Modern is about to change drastically, not just because of the high power level of newly printed cards but also due to the number and caliber of reprints that become legal in the format. Sanctum Prelate, Counterspell, Flame Rift, and Titania, Protector of Argoth will surely have an immediate impact but among older cards, the one I am most excited about is without any doubt Shardless Agent.
The whole idea of the cascade all-star coming to Modern has been a rumor for a few years, even considered for the first Modern Horizons set. Until the recent rules change to cascade, it would have been a risky inclusion. But thanks to the new wording, you cannot cascade into Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor anymore. The same goes for split cards like Boom // Bust, therefore making Shardless Agent entrance to Modern a safe move. Probably. Let's look at the applications in Modern's immediate future and possible synergies to unveil its full potential.
Until now, there were only fourteen cards with the cascade ability available in Modern, with Bloodbraid Elf by far the most played and most successful. The other four-mana cascade spells never did much due to their low impact as cards themselves. (Throes of Chaos saw some marginal play in narrow combo shells a while ago.) But the three-mana spells—Ardent Plea, Demonic Dread, and Violent Outburst—have all become Modern staples in different archetypes at various times. The hasty Elf is a pillar in both Jund and Gruul Midrange, as a value tool that offers an aggressive body plus a free spell. Ardent Plea and Violent Outburst are key cards of the Living End deck, an old Modern strategy that even without Simian Spirit Guide continues to put up decent results.
Compared to the aforementioned cards, Shardless Agent checks both boxes: a possible two-for-one value play but also cheap enough to act as an enabler for more unfair plans. Indeed, when brewing new cascade strategies, there are two routes to take. The first would be midrange shells, Simic based, splashing one color to become Temur or Sultai with a lot of card advantage, and second, a combo strategy that uses it to cast otherwise uncastable no-cost payoffs such as the aforementioned Living End. Modern Horizons 2 even features a new cycle of this kind.
To be honest, there are endless possibilities to start brewing with Shardless Agent. Not only do we have previous iterations that were popular a while ago in Legacy, Modern Horizons 2 also brings a ton of new toys to consider. So before showing off any brew, here is a small list of the best cards and interactions to use algonside Shardless Agent:
No-Cost Suspend Cards: the old cycle from Time Spiral, specifically Ancestral Vision, as well as Crashing Footfalls, the new cycle, and to a lesser extent Mox Tantalite and Sol Talisman. The one I am most interested in is Inevitable Betrayal in the sideboard against Through the Breach decks and Tron to steal either Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, respectively.
Two-Mana All-Stars: Ice-Fang Coatl works well in the same colors, while hitting Stoneforge Mystic is a nice deal if we want to go Bant Midrange. Wrenn and Six works well in a Temur value shell and finally, See the Truth is an interesting one. If played with cascade, it draws three cards, while it is better than Ancestral Vision when you have to cast it without.
Blue Cards: Jace, the Mind Sculptor's second ability rearranges the top of the library to set up cascade. Meanwhile, you can protect yourself via Force of Negation without any danger of cascading into it.
More Modern Horizons 2 Additions: Sadly, Counterspell and the Agent don't fit into the same deck. However, there are new cards from the set that do like Fire // Ice since cascade won't hit it, Bloodbraid Marauder for double cascade with delirium, or off-color cards like Flame Rift and Sudden Edict. Finally, Brainstone and Agent get along well either if you play the artifact first to set up the cascade or if you naturally cascade into it.
The first list I want to show you comes from a good friend of mine who started brewing the moment Shardless Agent became spoiled. Let's call it Four-Color Cascade Pile. It packs the three best cascade outlets in the format combined with ten no-cost suspend spells for maximum value and what's most spicy, two of the new Elemental evoke creatures in the shape of Grief and Subtlety:
|Four-Color Cascade Pile by Colomino|
There are a ton of synergies between new and old cards. Within the creature suite, Bloodbraid Elf can cascade into Agent for maximum value, while Grim Flayer messes with the top of the library to improve the cascade effects. Grief and Subtlety's evoke costs of exiling a card can be mitigated by Ancestral Vision, and you can bring them back to hand thanks to Rise // Fall, an amazing choice to cascade into that either disrupts the opponent's hand or rebuys our cascade outlets. Finally, Profane Tutor proves an interesting inclusion that becomes even more relevant in post-sideboard games. You can also add Living End then as a surprise plan for creature matchups, wiping the board and bringing your Elementals back into play.
You can export this idea into other shells, by removing or adding colors. Temur is another fine choice, including more countermagic and Adventure creatures that effectively give us two-mana interaction that Shardless Agent won't cascade into. The following list comes from the famous Modern streamer Aspiringspike:
|Temur Cascade by Aspiringspike|
But what if we go five colors? Domain is another ability that has just received some reinforcements in Modern Horizons 2. Here, we can take advantage of ramping into Shardless Agent on turn two, thanks to Noble Hierarch and its new friend Ignoble Hierarch. At least that is what Devon O'Donnell, also known as d00mwake on Magic Online, started brewing:
|Domain Zoo by d00mwake|
I cannot wait to try out this list. Besides the new mana dork, Territorial Kavu will most often be a 5/5 that smooths your draws while being a graveyard hoser all in one card. Then, at the three-mana mark, we find General Ferrous Rokiric, immune to Modern's most common cheap removal (Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, and Fatal Push) alongside 26 multicolor spells to generate an army of 4/4 Golems. Last but not least, Scion of Draco, my personal favorite, hits the board on turn two if you have the right combination of Triome and shock land and improves all the multicolor threats: just imagine a Mantis Rider with hexproof and first strike!
Just like Steve Rogers said, I could do this all day. Brewing with Shardless Agent in Modern is very exciting. I haven't touched the Legacy Sultai shell adapted to Modern with Jace, Liliana, and Tarmogoyf yet, or even scratched the surface of combo strategies, especially with Glimpse of Tomorrow, the scariest no-cost spell from the new cycle, so there is still a ton of room for innovation.
Before we part ways, leave a comment below and let us know how you like to play your Agents, not just with regard to decks but also looks-wise: do you prefer the regular version, the old frame, or the textless one? Personally I love the old border, but I will try to increase my borderless collection with the new art for Shardless Agent. As usual, thank you so much for reading and enjoy the new cards! Until next time.
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