though what this card does for consistency against non-blue decks is well worth the cost. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see this card in multiple Modern decks.

Voltaic Brawler

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A two-mana creature that attacks for four trample damage twice seems to fit what you might want in a Modern deck. It’s no Tarmogoyf, but really what is? Being a Human could definitely be significant, as the Human tribe has some solid support in Modern. More cards that are great on their own definitely wouldn’t hurt there, and a curve of Champion of the Parish into Burning-Tree Emissary plus Brawler sounds pretty nuts. Follow up with a turn three Thalia’s Lieutenant and you’ve got yourself a stew goin’!

Smuggler’s Copter

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This one might look like more of a stretch than the one-mana creatures for Affinity, but I don’t think Smuggler’s Copter is completely outside of the range of cards that fit into the deck. It doesn’t pack the punch of Cranial Plating, but the Copter let’s you convert your Memnites into evasive attackers, and the looting is significant in a deck that doesn’t require many mana sources. Obviously not passing the Bolt test is a significant factor for Modern play, and that fact alone could push this one out—though I believe that it could have legs… er, wheels… wings?

Scrapheap Scrounger

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This card is almost tailor-made for Dredge. You can start bashing with it when you draw it naturally and have mana to spare, and it clocks faster than whatever else you’d be casting in the face of a Leyline of the Void. Leyline will obviously ever be a weakness of the deck, and a 3/2 for two is unlikely to just win the game on its own, though the point is worth mentioning. When you dredge over Scrapheap Scrounger, of course, that’s one more card that matters in your graveyard and triggers Prized Amalgam. The rate is also theoretically good enough to fit into a more fair Modern deck, though for the most part I expect this to see play in Dredge.

Filigree Familiar

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This is one of the standouts from the set for Standard play, though I haven’t seen any discussion of Filigree Familiar in Modern. It’s sort of an artifact analog to Kitchen Finks, and while it’s definitely a worse version, I could see decks that have difficulty casting Finks employing Robo Dog. This might be my most ambitious mention, and I’m not sure what kind of deck necessarily wants this card, but the amount of value you get for three generic mana is very high. Perhaps it’s a solid speedbump for aggressive decks out of Tron?

Aether Hub

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Tendo Ice Bridge shows up in Modern a non-zero amount, and this is just an upgraded version. Not to mention that it’s much easier on your wallet! This card won’t see a huge amount of Modern play, though there are definitely decks that will be happy to register Aether Hub.

Inventor’s Fair

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As a legendary land, they’ll only play one, but this land is perfect for Lantern Control. It’s a tutor for whatever you’re missing (presumably Ensnaring Bridge more often than not), and the lifegain can completely lock up those games where your opponent has a small chance to topdeck burn spells. This card would be totally nuts if it wasn’t legendary, but even as is it’s a great inclusion for the deck.

Fastlands

Lastly, we come to the fastlands. You’ve heard plenty about these by now, I’m sure. Spirebluff Canal is great because it lets you cast either Serum Visions or Lightning Bolt on turn one without taking any damage, and it’s not hard to imagine wanting to lead on a fetch into a tapped dual into any of the enemy-colored fastlands. These cards should all slot into Modern in some capacity, though not every deck will want them.

spirebluff-canalI’ve been asked about how this cycle will impact Grixis Delver, and the answer is that it won’t matter to that deck in any significant way. Fetchlands help enable delve and also let you shuffle away unwanted cards that you see with your Delver trigger. I can’t tell you how many games I had to wait a turn on casting Tasigur because I didn’t draw enough fetches, and that’s miserable. I’ll happily convert the one-of Darkslick Shores I’ve been registering into a Canal, but that’s as far as I’ll go. Jeskai Delver, however, I would definitely retool the manabase for. I’m not trying to add any Inspiring Vantage, but I could see making room for anywhere from two to four Spirebluff Canals.

The other thing I haven’t seen discussed as much is the weakness of fastlands against Blood Moon compared to fetchlands. Fetchlands find basic lands, and reducing access to your basics is a real cost to including too many fastlands in your deck. If your deck is in the market to generate four mana on turn four, as many Modern decks are wont to, that is also a real cost to overloading on fastlands. So the printing of this cycle is significant, but I don’t think it will revolutionize Modern by any means.

Kaladeshi Contributions

I really dig what Kaladesh is bringing to the table for Standard play, and I’m happy to see so many potential Modern players as well. If you think there are some potential Modern sleepers I’ve missed I would be happy to read your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

19 thoughts on “Identifying Modern Playables in Kaladesh

  1. I’ve been working on brewing Dubious Challenge + Brooding Saurian as a deck, as either Mono-G or UG control. So far, it’s… halting, since there’s a lot of things that can go awry, but there are some very fascinating interactions that I’ve ran into (Sunblast Angel+Timbermare is a 3G board wipe, unless your opponent plays Timbermare’s echo cost, Arbiter of Knollridge can instantly stabilize you against a burn player who’s run out of gas, Thought Gorger and Sky Swallower seem interesting but dangerous)
    I’ve been using Tel-Jilad Stylus and Isochron Scepter-Fog/Winds of Qal-Sisma as my insurance, which is okay, and can sometimes steal entire games, but feels a bit clunky.
    As a whole, it’s looking interesting, but I feel I need tools to improve consistency and help clinch the combo before it warrants anything more than “totally mess with an FNM” play.

    1. Why? It’s a slightly better Ranger’s Guile. The +2/+2 is not going to close out the game and replacing any of the existing tech with this just makes you softer to other existing threats (i.e. Replacing Apostle’s Blessing you can’t cast off generic mana, stop Anger of the Gods, get your Inkmoth through Lingering Souls, etc.). I used Apostle’s Blessing as this is the most talked about card to replace with Blossoming Defense. If something gets banned next season, I could see it coming in for sure.

      As for Tom Ross testing it, he also has claimed after NUMEROUS articles “If I play this weekend, this is the build of infect I’m going to use” after touting how amazing a particular new card is. Then that weekend comes and he doesn’t play it. So I take his articles with a grain of salt and wait for top 8 lists instead.

  2. I found myself nodding along to most of this article, especially when you noted how Ceremonious Rejection is overhyped (it might see sideboard play in Merfolk, but that’s about it). The point about fastlands vs. fetchlands in Grixis Delver somewhat surprised me (I would think that now you can cut your basic Mountain, for example), but I see where you’re coming from on it. And good call on Chandra seeing play for Valakut decks as a ramp piece – I hadn’t even thought of that. I’m also pretty certain some deck will want Filigree Familiar, but which one (and how many) remains a mystery.

    What do you think about Contraband Kingpin? The deck it fits in best is admittedly fringe (an artifact-centric affair centered around Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas), but it’s Bolt-proof, gains you life, takes down X/1s, and has a useful effect when the Thopters buy you time.

    1. It’s cheap enough that it’s worth considering. Generally, these decks tend to be less explosive decks that lose to the same stuff that Affinity loses to, so I’m not big on them. Could theoretically show up though. A 1/4 for two can do some decent blocking, though not exactly very exciting.

  3. How do you include a bunch of unplayable affinity cards and miss madcap experiment into platinum emperion?

    Affinity needs artifacts for ravager plating and overseer – its not interested in conditional wild nacatls or isamarus at all, nor does it want a two drop that cant attack without help.

    Experiment emperion is cheap enough and easy enough to put in a deck that it warrants consideration. Too cute 90 percent of the time? Probably. But many a brew will be packing this combo and asking if you have the path or terminate.

    1. I agree that the Affinity options are unlikely to make it, and I state as much, but Madcap Experiment is wildly unplayable. It’s a fun casual deck, and my focus is on decks that are real contenders. My points about building to combat Stony Silence are much more worth consideration than how to make an 8/8.

        1. Except you can also Snapcast a lightning bolt, spell snare, mana leak, go for the throat, etc all for less mana. Gearhulk can only be a six mana flashback. Snap>Cryptic is the most expensive option you’ll use and it is six mana, with torrential gearhulk there are no cheaper options during a game.

          Versatility wins.

  4. I play abzan in modern. I’m planning on switching my sideboard fulminators with lost legacy. The idea is that the matchups i bring in fulminator, they’re often not enough. (tron, scapeshift, titan shift) so i’d rather have a higher impact card. This card fits that need for the bad matchups i have. Great vs ad nauseam, tron, scapeshift, titan shift, living end, and jeskai nahiri. Lose a little bit of ground on the affinity and infect matchup where i like fulminator but i’m just going to slide in a couple extra cards for them in board

  5. I’m testing Bomat Courier in Affinity with good results. Start attacking turn 1 is huge (even 1 or 2 more damage are always welcome) and drawing cards is simply nuts. If you are hellbent on turn 3-4 it’s a thoughtcast or ancestral; if you are not you can look for some playable cards. If they use a removal on it it’s easier to have steel overseer or arcbound ravager stick around a bit more. It’s good against 0/X creatures since it keeps accumulating cards. It’s sided out against heavy creatures decks but it’s still ok game 1 since you force them to keep a ground blocker. If they don’t and you manage to charge him for 2-3 cards it gives you a good advantage.
    I’m also trying chandra in affinity, but I think it’s a win more even if in some matchups (jund and jeskai above all) it’s nuts.

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