Every time spoiler season rolls around, I get retrospective. Normally, Magic-related retrospection occurs around New Year’s, when writers across the community produce their inevitable “Top 10 of 20xx” lists. I guess it makes sense, then, that while everyone else is looking forward to the new set, I’m looking back at what we’re leaving behind. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy tweaking and solving old formats more than brewing for new ones. Don’t get me wrong, I love a classic set release as much as the next guy. I just can’t resist putting my own unique spin on things.
So, today we’ll being diving into Amonkhet spoilers, but with a twist: each new card discussion will be paired with a memory of or comparison to a card or strategy from Modern’s past. Maybe this will flop, maybe you’ll find it interesting. It’s reminiscing time.
The God Cycle
It’s hard to look at Amonkhet‘s Gods without comparing them to the Theros Five. While none of the old cycle made a significant impact in Modern, Thassa, God of the Sea did show up in a few Merfolk lists here and there before eventually being dropped for stronger, more powerful options. I have seen a few tokens lists try and make Purphoros work, but for the most part the Gods lorded over Standard without doing much in Modern.
Unfortunately, I see the same thing happening with this cycle. While both cycles of Gods share the indestructible keyword, in Modern the Theros bunch often benefited from rarely being creatures. Path to Exile is still one of the best removal spells in the format. Kefnet, the Mindful does have a cheap mana cost, but unfortunately we’ll only ever have enough time to take advantage of any of its abilities in rare blue control mirrors and the grindiest of midrange matchups. Still, if it sticks, getting to Azure Mage our opponent to death definitely sounds cool. Unfortunately, better options exist at this point and Kefnet’s narrow applications won’t be worth a sideboard slot.
Rhonas the Indomitable is probably the most “pushed” of any of the new Gods, but Modern might find it difficult to take advantage of its strengths. Mono-Green Stompy seems like the best fit on day one, but it could potentially go anywhere Tarmogoyf does. I love the synergy between Rhonas and Dungrove Elder on turn four; between indestructible and hexproof, we’ve got quite a lot of protection for mono-green. Still, you have to wonder: how often would we rather just have Leatherback Baloth?
Gideon of the Trials
I look at this guy and immediately think Jace Beleren. No, I’m not crazy, and I’m aware Gideon of the Trials will probably be nuts in Standard and possibly see Modern play as well. I just love the three-cost planeswalker that sits around, minding its own business, not looking that dangerous until all of a sudden you look up and you’re dead. His abilities are all solid enough to be pesky, yet he’s weak enough to Lightning Bolt that I feel like the format can keep him in check. Tick him up to four, emblem, and swing a few times with Wall of Omens and removal/counterspells to keep opponents busy… Suddenly, they’re staring down a myriad of problems. Maybe the competition here is Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, whom apparently nobody wants to attack but also can’t afford to ignore.
Does Ad Nauseam play this guy? I have to imagine they do, seeing as white “can’t lose the game” permanents are right up their alley. Is it a sideboard card that they bring in, knowing that this guy probably dies pretty quickly in game one’s? Do they play it maindeck as just another way to buy a little time? Their primary plan is still to cast the combo off Lotus Bloom, so 12 plus 8 combo pieces can’t possibly be a bad thing. I don’t think we’ll see Ad Nauseam tempo-ing opponents out anytime soon, but I guess anything is possible.
Day’s Undoing was the first card I thought of when I saw As Foretold, but only because it was another blue mythic that cost three and was supposed to turn Modern upside down. Remember all the talk of it rocketing Affinity to the stars? No, really what I’m thinking of here is Goblin Dark Dwellers, but only if you intend on using Foretold for anything other than Restore Balance. Getting an Ancestral Vision immediately isn’t as “free” as it sounds when you consider the three-mana upfront investment. But I’m imagining the extra value that comes from being able to essentially tack on an extra spell to all of your turns past the first turn this comes down. It’s not that great, seeing as those extra cards we’re casting don’t appear out of thin air, but still, spending more mana than our opponent is one of the best ways to ensure victory in Modern.
In the end, I doubt this thing makes it out of the trial stages in non-Restore Balance lists, but could definitely see it turning things around there. Check out the awesome work done already on this site concerning that topic. Still, the effect is unique enough that if anything was to shake things up in Modern this go round, As Foretold might be the one to do it.
Pull From Tomorrow
You know where I’m going with this. Sphinx’s Revelation for one less mana, without white, and without lifegain. Decks with white will just play Rev, but those without? I don’t see Merfolk playing this—the maindeck is just too tight and would rather have more Vapor Snag or Dismember. Relic of Progenitus is probably better if you want more cards. Even from the board, Negate is a better card against the grindy matchups where you’d want extra cards.
Scapeshift, on the other hand? This thing is a gamechanger. Scapeshift suffers from the issue of wasting the most mana of any archetype in the format, as its entire strategy is “live until the seventh land drop.” If the opponent doesn’t play along and cast things into Cryptic Command, Scapeshift has to scramble to use all that wasted mana in some fashion to generate an advantage. I would be surprised if this spell didn’t make the list as a two-of, either in the maindeck or somewhere in the 75.
Champion of Rhonas
The comparison here is Nahiri, the Harbinger, except that Champion is probably worse. Yes, we can put Emrakul into play, but why are we playing Emrakul in our probably-aggressive green deck? 3/3 stats are unfortunate as well, especially when we have to pay four mana. If Champion were a 3/2 that cost 3, or even a 3/1, I’d be excited, as RG Breach decks could play it alongside Tarmogoyf and Lightning Bolt to just beat down opponents loading up on counterspells, discard, and Stone Rain. Still, the math works out right that this thing is coming down on turn three in that deck anyways, so maybe it can still be considered a three-drop.
I know it isn’t that easy, since if we’re playing this on turn three that means we’re not playing Tarmogoyf on turn two (unless we suspended a Search for Tomorrow), but I can’t help but be intrigued. Obstinate Baloth post-board is a nice creature sub-package, and Champion of Rhonas can serve a similar role while acting as another way to sneak in a Primeval Titan. Don’t sleep on this one.
Nissa, Steward of Elements
I have no idea. I’ve got to be honest, I’m just pretty blown away by the creativity here. X in the casting cost a planeswalker card? Of course! It seems so simple, yet I’ve never thought of it before. Cast it for three early, cast it for eight late, cast it for five in the mid-game. A +2 option on a “cheap” planeswalker should always be looked at closely, and while blue-green isn’t the most successful color combination in Modern, it’s not unheard of. This thing won’t make it into Scapeshift, but maybe a Temur tempo deck could take advantage. I doubt it makes it, as the Temur deck has other problems that Nissa doesn’t solve, but I’m rooting from the sidelines that it sees play. It’s been a while since spoilers have given me that “woah” reaction, but Nissa took my breath away. As she does.
As of right now, there don’t look to be any slam-dunks for Modern in Amonkhet, unless As Foretold is the real deal and brings Restore Balance into the spotlight. Still, we’ve got around 100 cards left to go, and there are still a couple rares/mythics in that pool. If nothing changes, I’m happy, but I wouldn’t mind a couple new toys shaking up the format a bit. There’s been a lot of talk of Death’s Shadow being too strong lately, but I feel like those concerns are a little blown out of proportion at this point. Dredge is back in the number two spot on MTGGoldfish this week, which isn’t cause for alarm by any stretch. If it stays there once people dust off their graveyard removal, then we’ll have something to talk about.
Thanks for reading,
The_Architect on MTGO
Trevor started playing Magic in 2011. He plays primarily online and studies Architecture at UNCC. Recent paper Magic accomplishments include a 2015 Regional PTQ win qualifying for Pro Tour: Magic Origins and a Day Two performance at GP Charlotte. He also streams weekdays at twitch.tv/Architect_Gaming! Follow him at twitter.com/7he4rchitect and architectgaming.wordpress.com!