With the release of Masters 25 on our doorstep, I thought it would be a good time to look at some of the standout cards in the set. Which cards are players itching to get their hands on, that they may not have had easy access to before? While this particular set encompasses Magic throughout its history, I would still argue the format it has the most impact on is Modern.
There's more to this set than just the rares and mythics, and the cool thing about opening a booster pack of a Masters set is that even if the rare isn't a card that is that impressive, you can still find some hidden gems within the commons and uncommons. This is the first reprinting of Utopia Sprawl since it was originally released back in Dissension. While it originally didn't see much play, eventually players realized just how powerful the card is.
We see Utopia Sprawl in all sorts of green ramp strategies. There are many places it fits beyond the commonly played strategies. As a longtime Death Cloud player, I've cast my share of Utopia Sprawl. I used a version of that deck to make my first-ever Top 16 at a Pro Tour, and I enjoy going back to it from time to time.
Ramp decks are really fun to play with, though sometimes aren't always as fun for your opponent depending on what you actually ramp into. Utopia Sprawl allows you to play a three mana card on turn two, and doesn't die to removal spells like a mana creature would. It also works extremely well with any effect that untaps your lands, like the Garruk Wildspeakers in the Death Cloud deck.
This leads me to Blood Moon. Blood Moon is a card that many players don't like because of how it impacts games, but it is still an important staple of the format. It also happens to work really well alongside Utopia Sprawl in Ponza, a deck all about disrupting the opponent's mana base. And Blood Moon is the most hateful card possible for doing just that.
This is a two-color deck with easy access to basic lands. Any deck like this that also is playing red likely wants access to Blood Moon. Traditionally blue-red decks have utilized Blood Moon the best, though there are also more prison-style decks that also play Blood Moon. Some of the best decks in the format are based around big mana or reliant on specific nonbasic lands like Eldrazi Temple, so Blood Moon is huge against those matchups.
I'm happy to see Burn getting some love – it's one of my favorite decks and one that has been a major player in the format for quite a while now. Eidolon of the Great Revel is an important way of keeping Storm in check. Since Modern is a fast format, it is very hard to have lots of cards that cost more than three in your deck, so Eidolon becomes a very easy way to win the game without needing that many actual burn spells.
There is an argument to be made for Boros Charm being the best burn spell in Burn, and the primary reason for playing white. While the burn is the most obvious use, the other two modes are relevant. Boros Charm has also made its way into Zoo decks that have larger creatures than Burn decks do, and therefore the double strike mode becomes important.
Another hate card like Blood Moon. The aim of Chalice of the Void is primarily to be able to shut down decks with lots of one and two-mana spells – get it out early and strand spells in the opponent's hand. Decks that play Chalice of the Void typically don't try to win the game quickly, they simply try to disrupt the opponent as much as possible. Sometimes you will see this card alongside Simian Spirit Guide or Gemstone Caverns in the hopes you can play it on the first turn of the game. Take a look at this brand-new take on Colorless Eldrazi.
This deck can get Chalice of the Void down quickly and then deploy its Eldrazi threats. We have seen Chalice of the Void in Eldrazi Tron and this is a very similar deck. This deck skips playing one-mana spells altogether, so the primary plan is to cast a Chalice of the Void on one and it will only end up hurting the opponent. The deck is actually super cool and fun to play. Take note of the synergy between Eternal Scourge and exile effects like Serum Powder and Gemstone Caverns.
I managed to make it this far without mentioning Jace, the Mind Sculptor. So far in my mind the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor has been a success. The card clearly isn't dominating the format as many players initially thought it would. There are many blue midrange and control decks that have adopted the card, though even now when I think about the best decks in Modern, I'm not necessarily immediately jumping to Jace.
There are many homes for this powerful planeswalker, though it's also not immediately clear what the best one is. Before the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, White-Blue Control may very well have been the top deck in the format. One easy place to play it is in that deck, though there aren't as many shuffle effects and cheap removal spells as in other decks.
Like Jace, this is another card that fits well in many different decks. Humans is the deck that many players currently associate with it, but there are also many Hatebear-style decks out there as well. Thalia works well in any white deck that has mostly creatures in it plus cheap spells like Aether Vial or Path to Exile. This Esper Taxes list is certainly a unique one.
We are used to Taxes-style decks, but not normally ones that are three colors. By having both blue and black, you get a chance to play Hostage Taker! The deck is trying to do a lot of different things, as there is also an Eldrazi package incorporated as well. Of course, the noncreature spells are exactly Path to Exile and Aether Vial, that is a reoccurring theme with these sorts of decks.
Unlike many of the other cards here, this is a card that only just recently broke out onto the Modern scene. While players have known about the existence of Courser of Kruphix, it did not see play in very many decks. Occasionally you might see a copy in a Jund-style deck as a value creature, but once players started realizing how good it is alongside Collected Company, the card started seeing much more play. Now there are decks that actually play the full four copies. When Todd Stevens made the Top 8 of an Open with this Green-White Company deck, Courser of Kruphix finally got its time to shine.
Of the various Collected Company decks, the straight green-white version might very well be the best home for Courser of Kruphix. Having library manipulation is clearly very important so you can have the ability to change the top card of your deck. Knight of the Reliquary both shuffles your deck and puts a land into play to gain some life. The four toughness on Courser of Kruphix alongside the lifegain makes the card extremely good against Burn.
It is good to see fair green creatures doing well in the Modern format. There is a place for a card like Courser of Kruphix in decks that actually want to play the long game and grind out advantages in a unique way. It is always a nice feeling to be able to draw all gas, and in many ways Courser of Kruphix allows you to do just that.
This is the graveyard hate of the set. Both these cards see plenty of play as versatile sideboard options. Many decks in Modern utilize their graveyard in some way, and these are two of the best sideboard options in the format. Rest in Peace is the more permanent way of dealing with graveyards, though Nihil Spellbomb has the bonus of not affecting your own graveyard. You don't need to take advantage of the trigger of Nihil Spellbomb, though drawing a card when you are looking for action is also quite nice.
These are both cards we will be seeing plenty more of in the future. We are even seeing decks like Affinity adding Rest in Peace to the mix if sideboard options. Nihil Spellbomb can be found in a variety of different black midrange strategies.
There are a few prison decks in Modern, and Ensnaring Bridge is one of the most important cards in those decks. This is a way of shutting down many decks from doing anything, since if they aren't attacking they won't win. For example, one of the top decks in Modern, Bogles, has no answer to an Ensnaring Bridge, at least before sideboarding. Most creature decks heavily rely on attacking to win, but Ensnaring Bridge decks rely on emptying their hand as quickly as possible to prevent even small creatures from being able to attack.
Many times, Ensnaring Bridge can be found in a deck alongside a variety of other artifacts. We immediately may think of the deck that won the last Pro Tour, Lantern Control. However, there are other directions you can take as well, just look at this list played by Jody Keith.
There are both four copies of Ensnaring Bridge and four Whir of Inventions that can go find you an Ensnaring Bridge if you don't already have it. The deck is really cool, as there is a toolbox of artifacts that can be found. Even though you aren't manipulating the top of the opponents deck, you can still win by milling, through Ipnu Rivulet activations, and you can return the land with Crucible of Worlds.
Here are two one-mana green uncommons that are strong in their respective archetypes. Bogles is seeing a ton of play, and that is exactly where we see Rancor being played. I have occasionally seen it work its way into an Infect list as well. Nettle Sentinel also needed a reprinting, as it has become one of the more difficult Elves to physically find these days. The classic combo of tapping Nettle Sentinel with a Heritage Druid in play remains the best use of this one.
Thanks for reading,