Menu

Magic: Origins in Modern and Legacy

Tom

The upcoming final ‘core’ set appears to have something for everyone, from competitive deckbuilders to the more casual EDH crowd. This article will examine a few of the cards with the potential to be the origin (sorry!) of changes to the older formats. Some of them have obvious application, whilst others are a little more enigmatic. There are likely to be more cards discussed for Modern, due to the lower barrier to entry, but we’ve done our best to find a good spread!

We’ve separated them out into three categories;

  1. Cards that I’m not sure are good enough to be played, but might have what it takes
  2. Cards that have the raw power required (they may, however, be sideboard cards or metagame specific)
  3. Cards that I have no idea about! They could be wildly unplayable or new staples!

First, lets quickly introduce our reviewers;
Tom: Like many players, I’ve played Magic: The Gathering on and off since primary school and the nineties! Two friends motivated me to play consistently again with the Return to Ravnica block and since then I’ve been having fun in as many ways as possible. My favourite card is Runeclaw Bear, my favourite format is Cube draft and the only correct colour is Blue.
Sean: A lover of red, blue and white (in that order), enjoys turning creature sideways and casting Lightning Bolt. Has been trying hard to get better at Modern and Legacy (and when it piques his interest, Standard) but still has a long way to go before he can call himself semi-reasonable.
Chris: Chris has been an avid magician for over ten years and is often seen gallivanting across Melbourne in search of foes to enchant. Nowadays sequestering his magic to Legacy and Australian Highlander, Chris enjoys engaging in degenerate magic in hopes that he can ignore the declare blockers step.

Let’s get to it!

Maybe

Archangel of Tithes

archangel of tithes
Tom: There’s already a Ghostly Prison/Ensnaring Bridge based prison deck in Modern and although those decks hate playing creatures, this one might be worth it. I’m not sure it’s worth turning on your opponent’s removal, but the card is certainly worth considering.
Sean: Modern Death & Taxes decks could possibly play this in their list, since wrecking the opponent’s mana base makes the taxing ability reasonable and the format is slow enough where four mana ain’t the worst, but in the end the utility of Restoration Angel is likely better. Legacy is a bit too fast for this to see play, though I’ve considered Magus of the Moat in the sideboard and a softer anti-attacker ability is nice, especially since her second ability can combine with Ports for a pseudo-unblockable alpha strike. Not dying to Bolt and Abrupt Decay is also big game in these formats.
Chris: Unfortunately I think the fact that this card dies to everything is going to hold it back way too much. The ability is kinda cool, but people will be happy enough to just pay 1 and swing with their Goyf until you die.

Swift Reckoning

swift reckoning
Tom: This seems like a very reasonable card for a control deck to have in it. I wouldn’t expect it to make waves, but it seems playable, especially in a deck without access to black removal.
Chris: Outclassed by cheaper, instant-speed removal in the same color. It’s kinda disappointing, because I really like the card name and wouldn’t mind saying it a little more often.

Gilt-Leaf Winnower

gilt leaf winnower
Tom: This is an Elf but I doubt the Elf deck wants it, at least not in its current form. Perhaps the deck picks up a second colour and tries to go bigger, but it would require a fairly big redesign. I think this card is viable on its own merits – if it was four toughness, then I’d be calling it definitely playable.
It’s a threat that’s hard to profitably block and kills a surprisingly large amount of the currently popular creatures in Modern; Tarmogoyf, Insectile Aberration, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Siege Rhino. I would be unsurprised if this creature sees some play as a one-of value creature.
Sean: This card seems pretty reasonable for Standard as a Chord target, and even in Modern or Legacy (well, Legacy is a bit of a stretch, especially since you can’t Green Sun’s Zenith for this, but cards like Wren’s Run Packmaster have been played, so…) thanks to its Elvish synergies. Five mana is a huge amount of mana in Eternal formats though, and is only really viable if you have some kind of busted acceleration (Gaes’s Cradle or Veteran Explorer, perhaps). I like it for Standard a lot though
Chris: I can’t imagine this card seeing too much play in Legacy. Although the ability being able to hit quite a few of the bigger players in Legacy (Delver, Goyf, V.Clique, Snapcaster, Young Pyromancer, Thalia, Flickerwisp, Revoker, Lodestone Golem, Stoneforge, Tasigur, Forgemaster, Metalworker and Elesh Norn), the fact that it costs 5 makes it way too inaccessible. That ability hits a LOT of creatures though.

Languish

languish
Tom: I think most decks would rather play Damnation, but there has been discussion over whether an Jund/Abzan build wants to exploit this to make it a one-sided wrath. Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Siege Rhino and Tarmogoyf survive the effect and it could be worth putting effort into breaking the symmetry.
Sean: This will revolutionise how we think about sweepers in Standard, and I guess this card could be Modern playable if Jund/Abzan are looking for sweepers that don’t kill their Goyf/Tasigur/Rhino. Damnation is seeing a reasonable amount of play at the moment, and in certain situations this may be better – but also could be worse in others.
Chris: Not too exciting for Legacy, here. If you’re playing anything that doesn’t get killed by this, you’re probably not playing a deck that would want a wrath effect, so Damnation feels a hell of a lot stronger at 2BB.

Magmatic Insight

magmatic insight
Tom: I don’t think this card is significantly better than Tormenting Voice, because the slight cost reduction really isn’t worth the risk of having it stick in your hand. There has been talk of putting it into Lands in Legacy or Storm in Modern, so I suppose it’s at least worth testing.
Sean: I’d have to defer towards more experienced Lands players, but this could be a nice card advantage engine in Legacy Lands since it’s essentially “R: Draw two cards.” in that deck. Slots might be a bit too tight though and you basically get to cast Ancestral Recall via Loam in that deck anyway.
Chris: Yeah, I imagine this would be quite reasonable in lands. Drawing two for the very low cost of R means that this is definitely worth testing. Discarding a land is definitely not a drawback that can be easily ignored, but it’s also something that you don’t have to struggle too hard to leverage.

Molten Vortex

molten vortex
Tom: This goes into a deck that can recur lands and thus grind out opponents, which usually means Life from the Loam strategies. The Punishing Fire engine in the Lands deck in Legacy is probably better than this, as it doesn’t care about countermagic or Abrupt Decay. Having said that, requiring a single card rather than a Grove of the Burnwillows + Punishing Fire combo is at least worth trying.
Modern has always had a Seismic Assault deck floating around the format and this seems to fit neatly into that deck. Having eight of the effect might be what the deck needs (the fact that it costs R rather than RRR is also not insignificant!).
Sean: Seismic Assault is the closest parallel, and being able to ‘set-and-forget-it’ is that card’s greatest boon compared Molten Vortex, which always need constant mana investment. Nonetheless there may be a place for this if being a one mana spell to Assault’s three is important. In Loam decks in Modern and Legacy this could be a role-player.
Chris: I’ve always loved Seismic Assault. I’ve always hated the prospect of having to pay RRR (or even just 3) for the effect. This is certainly a hell of a lot easier on the curve, isn’t punished by mana denial plans quite as much (in terms of getting it into play) but does suffer from not being able to just allow you to hemorrhage lands at your opponent’s face. I can certainly see this seeing some fringe play.

Pia and Kiran Nalaar

pia and kiran
Tom: My admiration for the flavor and art aside, this card offers a very good return for investment. You get three bodies with four power and the ability to start shocking things at will. Being four mana might prevent it from making the jump out of Standard, as may the perception of Affinity as the ‘artifact’ deck in Modern. Having said that, it doesn’t die to Lightning Bolt for zero value, so the potential is there. I think it’s more likely to produce a ‘cute’ deck than a highly competitive one, but it’s an interesting card to consider.
Sean: This card is actually really good in Legacy Dragon Stompy, where Ancient Tomb/City of Traitors and Chalice based decks who have a bunch of useless artifacts sitting around can now translate these into actual damage. Creating two power of evasive attackers along with a 2/2 body is also a great rate. The sadness of flooding on Chrome Moxen and redundant Chalices is a problem no more. Unfortunately I don’t see much of a place for this card in Modern, since without the acceleration of Sol lands this card loses a lot of its lustre.

Aerial Volley

aerial volley
Tom: Although Delver of Secrets isn’t as popular in Modern, this card is playable in the right metagame. Efficiently answers Lingering Souls, shoots down Insectile Aberration and might even snipe an Olivia Voldaren. Boring, but an efficient answer in green.
Sean: Giving green access to incredibly cheap creature removal is always something interesting, though restricting it to killing fliers really narrows its uses. This could be a major blowout against Affinity in Modern however, since they usually have a bunch of fliers sitting around, but I think the only deck that would want this over more reasonable sideboard options is the Mono-Green Aggro deck that’s seen occasional play. I could see this as an option in Legacy for green-based decks (for example, Infect) that really wants ways to kill Delver of Secrets, but being so narrow is really the card’s downfall.
Chris: I can certainly see myself trying this out for certain matchups it does a pretty great job of dealing with opposing Delvers. Even allowing for a rare(ish) 2-for-1 is nothing to sneeze at when all it costs is G.

Dwynen’s Elite

dwyndedn's elite
Tom: Elves is getting a lot of new options with this set and I think this is one of the better creatures. If you just want to go wide and buff everything with an Ezuri activation, then you can do worse than making two elves with one card.
Sean: Two mana for three power is nice, and this guy has already proven himself to be a great rate in Standard, and synergises incredibly well with Chord of Calling. I think this is the main reason we’d want to run him in Modern, actually, since other than his synergy with Chord he is just two vanilla creatures. I’d never expect him to see play in a higher-powered format like Legacy though, where vanilla creatures can’t cut it.

Definitely

Hallowed Moonlight

hallowed moonlight
Tom: Legacy has Containment Priest, which is almost always a better option in that format. The amount of play this sees in Modern will depend on how popular the Goryo’s Vengeance / Vengevine / Through the Breach type decks are. I think there are better answers to the Twin combo, but this a very efficient answer to some powerful strategies.
Sean: This card will influence Legacy and Modern as a possibly great sideboard card against a few things. In Modern, being able to cast Dismiss against the Goryo’s Vengeance deck is handy, and can also counter a Spectral Procession the tokens deck is aiming to cast. In Legacy this card is powerful against Reanimator and Sneak and Show, since it can counter their one-of cheat-fatty-into-play cards while cantripping, and can also cycle if need be. Against Dredge it’s less impressive, as their continuous graveyard usage is not stopped by this one-time effect. I could see decks like Miracles and Stoneblade incorporating this over the Containment Priest they have in the board, especially because the card has added utility against Entreat the Angels.
Chris: I’ve seen a little bit of talk circulating regarding this rather flashy instant, yet I’m not all too impressed. Having to hold up 1W against a lot of the decks in Legacy seems like it can be a little dangerous. If your opponent is casting Show & Tell, I sure don’t want to be relying on this as they’re more likely to have Omniscience over sneaking an Emrakul into play which is going to leave you very red faced. Against Reanimator or Dredge or whatnot, I feel like it’s either going to be too slow, or I’d rather slam a Containment Priest down and go back to holding up my counterspells.

Vryn Wingmare

vryn wingmare
Tom: I doubt Modern has a deck that wants this effect, but this seems to slot very well into Death and Taxes. Exchanging first strike for flying seems like a fair trade, but costing an extra mana will probably limit the amount of copies played. Diversifying the amount of converted mana cost cards in the deck is relevant for using Aether Vial, so it’s not all downside!
Sean: The love of my life now has wings. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a format-defining card in Legacy, basically putting Death & Taxes in its seat as a Tier 1 deck that can compete with all the other busted Legacy powerhouses. Vryn Wingmare is better to compare with Glowrider, however, a card which only saw play pre-Thalia, but the Pegasus has one important feature over the Cleric. Flying is big game when Delver of Secrets rules the format, and being able to trade off with one is great. Thalia also often gets bricked by Tarmogoyf sitting on the ground, while Wingmare takes to the skies and keeps poking the opponent. I can see this card as a likely two-of in the deck, due to multiple Thorn effects in play being hard when you’re relying on equipment and Swords to Plowshares, and Wingmare could glut the three mana slot on the curve. I could also see this card randomly revolutionising the deck, becoming eight Thorns plus a bunch of other dorks. Time will tell.

In Modern, Thalia is generally better since you don’t want to overload on these effects, since the format doesn’t hinge as much on cheap cantrips as Legacy does, and combo fights on a different axis. The only time you’d really want Wingmare is if Thalia’s Legendary status is an issue, otherwise it’s just slower.

Harbinger of the Tides

harbinger of tides
Tom: This one isn’t a difficult prediction. Merfolk are happy to play Tidebinder Mage in the maindeck and this card seems like an upgrade over that. It offers the ability to get a huge tempo boost and let the deck get out ahead, which is where Merfolk really needs to be. Man-O’-War is already a powerful card and the double blue mana cost and tribal synergy makes it even more attractive.
Sean: I feel this could easily see play in Modern Merfolk, especially since a lot of lists already run Tidebinder Mage as a one- or two-of, and this guy has broader usage against any coloured creature, despite his effect being sort-of less powerful than the Mage. Definitely not going to be a four-of, but could be a solid role player, especially since he’s very powerful with Vial. His synergy with Merrow Reejerey is also nice. In Legacy he could be handy in fair matchups as a nice tempo play, although may be a bit too low-impact and is completely useless against combo. Maybe as a sideboard card for fair matchups, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees no play at all. This guy is nonetheless sweet for Standard, since MonoBlue Devotion was really looking for a solid UU two drop – this guy fits the bill perfectly, and is especially great with Collected Company.
Chris: Merfolk already has plenty of 2-drops to be throwing around and without this being a lord, I don’t think the tempo gain from bouncing your opponent’s creature is going to be enough to get it over the line into Legacy decklists.

Tainted Remedy

tainted remedy
Tom: This is the ‘fixed’ Rain of Gore because it shuts off lifelink. I think that makes it the default replacement in the sideboard of any Burn deck splashing black.
Sean: Rain of Gore is already playable in Burn decks splashing black for Modern, so that card edges this out just due to being two mana. I guess some kind of MonoBlack Aggro deck could appreciate this in Standard/Modern just as a nice answer to Siege Rhino and stuff, but three mana for an effect like this is a bit lacklustre.

Goblin Piledriver

goblin piledriver
Tom: The power level of the card isn’t in doubt, with it being an established part of the Legacy Goblins deck. Whether it’s enough to make Goblins a top deck in Modern isn’t clear, but a lot of people are certainly going to try. I think it’s good enough to make the deck playable, but the absence of other key goblins (Lackey, Ringleader) and the higher prevalence of Lightning Bolt will keep it from really making a mark on the format.
Sean: Legacy has seen this guy for long, long time, and he’s had his time in the sun as the red two drop of choice some many years back. Unfortunately Goblins ain’t all that anymore in Legacy, but at least this can respark its Modern potential? The problem is Piledriver is great, but the deck is forced to play as a linear aggro deck in Modern because of the lack of cards like Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader, who provided a grindy late game and flexibility. A linear aggro deck is easy to beat via things such as Pyroclasm, and in the end just playing Burn may be a better option. It’s probably moved up from its fringe status into the realm of Tier 2, but I don’t think Piledriver will push Goblins over the top to be an insane contender in Modern, but I’d be very happy if I were wrong.
Chris: It’ll be good to see this in a nice, new border 🙂

Sylvan Messenger

sylvan messenger
Tom: I don’t think Legacy Elves is interested in this, since the cost is probably too high for a deck that is looking to power out Craterhoof Behemoth and kill with only a few untapped dorks.
Modern is certainly where this card might make an impact. You can’t hit this with Collected Company (thank god) but this effect is extremely powerful. The decks are currently playing ~30 elves, which gives a very high hit rate (5% to miss, 68% to hit more than once). I don’t think there are going to be four copies of this, but it certainly incentivises cutting cards like Scavenging Ooze in favour of greater synergy.
Sean: Modern Elves may want this, though not being a hit off Collected Company is annoying, but being a Chord target which allows the Elves player to restock their hand is very useful. In Legacy this ain’t seeing any play, and hasn’t despite its longtime existence, because unlike Goblins, which are a grindy aggro-midrange deck who appreciates the Ringleader effect, Elves is a combo deck. Why durdle with a four-mana 2/2 when you can just Hoof them?
Chris: I’d be very surprised if this saw any play in Legacy. The card has been around for a long time and I don’t think anything has really changed to be able to better leverage a 4-drop 2/2.

Shaman of the Pack

shaman of the pack
Tom: Tutoring this up with Green Sun’s Zenith or Collected Company gives the deck reach and a way to win that doesn’t involve the combat step. I think this is more likely to appear in Legacy lists, as a way to beat cards like Ensnaring Bridge.
Sean: I like this in Modern Elves as another way beside Ezuri that can close out the game that also hits off CoCo, and not using the combat step is something that’s always appreciated. She unfortunately means you have to splash black, and although Decay is good, the white splash has been the most popular so far. In Legacy I could also see this as a potential way to beat uncommon cards like Moat, and its synergy with Wirewood Symbiote makes it very impressive as way to kill opponents without using the combat step. Just clogging up the board, double-draining with Deathrite Shaman and bouncing this and replaying it should actually close out games relatively fast, and having multiple plans with Elves is always appreciated. Being green is of course always appreciated because of Green Sun’s Zenith.
Chris: At first glance I thought this card was absolutely atrocious. The more I think about it, the more I want to test it a little in the Miracles matchup. Often enough this card (paired with our friend Wirewood Symbiote) feels like it might give you an actual opportunity to kill your opponent once the match really starts to grind as sometimes swinging with the army of 1/1s just doesn’t quite cut it against Terminus or a few blockers.

Wildcards

Day’s Undoing

day's undoing

Tom: I don’t know and I suspect nobody really knows yet. The downside is very real and demands a deck that meets some very specific criteria – at a bare minimum, you need to:

  1. Be able to empty your hand fast to break the symmetry
  2. Not care about what your opponent can draw

It has obvious potential in certain decks, such as Affinity, but if the card proves to be too good, it will likely necessitate creation of an entirely new shell to exploit it with. After consideration, I don’t think Burn wants this card.
The existence of the Sol lands in Legacy certainly helps, as does the mana acceleration (Lotus Petal, Mox Diamond, Chrome Mox etc.). Going up to five mana and then effectively resetting your hand is a powerful start. One of the scariest openings in Cube is land, Sol Ring, Signet, Go and this follows a similar principle. Giving your opponent first chance to use their cards is fine if you’ve access to significantly more mana when they pass it back.
I think Wizards have done an excellent job of finding a downside that limits the application of the card. Personally, I doubt this card will prove to be broken, but the raw power is definitely there. I think people planning to exploit this with Quicken are kidding themselves, but if it makes Notion Thief a played card I will be extremely happy!
Sean: This feels like it’ll either be broken or it’ll sit with Diminishing Returns as very uncommonly played Timetwister wanna-bes. Its end the turn clause means that you can only ever abuse this in fair ways though. In a deck like Burn I hate having three mana cards junking up my hand, as three really is the high end of your curve. I will be testing this in Modern Burn nonetheless (any excuse to play the Geistboard, seriously), but I don’t think Legacy Burn really wants this – it prides itself on its mono-Mountain mana base making it impervious to Wasteland – though I could see the UR Delver lists running Goblin Guide and Snapcaster (essentially Burn with Brainstorms) maybe wanting this. Again, three mana is a lot though. Where I think this could shine is in decks with artifact-based mana accelerants. Modern and Legacy Affinity likely can make use of this, casting it on something like turn two, and a deck I love in Legacy, Faerie Stompy, could also try this out. Powering out a Chalice and Trinisphere with most of your hand on turn one then casting Day’s Undoing seems great, because the end of turn clause can’t be really taken advantage of when your opponent is locked out. You can then proceed to beat your opponent down with Serendib Efreet. Fun.
Chris: I want this card to be good. I want this card to be REALLY good. Ending your turn and giving your opponent this first attempt with a reloaded hand doesn’t feel like an insignificant drawback. I can imagine burn perhaps splashing blue to play this, but I’m not quite convinced that will be enough for this to see a lot of play. I want to believe.

Dark Petition

dark petition
Tom: I’m not sure what to make of this. Storm is definitely interested in a card that both makes mana and tutors for a card for a net cost of two, but having to pay five up front is a big deal. Ad Nauseum costs that much but wins you the game if it resolves, regardless of your Storm count. I think this card sees slight play in the existing list, but there has been talk for a while of the Legacy Storm deck being redeveloped with a new engine. Maybe this is a catalyst?
It has been pointed out that one other card happens to cost BBB and fit right into a combo deck – Doomsday. My experience with that card is limited to being bored whilst my opponent takes ten minutes to resolve it, but I think there is a non-zero possibility of Dark Petition being played to tutor and cast it.
Sean: This is probably the best tutor printed in recent history, and looks to be a powerful role-player in ANT lists that have cut their Ad Nauseums and have leaned on Past in Flames a lot more – the so-called ‘Grinding Station’ lists. I think this may only be a one-of, but additional business spells are always appreciated in storm lists, and this costs many dollars less than Grim Tutor and replaces that card to reasonable level. TES can also use this as a business spell in their wishboard that can be found when not Hellbent, which is when you’d usually look for Infernal Tutor instead. I think it could also find a home in a lot of other random Legacy decks casting Dark Rituals (Pox maybe?) since Spell Mastery is very easy in the format. Look out for this one. Not sure if it can find a place in Modern, unless it spawns its own new breed of storm decks, but perhaps in the Ad Nauseum combo lists flying around it could be playable.

Starfield of Nyx

starfield of nyx
Tom: It’s no Opalescence but this effect is fairly unique. Certainly a card to watch. It slots into that silly Leylines deck in Legacy reasonably well, but without Serra’s Sanctum it might be harder to fit into Modern. It does offer a theoretical way to win the game in an enchantment based prison deck, but I think that’s a little fragile to be realistic.
Sean: In Legacy, the Leylines-Opalescence deck just got Opalescence 5-8, but that deck is much too fragile to see high-level play (though it is damn cool). I like this in Enchantress though, as having a slow Replenish is pretty cool. Being able to reuse your Sterling Groves again and again is sweet, not to mention the fact that your enchantments can now get into the red zone. Also, the art on this is ultra sweet, holy crap.

Thanks everyone for reading our reviews! Let us know what you think in the comments!

%d bloggers like this: