In the second part of this article I’ll go over creatures and lands, and see which ones are more representative of the Modern metagame.
Flash is one of the most interesting abilities in any creature. Surprising the opponent is key in Magic, and this is one of the nicest exponents. This card also has wonderful interactions, allowing all sorts of interesting plays and one important combo with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, that allows for infinite creatures and inifite combat damage.
This one is a difficult card to understand in a vacuum. It is a nice creature by itself, being a 2 power flyer, but it shines thanks to its extra ability, which makes it difficult for the opponent to take advantage of its tutor abilities and fetchlands. It is easy to see this creature coming, as it is a staple of the Hatebears deck. It is also fragile, so basically any removal will take care of it.
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
This creature is solid by itself, but is is a lot better thanks to its ability to shut down many decks, at least partially. Modern is a complex environment, and creatures are expected to have extra value: Linvala makes your opponent’s creatures go back to a rather more vanilla state, and that is good. Very good.
The definition of a hatebear: 2/2 for 2CMC with an added effect that makes life difficult for the opponent. Leonin Arbiter makes your copies of Path to Exile extra effective, and renders fetchlands a lot less effective. Almost exclusively played in GW hatebears.
Kataki, War’s Wage
A very good way to get in the way of Affinity’s efficiency. A wisely placed Kataki will mean the opponent having to sacrifice some artifacts and slow down. This is a removal magnet, of course, but they must have removal at the appropiate time. And leave mana open to play it after the upkeep. Just hope you don’t see Kataki if you’re playing Affinity.
Played in Vintage, Legacy, Modern, and just about every format where it can be played. Snapcaster Mage is one of the defining creatures in Magic. A pleasure to play and one of the most beautiful designs ever. Keep it always in mind when playing against blue: odds are they can play again any spell in the graveyard. Remember that killing the Mage does not work to avoid the effect from taking place, but removing the card it targets does. This means you can remove from the game the card Snapcaster Mage tries to give Flashback to in response to the opponent declaring which card he wants to play again.
Delver of Secrets
Another great card that has regrettably become less popular lately in Modern, even though it is still a staple in many decks. In the right deck, it is essentially a suspended 3/2 flyer. Remember that Delver transforms as soon as the right card is revealed: you cannot kill the creature in response to the opponent showing an instant. This is only relevant in the strange occasions where you can only deal one damage, but still.
One of the two possible combo pieces to combine with Splinter Twin, and arguably the best one, thanks to its 4 toughness. If you see it played at the end of your turn you can be pretty sure you’re going to see the combo at the first main phase next turn. Therefore, prepare in advance to disrupt the combo either removal or countermagic.
One of the two possible combo pieces to combine with Splinter Twin, a bit weaker than Deceiver Exarch because of his paltry 1 toughness. Notice evasion tends to be a bit less relevant when we have infinite creatures. If you see it played at the end of your turn you can be pretty sure you’re going to see the combo at the first main phase next turn. Therefore, prepare in advance to disrupt the combo either removal or countermagic.
Flash, as I have stated before, is one of the most important abilities in a creature. This one has flying too. And a 3/1 body. And hand disruption. Card draw too, depending on who the target is. This card is extremely good and one of the best sideboard cards available for heavy blue decks. Word of advice: do not show your hand until your opponent specifies you are the target of the ability.
Played in only a few decks (faeries and a UR delver variant), but enormously good. Flash and countermagic on a 1/1 flyer. Good stuff. There is a very good trick you should know if you play against Spellstutter Sprite: once the sprite enters the battlefield, count how many faeries there are. If the number of faeries is exactly the number needed to counter the spell, proceed to promptly remove the faerie from the battlefield via whatever removal you have: the counterspell will then have no effect.
Master of Etherium
Played in Affinity decks to great effect, this is one heck of a lord: not only he pumps, but also grows bigger and bigger. One of many problematic cards in Affinity.
Lord of Atlantis
The original Merfolk lord. A very good target for removal. Please, please, remember this one gives islandwalk and makes all their merfolk unblockable if you play blue.
Master of the Pearl Trident
Merfolk lord and one big problem for you. Lords have to be your primary removal target. Remember, islandwalk. Their creatures are unblockable if you control one island.
A cheap Merfolk, and early disruption. A small nuisance that is going to get big in no time thanks to the 12 merfolk lords. Luckily, it tends to be not a great topdeck.
To think so many people thought this card would not be any good when it was released. It is a bit risky at times, and there have been players losing the game in their upkeep, but Bob is a wonderful card and a great tool for many Modern decks, most notably Jund and Junk. Remember: if you are playing against Dark Confidant and the opponent is low on life, it might be a good idea to let it live a bit longer. They get extra cards, but it might be worth it.
Played in Affinity, but good enough to fit in other decks, as it does in Pauper. This guy plus any kind of pump means huge life swings. Remember one important thing: all damage is dealt at the same time in the combat phase, and the life from the lifelink ability is gained at the same time the damage is dealt.
The best creature in Burn decks, and often the only one. This guy means most times 4 damage, and often way more. It means a sort of negative card advantage, but it goes with the red philosophy in that you should be able to kill the opponent fast enough for card advantage to mean very little.
Eidolon of the Great Revel
A very very recent addition that looks like it’s here to stay. Punishing the efficiency is weird but it works, it really does: it will cost the opponent life to play almost any removal, and that’s if they don’t have to look for the removal, in which case we are looking at a lot of damage. A really nice design.
An almost endless source of damage in the right deck, and a wonderful card all around. Remember removing the cards from the graveyard is part of the cost, and therefore we cannot remove cards in response to avoid the effect.
A relatively recent card that has found two good friends in Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster Mage in the incredibly fun UR delver deck. You have to remember to place the tokens in the battlefield yourself, and remember to do it in time. The card is absolutely useless if we don’t remember to do what makes it great.
Often used in Burn, it is an efficient source of damage but tends to be a bad topdeck from the midgame on. Then again, burn tends to have little to do from the midgame on.
Simian Spirit Guide
A tool to be used in some combo decks. Discarding the card to generate the mana is NOT a spell, and as such it cannot be countered.
Another efficient creature to obtain some more points of damage. This is played often to go under a Leyline of Sanctity.
Cards that give the opponent a choice tend to be really bad, but this one could be good enough, given both options are OK for what Burn is trying to do.
The wallet destroyer. Tarmogoyf is very expensive because it is incredibly efficient: it tends to be at least a 4/5 creature by turn 3, for the low price of 1G. Remember: look for the card types in the graveyard and remove, if possible, the relevant ones to make Tarmo a bit smaller.
A very solid card that isn’t way more expensive thanks to a sufficient print run. Scavenging Ooze is a nightmare for the opponent. It will grow big and give life to boot to the controller. Remember always to check if the opponent has green mana available, as they can remove any card from any cemetery and can gain life and pump the creature all at the same time. This is a prime example of something that should be killed before it is too late.
Thrun, the Last Troll
Try to avoid Thrun from ever hitting the battlefield. Oh wait, you can’t, because it can’t be countered. Nor targeted. And it regenerates. Thrun, the Last Troll is a veritable nightmare that comes down entirely too soon. You can make the opponent sacrifice it, and there are wrath effects that exile rather than destroy, but it is a real pain in the ass. At least it has zero evasion and can be chumpblocked.
Courser of Kruphix
Oracle of Mul Daya v2.0. I have seen this guy fend off aggro decks with ease, and provide sweet card advantage while at it. Courser is a fantastic card that will become a modern staple and synonymous with Jund and Junk, I’m sure of it. The big problem with Courser of Kruphix on the other side of the table is it tends to be surrounded by other excellent targets for removal.
Partial namesake of Shouta Yasooka’s deck from two years ago, this card still sees play thanks to a very interesting effect and a reasonable body. Remember: if possible, remove the card targeted by Eternal Witness from the graveyard and you’ll have avoided a small crisis.
Birds of Paradise
The epitome of the mana dork. Birds of Paradise accelerates, fixes and chumpblocks like no other. Doesn’t tend to last much in the battlefield, but remember: if you don’t see your opponent playing a land turn 2, Birds of Paradise becomes a really interesting target for removal.
A really expensive (in actual cash) mana dork. It is a real house, pumping your creatures at the same time it provides the mana to play them. It is also fragile, very fragile. Remember it gets +1/+1 when attacking alone.
A really useful card in lots of situations. This can eat lightning bolts and live to tell the tale, while your precious combo piece might not. A reminder: it has to be a legal target to be able to redirect.
A cheap threat that pumps all your attackers, and you want to be attacking when playing Affinity, which is the only deck that plays this.
A real classic that has recently been reprinted. As always, it is only good if pumped, and therefore requires a certain building around. It is also valuable as a way to generate mana with Springleaf Drum.
Untap with this and essentially win. This is a very dangerous card in Affinity, where it makes everything bigger and leaves the counters behind even if it dies.
A big player in Affinity. Not only can it make itself bigger, it can then transfer the counters to another creature by sacrificing itself. This makes maths more difficult when we are being attacked by it.
Free artifact creatures are the reason Affinity is so efficient. Not the biggest threat, though.
Protection against anything you can throw at it around 90% of the time. Kill it as soon as you have the opportunity, even though it is pretty difficult. A good reson to side in that Wurmcoil Engine.
Ouch-inducing. This stops aggro all by itself, and then continues stopping it after it has died. A nightmare to get rid of, and the single best reason to exile, not destroy.
A fantastic card that has been relegated to a single deck lately, where it is an important combo piece: Melira Pod. A good way to delay aggro strategies in any case. Kitchen Finks is one of the reasons some decks play Magma Spray as removal.
Voice of Resurgence
A pretty new card, even though it has a certain oldschool feeling to it. Voice of Resurgence punishes removal and playing in the opponent’s turn, which is something that happens a lot in modern. It is a great card in Melira Pod, of course, as it leaves behind a potentially big token.
Seen in Living End, Fulminator Mage is difficult to deal with, as once it has been played it has already paid for himself by denying you of one of your lands. It is mostly played as bait for countermagic… But on the other hand it has to be answered to, as it can leave you without the necessary mana for removal. A difficult card to fight against.
Geist of Saint Traft
So much value. You can block it, but you’re going to have to deal with four more damage coming at you flying. And it appears in decks with access to both Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile, which means Geist tends to find its path free of dangers. And then it attacks you for another 6 damage.
Toolbox time! A really beautiful card. Not only it is a 3/3 when attacking for only two mana, it also pumps other creatures… And can remove a bothersome artifact or enchantment. It has it all. In common rarity.
Played in Infect and Affinity, it is an extremely good target for pump, as it will be doubly effective.
Played in Affinity. It adds to the artifact count once it is transformed, as does Inkmoth Nexus.
A classic seen in many high-level tournaments. Trample is extremely relevant when trying to get the last points of damage in.
Played in Affinity due to it adding to the artifact count and also being indestructible.
The finisher of choice for many UWx decks. It doesn’t look like much, until you start being hit after your opponent stabilizes. They are going to have to tap out almost completely to attack, which will make Celestial Colonnade removable that turn: do it.
Urza’s Power Plant
The three parts of the Urzatron. They are a strategy in themselves, making it worth the effort to dedicate a good part of the deck to look for them: once you get the engine running, it will be Karn Liberated, Wurmcoil Engine and other monsters one after another.
In Affinity, where this is played, you are pretty much done for if you don’t control any artifacts at the end of a turn. This is why Glimmervoid has no real drawback, and is a wonderful way to fix your mana.
Grove of the Burnwillows
Strange as it may seem, there are times when we are beneffited from letting the opponent gain life, or we just don’t care much. In any case, it’s mana fixing and that is generally good.
Permanently pumping all your creatures every turn sounds as good as it is.
Played in many decks, but specially effective in tribal decks where it can benefit from the Lords in the battlefield, such as Merfolk. One of the most efficient manlands, entering the battlefield untapped and turning into a creature for only one mana.
It has many uses, but the most common one is making the opponent lose an important manland, utility land, or at least a dual land. This is sometimes used in conjunction with Leonin Arbiter to make the opponent lose their land with no drawback. Remember that, as good an idea as it may seem, Ghost Quarter cannot target itself in order to look for a basic land.
A wonderful dual land used in many decks. The ability to sacrifice it to draw a card is sometimes used with Crucible of Worlds to provide a recurrent way to draw, along with wailing and gnashing of teeth at the other side of the table.
A temporal, but really flexible way to fix your mana. Returning it to your hand somehow is one of the most interesting plays you can do.
Urborg, Town of Yawgmoth
Making your utility lands more useful since day one.
Looting (drawing and then discarding) is a very good thing when entering the mid-late game, specially if we are looking for a combo piece.