Outside of Limited, creatures that aren’t cheap need to be really strong to see play. Crackling Drake might have what it takes to see play if there’s a reasonable shell in Standard… but what about in Modern?
This is not the type of card you’d normally expect to see in Modern. Sure, you get to draw a card when it enters the battlefield, which is always nice. And yeah, it has evasion, which can be very relevant. But it’s still a base 0/4 creature for 4 mana that requires double of multiple colors just to cast. So how can this card make its mark in such a powerful format?
Crackling Drake is in the right colors to see Modern play. Izzet plays lots of instants and sorceries, and you have access to the best Modern has to offer—powerful card drawing, cheap removal like Lightning Bolt—and you can combine it all with Snapcaster Mage.
Crackling Drake slots in perfectly in this sort of shell, and it likely wouldn’t have ever come close to making the cut the way we’re used to seeing Magic cards printed. The Drake, unlike cards in effectively all previous sets, doesn’t require the instants and sorceries that pump it to be in the graveyard. The fact that Crackling Drake also counts your spells in exile is huge in Limited since it means that you can jump-start a spell, but in Modern it means that you can flash a spell back with Snapcaster Mage, delve with Logic Knot, or exile it to fuel Harvest Pyre and not be punished!
Izzet control decks tend to be Blood Moon decks that limit your opponent’s options. By using cheap interaction to combo with Blood Moon, the opponent can’t cast many (if any) spells and you’re able to deal with each one in turn. The win condition has never been especially relevant. Young Pyromancer can get the job done, as can using Through the Breach to put Emrakul into play. With Crackling Drake, you’re getting to draw an extra card and getting a nice blocker out of the deal.
Crackling Drake’s 4 toughness is really important in Modern. Of course it’s a huge benefit for a creature to survive Lightning Bolt, but the Drake can also block most of Modern’s most played creatures. Bloodbraid Elf getting brickwalled is nice, but flying lets you shut down Mantis Rider and all of the creatures Bant Spirits can put onto the battlefield if they aren’t flooded with lords. It also means that you can play your own sweepers, like Anger of the Gods, and not worry about your creature hitting the bin too early.
One of the biggest issues with the Through the Breach and Emrakul combo is how often you lose the game when you’re able to pull this off. When you’re playing a bunch of cards that are otherwise dead if you don’t have them together, they’d better win the game when you draw both. By being able to move on to Crackling Drake, you don’t have to worry about “fizzling.” Crackling Drake also gets big quickly. Ending the game in two swings should be fairly common, especially with spells like Thought Scour, and being able to end the game in one swing when you’re playing around 30 instants and sorceries in your deck is ossible.
A high pick Draft uncommon in the new set already starting to make its mark in Modern? Count me as one of the many players interested to see how this one plays out!