Did you miss part 1? Don’t lose faith! You can find it here.
Most of the options to replace Faithless Looting we looked at last time were instant or sorcery spells, with a couple of exceptions. As it turns out, there are a lot of low-cost creatures that can help fill the graveyard, too.
Like last time we’ll be looking specifically at discard effects, rather than cards that can mill us, like Stitcher’s Supplier. These aren’t necessarily the best options out there, but they’re each notable in their own way.
These burly bodies make you discard a card as an additional cost to cast them, or make you do so when they enter the battlefield. Either way, these creatures generally look like a bad deal on the surface; you’re already down a card as soon as they hit play! That said, deck builders everywhere will tell you that a card’s drawback is sometimes its greatest strength.
Bloodrage Brawler, Pale Rider of Trostad
Do you want a large two-mana creature but don’t mind discarding one of your cards to get one? Bloodrage Brawler and Pale Rider of Trostad provide just that. They’re weak to removal spells, but if you’re getting value out of discarding a card anyway, that might not be so bad. I’d like them more if they had at least 4 toughness (to protect them from Lightning Bolt), but even still they’re sizable threats for the early game. Pale Rider even has a limited form of evasion with Skulk, helping it attack past creatures like Tarmogoyf and Gurmag Angler.
Without discard or graveyard synergies I probably wouldn’t bother with either of these creatures, but if you want cards in your bin, getting a big creature as part of the deal seems decent.
This pinging creature from Modern Horizons is no slouch, either. As one of the only artifact creatures ever to have Persist, Lesser Masticore is probably better suited for a deck with Steel Overseer and Arcbound Ravager, but a colourless way to discard a card is intriguing in its own right, since it opens up possibilities in colours that would otherwise struggle to find this effect.
That said, the Masticore is fairly low on my list as far as discard effects are concerned. Yes, it’s more resilient than a Pale Rider of Trostad, and its activated ability is a decent mana sink if you need one, but it’s a very low-impact creature most of the time. a 2/2 body isn’t going to turn many heads, even with all of its other abilities, and if the colours allow it, you’re probably better off with a different card.
If we’re discarding a card, why not make everyone else do the same? I’m not convinced that this Pox-like creature is what most decks are after, but Miasmic Mummy is technically a way to discard a card. Against the right decks it still could be useful, since it can still advance your game plan while also disrupting your opponent, and it’s probably better than hitting yourself with your own Thoughtseize if you can help it.
While Miasmic Mummy doesn’t look like the best discard creature, it actually does have a few things going for it. For one, it’s an interesting target for flicker spells like Ephemerate. It could also fit in nicely into a shell with other hand-disruption creatures, like Kitesail Freebooter and Tidehollow Sculler. Those decks might not want another two-mana creature, but the Mummy does have the advantage of never giving the opponent’s card back if it leaves play. Mind you, unless you also want to be discarding a card, Yarok’s Fenlurker might beat out the Miasmic Mummy for a slot in that deck.
Champion of Wits
Do you remember the imfamous Naga Wizard from Hour of Devastation? It was a card advantage machine alongside The Scarab God and God-Pharaoh’s Gift, though I’m surprised that it’s never made the jump to Modern. Three mana is a bit much on the front end for a 2/1, and its Eternalize cost is prohibitive, but in a world of Aether Vials and other ways to cheat out creatures, surely there’s a way to make use of Champion of Wits. I’d love to see her get buffed with Mutagenic Growth or blinked with Ephemerate to draw even more cards. If Wizard Tribal ever becomes a thing in Modern, I also feel like the Naga would have a home in that deck, too.
The general impression seems to be that this rare from Modern Horizons is a let-down, but I can’t help but feel it has potential. A 3/4 flier is impressive for three mana, especially in blue. Moreover, the Bazaar of Baghdad trigger when he enters play is nothing to sneeze at. Yes, you end up down a card overall, but it provides a lot of card selection for no additional mana. And that’s not even taking into account graveyard synergies or flicker effects, like we saw with Champion of Wits. Doss it take the place of Faithless Looting? Well, no, not directly, but it can certainly enable a lot of the same graveyard-related nonsense.
At first, Trademage looks like it’s competing with Vendilion Clique for deck slots, insofar as they’re both three-mana fliers, but the comparison really stops there. Trademage is easier to cast in a three-colour deck, and is a lot more resilient; it can block most creatures, and a single Lightning Bolt alone can’t kill it. I could see the Trademage fitting into a midrange strategy, possibly Sultai (green, blue and black), where its large body and graveyard-enabling both come into play. Meanwhile, Clique fits well into most control decks, since it has Flash and a way to disrupt the opponent’s hand. Its low toughness is also mitigated by a typical control deck’s abundance of counter-magic. Trademage isn’t strictly better or worse than the Clique, it just needs the right deck to benefit from its abilities. We haven’t really seen that in Modern, so it doesn’t have a home yet.
Interesingly enough, Trademage is also a Wizard. I’m just saying….
Speaking of efficient creatures for their mana cost, how about an undead dinosaur? You get 7/6 for only three mana! Surely there’s a catch, you say. Well, the downside is that you have to discard a card every upkeep. Unlike a lot of old demons, if you can’t pay the cost each upkeep for Rotting Regisaur you don’t need to worry. You get to keep your massive zombie dinosaur in play regardless of whether you can feed it a card, and it won’t even deal damage to you as punishment.
Honestly? As far as drawbacks go that’s pretty good; discarding a Dredge card every turn, or powering out a Madness spell is really useful. The fact that this 7/6 is a legal target to reanimate with Unearth is also a bit scary; sure it might eat a removal spell along the way, but if it doesn’t it’ll dominate the battlefield.
Rather than discarding cards when your creatures tell you, why not be the one calling the shots? Discard cards when YOU want to with these activated abilities. Some restrictions apply. See cards for details.
An ever-growing, regenerating, trampling threat that also serves as a way to fill your graveyard? It’s not all that surprising that Lotleth Troll is seeing fringe play in Modern; it’s got a lot going on for a two-mana creature. The only real downsides to the Loli Troll are its restrictive colours and the fact that it can’t discard noncreature cards. Depending on the deck, that just won’t work. For most midrange decks with a graveyard-based gameplan, though, this Golgari brute is worth considering.
It’s hard not to compare this Troll to Grim Flayer; for the same cost you get a way to filter your draws that grows on its own without the need to pitch your hand. Lotleth Troll does look better in a metagame full of graveyard hate, and the fact that it can regenerate is nothing to dismiss, but the Grim Flayer does seem to outclass it in most scenarios.
Need to discard cards but aren’t in black or red? Noose Constrictor is here to lend a hand. Or, it would lend one if it had hands. Because it’s a snake, you see. But not one of those four-armed Kamigawa snakes…. Look, it’s a creature that you can use to discard all sorts of cards, like a Modern Wild Mongrel. It can’t protect itself the way the Mongrel could from frequently used removal spells, but it does have Reach, so if Spirits gets popular again that would be handy… er… useful.
Zombie Hunt is a tried-and-true budget deck, running nothing but lands, Treasure Hunt and Zombie Infestation. It’s wacky, and very all-in. That said, this enchantment could find a home in other decks that are trying to fill their graveyards. It’s unconventional, and a deck like Dredge would much rather have more ways of drawing cards for its discard outlets. Still, in a world with Narset, Parter of Veils preventing players from drawing extra cards, having an alternative payoff for discarding is worth considering.
Other enchantments, like Call the Bloodline or Peace of Mind, might also be alright to test. Zombie Infestation seems better than them, though, since it’s always preferable to discard cards without needing to paying additional mana to do it.
What’s better than a Pack Rat? How about two? Four? At first glance the mana cost of the Rat’s ability looks like it would make this creature worse than a card like Call the Bloodline, but because it makes a copy of itself it’s significantly more durable. This creature was a nigh unkillable nuisance during its time in Standard, solidifying Mono-Black as one of the the decks to beat. It was able to effectively dodge targeted removal, and act as an immortal blocker with each activation. With enough cards and mana it could even take over the battlefield. Pairing the Rat with discard and graveyard synergies seems like a natural fit, although it’s a bit mana-intensive to use. Any deck looking to get a combo off quickly wouldn’t benefit from Pack Rat, but slower, grindier decks would.
Providing repeatable discard for a single white mana, Stern Constable has the potential to be a useful addition to any deck looking to fill its graveyard and control the board. I don’t expect most decks the run him over Insolent Neonate, but if you’re looking for other creature-based options, the Constable is one of the cheapest options out there. It’s also one of the best discard outlets in white, if colour is a concern. Just remember that he can always target himself if all you need to do is toss a card into your graveyard!
Green discard effects are generally hard to come by in Modern. Short of Noose Constrictor, Vivien’s Arkbow and Fauna Shaman, that’s about it. Llanowar Mentor rounds out this modest crew, but is arguably one of the better options; he turns any card into a copy of Llanowar Elves, providing both mana ramp and blockers; that’s not too shabby while you’re trying to set up your graveyard nonsense.
Fauna Shaman is a whole lot better than the Mentor, so long as you’re happy only discarding creature cards. That said, at two mana it’s a lot slower to get going. Granted, it can also help set up a combos, like discarding Trostani’s Summoner to search for Vesperlark, but you won’t be activating it until turn 3. For Modern that may as well be an eternity; Tron will almost certainly have a massive threat in play by then, and Burn will have you teetering on the verge of death. Still, the Shaman is legitimately powerful, and if you’re able to activate her at least once you’re probably going to do really well in that game.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Are you still looking for another way to discard your cards? Do you feel like I’ve missed some glaringly obvious choices? Have no fear, I haven’t forgotten them… well, I probably haven’t anyway. That is to say, please join me next time for the third and final installment of A World Without the Faithless.