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War of the Spark: Modern Standouts

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A few weeks back, we went over some of the Standard cards from War of the Spark that stood out to me. The entire set hadn't been revealed yet at the time, so I had to go with what was available to me. Now that the entire set has been unveiled, however, I'd like to go over some of the cards in War of the Spark that show the most potential for the Modern format!

Ashiok, Dream Render

Ashiok, Dream Render

For those who catch my stream, you likely know that Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is one of my favorite planeswalkers and cards to draft in Cube. The card is just so powerful for a three-mana planeswalker, with a +2 ability, a quick clock, and a way to essentially steal your opponent's creatures.

Well, Ashiok, Dream Render from War of the Spark is completely different, but may actually see more Modern play than its Theros counterpart. It's an uncommon planeswalker, so only one activated ability, but it also has a static ability, so... kind of two abilities? Being able to prevent your opponents from searching their libraries is a pretty big game. Think of things like every fetch land, Primeval Titan, their own Field of Ruin, Scapeshift, Whir of Invention... Okay, so the big one on this list is fetch lands. Can you imagine playing an Ashiok on turn three and shutting off all future fetch lands your opponents draw? That seems crazy.

Additionally, the second ability is also pretty Modern-centric, with a repeatable way to exile the opponent's graveyard, over and over again. Not only that, but you're milling them for four each time, potentially hitting and exiling cards like Arclight Phoenix or Faithless Looting. Even if you're not, graveyards are so relevant in Modern, that shrinking Tarmogoyfs, removing their ability to delve, or single-handedly neutering archetypes like Dredge should be huge.

Keep in mind that ub Mill is already a fringe archetype in Modern, and it heavily values tools that can maximize the number of cards they're able to mill, like Glimpse the Unthinkable and Archive Trap. Well, Ashiok, Dream Render has the potential to mill an insane 20 in total, while also ensuring that none of them are able to be used against you in later turns.

Cruel Celebrant

Cruel Celebrant

This is just a boring, uncommon creature, but it's a pretty good one. While I don't think the "planeswalker" inclusion will be super relevant, this is still another Blood Artist type of effect for the aristocrat decks that may be looking for that. I played two of such decks in the past couple month, one Abzan and one Mardu, and this is a nice addition to the archetype. I'm not sure what you'd cut, or how many of this effect you want over the eight we have access to currently, but being a 1/2 that also triggers off of tokens means that this is hitting all the right boxes. The only thing is doesn't do is trigger when an opponent's creature dies, but as we've seen with Zulaport Cutthroat, maybe that's simply not an option nowadays.

Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage

Davriel, Rogue Shadow Mage

I feel like it's pretty obvious that this is going straight into 8-Rack. It does the two things that the deck wants: makes the opponent discard cards, and allows you to play 12 Racks! I don't have anything exciting to add about this card; I just felt like I would be remiss not to include it!

Despark

Despark

This is a solid removal spell that may seem narrow, but is poised to be very good. I want you to think about all of the most common permanents in Modern. I'll wait...

If you're like me, you thought of things like Primeval Titan, Gurmag Angler, Arclight Phoenix, Griselbrand, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Bloodbraid Elf, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. There's likely more, but I think this is a good starting point to get my, uh, point across. This isn't a four-of or anything, but I could see one or two being played to exile with problematic permanents at a very good rate.

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar

Ilharg, the Raze-Boar

I mean, this one I'm kind of iffy on in Modern - in Standard it's clearly going to be a beast - but the application of this being Through the Breach numbers five through eight is at least worth noting. This also dodges some of the most common Modern removal, such as Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push, Dismember, and Abrupt Decay. While you won't get the annihilator trigger off of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, you'll still be attacking with 15 power in the air, and the Emrakul will go back to your hand afterward, to attack again if your opponent happens to survive.

Combined with some Simian Spirit Guides and rituals, if we can find a way to give the ol' Raze-Boar haste, I think we have the makings of a pretty threatening strategy.

Karn, the Great Creator

Karn, the Great Creator

Just like Ashiok, Karn, the Great Creator has a built in way to nerf popular Modern strategies, only instead of graveyard and searching, he has a built in Stony Silence that only affects your opponents.

His +1 is pretty interesting in that it's not usually an effect that we're very excited about, but I think in this case there's a lot of potential to use it on things like Ichor Wellspring and such, which end up letting us protect Karn while also giving us a way to get the cantrip artifacts into our graveyard (presuming they either block or are destroyed).

His -2 being able to essentially draw a card from your sideboard that you may need is great, especially because you can use it twice before you need to start ticking up. This means that you can now keep a copy of Ensnaring Bridge in your sideboard to find with Karn at a future point (I'm not sure anyone is going to do that) or grab a timely copy of Engineered Explosives. And your options surely don't end there.

Karn being a four-mana planeswalker that can draw you cards, protect itself provided you have artifacts, shut off opposing artifacts, and tick up to six loyalty the turn it enters the battlefield are all solid indications that it should find a home in Modern.

Teyo, the Shieldmage

Teyo, the Shieldmage

Truth be told, I think this is a pretty weak planeswalker, but it might just be good enough against Burn. For 3 mana, you have a couple of options. Either you can play him to give yourself hexproof, forcing the opponent to use two spells to kill it, which isn't a terrible deal. Or you can -2 him to make an 0/3 to block, forcing your opponent to only have to use a single burn spell on him, but also a burn spell on the wall. Either way, this seems like it will often be a two-for-one that forces your opponent to deal with it before burning your face, and making them essentially "discard" two burn spells is a pretty big deal.

Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge

Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge

Various Tezzeret incarnations have found homes in Modern, and I think this one isn't really much different. The interesting thing about this one is that his +2 ability is almost the same as Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas's -4 ability. It's halved, but it's still a +2 ability rather than a -4 ability, which is huge. I mean, looking at the card now, every ability is relevant.

The static ability to give both your creatures and your planeswalkers affinity for artifacts is really powerful, especially if you're playing a bunch of durdley artifacts, like the aforementioned Ichor Wellspring.

Being able to return any artifact from your graveyard to your hand for -3 is also just fine. This might be the most unimpressive ability, and I think that says something.

Finally, the -8 lets you look at the top ten cards of your library and put every single artifact among them onto the battlefield. That could be a lot of value, especially if we're talking about things like Sundering Titans and Wurmcoil Engines. I don't know what kind of a shell Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge might fit into, especially considering he costs 6 mana in Modern, but I could easily see two or three of his +2 activations winning the game with the way artifact decks in Modern play out. I'm just crossing my fingers that this isn't a new win condition for Lantern Control (it will be).

Tyrant's Scorn

Tyrant's Scorn

There was a time when Smother ruled the roost. Since then, we've had better removal spells come to pass, like Fatal Push and Dismember, but I think Tyrant's Scorn could find a place among them. While it's not strictly better than Smother, due to its more prohibitive casting cost, it is a Smother with upside. If you can't kill the creature, because its casting cast falls more in line with a card like Despark, you can still bounce it to the opponent's hand. While I don't think this is going to take the place of a card like Fatal Push, it is a versatile tool to have in the format that can even bounce something like our own Snapcaster Mage.

Well, these are the cards that stand out to me for some of their Modern applications, and as usual, I'm eager to hear what you folks think! I Let me know if I've hit the nail on the head with some of these, or if you think I'm just dead wrong. Thanks again for reading as always, have a blast at your Prereleases this weekend, and I'll catch you next week!

Frank Lepore

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