Throughout Bloodbraid Elf’s career in both Standard and Modern, a number of cards were touted as the best cards to hit with the cascade trigger. It all began with Blightning—a terrific spell to spike, especially in the face of opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptors—but as BBE transitioned to Modern, people were happy to flip Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, or Liliana of the Veil.
Today’s Modern still includes those perennial all-stars, but there’s a range of new and exciting options to hope for as you spin the BBE-wheel. Let’s have a look at some new cards that Bloodbraid Elf hasn’t had the chance to properly exploit!
Right at the top of the list for cards—new or otherwise—you’re hoping to spike with your Bloodbraid Elf is doubtlessly Kolaghan’s Command. Seeing as you already have to work very hard not to get a 2-for-1 with Kolaghan’s Command, casting it for free off the back of a hasty 3/2 completely puts things over the top—as many have already pointed out, it’s going to end up as a 3-for-1 in so many situations.
Kolaghan’s Command is excellent against a broad proportion of Modern decks, with relevant modes no matter what kind of decks you’re contesting. In some matchups it’s a stone-cold killer—sorry, Affinity—and even against slow, grindy decks it still has excellent utility. Critically, Kolaghan’s Command will enable you to start chaining Bloodbraid Elves. The Raise Dead mode allows you to get back a previously-slain BBE and do it all over again.
As an existing Modern staple, it’s fairly obvious that Kolaghan’s Command will work exceptionally well with BBE. Even without the built-in recursion synergy, Kolaghan’s Command is just too excellent against the field in general. It will be a rare situation indeed where cascading into Kolaghan’s Command is anything other than an excellent and efficient value play.
Liliana, the Last Hope
Reid Duke characterized new Liliana as a “sleeper card,” and she certainly has seen more and more play in the sort of decks in which BBE used to be an all-star. The recent change to the legend rule only juiced her up further, as she can now work in tandem with Liliana of the Veil. Obviously, either Liliana is an excellent hit from a Bloodbraid Elf, but just like Kolaghan’s Command, Liliana of the Veil offers some excellent recursion options.
Liliana’s second ability already offers excellent synergy to any deck looking to exploit 2-drops like Grim Flayer or Tarmogoyf, but having another Raise Dead effect when playing value creatures like Bloodbraid Elf puts her ability even further over the top. Opponents will be put in a tricky position—do they slay your 3/2, allowing you to gain even more value with your new Liliana, or do they keep taking 3?
It’s not just the second ability—her +1 also may enable your freshly-summoned BBE to hustle and bustle into the red zone through previously-hefty blockers. And unlike Liliana of the Veil, new Liliana’s removal ability adds loyalty rather than removing it. All in all, there’s a lot of synergy—some of it a little hidden—between these two cards.
While Return to Ravnica’s Dreadbore was printed before the banning of Bloodbraid Elf, it wasn’t a popular inclusion in many decks at the time. Even today, it doesn’t see all that much play outside of being a 1-of in certain decks that can afford the restrictive mana cost—Mardu Pyromancer is perhaps the most obvious example. Generally speaking, Modern isn’t flush with planeswalkers, and so Dreadbore is often a worse Terminate.
Well, that’s set to change, and Dreadbore’s stocks are about to rise enormously. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is here to completely shift the role of planeswalkers in Modern, and a great way to prepare yourself in the face of this is by running cards like Dreadbore. Terminate does stone-cold nothing against creatureless control decks, and these are exactly the type of decks that will look to leverage Jace. Dreadbore, therefore, gives you the best of both worlds—it picks off creatures and planeswalkers alike, greatly reducing the risk of the dreaded BBE whiffski.
A lot of attention has been drawn to the fact that Bloodbraid Elf will be a good fit in Red-Green Ponza decks (apparently so named as the deck’s original architect was a big fan of Ponza Rotta pizza). Ponza decks use Stone Rain and Blood Moon to disrupt opposing mana while ramping into gigantic threats like Inferno Titan and Stormbreath Dragon. Obviously, both 3-drop mana disruption spells are excellent hits from BBE.
The issue here is that while Stone Rain is a mighty cascade hit, the deck itself plays a lot of mana dorks (marginal hits at best) in addition to Bonfire of the Damned (yet another straight-up whiffski). I’m always happy to cast a Stone Rain, and of course it’s all the better when it’s free, but the current configuration of Ponza decks is clearly not the best way to leverage the cascade trigger of a BBE. Further work is required!
Ancestral Vision and Bloodbraid Elf have never concurrently existed in the Modern format, and it’s very exciting to explore powerful interactions like this. Thanks to Living End, every Modern player knows that cascade spells are the way to exploit suspend cards, and rather than playing embarrassing options like Demonic Dread, BBE is a defensible enabler to cheat out an Ancestral Vision.
Recently, the weapon of choice for impatient wizards looking to cast Ancestral Vision without the waiting time has been As Foretold. Happily, this card also costs 3! There’s already been talk of BBE fitting into a Temur shell, and cascading into an As Foretold would immediately allow you to cast an Ancestral Vision from hand. Maybe we’re getting close to Magical Christmas Land when thinking about this sort of thing (Magical Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Land?), but it’s worth investigating further given the raw power on offer with interactions of this nature.
Currently, As Foretold decks are set up with a lot of reactive cards, and this would need to change as BBE is pretty horrific with the traditional Snapcaster/counterspell suits we see in blue decks. Still, if there’s a way to make it work, cascading a Bloodbraid Elf into Ancestral Vision is always going to be huge game.
Whether Bloodbraid Elf makes significant waves in Modern remains to be seen. If it does, however, it’ll be as a result of enabling powerful, splashy, or value-oriented plays like the options we’ve explored today. There are plenty of cards that have proved to be excellent pairings with the hasty 3/2. It’ll be very interesting to see if any of these newer options can make the cut!