As some of you know, I’ve been all about Modern lately. Not only is it the next Pro Tour format, it’s also the format for GP Lyon mid-February, as well as the Constructed format of choice for the Magic Online Championship Series, for which I qualified for the first time.
While it is unlikely cards from Rivals of Ixalan will shake up Modern, I decided to take a first look and see if any of the new cards had potential to perhaps find a place in existing archetypes.
This 2-mana artifact just strikes me as a solid card. Treasure Map has seen play in Standard and I feel like the Gateway might be a better card, especially if you have a few ways to use Sanctum of the Sun effectively. It might even be good enough to find its place in some of the Modern control decks and could be a potent sideboard tool for grindy matchups, especially if your opponent has no reason to bring in artifact hate against you. It has to compete with Search for Azcanta, and it’s unclear if Azor’s Gateway is better, but it doesn’t get hosed by Relic of Progenitus (a very popular card in Modern right now) or other forms of graveyard hate. I’m sure that a lot of control players are already dreaming of firing off huge Sphinx’s Revelations off Sanctum of the Sun—I know I am.
Azor, the Lawbringer
Right now, most U/W/x control decks don’t rely on 6cc sorcery speed threats because tapping out leaves you too vulnerable against most combo or big mana decks. Azor’s enters-the-battlefield effect will protect you from a Scapeshift or an All is Dust, but you will still lose if your opponent untaps and slams a Karn, a Primeval Titan, or if your Storm opponent just has a Remand at the ready. Torrential Gearhulk has grown in popularity, but the flash ability comes at a cost and the Construct can be a bit underwhelming, especially in straight U/W. If you’re willing to be stuck with a 6-mana card in your hand in those matchups where you can’t really afford to tap out, I think you’re better off registering Wurmcoil Engine or Elspeth Sun’s Champion.
Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
I’m no Merfolk expert, but as I see it, while Kumena is a very powerful card, it doesn’t fix any of the deck’s problems. Merfolk is fairly linear and resilient, but doesn’t always goldfish fast enough and doesn’t have enough ways to disrupt their opponent’s game plan. Casting Kumena is going to slow down your clock if anything, and drawing extra cards is going to be pointless a lot of the time if you’re just drawing more creatures. That being said, Kumena will probably shine against the “fair” decks and I would be surprised if it’s wrong to play 1 or 2 copies in U/G Merfolk.
Paladin of Atonement
Modern has a lot of good cards that will trigger the Paladin (fetchlands, Street Wraith, Thoughtseize, Dismember are the first that come to mind) but I don’t see which archetype he might fit into. It is also a pretty terrible topdeck compared to other 2-drops like Tarmogoyf or Grim Flayer. It might actually be at its best as a defensive sideboard card in a control deck, but it has to compete with cards like Lightning Helix and Timely Reinforcements.
Slaughter the Strong
I’ve seen suggestions for the new “wrath” as an anti-Death’s Shadow card, but it seems way too narrow and situational to me.
Looks like Hatching Plans got a little sister. Is it time for Claws of Gix to finally shine in Modern? I doubt it, but if you’re in the market for tier 12 combo decks, Induced Amnesia might just be the right fit.
Release to the Wind
Todd Stevens has been playing a cool looking U/B Eldrazi deck recently and Release to the Wind might be worth considering for the archetype. If you can ingest the exiled card right away, you have a powerful removal spell and you can also use it to save one of your guys later in the game.
I was a bit worried when I first saw Blood Sun, but I think and hope its impact will be minimal. A lot of decks in Modern don’t really care about the effect, but it still might be a decent sideboard card against decks that run a lot of fetchlands. You could see Tron decks start splashing red again to fight cards like Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin, and it might be an okay fit for a Ponza deck, though, most versions play a lot of fetchlands themselves, so the mana base would have to be reworked.
Dire Fleet Daredevil
The card seemed underwhelming to me when I was picturing it in a Jund-type of deck until someone mentioned it as a potential addition to the Humans deck. Vialing the “red Snapcaster” does seem appealing, but you will probably still brick with its trigger against a third of the field, so I’m not sure you can afford to maindeck it. It’s also probably not impactful enough to use the Daredevil as a sideboard card, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong and it became a staple.
The card might just be good enough to play in something like the W/G Value Company deck I wrote about a week ago. The value it provides is decent, and the synergies with Courser of Kruphix and Azusa are a nice bonus. I will definitely give it a try, but I will probably be disappointed.
His ability is too weak in the early game and the body not relevant enough in the mid-to-late game to justify playing the Dino over Courser of Kruphix or Azusa, Lost but Seeking, but you can get the city’s blessing quite fast with something like Tireless Tracker.
Journey to Eternity
A nice combo with Sakura-Tribe Elder, but I can’t think of another exciting target for the Journey. You can probably build around it, but I don’t think such a deck will end up having anything but a decent midrange matchup if that.
Too bad the first Brainstorm effect legal in Modern comes at such a high cost. A perfect fit for my tier 1000 Miracles/Counterbalance deck, I doubt it will see competitive play even though it’s not the worst Chord of Calling/Reveillark target. I personally love fair decks in Modern and I’m sure I’ll give the card a shot.
I doubt Vampire as a tribe is good enough to see play in Modern, but if it is, Arterial Flow could be the reason.
The format hasn’t had an unconditional Nekrataal effect, and the Chupacabra might be the missing piece to some kind of value version of a Eldritch Evolution/Chord of Calling deck and is another decent Reveillark target.
A potential sideboard option for Merfolk, the card seems great against a deck like Jeskai Control as it can save one of your guys or pressure your opponent effectively post Supreme Verdict.
Qasali Pridemage got some competition, but I don’t think the Dino is quite up to snuff.
This seems like an easy inclusion in U/G Merfolk and possibly the most impactful Rivals of Ixalan card for Modern. As I said, I haven’t played much with Merfolk at all and was never super impressed with the deck, but it has put up some good results here and there and the addition of Kumena and Mistbinder might be enough to make it tier 1.
A proactive way for the Bogles deck to fight Liliana of the Veil. The stats aren’t bad, but the new Aura is too expensive and doesn’t let you dodge the Liliana sacrifice effect if you’re on the draw.
I might be letting my imagination run wild, but it’s possible that a few Rivals of Ixalan cards will turn up in Modern, and hopefully even in one of the next few major events. Let me know if you guys think I went a bit too far or if I missed something (probably the former).