The good news is we recorded a episode 137 of Card Knock Life Podcast recapping our ten favorite newcomers to Modern this year. The bad news; the audio is completely unlistenable. We’ll spare you the frustration of trying to hear through pops and squeaks from Corey’s microphone and please accept this list as an acceptable alternative. Happy New Year!
Before we start, let me share this month’s Manatraders.com promo code with you. The code “cardknocklife_05m8” will get you 15% off your first three months at check out. Use it to rent MTGO cards as singles or buy the entire deck. Its a great way to test new archetypes that you do not yet own, practice for tournaments, or satisfy your need to change decks like “a girl changes clothes” (thank you Katy Perry).
2018 in Review
I’d say this was a good year for Modern Magic. To start this process, I put together a list of every card from the last 365 days that has seen some amount of Modern play, even if just fringe use in a sideboard. I came up with about 50 cards. This does not include reprints, of course, and our selections were drawn from the following sets:
- Rivals of Ixalan (Jan 2018)
- Dominaria (April 2018)
- Core Set 2019 (July 2018)
- Guilds of Ravnica (Oct 2018)
Amongst those releases, there were a number of cards that were said to have “Modern-breaking potential” but didn’t necessarily live up to the hype…
Who knows!? We may be looking back at this in five years and saying, “remember when Mox Amber was just $5?”
As for the cards that DID make waves in Modern, their impact was huge. When some of them came to us in spoiler season, their potential was overt (*cough cough* Assassin’s Trophy). Others, we’ll admit, were not so apparent at first glance. This is precisely what makes Magic so amazing. This game is so complex that we cannot truly evaluate a card without sleeving it up in a deck and giving it a go. With this in mind, there must be some unexplored territory in 2018 releases that will one day appear in Modern tier decks.
*Card choices will be explained as they appear in their highest position on the list. If you don’t see a picture and description, keep reading. This means someone else ranked it higher.
Corey’s #10: Sai, Master Thopterist
Darrel’s #10: Dire Fleet Daredevil
This was one of those cards that was met with major Modern hype when it was spoiled. Though it didn’t exactly live up to its potential as the “second coming of Snapcaster Mage“, it certainly has seen some amount of play in Humans and Grixis sideboards and RW Hatebears main decks. Its completely acceptable to cast Daredevil for two as its ETB ability will exile whatever is targeted. This is useful in getting rid of opposing Life From the Loam, Conflagrate, and especially, Faithless Looting. With Aether Vial in play with two counters, your mana is not committed to the casting cost of this creature and can naturally be used to flashback your opponent’s removal spell for a major card advantage play. Additionally, the 2/1 first strike body is perfectly sized to block aggressive creatures, crush Snapcasters, and trade with Thalias of all types.
Corey’s #9: Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Shalai just fills so many needs for creature decks like Vizier Combo its hard not to see its Modern potential. Its body is sized to avoid Lightning Bolt, require a revolted Fatal Push, and block most of the flying creatures in the format. Beyond that, hexproof to your creatures and dome is vital when you’re trying to keep things alive to assemble a combo. Though this creature is out of Collected Company range, finding it at instant speed with Chord of Calling is not out of the question and boy, does that feel good when your opponent has just resolved Scapeshift!
Oh, and one more thing! Shalai provides a win condition for your infinite mana provided by Devoted Druid or a plan B when you draw nothing but mana dorks.
Darrel’s #9: Sai, Master Thopterist
Sai provides a valuable graveyard-free win alternative for decks like KCI and Grixis Whir that requires a very different response than a Stony Silence or Rest in Peace plan. For KCI, more creatures translates to more mana. Sai is an incredibly powerful and versatile engine that will likely remain a staple for artifact decks in the format.
Corey’s #8: Damping Sphere
Darrel’s #8: Unmoored Ego
Unmoored Ego is basically the perfect answer to the problems that UBx Control decks dread most. Big mana strategies like Tron and Scapeshift have historically been miserable match-ups but Ego provides an opportunity to surgically remove vital lands from an opponent’s deck entirely on its own. The closest we’ve come to this is Ghost Quarter plus Surgical Extraction. Always effective, not nearly reliable enough. Ego packs this powerful combo in a single card. If Grixis and Esper Control styles make a comeback, keep an eye out for this powerful sideboard piece.
Corey’s #7: Stitcher’s Supplier
This guy single-handedly sparked the return of Vengevine decks in Modern and, for about a month this year, ran rampant along with along with other one and zero-cmc friends enabling Vengevine and Bridge from Below shenanigans just seconds into the start of a game. Though current iterations of Dredge have seemingly supplaced this deck’s foothold in the meta, Supplier is a very powerful enabler for such strategies and is sure to return one day to fill an important role as a set-up man for graveyard decks’ explosive starts.
Darrel’s #7: Knight of Autumn
Corey’s #6: Knight of Autumn
Knight of Autumn entered the format and almost completely replaced long time staples Reclamation Sage and Qasali Pridemage. The presence of the ‘best of one’ structure in the competitive circuit on MTG Arena has surely pushed design to include more options in a single card to allow for players to seek outs to more specialized problems without diluting their decks with archetype-specific hate. This surely will effect Modern where players long for more space in their sideboards to combat a very diverse meta. Knight provides valuable answers to some of the most played Modern archetypes OR a sizable beater when those answers are not needed. At three mana, it is perfectly sized to be put into play using green deck all-stars Collected Company or Chord of Calling.
Darrel’s #6: Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Ral is quickly becoming a staple for Control and Tempo decks that lack access to ‘destroy target creature’ effects. Beyond the obvious ‘1.5 card’ advantage that Ral provides with his +1, its ability to destroy Tarmogoyf for -3 is very appealing. If you’re lucky enough to ‘ult’ this walker, the game is as good as done.
Corey’s #5: Assassin’s Trophy
Darrel’s #5: Assassin’s Trophy
Though Trophy does not completely replace GBx staples like Maelstrom Pulse and Abrupt Decay due to the land it provides to your opponent and ability to be countered, its power is not to be ignored. In fact, Trophy has sparked a resurgence in GBx decks, especially GB Rock and plays an important role in many different sideboards throughout the meta based on its ability to deal with an incredibly wide variety of problem permanents. Decks like Counters Company are particularly interested in this card’s ability to represent multiple sideboard pieces in one slot. As an alternative to Path to Exile AND Abrupt Decay, Trophy can deal with ‘all of the above’ to leave room for more toolbox creatures in the fifteen.
Corey’s #4: Arclight Phoenix
Darrel’s #4: Damping Sphere
Continuing on the theme of including more answers in just fifteen sideboard cards, Damping Sphere provides an incredibly accessible set of disruptions for some of the most common archetypes in Modern. It will never shut down Tron or Amulet decks entirely, but can do just enough to slow them down to provide you time to win before they are able to cast a haymaker. The other half of this card is obviously great against Storm, which is not merely a deck, but a concept present in many strategies in the Modern field; Gifts Storm, Izzet Phoenix, Vengevine, Cheerios.
The fact that this card is not played as an auto-include in every Storm and Tron-fearing sideboard is a testament to good design. Its mere existence serves as a pressure control valve for the format and not respecting it when an opponent COULD board it in for game two and three would lead to a sorely unprepared opponent longing for their Nature’s Claims and Echoing Truth.
Corey’s #3: Supreme Phantom
Though Caleb Durward championed the Bant Spirits archetype long before the printing of Core Set 2019 (including a few strong finishes with the deck), Supreme Phantom was the shot in the arm that boosted Spirits to its hold in the tier one. The card is simple and, in a vacuum, very reasonable. Following a turn-one Mausoleum Wanderer with a two-mana lord is where things start to feel…unreasonable. Phantom provides so much more than stat points in the Spirits deck as it can protect other creatures from removal when it is cast at instant speed via Rattlechains or Aether Vial. and pump a Wanderer by two to allow for a Mana Leak effect for your opponent’s combo piece.
Darrel’s #3: Teferi, Hero Of Dominaria
Corey’s #2: Creeping Chill
Darrel’s #2: Arclight Phoenix
Not much to say here. Phoenix’s impact is being felt in a big way right now as Izzet Phoenix has become the ‘most successful’ deck in Modern based on finishes since November. We certainly didn’t see this card as the Modern all-star that it has become during spoiler season, but after being attacked to death by it repeatedly, we’ll concede that we missed one.
Corey’s #1: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that this card is the single most powerful thing in Modern. And yes, I am aware that we do egregious things in this format (Emrakul, Ugin, etc), but after it provides card advantage and mana for a few turns, Teferi is able to deal with nearly any other non-land permanent without blinking an eye.
Can anyone even remember what Modern control was like prior to 2018? And if you go back a couple of months, Search for Azcanta and Field of Ruin wasn’t part of the format, either. Things will never be the same. Tef does everything that a control player wants in order find answers for the opposition and serves as a win condition when its all said and done.
Darrel’s #1: Creeping Chill
Dredge was once the most feared deck in Modern so when anything new is printed for the archetype, the reaction to it is fast and strong. This was no different when Creeping Chill began appearing in Dredge decks. The entire format shifted to make room for sideboard pieces committed to beating dredge. In some cases, maindecks began packing Dredge hate like Relic of Progenitus, Remorseful Cleric, and Rest in Peace.
The most unbelievable thing about Chill is that its primary use in Dredge is incredibly hard to interact with. It could say, “when Creeping Chill is put into your graveyard from your library, you may cast it without paying its mana cost“. But no, that would allow your opponent to counter the damn thing. Instead, let’s just swing life totals by six and hope that we might find the other three so that you’ll only need to be bothered with eight points of damage this game. #NotBitter
There you have it! The 10 best Modern cards of 2018. We’d say we saw some major shifts in the format this year due to these newcomers and we’re certainly looking forward to what 2019 has to offer. We’ll just leave this here…