Top 10 MTG Card Interactions You Need To Know About In Modern
Modern PTQ season is coming to a close, and judging by PPTQ attendance and talking to players it looks like the format is here to stay. Hopefully events will keep popping up throughout the year to support the format (here in Preston we have monthly tournaments for a set of shocklands for instance). Having played a fair bit of Modern now, and watched many more matches, I noticed that players were losing games or getting into sticky situations due to not knowing how some of the interactions in the format work, so here I’m going to go over 10 of the most important interactions and how they work rules-wise.
In no particular order:
Blood Moon trumps Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, since Urborg becomes a mountain and loses all other abilities. It’s still legendary though, since being legendary is a supertype. You’ll also still have to pay 2 life to have your shocklands come into play untapped, and lands that enter the battlefield tapped will still do so.
2. The Pact Cycle
If you are playing with any of the pacts from Future Sight, such as Pact of Negation you are allowed to put something on your deck to remind you to pay for your pact before you draw a card and die. If your pact gets countered then you won’t have to pay.
If you’re playing against a G/W deck, whenever they attack please, please remember to check if they have any exalted creatures. You don’t want to be the guy who just chump blocked for no apparent reason because you forgot the triggers. They are mandatory triggers so your opponent doesn’t have to announce them so remember to check or ask how big their guy is when he attacks.
This card must be near the top of a lot of judges ‘cards I wish they never printed’ lists. I could probably write a whole article on this card, but some of the more common things that come up in Modern include: Iona, Shield of Emeria will stop you casting the imprinted card if the relevant colour is named; you will have to pay an extra 1 mana if Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is in play; you will have to pay 3 if Trinisphere is out; since you are casting the spell it can be countered and will add to the storm count.
Fairly straightforward once you get used to him, but one quick thing I want to go over is that if you target it with an instant or sorcery, and there isn’t one in the graveyard already, it will grow before damage is checked. What this means is that Lightning Bolt won’t kill a 2/3 goyf if there isn’t an instant in the yard, likewise Flame Slash won’t kill a 3/4 if there isn’t a sorcery in the yard.
Even though on the card it says search for 4 cards, because you are searching a hidden zone you can fail to find any number of cards. The upshot of this is that Gifts Ungiven effectively says ‘search you library for UP TO 4 cards with different names’. That means that if you only search for 2 cards they will have to be chosen and therefore go to the graveyard. This is quite common in Modern now as searching for just Unburial Rites and a fatty is rather good.
7. Man lands + Cryptic Command
I see people cock this one up all the time. Say you have 3 creatures and a Treetop Village, you want to make sure you get some damage in, and you think they have a Cryptic Command, what do you do? Assuming you aren’t casting anything in your main phase (which you probably shouldn’t in most cases here), say you want to move to the combat step. At this point your opponent shouldn’t do anything. Now say you want to move to the declare attackers step. This is the last chance for them to use their cryptic. If they use it to tap your team and draw a card, let that resolve. Since you are still in the beginning of combat step, after the Cryptic has resolved you can now activate your manland and attack. If they want to stop your manland they’ll have to tap your team and bounce it, so at least they can’t draw a card.
8. Phantasmal Image/Phyrexian Metamorph + Undying/Persist
This one has been coming up in standard a lot recently, and it applies to Modern too. If you copy an undying/persist creature with a clone effect when your clone dies the relevant ability will trigger. The clone will now return to the battlefield, but again gets the chance to copy something since it is entering the battlefield. It will get a counter (+1/+1 for undying or -1/-1 for persist), but does not have to come back as the thing it originally copied. The metamorph can still choose to copy an artifact, leading to odd situations where you have swords or Birthing Pods with counters on them. If there is nothing they can copy then, if they had undying, they will come back as 0/0s with a +1/+1 counter and no abilities. A Phantasmal Image returning this way will not gain the ‘illusion’ ability and therefore can be targeted like any other card.
Similar to Isochron Scepter, this is a cast ability. This means that you can counter it, you will have to pay more if Thalia is in play, and if you manage to get a flying spaghetti monster under the heights then you will get to take an extra turn.
The Cage is becoming a popular sideboard card in Modern, since it hampers to game plan of several popular decks. Here are some of the stranger things that the cage can do, and a few that it can’t: Grafdigger’s Cage does diddly squat against Living End, since Living End exiles the creatures from the graveyard then puts them onto the battlefield; you cant search out a Dryad Arbor with a fetchland since it’s a creature; casting Chord of Calling or activating Birthing Pod are both legal plays that you will not be allowed to take back, they just won’t do anything on resolution; and finally any slim chance that Panglacial Wurm had of seeing play disappeared when they printed the cage.
So there are 10 interactions that you really need to know in order to not get caught out in Modern. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the PTQ season as much as I have and continue to play the format throughout the year.
Here’s the Tron list that I used in Preston’s latest monthly Modern tournament, where I split the final:
4 Path to Exile
4 Azorius Signet
1 Talisman of Progress
4 Expedition Map
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Unburial Rites
4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Timely Reinforcements
2 Timely Reinforcements
1 Day of Judgment
1 Wrath of God
1 Engineered Explosives
3 Celestial Purge
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Mindbreak Trap
1 Pithing Needle
1 Wheel of Sun and Moon
For more on Tron, check out Tom Harle’s articles from the last couple of weeks. The deck is a blast to play, and has 2 distinct and very powerful angles of attack that give you a lot of easy wins.
Good luck to anyone attending the last PTQ in Cardiff, and let me know in the comments if there are any interesting/cool/difficult interactions that you think I missed out (or if I got any of them wrong!).
Thanks for reading,