Spoiler season for Throne of Eldraine is over and the set is playable on Magic Online as well as on Arena. Most of what follows is theory, but it’s always fun and interesting to try and figure out which cards are over-, under-, or properly hyped.
Luis and Matt took a shot at it, too, over on the Ban Wagon. I was worried they had done my job for me, but we actually don’t agree on everything, so let’s take a look at what I’ve got.
Merchant of the Vale
The red adventure spell is very similar to Insolent Neonate, a card that is currently a four-of in most Dredge lists, so it could potentially see some play in Modern. The problem is Dredge probably doesn’t want more than four copies of this effect, and a couple of Dredge players that I’ve talked to seem to believe Neonate is a better card as the 1/1 body can be relevant as a blocker against an aggressive deck.
It gives you a little bit of value when it enters the battlefield, provides card advantage later in the game, and is blue. This 1-mana artifact checks just enough boxes that it might find its way into something like a Paradoxical Outcome deck. I think its color really separates it from the pack if you’re looking to play Force of Negation in your combo/artifact deck.
The Top 10
#10: Blacklance Paragon
As someone who has cast Snapcaster Mage as an Ambush Viper on the reg, I’m kind of excited about this new Knight. It can act as pseudo removal (it can target itself and block the turn it comes into play) and the third point of power is welcome and can be particularly relevant to finish off a Karn Liberated, but the downside is that it turns on your opponent’s removal without providing you any kind of card advantage. Dire Fleet Poisoner is a card that never saw any play in Modern, but an extra point of power and three life points can go a long way.
#9: Castle Garenbrig
I’m going to be honest, I didn’t even have the Castle in my Top 10, and while I still don’t think the card will end up being very relevant, I’ll give it credit for being more impactful than Witching Well. Primeval Titan is the first card that comes to mind when reading the new Eldraine land, but my issue is that every non-Mountain card you add to Titanshift comes at a hefty cost, and it only let’s you play Titan on turn three if you had a turn one Search for Tomorrow followed by a turn two ramp spell. Amulet Titan already has a bunch of lands that produce two mana, so it’s not really needed there.
#8: Deafening Silence
I don’t have this card as high as Luis and Matt do since combo is just not a thing in Modern right now, or at least not the kind of combo that cares about Deafening Silence. Ad Nauseam is nowhere to be seen, and Storm sees a bit of play but doesn’t do especially well. The main combo deck right now is Thopter Sword which just ignores Deafening Silence for the most part. Also, unlike cards like Ethersworn Canonist and Eidolon of Rhetoric, it can’t be found with Eladamri’s Call or Collected Company, and it can’t shut down Snapcaster Mage or Bloodbraid Elf (which could be an upside if played in the same deck).
#7: Brazen Borrower
This mythic blue adventure card is aggressively costed, and while it will probably see a ton of play in Standard, it is unclear if it is quite good enough for Modern. Part of what makes it hard to rate is that we have almost zero experience playing with a Disperse type effect in Modern (except for maybe Cyclonic Rift), so it is hard to gauge how much a “free” bounce spell is worth. I could see not even having the time or the target for the instant part of the card in most games, leaving you with a much worse Vendilion Clique (which already doesn’t see a ton of play). Nimble Obstructionist is yet another similar card which sees basically no play at all in top tier decks right now, so I’m not very hopeful for Brazen Borrower.
#6: Drown in the Loch
The first of three gold cards in my Top 10, Drown in the Loch seems like it has potential, but I do believe you need to build around somewhat it to make it work. I’ve been playing some with the Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck to good success (19-6 record in MTGO leagues so far), and I know a lot of the deck’s aficionados were excited about adding Drown in the Loch to their mix of gold spells especially since the existing blue-black options are underwhelming. In the Niv deck, Drown is rarely going to be a turn 2 play, and while it will usually be good post-Niv, in my limited experience it almost never matters how many or which cards you hit in these spots as you always win if you resolve a Niv-Mizzet Reborn and get an untap step.
While it is possible your opponent sacrifices a couple of fetchlands and enables a turn 2 Drown, I think pairing the card with something like Inquisition of Kozilek will go a long way in making it effective. You can of course play Thought Scour to enable it, but milling your opponent in Modern can be a scary proposition.
Here is where I would start if you’re looking to try out some of these new Throne of Eldraine cards in Modern:
Blue-Black Tempo Control
2 Creeping Tar Pit 4 Field of Ruin 3 Watery Grave 4 Polluted Delta 1 Prismatic Vista 6 Island 2 Swamp 1 Flooded Strand 1 Drowned Catacomb 4 Snapcaster Mage 2 Blacklance Paragon 1 Brazen Borrower 4 Inquisition of Kozilek 1 Thoughtseize 2 Spell Snare 2 Mana Leak 3 Force of Negation 4 Fatal Push 3 Opt 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 2 Narset, Parter of Veils 2 Drown in the Loch 3 Cryptic Command Sideboard 1 Liliana, the Last Hope 1 Ceremonious Rejection 1 Thoughtseize 4 Collective Brutality 1 Wurmcoil Engine 1 Liliana of the Veil 1 Surgical Extraction 1 Disdainful Stroke 1 Hero's Downfall 1 Damping Matrix 1 Leyline of the Void 1 Ravenous Trap
#5: Bonecrusher Giant
This card is somewhat similar to Brazen Borrower if you look at what bang you get for your buck. The main difference is it seems to have less competition and way more concrete applications in Modern as it might just be Bloodbraid Elf’s new best friend. I’ve always felt like Naya Aggro’s 3-mana options were underwhelming, and even something like Knight of the Reliquary wasn’t exactly what you were looking for. Bonecrusher Giant could slot in nicely and make your creature matchups even better by giving you access to extra spot removal. The card has more competition in Jund, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the card sees play in that archetype as well. On the other hand, I doubt it is something Burn is interested in as it seems a bit clunky there (but maybe as a one-of?).
4 Wooded Foothills 4 Windswept Heath 2 Forest 1 Plains 2 Mountain 2 Stomping Ground 1 Temple Garden 1 Sacred Foundry 1 Horizon Canopy 1 Sunbaked Canyon 2 Arid Mesa 4 Bloodbraid Elf 4 Tarmogoyf 1 Scavenging Ooze 4 Wild Nacatl 4 Bonecrusher Giant/Stomp 1 Voice of Resurgence 4 Noble Hierarch 4 Hexdrinker 2 Wrenn and Six 4 Lightning Bolt 4 Lightning Helix 1 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame 2 Path to Exile Sideboard 2 Path to Exile 1 Fiery Justice 4 Knight of Autumn 1 Grafdigger's Cage 1 Wrenn and Six 1 Choke 2 Stony Silence 1 Ghost Quarter 1 Surgical Extraction 1 Deafening Silence
#4: The Royal Scions
I get the feeling people aren’t really excited about this card, and I’m not sure if it is because the design is “boring” or because they just don’t think it’s that good. If it’s the latter, then I guess those people are going to be wrong because The Royal Scions seems really strong to me. It’s possible the card is good but not quite strong enough to compete with Narset, Parter of Veils or Teferi, Time Raveler, but it definitely has upsides that could end up giving it the nod. It ticks up to six loyalty counters the turn it comes into play, and unlike Narset and T3f3ri, it threatens a very relevant ultimate. I could see it being played in a control shell, or maybe in something like UR Wizards, one of Jeff Hoogland’s pet decks which could make good use of both +1 abilities. It could bring Arclight Phoenix back into the spotlight or maybe even find its way into Dredge as an enabler.
I could see The Royal Scions becoming a Modern staple and see play in many top tier archetypes or fall just a tiny bit short and be relegated to pet card status. I’m going to go out on a limb and go for option number one, but I might be talking from an engrained bias I have from growing up playing Magic at a time where cards weren’t nearly as powerful and looting was an absurd ability.
#3: Oko, Thief of Crowns
Just like The Royal Scions, Oko does a ton for a 3-mana planeswalker. It is its own engine (being able to pump out a 3/3 Food token every other turn), and might singlehandedly beat Burn, one of the most-played archetypes in Modern.
It seems people’s first instinct is to add Oko into their Urza, Lord High Artificer decks which makes total sense. It gives you extra artifacts for Whir of Invention and extra mana with Urza, and it’s a win condition on its own that happens to dodge a lot of the sideboard hate like Rest in Peace or Stony Silence. In some ways, it’s a mini Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, a scary thought for any deck trying to play too much of a reactive game against an artifact-based deck.
But Oko, Thief of Crowns might just be costed aggressively enough that it will end up seeing play as a one- or two-of in pretty much any deck that can cast it. Between Wrenn and Six, The Royal Scions, and Oko, we could see a new generation of Super Friends deck emerge. It even has the benefit of being pitchable to Force of Negation.
The -5 ability (and the card in general) might be a bit too clunky to shine in the early game against very aggressive strategies, but it will definitely take over if you stabilize. It can also steal some high value targets against Whirza, which might prove extremely valuable in the new metagame.
#2: Once Upon a Time
I was originally not as impressed as most people by the card as I kept thinking of the scenarios where all you get is a bad Grisly Salvage (since the cards you don’t select don’t go to the graveyard), but it was probably my contrarian side speaking. You’ll have it in your opening hand about 40% of the time if you play it as a four-of, the first copy you cast is very likely to be free, and if you draw it later in the game it is still a serviceable effect. Not only is it going to give you better card selection in the early turns, it should also help you mitigate flood in the grindy games as you’ll probably be able to run one or two fewer lands in your deck.
Once Upon a Time is almost assuredly going to be a big upgrade to any deck that can run it, and the list of those decks is pretty scary: Tron, Devoted Combo, Neoform, and Amulet Titan (to name the first few that come to mind). Is this the world we’re going to be living in now, one dominated by creature-based combo decks?
Hopefully R&D did its homework on this one and the card doesn’t play out as well in practice, but only time will tell. And, you know, if they didn’t there’s always the B button.
#1: Emry, Lurker of the Loch
I think that if you had asked Kanister what his dream creature card for Modern would look like, he wouldn’t have been bold enough to come up with Emry. The card does it all, and it being legendary is probably an upside thanks to Mox Amber. Seriously, what happened to being careful about printing 1-mana legends? It even has that second point of toughness to survive a Wrenn activation, and it honestly looks like Deathrite Shaman might soon have some company on the bench.
The obvious one-card combo is Mishra’s Bauble, and you can even go infinite if you add a Jeskai Ascendancy in the mix. Emry should slot nicely into Whirza, but here is a different take on this new Modern powerhouse, a list Adam Richardson has been working on which should be fairly refined even though the set isn’t out yet:
1 Breeding Pool 1 Flooded Strand 1 Hallowed Fountain 1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge 1 Misty Rainforest 1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds 3 Polluted Delta 3 Prismatic Vista 1 Snow-Covered Forest 2 Snow-Covered Island 1 Snow-Covered Plains 2 Snow-Covered Swamp 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch 2 Hope of Ghirapur 4 Kethis, the Hidden Hand 1 Rona, Disciple of Gix 1 Sai, Master Thopterist 4 Arcum's Astrolabe 2 Engineered Explosives 4 Grinding Station 4 Mishra's Bauble 4 Mox Amber 4 Mox Opal 1 Oko, Thief of Crowns 3 Teferi, Time Raveler 3 Unearth Sideboard 2 Ashiok, Dream Render 2 Assassin's Trophy 2 Collective Brutality 2 Fatal Push 1 Oko, Thief of Crowns 1 Sai, Master Thopterist 2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas 3 Thoughtseize
One card I completely overlooked is Fires of Invention, a card Luis and Matt had at number three on their list, though Matt did point out he went out on a limb for this one. I see too many downsides trying to include that card in a Modern deck, but I could be wrong.
Let me know if there are any other cards you think are missing from the list or if you think I vastly underrated or overrated something, and feel free to share any Eldraine brews you might have been working on.
Hope you enjoyed the predictions, and it’ll be fun to reflect on and see where I went right and where I went wrong.