Strixhaven Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Force of Negation is the Most Important Card in Modern


It's pretty funny now that people were mockingly calling Modern Horizons "Commander Horizons" in an attempt to make fun of Wizards of the Coast for making a Modern set with so few playable Modern cards in it; Magic players are notoriously awful at evaluating new cards. But even after Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis being banned, Urza, Lord High Artificer crafting an entirely new archetype, and Wrenn and Six completely wrecking Legacy, there's one card whose effect we are going to be feeling for a very long time.

Force of Negation

Force of Negation is one of the most important cards in Modern, full stop.

With Faithless Looting finally banned and graveyard decks no longer putting things into play for free over and over again, decks in Modern for the most part are actually playing Magic again. There's a wide variety of broken things one can do in Modern and most them involve casting non-creature spells. For the ones that want to cast creature spells, traditional removal will usually be fine in those spots regardless.

Force of Negation puts a hard stop to most of the shenanigans that unfair decks can do, while also doing so as early as turn one and while allowing you to develop your board. It's not like we haven't seen this before as Force of Will is the most important card in Legacy, but Force of Negation was little hard to use at first because of all the graveyard decks. It also wasn't entirely clear exactly which decks wanted Force of Negation, but it's starting to look like "any deck with Blue cards in it."

The most obvious place for Force of Negation is control decks, which have been coming in many varieties.

In traditional control decks, Force of Negation keeps you safe on those crucial early turns, where staying alive is more important than card advantage. You're happy to go down a card if it ensures that turn three Karn Liberated or Neoform doesn't resolve because you know you'll get it back later. Force of Negation can also allow you to tap out safely for a planeswalker like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, knowing you can defend yourself so you can untap. Lastly a control deck is also fine just hard casting Force of Negation in the mid to late game, when mana efficiency is no longer important and Cancel frankly isn't that bad.

Look, if Force of Negation can make career Tier 4 deck Mono-Blue Tron able to go 9-0 in the tough competition of a Magic Online PTQ, that's quite the showing. Force of Negation can help decks that are powerful but a turn too slow help turn the corner and get that extra turn back so they can do their thing. I don't know if this deck is good or not, but with the format swinging more fair I'm very interested to try it. Again we also see the allure of being able to tap out for something nice with Force of Negation backup.

Which leads us to the real beneficiary of Force of Negation: tempo and midrange decks.

While the list is a bit unorthodox (FOUR Spell Snare!) Stoneforge Mystic is a clear compliment to Force of Negation. In a deck full of counterspells in a format as hostile as Modern it can be difficult to tap out on turn two, especially on the draw, but Force of Negation lets you feel very safe about doing so. In a deck full of threats Force of Negation operates even better, especially with hard to remove ones like planeswalkers.

More threats, same idea. Force of Negation is going to need to make us reevaluate how we think of threats in Modern, as cards like Geist of Saint Traft that are very powerful but often too risky to cast on turn three get a whole lot better in conjunction with free countermagic. A deck like this looks more like a Legacy deck than a Modern deck, which is something we're going to need to get used to.

It really is impressive what kind of fair decks Force of Negation can prop up, as you can build a deck that is good in fair matchups but also have decent unfair matchups almost directly because of it. This is often the crux of deck-building in Modern; you can build a deck with good fair matchups or good unfair matchups, but it's hard to do both. Force of Negation lets you focus more on your fair matchups.

The biggest difference between Force of Negation and Force of Will is that you can't use it to defend your own combos, a great design because it almost forces it to be a fair card. However, that doesn't mean Force of Negation isn't good in combo decks. In a deck like Jeskai Saheeli, using Force of Negation to defend yourself after you resolve your early planewalkers can bridge you easily into untapping safely and setting up your combo. Force of Negation also plays very well with Teferi, Time Raveler, as if you can defend it properly that one turn and get to untap, now your opponent can't interact with you.

Wait I thought you said you couldn't defend your combo with Force of Negation? Well, if you can find a way to combo on your opponent's turn you can! Using Violent Outburst to Living End on your opponent's turn is a great way to do this, and Force of Negation brings an element of interaction to Living End that it's never had before. You get a great interactive card you can cast as early as turn one, without breaking the deck-building restriction of playing cards that cost less than three. You even have tons of bad Blue cards to pitch! This deck really impressed me on stream this week.

Even if you're not defending a combo exactly, having a free piece of interaction available to your aggressive synergy deck is an amazing option. You aren't going to want such interaction in the maindeck of a deck like Dredgevine, but with all the random Blue cards it becomes a phenomenal sideboard option. Anytime you can interact and still execute your own plan you are going to be very happy in Modern, and it can even tag hate cards like Rest In Peace!

We've Been Here Before

Soon enough we will realize that Force of Negation is going to be much closer to Force of Will than we thought. It has many similar features and play patterns, while doing a lot to help prop up fair decks of all types. Put simply, Force of Negation must be respected. Yes, it is card disadvantage and you can feel that in fair matchups sometimes, but as long as Modern is, well... Modern, Force of Negation is going to have a serious role.

Primeval Titan
Goblin Ringleader
Urza, Lord High Artificer

However unlike Force of Will, Force of Negation does have a blind spot. This means that we can build our decks with Force of Negation in mind. Engine cards that are creatures go up in value significantly; if your combo piece can't be counter by Force of Negation that's a great plus. Card advantage engine creatures like Goblin Ringleader and Tireless Tracker also start looking quite nice too.

Whether you plan to beat em or join em, if you're going to play Modern make sure you understand Force of Negation's role in the new format!

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