I'm not good at deck building. I've always been better at identifying strategies that are good or which cards are good or bad within specific strategies after a lot of testing. What that means is that when it comes to spoiler season for new sets, I tend to shy away from writing articles about brews I come up with because I'm not great at coming up with them and the ones I do come up with usually are pretty poorly constructed. I don't like to write about things that I don't have a good grasp on, and I'm not going to feign excitement for a card, deck, or set if I don't genuinely feel it.
My article two weeks ago about brewing and updating Turbo Fog is a rarity, because it's a deck I actually care a lot about and am interested in working on, although I imagine my lists are going to quickly become obsoleted by superior versions. Since then, they've even printed a new Fog effect, which is gas. I'd recommend not getting paired against me in early Standard events unless you don't value your time highly.
With that said, I am actually excited about Guilds of Ravnica and I might try my hand at brewing some Standard decks in the weeks to come, especially with Divine Visitation, as tokens is an archetype I have loved ever since Lingering Souls saw the light of day many moons ago. I'll never stop trying to make tokens work.
In the meantime, I am going to stick to things I feel more comfortable about, which is the impact of Guilds of Ravnica on Modern.
Lantern gets two major upgrades from this set. The first is Assassin's Trophy. A lot of Lantern Control lists play cards like Abrupt Decay as all-purpose answers to cards like Stony Silence or Chalice of the Void. The problem with Abrupt Decay as an answer is that it doesn't deal with more expensive problem cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Leyline of Sanctity. Assassin's Trophy handles those cards and can also blow up Tron lands, making it an easy include for the deck. Previously, Lantern Control was forced to just forfeit the Tron matchup or hope to get extremely lucky against them, but Assassin's Trophy enormously changes the dynamic as 2-3 copies of this card can really attack their Tron lands and buy you the time you need to set up Pithing Needle related defenses against the rest of their non-Ulamog cards.
Assassin's Trophy helps as an answer against three tough matchups for Lantern Control, White-Blue Control, Tron, and Ironworks Combo (KCI). I'm not saying that it will be enough to make Lantern Control a playable archetype again, but it certainly does not hurt.
The second major upgrade is Unmoored Ego. The two worst mainstream matchups for Lantern are Tron and KCI. Tron is a nightmare because they have so many ways to attack your board and cards like Chromatic Star and Ancient Stirrings are hard to contain, while Chromatic Sphere is actually impossible to contain, as it cannot be responded to or hit with Pithing Needle. KCI is similar in that Chromatic Sphere makes it impossible to stop them from finding the cards they need, which is already difficult to contain thanks to Ancient Stirrings, Chromatic Star, Terrarion, and Inventor's Fair. Krark-Clan Ironworks ability is considered a mana ability, which means Pithing Needle does nothing against it, and the presence of multiple copies of main deck Engineered Explosives, one of the best cards in the format against you, is quite tough to Overcome.
Thankfully, Unmoored Ego offers a chance to attack both decks. Unmoored Ego on a Tron land can stop Tron from assembling enough mana to beat you with their big cards. Even if they have already assembled Tron, nailing something like Ulamog can mean that Pithing Needles on Karn and Oblivion Stone give you a fighting chance. Against KCI, Unmoored Ego on something like Scrap Trawler can make it very tough for them to find a way to beat you, since they lose their engine and their way to simply attack you for lethal if you don't have Ensnaring Bridge.
Now, cards like Unmoored Ego and Assassin's Trophy won't be auto-wins against these super problematic matchups, but they will provide Lantern Control with a fighting chance. Lantern Control is actually good against a lot of mainstream matchups right now, but with these two decks being huge parts of the tier one field, it's really tough to justify registering Lantern Control, but hopefully that will all change soon.
I might be going off the deep end, but I think Risk Factor might actually finally be a good punisher card. Traditionally, "punisher" cards that give your opponent a choice, like Browbeat, have never been particularly good. While there are always some situations where both choices are bad for your opponent, generally speaking they will simply pick whichever choice they can beat the easiest and you're left spending a lot of mana for an effect you didn't want that much.
Risk Factor is not a card I would play in the main deck. The problem with a card like Risk Factor is that in a lot of matchups, speed is of the essence. Burn's issue in a lot of matchups isn't finding enough damage to finish off the opponent, it's deploying it fast or effectively enough. It doesn't matter if you have 11 points of burn in your hand if your opponent is attacking you with Wurmcoil Engine or comboing off with Krark-Clan Ironworks or smashing you for lethal with Champion of the Parish, Thalia and two Mantis Riders.
However, there are matchups where Burn runs the risk of simply running out of gas, such as against a deck like White-Blue Control, where they have cheap removal and cheap countermagic and card advantage to reload with. Risk Factor could be a strong card in those matchups where it threatens to deal eight damage or draw cards, which could easily represent even more damage. Your opponent is incentivized to counter Risk Factor, but then you can just replay it again by discarding unnecessary extra lands that you accumulate as the game goes long.
Another possible option for matchups like that is Experimental Frenzy. As someone who has cast Future Sight a lot in cube, cards like this are obscenely powerful. Experimental Frenzy could easily "draw" upwards of three cards a turn, especially since you can play lands with the card and fetch lands are easy ways to reset the top of the library. It's not unlikely to see something like "Cast Boros Charm, Cast Lava Spike, Play Wooded Foothills, crack Foothills to reset the deck, cast Lightning Bolt" as a typical turn with this card in play. You can also cast burn spells in your upkeep and then draw lands to avoid the drawback. I especially like this card in matchups where Path to Exile or Assassin's Trophy are cards in your opponent's deck. Those cards will get you the lands to cast Experimental Frenzy and also use it effectively, and decks that are trying to grind you out are not prepared to beat how many cards Experimental Frenzy lets you see.
Creeping Chill is a card I have seen discussed for Dredge. Personally, I don't think it is good enough, but I'm willing to be proven wrong because the upside is high. The effect is nice, but it is important to consider the drawback of a card like this. Sometimes it ends up in your opening hand, where it is extremely weak, as it does nothing when you discard it and it costs four mana to hard cast, which is both hard to get to and hard to warrant spending mana on what amounts to a drain three.
While it is nice to dredge over it and get a free drain, especially in matchups where the damage or the life gain is relevant, it still reflects only a small chunk of life. It's far less effective than something like Gnaw from the Bone, which can win the game by itself against a deck like Burn. The upside here is that you don't have to invest any mana into it, and a big turn with a card like Cathartic Reunion could represent draining for six or even nine, which puts your opponent on the back foot and could give Bloodghasts early haste, ending the game quickly.
The major drawback is that cards that don't advance your strategy take up slots in your deck that make it harder to get your engine going. For every Creeping Chill in your deck, that's another enabler that is missing. Is Creeping Chill taking the place of a card like Shriekhorn, which can get your dredge engine started? Is it taking the place of a Golgari Thug or Life from the Loam that you need as your first dredger to start things off? If you have too many of these cards in your opening hand or see too many of them with early dredges, it can be tough to get going fast enough or powerful enough to matter, especially in matchups where speed matters.
One card I am interested in but that carries the same drawback as Creeping Chill is Molderhulk. Molderhulk doesn't do much until later in the game, likely turn three or four, but it has the awesome effect of being a 6/6 for likely just two mana, and it returns a land to play, which can trigger Bloodghasts and set off a Chain Reaction to also get Prized Amalgams back.
Sometimes dredge runs into an issue where it is dredging big every turn with Faithless Lootings or Cathartic Reunion, but unless it hits a Life from the Loam or Dakmor Salvage, it actually can't get Bloodghasts back into play to generate a board presence. Molderhulk solves that problem by being a huge threat and advancing your board with both its size and its ability.
Ultimately, it may not be worth playing since Life from the Loam is generally a four-of in contemporary Dredge lists, and it competes with Life from the Loam with a similar effect while having no relevant text while in the graveyard. The reason I like it so much is that back when Golgari-Grave Troll was legal, a lot of grindy games were won by just slamming giant Grave-Trolls and beating your opponent's face with them, and I feel like Modern Dredge decks lose a lot of oomph by being forced into only winning with 1/2s, 2/1s, 1/1s, and 3/3s.
I'm skeptical that either of these cards will end up in updated lists months down the line, but I think both are worth testing with, and of the two, Molderhulk is the one I like most. I'm hoping it ends up being good enough, because I like a good Hulk Smash.
Two obvious cards that warrant consideration for this archetype are Knight of Autumn and Tajic, Legion's Edge. I wrote about both in my Humans article last week, so I won't reiterate what I said about them again here.
There are a few other cards from this set that could possibly see play. The first is Bounty Agent. I think it is extremely unlikely that this card ends up seeing play, as the restriction doesn't allow for it to destroy planeswalkers, which are the Legendary permanents you would most want to blow up, but it is one to keep in mind if any decks featuring Legendary creatures, enchantments, or artifacts end up becoming big in Modern.
The card that seems more likely to be playable in this deck is Plaguecrafter. Plaguecrafter is, at its core, nothing more than a glorified Fleshbag Marauder. With that said, it has a number of upsides that I think are relevant for Modern. For one, I think this card would be actively good against White-Blue Control. It blows up Jace, Teferi, and Baneslayer Angel. It also can strip cards from your opponent's hand in situations where they don't have one of these cards in play to sacrifice. These are all relevant, and even good, abilities in that matchup, which is becoming more and more relevant by the day, as White-Blue Control might just be the best archetype in Modern right now.
I don't think it would be unreasonable to consider sideboarding a copy or two of Plaguecrafter for Control and maybe a few other matchups where it could possibly be good like Storm, where it kills Baral and Goblin Electromancer and can provide (very) light disruption when they don't have either.
As a completely irrelevant aside, Fleshbag Marauder is easily in the top 10 of cards ever printed when it comes to art and name. The original art on that card is phenomenal, and the name Fleshbag Marauder is perfectly fitting. Marvelous. I've been rooting for them to bring back the original "bag" for a while now.
Mono-Green Stompy is a fringe archetype that I run into from time to time in leagues on Magic Online. It's not a major player in Modern, but it does pack a surprising punch. Pelt Collector is another copy of Experiment One, and it even gains trample once it hits 4/4 status, which is extremely relevant. One of that deck's major flaws is that the one-drop creatures really suck, so adding another great one to the mix is a huge boost to the deck
This card is just worse than Snapcaster Mage. It is harder to cast, and the 2/1 body is worth way more than surveil two in most circumstances. It's nice that you can cast Mission Briefing without a relevant card in the graveyard yet, but that's an extremely risky proposition, and the issue with Snapcaster Mage is rarely that you don't have anything to flashback. Sometimes simply beating down with a 2/1 creature is relevant, even if a card like Rest in Peace is in play, and Snapcaster has additional upside in that it gets bounced by Jace or Cryptic Command to get used over and over again.
However, there are going to be times where you want a fifth Snapcaster Mage and this card will fit the bill.
Also, remember this deck?
Snapcaster Mage doesn't interact favorably with cards like Ancestral Vision or Living End alongside an As Foretold in play, because Snapcaster Mage gives the cards flashback equal to their mana cost and paying a flashback cost is different than paying their mana cost, which is what As Foretold cares about.
Mission Briefing works differently. Mission Briefing allows you to simply just cast the cards from your graveyard. It doesn't actually give them flashback. That means that if you have an As Foretold in play, you can Mission Briefing an Ancestral Vision or Living End and cast them. The dream, in this case, would be to cast Missing Briefing, surveil two creatures into your graveyard, and then flashback Living End for the max value.
Now, I'm not sure that Mission Briefing actually adds any value to this deck or other As Foretold strategies, as the problem with those decks was rarely finding ways to win after As Foretold is in play, but it is something to keep in mind.
Good afternoon, good evening, and good Knight. This card is an easy upgrade to Reclamation Sage in any deck that can produce both colors of mana and doesn't care about the Elf creature type. That's not a whole lot of decks, but this will still definitely see play in Modern in Humans, Green-White Value Town, Abzan Company and likely other decks as well.
An instant-speed tutor for two mana is an extremely powerful effect, even if it is very narrow in the types of cards it can find and the conditions under which it can be useful. One thing to note is that this card always finds Slaughter Pact, which is kind of cool.
Personally, I think this card could have some value in the Esper Goryo's Vengeance deck.
It finds Fatal Push, Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek at one creature in the yard, and Goryo's Vengeance or Collective Brutality at two creatures in the bin. It might be too narrow or hard to get online to be of significant value in this strategy, but Goryo's Vengance is by far the most important card in the deck, and I like having access to more copies of the card.
Honestly, this card would deserve an entire article devoted to it by itself. In quite a few situations this is an upgrade on Abrupt Decay, so this will see play in any Decay strategy and quite possibly even reinvigorate some of them. In addition to Lantern Control, which I mentioned above, this will likely see play in Jund, Abzan, and Black-Green Rock at a baseline, and will probably also result in people trying other archetypes like Sultai Control or Sultai Midrange or various Jund or four-color Death's Shadow decks again. This blows up Tron lands and kills Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which gives it significant value against two of the decks that really punish these kinds of midrange strategies. It also is a main deck card that can deal with a Krark-Clan Ironworks, which is at best only a temporary stopgap measure against KCI, but sometimes you just need to buy a turn and this can offer that potential.
I don't think this card is nearly as good as most people believe. Giving your opponent a land is a real drawback, especially in Legacy against decks that play basics and have Brainstorm, but it still is a very powerful effect and will likely impact the format a good deal initially, although I suspect that will Temper over time. Decks like White-Blue Control are probably going to get a lot worse because of this card, as the extra land is worth a lot less than having a Teferi in play against a deck that can't remove a Teferi via any means other than combat damage. With that said, those kinds of decks make great use of extra lands, so this card isn't "the end of Tron" or "the end of Control," just merely another solid tool against them.
Marijn Lybaert has been talking about this card on Twitter as a great two-drop creature to add into a deck like 8-Whack, or a new similar-style mono-red storm style deck.
The upside on this card is through the roof, but I'm generally skeptical about these kind of cards in decks that can't generate card advantage, as you often lack either means to pump it or ways to effectively use the mana afterward. Runaway Steam-Kin makes a bad topdeck late in the game, which means it is just another card that is great when your hand has high potential but weak when things go poorly. Maybe this card is great enough to boost this archetype into a higher tier status, but likely it will just be another powerful-but-inconsistent card that these decks thrive on without actually helping solve any of the problems that these decks face.
I've been looking through the Guilds of Ravnica spoiler a lot and I'm genuinely excited about the set. There are a lot of powerful cards in it, and a lot of cards with great build-around-me potential. Generally speaking, sets constructed this way like original Innistrad create good Standard formats, and I'm impressed with how many cards in the set have the ability to impact Modern, which usually doesn't change much with each new set. I'm excited to see how Modern changes with Guilds of Ravnica legal, and I'm even more excited to see what Standard might look like now that the scourge of Standard, Kaladesh, is rotating, and a fresh new set is in the mix. This is the best time to be a Magic player, so let's enjoy it before things revert back to normality, or as is generally the case with Standard, revert back to mediocrity.
- Brian Braun-Duin