In this series I will be exploring each of the Modern legal sets in chronological order. I will mention some of the highlights of the set by noting cards that currently see play in Modern, and then I will select five cards that rarely see competitive play to discuss at length. My goal is to find cards that have been largely overlooked or forgotten that might be useful in deck construction.
Eighth Edition , the first set in the modern card frame, was released on July 28, 2003. Though many of its 350 cards are intrinsically powerful, Eighth Edition was largely overshadowed by the overwhelmingly strong affinity mechanic that debuted it Mirrodin just over 2 months later. Looking through the complete set for the first time in a long time, I quickly notice just how many specific hate cards there are. Color hosers like Choke , Boil , and Flashfires are in there with Execute and Slay . I also take note of how many cards are there that I used to build around for kitchen table games: Megrim , Underworld Dreams , Furnace of Rath , and Coat of Arms . While many of the creatures in the set are simply outclassed by today’s, the enchantments are the highlights.
WHAT SEES PLAY NOW
Many of the cards that already see play in Modern have been reprinted multiple times since 8th Edition : Mana Leak , Pyroclasm , and Wrath of God are probably the most powerful spells in the set. Blood Moon sees regular play today. Seismic Assault was a player for a while, but has since fallen out of favor. Birds of Paradise might see more play now that Deathrite Shaman is banned, but Noble Hierarch probably gets the nod most of the time anyway. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that an entire Modern archetype is possible only because of Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Tower, and Urza’s Power Plant . All of these were reprinted in either Ninth Edition or Tenth Edition.
5 CARDS TO TALK ABOUT
5. Phyrexian Arena
Phyrexian Arena has seen plenty of play over the years, but it doesn’t get much attention in Modern these days. The life loss is nothing to screw around with because the aggressive decks can punish you for it before you can stabilize with those few extra cards. Abrupt Decay is also a thing, which makes every cheap thing less good. Double black in the casting cost is a huge limiting factor. Being an enchantment that doesn’t attack for 2 makes it less appealing than, say, Dark Confidant . All of that being said, I think Phyrexian Arena is a real thing that can be a pillar in a fair Rock deck. The Rock is always something I am looking to play, and this is one reason to actually play it. The life loss can be mitigated by Kitchen Finks or Spike Feeder , and green’s mana acceleration means you can cast all of those extra cards you draw. Black gives you targeted discard while green gives you a way to win.
4. Trade Routes
I understand this card is less powerful than something like Birthing Pod that allows you to repeatedly tutor for specific things, but incremental advantages are often what I am looking for in my decks and Life from the Loam is a winner with Trade Routes. It’s been done before, but not recently. There’s also Crucible of Worlds to be able to play the lands you discard. This is all probably too cute, especially when I want to add things like Oracle of Mul-Daya to make it go turbo, but I can’t help but feel like there is something more here.
3. Zur’s Weirding
This totally works with dredge. Golgari Brownscale can virtually lock an opponent out if you have a way of getting it into your graveyard every turn. Any deck that can get itself into an advantageous position early can take advantage of Zur’s Weirding. It can be a very skill-intensive card, and you can get yourself into pickle with it if you play it recklessly, but this is a card worthy of another chance by people looking to go rogue at the next Modern tournament.
This is the single card in Eighth Edition that has the highest potential to just get ridiculous. Though it can be difficult to put together an infinite combo ( Thermopod ? Heartless Summoning ?), there are surely ways to get great value. Again, we might be just losing to Birthing Pod in power level in the current Modern, Fecundity can be built in a different way. Maybe I’m falling in love with my incremental advantages again, but I love the idea of Viscera Seer pairing up with Fecundity.
Here’s a card that can win a game. I think both Worship and Platinum Angel are underplayed right now. I like Worship more because of how difficult it can be for some decks to deal with certain creatures. I have Worship in the sideboard of my B/W Tokens deck that runs Burrenton Forge-Tender . Makes it hard to lose to red decks. And just the sheer number of tokens I have makes it hard for zoo to win without Qasali Pridemage . The best thing about Worship is that it dodges Abrupt Decay and isn’t an artifact that gets splash damage from Robots hate like Ancient Grudge or Shatterstorm . Worship plus any hexproof creature can ensure not losing by damage against many, many decks. There are other angles of attack in Modern, though, so the whole deck can’t be dedicated to getting Worship onto the battlefield, but it is a great roadblock for a lot of fair opposing strategies.
Bribery is a card that could see some sideboard play, but is probably too narrow without a massive metagame shift toward big creatures. Ensnaring Bridge lost a lot of value when Abrupt Decay was printed, but it probably still has a place in sideboards. Vernal Bloom could just be weaker than Heartbeat of Spring because of its mana cost, but I’m surprised there isn’t a single combo deck out there that takes advantage of the big mana options in Modern.
The top 10 most expensive cards in Eighth Edition
10.City of Brass – $2.85
9. Wrath of God – $3.29
8. Coat of Arms – $4.70
7. Lord of the Undead – $4.99
6. Elvish Piper – $4.99
5. Grave Pact – $5.69
4. Blood Moon – $5.75
3. Phyrexian Arena – $6.35
2. Ensnaring Bridge – $8.65
1. Bribery – $11.79
Obviously there are lot of things left out of this brief reintroduction to Eighth Edition , but I hope it makes you take a second look at some of the cards that haven’t been in the limelight lately in Modern. Stay tuned for the next episode!