War of the Spark's presence is being truly felt in Modern, where new cards are making waves across the metagame. Last week I explored how new cards have infiltrated existing decks and have spawned new decks of their own, and this week continues the trend. With each release of new decklists more and more existing decks are appearing with new cards, and more exciting new strategies revolving around new cards are emerging.
Karn, the Great Creator has been the focus of much discussion around War of the Spark's impact on Modern, but it only continues to grow even more important. Its powerful self-contained combo with Mycosynth Lattice is a strong incentive to play it, and its colorless nature means that theoretically any deck could. It's now appearing in almost every type of strategy imaginable, which makes me wonder where the best home actually is. This past weekend Amulet Titan made a very strong case that it's the answer, and put up multiple big finishes with the new planeswalker included.
Amulet Titan adding Karn, the Great Creator isn't just an isolated incident of a player trying something new, but appears to be the evolution of the deck and potentially a major upgrade. Multiple Amulet Titan lists from the past week included Karn, including the list above that 7-1ed the Modern MOCS Qualifier, and this deck that finished in the Top 4 of the competitive annual Ovino Modern tournament in Italy.
Planning to cast the six-mana Mycosynth Lattice makes a lot of sense in a deck already designed cast Primeval Titan. It functions as an alternate win condition much like Hive Mind, but with the added flexibility that Karn, the Great Creator provides as a tutor for utility artifacts in the sideboard. It also doesn't require a Summoner's Pact, although it does have the downside of costing ten total mana. The results really speak for themselves, so I am curious to see if this innovation is a major improvement that brings the deck to a new level of success and popularity, or if this is just another minor incremental change that doesn't really elevate its standing in the metagame.
The first place I saw Karn, the Great Creator and Mycosynth Lattice in Modern was in Mono-Green Tron, where the purely colorless combo is easy to support. A new trend is the planeswalker being played in a different variety of Urzatron—Eldrazi Tron, which also benefits greatly from Ugin, the Ineffable and even Blast Zone.
Karn, the Great Creator and Mycosynth Lattice work nicely with Urzatron, but it's not necessary, and I argue that makes the combo a good fit into an Eldrazi Tron deck that doesn't assemble Tron as consistently as the green version. I'd also argue that when it does find Tron, the green version is probably just better off casting its typical big haymakers that usually win the game by themselves anyway, not a two-card combo that takes ten total mana to function. It's a better fit into a deck like Eldrazi, where it adds a new angle to the deck. The aggressive strategy is also in a better position to use Karn's utility as a tutor for hosers to slow the opponent down long enough to kill them, whereas a deck like Mono-Green Tron doesn't necessarily need hosers because it can go over the top of opponents and invalidate their cards.
Modern has received a competitive colorless combo, and that naturally improves the stock of colorless decks like Eldrazi Tron. It has long been a strategy in need of rejuvenation, and looks to have received exactly what it needed to regain a competitive foothold. The addition of Blast Zone is also a major addition, as it adds free value to the manabase and gives the deck a great way to disrupt opponents, almost like it can play sideboard card Ratchet Bomb in the maindeck. It has also gained Ugin, the Ineffable, which does a lot of work in a deck full of colorless spells with costs to reduce.
Karn, the Great Creator has been discussed as a great fit into prison strategies, where all of its abilities could be useful, but I hadn't actually seen it applied in practice until last weekend when Magic Online's foremost prison expert appeared with Karn in his latest iteration of the deck.
Karn, the Great Creator is useful for gaining game one access to sideboard hosers, which the deck already had tons of to find with Whir of Invention. At the same time, Karn, the Great Creator also functions like additional copies of Ancient Stirrings in that it can dig for key artifacts. This can be seen in the inclusion of one Ensnaring Bridge in the sideboard. By all accounts it is the single most important card in the deck and the linchpin of Modern Prison strategies, and this configuration further increases the deck's ability to find it. On the other hand, it allows the deck to move less-important silver bullets to the sideboard in order to free up maindeck space.
Whether or not it's a major step forward or just a variation remains to be seen, but it's a promising innovation for a deck that has fallen from grace. The strategy rose to prominence as an anti-Arclight Phoenix deck, but is now in need of redefining itself. Getting more proactive with a combo like the one Karn, the Great Creator provides seems like a step in the right direction.
War of the Spark is the most planeswalker-centric set yet, so it's no surprise that it's these cards, like Karn, the Great Creator, that are making the biggest impact. The prime example is this Azorius Control deck that cruised to the top of the MOCS Qualifier with a 7-1 record, complete with ten maindeck planeswalkers and two more in the sideboard.
Last week I discussed how Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler had both found their way to Modern in decks like Azorius Control, but this list takes the planeswalker theme to the next level with Saheeli, Sublime Artificer. It functions very similarly to Young Pyromancer, but with the advantage of not being a creature that is easy to kill. Azorius is designed to stop creatures and protect planeswalkers, buying it ample time to take over the game. It's also immune to the deck's own sweepers, which makes something like Monastery Mentor unpalatable.
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer could also be found in another top MOCS decks, as a maindeck one-of in U/R Phoenix.
Young Pyromancer sees occasional play in the deck, often as a sideboard option to play against graveyard hosers, but in my experience it was flimsy and never really got the job done. A planeswalker like Saheeli, Sublime Artificer sounds much better, especially against decks like control where Young Pyromancer is at its best but still very vulnerable. Apparently it has tested effectively enough to earn a spot in the maindeck, and initial results are promising.
Taking the superfriends strategy even further than the Azorius deck is the Bant deck that earned a 5-0 this week.
Green provides a ton of mana acceleration to get planeswalkers on early, as well as Ajani, the Greathearted to add loyalty and really go off. The decklist is also the first time I've seen Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor in Modern, where against some decks its static ability should be powerful much like the other new blue planeswalkers.
Another new planeswalker with the potential to do big things in Modern is Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. This past week we had its first sighting in Modern results with its game-winning combo with Leveler.
The biggest draw to playing the Jace, Wielder of Mysteries combo is that Jace is a pretty playable card in its own right, which makes it superior to most combo cards that are often useless on their own. To support the planeswalker, this deck put the combo into a typical Blue Moon shell, which would typically play Jace, the Mind Sculptor instead. Whether or not this combo is actually better than a solid planeswalker like Jace, the Mind Sculptor isn't clear, but the power of a Splinter Twin-esque combo has been proven in the past, so there is something to be said for the strategy.
At this point it's getting pretty funny to see Karn, the Great Creator so many places, but this deck argues that its combo with Mycosynth Lattice is a better win condition for Blue Moon.
Another Splinter Twin-style two-card combo with potential in Modern is Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian, and it's starting to see more play lately. Teferi, Time Raveler happens to be a great fit into the strategy for protecting the combo, fighting through hosers, and being a great target to blink for value with Felidar Guardian. Hall of Famer Gabriel "bobthedog" Nassif earned a 5-0 with his take on the deck last week.
Nassif also includes Narset, Parter of Veils in the deck, which as a source of value should help the combo deck put its pieces together. Not only can it dig for Saheeli Rai, but finding Oath of Nissa can help dig into Felidar Guardian.
A card that seems tailor-made for abuse in Modern is Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, and I've just been waiting for it to appear in Goryo's Vengeance decks.
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar acts a lot like Through the Breach on a body, which while slow and vulnerable, does have the advantage of being a big, castable threat that sometimes the opponent just won't be able to stop. The real advantage is being targetable with Goryo's Vengeance, where it offers an alternate way to help get a threat into play from hand. In some situations, like when put into play with Through the Breach to then attack and put in a creature, it will essentially deal 6 free damage, which happens to work really nicely when added to the 15 of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. It's an overall quality-of-life improvement for a combo deck not known for its consistency or flexibility, and the new addition should help on both fronts, all while adding an extra dose of power.
I've got to give an honorable mention to this Blue-Black Control deck, which by name alone is enough to draw heads in Modern since it's so rarely seen, but I have to tip my hat to the pilot for trying all sorts of new cards in their list.
Along with a pair of Narset, Parter of Veils, singletons of Tyrant's Scorn, Enter the God-Eternals, and Liliana, Dreadhorde General make appearances here. It appears to be a case of trying new tech more than a major change, but it makes you wonder what cards might be playable that we've been overlooking. War of the Spark is an incredibly powerful and deep set, and its cards will be making an impact in Modern for years to come.