Hello, loyal readers! Fear not, the clickbait garbage of Buzzfeed and Facebook has not spread to Modern Nexus. You will not find “How To Save $40,000 With One Simple Trick”, “Five Ways to Save Your Failing Marriage” or “Personal Trainers Hate Him” nonsense here. What you will find is grounded, common sense information backed up with facts and elaborated eloquently with pithy semantics. Whether you are brewing up some new decks or deliberating over your last couple sideboard slots, These Five Cards You Should Be Playing Will Change Your Life! Let’s do it.
What follows is a short list of cards that have impressed me recently, both playing with and against them. By no means is this list exhaustive, and I’m sure there are cards out there I’ve missed that should probably also be seeing play. My hope is I will be able to accurately describe my thought process, both to encourage discussion, provide a basis for my opinion, and serve as a model to be analyzed, improved upon, or (should it be deemed worthy) used by others to help in their own analysis. Card quality/playability fluctuates drastically due to the ever-changing nature of Context, which will make Kitchen Finks unplayable in some metagames and an all-star in others. In no particular order…
Okay, so maybe some order. If there’s anything I’ve learned about writing: transitions. Eventually I’ll learn grammar and sentence structure (right David?!). [Editor’s Note-*eye twitch*]
Kitchen Finks has impressed me every time I’ve seen it cast, and is the primary motivation for this article. I was first “re-introduced” to Kitchen Finks as a three-of in Joseph Herrera’s SCG Charlotte-winning Jund Midrange sideboard. Rather than playing narrow spells like Feed the Clan to fight Burn, Joe found room for three Kitchen Finks to provide him precious lifegain, while also giving him sideboard options for other matchups. Kitchen Finks quickly proved its worth against Affinity, Merfolk, and Zoo/Company decks. It absolutely wrecks Grixis Delver (assuming they aren’t playing/can’t find their Pillar of Flame) and can help grind Grixis and Jeskai Control decks out of answers. Finks helps greatly in the Grixis matchu specifically, offering an inherent way to combat Grixis’ two-for-ones like Kolaghan’s Command with a creature that requires multiple kill spells to remove permanently.
Kitchen Finks is at its best when trading with small creatures, leaving us up a card and up life. Most of the spells it trades with cost less than two mana (Goblin Guide, Merfolk without Islandwalk, Snapcaster Mage, Memnite) so its three CMC can often be a little awkward. As a result, Kitchen Finks is often seen alongside green acceleration like Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch (like in my Bant Knightfall list), but not always if you ask Yuuya Watanabe (U/W Control). This acceleration is often necessary to allow Finks to come down quick enough to either trade with creatures or stunt our opponents’ development as they spend mana removing it. As Yuuya has shown, slowing opponents down, and pairing Kitchen Finks with Blink effects like Restoration Angel on the opposite end of the spectrum, is also highly effective.
Kitchen Finks excels in midrange metagames composed primarily of aggressive decks. It is often seen in green decks like Jund Midrange and Abzan, but U/W Control is one example of a “non-intuitive” archetype that employs his talents. Finks is also within Scapeshift’s range, though they often play Thragtusk as they can easily afford the bigger effect for a higher price. Finks becomes a liability when combo is rampant, but Living End, Amulet Bloom, and Grishoalbrand are currently at an All-Time-Low. Go get that value!
Ever since the printing of Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler fundamentally changed the way we build decks in Modern, Dispel has been an absolute all-star. Before, Dispel was a liability against the plethora of creature decks in the format, but today even creature-heavy lists like Elves and Naya contain great targets like Collected Company. Similar to Tarmogoyf, delve creatures force opponents to keep in removal after board to interact (as 4/5’s and 5/5’s are just a little too big), which walks them right into our Dispels. Playing as Grixis, I’ve won many gameson the spot when I countered a Collected Company, or Path to Exile aimed at my Gurmag Roadblock, for one blue mana. Dispel is still excellent in the blue mirrors, and great against combo as well. Any deck with a or tempo element can appreciate the cheap interaction it provides (Grixis Delver/Control/Twin, Merfolk, Knightfall) and even pure combo and control can use it as well (though Jeskai and U/W often opt for the more versatile Negate instead).
Should Jund Midrange/Affinity/Tron become a majority of the metagame (which we are actually starting to see now) Dispel’s value goes down, but only slightly. I would say we are coming out of a couple week window where Dispel was absolutely maindeck-playable, but the argument can still be made for its inclusion: it is great against Burn and punishes decks relying on “cheating” the bare minimum amount of interaction. Punish them!
This little guy has shown up here and there, and has been great every time. When Twin was dominating Modern, Jund turned to Slaughter Pact to help fight the archetype, though it proved largely unnecessary as Liliana/Thoughtseize/Terminate were often good enough. It does fine work against Amulet Bloom, and is passable against other creature decks, assuming we build to mitigate its downside. Decks that pack things to do that don’t require mana, like drawing cards with Dark Confidant or activating abilities of planeswalkers, can “work around” the lost mana that comes with Slaughter Pact, but the real trick is to pair the free spell with a strategy that can use the tempo advantage.
Pairing free spells like Gitaxian Probe with Monastery Mentor is nothing new, but now Slaughter Pact starts to look a lot better as we can take advantage of more free spells without having to play bad cards like Mutagenic Growth. Mardu has always been a step below Top Tier in Modern (as losing Snapcaster Mage, other blue spells, and Tarmogoyf is just a little too much) but a Mardu Tokens deck with Monastery Mentor, Young Pyromancer, cheap removal, and discard is a strong core, and will show up one day when someone finds the right list. Look out for Slaughter Pact: this guy has a habit of popping up in those slightly off the radar decks like B/W Tokens and Suicide Zoo.
This tech was introduced by Jeff Hoogland in his innovative Kiki Chord list from SCG Cincinatti. Most decks in the format have difficulty killing everything, which makes Worship a pretty resilient soft-lock in many matchups. Burn can’t beat it outside of a Destructive Revelry, which can be non-intuitive to bring in against the Worship deck, depending on what we’re playing. Decks like Affinity and Collected Company really have no hope. We just have to kill Affinity’s Inkmoth Nexus’ and dodge Qasali Pridemage or similar effects against the Company decks. Even Grixis Control has trouble beating it, as it is impossible for them to remove it once it resolves (now that the latest Grixis list has moved away from Cryptic Command). Worship punishes the lack of sweepers in the format and takes advantage of an over-reliance on cheap, interactive one-for-one removal to fight Goblin Guide and Deceiver Exarch. Splashy, unique enchantments like this can take a stale metagame by surprise (as Bitterblossom was doing a few months ago) and I’m sure there are other gems like Worship out there just waiting to be exploited.
My personal favorite, though probably the narrowest, Gut Shot is an interesting choice because any deck can play it, but only a few want to. For those that do, however, Gut Shot is really great right now. Shooting down Birds of Paradise, Glistener Elf, Delver of Secrets, Dark Confidant, Signal Pest and others on turn one, Gut Shot has no shortage of targets in Modern. I like Gut Shot for many of the same reasons why I like Slaughter Pact, so we can think of it as a really narrow Slaughter Pact without the drawback (and committal to black). As I said earlier, any deck can play it, but if we’re putting cards like Gut Shot in our deck we really need to work to get some “extra value”. Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor help, as does Abbot of Keral Keep (not just for the prowess, but also for an extra free spell we can cast off our Abbot flip). I was really impressed with Patrick Chapin’s Temur Prowess list from GP Oklahoma City (so impressed I did a video series on it here!) and that deck loved squeezing every drop of value out of seemingly unimpressive spells. Gut Shot won’t be blowing anyone’s minds, but when you hit someone with it, it definitely feels… (exercising restraint).
So there we have it, my short list for a few cards that I feel should be seeing more play in Modern. I specifically strayed away from proven cards that just don’t have good shells (Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Bloodghast) and chose to focus on malleable cards that can fit in multiple strategies. What do you think? Are there any cards I missed? Do you think the cards I mentioned should not see play? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week, when I give you 7 Signs Aliens Walk Among Us.
The_Architect on MTGO
Trevor started playing Magic in 2011. He plays primarily online and studies Architecture at UNCC. Recent paper Magic accomplishments include a 2015 Regional PTQ win qualifying for Pro Tour: Magic Origins and a Day Two performance at GP Charlotte. He also streams weekdays at twitch.tv/Architect_Gaming! Follow him at twitter.com/7he4rchitect and architectgaming.wordpress.com!