Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths has already been a weird set experience for me. For one, it was released during a global pandemic. It features the new companion mechanic, which has already received errata several weeks after release due to issues with "game balance and metagame share across play environments". Faced with the pandemic, errata, and emotionally crushing current events in the US, it has been hard for me to focus on my favorite game, which is a shame because I think Ikoria is actually a super interesting set that has the potential to add exciting value to one of my favorite formats.
A Reddit post in r/ModernMagic really got me to sit down and give some real thought to Ikoria's contributions to Modern, which currently is in a strange spot. I know that there are no more large paper Magic events this year to drive Modern prices (more on that here), so any speculation done on cards for eternal formats will likely need to be done with the idea of long-term holding, but let's take a look at my five favorite Modern specs from Ikoria.
Now, UR Delver hasn't really been much of a contender in the Modern metagame for a while, with poor Delver of Secrets not really being able to carry the deck by itself, but I think Reddit user Morgormir was right in the thread I linked earlier when they said that the new contender from Ikoria, Sprite Dragon, might allow the deck to see a resurgence!
I could imagine Sprite Dragon seeing future play alongside Delver in a burn-heavy UR list. Traditionally, old UR lists ran four Delver of Secrets, four Snapcaster Mage, and four Young Pyromancer - all of which are fantastic cards. However, Delver is the only flyer, and none of them can grow like Sprite Dragon can. Now, this one is probably the least exciting speculation target because it is an uncommon, but it also has a Godzilla art version (which, frankly, I think is adorable.) If you're looking to add these to your speculation box, I'd recommend focusing on the alternate art and foils.
Fiend Artisan was one of the cards I was most excited about during Ikoria spoiler season. I'm a huge fan of midrange strategies, and seeing a card in green and black that has an effect similar to the still-banned Birthing Pod got my deck brewer brain spinning.
Magic Online user musasabi put four Fiend Artisans in a Vizier of Remedies/Devoted Druid combo deck and took down a 5-0 trophy in a Modern League at the beginning of June, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see that strategy continue! Being able to search your deck for toolbox creatures like that is awesome, and Fiend Artisan will continue to be a fantastic toolbox enabler going forward.
Even if Birthing Pod does see an unban in Modern someday, I think people would just play both in the deck. Now, Fiend Artisan is already sitting around the twenty dollar mark everywhere at the time of this writing, which might be too pricey to recommend diving in hard on speculating on it, but I'd recommend keeping an eye on our Nightmare friend and snapping up deals as you find them. I know I'll be trying to trade into as many as I can, especially when Ikoria rotates. And what better way to keep an eye on the prices than with our Trader Tools?
I've played a ton of Death and Taxes in Legacy and I get excited any time the potential to play a similar list in Modern presents itself. I've given it many tries myself to various degrees of success, but it always feels like the deck is just missing a few pieces in Modern. Could Drannith Magistrate become one of those missing pieces?
Limiting your opponent to only being able to cast spells from their hands can be a super-strong ability against some of the more "unfair" decks in Modern, and even if the meta doesn't warrant this card becoming a mainboard staple in any of the taxes variants, I think it will always be a decent sideboard card for taxes, humans, and any deck with access to white. I think there's a lot of potential for our new Magistrate and I'll definitely be making some space in my spec box for him.
I didn't initially think much of Sea-Dasher Octopus when I was reviewing spoilers, but after getting to play with it on Magic Arena I think there's actually some serious potential for our new fishy friend. (I know Octopi aren't technically fish, but I couldn't resist the alliteration!)
Sea-Dasher Octopus has been an all-star in a lot of the flash-based decks we've been seeing in Standard and I think there's a good chance we see copies of it popping up in blue decks that like sneaky card draw in Modern and possibly even Legacy. I agree with the author of the Reddit post that it wouldn't be surprising to see a copy or two showing up in Modern Merfolk or in a Delver shell.
General Kudro of Drannith
When I was actively playing and testing a lot in the Modern format last year, I had to play a lot of matches against Humans. Humans isn't a deck I would look at and say, "yeah this deck really needs another powerful human that makes it even better" and yet, here comes General Kudro of Drannith.
Now, the humans archetype isn't the all-powerful format-topper it once was, but it's still a powerful deck, and General Kudro is a welcome addition. He acts as a lord, exiles cards from graveyards, and can help you eliminate large mana costed creatures. The regular printing of this card has been hovering around the four to five dollar range, which I think is a decent price for a mythic rare that plenty of Modern players are going to be looking to get their hands on once large paper Magic events start happening again.
I know with everything happening in the world, it's hard to care about Magic in general, let alone speculating on a format that won't be seeing major support from Wizards of the Coast for a while. Modern has always been one of my favorite formats. Even in the absence of paper events, I have been trying to take time each week to think about the future of the format and spend time planning additions to my speculation box.
I encourage you to take a little time each week for your hobbies too, if you can. I know things are overwhelming all over right now, but it's important to find the joy where you can! Take care of your selves. Take care of each other. I'm sending you all the best vibes I can muster! If you want to chat about the future of Modern, feel free to hit me up on social media or stop by my weekly Twitch streams! I'd love to say hi!