We are only partially through the reveal of Guilds of Ravnica, but plenty of words have already been written about playing Assassin’s Trophy in Modern. There have been various other interesting cards revealed, so I figured I’d skip adding to the growing pile of BGx midrange discussion. What other cards in Guilds of Ravnica might make a splash in Modern? Today I walk through the cards that could make their way into maindecks or sideboards and touch upon some cards which look like they might be good enough for Modern but I think fall short of the bar.
We’ve seen similar to Beast Whisperer’s effect recently with Soul of the Harvest and Beck // Call. The former is clearly way too slow in Modern. Beck, on the other hand, is only one mana more than the all-time-great (but banned) Glimpse of Nature, but it seems like the extra Blue mana is too much of a weight to carry. In 2016 for GP Detroit Modern, Matt Nass took his old Extended Combo Elves and kept all the original aspects like Cloudstone Curio and Summoner’s Pact and swapped Glimpse for Beck.
4 Heritage Druid
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Llanowar Elves
1 Boreal Druid
1 Regal Force
1 Eternal Witness
1 Shaman of the Pack
1 Essence Warden
4 Dwynen's Elite
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Beck // Call
4 Summoner's Pact
4 Cloudstone Curio
4 Forbidden Orchard
4 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills
1 Misty Rainforest
2 Breeding Pool
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Stomping Ground
3 Gut Shot
4 Swan Song
1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1 Reclamation Sage
4 Ancient Grudge
2 Outpost Siege
Random Trivia - I won my first ever PTQ with Matt Nass’s original Extended Combo Elves. Years later, I got my second GP Top 8 with Standard Hardened Scales, which was a Matt Nass creation that we randomly faced online and immediately started testing. I indirectly owe a lot of my success to Matt, even though I’ve never tested with him. Thanks Matt!
Although the tournament only went okay, the deck was capable of powerful things but never found a place in the meta, generally being outshined by non-Combo versions of Elves. With all that said, why would anyone be interested in a card that is twice the mana and dies to removal?
Well, I’m not sure if the card is worth building around, but there are some attractive qualities:
Most importantly, it can be grabbed with cards like Summoner’s Pact, Chord of Calling, Lead the Stampede, or Primal Command
As an Elf, it provides incidental benefit to cards like Heritage Druid and Elvish Archdruid
It can be snuck in with Cavern of Souls, though the mana base is tight enough that there might not be room for it
If you do manage to stick one in play versus Control, you get to draw cards off creatures you cast even if they get countered. Though, unlike Beck, you can’t take advantage of drawing off tokens
Playing Combo Elves is all about balancing card advantage and mana, the two main components of this engine deck. Being able to grab Beast Whisperer is a great outlet when you are heavy on mana and don’t have an Elvish Visionary / Heritage Druid / Cloudstone Curio loop ready to assemble. Perhaps the card ends up being too clunky and fragile, but the effect is powerful and worth exploring.
This big beast plays a similar role to Obstinate Baloth, giving slower decks with Green mana a tool to help grind through midrange Black decks that play Liliana of the Veil. Although it might be stronger than Baloth in that specific situation, I don’t think it is going to earn any sideboard slots due to the lifegain double-duty that Baloth provides in other matchups such as Burn.
Goblin Cratermaker truly is a Swiss Army knife, resembling Abrade on a stick with a relevant creature type while having the bonus option of killing any Eldrazi or one of the Karn planeswalkers. While Eldrazi decks aren’t seeing a lot of play right now, being able to trade 1-for-1 at instant speed with a Reality Smasher is an impressive feat for such a cheaply costed red card.
My theory on Modern sideboards is that you usually need to balance your 15 between cards that are homeruns in a narrow range of matchups and cards which are solid, but not game-ending, in a wide range of matchups. That’s because the format is too wide open to cover everything with narrow homerun cards, though White can get you the closest with access to Stony Silence and Rest in Peace.
Goblin Cratermaker is not going to be a homerun in any matchup, but it provides so much flexibility that it is almost maindeck worthy. It’s a bit too slow for the maindeck of the current hyper-aggro Goblins decks, but could be good enough if there is a slower Goblins deck, such as with lords. Note that if you are not taking advantage of the 2/2 body, the card is a lot less useful and Abrade could be better.
Can Necrotic Wound compete with Lightning Axe in Dredge? While in most decks having to discard a card would be a heavy cost to pay, it’s actually a benefit in Dredge to be able to dump Bloodghast, Prized Amalgam, or a Dredge card. Sometimes you will Axe a creature on the first turn, which is never something you can do with Necrotic Wound. The exile bonus doesn’t give any measurable benefit for the Dredge deck and it’s unlikely that you actively need to kill a creature with more than 5 toughness.
What about elsewhere? Black midrange and control decks don’t play enough creatures for it to be reliable. In theory it could work out of Hollow One or Bridgevine but I don’t see it being worth any sideboard slots given both decks want to stick to their plan A of being aggressive.
Close, but no cigar. If it did 5 damage, it may have been worth sideboard slots as a card that can kill Gurmag Angler, Tasigur, and 5-toughness Goyfs while being a permanent answer for cards like Bloodghast and Hangarback Walker. It can kill Vengevine unlike Magma Spray, but not before you get hit with hasty damage. It sits at an awkward intersection between Flame Slash, Magma Spray, and Roast and I don’t think it lines up optimally with the format’s threats.
Macabre Hatchery (?)
Choose a creature card in your graveyard with converted mana cost 1. Then choose a creature with converted mana cost 2 and a creature with converted mana cost 3. Return those creatures to the battlefield.
This card hasn’t been officially revealed, but we can still consider the possibilities assuming it is real. It is reminiscent of cards like Rally the Ancestors and Return to the Ranks, being able to put bunch of creatures on the battlefield if you were willing to make the effort ahead of time to fill your graveyard. The first thing that came to mind when I saw this card was being able to grab Viscera Seer, Melira/Anafenza, and Kitchen Finks all at once. This could be useful postboard option for Melira Company versus grindy midrange and control matchups, but you need to make sure your graveyard won’t be under siege since your deck already relies on it a lot. Even if you’re not immediately grabbing your infinite combo from the graveyard, it’s pretty sweet value with Eternal Witness. Three arbitrary creatures might even be enough for the aggro plan B when coupled with Gavony Township.
What about as a maindeck card in a dedicated build? Unfortunately, costing 5 mana will likely prevent it from being competitive. Most of the proactive decks in Modern can effectively win by turn 4 if untouched and it’s unlikely you are going to have room for meaningful interaction to stall your opponents if you are focused on a fast graveyard-creature-combo. This is especially an issue if you don’t immediately win the game when you cast this sorcery. For example, you might gain infinite life and then get killed by an Inkmoth Nexus or have your board cleared and lose to Jace, Teferi, or Karn. If there’s a decent 1/2/3 instant kill in Modern, I’m a lot more interested, but not thrilled to build around filling my graveyard instead of getting to use Collected Company and Chord of Calling.
Here are the rest of the notes I had while going through the cards revealed so far. Maybe they cause you to spark an interesting idea!
Emmara, Soul of the Accord + Intruder Alarm + X for infinite lifelink tokens (Heritage Druid works)
Ral, Izzet Viceroy or Expansion // Explosion in Storm sideboard. All three abilities on Ral work nicely for the deck postboard and you can play it early with rituals. Expansion can function as a counterspell in a counterwar, or let you double up on any of your spells. If you have a ton of mana with nothing to do, can Explosion to draw a bunch of cards
Firemind’s Research - strong in a control mirror, but seems too mana intensive and better options exist like Search for Azcanta
Chemister’s Insight - Hieroglyphic Illumination is seeing play now! The ability to cycle is too important, though
Invert // Invent - Could be relevant if more 0/Xs start to see play, like back when Spellskite was popular and decks like Pod played a pile of mana creatures. Competes with Twisted Image
Which cards from Guilds of Ravnica do you think are viable in Modern? Did I overlook something in my analysis? Let me know in the comments!