War of the Spark Modern Review - My Top Picks
Nicol Bolas has returned to end all our beloved Gatewatch heroes! It doesn't matter who wins this war though, since we Modern players still get a lot of new planeswalkers to try out. In this article, let me try to evaluate every War of the Spark card that might be Modern material.
Howdy folks! What an amazing April we've all had! It was the "fight against evil" month, as comic book fans got to see the final chapter of Avengers: Endgame, while Game of Thrones lovers are still watching the last season. And to round things up, the War of the Spark release showcased the ultimate battle against Nicol Bolas.
This means it is time for us to review the newest Magic set in terms of Modern. Mythic Championship II recently took place in London and showed that the format is still dominated by Humans, Izzet Phoenix, Tron (which gained popularity with the new mulligan rule), and other decks like Scales Affinity and Dredge.
In spite of Modern Horizons being the biggest set yet to come that will change the format as we know it, in this article, I will review each card that has a chance to see some Modern play – from narrow and niche applications to the ones that might become format staples.
Although War of the Spark is built around planeswalkers and mechanics such as Amass and Proliferate, I have divided my review into four blocks: Monocolored, Multicolored, Planeswalkers, and Lands, so let's jump right into it.
1. Monocolored WAR Cards
Finale of Promise: When this card was first spoiled, most people thought of adding it to an Izzet Phoenix deck, where you can re-play your cantrip and Faithless Looting from your graveyard. I believe this card has a lot of potential, but it needs a very specific deck for it to work well. It's also worth mentioning that you can re-play suspended spells from Time Spiral like Ancestral Visions, like what As Foretold does. Not long ago, we had Electrodominance in Ravnica Allegiance and I think this card is strictly better, although you need to mix it with Faithless Looting to do the trick.
Finale of Devastation: As a Green Sun's Zenith-esque card, it can search for any creature, plus give you an alpha strike if you pay 10 or more. Furthermore, you can search for a combo piece even if it's in your graveyard. The best fit for this card will be the Devoted Druid - Vizier of Remedies archetypes where it can tutor up both combo pieces, plus the finisher a.k.a. Walking Ballista or once you get to infinite mana attack with your gigantic army of creatures.
Liliana's Triumph: This is probably the most pushed card for Modern in the whole set. It's not only a Diabolic Edict with an upside, since it doesn't target your opponents, meaning you are safe to use it against Leyline of the Sanctity. In any black deck packing either Liliana of the Veil or Liliana, the Last Hope, you could also play it during the upkeep to act as a Kolaghan's Command. Expect this card to be heavily played.
Aside from these three, there are a few more minor contenders that can be tested. However, they may have only a few chances to survive in the vast Modern jungle of cards that fight for a slot in the metagame.
Dreadhorde Invasion: When this was first spoiled, it was instantly compared to Bitterblossom, but the fact that you are forced to pump up your Zombie token makes it less exciting. However, I believe this card has some applications in Aristocrat decks as a token producer that can eventually grow enough to give you back life.
Lazotep Plating: This card is an interesting protection spell that gives you and your permanents hexproof and at the same time, puts a 1/1 token onto the battlefield. This card could make some two-for-ones on the right spot and is also good against Mono Red. It might not see any play at all, but it does have sideboard potential.
Dreadhorde Arcanist: This is another fringe card that reminds us of Dark Confidant as a two CMC Wizard creature that creates card advantage. Its biggest issue is that you need to put this Zombie in the red zone to gain that advantage in order to cast cheap spells, such as Lightning Bolt or other burn spells, blue cantrips, or discard cards like Thoughtseize.
Arboreal Grazer: We end up with yet another narrow card with small applications. Basically, this card could fit in Scapeshift decks to ramp a land into play. At the same time, it could leave a blocker against aggro match-ups, so this card might be worth trying.
Return to Nature: This card is a better Naturalize that adds another clause to its modal spell: It exiles a card from the graveyard. This might be enough for us to consider this card in some graveyard decks due to its flexibility.
2. Multicolored WAR Cards
Dovin's Veto: I always love upgraded versions of pre-existing cards. On this occasion, we get a Negate that can't be countered, but with added white mana to its cost. W/U or Jeskai Control are already maindecking Negate, making it a straightforward move to simply replace it with this card, so that you are favored against Counter Wars match-ups like in Mirror Matches, Grixis Death's Shadow, or Amulet Titan.
Neoform: Speaking of upgrades, this could be considered as a downgrade compared to Eldritch Evolution, as it only searches for creatures with equal or one more CMC than the one you sacrificed. However, Neoform costs one mana less and adds a +1/+1 counter, which could be relevant in some spots. Finally, it doesn't exile itself, so there is a chance to re-play it with cards like Eternal Witness. Overall, this card could see some play in creature-based archetypes like the Vannifar Pod deck, featuring Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or the new Allosaurus Rider-Griselbrand combo where you can chain several Neoforms until you draw your whole deck.
Angrath's Rampage: First things first, this card is no Kolaghan's Command and there are zero chances that it will end up replacing the modal instant from Dragons of Tarkir. Nevertheless, Angrath's Rampage could find its place as a singleton copy or sideboard piece in B/R strategies like Mardu Pyromancer instead of Dreadbore as it can also hit artifacts. Plus, it can deal against problematic hexproof creatures like what Bogles decks have. Other archetypes that might benefit from this card as well are Jund, Hollow One, or Grixis Death's Shadow.
Despark: This card is better than you might think! Of course, Modern is a fast format and there are several decks wherein this card is a complete blank – Humans, Burn, Dredge, and Affinity variants. But think of it as a clean answer to the following cards: Karn Liberated, Arclight Phoenix, Primeval Titan, Gurmag Angler, Jace, the Mind Sculptor… the list goes on. The first deck that comes to my mind for this card is Esper Control, but any Abzan variant or even Mardu can play it, so I think Despark might end up seeing play in sideboards. More so now that Tron is even more popular.
Tyrant's Scorn: This is a last-minute pick that Frank Lepore recently commented as a Smother with an upside with a more restricted cost like Dovin's Veto. It also comes with another choice to add to its flexibility: Since it can bounce a creature from the battlefield, you can either to save it from an opposing removal or use it to get rid of a blocker. I see this spell in Grixis Death's Shadow, which is back as my pet deck in Modern these days. But overall, Dismember and Fatal Push seem the safest choice most of the time. Please let me know in the comments if this card might be worth a copy in the maindeck.
Ashiok, Dream Render: Starting with the new uncommon planeswalkers, Ashiok it the one that excites me the most because it has so many applications. U/B Mill is the only deck that might want this card on their main 60, but it's not a tier archetype in Modern.
Aside from milling your opponent, Ashiok's passive ability hoses a plethora of cards that are the bread and butter of many Modern strategies – fetch lands in general, Tron tutors like Expedition Map or Sylvan Scrying, Primeval Titan ETB triggers, and other commonly used cards, such as Field of Ruin, Scapeshift, or Whir of Invention. Furthermore, with his minus ability, Ashiok also works as a graveyard-hate piece. You can remove an opponent's graveyard repeatedly up to five times, meaning you can use it against Dredge, Izzet Phoenix, or Goryo's Vengance shenanigans.
Finally, you also can mill yourself with the -1, meaning Ashiok's ability can be used for your own benefit if you include it in Dredge, Izzet Phoenix, or Grixis Death's Shadow. That's what I'm planning to try out right away.
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer: This new incarnation of the Kaladesh planeswalker basically looks like an expensive Young Pyromancer. This could be very interesting against decks that have a hard time getting rid of non-creature permanents. Her minus ability might seem useless, but you can always transform one of your Servos into a Young Pyro if you combine them together. You can also use her with Sai, Master Thopterist to double up your tokens.
I could see this card in Mardu Pyromancer, a few Izzet Phoenix sideboards, as well as in W/U Control to create an army of Servos to fight against aggro match-ups, while gaining value from all the non-creature spells that you're playing.
Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage: This is a small mention to the black planeswalker that already has a home in 8-Rack, another niche strategy that is quite happy to have another source of repetitive damage that can discard a card or two in the process.
Teferi, Time Raveler: The Hero of Dominaria is back and this time at three CMC, something very appealing to control players. Jund has Liliana, Tron has Karn, and now W/U and Jeskai can play a turn 3 planeswalker that immediately shuts down all counter magic on the other side of the table with his passive ability.
His +1 isn't that exciting, but it has minor applications, like 'wrathing' the board as an instant. His -3 comes handy when you need to get problematic permanents out of the way. My general impression is that this new Teferi will find his place in W/U shells as a singleton copy (to say the least). It could be included as multiples in the sideboard as well.
Karn, the Great Creator: This is the third time we get a Karn planeswalker and this time, it comes as four mana, like its predecessor, and all his abilities play around artifacts. His passive ability is a Stony Silence for your opponent – something that might come in handy against artifact-based decks e.g. Affinity, Tron, or Whir Prison.
Speaking of, I strongly believe Karn, the Great Creator will appear in Whir Prison decks, since his -2 ability can tutor up any silver bullet in the sideboard against specific match-ups like graveyard hate or a timely Ensnaring Bridge. Besides, a single copy of Mycosynth Lattice alongside Karn can immediately win the game on the spot because you get to transform all your opponent's lands into useless artifacts that suddenly give no mana.
Blast Zone: Last but not least, we have this utility land that looks very reminiscent of Ratchet Bomb and Engineered Explosives with the upside of being a mana producer. This means a lot of decks can include it as a singleton copy that they can tutor and even play repeatedly thanks to Life from the Loam or Crucible of Worlds. You can also add this land in every strategy that uses Ancient Stirrings, such as Tron, Whir Prison, Amulet Titan, and even Scales Affinity. Furthermore, Dredge can also add a copy of Blast Zone and bring it back once it's in the graveyard. Finally, colorless strategies, like the Eldrazi variants, are happy to include this card in their mana base.
Conclusion: My Top 5
- BLAST ZONE
- LILIANA'S TRIUMPH
- DOVIN'S VETO
- TEFERI, TIME RAVELER
- ASHIOK, DREAM RENDER
Overall, War of the Spark is a great set for Modern. It doesn't seem like it will create new archetypes, but it will favor some of the pre-existing ones.
Among all the cards that I have mentioned here, Blast Zone is my number one pick because it's so easy to include in a lot of archetypes. This is followed by Liliana's Triumph, which has a great effect that is new to Modern. My personal bet though is on Ashiok, Dream Render as a great sideboard card that can deal against different match-ups.
As always, thank you so much for your reading and please leave your comments below or hit me up on my shared Twitter account.
Until next time!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.
Check out our War of the Spark page if you're interested in picking these up before everyone else catches on!