Other War of the Spark Reviews
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
Bolt Bend is a cute sideboard card. For this to make the cut, you need to have a lot of 4-power creatures, and reliably play against opponents who have removal spells and creatures you can retarget those spells to. That’s a tall order, though the payoff when this does work is amazing, so there’s a good chance this shows up somewhere.
Chandra, Fire Artisan
Chandra is a legit competitor to Experimental Frenzy, which is impressive. She draws an extra card per turn, but the real action is how much she punishes the opponent for attacking her. She still dies to Vraska’s Contempt, but against any deck that plans on attacking or burning planeswalkers, she’s a ton of guaranteed damage. She’s also better in a high-curve deck than Frenzy, and as such, we are seeing her show up in decks like R/G Warriors.
Chandra is a hot addition to red decks, and the Chandra-versus-Frenzy debate will rage on as long as they both are in Standard.
I like Chandra’s Triumph being an option, and it can beat Lightning Strike in decks that a) have Chandra and b) don’t particularly care about face damage. That’s a fair amount of Chandra decks, and this will see some play as a result.
A 3-mana 4/4 isn’t good enough for Constructed, so this needs to devour at least two things to clear the bar. Given the resources needed to have that happen, I’m not optimistic, though I do like that Tibalt spits out two Devils and then gets eaten in turn.
Dreadhorde Arcanist is a sweet addition to Constructed. The red Snapcaster Mage has potential across all formats, and I even saw a sweet Grixis Legacy list that replaced Young Pyromancer with Arcanist. Flashing back Brainstorm, Lightning Bolt, and Thoughtseize is powerful, and this is a huge threat for just 2 mana.
In Standard, this does need pump spells to unlock its full potential, and there are plenty of options there. Samut’s Sprint helps kick things off right away, and lets Arcanist cast bigger and better things.
Finale of Promise
This card has revitalized Izzet Phoenix in Standard, and has plenty of potential past that. If your deck has enough 1-mana spells, it becomes a potent play at 3 mana, and by itself it brings back Arclight Phoenix. I’m excited about this in Modern Pyromancer Ascension, and have been playing the following list:
4 Scalding Tarn 2 Polluted Delta 1 Snow-Covered Mountain 4 Spirebluff Canal 3 Steam Vents 3 Snow-Covered Island 4 Arclight Phoenix 4 Thing in the Ice/Awoken Horror 4 Faithless Looting 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Noxious Revival 4 Thought Scour 2 Finale of Promise 4 Manamorphose 4 Sleight of Hand 4 Pyromancer Ascension 4 Serum Visions 3 Opt Sideboard 2 Abrade 2 Echoing Truth 2 Spell Pierce 2 Ravenous Trap 1 Shatterstorm 1 Alpine Moon 1 Blood Moon 2 Lightning Axe 2 Crackling Drake
Finale adds a ton of power, and usually is cast to flash back a Lightning Bolt and Opt/Thought Scour. It works nicely with Thing in the Ice and Phoenix, and gives the deck a raw source of card advantage, which Phoenix has historically lacked. The downside is that this deck is more vulnerable to graveyard hate, which depending on the metagame, can be a fatal flaw.
Finale is a strong card, and it will see play across various formats and in multiple decks, and often hand-in-hand with Arclight Phoenix.
Things are looking Grim for token decks these days, but Judith is a strong pull. Grim Initiate gives you two bodies for 1 mana, which has always been a good deal for those sorts of decks.
Given enough fodder, Heartfire is an efficient burn spell. It works nicely with Tibalt and Grim Initiate (just like in Limited!), and it can nug the opponent out from even a high life total. That said, token decks aren’t usually super aggressive, so even good-rate burn spells may not be what they are in the market for.
Ilharg, the Raze Boar
War of the Spark has a ton of viable Modern cards, and nobody can accuse it of being boaring. Ilharg has found a home in the R/B Goryo’s Vengeance deck as an additional way to put Emrakul or Griselbrand into play. You can Vengeance on Ilharg, then attack and put another monster into play, which adds another 6 damage to the mix. It also gives you the option of hardcasting the pig, which is a valuable angle of attack.
Jaya, Venerated Firemage
Jaya’s passive is enticing, as she can add a lot of damage if she sticks around. I suspect Jaya is 1 mana too expensive, but this line of text is strong enough that I think she’s worth mentioning.
Jaya’s Greeting is mostly a farewell, as Chandra’s Triumph and Lightning Strike take up a lot of its space. You’d have to be 100% sure you don’t care about face damage or killing planeswalkers to choose scry 1 over those effects, and I’m nowhere near that right now.
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
It’s funny how much Krenko competes with Legion Warboss. It needs an attack to get paid off, whereas the Warboss makes a token right away, but Krenko snowballs much more quickly. It also scales up insanely fast with pump spells, and is a powerful threat in plenty of matchups. I’m not sure which is best right now, though my inclination is to go with Warboss unless you have some easy ways to pump Krenko’s power. Samut’s Sprint, anyone?
In a spells-matter deck, Mizzium Tank is a big threat that dodges sorcery-speed removal. That’s a potent weapon against planeswalkers and cards like Kaya’s Wrath, and I’m excited to see if Tank can run people over.
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
The days of a 4-mana 5/4 trample being good enough are over, but Neheb does offer additional value when it hits. That’s not quite enough upside to make this a great option, though it might see play from time to time.
Constructed: 5.0 (in Matt Nass’s mind)
Constructed: 2.5 (in reality)
I’ve played Samut’s Sprint in Modern, to the results you’d expect. That masterclass can be found here:
It’s also been making the rounds in Dreadhorde Arcanist decks in Standard, as a way to both give haste and let Arcanist play bigger spells. That’s a lot of uses for what looks like a throwaway combat trick, which is impressive.
Sarkhan the Masterless
Sarkhan is a house, and surprisingly enough, it’s largely due to his +1 ability. When initially reading the card, the -3 stands out as the best ability because making a 4/4 is huge, but given how many good planeswalkers are out there, being able to make a Dragon Army is incredible. Of course, making a literal Dragon is still good, and the ping ability isn’t zero either.
Add all that together and you have an archetype-defining card, and one that U/W planeswalkers splashes red for, which says a lot.
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
Tibalt really pulls his weight. Making two 1/1 Devils, sticking around, and being annoying is a lot for 3 mana, and against ground-based decks he’s a fantastic sideboard card. I also like him in sacrifice decks, especially since some cards let you sacrifice planeswalkers too. Tibalt is way better than I expected, particularly when considering his pedigree.
Top 3 Red Cards
Red got some real heavy hitters here, and all three of these cards are staples in their various archetypes. Chandra gets the nod for first because she goes in more decks, but all three of them are going to see a lot of play.