Four (More) Cards Wizards Should Reprint for Modern

In my reprint article last week, I promised more reprint coverage if the article was popular and well-received. With almost twice as many comments as other articles on the site, thousands of views, and tons of positive press, the readers have spoken: Modern players love reprint articles. On the one hand, this could suggest an underlying dissatisfaction with Modern’s current cardpool or its decks. Magic players sure love to complain about Modern (whether unbans/bans, prices, archetypes, metagame diversity, etc.), so it’s not a stretch that reprints also fall into this category. I tend to give a more positive spin: we Moderners love our format and want to see it get even better. For many of us, Modern represents a promise of deck diversity and choice unparalleled in other formats. Good reprints promise to only increase this diversity, which is why many of us love to discuss them.

Containment-Priest-art

Mother of Runes, Innocent Blood, Baleful Strix, and Onslaught cycling lands got the spotlight in last week’s article. This week, I’m shifting focus to four more cards that deserve a home in Modern. We promised a fun article last week and hopefully this one keeps that reprint fun coming. If two fan favorites have anything to say about it, I’m guessing you’ll be as excited to read these suggestions as I was to write them.

The Reprint List (Part 2)

VindicateFollowing last week’s theme, I only want to propose reprints that meet two parameters. First, a reprint should benefit a lower-tier deck without pushing a top-tier deck too far. This means a card like Vindicate should probably be kept off the list. For every Deadguy Ale and Esper Control list you’d see Vindicate in, you’d see a half dozen Vindicate-powered Abzan lists clogging up the Top 8s/16s of every event. It’s true that Vindicate might be, well, “vindicated” in testing as safe for the format, but the card is strong enough abstractly that we don’t really need to test it to prove its power in Abzan. Back to Basics would be risky here too. Do we really need to give Merfolk its own Blood Moon, even if some tier 3 Mono Blue Devotion deck gets a new toy? These are the kinds of cards we want to avoid. A much better reprint idea would be something similar to Gempalm Incinerator, which would only serve to improve the low-tier Goblins without remotely benefiting Modern’s top-tier decks.

EntombWe also don’t want cards that violate format guidelines, particularly the turn four rule. Rituals almost always fit into this category, including otherwise fun cards like Land Grant and Elvish Spirit Guide. We also find archetype staples like Entomb and Exhume here: these cards would definitely help an underplayed Modern archetype (Reanimator), but do we really need another way to get turn two Griselbrand? It’s possible these so-called turn four rule violators wouldn’t actually make a big Modern impact. The SCG Charlotte Open saw only a single Amulet Bloom and Grishoalbrand deck on Day 2 (more on that event tomorrow!), which points to Modern’s impressive ability to self-regulate. Even so, we still don’t want to risk adding these kinds of decks to the format, which means our reprints need to steer clear of cards which improve the speediest decks.

Based on these parameters, here are four (more) cards which look like great additions to Modern.

1. Containment Priest

White is in a bad place in Modern. Path to Exile is easily one of our best removal spells alongside Bolt, Abrupt Decay, and Containment PriestTerminate, but your white cardpool gets pretty weak after that. White gives you sideboard cards and little else. Most colors in Modern are fairly deep in both the maindeck and sideboard, with lots of applications across the format’s top-tier decks. White? Playing white often feels like swimming in those public park district pools, where your “deep” end is about five feet and everything else is waist-level. My Mother of Runes reprint suggestion last week aimed to fix this, and today I’m adding another leading lady to Mom’s team. Containment Priest gives white decks more catchall hatred against some of Modern’s least fair decks, especially Goryo’s Vengeance and Through the Breach-based strategies. Priest is also strong in a variety of random matchups including Merfolk (shutting down Aether Vial), Elves/Abzan Company/Naya Company (no more Collected Company/Chord of Calling), 4C Gifts, UW Tron, Death and Taxes, Dredgevine, any decks packing Restoration Angel, etc. That’s a big boost to creature-based white decks trying to break into Modern.

Looking over the above list of Priestly applications, you can probably guess the main objection to Priest’s addition: “Do these decks really need more policing effects to fight through?” It seems like Priest might actually decrease Modern’s diversity, throwing more obstacles in front of decks that are already tier 2 and tier 3 (Merfolk excepted). There are two reasons we shouldn’t be too worried about this. For one, there aren’t too many decks which actually want to use Priest. She’s helping a specific subset of white-based aggro and midrange, such as Abzan Liege, Hatebears, and Deadguy Ale. She’s not even a Death and Taxes inclusion because of glaring anti-synergy with Vial and Flickerwisp. Would higher-tier Abzan play her? Probably not: Abzan is tight on sideboard slots and has better ways of handling the decks Priest is answering. All of this means Priest is only going in a few decks which are unlikely to be so popular as to push out the decks she polices.

Speaking of policing, the second reason to have Priest in Modern is as a mainstay policewoman. The more Priest-style cards we have in Modern, the safer cards like Company, Breach, Vengeance, and others become. She’s a longterm investment in format health, increasing our hate options to regulate certain decks in certain metagames while also improving a color’s profile.

2. Psychatog

Dr. Teeth in Modern: can you picture that? I definitely can, but not the hideous Vintage Masters art. Ever since Wizards announced the Modern cutoff over the Overextended cutoff in Gavin Verhey’s experimental format, I’ve been mourning PsychatogPsychatog‘s absence. The Atog will always be synonymous with a certain style of control, pairing with oldschool staples such as Upheaval, Cunning Wish, and Counterspell to dominate events like World’s 2002. Grixis Control may have filled a top-tier control gap in Modern, but it’s only one deck of six or seven non-control decks, and many players continue to disagree over whether it’s a “true” control deck. Whether or not you think Grixis Control is worthy of that name, it’s worth thinking of how Psychatog fits into the Modern control picture. How does the Atog work in Grixis, our current big control player? This card has significant anti-synergy with both delve creatures such as Tasigur, the Golden Fang/Gurmag Angler, and the blue control staple of Snapcaster Mage. To me, this makes the card an unlikely inclusion in the contemporary Grixis Control lists. That’s important because we don’t want to improve existing top-tier decks too much with any one reprint.

So if Psychatog isn’t helping out Grixis Control, where would we see it? I don’t predict Dr. Teeth playing nice with the delve creatures (Snapcaster should be fine), which suggests the Atog needs to find a home in a UBx control deck which isn’t relying on Tasigur or Angler. This could still be a Grixis deck: the old Cruel Ultimatum-style Cruel Control deck comes to mind. Esper is also an option, such as this 20th place deck from the recent SCG Open. In both cases, Psychatog occupies a similar space to Angler and Tasigur, allowing its control shell to run a proactive gameplan alongside a reactive one. Tog also walls off smaller creatures in the early game like its delving competitors. Abrupt Decay vulnerability is a problem, but Tog closes out games much faster than a mid or late-game Angler/Tasigur. Overall, I think Tog would be one of the safer Modern reprints, very much in a similar category as the recently reprinted Goblin Piledriver (hopefully a bit better). It’s a good creature which will probably help out some decks, but is unlikely to make huge waves due to competition and hatred that didn’t exist back in its heyday. I’d still play Tog and try it out in a control deck (especially if they gave me Innocent Blood too), but I don’t see the card cracking tier 1 in this format.

3. Opt

Here’s our controversial reprint suggestion of the day. Variance-reducers are some of the strongest cards in Magic. Modern is no exception: Ponder and Preordain were Optbanned for giving UR decks too much consistency during 2011’s PT Philadelphia. Serum Visions may not be the strongest cantrip in Magic, but it’s strong enough to see automatic inclusion in all of the top-tier blue decks outside of the traditionally cantripless Merfolk. Of course, eternal formats have Brainstorm as the most skill-testing and powerful cantrip in the game’s history (we’ll set aside the silliness that is Ancestral Recall). Modern players have long wanted a card to supplement Visions but without the format-warping nature of Brainstorm or even the power level of Preordain. Enter Opt. This unassuming instant from Invasion has quickly become on of the most-requested reprints in Modern. We’d even settle for a Modernized version with “scry 1” in place of the first line of card text. Either way, Opt promises to be a strong addition to Modern decks. The card would undoubtedly see some degree of play in Twin and Scapeshift, blue-based control like Grixis and Esper, and Delver-style decks across the Uxx spectrum. Being an instant is awesome here: even on the draw, Opt lets you keep up mana for a Bolt or a Spell Snare to ensure interaction options. That’s critical in turns 1-3 when even the best blue-based deck needs to keep counters and removal open to handle the format’s fastest strategies.

Opt‘s biggest danger is in combo decks. We don’t want reprints to benefit top-tier decks too much, and we should be justifiably aware of Opt‘s applications in Twin. This deck, and its variations, need no help whatsoever, and Opt could push them over the top. The main reason I’m willing to take this risk is that Opt helps Delver decks more than it does Twin decks. As anyone who has played these matchups can attest, Delver of Secrets eats Deceiver Exarchs for breakfast. If Opt is pushing Delver strategies, they should be able to regulate the Twin strategies while themselves still being checked by the BGx decks: Opt doesn’t hurt BGx the same way Treasure Cruise did either. We also need to think about Opt’s utility in Grixis Control, but to be honest, the deck can stand to gain a few percentage points if it’s also benefiting other decks.

Final word on this one: unlike many other reprints on these kinds of lists, there’s actually some real-world precedent for Opt‘s reprinting! Back in May, Sam Stoddard tweeted about testing the card for Origins, but found it too strong with Jeskai Ascendancy in Standard. Perhaps we will see Opt in a post-Ascendancy Standard (or maybe a Modern feeder set that bypasses Standard, but that’s a beast for another time).

4. Astral Slide

Our last reprint suggestion is a huge fan-favorite, and personal favorite, from the good old days of Magic. Not the Hypnotic Specter/Dark Ritual good old days, or the Astral SlideCadaverous Bloom/Prosperity good old days. I’m talking about the early 2000s days when Astral Slide and Lightning Rift showed the world that cycling was a viable build-around mechanic outside of silly Fluctuator shenanigans. A Slide reprint serves a few functions in Modern. For one, it’s the rare card that enables a totally new strategy without touching any existing top-tier decks. Many build-around cards like Slide don’t have what it takes to succeed in a high-powered format like Modern (and maybe Slide doesn’t either!), but if anything can make it it’s the interactive and highly relevant Astral Slide effect. Removal is perhaps the most important interaction point in Modern and Slide gives a virtually unconditional and repeatable source for it. Abrupt Decay presents Slide with similar problems to those it gives Psychatog, but this doesn’t diminish Slide’s play against most of Modern’s best decks: Twin, Grixis Control, Jund/Abzan, etc. I’d struggle with running Slide in Burn/Affinity-heavy metagames (we don’t have Renewed Faith to shore up the matchups), but you could still get a lot of mileage from flickering cards like Wall of Omens and Lone Missionary.

A second reason to add Slide to Modern is improving white, even if a very specific and perhaps limited way. I love the idea of playing Ghostly Prison alongside Astral Slide in a some kind of WR, UW, or UWR-style deck. I also like the synergy between Slide and some of the better cycling cards in Modern. Angelsong is an all-star here, wrecking Affinity, Twin, and Infect on its own and cycling to fuel a Slide trigger. I also like Bant Sojourners as an instant-speed uncounterable flicker and 1/1 token generator. Slide would definitely want some cycling lands to support it, at which point I’m dying to power-up the whole engine with Life from the Loam. All of this is to say that a Slide reprint opens up a lot of space for white in Modern without putting too much pressure on existing decks, making it an ideal reprint in some future, cycling-themed set.

Testing Controversial Reprints

You can bet on seeing more reprint articles in the future, including one with some concrete test results Counterspellaround one of the most controversial reprints of them all: Counterspell. This is the kind of potentially high-impact reprint we can’t just talk about in a vacuum. We need to test the card and see how it performs in a few different contexts. For now, the plan is to test Counterspell in UR Twin and some combination of Scapeshift, Grixis Control, and/or Temur/Grixis Delver. I’m definitely testing the Jund vs. UR Twin matchup because that’s such an iconic one in Modern and we need to see how Counterspell affects it. We would be worried if the roughly 50-50 matchup tipped 60-40 in favor of Twin due to Counterspell. Or maybe it doesn’t tip at all. Test results will show and we’ll revisit this topic in the near future.

What reprints did I miss for Modern? I realize red didn’t get a lot of love in either article: are there any red cards you really want to see in Modern (don’t you dare suggest Price of Progress)? What about colorless cards or artifacts (I almost wrote about Crawlspace today but decided to go towards other cards instead)? Let me know in the comments.

We’ll be back next week with some test results and, hopefully, some early Battle For Zendikar spoilers out of PAX Prime. Join me tomorrow for a breakdown of the SCG Open results.

 

Editor’s note: Containment Priest doesn’t interact with Living End as favorably as the article suggested, and this deck has been removed from the list of matchups where she is relevant. It has been replaced with two other relevant matchups.

Sheridan is the former Editor in Chief of Modern Nexus and a current Staff Author. He comes from a background in social science data analysis, database administration, and academia. He has been playing Magic since 1998 and Modern since 2011.

24 thoughts on “Four (More) Cards Wizards Should Reprint for Modern

  1. I am happy to hear you’re going to test counterspell; I just want to point out that I think it is incorrect to only test it in the shells you listed–I think it’s important to also consider the implications it has for the existence of a strict UW draw-go style deck, and UWx draw-go in general. Unless you take it as a given that these decks benefit from the reprint more than the decks you’re testing, and the question is only whether it pushes the listed decks TOO hard entirely.

    1. On the one hand, I think it’s important to do thorough testing to ensure we are catching all the areas where a card could be broken. On the other hand, I don’t think we need to test every single permutation of Uxx control, combo, and tempo deck in Modern to prove a card is safe. At absolute most, I would want to test it in three different lists to see how it fares. One would still be Twin and the others would probably be Grixis and some deck with Path to Exile. But if Counterspell isn’t putting in serious work in those matchups, there isn’t a lot of reason to test it in other lower-tier decks just to be extra safe.

  2. Minor nitpick – containment priest doesn’t do anything against living end since it gets sacrificed to living end before the exiled creatures enter the battlefield – unless I’m missing something on the timing.

    I’m pretty sure psychatog would be unplayable considering you could just do tasigur/angler at 1/3rd the casting cost and simultaneously not get owned by abrupt decay.

    I thought containment priest would have the scavenging ooze trajectory and go from commander product into origins, seems like a valid modern card to me.

    Never played astral slide so no idea if its OP or not – would imagine it depends on the cycling support it gets. I think between abrupt decay and sideboarded revelries/wear-tears having a strong 3 mana enchantment would be fine for the format tho.

    1. You are right on the Living End interaction. I was spitballing deck ideas in that sentence and didn’t realize it’s a nonbo as an anti-Living End card. Changing it and adding an editor’s note.

      In Decay-heavy metagames, I would still rather have trust Angler or Tasigur than the hypothetical Atog. But there are plenty of metagames where Decay isn’t commonly used. Indeed, many Jund decks are cutting down on Decay counts in favor of Terminate, K-Command, and Bolts. I will say that Psychatog’s IoK vulnerability is another big issue that Tasigur/Angler dodge. That said, Tog would still shine as a mid-game clock in a way that Tasigur/Angler can’t quite match. This might be enough to give Dr. Teeth his own niche, but like you, I’m not optimistic the card is good enough for Modern.

  3. I feel like Nether Spirit would be a good addition to modern – wouldn’t help any tier 1 decks much as far as I can tell, very easy to deal with. Bad in multiples. Has all the black flavor. Its drawbacks make it a fair card imo. This would really help Pox become a deck in modern beyond it’s current (not really pox) iterations, and may also help mono black control. Side note – it would be cool to see some more brews on here – specifically black-centric decks. Thanks for the article!

    1. Spirit is an old favorite of mine from the Contamination days. I also don’t see it being a problem in Modern and it would undoubtedly help out some fringe strategies. As for brews, we tinkered with a Deck of the Week brewing style article over the summer, but the views weren’t as strong as with our other content. We’re still thinking of ways to bring regular brewing pieces to the site (a Saturday article is a strong contender), but nothing finalized yet.

  4. I’m pretty happy we got another of these articles. The more fodder for reprint discussion, the better – I think that if we drum up enough support for some of these cards, we might either get them or a “fixed” version of them that’s close enough for our purposes. I’m also very happy to see that you’re on the “Bring Psychatog to Modern” bandwagon (and I agree, that Vintage Masters art is an abomination). I’d also be excited to see Opt and Containment Priest in Modern (it’s pretty clear at this point that Hallowed Moonlight has not quite done the job, and at worst Priest is an Ashcoat Bear).

    However, I’m kind of scratching my head at Astral Slide. I know how good it was back in Onslaught Block Standard, but given the relative paucity of creatures and effects with cycling (and a lot of them are on cards most decks wouldn’t want to cast), I find that it’d be too bulky a card package to sneak into UWx control, and it feels too narrow to be its own deck. I could be wrong, but it feels like a bit of a reach. White needs cards to make it more appealing in Modern for sure, but I think they need to look more like Containment Priest (good default body, great effect against some types of decks), and less like Astral Slide.

    1. I definitely don’t think Slide is something you put in UW Control or a similar, existing deck. It’s definitely trying to do its own thing and without Lightning Rift (as you suggest), it might not be enough to make it in our format. I like the idea of reviving old archetypes for contemporary play, and I like the idea of Slide doing this in white’s favor. But I too would be worried that the card needs more support. Hopefully we see it again in a cycling-themed block in the future!

  5. All four of these would be great! Imagine if Priest and Slide came into Standard/Modern at the same time…now there’s a fun combo with some good cycling cards.

    I’d love to see blue get Curfew as well for some nice early disruption to work around things like Bogles and Infect. Snap value too.

    1. Curfew is an interesting one. I have fond memories of that card (played alongside Stroke of Genius and others!), and I don’t think it would be too crazy in Modern. I’m also generally leery of adding that many powerful Snapcaster synergies to the format: Snappy is good enough as he is without any additional help. But Curfew could still give a nice boost to blue decks, especially more traditional control.

  6. Be sure to test Counterspell with Path to Exile. The closest analogue to Counterspell we have in Modern right now is Mana Leak and one of its issues is that it ceases to become relevant as the game drags on and it’s anti-synergy with Path to Exile make Celestial Colonnade decks somewhat awkward.

    Also, when you do your Modern Testing with Unbanned cards, please make sure to consider the potential implications in other decks as a result of the unbanning. For example, with Counterspell legal, Jund almost assuredly runs Thrun in its sideboard, so picking a Jund deck without access to Thrun is probably not a fair comparison of what Modern looks like when XX card is unbanned.

    1. We’ll probably do one white-splashed control deck just to see how Path/Counterspell plays better (or no better) than Path/Leak. We’re also adjusting sideboards to account for a post-CS metagame. Maindecks will stay largely the same for gauntlet decks (currently Jund) because these cores don’t change too much over time.

  7. Flickerwisp does not have anti-synergy with containment priest; flickerwisp becomes an exile on a stick with the priest. It would definitely be a boon to Death and Taxes sideboards.

    1. It’s anti-synergy in the sense that you have to use Flickerwisp offensively and can’t use it on your own creatures. Although I think D&T would probably play some number in their board to use Wisp as an unconditional Fiend Hunter effect, I also think you wouldn’t see it maindecked in any serious quantity because you don’t want Flicker totally shutdown when aimed at your own cards.

    1. If you check Gatherer, Opt (and a few other cards, I believe) did receive updated Oracle text to go along with Scry becoming evergreen. Initially it was up in the air because making that change is functional (because of cards like Knowledge and Power), but they wound up making the decision to add the text 🙂

      Opt for Reprint 2016!

    1. What does it offer over Kor Firewalker? Being Human (which is nice, I guess)? The first strike is cute, but it doesn’t do that much (especially compared to gaining life every time a red spell is cast). I don’t see what deck it fits into other than Knight Tribal, which is like Tier 4-5 at best and won’t rise much higher if it’s in the meta (since Knight of Meadowgrain and Knight of the White Orchid are the better all-comers picks).

  8. If cards from both articles were reprinted, the interaction between Astral Slide, Containment Priest, cycle lands, and Life from the Loam would be interesting. I could see an Abzan Loam deck with the classics like Liliana, Lingering Souls, and Tasigur getting the advantage of up to 12 cantrips that can also be used as uncounterable removal once slide is up. Also sliding rhinos would be fun.

  9. I played counterspell in the beginning days of modern not knowing it was even banned. It really did nothing for me due to the fact that I was playing fish. I laughed when they said counterspell was banned, and to my surprise it was on the banned list. I am a vintage player and when I saw counterspell countered in the modern format I almost quit modern. I then tested a bit of control (UWR) with counterspell and saw the power a hard counter in modern can apply on the field. I am now on the fence about counterspell, but am really glad to hear you guys are going to do a test with the card. I would really love to see counterspell come off the ban list, but I do not want the format to warp into degeneracy (that is what vintage is for).
    Brendelton

    1. Just to be clear, Counterspell is not banned in Modern. It’s just from an earlier set that isn’t part of the Modern cardpool (7th Edition). There’s a big difference between a card being banned for power reasons (e.g. Mental Misstep) and a card just not being legal by virtue of the cutoff (e.g. Counterspell). Of course, that doesn’t mean a card is necessarily fair just because it’s an older card. I think there are some concerns we should have about the card, especially in tandem with Path (Leak and Path antisynergy is a strike against that pairing), but I also think a lot of Counterspell related fears are overblown. Testing will tell!

  10. Hey Sheridan,
    As always, thanks for the article. While I find these articles informative and intriguing I always find myself thinking after I read them, “yeah, that’s be awesome but what are the changes Wizards actually follows suit with such ideas.” And then I die a little inside when I remember that the odds are not great. In you experience, how receptive to these sorts of reforms has Wizards been? I don’t presume to know a ton about the nuances of the format…particularly in relation to standard. But something like containment priest doesn’t–at least to me–seem to be overly disruptive in standard.

    Additionally, given the sorry state of white in modern, what do you feel the color needs to be more prevalent? Is it as simple as giving the color some reprints, or does the color need something more to break it out of the doldrums?

    As always, thanks for all you do…
    Dan W.

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