The release of Core 2019 is around the corner and the set looks full of promising and flavorful cards, even though it’s unclear whether a lot of them will have an impact on Standard right away. While most people have starting to speculate on which cards are going to be able to compete in a world of Chainwhirlers, Teferi, and Gearhulks, my focus has been on Modern since I’ve come home from Pro Tour Dominaria.

I don’t go to too many Grand Prix, but I couldn’t really say no when Wizards invited me to GP Barcelona as part of Magic’s 25th anniversary. I’ll also most likely be playing Modern for my team at the PT (David Williams will be playing Legacy and EFro will probably be playing Standard), so it’s all about Modern for me right now.

It used to be the case that I didn’t think much about the new cards until they were actually released, but since I started writing for CFB and streaming, this has changed for obvious reasons, and I’ve been thinking about which M19 cards might have an impact on Modern.

While it doesn’t seem like the new core set should shake things up too much, there are a few interesting cards, including one that could potentially bring us a new tier 1 archetype.

The Not Quite There/Tier 2+ Cards

Ajani’s Last Stand

This card is great if your deck tends to struggle with Liliana of the Veil. While I think the enchantment is too narrow and won’t see much play, it’s interesting to note that it is an effective sideboard card against Jund strategies. I’m usually reticent to include sideboard cards for matchups where my opponent has access to Inquisition/Thoughtseize since I feel like part of the value is lost if they can just snatch it with their discard spell.

Your deck’s strategy is either good against Jund or not, and if it’s not, sideboard cards aren’t really going to swing things much—but Ajani’s Last Stand kind of dodges this rule. So, if you had to stop playing your pet deck because you were fed up of losing to Liliana of the Veil, Ajani’s Last Stand could be the sideboard card you’ve been waiting for.

Cleansing Nova

The new sweeper is obviously much worse than Verdict/Wrath against creature decks, worse than Hallowed Burial against Bogles, and doesn’t strike me as especially effective against KCI, but it might just be versatile enough that it will see play as a 1- or 2-of (most likely in the sideboard) in some decks, especially if Affinity is very popular or if Lantern makes a comeback.

Tezzeret, Artifice Master

The new Tezzeret is a good grindy midrange card but it synergizes poorly with Ensnaring Bridge and is probably too slow for Modern.

Sarkhan, Fireblood

While I don’t think the card will make the cut in something like Mardu Pyromancer, I could see it fit nicely in mono-red midrange, powering out Stormbreath Dragon.

Mistcaller

As someone who has tried to play Hallowed Moonlight, I don’t see much hope for the new Merfolk. Just like the white instant, it isn’t effective against Aether Vial, Bloodghast etc. as your opponent can just chose not to put their creature in play once you’ve sacrificed Mistcaller. It is a hard counter to Collected Company or Chord of Calling, as well as a few other spells, but that’s still way too narrow.

Sai, Master Thopterist

Sai looks sweet, and I’m sure I’ll give it a try, but the card seems a bit slow and weak to sweepers so I’m not sure that it will help plug some of Affinity’s leaks especially since you now have access to Karn, Scion of Urza, which is terrifying from a control player’s perspective. It could maybe see some sideboard play in the same way Padeem, Consul of Innovation does.

Alpine Moon

The new Tron hoser, I think Alpine Moon is too narrow to see play and probably not even that effective given that Tron usually loads up on Nature’s Claim after sideboard. The new Moon even provides the green mana they need to cast it right away.

Runic Armasaur

The new utility Dino interacts in some way or another with almost every Modern top archetype. The big ones are Horizon Canopy, Walking Ballista, fetchlands, Ravager, Nexus, and Grim Lavamancer. The 5th point of toughness is also relevant mostly because of Tasigur and Hollow One, and I’ll definitely try it out in Green-White Value Company (one of my favorite Modern decks), but it has some really tough competition.

Amulet of Safekeeping

I know Wizards has already taken a lot of crap for this card, and I can’t say that it’s undeserved. Not only is it not a very elegant design but I don’t even think it’s effective against Storm since it doesn’t actually stop them from going off. They can just go through their deck, bounce it, and kill you, whereas Damping Sphere stops them in their tracks and they have to get rid of it before they can storm off.

Detection Tower

Unless your local metagame is flooded with Bogles, I can’t see anyone putting this card in their deck, main or sideboard. On top of everything, they added a mana to the activation cost and I wouldn’t be surprised if you still ended up losing some of the games against Bogles where you draw the Tower and removal spells.

Remorseful Cleric

Brian DeMars wrote at length about the card here. I’m not convinced that the power level is quite there to main deck the Spirit and I doubt that turning your Chord of Calling into a Bojuka Bog trigger is often going to be a game winning line. In Green-White Value Company, for instance, I think I would rather just dedicate a sideboard slot to an extra Scavenging Ooze or a Bojuka Bog that I can tutor up at little cost with Knight of the Reliquary. It might be good enough for the sideboard of a dedicated Spirit deck, but these slots are extremely valuable, especially when you’re playing white.

Extreme Wishful Thinking Category

Goblin Trashmaster/Volley Veteran

Goblins have a special place in my heart and I wish there was a real Goblin deck that was playable in Modern—a deck that would let me get people with Earwig Squad or trigger Warren Instigator. I know Rizer just won an online PTQ with a mono-red deck filled with Goblins, but it felt more like an all-in super aggro deck than an actual Goblin deck.

Fountain of Renewal

I just love the feel of this card and hopefully I get to play it in Standard, but I can’t imagine you can afford slots for it in any type of Modern deck.

If you’ve already taken a good look at the M19 spoiler and thought about its Modern implications, you probably know what’s coming, so here we go.

My Top 3

Infernal Reckoning

I’m excited to add Reckoning to the sideboard of my Modern Blue-Black Control deck and expand the Snapcaster toolbox. My biggest concern there would be: Is it better than Ceremonious Rejection? The black removal spell is particularly poor against Chalice of the Void but being able to deal with World Breaker or Wurmcoil Engine for good seems valuable. It will also nicely shore up the Affinity matchup and even though it doesn’t deal directly with Cranial Plating, the life gain should buy you a lot of time. Grixis Shadow will face the same dilemma, and I’m not too sure if it will be good enough for Jund, but the same rule applies as Jund isn’t especially strong against Affinity or the card Wurmcoil Engine.

Isolate

This is probably the card I’ve been asked about the most so far. I don’t think you can main deck it right now even in a deck with four Snapcaster Mage like Jeskai. It’s a stone brick against Mardu Pyromancer, Storm, and other control decks, but I think it will see play as a 1- or 2-of in most U/W/x sideboards. As someone who likes to bring in one copy of Stony Silence against Aether Vial decks, I’m excited to have access to a card that’s not dead if they don’t draw their artifact. It’s an extra removal spell for Death’s Shadow and will help you shore up your Bogles matchup as well. Lantern and Amulet Titan aren’t exactly in the meta right now, but these are two more matchups where you’ll be happy to have access to the new white removal spell. I prioritize hosers or versatile cards when I build the sideboard of my U/W control decks, and I think Isolate should make the cut. Of course, white is quite the powerhouse in Modern when it comes to sideboard cards, so Isolate will have some fierce competition.

Supreme Phantom

My pick for the most influential card in M19, I’m obviously trying to go big or go home. I haven’t played against a Spirit deck in a while but I’ve always felt like it was a solid tier 2 deck, and while I’m no expert, I think the Phantom could push the archetype over the edge. It could be a bust—either not good enough to make the deck tier 1 or maybe even somehow not good enough to make the cut, but I love Collected Company decks and I’m curious too see if the new lord can make the deck competitive.

Inspired by Blisterdark’s recent 5-0 list:

Spirits

I went casting cost for casting cost and decided to trim two Selfless Spirit and two Rattlechains for four Supreme Phantom main and one Rest in Peace, one Blessed Alliance, and one Rhox War Monk for two Remorseful Cleric and one Isolate, but I’m just guessing here. Selfless Spirit is a bit less potent now that some versions of U/W Control play Terminus as their sweeper of choice and I think Isolate might be a nice addition as a 1-of especially with Humans being so popular.

So how do you guys think I did? Is my top 3 overrated? Are some of the cards on my not-quite-there-list going to actually become Modern staples?

As usual, feel free to critique away. I know that I’m excited to look back in a few months or a year and see how wrong I was about everything.