Welcome back readers! Today's article goes back to my roots here on QS. I originally came on board with a focus solely on eternal formats. I've written a number of set reviews focused on eternal playability, which you can find here, here, and here (there's a few of them).
The card pools in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage are extremely large, which means cards have a difficult chance of finding a home in these formats. This difficulty increases as you move from the smaller to the larger formats.
However, there are a few key characteristics that help highlight a potential card's promise. These are some of the questions I ask when evaluating a new card for potential adoption in Eternal.
- Does it fit into an existing archetype?
- Does it create a new archetype?
- Does it pitch to Force of Will? (Blue as a color tends to be overpowered and thus played disproportionately in Legacy and Vintage.)
For each of our picks today, I'll be evaluating them on these criteria, and adding some additional thoughts about their general playability.
Let's get the most obvious one out of the way first. Fatal Push is an extremely cost-effective removal spell with minimal downside in any format with fetchlands (as they can trigger revolt very easily). We haven't seen a removal spell with this much eternal potential since Abrupt Decay, which, along with Deathrite Shaman, spawned two new Legacy archetypes (BUG Delver and Shardless BUG).
Efficient removal has been around since the game first began with Swords to Plowshares, but its importance has been more and more appreciated as the game has grown and Wizards has shied away from printing it.
Wizards eventually realized that one-mana removal should have a downside, since the worst you can ever get is mana parity, and usually you're trading up on mana. The downside on Fatal Push is particularly negligible in eternal formats, since the high value placed on mana efficiency means most creatures cost less than three anyway. The one blind spot Fatal Push has in these formats is against decks whose sole goal is to cheat large powerful creatures into play (Reanimator, Sneak and Show, etc.).
If we look at my first question above we see that Fatal Push can slot into a ton of existing archetypes (anything that runs black will likely find room for this card). It is especially good in Modern as there are very few "cheat giant fatty into play" decks.
Black is typically used for either hand disruption, reanimation, or some kill spells, but it's usually the minor color in a deck. I think Fatal Push has the power level to push black into a major color of a deck.
It also may allow an Esper Control deck to move into Tier 1 status in Modern. The biggest problem for Esper decks was that they lacked access to effective one-drop removal in the early game. Path to Exile is excellent, of course, but in the early turns of the game has a pretty serious drawback. Disfigure and Vendetta were other options, but carry with them their own drawbacks too.
Push gives these decks something they never had before: a Lightning Bolt-like card that could help stabilize early and still be relevant late. Being able to play eight one-drop kill spells in a BWx deck (alongside Path), or potentially 12 in Mardu, is extremely powerful and could very well lead to a new archetype.
Baral, Chief of Compliance
While I can't say I'm nearly as excited about Baral, Chief of Compliance as I am about Fatal Push, I can recognize that a two-drop that reduces the cost of instants and sorceries, loots when you counter, and happens to be a Human Wizard, has a lot of potential.
As for the looting, remember that in eternal formats card filtering can easily run away with a game. When you need to answer your opponent's threats or find some of your own, replacing dead or semi-dead cards with live ones is very close to just flat out drawing a card.
I can see him being useful in decks that want cards in the graveyard, perhaps some form of Reanimator deck. You could play him on turn two, counter the opponent's turn-three play (discarding a fatty) and then cast a reanimation spell with counter backup (both of which may cost less as well).
Here's another card that I'm honestly surprised hasn't gotten more attention. In a format with fetches, this can easily be a 4/3 for two mana. That's pretty impressive. While I don't think it's the next Tarmogoyf, I do think that it would do very well in the various Zoo archetypes.
It does die to Lightning Bolt, but to be fair almost everything in Zoo does. It also pairs extremely well with another card slightly farther down on this list (Hidden Herbalists) and can be cast off of a Burning-Tree Emissary, which goes into the same type of decks. It is also an Elf which is a tribe with a long and strong history in Magic.
This is another fantastic support card that is far more likely to find a home in the sideboard of Zoo or Elf decks than to end up maindeck. It's a two-drop that essentially counters any wrath effects (save something like Languish) and also counters targeted removal.
Note the ability is not limited to creatures, so it could be used to protect lands in something like Modern Tron, which can struggle when one of their Tron pieces gets hit with a Crumble to Dust.
As I mentioned above, this card is awesome for Zoo decks. They already tend to play a lot of fetchlands anyways (so revolt is easy to trigger) and Modern already had a straight RG Zoo deck built off of Burning-Tree Emissary, Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker. While Herbalist can't help cast either Bushwhacker, it can cast an Emissary to filter for red mana.
This can lead to extremely explosive turn-two plays. Imagine:
Turn 2: Fetch, Hidden Herbalist, Burning-Tree Emissary, Reckless Bushwhacker, attack for 12 or 13 (depending on your turn-one play). If you have another Herbalist or Emissary in there, you're at 15-16 damage on turn two. That's pretty insane.
Hope of Ghirapur
We finally have a Modern-legal Xantid Swarm effect, which is a powerful sideboard card for Legacy Storm. The beauty of Hope of Ghirapur is that it doesn't require green, which is one of Swarm's biggest downsides (fetching up a green source in Legacy Storm is rarely ideal since most of your spells are blue or black). This type of effect is typically only needed once anyway (when you're comboing off post-combat) so its one-shot use isn't nearly as big of a deal as it might seem.
It is interesting to note that Hope also stops your opponent from casting noncreature spells on their following turn as well, so it can prevent one's opponent from going off should you just need to stall. I can easily see this card finding a home in any eternal combo deck that doesn't require the attack step (like the Splinter Twin decks of old did).
I could see Metallic Mimic being tested out in a tribal deck like Merfolk as yet another lord. The downside (it must come down before whatever it pumps) is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the bonus is permanent.
Merfolk is the obvious place to look here, as it's the prototypical "all-lords" deck, but other tribes could want this effect too. Some strange tribes have seen sporadic play in Modern, including Allies, Humans, Slivers, and Spirits. Perhaps this is what one of those decks needed to get off the ground.
This is another of the "could find a home" cards that I want to highlight but not dig too deep into, as I know that eternal formats tend to ignore cards that are "pretty good" and only focus on the ones that are amazing.
Here we have another solid Zoo card. Again this one utilizes the powerful interaction between revolt and fetchlands.
I realize that Kird Ape quickly got outclassed by Wild Nacatl when the cat was unbanned in Modern, but the deathtouch here is pretty clutch. One-drops tend to get stonewalled by big blockers like Tarmogoyf and serve for poor defense. Narnam Renegade will trade with anything that blocks it, and can play defense in a pinch (though to be fair Zoo decks rarely find themselves in this role).
What I love most about this set so far is that it's making Zoo a very solid archetype. This is one of the cheaper decks in Modern, since everything but the land base and Tarmogoyf are commons or uncommons.
I'll admit when I first saw this card, it screamed "bulk rare" to me and I just kept going. However, I've since had some additional time to review it, and it seems like it might fit into Ravager Affinity.
Some versions of the deck already play red for Galvanic Blast, so it's not requiring any additional colors. With a Ravager out, every artifact sacrificed leaves the opponent with a difficult choice. If it's a zero-drop like Mox Opal or Memnite, they're basically forced into taking the three damage, as you could go infinite otherwise. All in all, this adds up to a ton of damage.
I'm not saying this will change Affinity, but it's worth keeping an eye on. As this card fits somewhat into an existing archetype I see it making it better, but I don't know if the mana cost is too high for an ability that doesn't immediately effect the battlefield.
I may be going out on a limb here, but it is possible that this could spawn a new archetype. We do have Atog, Arcbound Ravager, Greater Gargadon, Krark-Clan Ironworks, and a few other cards that provide a continual manaless sacrifice outlet. I don't know how good this would be, but I want to highlight the potential.
This card's potential lies in three factors. 1) It returns any permanent (so you could return the fetchland you use to trigger revolt in the first place for a ramp effect). 2) It has a decent body for a three-drop (not spectacular, but not terrible). 3) It's a green creature that can be cheated in via Collected Company.
I've been pretty impressed with this set's uncommons (as you can tell by this list including so many). This is another one I'd watch out for. It appears that the MTG community has picked up on its power level as foils are already in the $6 range.
Finally, this card does create another "Melira-type" infinite combo with Saffi Eriksdotter. This is more likely to appear in existing Abzan Company and Chord decks than spawn a new archetype, but it's something to keep in mind.
Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Rishkar, Peema Renegade could have an important role to play in Modern Elf decks. Basically I see it as a potential Heritage Druid number 5-6. It's not a terrible follow-up to a turn two Dwynen's Elite, as you could put counters on both the token and the Elite and immediately tap them for mana. And putting a counter on a Nettle Sentinel lets you drop all your one-drop Elves onto the battlefield.
I don't know for sure whether this is just too slow, or too little bang for your buck. But assuming Rishkar can make two mana the turn you play him, he costs an effective one mana, and the potential for explosiveness is real.
Spire of Industry
This seems like a slightly worse Glimmervoid for artifact-based decks, which means it's still an easy include in said decks. This could easily allow Affinity decks to splash additional colors for answers to common hate cards by giving the deck eight rainbow lands. It's also been suggested as a potential card for Lantern Control.
Sram, Senior Edificer
As someone who has Puresteel Storm built in Modern, I can tell you the deck is powerful and lightning fast. Its biggest problem has always been that it relies heavily on Puresteel Paladin to do anything. I personally tried using Paradoxical Outcome to act as slower/more expensive Puresteels (they really are that critical to the deck's function), and now Wizards has given me four more.
I think this may knock Puresteel Storm up a notch in Modern to Tier 2 (if not Tier 1). Its power level (and thus playability) has always stemmed so heavily on the fact that without its namesake card it really does nothing.
Another application for Sram may be in Bogles, where he can act like additional Kor Spiritdancers. I don't think another archetype built around him will pop up, as the only one not accounted for is a vehicle deck, which I don't see happening in Modern.
Whir of Invention
Chord of Calling has been a staple in Modern almost since the format's inception. Unlike Chord, Whir of Invention can never be cast with no mana. But artifacts have proven to be some of the most powerful cards in the game (see the Power 9) and there are plenty that cost zero or produce more than one mana. It's possible that Whir decks could power out their namesake card even faster than Chord.
This is the type of card I want to keep on my radar even if nothing pans out immediately. Tutoring things directly into play is an extremely powerful ability, especially at instant speed.
People are already trying to slot Whir into the old Eggs and Krark-Clan Ironworks decks, but I think its power will be predicated on whether it can spawn a new deck. If this card ever drops to bulk, I'll likely pick up a few playsets to store away.
I realize this one was a bit longer than usual, but I honestly think there's a lot for eternal players to brew with in this set. If you think I missed anything, please comment and let me know your thoughts.