Top 100 Most Defining Modern Cards – #40-31

As a fun exercise here on ChannelFireball.com, I’ve compiled a list of the most defining Modern cards over the format’s long history. Today I have #40-31 to share with you. 



40. Liliana of the Veil

Liliana of the Veil

Liliana of the Veil is my favorite planeswalker, and one of my favorite cards of all time. Since her printing way back in 2011, she’s been one of the star players of almost all black midrange archetypes. Against creatures, she represents a flexible answer to deal with big stuff, hexproof, protection and almost anything else you can imagine. Against control, combo and ramp decks, she can come down fast and start going to work on their hand. 

In any case, Liliana of the Veil is one of the best ways to put a squeeze on the opponent’s resources, which is exactly what we black mages love to do. 

39. Omnath, Locus of Creation

Omnath, Locus of Creation

Omnath, Locus of Creation has been a terror of the format for the past couple of years, and shows no signs of slowing down. This card has no weaknesses, and outclasses all other four-mana plays you can make in Modern. And since mana bases are strong enough to support four colors, anyone who wants to play a midrange game has an incentive to play Omnath, and all of the ultra-powerful gold cards that come with it.

Omnath only becomes stronger because it pairs so well with Risen Reef, Yorion, Sky Nomad (#92), Kaheera, the Orphanguard and all of the “pitch” Elementals from Modern Horizons 2. When all of the best cards in the format work so well together, it becomes difficult for anybody else to get a word in edgewise. 

38. Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

If there was one way to compete with Omnath in these midrange battles, it was Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Now banned, this companion allowed you to build an obscene amount of value right into the structure of your deck. 

Since competitive Modern is centered so much around efficiency, it’s a good idea to limit yourself to mostly cheap cards anyway. Especially when recurring permanents like Mishra’s Bauble, Engineered Explosives (#72) and Seal of Fire became possible, Lurrus was the dominant way to play midrange and creature strategies alike. 

Lurrus represented a “soft ban” on so many sweet permanents that cost more than two mana, since it was so much better to omit them in favor of playing the companion. Although I did enjoy playing with Lurrus for a while, I think having it banned makes Modern deckbuilding more fun. 

37. Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

There are few lands more feared than Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and few cards that have unloaded more total damage in the history of Modern. A few utterly unfair pairings with Valakut include Primeval Titan, Scapeshift, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and Prismatic Omen. With any of these cards, you can race your way towards having Valakut and six Mountains, at which point it can either decimate the opponent’s board, or kill them outright. 

36. Ancient Stirrings

Ancient Stirrings (Timeshifted)

Given the power of Modern’s lands, artifacts and other colorless cards, Ancient Stirrings is one of the very best card filtering spells in the format. In Urzatron, it helps assemble Tron with deadly consistency. In Krark-Clan Ironworks (#56), it helps find key combo pieces and set you up for going off. But that’s not all, since Ancient Stirrings can find a home in any deck with green mana and important colorless permanents, ranging from Hardened Scales to Amulet Titan to Bant Eldrazi. 

35. Death’s Shadow

Death's Shadow

Death’s Shadow players use shocklands, Street Wraiths (#69), Thoughtseizes and other life loss to blitz down their own life totals in order to cast massive, underpriced creatures. Combined with combo elements like Temur Battle Rage or Dress Down, Death’s Shadow can kill the opponent quickly and decisively. Since these decks also access the best removal and disruption in the format, they have been – and remain today – highly effective. 

34. Urza, Lord High Artificer

Urza, Lord High Artificer

When you run into Urza, Lord High Artificer these days, you probably think something along the lines of, “Wow, that’s a good card, why don’t more people play with it?” Indeed, Urza is an amazing card, and does great work whenever he hits the battlefield. The answer for why more people don’t play with it is that the cards which work best with Urza have been systematically banned.

The Simic Urza deck that once existed with Mox Opal, Arcum’s Astrolabe (#63) and Oko, Thief of Crowns makes a decent case for being the most dominant deck Modern has ever seen. As such, you have a card that ranges from “good” to “bonkers” depending on the stage of Modern’s history you chose to look at. 

33. Faithless Looting

Faithless Looting

Faithless Looting is now banned in Modern. When it was legal, it made it far too easy to tap into a wide range of broken strategies. Whether it was Arclight Phoenix, Dredge, Hollow One, Hogaak (#53) or Goryo’s Vengeance, the ability to find key cards while filling your graveyard was simply too powerful for one mana. The fact that many of these strategies still exist while using much weaker enablers is a testament to how strong they were when Looting was around. 

32. Splinter Twin

Splinter Twin

Blue-Red Splinter outright won two Modern Pro Tours, plus put up an uncountable number of top results across Grand Prix and independent tournament series. It was an extremely strong and well-rounded deck, which tended to be a favorite among the most skilled Modern players. 

The thing about the Splinter Twin deck is that it could play as an excellent midrange or control deck, complete with tons of burn spells and permission, and possibly even access to haymakers like Blood Moon. And yet, out of nowhere, it could win the game with Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite enchanted by Splinter Twin to make an unlimited number of hasted tokens any time the opponent put the shields down. It was a stone-cold killer of opposing combo and ramp decks and, frankly, anybody who wasn’t specifically preparing for it. 

31. Birthing Pod

Birthing Pod

Birthing Pod, like Lurrus, Looting and Twin, is currently banned in Modern. It’s an exceptionally powerful card that enabled a wide range of creature-based combo decks when it was legal. Beyond that, it granted unreasonable access to enters-the-battlefield and silver bullet creatures, so that its controller could react seamlessly to any situation. 

Like Splinter Twin, the Birthing Pod decks could play any role from midrange value to fast combo. Turn one Birds of Paradise (#85) into turn two Birthing Pod was a great start. On later turns, casting Pod and activating in the same turn was even more devastating. 


Header - Predictions

In the comments section below, I invite you to drop either (or both) of two predictions. First, guess a card that’ll fall into the next installment, covering #30-21. Second, guess a card that’s so iconic you think it’ll appear in the #10-#1 slot. 


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