Let's start with Graceful Restoration. Though you never know what may end up breaking Modern, at five mana the card looks relatively safe. Its second mode does allow a player to autocomplete some combinations, most notably Devoted Druid plus Vizier of Remedies, straight from the graveyard in one fell swoop. If one of them already sits on the battlefield, you can even grab Duskwatch Recruiter as payoff for the infinite-mana combo.
So the card does have interesting applications, albeit not exactly at a rate over replacement, and it may be tricky to find a 60-card deck that's interested in both modes. An 80-card deck, on the other hand, might see things differently. Take for example the following, which placed first in one of Magic Online's Modern Champ Qualifiers at the beginning of the month:
|Orzhov Stoneblade by FriskiFraska, 1st at Modern Champ Qualifier, May 3|
This deck contains 23 creatures of which one could reanimate two with Graceful Restoration's second mode, and then there's Yorion, Sky Nomad as a possible target for the first mode. After all, we're willing to spend eight mana in total on our savior's first coming, so a resurrection for five may well be worth it. Having a friend in the heavenly Serpent also means never being alone, no need to clutter our deck with other high-value reanimation targets.
But I have to admit, when I wrote that "it may be tricky to find a 60-card deck that's interested in both modes," I was mostly thinking of 40-card decks. With no more than a few dozen cards previewed so far, it is of course tough to say much about Modern Horizons 2 Limited. However, most sets nowadays feature a cycle of gold uncommons that showcase what a color combination is all about. These "signpost uncommons" are an easy way to let drafters know what they should look out and aim for when they move into, for instance, white-black. Going by cards like Priest of Fell Rites and Late to Dinner and now Graceful Restoration, it seems that the Orzhov colors will be doing a lot of reanimation in this Limited environment.
Flame Rift was originally released in Nemesis, a little over 21 years ago. Since then the card has been part of various successful Burn decks, all the way to present-day Legacy. Okay, granted, it only showed up as a one-of in just one deck across all Legacy Challenge Top 32s this year. But it went 6-0 and finished in seventh place then. Plus, a card that's reasonably playable in Legacy might be quite unreasonably strong in Modern, right?
Well, while the card is simple, this debate is not. Legacy Burn stays within monored because the format—and the deck itself—contains highly efficient hate for nonbasic lands such as Price of Progress. Modern Burn players, meanwhile, have no problem paying two mana of different colors to deal 4 damage via Boros Charm, additional options included. The question is, does Burn want another card like that? If you look up data on the Burn archetype, you may find the following line regarding Boros Charm: "4.0 in 100% of decks." That looks promising, doesn't it? If literally every single Boros Burn in Modern runs four copies of an effect, chances are more will be better! I mean, what are the odds that four is exactly the right number and five is too many?
But wait. Flame Rift does not provide the same effect as Boros Charm's first mode. For one thing, it cannot target planeswalkers. On the plus side, it does not target at all, so it gets around Leyline of Sanctity and similar. The biggest difference, though, is that it costs its caster 4 life as well. It is most likely on the basis of this difference that circumstance will decide Flame Rift's future in the format. Will Burn be able to be ahead by 4 life in the damage race often enough, against enough competing archetypes?
The modern Modern meta features several rivals whose damage output can outpace Burn's. Some use Clever Lumimancer, some Sprite Dragon, but more creature-combo-focused aggression is generally quicker … However, this applies only in a vacuum, when both strategies play side by side, not when they enter the ring on opposite sides. When Burn faces Prowess, or when Burn faces Burn for that matter, games rarely come down to a race, because you can point burn spells at creatures too. Flame Rift itself doesn't help here, but it's not guaranteed to be a dead draw either. At some point you'll have to finish an opponent off, and being able to do so in increments of 4 may come in handy when you've pointed all your Lightning Bolts at pesky prowess beaters.
All in all, I definitely expect Flame Rift to see some play in Modern. For testing I'd start at something like the following and then add or cut Rifts depending on how things go.
|Flame Rift Bolt Burn|
A fun side effect, Flame Rift will make some games end in a draw. Losing a match with a game record of 1-2-2 or something like that is an excellent bad-beat story right there, precisely because it takes all but thirty seconds to tell—which is just as well, as there won't be a lot of time till your next match. On the flip side of said medal, if everyone is going down in flames, the number of matches actually going to time because of this should remain small enough not to become a nuisance.
Save the best for last. Harmonic Prodigy is the most exciting addition to Modern we get to cover today. It's unclear whether the card will be able to realize it, but there's so much potential here!
The Prodigy already spells out the simplest synergy all on its own. Indeed, prowess itself is a triggered ability, and a decent number of creatures that carry this keyword happen to be Wizards, most obviously Soul-Scar Mage. Most brokenly, Clever Lumimancer is a Wizard as well, and magecraft is triggered too. When the one-drop gets +4/+4 for every instant and sorcery you cast, it's almost academic to mount a lethal assault. The first place to look for Prodigy involvement could look like this:
But it's not only prowess triggers that receive a double-up here. An attacking Dreadhorde Arcanist—Zombie Wizard that it is—benefits just the same. And that's barely scratching the surface on the tip of the proverbial iceberg. By my calculations, pre-MH2 Modern already contains several hundred Wizards and Shamans with a triggered ability even if we limit our search exclusively to cards with a casting cost of three mana and lower.
The Prodigy boosts Invitational all-stars such as Dark Confidant and Snapcaster Mage. In its presence a host of pyromantical maniacs in monored will work overtime, whether it's Young Pyromancer, Seasoned Pyromancer, Irencrag Pyromancer, or Viashino Pyromancer, not to mention Thermo-Alchemist. One could get four mana off Burning-Tree Emissary, destroy two lands via Goblin Ruinblaster, and maybe get the double high five from Dragonmaster Outcast. It's possible we finally have enough decent Wizards to let Izzet Prowess enjoy Wizard's Lightning, maybe dabbling in combos between Prodigy and Stormchaser Mage, Beamsplitter Mage, or Adeliz, the Cinder Wind.
Prodigy plus Sea Gate Stormcaller or Naru Meha, Master Wizard probably unlock some convoluted infinite combos, maybe with Naban, Dean of Iteration providing redundancy on the other end. Maybe you want to mill eight cards via Emry, Lurker of the Loch or return two via Eternal Witness, exile two permanents via Deputy of Detention or bounce two creatures via Reflector Mage? Maybe you can divide Barrin's bounce between your opponent's and your own creatures and draw two cards for your trouble? (Another Wizard with two triggered abilities would be Manic Scribe.) Judith, the Scourge Diva pings twice as much with Prodigy, Anathemancer blasts twice as much, while Kor Spiritdancer draws twice as much. And the list goes on and on … and gets longer once Modern Horizons 2 joins the card pool. Harmonic Prodigy isn't the only example of Wizard tribal in the set.
Sure, a lot of these combinations are likely too cute for Modern, at least at the highest echelons of tournament play. But there are so many here that something just has to pan out, right? After all, while generally populated by sharks rather than goldfish, the format does sport its share of decks hyper-focused on their own game plan at the expense of interaction. And it's not as if the opportunity costs in deck design for Harmonic Prodigy are in any way prohibitive. A 1/3 prowess beater for two mana is almost reasonable by itself. Any instant will make it survive the ubiquitous Lightning Bolt, and it finds a bunch of potential partners that have proven themselves in Modern over and over even without looking at another color. If all else fails and there are no other creatures on the battlefield at all, the Prodigy is happy to interact with a second copy of itself.
Finally, let's not forget about the second target format for Modern Horizons 2 (aside from Limited … and Pauper …). The cutthroat constraints of competitive Modern may make it so that the coolest combo the Prodigy can pull off here is the one with Dreadhorde Arcanist. (And that's pretty cool already.) But Commander should allow for quirkier combos, additional attractions, and more mayhem all around.
I hope I've been able to share and to spread some of my excitement for the card. How do you want to use Harmonic Prodigy? What game-winning combination did I forget? Let us know in the comments!
Modern Horizons 2 looks awesome so far and looks like it will change Magic in so many sweet ways. Stay up to date with the latest previews by following Cardmarket on social media!
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