Last week I wrote about how War of the Spark cards are already changing Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage, but it was just a sneak preview of more to come. Now a week later and with a weekend of premier events on the books, many more new cards have exceeded expectations by proving themselves in a variety of decks. War of the Spark is shaping up to be the most important set for Eternal formats in years, and nowhere offers more room for these new cards to shine than Modern, the brewer's paradise where it seems like anything is possible.
War of the Spark's Eternal star so far has been Karn, the Great Creator, and last week I went into detail about its impact in Legacy and Vintage. I also shared my story of encountering the planeswalker for the very first time when I was playing the Modern Urzatron mirror, where I got destroyed by its combo with Mycosynth Lattice. This interaction K.O.s the opponent with a total lockdown, and it's the major incentive to play with Karn, the Great Creator in Eternal formats. It was only a matter of time before we started to see Karn being used in all sorts of Modern shells, and this week's results show that the floodgates have been opened.
For example, Karn, the Great Creator was meshed into the "Dice Factory" deck based around using Coretapper and Surge Node to abuse charge counters, specifically to ramp with Astral Cornucopia and Everflowing Chalice.
This strategy hasn't proven to be tier 1, or even tier 2, but Karn, the Great Creator gives it a huge power boost that could push it over the top. It plays well with the ramp specifically, which can help get it and Mycosynth Lattice together quickly. This version also includes the Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek combo, but the player decided now to include copies in the sideboard for Karn, the Great Creator to find. Karn is a great tutor for that combo because both pieces are artifacts, so it's something I'm sure we'll see eventually.
Karn, the Great Creator is a natural fit into prison-style decks with its one-sided Null Rod static ability, and with its ability to tutor for any of Modern's potent hosers that are typically played in these artifact-based decks. Karn, the Great Creator's earned some early success in Mono-Red Prison, which is a familiar Legacy strategy that started popping up in Modern to some results.
This decklist highlights Karn, the Great Creator's great interaction with Liquimetal Coating, which acts very similarly to Mycosynth Lattice, just on a micro scale. It's starting to become a staple one-of in sideboards for Karn's toolbox, and this list even plays one maindeck. With Karn's static ability turning off artifacts, Liquimetal Coating can be used to temporarily shut down any permanent activated abilities for a turn, like by targeting a land or planeswalker in the opponent's upkeep. It's the perfect tool for when there simply isn't enough mana available for Mycosynth Lattice, which at six mana might not come down until two turns after Karn, or might never come if the lands aren't available.
Liquimetal Coating has some other nice interactions too, such as turning an opponent's land into an artifact on your turn and then targeting it with Karn's +1 ability to destroy it, which can destroy one land a turn as an alternative sort of lock. It can also be used to get more mileage from artifact removal like Abrade, which I suppose is why this deck can afford to play one maindeck.
Karn, the Great Creator has also found a home in an alternative take on the prison strategy, a Mono-White deck based around legendary permanents and Mox Amber. The deck takes a Death and Taxes/Hatebears approach by focusing on aggressive white creatures with some prison elements, which is topped off by Karn.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is joined by Dovin, Hand of Control, which as this deck highlights is actually quite a strong hoser in Modern, and a one-sided one at that. Gideon Blackblade functions as a massive threat for the cost with some upside, but I suspect the -6 ability for removing a permanent is surprisingly strong and difficult for most opponents to stop. It will tick up much like Liliana of the Veil's ultimate, and while not as devastating, it happens sooner and unlike Liliana's will always destroy the most important permanent.
Karn, the Great Creator's primary role in this deck is as a finisher with Mycosynth Lattice as a sort of combo kill, which I think is the primary role it plays in every Eternal format deck, but this deck also benefits from access to a toolbox of disruption to help round out its prison theme. The deck does have one nice synergy with Karn: its +1 ability can be used to animate Smuggler's Copter as a 2/2, without the need to crew. This is actually a pretty nice play on curve when Karn comes down turn four and there isn't mana to cast anything found with the -2 anyways. I could imagine some deck out there with four Smuggler's Copter to use this interaction, so the card's time to shine in Modern may have come.
The coolest thing in this decklist though has to be Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper, which can add two mana toward casting Karn, the Great Creator, or can be sunk into Dovin, Hand of Control or Thalia, Heretic Cathar. When Ixalan rule changes turned planeswalker into legendaries and first enabled Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper to cast them it gained a lot of attention before the hype fizzed, but Karn might be the planeswalker that pushes it to playability.
The deck also features the new card Mobilized District, which is a natural fit into a deck based around legendaries. The litmus test for a card like this is Mutavault, and the bar is really high. It's not clear to me that +1/+1 and vigilance is worth three extra mana, because to me the most value of such cards is when you are out of other resources, but this decklist argues otherwise.
The wildest War of the Spark-inspired deck to appear this week is a deck based around Niv-Mizzet Reborn, which Modern offers a ton of great multicolored cards to cast. Bring to Light stands in as four extra copies of Niv-Mizzet Reborn, or can specifically find any number of toolbox cards if the situation calls for it.
Everything adds up to what's essentially a Jund deck, with Niv-Mizzet Reborn acting as a really big, slow Bloodbraid Elf that rains down value. I'm not so confident such a strategy is really a competitive thing to be doing in a format like Modern, but it sure looks like fun. Adding to the fun factor is another new card—Domri, Anarch of Bolas, which can help accelerate into Niv-Mizzet Reborn, as well as help to get it past countermagic.
A much more subtle example of a War of the Spark card finding its way to Modern is Finale of Devastation being used to assemble the Counter Combo of Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies.
Compared to Chord of Calling, which has typically been used in this strategy, Finale of Devastation has two big advantages. First, Finale of Devastation lets you "search your library and/or graveyard", so you can recur your combo pieces after your opponent targets them with removal. It also comes in at a mana cheaper than Chord of Calling, a fact that convoke doesn't make up for. It's a clear power boost and quality-of-life upgrade for a strategy that started out so hot in Modern but has all but faded away. With the new tech of Chalice of the Void to lock out opponents and their removal, maybe it will find its way back.
It didn't take long for Finale of Promise to make its way to Modern, where it could help bring Izzet Phoenix to the next level.
Finale of Promise does a great job of impersonating Snapcaster Mage, but is really a better fit in such a spell-centric deck. Trading the value of a 2/1 for a spell is a better proposition for the deck for various reasons, one being that Finale of Promise is much better with Arclight Phoenix because it acts as three spells in one. It can also get disgusting with Pyromancer Ascension, which can copy Finale of Promise and then copy both of the spells both it and the copy cast, which adds up to an eight-for-one!
Another card reminiscent of Snapcaster Mage is Dreadhorde Arcanist, which has plenty of great spells to cast in Modern for repeated value. That said, Standard has shown us that the best thing to do with Dreadhorde Arcanist is to combine it with pump spells, which it can copy to help end the game very quickly, almost like an infect creature. It forms the perfect centerpiece of this decklist, which fuses the Mono-Red Phoenix gameplan with a Become Immense and Assault Strobe combo kill.
Assault Strobe stands in for Temur Battle Rage because it works better with Dreadhorde Arcanist, but otherwise this strategy should be familiar. The deck stretches its colors to include Thought Scour and Claim // Fame as well as expand its sideboard, and offers a real innovation on a proven shell. Mono-Red Phoenix hasn't been quite as popular or successful lately, so this sort of massive change could be what it takes.
Last week I pined about Narset, Parter of Veils's impact in Legacy and Vintage, but it has a place in Modern too. Its card advantage fits right into the W/U Control gameplan, and is bound to become a staple in some capacity. This decklist uses two in the maindeck alongside its usual Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.
This list even includes a copy of Ashiok, Dream Render, which seems better for its ability to stop the opponent from searching than its mill ability. It's a potent effect to be sure, and one made even better in a deck with Path to Exile. As far as Narset, Parter of Veils, it's just a nice source of card advantage that really hoses opposing card draw, but the only real trick the deck can do with it is to use Vendilion Clique and not let them draw their card.
Narset does offer more malicious ways to use its ability, and Conley Woods's "Pitch Blue" deck is designed to do just that, by combining it with all sorts of ways to abuse this ability, from Lore Broker to Day's Undoing.
Notion Thief backs up Narset, Parter of Veils with an even more potent form of its static ability, and helps function as a threat when control is established by what is essentially a Mono-Blue Control deck.
Whether this is a serious Modern deck or just a novelty remains to be seen, but Conley is going to find out for us as he continues to play and tune the deck on his stream. For me the real takeaway is that Narset, Parter of Veils plus Day's Undoing is quite the powerful interaction and one with the potential to be applied to other shells. Even a subtler approach of simply combining Narset with Geier Reach Sanitarium and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea could pay off in a fair blue deck.
Teferi, Time Raveler, and Narset, Parter of Veils change the game by giving blue potent three-mana planeswalkers for the first time in Modern, and that could help bring about a renaissance in the midrange blue deck.
The other colors weren't left completely behind, however, as green has gained a great new three-mana planeswalker of its own in Vivien, Champion of the Wilds, which is being used in all sorts of green creature synergy decks, like this one with Prime Speaker Vannifar.