As with the conclusion of any preview season, it’s time to examine which cards might make any kind of impact across Magic’s many formats. Modern is still shifting and changing every week, as it’s been fluctuating since the bans. While the change isn’t as dynamic or as huge as it’s been and while things are settling down a little bit, some cards in Strixhaven could nonetheless inject some new life into the format. Let’s have a look at some potential cards from Strixhaven in Modern!
With Izzet Blitz remaining one of the most popular decks in Modern, the rules text of Clever Lumimancer appears extremely alluring. It effectively has double prowess, and is a one-drop to boot. This card would be incredible in an aggressive deck filled with cheap spells, like Izzet Blitz, were it not for one thing: it’s a white card.
Monastery Swiftspear and Soul-Scar Mage are emblematic of the Blitz strategy – get on the board early and attack for two or more each turn, bolstering your one-drops with cheap interaction and cantrips. Clever Lumimancer would support that plan perfectly, if it didn’t all of a sudden require your mana base to do backflips to support it. Not that that’s out of the question – a three-color aggressive mana base is certainly possible with fetches and shocks, but will be very difficult without.
If you can do it, however, the rewards are there. A one-drop that can reliably attack for four (or more) each turn is no joke, and Clever Lumimancer threatens to do just that. Between cards like Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning, Serum Visions and even Mutagenic Growth, the damage will stack up very quickly with an uncontested Lumimancer online. As you’re already playing white, it might be possible to include Path to Exile (although ramping your opponent to their bigger spells isn’t hugely ideal).
Double prowess is pretty huge, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see people experiment with this card in a fetch/shock Jeskai shell to try to reap the benefits. White isn’t naturally the spellslinger’s color, but incorporating this card into that kind of deck might just speed up its clock. We’ll see!
There are so many excellent options for removal at the two-drop slot, and now here we are with a new contender. A few months ago, this card would’ve been unplayable – it doesn’t deal with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath – but if you cast your eyes down a list of most-played creatures in Modern, Vanishing Verse hits a sizeable portion of them.
Tarmogoyf, Skyclave Apparition, Stoneforge Mystic, Scavenging Ooze, Primeval Titan, Monastery Swiftspear, Scourge of the Skyclaves – they call go down to Vanishing Verse. It even exiles, neatly dealing with cards like Seasoned Pyromancer! Further, it removes Liliana of the Veil and Jace, the Mind Sculptor (but not Karn Liberated or Wrenn and Six, unfortunately).
Vanishing Verse is also a great catch-all against the huge variety of weird stuff you can come across in Modern – anything from Blood Moon to Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. It has some clear weaknesses, obviously, in that it’s useless against Tron and Eldrazi, as well as four and five-color decks that are still riding the Omnath wave. Still, for an instant-speed spell that exiles, Vanishing Verse is the real deal.
All that said, its color cost makes it a little tricky to play. Orzhov is not a hugely-played color combination, although it could find its way into Esper decks, or perhaps even Abzan if the format heads back in that direction (less likely than years past, now that Wrenn and Six exists). Nonetheless, take note of Vanishing Verse, because it’s efficient and cheap removal that hits a broad percentage of the field.
Speaking of which, Fracture is a fair bit narrower, but no less potent in the right matchups. It’s a sideboard card, to be sure, but it’s a powerful one at that. A Disenchant that can also hit planeswalkers threatens to become a sideboard staple in any deck that can run it. Disenchant effects aren’t at an all-time high in Modern, it’s true, but if they become a necessary piece of sideboard tech once again, expect Fracture to rear its head.
Right now, blue-based control decks play between six and eight planeswalkers. Fracture represents one of the most efficient answer to planeswalkers ever printed, alongside a card like Dreadbore – but having your answer to planeswalkers be instant-speed is critical, as that’s the best way to contest a controlling deck’s game plan. Is Fracture the sort of card you want against Azorius Control? Against a deck with seven planeswalkers, it’s a handy option to have, even if they’re not playing artifacts or enchantments.
Look at it this way – flexible cards like Fracture represent a way to compound sideboard slots. They represent coverage – even if your Azorius opponent isn’t playing many artifacts or enchantments, you can board out dead creature removal and bring in your Disenchant with upside against planeswalkers. Conversely, if you get paired against some weird enchantment-based brew, you’re not caught without sideboard answers to it. That kind of flexibility is really valuable.
This isn’t the interactive workhorse that Vanishing Verse has the potential to become, but it’s a great sideboard option and should be on your radar in Modern moving forward – particularly if you want to play Orzhov anyway.
This is the card I’m least confident about on this list, I have to admit, but it’s not difficult to imagine situations where Ecological Appreciation could really do some work. The thing about Modern is that with its enormous card pool, you’re able to find a lot of redundancy, so if you need creature X, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find two analogues for it and thereby be guaranteed it when casting Ecological Appreciation.
Creature tutors that put the card straight onto the battlefield are, historically, pretty good. Chord of Calling has seen a lot of Modern play and Green Sun’s Zenith is banned (although that’s more due to Dryad Arbor than anything else). Ecological Appreciation gets you the worst two of four creatures rather than the best one, but it does leave you up on mana and if you build the right toolbox of creatures, you should be able to get the effect you want.
Storm decks build around Gifts Ungiven to ensure redundancy while resolving the card, and I think it might be possible to do the same here (depending on what you’re trying to achieve). Looking at the creature-based Heliod Company decks, it’s not impossible to imagine this card slotting in there somewhere. Again, I’m not sure, but an effect like this has the potential to be very powerful, so I’ll be keeping an eye on Ecological Appreciation.
Hmm… a three-mana command that offers you a Shock, a Shatter and a graveyard-centric effect? Prismari Command has a lot in common with Kolaghan’s Command, a card that still sees a decent amount of play in Jund decks even today. Given such flexibility, even Shock becomes playable at three mana, unbelievably.
Now, of course, this card is not Kolaghan’s Command. One of the most powerful things a Jund mage can do with K-Command is cast it against a previously hellbent opponent in their draw step, making them discard whatever they just drew while bringing back a threat from their own yard. Prismari Command doesn’t do any of this, and I don’t think creating a Treasure token is all that powerful.
However, Faithless Looting was banned in Modern because it enabled graveyard nonsense, and there are typically Izzet cards that don’t mind stuff being dumped in the ’yard (Seasoned Pyromancer, Bedlam Reveler). On top of that, Shock and Shatter are going to be pretty useful in a range of circumstances, so I could see this cropping up in decks here and there throughout Modern. Again, it offers something that skilled players value very highly indeed: flexibility. This is one to watch.
Abrade is already a well-known piece of sideboard technology in Modern (and other formats as well – even Legacy!). Its flexibility means that paying two mana for a Shatter or a bad Lightning Bolt is worth it – if a card is sufficiently flexible, the fact that its individual effects are overcosted tends to be overlooked. The classic example is Cryptic Command, as four mana is a lot to pay for any two of its effects in the abstract. It is, rather, its flexibility that makes it so powerful, able to meaningfully support your game plan irrespective of whether you’re ahead or behind.
Rip Apart might not be on the same level as Cryptic Command, of course, but when it comes to pure flexibility, it’s certainly cut from the same cloth. If Abrade – something that can kill a small creature or destroy an artifact – is good enough, then what about a card that can do that plus take out low-loyalty planeswalkers and destroy enchantments to boot?
This card is such a Swiss Army Knife, the perfect card to have in a format that has a sizeable contingent of weird fringe decks. A Disenchant that contests creatures and planeswalkers is no joke – there aren’t many decks against which this card will do nothing, and while it may not be very efficient, again it’s this flexibility and use in a wide range of situations that lends Rip Apart strength.
Of course, it’s not all upside. It has strict mana requirements, unlike Abrade, as it can’t just be whacked in the sideboard of any old red deck. You’ll only want this in a deck already heavily committed to red and white – not a color pair that’s going gangbusters in Modern at the moment. In addition, the fact that it’s a sorcery really does hit its power level pretty severely. Generally, the best kind of interaction comes at instant speed, and not being able to play a wait-and-see game with Rip Apart, to destroy something on their end step if no better use for your turn presents itself, is a big knock against the card.
Still, I think that even with these downsides, Rip Apart is poised to see play in Modern, in either Boros decks or decks that already run red and white. People underestimate seemingly underpowered cards that offer enormous flexibility, and I think Rip Apart falls into that category.
Torpor Orb has seen play here and there in Modern, especially when the format has been grindier, filled with decks that rely upon value-oriented creatures. That’s not the Modern format we have at the moment, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with highlighting Strict Proctor as another tool in your arsenal for when the winds change. As another two-drop white hatebear, we add it to the pile with all the others.
Why not just Tocatli Honor Guard, the Torpor Orb that attacks and blocks? You’ll notice that Strict Proctor isn’t limited to preventing creatures triggering abilities, as Tocatli Honor Guard and Torpor Orb are. Rather, Strict Proctor hits all permanents triggering abilities, which is a significant step up (and explains why it doesn’t prevent them altogether, instead imposing a two-mana tax).
Not only does Strict Proctor do some work against decks like Heliod Company (Skyclave Apparition, Ranger-Captain of Eos, Auriok Champion) it now also hits strategies like Amulet Titan. Primeval Titan was covered by Torpor Orb, sure, but Tireless Tracker, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Amulet of Vigor weren’t.
Again, I’m not attempting to claim that Strict Proctor will turn Modern on its head – it won’t, not while there are so many decks that don’t care about its ability (Blitz, Burn, Control, etc.). However, it’s the sort of card you need to remember in case Modern takes a different tack and starts relying more and more on grinding value out of enter-the-battlefield triggers, especially if those triggers aren’t reliant on creatures.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s invitational card has a brand-new, unique effect on it that’s sure to make waves across multiple formats. Will it make it to Modern? This card is, of course, reminiscent of Vendilion Clique in that it’s a three mana 3/1 flyer with a disruptive ability, and V-Clique still sees plenty of play.
However, the key difference between this card and Clique is the fact that it lacks flash. Paulo pushed hard for this card to have flash, and you can see why. It would be an absolute house if it did, coming in on the draw step or the end step, messing up opposing plans and presenting a respectable clock as an evasive three-power beater. Lacking flash does bring this card down a notch or two, but who’s to say we can’t play it at instant speed anyway?
Plenty of smaller creature decks in Modern rely on Aether Vial to “cheat” creatures into play at instant speed, and Elite Spellbinder seems like the perfect candidate to do just that. Elite Spellbinder stands ready to get flashed in via Aether Vial and put in some work as a disruptive threat, whether it’s in Humans, Death and Taxes or White Weenie.
Without Aether Vial, admittedly, the card becomes a lot less exciting. I don’t think this card is going to touch V-Clique as a format staple in control decks, but being able to use the Spellbinder to forestall an opposing sweeper for a couple of turns while it and the rest of the team get in there is huge. Vial decks may pick it up for that exact reason.
I have to admit, this is the shakiest of all the cards I have included on these lists both this and last week. People I’ve spoken to, however, are adamant this card has got what it takes to move and shake in Modern. I don’t see it – from my perspective, it seems like a worse Meddling Mage. A much worse Meddling Mage, I suspect.
I think people look at the three damage and the extra card and think, brilliant, that will teach ’em a lesson – but the fact of the matter is that it’s a downgrade from, say, not being able to cast the spell in the first place. I suppose I could be wrong about this, but I think most opponents will be happy to cast their Anger of the Gods or their Supreme Verdict, take the three and give you a card, when the alternative option is they’re facing down a copy of Chris Pikula who just won’t let them cast the sweeper no matter what.
I don’t think the extra point of power is worth the tradeoff, and while I suppose having a different mana cost than Meddling Mage means it can be played in different decks (Orzhov Death and Taxes rather than Azorius Death and Taxes?), I just don’t really see it. Others do, however, so I feel it would be remiss to leave it off this list.
Perhaps there are decks, like Five-Color Humans, that want more than four Meddling Mages? Maybe Silverquill Silencer comes in as the fifth or sixth Meddling Mage, useful in matchups where it’s the sort of effect you really want. Even then though, the fact that its ability can be played through, unlike Meddling Mage, is a significant strike against it.
I’ve already talked about flexibility, and every single command card ever printed certainly offers that. Witherbloom Command isn’t just flexible, but cheap. Coming in at a piddling two mana, the effects it offers actually come at a decent rate, considering their various applications.
Having a card like this with a failsafe mode that roughly equates to “draw a card” (it’s unusual not to have a land in your ’yard in Modern, thanks to fetches) does juice it up significantly, especially when the other modes can also kill stuff. Being able to remove anything from a Wrenn and Six to a Utopia Sprawl – not to mention post-board cards like Rest in Peace or Pithing Needle – means this command can put in a fair amount of work.
In some ways, this card almost reminds me of anti-Burn all-star Collective Brutality in that it can kill something, gain a bit of life and keep you afloat. The reason Witherbloom Command isn’t on the same level though is very simple: -3/-1 is so much worse than -2/-2. Monastery Swiftspear, Soul-Scar Mage, Goblin Guide are all the aggressive red creatures that see play and have two toughness, and that might be a fatal strike against Witherbloom Command.
Still, there’s a chance. This card is flexible, cheap and has a reasonably high floor for when it’s “dead.” Any card with this many options and such a low mana value has potential. Rock-style decks may want it (it does power up Tarmogoyfs, after all), but then again, maybe Abrupt Decay or Assassin’s Trophy is just better. So close, Witherbloom Command, and yet so far.
Modern is a difficult format for any new card to break into, and while Strixhaven doesn’t seem to have the highest power level of any set ever released (thankfully, for regular Standard players), there is at least a little potential for some of the new cards it brings to make their mark in Modern!