Insider: Layers

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Ah! The big reveal. Weeks of talk, teasing, spoiling and finally getting our dirty little mitts on Journey Into Nyx has finally paid off. I must admit, I've found this week a particular challenge. Not that there isn't anything important to talk about, but most of it has already been covered by someone else. Therein lies the crux of the matter.

My only responsibility to you, the reader, is to bring insightful, concise, useful information. I could just reiterate what you've already heard a thousand times over, but this does nothing for the both of us, though, doesn't it? You want to trust that week in and week out you should listen to the pieces I publish on this site. Frankly, I want you to trust that, too!

I write for Quiet Speculation not to hear my own voice. If I wanted to do that, I'm sure the local psyche ward would be entertained daily with my renditions of "I Feel Pretty." Remember Murdoch in A-Team? Oh, I could go full crazy if you want me to. Frankly though, I like my clarity. Otherwise, ya, I could see myself knocking on the door of my local "I Love Myself!" Hospital.


Seems like a great place to visit during the summer.

Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain

In reality though, I feel Wizards has become a savant in a way. What if the Magic: The Gathering movie was just all about their Enigma Code? It's just so very hard to crack their vision of what a brand new format should be. It has been clear for years, their eyes are clearly on Standard. Now, with the shift in New World Order, it has become "how does this fit in Standard, and can it fit into Modern or Legacy?"

Fortunately those are easier to spot, but the Commander all-stars come from all angles. Commander pieces are carrying such a dramatic amount of the finance scene that it is one of the few things that I will absolutely label absurd. Most of my sales, day in and day out, are Commander staples. Hands down.

When it comes to fitting together the next piece of a Standard metagame, I've always found it hard to build from scratch. Once the metagame has really shaken itself up once or twice and the problems that rise to the forefront of most peoples minds--that is where I excel.

Guessing what the first thing other people want to try is, I just don't know how to do it. I have absolutely come to the conclusion that I just do not think like most people. Fortunately, this means I'm usually a few steps ahead.

For instance:

In the Modern universe right now - keep an eye on this card:

Want to solve  all your problems in Modern? Look no further.


This card is a problem the format just does not know how to handle right now. The most efficient answer is obviously Path to Exile. Looking away from Path to Exile, though--I challenge you the reader to give me one commonly played card that deals with this creature one for one (outside of plain removal.) Just about every interaction is a two-for-one or a large amount of mana, once this guy hits the board. Liliana of the Veil is a situational one-for-one, and when she is in the mix Loxodon Smiter's role changes dramatically.

Modern is currently defined by damage, be it attacking or dealing it through spells. Newly minted fellow Quiet Speculation writer Adam Yurchick talked this week in depth about Mark of Asylum.

He made a good point bringing this up:

"In a nutshell, the text of this card reads “creatures you control have protection from burn spells.” Burn is the most commonly played form of creature removal in the Modern format, and, without it, many decks are simply defenseless against creatures. In a world where the best targeted removal spell is Lightning Bolt and the best sweeper is Anger of the Gods, it’s clear why a card like Mark of Asylum has a lot of utility."

I fully agree with his assessment. Even in Storm, one of the backup plans is to sweep the board with a Grapeshot before it proceeds to go off, or to power through an Empty the Warrens for the win. What should be next season's Modern Tier 1 Champion, UWR, relies on Bolts and Helixes to constantly clear a path to victory. Zoo, Jund, Tempo Twin--even Affinity occasionally uses Whipflare.

If it's not Path to Exile, it's a plethora of burn spells looking to do the heavy lifting. So if that's the case--how close are you watching Path to Exile?

Loxodon Smiter also manages to do a great job of making counterspells just look silly. Got two mana up on turn three? Remand? Mana Leak? I scoff at thee! Nice Cryptic Command. All of these are current Modern all-stars. Yet, Abrupt Decay still sees play primarily for this wonderful reason. Is it truly better than Maelstrom Pulse? That's hard to quantify. For what Abrupt Decay does, in Modern, it does a lot of heavy lifting. Although, my money is still on Terminate at this moment.

With that being said, I will reveal my current build for Modern. Modern has been my love and my baby for a long time. It qualified me for Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona. As well as brought in many boxes from Win-A-Boxes and store credit during weekly tournaments.

I am not looking forward to the days Modern tournaments are hard, and this season's tournaments I am predicting will be a massive turn around from the days of ole' Extended. Those of us that have played for a long time will finally have the format Wizards promised years ago.

Modern Ajundi

If there's enough interest, I'll follow this week's article with a breakdown of how this new version has adapted to the void Deathrite Shaman left. I didn't believe it at first, but Loxodon Smiter does all the things that Deathrite Shaman did for the deck, while actually making it more capable of applying early pressure. It's a vast improvement.

After All Is Said and Done

I have gone over all of these things to bring to the front one thought--these are just some of the the ways I think about solving formats. This mode of thinking is important in understanding what the next trend will be.

It's not always about figuring out what you believe should be the first thing played, but where the natural progression of things will go once things have solidified. All cards come in, settle as everyone holds their breath, and then explode as popularity drives supply and demand increases its cost. Figuring out what everyone else thinks will be popular is the key.

A card does not simply go up or down in price based on its power level alone. You have to understand why a card is played. When all things are equal, no one starts at the same square one. But what if there's a specific problem that has been introduced?

Once people start looking for answers, Wizards has this tendency of knowing what you are going to look for. They design sets based on certain points of view, and let things shake out from there. Occasionally, they will have to respond after the fact. Call it an emergency card design. It's only when we do something as a collective that Wizards wasn't planning on.

I have to admit though, the ladies and gentlemen at Wizards R&D get a little nod from me. The level of planning and depth they put into set design really is impressive. I am just really now starting to grasp how deep it goes and all the view points they encourage. There's multiple layers to focus on. Hopefully, this will help you to start to envision what those levels could be.

-Till Next Time

Top Five Journey Into Nyx Cards that will see fluctuations before June 1st:


8 thoughts on “Insider: Layers

    1. I see what your saying about bolts etc but dismissing plain removal is kind of weird considering basically every deck that cares about dealing with it plays straight removal spells of some sort

      1. Flame slashes number are relatively small. As well with Abrupt Decay. The issue is if G/B/x decks are actually going to pick back up once the season starts. As of this moment, no results have been posted that look promising on the big scale. That’s why I have discounted the usage of spot removal. Spot removal, in general, is not something that is featured in wide spread, large amounts at the moment in Modern. Most removal is all 3 damage based was the point I was driving home. Spot removal will always kill your biggest creatures, but Smiter forces your opponents to know care about spot removal more, instead of trying to focus on the tempo/burn plan they have been going with, effectively shortening the game and giving Snapcaster + __________ less time to be effective

  1. Great article. Though I disagree with this statement “Loxodon Smiter does all the things that Deathrite Shaman did for the deck”….Smiter does not help power out a turn 2 Liliana…which was a house against any control and many combo decks. As Liliana +1 also put her out of bolt range (so in fact she’s very similar to your smiter in that regard). I do love the Smiter call though (just don’t believe good replacement for DRS is a fair comparison). The good news to me is that as we head into the summer and the RtR block cards begin to drop as people try to unload I think his value will be low enough to buy in heavily as your points about him being really good in modern are well said.

  2. In truth, comparing the two is apples to oranges. They change the role that you would expect each one to play. Going from more of a resource management to a ground and pound.

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