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For any new card to make an impact in Modern, it has to do some pretty serious work. The format’s high entry barrier demands cards be either very cheap, very powerful, or—ideally—both. While Dominaria doesn’t seem as though it’s the most pushed set in the history of the game, there are a few cards that threaten to make a name for themselves in Modern. Let’s have a squiz at what’s cooking!
I don’t have high hopes for this card in the abstract, as Fatal Push is just the best option available when it comes to black removal and Cast Down costs twice as much. But Fatal Push has given rise to a trend of Modern favoring enormous, high-costed monsters being “cheated” out. Good examples here include delve creatures and colorless threats out of Tron. Against this sort of thing, Fatal Push is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.
We’ve seen cards like Go for the Throat played in the past (admittedly in small numbers), and Cast Down is better. Not hitting artifact creatures is a huge liability in a format full of everything from Arcbound Ravager to Wurmcoil Engine. Cast Down gives a good option to non-red black decks (which would just use Terminate instead) if there’s a strong need for a second fiddle to Fatal Push.
Historically speaking, cards with “Mox” in their name have tended to be pretty bloody good in a game of Magic. Mox Amber, while not featuring the by-now traditional “cupped hands” pose (I’m still waiting for Mox Cricket Ball), demands and deserves to be put to the test due to its absurd pedigree. Mox Opal is a constant reminder of the power level involved with cards like these—could Mox Amber be the next big thing?
Pairing it with 1-mana legends would certainly be the starting point, as dumping two aggressive 1-drops on turn 1 seems like a powerful thing to do. Happily, most of the 1-mana legends are in white. In addition to the famous Isamaru, Hound of Konda, there are also Kytheon, Hero of Akros, Bushi Tenderfoot (no, I hadn’t heard of it either), Rhys the Redeemed, and… Mikaeus, the Lunarch. It’s probably a pass on him, though.
A few 2-drop legends already see play in Modern, however. Is Mox Amber still going to have a big enough impact if delayed until the second turn? If so, there are plenty of cards to enable it: Baral, Chief of Compliance, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Gaddock Teeg, Sram, Senior Edificer, and of course Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Hm, no, wait—it’s probably a pass on her, too.
Purpose-built as a double-barreled hate card, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what this card is designed to do. Single-handedly (or zero-handedly, really, as it’s just a sphere) hosing both Tron and Strom, Damping Sphere also has added utility against KCI, the new kid on the block, and other silly nonsense like Ad Nauseam.
My favorite thing about this card is that it’s printed at uncommon. We’ve seen hate cards like this printed at rare in the past: Rest in Peace, Grafdigger’s Cage, Stony Silence, etc. It always sucks to rip open a Constructed plant when you’re drafting or playing Sealed. It was an excellent decision to put Damping Sphere at uncommon and help mitigate some of those feel-bad moments in Limited.
Artificer’s Assistant was nowhere near my radar for new Modern cards until I caught up with Aussie legend Jacob Golding after he piloted Affinity to the finals of GP Sydney. While talking about the future of the deck, he pointed it out as a card he had his eye on!
“It’s probably not going to be good enough, but it’s an interesting card,” he told me. “You would most likely have to play the full four to make sure you had one early before you played out all the zero-CMC artifacts.”
As current Affinity lists are beginning to play Glint-Nest Crane in order to gain a little in the way of card selection and filtering, perhaps we’re seeing a turning point in the format. Maybe before too long Affinity will be supplanted by Mono-Blue Bird Tribal. I, for one, welcome our new avian overlords.
Anyone who has played Hearthstone will know what I mean when I say that this card reminds me of Doomsayer. Doomsayer is a 2-mana 0/7 that destroys all creatures (including itself) at the beginning of your next turn, and it can be very annoying to play against. Despite knowing a wrath effect is on its way, it’s not always possible to play around it effectively. Often, you just have to do nothing with your turn, in which case you’ve just been Time Walked.
Phyrexian Scriptures hase a similar effect, although with considerable upside. Damnation already sees play in the sideboard of decks like Jund, and I would argue that there are plenty of spots where Scriptures does even more heavy lifting. You play this, make your Tarmogoyf an even bigger thumper, and then ship the turn. What are they going to do? Play a creature? Nuh-uh.
Next turn, you’ve got a huge creature dominating an uncontested board, and it even cleans up opposing graveyards! Then again, chapter three of Phyrexian Scriptures reminds me a little of Return of the Jedi, in that after two installments of masterful setup, you’ve then got a tangential and underwhelming followup that doesn’t really deliver on the promises made by the previous two sections.
Scriptures is very different from Damnation and isn’t an automatic replacement. For instance, it’s much worse against aggressive decks, where, like a temporal instability on Discworld, you want the sweeper then and there. But in grindy midrange matchups, this card threatens to be a huge mirror-breaker out of the board.
There are plenty of other cards that might impact Modern in the coming weeks: Karn, Scion of Urza, Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle, perhaps even Shalalalala, Voice of Plenty. It might be a little too much to hope that History of Benalia finally pushes Knight Tribal into the realm of playability, but we can hope! What other Dominaria cards are you excited to try out in Modern?