It’s not very often that we see a normal, Standard expansion have such a huge influence on Magic. War of the Spark, more than any other set in recent memory, has resonated across everything from Standard to Vintage! Last week, Gabriel Nassif explained in detail how Modern continues to develop in the wake of War of the Spark, and his roundup was emblematic of the set and its consequences across all forms of competitive Constructed Magic.
A few cards, in particular, are fueling the success of War of the Spark as a profoundly impactful set. Dovin’s Veto is changing the narrative of control mirrors, little Teferi (or 3feri, as one of my mates refers to him) is forcing decks to fight on unorthodox angles, and Blast Zone offers a new and highly effective “free” way to deal with problematic permanents.
There is one card, however, whose impact is eclipsing every other card in War of the Spark and seeing a huge amount of play in Vintage, Legacy, Modern, and Standard. It’s an innocuous little uncommon that hardly set the Magic world alight when first previewed: Narset, Parter of Veils is, incredibly, shaping up as a cross-format all-star.
With 25 years’ worth of cards, access to the power nine, and regular turn 1 kills, Vintage is full of the most powerful and degenerate strategies in all of Magic. Despite this, multiple copies of Narset are cropping up across blue-based decks of all kinds. In a format with Ancestral Recall, Treasure Cruise, Brainstorm, and Ponder, Narset’s static ability can break opposing blue decks in half.
The de facto best deck, Jeskai Xerox, is based around Young Pyromancer and the restricted Monastery Mentor, and already has started to include as many as three copies of Narset. Vintage master Andreas “ecobaronen” Petersen was an early adopter of this new technology:
Andreas “ecobaronen” Petersen
1 Island 1 Flooded Strand 1 Mountain 1 Polluted Delta 1 Misty Rainforest 3 Volcanic Island 4 Scalding Tarn 3 Tundra 1 Monastery Mentor 2 Young Pyromancer 3 Snapcaster Mage 1 Ancestral Recall 1 Black Lotus 1 Brainstorm 3 Dack Fayden 1 Dig Through Time 4 Force of Will 1 Gitaxian Probe 2 Lightning Bolt 4 Mental Misstep 1 Merchant Scroll 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 3 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Ponder 4 Preordain 2 Pyroblast 2 Spell Pierce 1 Swords to Plowshares 1 Time Walk 1 Treasure Cruise Sideboard 4 By Force 2 Grafdigger's Cage 4 Leyline of the Void 2 Pithing Needle 3 Swords to Plowshares
It doesn’t end there—Narset is also played in multiples in Paradoxical Storm, a deck that combines Paradoxical Outcome with Moxen and other cheap artifacts to draw ridiculous amounts of cards. With game-winning one-ofs like Tinker and Time Vault, Narset is the perfect way to dig for those cards while keeping an opponent off-kilter.
1 Tundra 2 Flooded Strand 4 Island 1 Library of Alexandria 1 Misty Rainforest 2 Polluted Delta 1 Scalding Tarn 1 Tolarian Academy 1 Blightsteel Colossus 1 Monastery Mentor 1 Snapcaster Mage 1 Ancestral Recall 1 Black Lotus 1 Brainstorm 1 Dig Through Time 1 Flusterstorm 4 Force of Will 1 Gitaxian Probe 2 Hurkyl's Recall 1 Mana Crypt 1 Mana Vault 1 Merchant Scroll 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 3 Mox Opal 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Paradoxical Outcome 1 Ponder 4 Preordain 2 Repeal 2 Sensei's Divining Top 1 Sol Ring 1 Time Vault 1 Time Walk 1 Tinker 1 Treasure Cruise 1 Voltaic Key Sideboard 1 Flusterstorm 2 Hurkyl's Recall 1 Karakas 2 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 4 Managorger Hydra 4 Tormod's Crypt 1 Tropical Island
Narset is also seeing play in various Oath of Druids builds, although her presence in those lists is a little less consistent. One can’t help think, however, that she belongs in these decks. Once again, being able to dig for Oath while turning off opposing Ancestral Recalls is a great way to get it done in this format. Shir Kahn is on the right track with this Oath list that also features Inferno Titan!
Oath of Druids
2 Flooded Strand 4 Flooded Strand 2 Forbidden Orchard 2 Misty Rainforest 1 Island 1 Library of Alexandria 1 Scalding Tarn 2 Polluted Delta 1 Strip Mine 2 Tropical Island 3 Volcanic Island 1 Underground Sea 1 Wasteland 1 Griselbrand 2 Inferno Titan 1 Ancestral Recall 3 Ancient Grudge 1 Black Lotus 1 Brainstorm 2 Dack Fayden 1 Demonic Tutor 1 Dig Through Time 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 4 Mental Misstep 1 Mox Emerald 1 Mox Jet 1 Mox Pearl 1 Mox Ruby 1 Mox Sapphire 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Oath of Druids 1 Ponder 2 Preordain 2 Pyroblast 1 Time Walk 1 Treasure Cruise 1 Yawgmoth's Will Sideboard 1 Abrupt Decay 1 Ancient Grudge 1 Blast Zone 2 Ceremonious Rejection 1 Engineered Explosives 1 Infernal Reckoning 4 Leyline of the Void 1 Pithing Needle 2 Pyroblast 1 Toxic Deluge
Narset slots into Vintage extremely well. Not only is her static ability supremely effective, as discussed, so much of the format is spell-based that her ability is, in the words of Mike Sigrist, “a Dig Through Time”. That may be, but why is this relevant for more frequently-played formats like Modern and Standard?
It takes a lot—a lot—for a card to “make it” in Vintage, and even then it’s usually a glacially slow process as players and decks adjust over a period of months. The fact that we’re seeing Narset adopted so quickly and so emphatically should be ringing alarm bells. When you look at other “newer” staple additions to the Vintage format, a pattern very quickly emerges.
Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise are banned in every competitive format outside of Vintage. Likewise with Mental Misstep and Gitaxian Probe. Additionally, Ponder and Preordain are too good for Modern. My point here is that Narset has a pedigree—many seemingly “fair” blue cards that provide card selection/advantage end up being just too good to continue seeing play.
While not always a reliable litmus test, Monastery Mentor remains legal in Legacy and Modern despite its restriction in Vintage. A newly-printed card overperforming in Vintage is usually an indication that the card has a lot going for it. With that in mind, let’s now examine how Narset is doing in other formats.
This trend of apparent overperformance bears out in Legacy, too. Naturally, Narset’s static ability has a lot to say in a format centered on Brainstorm, and she does a fair bit of splash damage when it comes to cards like Ponder, Preordain, Faithless Looting, Glimpse of Nature, and even cards like Griselbrand.
Old mate Condescend is back at it again. Clearly, if the card is working in their Vintage decks, why not try it in Legacy? Condescend’s Miracles list not only adds Narset but also little Teferi to fight the good fight alongside Jace, the Mind Sculptor. That is a high bar to clear!
5 Island 2 Plains 1 Arid Mesa 1 Volcanic Island 1 Mountain 4 Flooded Strand 4 Scalding Tarn 4 Snapcaster Mage 4 Brainstorm 1 Council's Judgment 2 Counterbalance 2 Counterspell 1 Entreat the Angels 4 Force of Will 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Ponder 1 Portent 2 Preordain 2 Spell Pierce 1 Supreme Verdict 4 Swords to Plowshares 2 Teferi, Time Raveler 3 Terminus 2 Tundra Sideboard 1 Back to Basics 1 Council's Judgment 2 Disenchant 3 Flusterstorm 1 Monastery Mentor 2 Pyroblast 2 Red Elemental Blast 2 Surgical Extraction
Another prominent blue deck in Legacy, Stoneblade, is also playing Narset. Once again, she’s being included alongside the best planeswalker ever printed. In many cases, players are cutting copies of Jace to fit Narset into the starting 60—think of that! Narset is going toe-to-toe with the best planeswalker in the history of the game. If you haven’t sat up and taken notice yet, I don’t know how to make you pay attention.
2 Tundra 1 Arid Mesa 4 Flooded Strand 6 Island 3 Misty Rainforest 2 Plains 2 Scalding Tarn 3 Snapcaster Mage 4 Stoneforge Mystic 3 True-Name Nemesis 2 Back to Basics 1 Batterskull 4 Brainstorm 2 Council's Judgment 2 Counterspell 4 Force of Will 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Ponder 2 Spell Pierce 4 Swords to Plowshares 1 Umezawa's Jitte Sideboard 1 Celestial Purge 2 Containment Priest 2 Disenchant 1 Engineered Explosives 2 Flusterstorm 1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 2 Supreme Verdict 2 Surgical Extraction 2 Vendilion Clique
So far, the case for Narset being a cross-format all-star is a strong one. Not only is she convincingly infiltrating the best decks in the most powerful formats, she’s brazenly provoking deck redesigns and shaking up the orthodoxy of blue decks. This is, in other words, a very big deal.
Narset suffers a bit of a blow in Modern, where her static ability isn’t anywhere near as potent. This hasn’t stopped her, however, and she’s seen play (albeit in reduced numbers, when set against the Eternal formats) in what really is a natural home: White-Blue Control.
5 Island 3 Plains 1 Blast Zone 4 Field of Ruin 4 Flooded Strand 1 Polluted Delta 2 Hallowed Fountain 4 Celestial Colonnade 2 Snapcaster Mage 3 Vendilion Clique 3 Cryptic Command 1 Ashiok, Dream Render 1 Declaration in Stone 2 Detention Sphere 2 Dovin's Veto 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Path to Exile 4 Serum Visions 2 Spell Pierce 2 Supreme Verdict 1 Surgical Extraction 2 Talisman of Progress 2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria Sideboard 1 Ashiok, Dream Render 1 Celestial Purge 1 Day of Judgment 1 Dispel 2 Dovin's Veto 2 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound 1 Oust 2 Rest in Peace 1 Surgical Extraction 2 Timely Reinforcements 1 Wrath of God
Right now, the 3 mana War of the Spark planeswalker that’s all the rage in Modern is, of course, Teferi, Time Raveler. That’s fair enough, as little Teferi is another exceptionally powerful card that pairs very well with huge sorceries like Supreme Verdict. In fact, some players are finding room for both Narset and Teferi, and are even throwing in new Saheeli!
2 Plains 6 Island 4 Field of Ruin 4 Flooded Strand 2 Glacial Fortress 1 Prairie Stream 2 Hallowed Fountain 1 Blast Zone 3 Celestial Colonnade 3 Snapcaster Mage 3 Cryptic Command 1 Detention Sphere 2 Dovin's Veto 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 2 Logic Knot 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Oust 4 Path to Exile 2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer 4 Serum Visions 1 Spell Pierce 2 Supreme Verdict 2 Surgical Extraction 2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 2 Teferi, Time Raveler Sideboard 2 Ashiok, Dream Render 1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk 2 Celestial Purge 2 Damping Sphere 1 Disdainful Stroke 1 Dovin's Veto 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 1 Rest in Peace 2 Settle the Wreckage 2 Timely Reinforcements
Narset provides a lot of hidden upside against much of the format. In Modern right now, players are maindecking narrow pieces of hate like Surgical Extraction, and the list above has a plethora of conditionally powerful cards. A back-to-back Impulse across two turns lets you see eight extra cards (Siggy’s “Dig Through Time”), and it makes it all the more likely for you to find the cards you need.
Outside of that, her static ability isn’t without its uses. No longer can people cast Faithless Looting with impunity. Cantrips like Serum Visions, Manamorphose, and Thought Scour become embarrassing (Sleight of Hand gets off on a technicality). Even the “free” main deck graveyard hate cards in decks like Tron and Jund become a lot worse. No longer can you cycle away your Relics or Spellbombs!
One extremely important note: Narset does not stop dredging. Dredging replaces a draw effect, meaning that as long as an opponent has a dredge card in their bin, they can play on through a Narset. If they ever do draw a card instead of dredging, however, that’s it for the rest of the turn—there are no more draws for a dredge ability to replace. Reddit user KarnSilverArchon summed it up very admirably: “Basically the opponent’s options are: dredge as many times as they like in one turn until they choose to draw a card, or draw once.”
Narset’s natural home in Standard is, of course, in control decks—slow, lumbering behemoths that seek to accrue incremental advantage across multiple turns. It’s here that her static ability is at its least relevant, but as an early play that can find the cards you need and maybe soak up some damage, Narset still puts in the work.
1 Swamp 1 Island 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Godless Shrine 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Watery Grave 4 Isolated Chapel 4 Drowned Catacomb 2 Cry of the Carnarium 2 Cast Down 2 Duress 1 Karn, Scion of Urza 2 Kaya's Wrath 2 Moment of Craving 2 Mortify 3 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Oath of Kaya 2 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 1 Settle the Wreckage 4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 2 Teferi, Time Raveler 4 Thought Erasure 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 3 Vraska's Contempt Sideboard 1 Cry of the Carnarium 3 Dreadhorde Invasion 1 Duress 3 Enter the God-Eternals 1 Moment of Craving 1 Oath of Kaya 2 The Elderspell 3 Thief of Sanity
Teferi, Vivien, and a lot of the other new 3 mana planeswalkers are getting a fair bit of attention, and rightly so. I still feel, however, that people are sleeping on Narset in Standard. It’s easy to dismiss her as an attackable Divination, but that assessment comprehensively misses the mark. The incredible card selection offered across two turns—again, seeing a full eight cards—means control decks are much more likely to have the sweeper, counterspell, or planeswalker they need in the coming turns.
2 Swamp 4 Blood Crypt 4 Dragonskull Summit 3 Steam Vents 4 Watery Grave 4 Sulfur Falls 4 Drowned Catacomb 2 Angrath's Rampage 2 Bedeck/Bedazzle 4 Bedevil 2 Cry of the Carnarium 2 Enter the God-Eternals 2 Liliana, Dreadhorde General 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God 4 Nicol Bolas, the Ravager/Nicol Bolas, the Arisen 2 Ritual of Soot 4 Thought Erasure 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 4 Discovery/Dispersal Sideboard 1 Cry of the Carnarium 3 Duress 1 Enter the God-Eternals 4 Legion Warboss 2 Moment of Craving 2 Unmoored Ego 2 Vraska's Contempt
It’s not just control decks, either—Narset comes in as an anti-control card from the sideboard of Esper Midrange, and has enlivened Simic Nexus as an archetype. Nexus decks have been a bit quiet in recent times—little Teferi has a lot to say about that—but Narset is another tool in their arsenal to find the cards they need. Whether it’s Root Snare to survive another turn or Blink of an Eye to bounce 3feri, Narset is here to help.
6 Forest 5 Island 2 Blast Zone 4 Breeding Pool 4 Hinterland Harbor 1 Woodland Stream 3 Memorial to Genius 2 Blink of an Eye 4 Bond of Flourishing 1 Callous Dismissal 3 Chemister's Insight 4 Growth Spiral 3 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Nexus of Fate - Foil - Buy-a-Box Promo 3 Root Snare 4 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 3 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales 4 Wilderness Reclamation Sideboard 2 Arboreal Grazer 2 Biogenic Ooze 1 Carnage Tyrant 1 Crushing Canopy 2 Gift of Paradise 3 Kraul Harpooner 2 Negate 1 Thrashing Brontodon 1 Ugin, the Ineffable
By now, it should be clear to you: Narset, Parter of Veils is the real deal, and not a card you should be sleeping on.
When a card makes waves in Vintage and Legacy, it’s worth taking a second look as to its applications in Modern and Standard. While this isn’t always true—Monastery Mentor was never an earth-shatteringly powerful card in newer formats—the pedigree of cards like Narset is pretty clear.
I don’t think Narset is the next Treasure Cruise, and I don’t anticipate she’ll be banned in any format any time soon. I do think, however, that she is broadly underrated, and criminally so. She’s not big or splashy like other War of the Spark planeswalkers. She’s a supporting role-player.
But she slots into existing decks readily, and provides a suite of abilities that are very welcome and—in many situations—extremely powerful. If you think your deck might benefit from a few copies of Narset, you’re probably right, no matter the format. Narset, Parter of Veils is shaping up to have a meaningful and lasting impact across all the major competitive Constructed formats— don’t be late to the Narset party!