This week I'm going to do three things. First I'm going to discuss ten of the most underplayed cards in Modern and why you should play them. Next I will look back at my predictions for Oath of the Gatewatch as well as offer new predictions and advice. Lastly I will announce the long-awaited winning of the second Master Deck Builder Challenge. The winning deck is pretty awesome and looks to be especially well-positioned against Eldrazi.
While it's been a Modern staple forever, it was worse than Inquisition of Kozilek whenever Burn decks or Zoo decks were the decks to beat. Now the deck to beat is Eldrazi and Thoughtseize is particularly important at stopping them because it's one of the few ways to avoid getting wrecked by Thought-Knot Seer.
Play Runed Halo naming Thought-Knot Seer and watch them turn into 4/4 defenders that draw you a card when they die. Instead of being the most impactful card in their deck it becomes a lackluster wall with a drawback. The second copy of Runed Halo can turn Reality Smasher into a blank too! Runed Halo is also good against several other decks. Slippery Bogle can't slip past the halo. When you name Grapeshot against Storm, you can tell the story afterwards of how they grape shat themselves. Your Ad Nauseam opponent will storm out of the room if you name Lightning Storm. And my personal favorite card to name with Runed Halo is Eidolon of the Great Revel. I'll cast all my spells pain-free while it shocks you for every spell you play! Also Liliana of the Veil won't be causing you to sacrifice creatures anytime soon (or ever, because Runed Halo protects us from her ultimate too).
Chrome Mox is banned, but Gemstone Caverns has the same effect but allows you to discard any card (including a second copy of Gemstone Caverns) and it produces any color. So if you're on the draw, Gemstone Caverns is more powerful than Chrome Mox! Not every deck wants Chrome Mox, but when keeping up with Eldrazi is the name of the game, matching their monsters with two-drops just won't cut it. You need to accelerate into bigger mana spells and Gemstone Cavern allows you to do just that. For instance, second-turn Collected Company is miles better than third-turn Collected Company against Thought-Knot Seer.
The best card in Standard has not yet caught on in Modern and it is not for lack of power or lack of positioning. It's definitely strong enough for Modern and it is great against Eldrazi. The only reason people aren't yet playing it as much as they should be is because people don't know where to put it or that they should be putting it places. Well, I'm telling you now that you should be looking for places to put this card because it is great! One suggestion: the Bant Company deck I talked about last week.
Bouncing creatures with Reflector Mage and getting a solid body out of the deal is great but so is killing the creature! Many games in Modern go long, especially those involving several exchanges of single resources. Matches devolve into bloodbaths or stalled boards. Getting the extra body out of Shriekmaw is great in these scenarios, especially an unblockable body. And yes, Eldrazi are colorless and therefore cannot block the elemental because they are neither black nor artifact. The alternate mode of being to evoke Shriekmaw to kill a fast creature makes it great right now. The one shortcoming is that it is not helpful against Affinity, but you're probably expecting to lose game one to Affinity anyway and you have plenty of Affinity hate to sideboard in, so Shriekmaw is an easy board-out against them and is great most everywhere else.
Journey to Nowhere works like Shriekmaw when you pay the evoke cost — a sorcery-speed effect that removes an opposing creature. The upside of Journey to Nowhere is that it's good against Affinity too! You can do cute tricks with it with cards like Flickerwisp and AEther Vial to exile multiple creatures.
Ghostly Prison will keep you from getting attacked by Eldrazi Mimic after the opponent casts a giant monster. It will also keep Reality Smasher from hitting you with haste unless they have two extra mana lying around. And they are cumulative, so the second Ghostly Prison requires them to pay four mana per attacker. Combine this effect with really anything and you can significantly hinder the menace in much the same way that Ensnaring Bridge hinders them but without having to play hellbent.
Kill all your Eldrazi Mimics, Scion Tokens, and Eldrazi Skyspawners. Also great against Affinity at killing Steel Overseer, Vault Skirge, Memnite, and Signal Pest, and against Elves and really anything with one-toughness creatures. It's especially good in decks that engage in combat and/or have creatures that would die to Pyroclasm or Kozilek's Return that need a slight boost to survive. This card is not just a W/B Tokens card anymore.
Jund is making a comeback, and Thragtusk is one of the best cards against the deck. Thragtusk is also excellent against Eldrazi. Gain back the life that Reality Smasher dealt when it attacked and then trade, netting a 3/3 beast out of the deal. Thragtusk is one of the few creatures in the format that matches up well against Eldrazi bodies and the removal spells played in the deck. In a deck with removal spells that aims to fight the Eldrazi head-on, Thragtusk is an excellent weapon for the midgame. It's also great against all the midrange decks.
That's right, not Qasali Pridemage. That was not a typo. I'm talking full-blown surprise kitty! Turn one Eldrazi Mimic? Sure, no problem, I'll just fetch Temple Garden and play Noble Hierarch. Attack me for two? FLASH CAT BLOCK DEAD MIMIC AHAHAHAHA!!! What's your follow-up play now? Eldrazi Skyspawner? Looks like old kitty cat's going to keep those linguini noodles back on defense for a while. It's not just good against Eldrazi either. Nearly all the cards on this list were borderline playable before, and Eldrazi put them each over the top. For instance, do you think Goblin Guide wants to unexpectedly see this combination of fur and claws diving out of the bushes during combat? What about Signal Pest? Cat scratch fever will put an end to the robot dance before it ever had time to get started. And want to hear the coolest part? You can put every copy of Qasali Ambusher onto the board the first time you're being attacked. Only one Eldrazi Mimic coming through? Guess what? You didn't think I was a cat hoarder did you? Today we're having a litter of three! All I gotta say is you don't wanna be casting that Reality Smasher next turn because you know what's going to happen if you do? I'm gonna target it with Path to Exile and discard Wilt-Leaf Liege. And by discard I mean put it onto the battlefield for free and make all my Qasali Ambushers into 4/5 cats. Those are some big cats!
If you've never played with some of these cards, try them out. They're better now than they may ever be. Your window to play with these awesome cards may be narrow if the Eldrazi deck doesn't survive the next round of bannings, which I predict it will not.
Speaking of predictions, that's what I would like to talk about next.
Now that the set has been out for a month, I wanted to look back at my predictions and see how they did. Let's start with the big hits…
It's hard knot to pick this card as the best card in the set, or at least best non-mythic rare of the set. Four-drops are very good in Modern, so the competition is steep, but I think this has enough going for it to compete. In Standard it's a slam dunk, even though it doesn't match up well against Siege Rhino (unless it comes down first and takes the Rhino). It's already the most expensive non-mythic rare in the set though, so I'd probably hold off unless you need it for your deck.
I was correct that it had enough to compete in both Modern and Standard and I was also correct that you should not invest unless you need it for your deck. It dropped from $14 to $7.50 despite winning the Modern Pro Tour.
I'm not huge on this one, but I'm a lot bigger than $1 on it. It's one of my sleeper picks for the set. Here's something you can do with it in Modern…
[Vile Aggregate, 4 Eldrazi Mimic, Eye of Ugin, and a red-producing land]
Not only did I use as my example the best draw from the deck that would win the Pro Tour but I also correctly identified Eldrazi Mimic as a financial sleeper. It was $1 when I wrote the set review, and then at the conclusion of the Pro Tour it spiked to $5. That's a 500% increase in value!
I like this a lot right now in Standard since it's great against Rally the Ancestors. It also does some good work against red decks.
I picked this as one of the few mythics worth its weight. It was $6 and is currently more than twice that ($13) and a Standard staple seeing lots of play and for the exact reasons I mentioned.
Early it blocks Zurgo Bellstriker, then later it blocks Siege Rhino. I think this one may secretly turn out to be an all-star
Sylvan Advocate broke out as a main fixture in Bant Company and I fully expect it to remain a major player in Standard for the foreseeable future. It is Fleecemane Lion with vigilance!
Man-o'-War with upside is too good not to see play. This could end up being one of those cards that people look back on and say "Geez, that card was Uncommon?" It has some stiff competition, but I think it is also playable in Modern alongside Restoration Angel, Collected Company, and/or Chord of Calling.
While it hasn't seen play in Modern (yet!), it is arguably the most format-defining card in Standard.
So far it sounds like I really hit the nail on the head. For the most part it's true that I did, but there was one card that I definitely got wrong…
Chandra consistently disappoints. She's like the Detroit Lions. Even when she's good (Chandra, Pyromaster), you still know she's not going anywhere.
Sometimes the Detroit Lions make the playoffs, to the surprise of every Lions fan that has become conditioned to expect mediocrity. People are currently comparing her to Elspeth, Sun's Champion and I think that is going a bit far, but she is definitely one of the defining cards of Standard and a big reason to play R/G Ramp or many of the multicolor midrange decks of the format. While I underestimated her power level, I was technically only wrong about her price as of earlier this week. She started at $9 and stayed below that price until this week. Since Monday she has continued to rise and is currently worth $16.
Right now Eldrazi decks are the most-played archetype in Modern. I Anticipate a ban during the next announcement in a month, and Eldrazi Temple and/or Eye of Ugin are the most likely targets. If this occurs, then the format will more or less return to the way it was pre-banning with the exception of Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom being banned. This means there will likely be more Modern cards that will spike once people have time to figure out what decks improve the most without Splinter Twin or Amulet Bloom in the metagame.
The expected ban leads me to offer two primary pieces of advice:
1. Sell the Modern Eldrazi Cards that are most likely to be banned — Eye of Ugin & Eldrazi Temple.
2. Sell the cards that spiked due to the Eldrazi takeover — Worship & Ensnaring Bridge
Since these two weapons in particular spiked in response to Eldrazi dominance, I expect their demand to Plummet if the deck fails to survive the banlist announcement next month. Better to sell Eye of Ugin, Eldrazi Temple, Worship, and Ensnaring Bridge now while the demand is high rather than waiting until the ban happens and the demand suddenly evaporates
Lastly, congratulations to Brandon Robert for winning the Master Deck Builder Challenge #2 and earning a Vendilion Clique playmat for submitting the following deck. The instructions were to build a Modern deck based around any card from Magic Origins to be judged on a combination of creativity and power. Robert built a Restore Balance Prison deck based around Starfield of Nyx! Ghostly Prisons, wrath effects, and being able to Ardent Plea into Restore Balance sounds better than ever in a world ravaged by Eldrazi.
Awesome deck, Brandon!