Modern has recently seen a number of obscure, barely played cards rise to the top tables of competitive events without any obvious help from new printings. The poster child for this trend is Death’s Shadow which, if anything, should have seen less play with the Gitaxian Probe ban but instead went on to become a top-tier format-defining juggernaut.
Other examples include Hollow One and Bedlam Reveler making surprise Top 8 appearances at Pro Tour Bilbao, and I would say As Foretold is knocking on the door as experimentation continues with the best way to harness the obvious power of so much free mana. These and other recent examples suggest there are probably more cards bubbling beneath the surface of competitive Modern, just waiting for the right 75 to break through. Here are seven cards that I think have this sort of potential:
Tron decks have long proven that getting bonus mana from your lands without much effort is extremely powerful. With just four devotion, Nykthos switches from Wastes to a sol land (and possibly mana fixing), and from there quickly spirals into Tron-level mana production.
The vast majority of Magic cards produce devotion, so it seems likely that there is some combination out there that can do even more with Nykthos than what has been done to date. Current best-efforts consist of green devotion leveraging things like Garruk Wildspeaker and Genesis Wave, and Pillow Fort which exploits hard-to-remove enchantments for devotion like Leyline of Sanctity and Runed Halo. Perhaps the missing secret tech is somewhere between Figure of Destiny, Dragon Whisperer, and Demigod of Revenge?
Glittering Wish provides game one access to powerful sideboard cards like Slaughter Games, Fracturing Gust, or Crackling Doom. It can also serve as redundant copies of situationally powerful cards like Supreme Verdict, Sigarda, Host of Herons, or Sphinx’s Revelation. Modern is loaded with powerful multicolour cards, the challenge for Wish is just finding a mix that makes it worth a two-mana premium for the versatility to find them in the situations where they excel.
I am confident that this versatility has a place in Modern. It just remains to be seen if that place is in Gwx midrange decks, UWg control decks, or as a combo-enabler of some sorts (honorable mention to enabling Jeskai Ascendancy combo, but something less fragile would be nice!).
Bring to Light is a highly versatile tutor with the advantage of effectively costing no mana when used on a five mana spell. Achieving the five colour “domain mana” in Modern is relatively trivial. The challenge is more in finding the correct suite of sorceries and creatures that make it always game-breaking to cast (tutoring instants is possible, but almost always an inefficient use of the card).
It may be that we’ve seen the ceiling on this card in Scapeshift decks, where it acts as redundant copies of Scapeshift, Anger of the Gods, and various sideboard bullets – but I remain optimistic that there are other ways to leverage this tutor. As much fun as I have using it for Voices from the Void, Increasing Savagery, and Chromanticore the card’s competitive future is probably more linked to cards like Unburial Rites and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever actually seen Savor the Moment cast in Modern, but it seems like something I should see more often.
At a minimum the card is always Explore (since your extra turn draws a card and lets you play a land), which is a reasonable Modern card at two mana. For Savor to likewise be reasonable it just needs to generate one mana worth of value from upkeep triggers, end of turn triggers, vigilance, or Planeswalker loyalty effects. The latter is the most interesting, as virtually every Planeswalker ability is worth at least one mana and many Planeswalkers are already Modern-playable.
I don’t think superfriends is the right home, but some mix of upkeep, end of turn triggers, blue ramp, and Planeswalkers should yield a new and interesting deck alongside this blue Time Walk variant.
Recent use of Bedlam Reveler has shown that it’s not terribly difficult to get six instants or sorceries into the graveyard. Cranial Plating has shown us that a cheap equipment giving a massive, scaling power boost is extremely powerful. I’m not saying Pike is the second-coming of Cranial Plating, but there are definitely similarities worth considering.
Pike turns everything from Snapcaster Mage to elemental or spirit token into a hard-hitting tough-to-block threat or massive wall. It’s just a matter of finding the spell-based deck that could gain enough from these effects before it starts sliding into some existing spell-centric shells.
Modern is a format where tempo is often worth more than card advantage, so spells that don’t cost mana are always worth a closer look.
Shining Shoal has the remarkable upside that it’s a zero mana spell that sometimes doesn’t even cost card advantage. Deflecting a Lightning Bolt into an opponent’s creature is a 2-for-2 and saving two or more creatures from an Anger of the Gods will usually feel like resource parity or better, even if it technically isn’t. There is also a relevant psychological advantage in forcing your opponent to consider combat tricks even when you’re tapped out.
Finally, while I’ve never gone deeper than Spectral Procession for deflecting large chunks of damage, most white split cards (e.g. Dusk) can greatly increase how much damage you can reflect if that becomes relevant.
Lantern of Insight has proven that keeping your opponent from drawing anything relevant is a legitimate competitive strategy in Modern. With a reliable source of life gain Zur’s Weirding is a one-card lantern lock. This is especially interesting as Modern lifegain decks are generally great at gaining life, but lousy at closing the game. Sticking a Zur’s Weirding lets a lifegain deck take as much time as it needs to find and deploy its win condition.
There may very well be a competitive Zur’s Weirding deck in Modern, but it isn’t seeing play because lifegain and four mana enchantments are ostensibly pretty janky. Of course, another thing that sounds pretty janky is Lantern of Insight with Codex Shredder.
Until next time, good luck being the first to unearth Modern’s next hidden gem!