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Modern, Legends, and Zombies… Watch Out!

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When they first announced Modern Masters was going to become a set, I was bursting with excitement. I love the Modern format because the legal sets represent basically the entire length of my time playing this amazing game. I’m sure this sentiment is shared by others as well, but because of when I started playing, I think I might have a deeper connection to this format than most.

In the time between the announcement of the set and the spoilers, I tried to figure out what cards would be in the set and had many conversations on the topic with my friends. It was a fun game to play, and so far I am pretty close on the mythics.

It’s a little too late for most players to complete this exercise, but what I did was to guess which mythics would be in the set. My thought process was to try and break down how many would be in each color, how many artifacts and which multicolored cards would all be in the set. Then I analyzed successful archetypes in Modern for monetary value to narrow down my search. While going through this process, I didn’t just put together an all-star list, I tried to pick cards I thought would actually see print. Here are the picks I put together.

Who could have guessed that the Kamigawa dragons would take up five mythic slots? If someone said that, we would have thought they were crazy. I think I did a pretty good job with my picks. Only four of them actually turned out to be mythics, but if we broaden my picks to include rares, I’m doing quite well. Either way, it was a fun activity. We should know the whole set soon enough and it will be cool to see the final list.

Availability of Modern Masters

The other aspect we discussed often was what the print run would look like. As of this writing, I believe the print run is excruciatingly low, evidenced by the many retailers charging double (or more!) of the MSRP. I understand the need to carefully monitor the number of reprints, but with prices as high as they are for Modern Masters, this set isn’t helping anyone to start playing Modern. If anything, it is highlighting just how expensive the format really is. How are players supposed to justify paying $200 for fewer packs than they would get in a normal box? That's not even a bad price either. Most of the big online websites are charging $250 or $300!

Modern Masters has successfully ignited the spark of interest in Modern. What is has not done is make it easier for players to break into that format. Playing Modern is easy for me because I’ve been playing the whole time those cards have existed. Most new players have started within the last two years. They don’t even have fetchlands because they weren’t playing when they were printed!

Unless more boxes start to appear in shops such that dealers are forced to lower the price, Modern Masters will not make an impact on general access the format. After all, what is the best case scenario at this point? You secure a box for $200 and are hoping to get one Tarmogoyf if you’re lucky. How will that help you play Modern? I suppose if you are lucky enough to get a Goyf in your box, you could trade that for other pieces of the deck you’ve been working on, but that’s about it.

The worst part about the set being so expensive is that it looks amazingly fun. There are tons of great cards and the set looks well designed, especially for one specifically created to reprint older cards. Modern Masters seems so similar to a cube and that is awesome. If the set were cheaper, players could buy boxes to draft with their friends and have a blast.

Less Legendary Legends

Another piece of Magic history is changing. This one is going to be particularly hard for me because I have only ever known the one legend rule. The first person to get their legend in play takes over the galaxy. Any other copies create a fluctuation in time-space and a rift opens, tearing the world apart. Luckily the universe doesn’t end and all copies, even the new invader sliders, die and the universe is safe once more. Ok, ok. I may have gotten a little bit carried away with time travel paradoxes, but you get the point. Blame Star Trek, or at least my recent endeavor to watch the old show.

It’s weird to me that Olivia Voldaren will inevitably have to fight herself. That situation alone will create awkward board states for sure. At first, I was extremely opposed to the rule change but I think I was too focused on the Geist of Saint Traft vs. himself battle rather than thinking about the big picture. Obzedat, Ghost Council vs. himself is still horrible too but that becomes more like an enchantment vs. enchantment battle for all the interaction they have with each other.

Geist vs. Geist still turns my stomach a little, but other than that, what is the problem really? Is it that big of a problem that both my opponent and I have Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch in play at the same time? I think not. As long as Wizards strays from the broken hexproof mechanic, more legends getting printed doesn’t seem as terrible. On the one hand, legends seem less cool and unique. The other side is that everyone gets to play with their cool legends. It’s not perfect, but not nearly as game-ruining as I thought it might be at first inspection.

Planeswalkers function similar to legends in terms of rules so Wizards chose to change them too. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rules change was initiated by a desire to have planeswalkers see more play. This desire for planeswalkers to be a central part of the game should help more cards like Dreadbore start seeing print. Expanding the complexity and diversity of removal is a great way to shake things up in Magic, so I hope my guess is correct about that one.

As I see it, there are two parts to the new planeswalker rule.

The first part is that both you and your opponent can have the same planeswalker, or different versions of the same one, in play simultaneously. I don’t care for this rules decision for one main reason. By instating this rule, it restricts the types of decks that will be viable for competitive play and the types of cards that can fit into them. What is a control deck supposed to do if their opponent resolves the same planeswalker they have in their deck? Unless there is a removal spell to deal with that permanent, sure they can play their own walker, but they are forced to play some amount of creatures to deal with their opponent’s card.

I support the push for more creatures in Constructed, but a restriction like that seems quite limiting on deck design to me. Yes, it will make deck design for the control player considerably harder, but that is fine. The real problem is how it limits the types of cards a deck can play and forces everything into a similar mold. This seems bad for the game in the long run. I hope this new rule won’t push things too far along these lines but I fear it might.

I love every aspect about the second part of the rule. Let’s say I play Garruk Relentless and kill your creature. Next turn, I make a token from my Garruk but I’m dismayed that the Garruk, Primal Hunter in my hand can’t join the party. This dilemma is no more! Now, you can play your Primal Hunter after you activate the Relentless and choose to keep Primal Hunter in play! This is quite an upgrade from the previous rules. Specifically with both versions of Garruk, there have been a number of decks where I wanted to play both but ended up cutting one or both from decks because of their previous interaction. Being able to give your planeswalker an upgrade (or downgrade?) seems like a great addition to rules. This does apply to legends as well.

Overall, I think the rules changes are solid. Wizards claims they have been working on these changes for over a year and that the cards in the next block have all been playtested with them in mind. That type of preparation is exactly the type of thing we need to keep happening for our game to live forever. Props to the company for thinking through things thoroughly. Let’s hope it turns out how they think it will. Things like this give me faith that we won’t have another Ravager Affinity destroying us anytime soon.

Controlling the Undead

Last week, I talked about a couple different decks designed to attack a Standard dominated by Thragtusk decks. Of the three, I ended up spending a bit more time on the B/W Zombie deck. Before we had Dragon’s Maze, I enjoyed playing B/R Zombies, which is similar. Even after playing with the deck a lot more, I didn’t make any changes to the main deck. The sideboard I developed worked out well but I am still trying other cards.

Here is the list with the updated sideboard.

As I said last week, it has a great Jund match, but as it turns out, the aggressive matches tend to be much harder to win. Naya Blitz in particular is one of the harder matches for the deck. If they have a good draw, they are much faster than you. In addition, you have a hard time being defensive because your creatures are not effective blockers.

The way to approach this match is by trying to trade as early and often as possible, hopefully with a Blood Artist in play. Cartel Aristocrat does a great job against Blitz so hands that have one will be much more successful. Once you get to four and five mana, you should be able to stabilize with Restoration Angel and Obzedat, Ghost Council.

I might mention that Ghost Council has impressed me more than any card in recent memory. That creature is not only hard to kill, but turns around games that seemed unwinnable. In addition, he also closes games where the board is stalled, an invaluable trait.

Even with the measures taken against this and other similar decks, the aggro match is still very close. Naya Blitz is not as popular as it was previously so the fact that it’s not a great match isn’t unbearable.

Bant Auras is also a tough match for B/W Zombies. Maybe Bant Auras is a tough match for most decks, but giving a hexproof guy lifelink is hard to race. I tried out Barter in Blood in addition to Liliana of the Veil but four mana was too much. It’s possible that either Mutilate or Paraselene would be a better choice for the sideboard, but I decided to try Devour Flesh instead.

The only problem with playing Devour Flesh and Liliana of the Veil is that in games where they play Voice of Resurgence, your removal is completely shut down. Black and white don’t have many tools to deal with this strategy, so whichever option you go with, the match is always going to be about 50-50.

Overall, I still like the Orzhov aggro deck. It is capable of some extremely fast draws but also has enough game to win games that go long. If you liked playing Zombies previously in Standard, this may be the deck for you.

Hopefully you enjoyed my differentiated topic list today. There have been so many new developments and issues that have come up recently and they need discussed. What are your thoughts on the new rules changes? Will they have a positive or negative impact on our beloved game? Post your thoughts below and I'll respond.

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Legendary Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

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