Harbingers of Modern Origins

Posted in Top Decks on July 24, 2015

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

Whenever a new set comes out, I always look to see how it will change Eternal formats—Modern specifically. The last set to really throw the format into upheaval was Khans of Tarkir, thanks to a pair of eight-drops (that really cost one and two mana), though the printing of Tasigur and Gurmag Angler did shift the metagame as well. While Origins doesn't have a Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time lurking around, it does have cards that will impact existing decks and possibly spawn new ones.

The first card I want to focus on is Harbinger of the Tides. This could offer a significant upgrade to Merfolk, as it adds another UU two-drop with a powerful effect.

Modern Merfolk

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Harbinger doesn't add a new dimension to the deck, but it does add a good amount of power. The first, and most obvious, use is to just cast it when your opponent is the aggressor. Bouncing a Delver of Secrets, card with delve, Tarmogoyf, or even just a Birds of Paradise all sound good. And you didn't pay much for that privilege. Where it gets interesting is when you factor in Æther Vial and Merrow Reejerey.

With Æther Vial, Harbinger goes from a good play when you've been attacked to a card that can really turn the tide. You get to completely negate an attack, taking no damage, and you do so just by tapping Vial. Granted, it was already good to have a Vial in play, but Harbinger does make Vial better, and vice versa.

What really sounds neat is to have a Reejerey in play, cast Harbinger, and immediately tap down a creature and bounce it. Again, Reejerey is good, but having extra synergies like this is even better.

Lastly, you can pay the full four mana to cast Harbinger as an instant, which (worse comes to worst) does give you something to do on the opponent's turn. It's also nice that Harbinger stops the Splinter Twin combo, whether you pay four or have a Vial, and having additional ways to stop a popular deck for free is a very real benefit.

If you add up all these scenarios, it seems like Harbinger is a nice addition to a deck that really doesn't want very many new cards; they pretty much have to: cost one to three mana, be blue, and be a Merfolk to even be considered.

Speaking of Tribal, an old favorite is back

Will Piledriver be enough to drag Goblins kicking and screaming back into the spotlight? That isn't clear yet, though it is clear that Goblin Piledriver is a very powerful card and deserves to be taken into consideration.

Modern Goblins

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Funnily enough, the mana base is essentially the same as for Merfolk. Hey, if it's good enough for one Tribal Æther Vial deck, it's good enough for another. One big reason to play a deck like this is the card Æther Vial, as it is an absurdly powerful card when the conditions are right. Having a deck full of creatures with a tight curve meets those conditions, and getting to toss in creatures for free is exactly what this deck wants to do. It lets the deck cheat on land, play Mutavaults and use them, and have turns involving multiple Goblins plus a haste-granting card while still on two or three mana.

Piledriver is a big part of why this deck exists to begin with. It attacks for 5–7 damage without much difficulty, has protection from Snapcaster Mage, Delver of Secrets, and Merfolk. And Goblin Piledriver synergizes quite nicely with all the ways to give it haste and the ways to make tokens.

Goblin Piledriver justifies cards like Mogg War Marshal, Goblin Chieftain, Krenko, and Goblin Bushwhacker; which in turn also work well with each other and make the deck work even if you don't draw the Piledriver. Granted, the power level of the Piledriver is high enough that you'd rather draw it, but a draw involving Mogg War Marshal into Goblin Chieftain is already pretty good, and that's without taking into account other random Goblins.

This deck also gets to play an old favorite, Goblin Grenade. I remember thinking how awesome this card was when it first got printed, even if I don't think it was actually good back then. Now, there are cards like Mogg War Marshal and Goblin Rabblemaster, so the cost of casting this is way less than it used to be. Sacrificing tokens you paid very little for is very different than sacrificing a whole card, especially given that most of the Goblins back in 1994 weren't the best to begin with.

Between Grenade, Lightning Bolt, and haste creatures, this deck can present a very fast clock and has a couple ways to refill if it runs out of gas. Both Krenko and Rabblemaster are armies in a can, and if they come down after the opponent is out of removal, they tend to end the game very rapidly, Piledriver or no.

It isn't clear whether Piledriver is enough to make this deck tick, but this wasn't that far off of Modern-playable to begin with, and adding a two-cost 7-power creature can't be a bad thing.

That's not all for today, as the playables abound in Origins.

This may not look like a Modern card, but there's a reason it's interesting. And that reason costs 2RR: Splinter Twin. Yes, this is another addition to the list of creatures that go infinite with Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki and, as such, deserves a look.

Here's a take on what Tarmo Twin might look like with Bounding Krasis, though I like the new name better:

Krasis Averted

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This doesn't play substantially differently from previous Tarmo Twin lists, but the addition of Krasis could make the deck more appealing. The green splash has largely fallen out of favor, so a potential new card can't help but increase the chances of this deck showing up more often.

Tarmo Twin was always more focused on winning the game via normal attacks than the straight blue-red or Grixis Twin lists, and Bounding Krasis fits into that game plan nicely. What it does that Pestermite doesn't is provide a much bigger body, and one that can really brawl. This is better at ambushing small attackers, better at killing the opponent, and better at surviving cards like Electrolyze and Kolaghan's Command. Sadly, it's equally proficient at surviving Lightning Bolt, which is to say that it isn't. So Deceiver Exarch still gets the nod as a four-of.

It isn't like Bounding Krasis adds an entirely new dimension to the deck or anything, but making it a little easier to kill the opponent with creatures is not inconsequential. It's also relevant that because Bounding Krasis is much more resilient than Pestermite (dodging Kolaghan's Command is a big one), this deck can now justify seven total combo creatures, which makes going back to four Splinter Twins more appealing. That increases the odds that you combo off as well, which is another benefit.

Lastly, let's take some one-shot looks at cards that also seem like they will have an impact in Modern:

Various Life from the Loam decks have always been close to good in Modern, and a one-mana draw spell could be what they need to see more play. Molten Vortex is also interesting, but I think I'd rather stick with Seismic Assault, so I'm going with Magmatic Insight as the card that will change things.

Hatebears is already a solid deck, and the addition of a hatehorse (hatepegasus?) sounds like something they'd be interested in. At a cost of three, this isn't likely to be a four-of, but a couple of these add to the lock pieces while providing flying attackers.

As a potential anti-Twin sideboard card, I'm a little suspicious, because it doesn't actually stop the combo for good, just delays it by a turn. Where I do like this card is against Collected Company and Chord of Calling, as well as Goryo's Vengeance. If it's good enough at hosing all those decks, it could easily see main-deck play, at which point its utility against Twin is just a nice bonus.

Origins didn't do a bad job of bringing Modern cards to the table, and it will be interesting to see which end up making the cut. There are a lot of potential additions here, and some of them will make it through.

Next week I'll be back with a rundown of Standard going into the Pro Tour!


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