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.
For the coverage of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan earlier this year, I wrote an article detailing the most important additions to Modern from Shadows over Innistrad to Rivals of Ixalan, i.e., from all Modern-legal sets released between February 2016 and February 2018. These sets already added several relevant new cards, but it seems like the pace of Modern changes has only accelerated since then.
First, Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor were unbanned. Then, three new sets were released, all of which were impactful. Dominaria and Core Set 2019 added several hugely significant new cards to the format, and Guilds of Ravnica introduced even more.
To break them down, I picked the top 5 most important Modern additions from Dominaria, the top 5 from Core Set 2019, and 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 Dominaria
5. Shalai, Voice of Plenty
In a green-white deck filled with small mana creatures, Shalai, Voice of Plenty plays a role similar to Gavony Township, but there are two differences. First, you can use creature tutors to find it. Second, it protects you against decks like Burn.
One of the best homes for the card is in the Eldritch Evolution build of the Vizier of Remedies/Devoted Druid infinite mana combo. Thoralf Severin, who took the deck to a solid finish at Grand Prix Atlanta this weekend, credited Jasper Grimmer with the design.
Thoralf Severin, 12-3 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
4. Cast Down
Very few creatures in Modern, save for Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Gaddock Teeg, are legendary. As a result, Cast Down is basically an easier-to-cast Terminate, which is quite valuable for non-red black decks. Here is a good example from the Faeries master himself:
Yuta Takahashi, 12-3 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
3. Wizard’s Lightning
If four Lightning Bolts are good, then eight are better. Since lots of iconic creatures (such as Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, and Grim Lavamancer) are all Wizards, a blue-red deck easily comes together. The weirdest case of “huh, is that a Wizard?” is Nimble Obstructionist, but it can surprise opponents by stifling their abilities.
Below, you can find a sample list from last weekend’s Grand Prix. It’s worth mentioning that this deck has two Risk Factor in the main deck and two Alpine Moon in the sideboard, both of which were additions from the latest few sets as well.
Kristofer Ward, 10-5 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
2. Damping Sphere
Damping Sphere is an ideal sideboard card for Modern. It works as a hate card against Storm or Ironworks, but it’s also useful against Tron or Amulet Titan.
The best home for Damping Sphere is in a mono-green deck with Ancient Stirrings, which turns the colorless nature of the card into an advantage. The Hardened Scales deck, which took deck builders a while to figure out, is a good example. Given that in the current Modern metagame explosiveness and speed lead to more wins than equipping an Etched Champion with Cranial Plating, many Affinity players have moved to Hardened Scales instead. Affinity remains viable as far as I’m concerned, but Hardened Scales is far more popular nowadays, and it is a better home for Damping Sphere.
Christoffer Larsen, Top 4 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
1. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi is an excellent win condition that is hard to beat in a late game. It took time for W/U Control to evolve into its now polished version, but the current lists have gotten well-tuned, and it was the most popular archetype in both Day 2 and the Top 8 of Grand Prix Stockholm two months ago.
Given that the deck has trouble beating Dredge, at least in game 1, it didn’t perform as well in Grand Prix Atlanta, but I can still give you the best-performing W/U Control list from that event. The list contains Lyra Dawnbringer as another Dominaria addition, although I should note that, by itself, it might be inferior to Baneslayer Angel.
Gregory Orange, 11-4 at Grand Prix Atlanta 2018
Besides Lyra Dawnbringer, I would also like to give honorable mentions to two other Dominaria cards: Karn, Scion of Urza, which sometimes shows up in Affinity or Hardened Scales as a way to win grindy matchups, and The Antiquities War, which fills a similar role and which I’ve seen as a 1-of in the occasional KCI deck.
But we’re just getting started—these were only the Dominaria cards. Check back later in the week as I count down the 5 best cards from Core Set 2019, and a whopping 10 additions from Guilds of Ravnica!