Modern Musings: Exciting Cards From Amonkhet Michael Shapiro May 1, 2017 Modern Musings 3 Amonkhet is here, and that means it’s brewing season! In this article I’m going to go over what I think are the some of the key new cards for modern, what decks they might slot into, and how big of an impact I think they’ll make in the format. While the effect of Amonkhet on standard is unclear, it could dramatically reshape modern with multiple new combos and hate cards poised to shake up the format, so let’s get into it! Let’s start with the big red grizzly bear in the room: This card seems bonkers. The first thing to note is that this effect is not symmetrical, which is incredibly important when considering that it hits fetch-lands. Which of course means that every time your opponent cracks one of their fetches they take a Lightning Bolt to the face, punishing them further if they get a shock land. Harsh Mentor also incidentally hits a lot of other decks as well. How often you might ask? Take a look at the number of cards in some of the top decks that trigger Harsh Mentor: Affinity: 21 cards G/R Tron: 17 cards Eldrazi Tron: 16 cards Death’s Shadow: 16 cards Grixis Control: 12 cards Jund: 12 cards Valakut: 11 cards I could go on, but you get the idea, Harsh Mentor hits enough cards in modern to be a problem if it stays on the board too long. It should also be noted that a number of decks like lantern control simply get hosed by this card if they can’t deal with it. The downside of a card like this is the later it’s drawn, the less effective it will be. Strong as a turn 2 or turn 3 play, but not as much on turn 7. The reason for this is that the most likely reason this will trigger will be fetchlands. Another downside is that sometimes the 2 damage might not matter, Cranial Plating is a good example of this, they’ll take 2 damage to equip it, but you’ll still take a bazillion when they attack with it. I expect to see zoo decks and sun and moon slot this into their main deck and it might even be good enough that we get to see some kind of new red/white or naya hate bears deck. A final note on Harsh Mentor is that while this card has some good hosing potential, it is much easier to play around than Eidolon of the Great Revel. It is not guaranteed to always deal its damage as your opponent can choose not to activate their abilities until they remove it. I’m not sure if that will be a big enough deal to keep this card confined to sideboards or not, time and playtesting will tell. Regardless I still think this gives red decks an efficient answer to decks that they might not have had answers to before, like Abzan Company. Next on our list is Gideon of the Trials: Mana Cost: 3 mana planeswalker. 3 mana is not a lot to pay for a planeswalker and every single one has been playable in standard. In modern, 3 mana for a planeswalker is not necessarily an automatic home run like it is for its cousin format. In modern the abilities need to reach a certain threshold power-level wise for them to be playable. First ability: This ability protects himself, the litmus test for a good planeswalker. It should be noted that the ability reads “permanent”. This can help protect him against rival planeswalkers, vehicles, or even manlands. Oh yeah, it upticks his loyalty by 1 as well and is the only one of his abilities that actually changes his loyalty count at all. Second ability: The standard Gideon turns into a creature and beats down your opponent ability. We’ve seen it before and know it’s good. It should be noted that for modern being a 4/4 means Gideon is bigger than most creatures. Third ability: This is the ability that makes this card exciting for modern. It may not seem like it, but there are a number of decks that actually have a very hard time removing planeswalkers. The existence of this ability alone may warp certain decks, like mill, to start including bounce spells in their mainboard. Gideon, to me, seems to be very, very good. All three of his abilities are strong, but his third ability is so interesting and powerful that it warrants further discussion. Like previously stated, his third ability seems to provide a “free win” against some decks. The most notable deck that comes to mind is Ad Nauseam. The keen observer will notice that Gideon’s Platinum Angel effect is not necessarily a free win against Ad Nauseam. Under the right conditions Ad Nauseam can combo off, draw their deck, kill Gideon with Lightning Storm, then play Laboratory Maniac, draw a card from their empty library and win. However, that means they will probably delay a turn or two to have the mana to pull that off. More importantly though it makes Spoils of the Vault a much more dangerous card to cast, as sending even one of your win conditions into exile pre-board means the game is over. Overall I think Gideon’s main obstacle to seeing play in modern is finding a deck to slot into. Right now it seems like he could potentially go into abzan, though the double white is hard. Sun and Moon seems about the right fit for him, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him there. An esper or U/W control list also seems like it could potentially use him. Glorious End is a sweet red time stop with the relatively minor drawback of losing the game at your next end step after you cast it. The way I see it, there are two ways to play this card: the first way is to just play an aggro or burn deck and just use this as a time walk on your opponent and hope that your extra turn is enough to kill them before you die. The second way to play Glorious End is to cheat the system and not lose the game when it triggers on your end step. The second way to me is a far more interesting and powerful way to play the card. The most prominent ways to cheat death from Glorious End are either to cast Angel’s Grace, activate Sundial of the Infinite with the trigger on the stack, or have a Gideon of the Trials emblem out. Vizier of Remedies plus Devoted Druid is a two-card infinite mana combo. Having only two cards is the hallmark of a good combo usually, but in this case I think it’s a bit overhyped. It would seem that it fulfills the duties of Melira, Sylvok Outcast quite well. I do think since infect has all but fallen off the top tiers, Vizier of Remedies might be a strict upgrade for abzan company decks. But the reason that I think this is over-hyped is the simple fact that Devoted Druid does not have haste. I think this is a bigger deal than people think, as it means unless you Collected Company/Chord of Calling end of turn for it, your opponent not only knows it’s coming, but has a turn to prepare. That being said, when Devoted Druid can tap for mana with Vizier of Remedies on the field, it can’t really be disrupted outside of a split second kill spell. So while this is probably a strict upgrade for abzan company decks, I don’t really expect it to become a much better deck than it already was. The final card I want to talk about today is As Foretold. If you think that this card is similar to Brain in a Jar, you’d be correct. The immediate comparison to Brain in a Jar is pretty accurate, except for two very significant differences: first, you can cast cards without a mana cost with it (e.g. Ancestral Vision) the turn it is cast. Second, it works on the same mana cost for both your turn and on your opponent’s turn. This allows for some very interesting and creative deck-building opportunities for As Foretold. I’m not exactly sure what deck this will go into but I’m excited to see it whatever it is. Honorable mentions: the cycle land cycle (that phrasing makes me amused) and cycling in general. Probably will make an impact in modern as it might revive Loam/Pox decks. The problem is that these decks get hit by a lot of incidental graveyard hate that players already have in their sideboards, in addition, I’m not sure those decks would have enough of a significant upside to be played over Living End. Though I’ll probably test it anyway. Speaking of Living End, seems to be the deck that benefits the most with the addition of more cycling cards and may be improved with Archfiend of Ifnir. That’s all for this week guys! Join me next week as we look at some decklists from the first week of the modern Amonkhet format and I share some spicy brews of my own. 3 Responses Albert townsworth May 1, 2017 Im curious what cards harsh mentor is good against in tron as both chromatic sphere and star are mana abilities. This leaves only maps, o stone, world breaker and ghost quarter. Reply Michael Shapiro May 1, 2017 Ah, thanks for pointing that out, yes that is a mistake, I did forget about the no mana abilities clause when I was counting the tron cards. In addition to the cards you mentioned many tron decks are now running between 1-3 mainboard relic of progenitus. So in all hits about 5-7 fewer cards in tron than I originally said. Reply Mat May 4, 2017 Right? Like the most i can find in any tron list is 10. He must have counted the walkers or something. 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