Whew! What a year it's been. All signs point to 2021 being better than 2020, but how much better? Like, what if we wanted to totally decimate 2020 out of spite? (Big "what if...") I've got a few ideas cooking that would make year a memorable one for me. And after sharing them, I'd love to hear yours!
Power to the Pets
“I just want what’s best for Modern!” What a load of baloney. I know what I like to play, and so do you, so let’s stop kidding ourselves and just admit it already: some spanking-new toys that happen to mesh exceptionally with whatever pet strategy keeps us playing this format in the first place would be A1. In my case, that’s Delver-based, Goyf-featuring thresh decks and Colorless Eldrazi Stompy.
Big Wins for Little Guys
It's not like thresh strategies are allergic to intriguing printings; it seems pretty much every expansion or two, blue-based tempo shells receive new toys to play with. The catch? These toys are almost always threats, and almost always Stage 2 combat creatures at that. So there are a million ways to build thresh, or a couple for each of the million viable thresh clocks—Stormwing Entity, Young Pyromancer, you name it. But each of these shells finds itself limited by the relatively shallow pool of support cards, which are always the same.
Take blue, the classic default color of thresh decks. It earns that title thanks to the tempo-jacking nature of countermagic, but also for the color's frequent excursion into card-selection cantrips. The thing is, there aren't really any good card selection cantrips anymore. Blue's only remaining option is Serum Visions, but even thresh decks that run blue often eschew that card for off-color cantrips that actually impact the game state because "Draw a card. Scry 2." is such an underwhelming sequence of card text.
I say "sequence" because timing is everything. Flip those effects around and you have something at once powerful enough to run and safe enough to have in the format. That's right: I'm breaking my four-year silence (practically to the day!) and again floating an unban for Preordain!
While I won't get so deep into the reasons I do or don't think Preordain would be okay for the format, I'll readily admit that I'd be happy to see it released, even in a trial period. Trial unbannings? Do they even do that? Who cares! They could, and I'd love for them to. What does Wizards have to lose from experimenting a bit, especially if it means potentially freeing cards players love?
But going back to countermagic, there's plenty I'd like to see here, too. I've always dreamed of a Spell Pierce for creatures, for example. And how about finally getting Daze in Modern? Some of the most fun I had playing Magic was at my first and only Legacy tournament, GP New Jersey, where I managed to make Day 2 and cash with a straight port of my Modern Counter-Cat deck—think Canadian Threshold with Wild Nacatl over Nimble Mongoose, a pivot that allowed me to run Treasure Cruise like I did back home. Sure, Brainstorm was a joy to cast, but resolving Daze was my favorite part of the day! The namesake factor of Modern's ubiquitous shock lands would also add an interesting dimension to the instant's drawback not seen in Legacy.
Then there's Colorless Eldrazi Stompy, my other Modern go-to. There's honestly not a lot I can point to right away to improve this deck, but it says something that I get excited every time I see a cheap artifact in the spoilers. Threat-wise, the deck is already crowded full of great options, while Chalice and Dismember provide ample disruption that's best-of-breed.
What's left? Utility, especially for the sideboard, and mana. There are tons of intriguing utility options that have yet to come to Modern, like Null Rod or Tsabo's Web, and these could also be reprinted in alternate forms (oh wait... Stony Silence!). More intriguing still is the prospect of getting another fast-mana land. I think the most likely on this front is Crystal Vein, which can either tap for colorless or sacrifice itself to produce a burst of mana.
Vein would be awesome in Stompy as it would increase the odds of dropping turn one Chalice, or of following a Mimic with a turn two Thought-Knot Seer; those are the kinds of plays that made it all worthwhile to shred our hands via Serum Powder and Simian Spirit Guide. Granted, there's the chance of Vein pushing some combo decks ahead by a critical turn, such as Ad Nauseam... but what's the fun without the risk? And anyway, this is my wishlist!
The Return of the LGS
"It's Not Heaven If You're Not There," blissfuly sang The Winans some 27 years ago. And that's how I feel about the local game store: Modern simply doesn't feel like Modern without it.
Jordan and the LGS: A Love Story
Historically, the LGS has been at the heart of my own Modern experience since I started playing the format at its inception. I loved fine-tuning combinations of my favorite cards to beat the developing metagame around the corner, and finding creative ways to get around the decks my opponents were on, they invariably being tuned to crush me (think mainboard Thrun, the Last Troll in most of the BGx decks—that'll show the little twerp on Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration!).
As Modern grew and then exploded in popularity, I found myself more and more fighting the metagame "at large," with swaths of local Spikes picking up whatever deck StarCityGames touted as the hottest after a high-profile event. That caused me to get my kicks throwing together fresh brews each week to see if I could go undefeated with something totally unique and off-the-radar, an exercise that led me to develop some of my favorite decks.
At the same time, newer players added cards to their deck each weak, and despite the lack of focus in their strategies, were more than willing to mess with the structure of their 60 to include crazy hate cards just to beat the guy they'd lost to last Friday. So you had random kids with Choke in their mono-green mainboards occasionally destroying dudes on fully-foiled Celestial Colonnade decks.
All that interplay led to a diverse and thriving environment that I think was Wizards's intention when they created Modern, and a strategic ecosystem that isn't just unsustainable, but totally unfeasible in the cold, percentage-driven world of Magic: Online. And in 2020, we've been robbed of that most critical Modern feature by COVID-19, which caused local game stores the world over to shut their doors indefinitely.
Without the LGS, Modern's spirit is broken. My biggest wish for 2021 is the successful reopening of these community hubs, and with it, some much-needed wind in Modern's sails!
You know, world peace! Or: why can’t all the decks just get along and share the meta pie fairly? Well, thanks to our monthly metagame updates and supplied analysis, we get a pretty good idea of the answer every 30 days or so. Wishfully thinking about Modern fixing itself into some imagined configuration overnight isn’t much more than a pipe dream. So make like Tarmogandh and be the change you want to see in the format—play the decks you like, hate out the ones you can’t stand, and encourage your buddies to do the same. Before you know it, that LGS of yours will be looking a little more like paradise. Happy new year, Nexites!