Magic Origins offers exciting new tools for all five colors. To my eyes, though, red really stands out from the other four. I believe that some of the red cards in Origins are powerful enough to transcend Standard and make a splash in Modern, standing on level footing with some of history’s greats.
Speaking of history’s greats, Goblin Piledriver is one of the most feared creatures of all time. Unfortunately, its applications are fairly narrow, as it’s only really playable in a dedicated Goblins deck. Modern is also a fairly hostile environment for the Goblin tribe. Its real heroes—Goblin Lackey, Goblin Warchief, and Goblin Ringleader (and Goblin Hero)—are only legal in Legacy. Goblin Chieftain and Goblin King are likely a bit too far below Modern’s power-level expectations to be worthwhile.
Beyond that, there aren’t a ton of incentives to build a Goblin deck. That said, in a world where Goblin Guide and Goblin Piledriver are legal together, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone found a way to make them deadly.
Molten Vortex is another narrow one, but is outrageously powerful in combination with Life from the Loam. If you’re going for some kind of infinite combo, Seismic Assault is going to be better due to its free activation. However, in any kind of normal deck, Vortex will be an upgrade over Seismic Assault, due to being so much easier to cast. A huge number of decks in Modern are essentially locked out of the game immediately by a turn 1 Molten Vortex.
Life from the Loam decks are adept at grinding out other fair midrange decks. If Grixis, Jund, Temur, and Collected Company decks remain at the top of the format, Life from the Loam and Molten Vortex are excellent weapons to turn to. I’m dreading the day that someone really puts in the effort to tune a Jund Life from the Loam deck and buries all of us midrange players.
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh // Chandra, Roaring Flame
Modern is home to a lot of great 3-drops. It’s also home to plenty of effective removal spells. The odds are stacked against Chandra, and you have to put in some effort to make her work. That said, the rewards are truly great if you’re able to do it. I love cards that can dominate a game without having to attack through all the troublesome creatures that can clog up the ground in Modern. Keep reading, and I’ll take a crack at a possible way to use the new Chandra.
Finally, we come to the card that I’m most excited about. The first thing I’m going to do is turn the 4-drops in my Jund deck into Avaricious Dragons. They play well with Liliana of the Veil (both incentivize you to empty your hand) and fill a similar role to Chandra, Pyromaster and Outpost Siege. All that, plus a 4/4 flying can end the game remarkably fast! There’s not much in Modern that trumps a 4/4 flying as it lives through red-based removal and can’t be profitably blocked by virtually anything.
I’ve always felt that devotion is an underexplored mechanic in Modern. While blue devotion likely can’t be better than the existing Merfolk decks, I believe that devotion to any of the other four colors could be possible. These new printings, combined with some favorable shifts in the metagame, have finally inspired me to put pen to paper and build a red devotion deck.
The key to making devotion work in Modern is to make sure your deck can function under a wide set of circumstances. If you get too ambitious, stretching your mana curve to include lots of 5- and 6-drops, you’ll be too slow, and too easily shut down if your early creatures die. However, if your deck is lacking in power, you’ll be outclassed by the decks playing hyper-powerful single cards like Tarmogoyf.
Therefore, I’ve chosen mana sinks which can be put into play for a modest amount of mana, but can become game-winners under the right circumstances—Figure of Destiny, Kargan Dragonlord, Avaricious Dragon, and Kessig Wolf Run.
My hope is that Red Devotion will be the best Avaricious Dragon deck available. The plan of flooding the board with permanents fits perfectly with both the Dragon’s positive and negative abilities.
Avaricious Dragon has the awkward quality of being bad in multiples (since you’ll always have to discard your second one to the first one). At first, I wanted to diversify the top end of the mana curve, but upon reflection decided that the Dragon is simply too much better than any other card that could replace it. I think it’s best to maindeck 4 Avaricious Dragons, and look at that 4th copy as one of the go-to cards to sideboard out. After all, 5-mana cards are similarly awkward if you want to cast a Dragon on turn 4, and you don’t want to play more than 4 Chandras (of any variety) because of the legend rule.
Which leads me to why I think Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh can be an excellent card in this deck. For starters, this deck doesn’t have a ton of ways to push through blockers, so it’s important to focus on threats that can have a big impact without needing to attack. Even as a creature, Chandra isn’t horrible here.
Moreover, the deck features 16 one-mana red spells and four Burning-Tree Emissaries, which should make it very easy to untap Chandra multiple times in a turn. Avaricious Dragon and extra mana from Nykthos can help keep your engines running even into the mid- and late game.
Once Chandra is flipped, it doesn’t take her long to put the opponent away for good. Unlike Standard, there aren’t a ton of Hero’s Downfalls running around in Modern.
Why Play this Deck?
Red Devotion has a couple of important strengths that might not be obvious at first glance.
The first is the great excuse to maindeck four copies of Grim Lavamancer. Lavamancer is, simply put, one of the best cards in Modern. It’s rarely bad, and a huge number of decks just can’t beat it. Once you put a Grim Lavamancer into play against Infect, Affinity, Soul Sisters, Merfolk, Elves, or any other Collected Company deck, your chances of winning skyrocket. These decks play almost no removal, and all of their creatures can be shot down by a single activation.
Grim Lavamancer also makes your other burn spells more powerful. Normally, red decks have trouble with cards like Deceiver Exarch, but with the ability to combine your Grim Lavamancers, Lightning Bolts, and Mogg Fanatics, you’ll usually find a way to get any troublesome permanent off the table. The Fanatics and fetchlands, by the way, are in the deck in large part to fuel the Lavamancers.
The second important strength is a consistent mana base that doesn’t deal you damage and doesn’t slow you down. Also, not only do you not have to worry about Choke, Boil, or Blood Moon—you get to sideboard them yourself!
Which brings us to the final point, which is that midrange red decks have access to some of the best sideboard cards in Modern. Blood Moon ranges from a great card to an auto-win against a huge portion of the field—it’s worth plenty of free wins. Red offers all of the cards that are best for crushing Affinity. Finally, the combination of cheap burn spells and targeted hate cards like Grafdigger’s Cage (against Collected Company) and Dragon’s Claw (against Burn) will give you a ton of game against weenie creature decks.
There are some gems out there that I didn’t even include in this deck list. Vexing Shusher plays well with the devotion theme. Rending Volley puts the kibosh on Merfolk and Splinter Twin. Leyline of Punishment shuts down the Nourishing Shoal combo deck and can make decks like Soul Sisters and Collected Company combo a lot less threatening.
If you’re looking to try out some Magic Origins cards in Modern, Red Devotion is one place to start. That said, there’s a lot of room to play around with what the new set has to offer.