Kaladesh is a powerful set that will undoubtedly change Standard in many ways, but there are also a few cards in it that I believe can immediately be ported to existing Modern decks.
When Inventors’ Fair got spoiled, people were talking about it in Affinity. I don’t think you can actually play it in Affinity—all the other colorless lands are just better—but I think it’s a fantastic card in Lantern, and I’d happily play 4 if not for the fact that it’s legendary.
The card is excellent in Lantern for three reasons. One, it buys you some time. It’s easy to start triggering it on turn 2, and suddenly they have to deal an extra 2-4 damage to you, which can buy time for you to get Ensnaring Bridge going. Two, it puts you out of burn range. When you have them semi-locked, you can often still lose to Burn decks because they just have so many cards that do the same thing. It’s not uncommon that you have 2 mill pieces but they have 3 burn spells in a row and you die. With Inventor’s Fair, you’ll gain enough life that that just doesn’t happen. Three, it can get your missing pieces—Bridge early, and Lantern or more mill pieces later. It’s not easy to have access to 5 mana (4 plus tapping the Fair) in a deck that has fewer than 20 lands, but you have to remember that it’s just a bonus effect you’re getting on a land. You don’t expect it to be used every game, but the ability to turn an extra land into a tutor when you’re flooded is invaluable and something that no other deck in the format can do.
There are currently no red cards in the main deck, but I think the mana is good enough and the red sideboard cards are important, so I’ve kept a red mana base.
Cranial Extraction effects are usually overrated in general, but their ability to be a catch-all answer to any combo deck should not be underestimated in a field of diverse combo decks such as Modern. Most of the answers we currently have in Modern are either super targeted nukes that will hit one or two decks at most (such as Stony Silence or Grafdigger’s Cage), or broad answers that are not as effective but that can be boarded against many different decks (such as Thoughtseize and Negate), but Lost Legacy gives you a card that is a targeted nuke versus many different decks, which is very rare.
You might think it’s not that much better than any of the previous Cranial effects that predate it, but when decks kill you on turn 4, the difference between 3 or 4 mana is game defining. At only 3 mana, Lost Legacy is the cheapest Cranial Extraction effect we’ve ever seen (with the exception of things like Extirpate and Surgical Extraction, which need the card to be in the graveyard already), and it happens to be priced in a way that lets you stop most slow combo decks if you’re on the draw and most fast decks if you are on the play, or anything if you have a mana producer. Sure, they might draw a card or two, but ideally, if you’re casting Lost Legacy, you’re going to win the game and the extra card is not going to matter.
Lost Legacy is not going to be great against every combo deck (it’ll be bad versus Infect or Burn, for example), but it’s excellent against decks like Scapeshift, Living End, the new version of Amulet, Goryo’s Vengeance, Ad Nauseam, and Storm—basically, all the combo decks that rely on specific pieces rather than redundant cards. If those decks are popular in the metagame, then Lost Legacy will be a very good Modern sideboard card.
Cathartic Reunion demands a lot of resources, which is dangerous if you’re in a topdeck war and especially punishing if it gets countered by something (like, say, Spell Queller), but it fits perfectly in Modern Dredge, which is a deck that actively wants to discard multiple cards and that derives more reward than normal from extra draws. Dredge decks often shy away from many cards that cost 2 because they want to get going on turn 1, but Cathartic Reunion is so powerful that it’s worth not doing anything on turn 1. If you discard 2 dredgers, it’s very easy to mill 16-18 cards on the spot, not to mention the potential to discard cards like Prized Amalgam or Conflagrate. With 2 Cathartic Reunions, you have the ability to get about 40 cards in your graveyard on turn 3.
This is what I’d try:
Annul has been a legal card for a while and it has never seen any serious Modern play, but countering enchantments is almost irrelevant and countering other colorless cards is huge, so Ceremonious Rejection has a much better shot of seeing sideboard play. Ceremonious Rejection is going to be a great card against Affinity and Lantern, but it’ll also be fantastic against Eldrazi, where it counters Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, Drowner of Hope, Eldrazi Displacer, Engineered Explosives, and Matter Reshaper; and against Tron, where it can counter any planeswalker they play in addition to all their artifacts—so almost any card in their deck. Ceremonious Rejection is also a prime spell to target with Snapcaster Mage since it’s a cheap piece of interaction that is impactful even in the middle and late game, which multiplies its value as a sideboard slot in Modern blue decks.
Infect usually plays 4 copies of Vines of Vastwood, and some people play Apostle’s Blessing on top of that. Blossoming Defense is sort of a cross between the two—it’s a protection spell that is also a pump spell, which makes sure you aren’t going to be protection-flooded. If you’re casting this spell on their turn, then it’s just the same as Vines or Blessing, but if you’re casting it in your attack phase, then you’re getting a very good ratio for only 1 mana. It does have downsides compared to the other two (it can’t get your creature through a blocker, for example), and I don’t think it should replace Vines, but I think it’s a good card to try in the deck. I’d start with something like this, which is based off of Owen Turtenwald’s list:
The older fastlands are better in Modern than they ever were in Standard because Modern is a format full of cheap spells where plays happen early, so having access to 2 colors early on without taking damage is worth having a tapped land later in the game for most decks. For the new fastlands, it should be the same. I’d be shocked if they didn’t see immediate play.
All of them have potential, but two are particularly good: U/R and B/G. U/R is great because it lets you play Ancestral Visions, Spell Snare, Serum Visions, or Lightning Bolt on turn 1, which are all the cards you potentially want to play then. It doesn’t cast Path, but that’s much less of a “turn-1” spell than Bolt is. B/G is good for the same reason. It can cast Noble Hierarch and Thoughtseize in the same turn out of a Junk or Collected Company deck, or Ancient Stirrings and Thoughtseize out of Lantern. The B/G land is especially important because it makes casting turn-2 Liliana much easier. You now have many more combinations that enable it and don’t need to rely exclusively on filter lands or Urborg.
More than just being inserted into existing Modern decks, I think the new fastlands will actually change some of the decks in the format. The existence of the U/R land makes me more likely to splash red in U/W decks, for example, because now I don’t need to take 3 damage every time I want to cast Lightning Bolt early in the early game. The existence of the B/G land makes Abzan a little bit better than Jund (I already thought it was better, now it’s even moreso), and it makes me want to max out on Noble Hierarch and Lilianas, because that is such a powerful turn-2 combination. You can even add some Liliana, the Last Hope to your main deck on top of 4 Liliana of the Veil.
This is how I would build B/G/w:
This is how I would build U/W/r:
[Editor’s note: This article originally mistakenly stated that Lost Legacy would be effective against Lantern Control. Lost Legacy cannot name artifacts.]