Why is everyone so up in arms about "the best removal spell for Modern since Path to Exile?"
Well, part of this hype is justified. In fact, I think most of it is. Today I'm going to talk about which decks in Modern stand to gain and lose the most from Fatal Push and why. If you're looking to make adjustments to your Modern deck, whether it is how to make room to fit Fatal Push into it or how to adapt to it, either by switching decks or modifying your current deck, that's what I'll be focusing on today. If you're like me though, you should have nothing to worry about…
What's everyone so worried about? The card doesn't even do anything to the creatures that matter... pic.twitter.com/KiAGb1LWOz— Craig Wescoe (@Brimaz4Life) January 2, 2017
The first deck that comes to mind as getting an improvement from Fatal Push is Sol Malka's Black-Green Rock deck that he's been crushing Magic Online leagues with. It's basically Jund/Abzan without the splash. The downside of not splashing is that you don't have access to Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile. Josh Utter-Leyton cut red from his Jund deck at Worlds 2013 and I expect a lot more people to be doing the same now that black has its own premier one-mana instant speed removal spell. This will allow it to compete better against Blood Moon decks and also take less damage against Burn decks.
I would cut Geth's Verdict and a few other removal spells to make room for some number of Fatal Pushes main and the rest in the sideboard. I would also add back in a couple more fetch lands to more reliably turn on the revolt ability of Fatal Push. With the six fetches, three Ghost Quarter and two Mishra's Baubles already in the deck, it's possible it already has enough ways to turn on revolt.
I've been working on various versions of white-black decks in Modern. Some are more token-centric like this list and other are more controlling like the planeswalker-centric version I wrote about last week. Between Path to Exile and Fatal Push, this color combination has the two most efficient creature removal spells in Modern! Lightning Bolt may be a more versatile card, but only because it can hit players and planeswalkers. Strictly as a creature removal spell, it is inferior to either of these.
I might be more inclined to play Smuggler's Copter in a deck running so many removal spells as they are sometimes weak cards depending on the matchup and your discard spells are already dead later in the game against a lot of decks. Whichever version you choose, Fatal Push would seem to add percentage points to quite a few matchups by strictly upgrading Murderous Cut and Slaughter Pact at the minimum. I suspect we might not see four Fatal Push main deck in all black decks right away, but however many don't make the main deck will likely find their way into the sideboard.
Corey Burkhart has been championing Grixis Control for a few years now, and it has steadily become a major player in Modern. One of the deck's major weaknesses was its inability to handle multiple early creatures backed by burn spells since it has to take so much damage from its lands to get untapped sources of mana to cast all its cheap removal spells. Fatal Push makes things much easier on the mana and allows the deck to operate more off basic lands. Also only costing one mana means Grixis can more often kill the threat and then fetch a shock land tapped instead of having to take an extra two damage for an untapped shock to cast, say, a Terminate. It also means Snapcaster Mage can more reliably answer a creature on the third turn since Lightning Bolt is no longer the only one-mana removal spell it can flash back. I'm sure Burkhart will post an updated list very soon that tells everyone what cards to cut to make room for the Fatal Pushes, but my guess is to cut some number of Terminates and maybe a Spell Snare since Tarmogoyf is no longer the problem it used to be for the deck.
Esper has taken a backseat to Jeskai in Modern for quite some time and Lightning Bolt is the primary reason why since both it and Path to Exile provide the cheap removal spells to turn on Snapcaster Mage. I suspect now that Fatal Push is a card, a lot of Jeskai mages will switch over to Grixis or Esper since the discard spells afforded by black have a much bigger impact against all the combo decks in Modern than the red offers. What I like about Esper is that you also get access to Esper Charm.
Esper Charm not only takes out a problematic enchantment from time to time but also acts as a card draw spell or hand-emptying spell depending on how the game plays out. For instance, if the opponent dumps their hand onto the table quickly and you are forced to use all your removal spells to keep pace, you can then start drawing cards off Esper Charm and using Snapcaster Mage to flash it back to draw more cards. On the other hand, if the opponent conserves cards in hand and you catch them with four remaining cards, you can cast Esper Charm on their end step to have them discard two, and then you can untapp and flash it back with Snapcaster Mage to have them discard the last two. Or if they only had three cards in hand you could do it during their draw step after they draw to have them lose that last card as well.
All in all, I think Fatal Push will be a game changer for Esper.
All the decks discussed so far get upgraded by Fatal Push, but Faeries is the only one that I think absolutely needed Fatal Push to be competitive. The removal options in straight blue-black are pretty weak since there is no Lightning Bolt, no Path to Exile and no Abrupt Decay. Instead they have to play cards like Smother, Doom Blade, Murderous Cut, and Victim of Night! Go look for yourself – this list plays all four of these mediocre cards – but not anymore!
Cutting these four removal spells to make room for four copies of Fatal Push is an easy swap. Between Fatal Push and Collective Brutality, the Burn matchup actually seems pretty good now instead of borderline terrible. Tarmogoyf also doesn't seem nearly as scary. The counterspells also look much better when you can resolve them the same turn as you cast your one-mana removal spell. Snapcaster Mage likewise gets much better for the same reason. I don't expect Faeries to become oppressive all of a sudden or anything, but Fatal Push gives it a huge and much needed boost. Will it be enough to cause Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa to have a change of heart about Modern?
Paul Rietzl has already done what I expect more people to start doing, namely going up to the full four copies of both Blossoming Defense and Vines of Vastwood. Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, and Dismember are the three removal spells that this deck really doesn't want to have to face since those are the ones that can both get underneath its protection spells and also allow the opponent to cast multiple removal spells in the single turn, thereby potentially winning the fight over the creature living or dying. I suspect Apostle's Blessing may make its way back into the deck over some of the pump spells – maybe Groundswell and/or Distortion Strike? This is because now that black also has its own efficient one-mana removal spell, Infect will have to come prepared to face a lot more one-mana removal spells in game one from now on.
Not much to say here other than an efficient one-mana removal spell makes it much harder to force through damage with Wild Nacatl, Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear. Burn will always still be good, but it loses a few points from Fatal Push existing.
This might be the deck that loses the most from Fatal Push existing. Death's Shadow would often get itself out of range of Lightning Bolt and Dismember, but now it has to contend with Fatal Push. Abrupt Decay and Path to Exile are no longer the only cards this deck needs to dodge. No deck will fall off the map as a result of Fatal Push existing, but this one loses a lot.
Affinity relies on curving out and having its few important creatures survive long enough to get you into range of Galvanic Blast. Fatal Push is going to make that plan harder to pull off. It's also an efficient instant speed answer to whatever Cranial Plating is attached to.
Elves are very reliant on two things: one is their first-turn Elvish Mystic surviving so they can grow their board exponentially, and two is their Elvish Archdruid surviving so they can go crazy with their mana. Path to Exile only hinders them but still furthers their game plan. Lightning Bolt is really the only card in the format that can answer both these issues efficiently. Now Fatal Push doubles the number of ways available to stop them.
Sorry Corbin, but you know as well as I do that Fatal Push is not the kind of new addition to Modern that Merfolk are happy about. It can efficiently answer any of two-mana lords while easily being able to keep an extra mana up to play around Cursecatcher. Then in concert with a fetch land or any other way to trigger revolt, it can answer Merrow Reejerey or Master of Waves. That's more than Lightning Bolt can do (since Master of Waves has protection from red)!
These are some of the decks that stand to gain and lose the most from Fatal Push. This does not account for the long-term impact on the format once the metagame adjusts to the existence of Fatal Push. For instance, if control decks utilizing Fatal Push begin to thrive, decks revolving around Slippery Bogle or Geist of Saint Traft can then become bigger metagame players. Similarly if everyone is running fetches and Fatal Push, cards like Leonin Arbiter to fight the fetches and Voice of Resurgence to match up well against Fatal Push gain stock. And if Fatal Push succeeds in holding down aggro decks while making black the popular color and thereby bringing with it discard spells to combat combo decks, Tron could be the metagame trump to go bigger than all the Snapcaster value decks. Modern is slow to evolve though, so if that happens it will take at least 6-12 months. In the short term I suspect the level one changes described in this article to be what will happen to Modern as a result of Fatal Push existing.