My name is Oliver Law and this is my first article for MTGUK. By way of a quick introduction, I am a Birmingham-based Magic player who regularly attends the weekly Wednesday draft events. I started playing Magic way back in Odyssey Block and got back into the game playing MTGO about 10 years ago. I have written prolifically for PureMTGO.com during that time, focusing mostly on my favourite format, Modern.
We are now a few weeks out from the release of the War of the Spark and I want to discuss how the new set has impacted Modern so far. Obviously more events are needed to fully determine the field, but I’ll look at some of the cards that have made waves in the format so far.
Neoform is potentially the biggest innovator from War of the Spark. The card has spawned a new deck which is being called NeoBrand or Allosaurus Evolution. The deck uses Neoform or Eldritch Evolution to turn an Allosaurus Rider into a Griselbrand. From there the deck proceeds to draw most or all of the deck, using Nourishing Shoal to pitch Autochthon Wurm or one of the other green 7-drops in the deck to gain the life necessary to keep fueling Griselbrand. The ultimate win condition varies but is usually either a Lightning Storm, cast using Simian Spirit Guide mana, or Laboratory Maniac which wins you the game as you draw your entire library.
The scariest part about this combo is that it can be performed as early as Turn 1 with the assistance of Chancellor of the Tangle. It’s also a lot harder to interact with than the graveyard-based Goryo’s Vengeance combos that exist in the format. The deck’s consistency has dropped with the return to the Vancouver mulligan over the London mulligan, which was available on MTGO in the run up to the Mythic Championship in London, but still seems viable if inconsistent.
If you fancy seeing the NeoBrand deck in action and learning more about it then check out my article here.
Karn, the Great Creator
Karn, the Great Creator is a powerful new planeswalker that has made a big splash in the format in a short time. The headline aspect of the latest Karn is the combo lock of finding Mycosynth Lattice with Karn’s -2. Once cast, Lattice turns off your opponent’s lands as they become artifacts and cannot be activated to make mana due to Karn’s static ability. Karn’s -2 also allows decks to run a silver bullet sideboard of various other situationally powerful artifacts, including Chalice of the Void, Pithing Needle and Ensnaring Bridge.
Karn seems to be seeing widespread adoption in Tron, Amulet Titan, Prison decks and a variety of other places. So far Karn looks like it could be the most impactful card on Modern because of its versatility in finding silver bullets and its ability to lock opponent’s out of the game. I expect to see a lot more of the new Karn in the format moving forward.
Narset, Parter of Veils
I rather overlooked the new Narset when viewing the War of the Spark spoiler. Narset certainly isn’t the most splashy of planeswalkers but at 3-mana and with a powerful static ability it is starting to prove itself in the wild world of Modern. Preventing opponents from drawing additional cards is a powerful effect against a number of decks in the format, including Izzet Phoenix, Storm and UWx Control. Narset’s -2 allows you to pick a non-creature, non-land card from your top 4 which makes it a short-term draw engine. Also, with a healthy 5 loyalty, Narset is tough the get off the board if you choose not to tick her down.
Narset has found a home in various Control decks but most excitingly in a Prison deck designed by Conley Woods. Conley’s deck combines Narset and Notion Thief with Day’s Undoing to make that card very one-sided. Once an opponent has no cards in hand, it then uses the unusual combination of Lore Broker and Geier Reach Sanitarium to force the opponent to loot on their upkeep. The looting effect forces the opponent to draw and immediately discard the card they draw so they never draw another card for the rest of the game. This effectively locks the opponent out of the game.
Teferi, Time Raveler
The new Teferi provides a powerful new tool for UW Control decks. Limiting opponents to casting spells at sorcery speed protects you on your turn and forces the opponent to use their resources on their own turn. The +1 is not the most exciting but can let you Serum Visions or Supreme Verdict on your opponent’s turn. Teferi can also protect himself with his -3 which bounces an artifact, creature or enchantment to the opponent’s hand while also drawing a card.
Perhaps the most interesting tech with Teferi was run by Alan Gray to 9th Place in the SCG Modern Classic in Richmond. Alan’s deck uses Teferi, Time Raveler alongside Knowledge Pool to lock the opponent out of the game. Once put together the opponent cannot cast spells from under Knowledge Pool as they are cast at instant speed; the stack needs to be clear for a spell to be cast at sorcery speed. You can check out Alan’s tournament report on Reddit.
Blast Zone is a utility land with destructive capabilities that can find a home in many decks. Tron seems to be an early adopter of the card but I can see it making an impact in a variety of decks. An Engineered Explosives effect on a land is mighty strong and provides decks with an answer to problem permanents that they didn’t have before.
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
At the 2018 Magic Online Championship, Bernardo Torres and Joao Andrade brought a deck playing Ilharg, the Raze-Boar to cheat into play Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. The deck also cleverly plays Generator Servant as a way of granting the pig lord haste or to ramp into a Through the Breach.
Ashiok, Dream Render
There was a lot of buzz around Ashiok once it was spoiled. Ashiok is a powerful hate card – preventing opponents from searching their library, stopping fetchlands and variety of other effects, and providing a source of mill and graveyard hate against opponents. Ashiok has been turning up in a number of Modern sideboards recently.
Personally I am not a huge fan of Ashiok in Modern. I think at 3-mana Ashiok is just too slow to have the impact you want it to have; at least most of the time. Modern runs on such a low curve that your opponent should have fetched enough lands to operate and any graveyard-based decks, like Dredge, will already have gained considerable advantages from their graveyard. Unfortunately I think Ashiok is a little underwhelming in Modern but I can’t blame people for trying.
Finale of Devastation
The green finale does a very good impression of Green Sun’s Zenith, which is featured on Modern’s banlist. The extra mana certainly hampers it, but Finale is still an impressive card. Devoted Druid/Vizier of Remedies combo decks are a perfect home for the card in Modern as not only can it tutor up its combo creatures but it can use the infinite mana generated to make all creatures on the board into infinitely large killing machines.
It may be early days but it seems like War of the Spark has already made a very significant impact on Modern. Tron, UW Control, Goryo’s Breach, Amulet Titan have all found new tools in the set and it has also spawned a few new and exciting archetypes for the format.
Overall this is a very exciting time for Modern. With Modern Horizons spoilers just getting underway it looks like the format will continue to shake up in the coming months.
I hope you have enjoyed this quick look at some of the War of the Spark cards that are making their presence felt in Modern. If you enjoyed this article be sure to look out for more from me. You can find my previous articles at PureMTGO.com, subscribe to my Youtube channel and/or follow me on Twitter.
Thanks for reading,