The new set has been out for three weeks, and War of the Spark cards are seeing a ton of play in every Constructed format. Modern is no different, as I’ve counted at least fifteen WAR cards in 5-0 deck lists. Not only that, but some of these cards have spawned new archetypes that seem like they could be tier one. It turns out Wizards doesn’t need to print planeswalkers at mythic or rare, or even grant them with an ultimate to make them playable.
Karn, the Great Creator
It seems like the best performing Tron decks in post-WAR tournaments were running four copies of the new Karn, and the card found its way into some midrange strategies as a versatile and flexible win condition.
The interaction between the colorless planeswalker and Mycosynth Lattice appears not to have been overhyped, and it will be interesting to see if Tron ends up being the best home for the Karn or if someone figures out an even better shell for it.
Adeet Phanse, 4th place at Richmond Classic
4 Forest 4 Urza's Mine 4 Urza's Power Plant 4 Urza's Tower 1 Ghost Quarter 1 Blast Zone 1 Sanctum of Ugin 3 Wurmcoil Engine 1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger 2 Walking Ballista 4 Chromatic Sphere 4 Karn, the Great Creator 2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon 1 Surgical Extraction 4 Karn Liberated 4 Ancient Stirrings 4 Expedition Map 2 Relic of Progenitus 4 Chromatic Star 4 Sylvan Scrying 2 Oblivion Stone Sideboard 2 Thought-Knot Seer 2 Thragtusk 1 Grafdigger's Cage 1 Witchbane Orb 2 Nature's Claim 1 Relic of Progenitus 1 Deglamer 1 Crucible of Worlds 1 Mycosynth Lattice 1 Trinisphere 1 Oblivion Stone 1 Ensnaring Bridge
Jacob deQuack, 5th place at Richmond Classic
1 Blast Zone 4 Ramunap Ruins 3 Gemstone Caverns 12 Mountain 4 Goblin Rabblemaster 2 Legion Warboss 1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar 4 Simian Spirit Guide 4 Abrade 4 Karn, the Great Creator 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance 2 Anger of the Gods 1 Liquimetal Coating 1 Pyretic Ritual 4 Desperate Ritual 3 Chalice of the Void 3 Ensnaring Bridge 4 Blood Moon Sideboard 2 Sorcerous Spyglass 1 Walking Ballista 1 Grafdigger's Cage 1 Spellskite 1 Torpor Orb 1 Slagstorm 1 Liquimetal Coating 1 Mycosynth Lattice 1 Dragon's Claw 1 Trinisphere 1 Welding Jar 1 Chalice of the Void 1 Ensnaring Bridge 1 Tormod's Crypt
Karn was the most represented WAR card in the Classic’s Top 16, the first big, live Modern tourney using the new set, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it stood the test of time. The effect is powerful and doesn’t seem particularly exploitable either.
This version 2.0 of Eldritch Evolution has allowed a new archetype to emerge, and while the jury is still out on how broken the deck is, it has seemed competitive, especially with the London mulligan rule, which isn’t available on Magic Online right now but I believe will be used again during Mythic Championship Barcelona.
Kanister, 5-0 on Magic Online
4 Yavimaya Coast 4 Botanical Sanctum 2 Breeding Pool 4 Gemstone Mine 1 Island 4 Allosaurus Rider 2 Autochthon Wurm 4 Chancellor of the Tangle 2 Griselbrand 1 Laboratory Maniac 4 Simian Spirit Guide 1 Wild Cantor 4 Eldritch Evolution 4 Neoform 4 Serum Visions 3 Dissenter's Deliverance 1 Lightning Storm 2 Manamorphose 4 Nourishing Shoal 1 Noxious Revival 4 Summoner's Pact Sideboard 3 Chalice of the Void 2 Defense Grid 2 Engineered Explosives 2 Leyline of Sanctity 1 Pact of Negation 1 Pongify 1 Rapid Hybridization 3 Spell Pierce
Matt Nass wrote about how the deck works and offered his take on it. Kanister’s build varies slightly as he chooses to make use of Serum Visions, which is not surprising as he also advocates for the card in Amulet Titan, whereas most players don’t.
ZippiestBard, 5-0 on Magic Online
1 Breeding Pool 1 Dryad Arbor 3 Forest 3 Horizon Canopy 1 Plains 3 Razorverge Thicket 3 Misty Rainforest 4 Windswept Heath 1 Temple Garden 4 Birds of Paradise 4 Devoted Druid 3 Duskwatch Recruiter/Krallenhorde Howler 1 Eternal Witness 1 Ezuri, Renegade Leader 1 Llanowar Elves 1 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound 4 Noble Hierarch 1 Scavenging Ooze 1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty 1 Tireless Tracker 4 Vizier of Remedies 1 Walking Ballista 1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 4 Eldritch Evolution 4 Neoform 4 Postmortem Lunge Sideboard 2 Burrenton Forge-Tender 1 Chameleon Colossus 2 Deputy of Detention 1 Eidolon of Rhetoric 3 Path to Exile 1 Reflector Mage 3 Unified Will 2 Worship
ZippiestBard decided to go with a very “aggressive” build of the Devoted Druid/Vizier of Remedies combo and play four Neoform alongside four Eldritch Evolution while leaving aside Collected Company and Chord of Calling. This makes the deck way more explosive but also way less resilient to interaction, which might be a smart choice right now if you feel like there is a lot of goldfishing in the format.
Cavedan, 5-0 on Magic Online
4 Windswept Heath 1 Temple Garden 4 Misty Rainforest 3 Horizon Canopy 1 Hallowed Fountain 1 Forest 1 Dryad Arbor 2 Breeding Pool 4 Botanical Sanctum 1 Avatar of the Resolute 4 Cloudfin Raptor 1 Deputy of Detention 1 Evolution Sage 4 Experiment One 3 Pelt Collector 1 Renegade Rallier 2 Sidisi's Faithful 4 Strangleroot Geist 4 Voice of Resurgence 4 Young Wolf 4 Neoform 3 Pongify 3 Rapid Hybridization Sideboard 1 Aven Mindcensor 2 Damping Sphere 1 Eidolon of Rhetoric 1 Evolutionary Leap 1 Gaddock Teeg 1 Geist of Saint Traft 1 Kataki, War's Wage 2 Knight of Autumn 1 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 1 Path to Exile 1 Reflector Mage 2 Scavenging Ooze
While I’m not sure Neoform improves the main deck of this fringe archetype, it comes at very little cost and it allows you to have access to a strong toolbox after sideboard, which is usually a better strategy when your deck is aggressive as it leaves your opponent with very little time to find the proper answers.
Finale of Devastation
Spiderspace, 5-0 on Magic Online
4 Windswept Heath 2 Temple Garden 3 Razorverge Thicket 1 Plains 2 Misty Rainforest 4 Horizon Canopy 3 Gemstone Caverns 3 Forest 1 Walking Ballista 4 Devoted Druid 4 Duskwatch Recruiter/Krallenhorde Howler 2 Eternal Witness 4 Militia Bugler 4 Simian Spirit Guide 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 4 Vizier of Remedies 3 Finale of Devastation 4 Collected Company 4 Chalice of the Void Sideboard 1 Auriok Champion 2 Dismember 1 Eidolon of Rhetoric 1 Gavony Township 1 Kataki, War's Wage 2 Knight of Autumn 1 Scavenging Ooze 1 Selfless Spirit 2 Tireless Tracker 1 Tocatli Honor Guard 2 Vivien's Arkbow
Spiderspace has already claimed at least two trophies with his take on this combo archetype using the new green mythic spell that is usually going to be a cheaper Chord of Calling.
The card has also seen play in Elves, but I doubt it actually improves the archetype.
Teferi, Time Raveler
I played my first few Leagues in the new format with Blue-White Control, mostly to try out Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler. In my small sample size, I’ve found both to be solid, especially Teferi. My beef so far is that the printing of these two cards, as well as Dovin’s Veto, might have removed a lot of skill from the mirror match.
Here is how I would update the deck after my Top 4 finish in the Modern Challenge on MTGO:
While I used the new WAR cards mostly “for value,” Alan Gray went a bit deeper and got rewarded with a 9th place in the Classic in Richmond:
2 Plains 4 Field of Ruin 2 Celestial Colonnade 1 Scalding Tarn 2 Glacial Fortress 2 Hallowed Fountain 4 Flooded Strand 7 Island 1 Polluted Delta 1 Snapcaster Mage 2 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir 1 Dovin's Veto 4 Teferi, Time Raveler 2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 1 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 2 Supreme Verdict 1 Detention Sphere 1 Timely Reinforcements 4 Knowledge Pool 1 Oust 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 4 Path to Exile 1 Logic Knot 1 Spell Snare 4 Serum Visions 1 Wrath of God 2 Absorb 1 Mana Leak Sideboard 1 Dovin's Veto 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 1 Ceremonious Rejection 2 Disdainful Stroke 2 Rest in Peace 2 Stony Silence 1 Timely Reinforcements 2 Surgical Extraction 1 Leyline of Sanctity 1 Baneslayer Angel 1 Engineered Explosives
If you get Knowledge Pool and either Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir or the newest Teferi in play, your opponent cannot cast spells anymore, something very similar to Karn + Lattice, except it forces you to play multiple copies of the 6-mana card in your main deck, which makes it a bit sketchier and clunkier of a combo. I haven’t tried the deck myself, so I’m not sure if this is the future of the archetype, but where traditional U/W usually has evenish matchups across the board, it’s possible Gray’s card choices polarize some of the deck’s matchups, making some much better and others much worse.
Narset, Parter of Veils
While the card saw a bit of play here and there and combos nicely with Vendilion Clique in U/W Control, it has also spawned a new archetype in combination with Day’s Undoing. I believe Conley Woods was one of the first to play the deck on his stream. You’re trying to keep the board as clear as possible with a lot of cheap interaction and use the passive of Narset to blow your opponents out with cards like Lore Broker, Vendilion Clique, and of course Day’s Undoing, which turns into a one-sided Wheel of Fortune.
Coryl101, 5-0 on Magic Online
2 Watery Grave 1 Blast Zone 1 Geier Reach Sanitarium 9 Island 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea 4 Polluted Delta 4 Lore Broker 3 Notion Thief 3 Vendilion Clique 4 Narset, Parter of Veils 4 Day's Undoing 2 Commandeer 1 Commit/Memory 4 Disrupting Shoal 4 Mistvein Borderpost 2 Remand 3 Snapback 3 Spell Pierce 2 Spell Snare 2 Unsubstantiate 1 Vapor Snag Sideboard 2 Blast Zone 1 Notion Thief 2 Commandeer 1 Spell Pierce 2 Ashiok, Dream Render 2 Engulf the Shore 3 Relic of Progenitus 2 Unmoored Ego
Despite the deck being strong enough to earn Coryl101 a trophy in a Competitive League, I’m assuming it can still be tuned, which is a scary thought. It already appears like Narset might have been a mistake, not only in Modern but across the board.
Vivien, Champion of the Wilds
The new Viv has shown up here and there as a solid 3-drop in decks with a high creature count. I’ve seen it in action in Standard and have been impressed. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes stock as a one- or two-of in some of the Modern-heavy creature decks. One of the problems is that its natural home would be decks relying on Collected Company, which in turn would make your Companies slightly worse. It will be key to find the right balance between these two cards and the rest of your noncreature spells.
While not the flashiest card, Blast Zone was my early pick for most impactful card in Modern, as I think it allows archetypes to plug some of the holes they had at very little cost. You can add it to your toolbox in a deck like Tron or Amulet Titan, but I’m particularly excited to add it to one of my favorite decks in Modern: Colorless Scourge.
4 Blast Zone 2 Scavenger Grounds 3 Wasteland 2 Field of Ruin 4 Eldrazi Temple 4 Mutavault 2 Gemstone Caverns 4 Ghost Quarter 4 Simian Spirit Guide 4 Eternal Scourge 4 Matter Reshaper 4 Thought-Knot Seer 4 Reality Smasher 4 Eldrazi Mimic 1 Smuggler's Copter 4 Serum Powder 4 Chalice of the Void 2 Dismember Sideboard 1 All Is Dust 3 Ratchet Bomb 2 Sorcerous Spyglass 2 Relic of Progenitus 2 Tormod's Crypt 2 Karn, Scion of Urza 1 Grafdigger's Cage 2 Pithing Needle
This deck used to suffer a lot against Humans and couldn’t beat any of the Ensnaring Bridge decks. Blast Zone seems like it might be able to help a lot in these matchups. I’m not sure which are the worst lands in the deck right now, but I decided to cut a Field of Ruin, a Wastes, and two Blinkmoth Nexus to fit in Blast Zone.
Dovin’s Veto has mostly seen play in U/W Control. It helps a lot against decks that run Pact of Negation, especially Ad Nauseam, a historically tough matchup. You’ll be at a big disadvantage in the mirror match if you don’t have your own copies of Veto.
Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
From a U/W mage’s perspective, I’ve always found this archetype underwhelming, but Davriel seems like a scary card and could potentially take it to the next level.
SalutPoilu, 5-0 on Magic Online
13 Swamp 4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 2 Field of Ruin 4 Mutavault 3 Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage 4 Liliana of the Veil 1 Bontu's Last Reckoning 4 Inquisition of Kozilek 4 Raven's Crime 4 Smallpox 3 Thoughtseize 3 Fatal Push 2 Liliana's Triumph 2 Ensnaring Bridge 4 The Rack 3 Shrieking Affliction Sideboard 2 Bontu's Last Reckoning 3 Dark Confidant 2 Delirium Skeins 4 Leyline of the Void 2 Ratchet Bomb 2 Waste Not
It seems like Cavedan has been having a field day brewing with the cards in Modern, and gratifies us with another sweet list using the most unexpected card so far: Niv-Mizzet Reborn.
Cavedan, 5-0 on Magic Online
1 Swamp 2 Blooming Marsh 1 Breeding Pool 1 Creeping Tar Pit 1 Forest 3 Mana Confluence 1 Godless Shrine 1 Plains 1 Swamp 4 Windswept Heath 1 Stomping Ground 1 Sacred Foundry 4 Pillar of the Paruns 1 Overgrown Tomb 1 Hallowed Fountain 4 Birds of Paradise 3 Niv-Mizzet Reborn 1 Sin Collector 2 Domri, Anarch of Bolas 1 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper 4 Bring to Light 2 Inquisition of Kozilek 1 Primal Command 3 Safewright Quest 1 Supreme Verdict 1 Thought Erasure 1 Unmoored Ego 3 Assassin's Trophy 1 Countersquall 2 Izzet Charm 2 Kolaghan's Command 4 Lightning Helix 1 Detention Sphere Sideboard 1 Abrupt Decay 1 Ashiok, Dream Render 1 Cindervines 1 Crumble to Dust 2 Damping Sphere 1 Firespout 1 Fracturing Gust 1 Grafdigger's Cage 1 Izzet Staticaster 1 Kambal, Consul of Allocation 1 Knight of Autumn 1 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade 2 Rest in Peace
I’m not going to pretend I really know what’s going on here, but being able to build a competitive deck using Pillar of the Paruns to fuel an all-gold-card deck has always been a dream of mine, and Cavedan managed to get there—for a League, anyway.
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
4 Swamp 3 Blackcleave Cliffs 1 Blood Crypt 4 Bloodstained Mire 2 Mountain 2 Marsh Flats 3 Gemstone Caverns 1 Dragonskull Summit 4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 4 Griselbrand 4 Ilharg, the Raze-Boar 4 Simian Spirit Guide 4 Collective Brutality 4 Faithless Looting 4 Tormenting Voice 4 Goryo's Vengeance 4 Through the Breach 4 Pentad Prism Sideboard 4 Abrade 3 Anger of the Gods 4 Chalice of the Void 4 Leyline of Sanctity
While I’m not sure having the Raze-Boar in your main deck and turning on your opponent’s removal spells (Reflector Mage, Supreme Verdict, Path To Exile) is a great idea, I can see the card being annoying after sideboard. Your opponent now has to pack some graveyard hate, a way to interact with Through the Breach, and worry about the Boar, which means they can’t just blindly make space by boarding out their removal spells.
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
thepensword, 5-0 on Magic Online
4 Sulfur Falls 1 Desolate Lighthouse 7 Island 4 Scalding Tarn 3 Flooded Strand 3 Steam Vents 1 Mountain 2 Leveler 4 Snapcaster Mage 2 Vendilion Clique 4 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries 4 Serum Visions 2 Sweltering Suns 1 Abrade 4 Cryptic Command 2 Harvest Pyre 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Peek 4 Remand 2 Blood Moon Sideboard 1 Abrade 2 Anger of the Gods 2 Ceremonious Rejection 2 Counterflux 2 Dispel 1 Engineered Explosives 1 Entrancing Melody 1 Negate 3 Relic of Progenitus
Thepensword brings us his new take on Blue Moon, using Leveler in combination with the passive of the new Jace as one of his win conditions. It seems unlikely this is the best new way to build the archetype but it has the merit of closing games out fairly fast for Blue Moon, and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is a solid card advantage engine that comes down with a ton of loyalty counters.
Ashiok, Dream Render
Ashiok has been showing up here and there, mostly as a sideboard card. I gave it a try in the sideboard of U/W, and while I haven’t gotten paired versus Dredge yet, I brought it in against the mirror and its passive seemed fairly annoying for my opponent as it shut down their fetchlands and made their Field of Ruin much worse, while making Snapcaster Mage a bit tougher to use. Note that they still get to search for a land when you Field of Ruin them as it is your effect but they don’t get a land when they use their own Field.
I’m not sure if Ashiok is going to be able to earn its spot as the Dredge deck should be able to maneuver around the sorcery-speed graveyard removal effect, but its passive could push it over the top. The mill effect might even come in handy in some matchups against decks with very few win conditions.
Noticeably absent was Fblthp, the Lost not earning anyone who decided to add it to their Collected Company or Vannifar a trophy, and Ugin’s Conjurant, which combined with Celestial Kirin offers a free Armageddon. This and Karn+Lattice were two of the most hyped interactions when the spoiler was revealed, and while the latter has lived up to expectations, the Spirit-based one hasn’t. I’m curious to see if it’s just a sample size/variance matter or if these two cards are too mediocre on their own to make a deck running both viable at a competitive level.
Finally, here is my first non-U/W Control attempt at using some of the new WAR cards in Modern:
1 Botanical Sanctum 1 Wooded Foothills 1 Stomping Ground 1 Breeding Pool 1 Temple Garden 1 Hallowed Fountain 2 Forest 2 Island 1 Plains 4 Misty Rainforest 1 Sacred Foundry 1 Steam Vents 4 Windswept Heath 4 Birds of Paradise 4 Noble Hierarch 4 Felidar Guardian 4 Coiling Oracle 4 Teferi, Time Raveler 4 Oath of Nissa 4 Saheeli Rai 3 Remand 3 Narset, Parter of Veils 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 3 Lightning Bolt 1 Nissa, Steward of Elements Sideboard 2 Gaddock Teeg 1 Scavenging Ooze 1 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 1 Tireless Tracker 3 Stony Silence 3 Rest in Peace 3 Fiery Justice 1 Nissa, Vital Force
This list is still a bit rough, but I feel like it’s the perfect home for baby Teferi as its passive helps you protect your combo from a removal spell and it provides you with another great target for the Felidar Guardian trigger. It’s also extra removal for a card like Meddling Mage, and can buy you the turn you need by bouncing an Oblivion Stone. Narset doesn’t seem like as natural of a fit, but I’ve been impressed by the card so far.
I’m not sure of the last time a set has made such a splash on Modern and while I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a new set as I am for Modern Horizons, I wouldn’t be surprised if WAR ends up having a higher impact on the format if you look at quality over quantity. I guess we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.