Khans of Tarkir is maybe the most exciting set for Eternal format in YEARS and we can expect a new Modern metagame moving forward, at least for the time being.
I don't expect we will see Jeskai Ascendancy or Treasure Cruise get emergency banned so for now it's a whole new world. Tier one has a new standard for speed and consistency. Main decks will be thrown out and sideboards are going to get changed.
Jeskai Ascendancy has proven itself competitive in Standard at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir and I suspect it will live up to the hype in Modern. It is fast, consistent, resilient, and is at worst a collection of really good cards.
Blue/Red Treasure Cruise
I want to know why this card is blue. Why does blue get this AND Dig Through Time? All colors get creatures, all colors get instants, all colors get sorceries, why does only one color get to draw cards? Card drawing should be public domain and I'm disappointed that the other colors didn't get in on the action.
Does blue get all broken card draw from here to forever? History suggests this to be true. And history suggests that this broken card draw spell may be banned.
For the record, I don't think having to ban a card is much of a problem at all. It adds to the mystique of the game—some cards are so powerful they are illegal to play. It may be a problem in disrupting market confidence like banning $100 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but in general if cards never get banned R&D isn't taking enough risks.
Back to Treasure Cruise. This card may warp the Modern metagame more than Jeskai Ascendancy. In fact, it may be the real problem card in that deck. It's a problem in all blue decks moving forward, and a reason for many players to play blue and many decks to splash blue.
Treasure Cruise in particular plays great with red cards like Lightning Bolt, so this card is a huge shot in the arm for UR Delver.
Blue/Red Delver looks to be a major winner here as the deck is potentially the best natural predator of the Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck. Delver is FAST and has cheap, relevant disruption.
Burn for the early drops, light counters for the enchantment with early aggression is a good recipe for that matchup. And the addition of Treasure Cruise takes much of the fragility out of the deck for other matchups.
Monastery Swiftspear is another powerful printing that fits right into UR Delver. An opening of this guy with Gitaxian Probes and Gut Shots can knock the opponent's life total down. A mid-game Treasure Cruise can make this guy into a huge threat.
There are a lot of good spell options for a Delver deck and I imagine the configurations we see will vary by pilot or by tournament.
Here's a loose Delver list to experiment with, which is close to where the “stock” list is moving:
But wait where's Snapcaster Mage?!
I thought Snapcaster Mage would perhaps eventually be banned in Modern because of how good it makes blue/red. Little did we know that blue/red would get a card so broken that it could trigger cutting Snapcaster Mage.
Both of these cards are insane, and I'd like to play both of them, but there's only so much room to depend on a stocked graveyard. So what we're seeing is a lot of Delver lists cutting Snapcaster entirely.
In general I think this is a strong starting place in the format and I expect it to be a top deck in the early stages of this new metagame.
Swiftspear is an extra Goblin Guide which adds tons of consistency to the deck and Treasure Cruise seems like a perfect gas up that allows you to burn the occasional problem creature without risking running out of gas.
Burn is naturally solid against Delver decks because of how fragile and threat-light those decks are. Burn is stocked with way more removal than Delver has threats.
Burn also gets to play 4 Eidolon of the Great Revel main. This card has been terrifying to me out of the burn decks and it is a natural hoser against Jeskai Ascendancy. Couple that with all the burn for the mana dorks and it could be hard for Jeskai to combo off and win.
Given those factors Burn Cruise could be a great choice in Modern moving forward.
I don't want a clogged hand but I really love that effect so I'm starting with 6. Having several lets us pick off mana creatures or Delver threats without letting up the pressure on the opponent.
This deck is definitely up for tweaking, but I'm happy with this as a starting point.
Narset, Enlightened Master Combo
Now that we've talked about boring old Delver and Burn we can finish today's article with a wild and erratic brew.
Gabriel Johns wrote to me on facebook about a Narset brew with a median kill of turn 3. Narset is sweet and turn 3 is extremely fast so I had to check it out.
I'll save you the suspense and review the deck by saying that yes, it seems to actually get there turn 3 more often than not but other games it just does nothing for turns or kills itself. It's also extremely fragile and can lose to any number of things.
But turn 3 median is fast, with turn 2 kills and the occasional turn 1 kill. Extra bonus: this deck is 100% less likely to get banned than the Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck.
Our plan is to Goryo's Vengeance Narset as fast as possible and dream big from there.
We can start off by stuffing our deck full of extra-combat-step effects:
Each of these gives us another 4 more flips to find an Enter the Infinite:
Enter the Infinite lets us pick up our deck full of free-to-cast Fury of the Hordes and stack one card on top of our deck for our next attack.
Super fun bonus kills with Research // Development.
Pause the game to scrounge around your room for the perfect combination of burn spells to finish with Hidetsugu's Second Rite. Throw a bunch of Violent Ultimatums at the opponent's board. Or finish with some flimsy pet combo. The world is your oyster.
Turn 1 Kills with Narset
Now that we know we can do crazy game winning things if we attack with Narset we just have to do it as fast as possible. Preferably by turn 1.
It starts like this:
Maybe we want a free mulligan. The more hands we can look at the better.
OR we can use that mana to cast Pull from Eternity.
Untap and Simian Spirit Guide out a Goryo's Vengeance. From there Narset is attacking and the odds are in our favor for a turn 1 kill.
The trick is making sure to always draw first with this deck. That adds the most consistency to hit Gemstone Caverns and gives us the natural discard outlet with 8 cards in hand turn 1. Simian Spirit Guide out a Goryo's and that's a potential turn 2.
In practice the deck is extremely fast and seems to live up to the hyped up solitaire standard.
But the reality is it struggles heavily against interaction. I don't think the deck is necessarily all that competitive but it is one of the fastest decks out and extremely amusing to play, win or lose.
I've got some videos of this deck coming this week which argue heavily in favor of having a copy of this deck sitting alone on the coffee table. It's a fun one.
New Modern Metagame
We have a supposed new top deck in Jeskai Ascendancy, and I expect a reaction of UR Delver and Burn Cruise to become important players.
There's still a lot we can do with other new cards and who knows how all this effects every existing deck. I'm excited to see what happens.
Any major winners or losers from the new cards? Any overlooked diamond brews in the rough?