War of the Spark is shaping up to be a powerful Magic set—so much so that I keep wishing I could play at Mythic Championship London. It’s not common for a Standard set to influence Modern and Legacy, but there are a number of War of the Spark cards that have a good chance of seeing play in the older formats. Today, I’m going to talk about some of the cards that have caught my eye specifically for Modern and Legacy:
Karn, the Great Creator
Stony Silence is one of the most powerful sideboard cards in Modern—it’s strong versus Affinity, Lantern, Hardened Scales, and some draws from Tron. The problem is that it’s white, so not everyone can play it, and symmetrical, so if you are one of these decks, you certainly can’t play it.
With Karn, the Great Creator, now you can. Being one-sided and colorless means Karn can be a good bullet to Ancient Stirrings for out of a Tron deck. It’s not as effective against Affinity (since that’s the one deck you want to stunt their mana development, and they can attack it), but it’s arguably better versus decks like Lantern since the go-to answer for this type of effect is Nature’s Claim.
Karn’s plus ability is almost irrelevant, but it is worth noting that it kills 0-cost artifacts. Mana artifacts aren’t going to be very relevant to kill (since they can’t tap for mana anyway), but killing Chalice of the Void is very nice. The minus ability is also narrow but can be pretty good. You’re probably not going to maindeck Karn, so it’s not like you’re going to have access to any super bullets you otherwise wouldn’t (since you could have just sided them in), but you could, for example, sideboard in two or three Karns and then have more access to a card you only have a copy of. You could sideboard out a fourth copy of a relevant card, and then you can search for it, or you could find yourself in a spot where you got one of your key cards hit by the currently popular Surgical Extraction, and then you have easy access to it.
There’s also the new most popular combo on the block to consider—Karn, the Great Creator + Mycosynth Lattice. If you have both of these in play, your opponent is locked out of playing spells for the rest of the game, since all their permanents are artifacts and they cannot tap any lands to generate mana. The best part is that you don’t even have to play Mycosynth Lattice in your main deck, since Karn can just search for it from the sideboard, so all you’re using up is one sideboard slot. This combo may seem like a meme, but it could also just have competitive applications, especially in decks like Tron that can assemble both pieces in play by turn 3 relatively easily (all you need is Karn on turn 3 and Tron, or Karn + Tron + Tower on turn 4).
As a general rule, edict effects are better in older formats than in Standard. In Legacy, for example, True-Name Nemesis, Marit Lage, and Emrakul are cards you routinely want to kill, and Edicts do that while normal spot removal doesn’t. Diabolic Edict already sees play in Legacy, and Liliana’s Triumph is just a better version of that. Even if you have no Lilianas, it’s still better, as it dodges Leyline of Sanctity and Leovold (since it doesn’t target). It’s even better than that, though, as the decks that currently play Diabolic Edict also play Lilianas, which means they get a free discard that can even be cast during the opponent’s draw step, since it’s an instant.
Another place for Liliana’s Triumph is 8-Rack, which is another deck that is interested in the effect and currently runs Lilianas. Speaking of 8-Rack:
Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
I’m not a big fan of the 8-Rack archetype, but, for the people who are, Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage is a good fit. Assuming your opponent can’t just kill it, it’s going to make them discard two cards and then eventually it’s going to kill them—it’s not as fast as the other racks, but it has much stronger utility, since it doubles up as enabler and win condition. You’re probably not playing four, but I could see two or three (it’s not even that bad in multiples as you can cash the other in for the third card, but your opponent does run out of cards pretty quickly so this has diminishing returns), which might mean we get to 10- or 11-Rack.
Tomik, Distinguished Advokist
In Standard, Tomik is a 2/3 flying legend for 2, which can be quite good in the right deck. In Legacy, it’s a very good hate card against specifically lands and other Dark Depths decks. If Tomik is in play, the Lands player cannot Wasteland/Port/Ghost Quarter you (but you can still do that to them), they cannot copy anything with Thespian’s Stage (which means no Marit Lage), and they cannot cast Life from the Loam. It also has 3 toughness, which means it survives one rotation of Punishing Fire. Simply put, if this card stays in play, it’s almost impossible for a Lands player to win.
Not everyone can or wants to play a WW 2/3 flyer, but Death and Taxes could—the deck is often in the market for a flyer anyway, and it’s not that much worse than Serra Avenger. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t get searched by Recruiter of the Guard, so you can’t just jam one in your sideboard as a bullet, but I think it’s still a powerful sideboard card and a passable main-deck option depending on the field you expect.
In Standard, Dreadhorde Arcanist is likely a card for “pump” decks—you want to be casting the likes of Collision/Colossus on it. In Modern, however, there are enough cheap spells worth flashing back that it can stand out on its own. Not only do we get the usual suspects—Thoughtseize, Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Fatal Push—but we also get to flashback Ancestral Vision! (Though that one does need some help going to the graveyard, unless it’s later in the game.) There are many decks in Modern that play very little removal (e.g., Spirits, Humans, Affinity, Hardened Scales, Elves, Company combo decks), so having a 2-drop that doubles up on all your removal spells can be quite useful.
In Standard, Neoform will often be used for its +1/+1 counter as much as for its tutor ability—getting a Growth-Chamber Guardian or a Sharktocrab and triggering their abilities. In Modern, the +1/+1 counter is less relevant, but the tutor part is much better, since there are more two-card combos for you to grab.
The obvious place for Neoform is the Devoted Druid/Vizier of Remedies combo. It doesn’t let you sacrifice a redundant piece to find another, but it does let you sacrifice a 1-drop to find either combo piece, and this deck plays a million mana creatures anyway. On top of that, if you do have the combo assembled and have Neoform, then it can be used to get Rhonas to win the game immediately.
Is Neoform better than Eldritch Evolution? I’m not sure, but it certainly could be. It’s cheaper, and it doesn’t exile itself, which means it can “loop” with cards like Eternal Witness. It might also be good in addition to Eldritch Evolution, depending on how your deck is built.
Dovin’s Veto is clearly an upgrade to Negate, so it’s only a matter of whether you can afford the cost or not. In Standard, decks like WW/u certainly can, and will make the swap. In Legacy, people don’t usually play Negate anyway, and I don’t think having it be uncounterable will change that. In Modern, it’s not so simple. There are decks like Jeskai, U/W, and potentially Spirits that do play Negate, and they might switch to Dovin’s Veto, but my inclination is that it’s not worth it. There just aren’t enough cards your opponent will be trying to force through with countermagic of their own (it can’t even counter Titan through Pact of Negation) to justify the fact that cards like Field of Ruin and Mutavault don’t cast it.
Much like Liliana’s Triumph, Angrath’s Rampage is better in older formats, where the fact that it doesn’t target is a bigger upside (because of cards like True-Name Nemesis, etc). In Modern, it can be used as a pseudo-Dreadbore (it will almost always kill a planeswalker, but not always a creature. It does kill Ulamog, though!), but it has the added benefit of destroying cards like Aether Vial against Humans, Oblivion Stone against Tron, or Chalice of the Void against Eldrazi Tron. The biggest issue I have with it in Modern is that the artifacts you really want to destroy (Ensnaring Bridge, Chalice of the Void from Whir) are often untouchable by Angrath’s Rampage, as these decks will always have a Mox Opal, Darksteel Citadel, or Mishra’s Bauble of some sort to protect them, but I think it could still see play because it’s so flexible.
In Legacy, I think it’s even better, as there are a lot of decks that play powerful artifacts but aren’t artifact decks (plus, the edict part is better), and there are arguably more planeswalkers. Legacy is a format where people do play Chalice of the Void without a plethora of other artifacts to insulate it, and they also play Batterskull, Jitte, and even Goblin Charbelcher or Lion’s Eye Diamond. For only 2 mana, this card is very flexible, and it’s almost guaranteed to see play somewhere.
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer is a bit of a curveball. Originally, I expected her to trigger on artifacts and to make Thopters. Instead, she triggers on noncreatures and makes Servos. This makes her quite a bit better in Eternal formats, where Monastery Mentor and Young Pyromancer are commonly played.
Compared to these two creatures, Saheeli has some upsides and some downsides (and here I’m going to discount her second ability, but if you can copy something good, hey, I guess she gets better). In Legacy, Swords to Plowshares, Fatal Push, Diabolic Edict, Kolaghan’s Command, and Lightning Bolt are all super common, so a lot of decks play more removal than ways to attack planeswalkers, which means she might be much harder to kill than a creature. On top of that, she is (potentially) mono-blue, which means she can be slotted in U/B decks that wouldn’t have access to either of the other two and, more importantly, she pitches for Force of Will. She does cost 3 mana, which is more than Young Pyromancer, and is a slower clock than both of the creatures, but that doesn’t really matter if she can dominate the game. At 3 mana, she competes mostly with True-Name Nemesis, and I think there will be situations where it’s better than the Merfolk, which is quite impressive considering how good True-Name Nemesis is.
Now this is the hardest card to evaluate for me. It’s basically an Ad Nauseam that makes everything free, but if you hit two lands you have to stop unless you have cards like Brainstorm, Ponder and Preordain, which you likely will. My inclination is that Ad Nauseam is still likely to be better, but I could be very wrong and this card could just be broken. There might even be a “Goblin Charbelcher” style of deck that plays very few lands and uses all the black rituals as a way of powering this out. This card is also potentially powerful enough to see play in Vintage, since it is an artifact and can be Tinkered out.
Overall, I think that’s quite a lot of cards that can see play in older formats (even the oldest of them!), which is pretty unusual for a Standard set, and we’re really only halfway through it. Most of the time they spoil the good cards first, but this time around they’re going by story order, so there could definitely be goodies to come, and I look forward to see how the format shapes up after MC London.