"Modern Masters sets are pointless for me," explained one of my friends at our weekly Commander game. "There are no new cards in the set, and I'm not going to spend $30 to draft it at the store. I don't even play in tournaments, so I could care less about a bunch of old reprints packed in new wrapping."
While I appreciate that Modern Masters 2017 isn't specifically targeted at casual players the way Conspiracy or Planechase is, casual players would be foolish to ignore the set. Reprints invariably mean more copies of a card in circulation, which can often lead to a drop in prices. For the casual player, many of whom have a strict Magic budget, this opens up the pool of available cards!
I thought I would take today to look at some of the cards in Modern Masters 2017 that are particularly exciting for the kitchen table gamer. Since everyone has a different budget, I'll be looking at all the cards generally. While Damnation may still be out of your price range, I hope you'll discover a card that has drifted back into your budget!
Let's just get this card out of the way right now. This seemed to be the card everyone wanted reprinted and it is an all-star for casual players along with everyone else. Mass removal at four mana is unheard of anymore, and Damnation gives it to you in a black package so many players want. Black has so many ways to get cards from graveyards that Damnation is simply a better card than Wrath of God.
I know, I just talked about the value of a four-mana mass removal spell and now I have a six-mana mass removal spell? Terminus makes the list because it puts the creatures on the bottom of their owners' libraries. While the black player wants Damnation to put their creatures in the graveyard, white prefers the creatures to stay gone. The bottom of a library is a difficult place to recover creatures (Grenzo, Dungeon Warden excepted), so a white spell that puts them there just makes sense. If I had to choose between Damnation and Terminus, I'd wonder what kind of weird deck I built that would use either. On a general scale, I'd probably take Terminus.
I should mention the miracle cost, if only to tell you that it has little relevance to me in valuing the card. Mass removal is something I generally want to set the board up to do. I want to take a turn or two and really maximize the play, holding plenty of creatures in hand to get things up to speed. The miracle cost doesn't come into play in that scenario. You can use it with Sensei's Divining Top or other cards that control the top of your library, and setting it up to draw it on your opponent's turn during combat is crazy fun, but I don't like to rely on a scenario like this when determining how useful a card is.
Besides, I keep forgetting to look at it before I put it in my hand, so miracle cards are often just better named "misery" cards; there to remind me of my poor Magic skills.
Destroying any permanent that costs three or less at instant speed may not be as good in kitchen table games where mana costs climb much higher than they do in tournaments, but it is still very useful. Practically any mana rock and a ton of annoying artifacts and enchantments exist in this range – look at mainstays like Chromatic Lantern, Courser of Kruphix, Loxodon Warhammer and Mimic Vat. These and too many others are all susceptible to Abrupt Decay.
I admit that this card doesn't carry the kind of power some of the other cards on this list have. However, the love this card receives from players who run it in decks should make you give it a look! Think of how many creatures die over two rounds of play in your Commander games. Without even trying, the Falkenrath Noble can probably cost opponents five or six life and gain you that much, all without even attacking!
Now start to build your deck around killing your opponents' creatures. You are already playing black and that was probably something you were doing anyway. Suddenly, that Damnation you just bought (because of this article!) that took out 15 creatures lets your Noble take 15 life from your opponents, split any way you choose, and you gained 15 life. Butcher of Malakir or Dictate of Erebos get even better!
Wizards of the Coast is really pushing graveyard recursion. It seems like every set has some ability that involves using the cards in the graveyard. Multiplayer games tend to really push this since getting as much value from every card is essential in these longer games. This is why Scavenging Ooze is such an all-star. Not only is that card your opponent sacrificed not coming back, but your Ooze may get a little bigger while gaining a life. It doesn't sound like much, but when you realize you can use up all your available green mana at the end of your opponent's turn, you have suddenly gained 15 life and have a 17/17 Ooze!
Given those benefits, you should always take out the most dangerous card in the graveyard first, even if it means you don't gain life or get a bigger Ooze. Exiling a card with flashback is joyous!
Primal Command may not be the best Command of the cycle of five from Lorwyn, but it offers some serious utility and flexibility that other cards don't. It deals with non-creature permanents and graveyards, it tutors, and can even throw seven life your way if you really need it. These are all things that green wants to do; that it does two of them is particularly satisfying!
My 60-card Doran deck runs Primal Command and loves it. The deck is filled with a bunch of one-of creatures that let it play differently every time I shuffle up. Primal Command handles graveyard duty primarily, but can find Doran or another fun creature in a pinch.
The deck also loves me some Seal of Primordium and Seal of Doom! Speaking of Seals…
I like the Seals. They cost very little and do great work in multiplayer games. Rather than an instant that sits in your hand and deters no one from attacking you, the Seals are enchantments you can play out early. They sit on the board and just threaten everyone. All of your opponents know that if they attack you while you have Seal of Doom out, they are probably going to lose their creature. Given that, why attack you when there are other juicy targets to go after? If an opponent has a key enchantment or artifact in hand, they won't play it, since they know you are going to sacrifice Seal of Primordium and take it away from them. Better to just hold the card in hand and let someone else play their artifact or enchantment first. You can play yours when the coast is clear. Unfortunately, your other opponents are also playing that waiting game!
The rattlesnake abilities of the Seals make them play differently than the instant that surprises an opponent. The delays these cards provide often give you extra turns to attack or search for just the card you need.
And if these are new to you, be sure to check out the other seals out there from Nemesis. Each offers its own bit of value!
This is arguably one of the best cards in Commander. Destroying all creatures is nice, but how about I just force you to replay your enter board state again, but not until I've swung in and crushed you with my forces? Add in the flexibility of being able to take out a single annoying permanent for a turn or two, and you have a card that improves upon an already spectacular ability. In a deck with blue and white or black, Cyclonic Rift goes in before any other mass removal spell – it is just that good.
While others cards that I discuss here may not be in your metagame, or may only show up when Billy, the Guy Who Owns Every Card, is playing, you already know all about Cyclonic Rift. You likely own a copy, and every player in your group has at least one too. Since it belongs in virtually every deck that even splashes blue, you should probably pick up another copy.
I don't tend to give the Signets the love they deserve. While decks with green in them tend to have easy ways to find more land, decks without green tend to rely heavily on mana rocks to ramp. The Signets are some of the best mana rocks out there. They cost two mana and essentially add one mana to your mana pool. The real benefit to Signets is the cost; most other flexible mana rocks cost three mana, and that can make a difference. I recommend having multiple copies, ready to go into your next deck.
Some are reluctant to run lands that enter the battlefield tapped, so the tri-lands can get a bad rap. I'm not one of those people. If a land offers me something wonderful, I'll live with it tapped for a turn. Tapping for three different colors of mana more than clears the wonderful bar! These lands ease the mana restrictions for your three or more-colored decks and all for a very budget-friendly price. I'm a big believer in spending for your mana base, but these lands are a low-cost no-brainer that win slots in my decks against more expensive alternatives.
Modern Masters 2017 offers plenty of interesting cards for the kitchen table gamer. I hope you find a new all-star for your deck that doesn't bust your budget!