Modern showcases all sets from Eighth Edition onward. By now, that’s 15 years of cards. But there’s a world of difference between 14 and 15 years of cards. Over the course of the last year, new printings have spawned completely new archetypes, revitalized others, and enriched existing ones.
In my previous articles, I broke down the top 5 most important Modern additions from Dominaria and the top 5 from Core Set 2019. Today, I’ll finish with the Top 10 from Guilds of Ravnica. For each card, I also have a sample deck list, taken either from last weekend’s Grand Prix or from a recent Magic Online event. Let’s get to it!
The Most Important Modern Additions From Guilds of Ravnica
As I already mentioned in the introduction, I was able to select as many cards from Guilds of Ravnica as from Dominaria and Core Set 2019 combined. Before getting to the list, I would like to give honorable mentions to Pelt Collector, which can supplement Experiment One in Zoo-style decks, and Risk Factor, which is a decent fit for burn-driven strategies.
10. Crackling Drake
In the past few years, we’ve seen a variety of win conditions for U/R Control decks, ranging from Young Pyromancer to Madcap Experiment. Guilds of Ravnica offers yet another one: Crackling Drake. Although it’s vulnerable to Fatal Push or Path to Exile, it would still provide card advantage in such an exchange, and it does survive Lightning Bolt. If it lives, it can easily end the game in 1-2 attack steps.
The exile clause on Crackling Drake means that it isn’t affected by Rest in Peace or other graveyard hate. It even synergizes with cards in your own deck, as you can freely exile spells with Harvest Pyre or Snapcaster Mage without slowing down your clock. That’s pretty neat.
Tiemuuu, 5-0 in a Competitive Modern League on 10-09
9. Tajic, Legion’s Edge
For the Humans deck, Tajic is a more aggressive 3-drop than Militia Bugler, as it effectively gives 4 power of haste if you have another attacking creature. This is exactly what you want against combo decks, and Tajic also protects the rest of your board against Walking Ballista, Conflagrate, and Anger of the Gods.
So what is better—Militia Bugler or Tajic? It depends on the metagame, but the best-finishing Humans list from Grand Prix Atlanta hedged with one of each. You’ve already seen the list before when I discussed Militia Bugler, but here it is again for reference:
Martin Hrycej, 12-3 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
8. Ral, Izzet Viceroy
For blue-red decks with lots of cantrips, you sometimes want another card that can just win on its own. Ral is a strong option for this, and he ultimates quickly. One of the best homes for Ral is in Marc Tobiasch’s deck, which is filled with instant and sorcery spells.
Marc Tobiasch, 12-3 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
A puzzle: It’s easy to see how you can go infinite with one active Pyromancer Ascension, two Manamorphose, and two Noxious Revival, but can you figure out how to go infinite with two active Pyromancer Ascension, a Remand, and a Manamorphose?
7. Impervious Greatwurm
Cragganwick Cremator had been lurking in the bulk rare pile for nearly a decade until it was introduced to Ghalta, Primal Hunger. Soon after, a combo shell emerged, with Eldritch Evolution and Fauna Shaman for consistency. But dealing 16 damage is significantly more than dealing 12, so Impervious Greatwurm made the deck more competitive.
Archgaze, 1st place at a Modern Challenge on October 20
6. Experimental Frenzy
Experimental Frenzy has been making the rounds in Standard, but it can also do good work in Modern. Indeed, the highest-finishing Affinity deck at Grand Prix Atlanta played two copies of the enchantment in its main deck.
Bay Cravens, 11-4 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
So, how many cards can you expect to play each turn with Experimental Frenzy in this build? Let’s suppose that we start the turn with 50 cards in our library, 14 of which are lands, and that we have unlimited mana to keep chaining spells. Then, according to the negative hypergeometric distribution that I applied in this article, the expected number of spells you see before seeing the second land is 4.8. That seems pretty sweet, especially in grindy matchups.
5. Knight of Autumn
The flexible Knight of Autumn comes close to a Reclamation Sage/Kitchen Finks/Loxodon Smiter split card. It provides interaction against Tron or Affinity, gets you back into the game against Burn, or just turns into a 4/3 beater against control.
You may have already spotted the card in the sideboard of Bant Spirits or Humans, but I liked this list from Grand Prix Atlanta, which runs four copies in the main deck.
Steven Peets, 10-5 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
4. Arclight Phoenix
The dream with Arclight Phoenix is to discard two copies to Faithless Looting on turn 1, and to follow it up with Manamorphose, Lightning Bolt, and Faithless Looting, discarding two more Arclight Phoenix on turn 2. Once you move to combat, all four will return.
At Grand Prix Atlanta, the best-performing deck with four Arclight Phoenix was the following, with a blue splash mainly for Thing in the Ice. The basic plan is to get a key turn where you’re attacking for a lot of damage with your creatures, and then morph into a burn deck after.
Andrew Schneider, 12-3 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
3. Runaway Steam-Kin
The other way to build an Arclight Phoenix deck is to stay mono-red. Typically, these lists employ another Guilds of Ravnica card: Runaway Steam-Kin. If it lives, you can do some pretty incredible things on the third turn. Given the rebate on red spells, you could chain a staggering amount of them and cast Bedlam Reveler very early.
Below, you can find the best-performing Runaway Red list from last weekend’s Grand Prix. It’s worth mentioning that this deck has two Risk Factor in the main deck and one Alpine Moon in the sideboard, both of which were additions from the latest few sets as well. Either way, this archetype didn’t really exist before Guilds of Ravnica.
Quinn Kotecki, 11-3-1 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
2. Assassin’s Trophy
Assassin’s Trophy is an extremely efficient and versatile answer that can hit any permanent, giving combo decks a good way to combat hate and midrange decks a huge upgrade to their removal suite. Abrupt Decay, for instance, was unable to target Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Urza’s Tower. With Assassin’s Trophy, you no longer have to make compromises, and that also frees up sideboard slots.
The power of Assassin’s Trophy is maximized in a 2-color deck, whose mana base can support Ghost Quarter, as the two cards together can easily run the opponent out of basics.
Sol Malka, 11-3-1 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
1. Creeping Chill
The Modern deck that arguably gained the most from Guilds of Ravnica is Dredge. Although Creeping Chill has not fundamentally altered the deck, it has revitalized it. Draining up to 12 life over the course of the game provides reach, helps Bloodghast get active, and is hard to interact with.
The deck performed very well in the first couple of weeks after Guilds of Ravnica’s release, both online and offline, and several players made deep money finishes with the archetype in Atlanta last weekend.
Yam Wing Chun, 12-2-1 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
For a non-rotating format with 15 years of cards, it’s remarkable how big of an impact the last few sets have had. Modern keeps developing, and if upcoming sets continue this trend, then there will be plenty of format-shaking changes in the future.