Dangerous Propositions: Glimpse of Nature
The Modern ban list is a maximum security prison with 34 inmates, some of which could potentially pose a serious threat to the meta. In this ongoing series, we're reviewing each of those offenders to see if they're eligible for parole. This time it's the turn of the green storm enabler.
When this game was still in its infancy, back in the previous century, no one would have guessed that Green would secure the number two spot, behind blue, for best color at drawing cards. And yet, it's the only other color that's able to cast a spell that just draws you three cards – no other resources required, no questions asked. Admittedly, Mark Rosewater himself would later go on record saying that Harmonize, the color-shifted functional reprint of Concentrate, was kind of a mistake; it breaks the color pie, since green card drawing should always be tied to creatures.
Green has famously been given repeatable card drawing tied to other kinds of permanents too (enchantments via Verduran Enchantress and her successors, lands via Nissa, Vital Force), but it's mostly relied on its beloved creatures, especially to go big. The drawing factor can be the number of creatures, like with Collective Unconscious and Regal Force; or their power, something Garruk, Primal Hunter cares for; or even their ultimate fate, which is the case with Fecundity and Greater Good.
After all, it depicts the cycle of life: creatures multiply, grow, die. But wait, something's missing from this metaphor, isn't it? If green exploits a creature's death, it could certainly also exploit a creature's birth. Which is what our very subject Glimpse of Nature does, giving you a card each time you cast a creature. It's a wording that would return several times in monogreen after Champions of Kamigawa, spawning cards like Primordial Sage, Zendikar Resurgent and, more recently, Beast Whisperer; whereas Soul of the Harvest used the concept in a way that's more inclusive but also more easily countered, by triggering as an ETB effect rather than upon casting.
Two intertwined elements set Glimpse of Nature apart from all of its descendants: not being a permanent and being the cheapest. A little too cheap, probably, considering it was never repeated on cards with CMC less than four, except for the Beck side of Beck // Call, which involves blue mana (as well as the Soul of the Harvest wording). The recompense for having to invest so much more mana is, in every other monogreen case, the ability to keep the flow of cards going for as long as the permanent remains on the battlefield. And yet, none of these sequels make for a very competitive card outside of Commander; Glimpse of Nature definitely does.
Glimpse of Nature has never been in Modern (it's another one of those), but it's easy to figure out what it would do there, which is helming or at least heavily contributing to a massive board invasion archetype. One where you just need to have one bombastic Glimpse turn, similar to the turn when you go off in a Storm deck, casting the titular spell followed by a plethora of small critters, followed by some kind of payoff. And yes, this is the classic Legacy archetype called Elfball. Every low-cost Elf you cast after Glimpse of Nature keeps replenishing your hand, and then you tap, say, Elvish Archdruid for a ton, untap it with Quirion Ranger, or Wirewood Lodge, or, even better, Wirewood Symbiote, generate even more mana, cast even more stuff, making your way into your library in the process, until you can tap Gaea's Cradle for a gazillion and cast something along the lines of a lethal Fireball.
Or at least, that was the old school move, which originally gave the deck its name; savvier contemporary lists go for Craterhoof Behemoth (or Natural Order into Craterhoof Behemoth, that is). If you wish to stay in-tribe, Ezuri, Renegade Leader provides another excellent mana dump.
Elfball, Legacy Premier Event, April 2019
|2Bayou||2Dryad Arbor||4Glimpse of Nature|
|3Forest||2Birchlore Rangers||4Green Sun's Zenith|
|4Gaea's Cradle||1Elvish Mystic||3Natural Order|
|2Misty Rainforest||1Fyndhorn Elves||1Sylvan Library|
|2Verdant Catacombs||1Llanowar Elves|
|2Windswept Heath||4Nettle Sentinel|
|2Wooded Foothills||4Quirion Ranger|
|3Surgical Extraction||4Thoughtseize||3Abrupt Decay|
|1Assassin's Trophy||1Scavenging Ooze||2Choke|
Some of those key cards are not legal in Modern; the Archdruid is, though, and Quirion Ranger can be easily replaced with Scryb Ranger. But replicating Legacy's Elfball is not even necessary. Modern already has a low-tier Elves archetype lurking around its edges. It uses Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel as an early mana engine, and Shaman of the Pack as a primary, non-combat-dependent wincon.
Elves, Top 8 at StarCityGames Modern IQ, March 2019
|4Blooming Marsh||4Elvish Mystic||3Lead the Stampede|
|4Cavern of Souls||4Heritage Druid||4Collected Company|
|4Gilt-Leaf Palace||3Nettle Sentinel|
|2Horizon Canopy||4Dwynen's Elite|
|2Ezuri, Renegade Leader|
|4Shaman of the Pack|
|1Nettle Sentinel||1Relic of Progenitus||2Shapers' Sanctuary|
|2Surgical Extraction||2Assassin's Trophy||3Damping Sphere|
|1Elvish Clancaller||1Heroic Intervention||1Chameleon Colossus|
And look who's here, our Glimpse of Nature quasi-replacement, Beast Whisperer! It goes without saying that this kind of list would go nuts if Glimpse were legal. Potentially ascending to tier-one? Maybe, but I don't even think Glimpse of Nature would be exclusively a combo piece in Modern. Legacy is not a creature-friendly environment, unlike its younger Eternal brother. In Elfball itself, you don't need to go all-in all the time with Glimpse; just one turn of achieving massive card advantage and board development, paired with something to protect your team from sweepers, is a solid step on the way to victory, getting you closer to the final Glimpse. Such gameplan would be more than viable, while Glimpse could also just play the role of a green Ancestral Recall for aggro decks, and this last sentence should immediately give us pause. Chances are, it would be too damn good not to become ubiquitous in every creature-based list, even in those that wouldn't usually run green (you know what they say in Vintage: you always splash for Ancestral Recall); and even in non-tribal shells, or with different tribes than Elf. In fact, it'd be an amazing support beam to pretty much all the linear tribal strategies. It's no coincidence that some of them, like Slivers, come with a built-in, combo-ready, Glimpse of Nature variant.
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