With the full set release of Ravnica Allegiance and the recent banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks, Modern is on everyone’s mind. Offering brand new mechanics and a revisiting of Shocklands, Ravnica Allegiance proves itself to be a critical set in the progression of Modern. While there are around twenty cards I would consider to be playable in Modern, I’ll be reviewing the Top 10 cards I am most excited for. My primary concern with these rankings is to discuss the options and decks that can play these cards, not the individual impact.
10. Lavinia, Azorious Renegade
Following a recent design philosophy, Lavinia follows in the footsteps of Gaddock Teeg as a versatile sideboard card for proactive decks. While shutting off Living End or Summoner’s Pact has less relevance than in years past, protecting against Gut Shot and synergizing with Spell Queller are both relevant among the best decks. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of Lavinia is her ability to stop Ugin, the Spirit Dragon from being cast, adding an extra layer of redundancy versus Tron.
Since the release of As Foretold in Amonkhet, fringe decks abusing the cycle of costless cards have surfaced in Modern, most notably Living End or Ancestral Vision. Electrodominance opens up the possibility of other archetypes, such as playing Wheel of Fate or Ancestral Vision in Storm. Casting Electrodominance at the end of an opponent’s turn and drawing seven cards should usually represent enough resources to win the game. This also allows As Foretold decks to have eight enablers for Living End, an important number for competitive viability.
8. Deputy of Detention
With a record number of Reflector Mage in Modern, Deputy of Detention proves to have potential among Humans and Bant Spirits. While vulnerable to Lightning Bolt and other removal spells, Deputy has added value in freeing up sideboard slots versus Hardened Scales. While filling a similar role as Orzhov Pontiff or Izzet Staticaster, Deputy of Detention is also able to answer troublesome permanents like multiple Arclight Phoenix or Blood Moon.
7. Pestilent Spirit
A bit of a controversial pick, Pestilent Spirit has potential to revitalize fallen archetypes. Decks like Mardu Phoenix or Mardu Pyromancer are best suited to capitalize on this effect. Pestilent Spirit is an evasive threat with a reasonable clock, which fits well in midrange shells. Pestilent Spirit’s strength in these midrange shells is the interaction with burn spells like Kolaghan’s Command or Lightning Bolt out of Jund. In decks like Mardu Phoenix, Pestilent Spirit allows Gut Shot to do a reasonable Snuff Out impression. The bar for good three drops in Modern is high, but Pestilent Spirit has enough upside to consider its playability.
6. Prime Speaker Vannifar
While Prime Speaker Vannifar is one of the more talked about creatures in Modern, it is quite vulnerable. With a body too small to line up well against other three and four drops, Prime Speaker Vannifar requires you to untap with it in a format full of Fatal Push and Lightning Axe, or give it haste. The strength of Vannifar is in allowing you to win the game once you activate it, as any creature with mana cost 1-5 allows you to combo kill with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker.
5. Benthic Biomancer
Blue aggressive decks in modern have a long history of playability, but recent years have seen the decline of Delver and Merfolk. With cantrips and counterspells, UR Wizards wants enough one drops to support the aggressive plan, but early creatures are mopey and inconsistent. Delver is hard to flip in a format without Brainstorm, and Ghitu Lavarunner is mostly just a 1/2 with no abilities. Benthic Biomancer importantly can grow on demand while sculpting your draws, in a deck playing conditional cards like Spell Pierce or Vapor Snag. Another deck that wants more one drops is Merfolk. With just Cursecatcher and Aether Vial in that spot, Merfolk falls behind quickly against other aggressive decks. While not a powerful body, Benthic fills an important spot in the curve while doing a reasonable Silvergill Adept impression. I would expect to see 3-4 copies of Benthic Biomancer in most Merfolk lists.
4. Light Up the Stage
Light Up the Stage, like Skewer the Critics, fits neatly into multiple decks. Adding a level of consistency not realized since Treasure Cruise, Light Up the Stage proves to be a powerful component of Arclight decks as well as potential Burn variants. Unlike Skewer the Critics, paying three mana to draw two cards is not a strong enough effect to be playable, but paying one mana is quite strong. While Treasure Cruise drew three cards for one mana and let you stockpile the cards in your hand, Light Up the Stage does not play well with counterspells or certain reactive cards due to the time limitation. This constrains it to proactive decks that can consistently turn on Spectacle, but such proactive decks are among the best in Modern.
Cindervines is another tool against many of the top decks of the format. Similar to Damping Sphere, Cindervines serves to slow down decks that rely on Opt and Serum Visions, while also being effective against Storm or UW Control. Cindervines also serves as extra copies of Destructive Revelry that can be activated underneath a Blood Moon. The asymmetry of Cindervines means that midrange decks like Jund or even Arclight decks can justify playing it. We are going to see a lot of Cindervines in sideboards, and potentially in the main deck.
Pteramander is another card that adds to the consistency of an existing deck while opening up potential sideboard options for others. A natural fit for Arclight decks, Pteramander allows Arclight to improve poor matchups by being more aggressive. With the ability to deploy powerful cards on Turn 1, this allows the deck to hold up countermagic or other forms of disruption while Adapting on Turn 3. While a bit fringe, Pteramander also offers Storm a transformational sideboard plan by being a cheap aggressive creature similar to Delver of Secrets or Young Pyromancer.
1. Skewer the Critics
Likely the most powerful Lightning Bolt variant in years, Skewer the Critics is a card that immediately threatens to define Modern. Skewer is a natural addition to Burn, while improving the consistency of Arclight and Mardu Pyromancer. As Thing in the Ice and cantrips have proven more consistent than the nonblue Phoenix decks, Skewer offers these decks a level of redundancy similar to that of Burn. With Gut Shot, Lava Spike and Monastery Swiftspear, turning on Spectacle is often trivial. This ability to rely on Burn spells should improve other poor matchups like Tron while allowing for more board control against creature decks.
That’s it for this list, and let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree with anything in particular. There were quite a few honorable mention level cards, so if you feel like I missed anything let me know.
This week, I’ll be covering lessons learned from Prerelease, Early Standard with RNA, and highlighting qualified players for our upcoming Invitational on February 2nd.
You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PariahPopular