I’ll be in the booth this weekend at Magicfest Dallas, as the Modern format takes to the big stage for the first time since Modern Horizons released. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the format to prepare and today I’m here to share the latest and greatest developments that Modern Horizons has brought about, as well as a few other bits and pieces that may have escaped your attention.
Life After Modern Horizons
Aria of Flame is the Latest Izzet Phoenix Craze
Spending three mana to have your opponent gain 10 life doesn’t seem like a game-winning plan for Izzet Phoenix, but Aria of Flame is the new darling of Phoenix players everywhere. Played as a two- or three-of in most Phoenix decks, this recent addition only needs you to cast four spells to break even on life and will deal 20 after just six–that’s in addition to the Arclight Phoenixes that are also coming back from the graveyard!
It’s an insanely effective damage engine in a deck with filled with cheap burn spells and cantrips. When facing Izzet Phoenix, you might not have thought you needed enchantment removal in addition to graveyard hate and generic kill spells, but their threat portfolio has been diversified and Aria of Flame threatens to kill you very quickly if left unanswered.
Jund Has Changed More Than You Think
It takes a lot for a new card to make it into a Jund deck, given that Jund is basically a collection of the very best cards in those three colors. Modern Horizons has had a surprisingly profound impact on Jund, with plenty of new cards seeing play across both the starting 60 and the sideboard.
Jund decks now regularly run Seasoned Pyromancer along with Wrenn and Six in the main, as well as Nurturing Peatland. Some lists even play Unearth as a cheap way to bring back high-impact threats like Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant! In the board, expect to see Collector Ouphe, Plague Engineer, and even Weather the Storm. Collector Ouphe is a Null Rod on legs, Plague Engineer does good work against Humans and Spirits, while Weather the Storm is a great way to contest Izzet Phoenix’s more obnoxious turns.
Cycling Lands are Great. Who Knew?
We’ve already mentioned Nurturing Peatland in Jund–it’s an instant mainstay of black-green midrange. Fiery Islet is a natural fit for Izzet Phoenix to mitigate flood and is also played in Storm. Silent Clearing is getting it done in Esper Death’s Shadow and Eldrazi and Taxes, two decks that are on the up-and-up post-Horizons.
Sunbaked Canyon is the perfect card for Burn (for which mana flood can be fatal) and was readily adopted. A variant Phoenix deck that’s just mono-red is also playing it, simply as an off-color land that can be cycled away. Waterlogged Grove is the exception on the list, having a quieter time compared to its comrades; still, it’s seeing a bit of play in both Neoform/Griselbrand decks as well as Infect.
There’s a New Esper Mentor Deck
For the most part, we’ve seen old decks updated rather than new decks explode onto the scene–even Hogaak is just retooled Bridgevine–so it’s exciting to see a completely new archetype emerge: Esper Mentor is one of the sweetest Modern decks I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s also performing exceptionally well so far.
Esper Mentor by Stainerson
4 Flooded Strand 3 Darkslick Shores 1 Godless Shrine 2 Hallowed Fountain 2 Island (335) 1 Plains (331) 4 Polluted Delta 1 Swamp (339) 1 Watery Grave 3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound 4 Monastery Mentor 4 Snapcaster Mage 4 Fatal Push 2 Force of Negation 4 Inquisition of Kozilek 2 Path to Exile 4 Serum Visions 1 Spell Pierce 2 Surgical Extraction 2 Teferi, Time Raveler 2 Thoughtseize 4 Opt 3 Unearth Sideboard 1 Celestial Purge 2 Collective Brutality 1 Engineered Explosives 2 Fulminator Mage 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Path to Exile 1 Spell Pierce 1 Stony Silence 4 Yixlid Jailer
With a hundred million one-mana spells–many of which replace themselves–Monastery Mentor has never been so well-looked-after in Modern. This deck is just high-tier threats that synergize with cheap disruption, topped off with Standard all-star Teferi, Time Raveler. Expect to see more of Esper Mentor in the future–it packs a real punch!
It Turns Out There’s This Card Called Yixlid Jailer
Most Esper Mentor decks are also playing a playset of Yixlid Jailer in their sideboard, and they’re not the only ones. Remember this card? It went from 50-cent uncommon to chase playable overnight, going up over 1000% in price as pilots of decks of all kinds sought to slam it into their sideboards. Jailer does a huge amount of work against the current format, hosing a huge number of highly played cards. Arclight Phoenix and Hogaak are the obvious ones, but it also prevents Narcomoeba and Bloodghast returning, Snapcaster Mage giving things flashback, Seasoned Pyromancer creating tokens, and it makes Past in Flames a blank piece of cardboard. Nice!
Hogaak Submits to Self-Loathing, Maindecks Leylines
Speaking of graveyard hate, the current bogeyman of Modern has already significantly impacted the format’s deckbuilding. It’s getting to the point where even Hogaak decks themselves are looking for ways to stop opposing graveyard decks–I guess they got sick of playing the mirror, and so are now running Leyline of the Void in the starting 60.
Hogaak Bridgevine by Jeremy Lesher
4 Blackcleave Cliffs 3 Blood Crypt 4 Bloodstained Mire 2 Marsh Flats 1 Mountain (343) 2 Overgrown Tomb 1 Swamp (339) 2 Verdant Catacombs 3 Bloodghast 3 Carrion Feeder 3 Gravecrawler 4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 4 Insolent Neonate 4 Stitcher's Supplier 4 Vengevine 4 Altar of Dementia 4 Bridge from Below 4 Faithless Looting 4 Leyline of the Void Sideboard 4 Assassin's Trophy 1 Darkblast 2 Lightning Axe 4 Nature's Claim 1 Boggart Shenanigans 3 Thoughtseize
We’ve seen two, three, and even four copies of Leyline in the main deck of Hogaak lists, which goes a long way in indicating just how bad things have become. I’m not optimistic for the future of Hogaak in Modern, as the deck seems far too powerful to survive–I think it’s unlikely to be a flash in the pan, and instead will splash into the ban… list.
Eldrazi Tron is Doing Well with Karn Plus Lattice
Karn, the Great Creator has a new home in Eldrazi Tron. As you might already know, having Karn and Mycosynth Lattice out effectively locks your opponent out of the game, as they can no longer cast spells (not even Force of Vigor!). The fact that Karn can also fetch a Lattice from your sideboard makes the combo all the more devastating.
Eldrazi Tron was already a decent deck, but this two-card game winning combo has taken it to the next level. Sure, it costs 10 mana, but in a Tron deck that’s almost trivial, especially when you can split up the mana into two easy payments. Karn, the Great Creator is a must-kill threat–you’ve been warned!
Delver of Secrets Might Be Good Again
The last time Delver of Secrets was good in Modern, Treasure Cruise was legal. Maybe Delver’s playability is directly linked to a format’s degeneracy (it’s not a bad working theory, anyway) but this time around there seem to have been enough new additions from Modern Horizons to make the deck good again.
Izzet Delver by Cha21
2 Faerie Conclave 1 Flooded Strand 3 Polluted Delta 4 Scalding Tarn 5 Snow-Covered Island 4 Spirebluff Canal 3 Steam Vents 4 Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration 4 Snapcaster Mage 2 Vendilion Clique 4 Young Pyromancer 3 Archmage's Charm 1 Burst Lightning 2 Cryptic Command 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Logic Knot 1 Magmatic Sinkhole 2 Mana Leak 3 Serum Visions 4 Opt 2 Spell Snare Sideboard 1 Abrade 2 Ceremonious Rejection 2 Dispel 2 Grim Lavamancer 4 Leyline of the Void 2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar 2 Surgical Extraction
Magmatic Sinkhole is a terrific answer to high-toughness creatures (a traditional weakness of blue-red decks), but the sweetest card in this list is, without a doubt, Archmage’s Charm. We’ve already discussed this card a little bit in the past, and it looks like it’s here to stay. All its modes are useful, and a three-mana mind control is a massively high ceiling.
Teferi’s Puzzle Box Plus Narset was a Total Bust
There was a lot of big talk about the combo of Teferi’s Puzzle Box plus Narset, Parter of Veils. Narset has established herself very firmly in Modern, seeing consistent play in White-Blue Control, but the same can’t be said of Teferi’s Puzzle Box. Speculators went a bit mental, driving the price of the Puzzle Box into the stratosphere, but it seems to have backfired.
Despite being a very potent combo, it seems it’s a little too mana-intensive and clunky to have caught on in Modern. You can’t really tap out on turns three and four to deploy these cards–if you do, you’re not contesting the board at all and will be run over by many of Modern’s focused, streamlined lists. Looks like this puzzle box has been solved.
Sigarda’s Aid, Kor Duelist, and Colossus Hammer
Finally, there’s a bit of buzz at the moment about a new Modern combo enabled by an uncommon from Core Set 2020: Colossus Hammer. If you lead with turn-one Kor Duelist, then on turn two play Sigarda’s Aid and Colossus Hammer, you can attack for 22 on turn two. Magical Christmasland? Perhaps, but there’s no denying it’s a sweet combo.
Sigarda’s Aid has shot up in price as a result–time to dig them out of the old bulk folders–but I don’t think you can reasonably expect this combo to overtake Modern. A three-card combo that dies to removal is a tall order at the best of times, and even if this one is restricted to one color, they can still chump-block. Don’t buy into the hype; rather, sell into it (for a 30% store credit bonus)!