Modern Set Review: War of the Spark

Every new set brings new cards to brew with and War of the Spark is no exception. This set has an unconventional emphasis on planeswalkers, which typically need to be very powerful or very unique to see play in the format. Ashiok, Dream Renderer, Viven’s Arkbow, Davriel, Rogue Shadow Mage, and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer all have some potential to see play in the Modern format. However, we wanted to limit it to a Top 5 for today and it was not easy to decide. There was also one card that was very exciting on paper but poor in practice. There is even an honorable mention that was just too hard to evaluate. Let’s break them all down.

Dishonorable Mention: Neoform
As pointed out in Tanner’s recent article, we had high hopes for this card. Neoform seems so great on paper but was less than ideal in testing. The obvious thought for this card is that it should fit into a Devoted Druid shell but that has too many problems. Neoform requires that you get a creature with converted mana cost exactly one greater than the one sacrificed. That means that if you sacrifice a two drop, you are required to get a three drop or fail to find. This means that you cannot sacrifice one of your infinite mana pieces to find a Duskwatch Recruiter without running inferior options. You cannot turn your mana dorks into three mana hatebears anymore like you could with Eldrich Evolution. Evolution is significantly better for the toolbox which means Neoform likely will not find a home here. It still may find a home in other decks, Vannifar or Copy Cat, but it is not good enough to oust Evolution out of Devoted Druid combo.

Honorable Mention: Ugin, the Ineffable
I just am not sure about this one. On first read it is very powerful. The cost reduction effect is quite powerful in both Tron and Eldrazi decks. Tron’s eggs become free cantrips to help them tear through their deck and then the threats found will be cheaper. Then Ugin produces tokens to defend itself and if those tokens chump block or suicide swing, you net a card. Then on top of that his minus takes out the vast majority of threats in the format. Mana advantage, threat production, card advantage, and removal. This guy literally does it all. The only reason we do not have him listed in the Top 5 is that we just cannot figure out how he will fit in. As an expensive colorless planeswalker, Ineffable is competing with Spirit Dragon, Liberated, and even another planeswalker in this set. He is a great card but it is such a competitive niche to be printed into. The currently popular Eldrazi decks have curves too low to cast him and I am not sure he can hold up against the other options that Tron has. He may break through but at this time it is just too close for me to call.

#5 Dreadhorde Arcanist
Dreadhorde Arcanist has some very good things going for it. First and foremost, it is two mana. That instantly increases its chances of playability in Modern. Second, it has a relevant typing. Being a Wizard means it synergizes with cards like Wizard’s Lightning. Even though his ability and base power do not work with Wizard’s Lightning, I could still see him being played in a Wizard deck. Another home I could see him in is Jund. Back in the day, people tried playing cards like Prophetic Flamespeaker in Jund. This obviously fell off, but I think Dreadhorde Arcanist could accomplish similar goals. Jund is littered with incredibly powerful but cost efficient spells. Jund is so littered with good spells that, in the Deathrite days, people tried to splash for Snapcaster Mage just to get extra value off of them; Ajani Jund pulled ahead though. Dreadhorde Arcanist fits into a deck that wants to dominate the board and cast its powerful spells. I think this is the sleeper hit of the set. It may even help Izzet Wizards complete with Izzet Phoenix.

#4 Liliana’s Triumph
This card is basically a strictly better Diabolic Edict. Not only does it have the upside of potentially netting card advantage, it also does not target. This means that it gets around things like Leyline of the Sanctity out of Bogles which previously would have made them impervious to edict effects since they tend to target a player. Additionally, it will be pretty common to control a Liliana planeswalker for decks that want this effect. Liliana, of the Veil and Liliana, the Last Hope are both format staples at this point. With Liliana of the Veil in play you already have both discard and an edict so it will be more of the same. But triggering the discard clause will not always happen and the sacrifice is the effect that you are really looking for anyway. This card definitely will not be a four of anywhere but I think we will see a copy or two in 75s for years to come.

#3 Karn, the Great Creator
This is the second four mana Karn that has been printed recently. While Karn, Scion of Urza did not make a major splash in Modern, it showed up in lists from time to time. I think this Karn has the ability to see more play. First, the mana cost is definitely in the sweet spot. Being a four mana planeswalker makes it cheap enough to reasonably cast. Scion of Urza also was at this mana cost which led to a lot of the buzz around how good it was pegged to be. This Karn comes with a solid passive ability. Artifacts are incredibly powerful in Modern and turning off their actives can be incredibly powerful in the right matchups. His plus is similar to abilities we have seen on Tezzeret variations in the past. The minus allows for an huge toolbox of artifacts to choose from. The hype has already caused Mycosynth Lattice to more than double in price. This Karn definitely has all of the tools needed to make a splash in Modern.

#2 Blast Zone
Blast Zone has been described as the land version of Engineered Explosives and for good reason. Both cards destroy non-land permanents with mana costs equal to their charge counters. EE gets its counters through the Sunburst mechanic which tends to limit what mana costs you are able to hit to 0-3. Blast Zone can hit any mana cost greater than 0 given the right mana investment. Decks like Colorless Eldrazi, which were running cards like Ratchet Bomb, will be incredibly happy to have access to this card. There just is not a ton to say about the card. They took an effect that already sees play on artifacts and put it onto a land. There are tons of land tutors in the format and having access to another silver bullet is incredibly good; Tron and Amulet will likely run one. This card will absolutely see play.

#1 Dovin’s Veto
This is the safest prediction here in my opinion. Dovin’s Veto is an upgrade for the decks that were already running Negate. I think it is safe to say that this Dovin’s Veto will replace Negate in any deck that can support the white in the casting cost. Being uncounterable is a huge deal in blue mirrors. Dovin’s Veto allows for a hard no. No longer do you have to counter Ad Nauseam instead of Lighning Storm out of fear of Pact of Negation. Negate will still see play in decks that do not play white or where the casting cost is restrictive. That being said, spells in Modern are going to be Vetoed more than Negated going forward. The only concern in my eyes is that UW Miracles cannot cast it on Turn 2 if they only have two lands and one is Field of Ruin. I think for them it will be a metagame call but for other UWx decks it is a straight upgrade.

Wrap-up
As always, Modern is an incredibly difficult format for cards to break into. It is an incredibly powerful format which requires cards be quite powerful or unique to find homes in the format. With that being said, I think War of the Spark has more potential than your average set and I am excited to see what cards develop into major players in the format. What cards will you be trying to get a hold of at your prerelease this weekend? Let us see what you are building with it in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. Have a wonderful weekend and we will see you again on Monday. Until then my friends.

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