War of the Spark Shakes Up Modern

By AL Wainer

Holy crap. Going into preview season for War of the Spark, you could see that the power level of cards being spoiled seemed off the charts, but even then, I did not think that the set would impact the Modern format as much as it has. But when a set adds 37 new planeswalkers to a format (not to mention introduces static abilities on said planeswalker cards), it’s going to make a big splash. Walkers with static abilities change the game significantly, and we are just now starting to see that impact spread across the format.

And that’s not to mention the other killer cards that don’t have the planeswalker typeline that this set includes. All this considered, I want to go over War of the Spark and take a look at some WAR cards that are seeing Modern play, those that are seeing fringe play and those that I don’t think quite get there but are good to keep an eye on for brewing.

The Sure Things

First up, we’ll talk about some cards from War of the Spark that are already shaping the Modern Metagame. Let’s start with the 800-pound silver golem in the room: Karn, the Great Creator. Karn is insane, and if you didn’t think our metal lord would be popping up in Modern, you haven’t been paying attention. Let’s run down what makes this card so great.

For starters, he’s colorless, so literally any deck in the format could potentially run him. Couple that with the fact that his static ability is a one-sided Stony Silence, and with nothing else this card gives reach to nonwhite decks to have answers to Affinity, Whir Prison and Lantern Control decks. Oh wait, but we’re not done. We haven’t even gotten to the really groundbreaking stuff Karn brings to the table.

Start with his -2 ability. With Karn in play, we have the ability to turn our sideboards into a toolbox to tutor up any artifact we may need at the time. Staring down burn? Grab Witchbane Orb. Use Karn to grab a Pithing Needle out of the board to shut down problematic permanents, Chalice of the Void to shut down cantrips, or - everyone’s favorite usecase - our lord and savior, Mycosynth Lattice. If your opponent can’t deal with Karn plus Lattice, you’ve shut them out of their ability to use lands and have basically won the game.

The payoff is real with the Great Creator, but he does ask a lot of your in your deckbuilding; namely the fact that you need to sacrifice sideboard space to make room for your artifacts. But the power level appears to be real enough that people are taking that risk.

The most obvious home for Karn is in Tron strategies, but any deck that can make a ton of mana quickly may be interested in devoting some space. For instance, Amulet Titan lists are starting to add Karn in as well. Here are some examples of Karn in use; take note of the similarities in the artifact options in the sideboard:

Mono-Green Tron

Main Deck:

2 Walking Ballista

2 Wurmcoil Engine

1 World Breaker

1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

4 Karn Liberated

3 Karn, the Great Creator

2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

4 Forest

1 Blast Zone

1 Ghost Quarter

1 Sanctum of Ugin

4 Urza's Mine

4 Urza's Power Plant

4 Urza's Tower

4 Chromatic Sphere

4 Chromatic Star

4 Expedition Map

3 Oblivion Stone

3 Relic of Progenitus

4 Ancient Stirrings

4 Sylvan Scrying


1 Crucible of Worlds

1 Ensnaring Bridge

1 Grafdigger's Cage

1 Liquimetal Coating

1 Mycosynth Lattice

1 Trinisphere

1 Welding Jar

1 Phyrexian Metamorph

2 Thought-Knot Seer

2 Thragtusk

3 Nature's Claim

And here’s an Amulet Titan list also featuring Karn:

Amulet Titan

Main Deck

1 Hornet Queen

4 Primeval Titan

4 Sakura-Tribe Scout

4 Azusa, Lost but Seeking

3 Karn, the Great Creator

4 Forest

1 Bojuka Bog

1 Boros Garrison

1 Cavern of Souls

4 Gemstone Mine

1 Ghost Quarter

3 Golgari Rot Farm

1 Khalni Garden

1 Radiant Fountain

1 Selesnya Sanctuary

4 Simic Growth Chamber

1 Slayers' Stronghold

1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion

3 Tolaria West

1 Vesuva

4 Amulet of Vigor

2 Coalition Relic

1 Engineered Explosives

1 Pact of Negation

4 Summoner's Pact

4 Ancient Stirrings


1 Chalice of the Void

1 Crucible of Worlds

1 Engineered Explosives

1 Ensnaring Bridge

1 Mycosynth Lattice

1 Pithing Needle

1 Tormod's Crypt

1 Trinisphere

1 Walking Ballista

1 Wurmcoil Engine

3 Assassin's Trophy

2 Negate

Karn adds a lot of resilience to decks that can afford to cast him and a wish target in the same turn, and it has the potential to make the decks I’ve posted scarier than they already were. Tron seems particularly boosted by this card, but Amulet builds also benefit greatly from the addition of the wishboard.

Up next, let’s looks at some new darlings for control lists.

Main Deck

3 Snapcaster Mage

1 Vendilion Clique

2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

4 Narset, Parter of Veils

2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

1 Teferi, Time Raveler

6 Island

2 Plains

1 Blast Zone

3 Celestial Colonnade

4 Field of Ruin

4 Flooded Strand

2 Glacial Fortress

2 Hallowed Fountain

1 Scalding Tarn

1 Detention Sphere

2 Cryptic Command

2 Dovin's Veto

1 Hieroglyphic Illumination

1 Logic Knot

4 Opt

4 Path to Exile

1 Spell Snare

1 Surgical Extraction

1 Oust

1 Serum Visions

2 Supreme Verdict

1 Wrath of God


1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk

2 Restoration Angel

1 Spell Queller

2 Rest in Peace

1 Stony Silence

1 Celestial Purge

1 Ceremonious Rejection

1 Disdainful Stroke

1 Dispel

1 Dovin's Veto

1 Surgical Extraction

1 Lyra Dawnbringer

1 Timely Reinforcements

The last card I want to mention in my “definitely in Modern” section is a card that is present in two of the lists I’ve referenced above: Blast Zone. This card can be a lifesaver against more aggro-focused decks like Affinity, Humans or Spirits, as it can easily sweep away a critical mass of 1- or 2-CMC creatures. This takes a basic Forest spot in Tron and slots in alongside the Field of Ruin package that blue-white runs. Be careful, though, as running lands that do not tap for colored mana puts a very real strain on multicolor decks, so if you’re in three colors or more, I probably wouldn’t run this.

The Modern Fringe

Let’s talk about combo decks. War of the Spark adds a couple of cards that, under the right deckbuilding conditions, lead to some fun new builds. Up first, let’s take a look at a deck that can pull off a turn one kill with the right hand, all thanks to this little card.

Neoform itself isn’t doing anything particularly new. We’ve seen this effect on Birthing Pod, Eldritch Evolution and more recently in Prime Speaker Vannifar. The mana cost is really what’s driving Neoform as an interesting new card. The general idea is to get an Allosaurus Rider out as soon as possible, sac it to Neoform to find Griselbrand, then use the Griselbrand to draw your deck and finish your opponent off with Lightning Storm. You’ll use Gemstone Mine, Simian Spirit Guide, Chancellor of the Tangle and Manamorphose to get the mana you’ll need to fire off your Neoform and Lightning Storms, and if all goes well, your opponent will be dead before you end your first turn. Check out this list:

Neoform Combo

Main Deck

4 Allosaurus Rider

2 Autochthon Wurm

4 Chancellor of the Tangle

1 Laboratory Maniac

4 Simian Spirit Guide

1 Wild Cantor

2 Griselbrand

1 Island

4 Botanical Sanctum

2 Breeding Pool

4 Gemstone Mine

4 Yavimaya Coast

3 Dissenter's Deliverance

1 Lightning Storm

4 Manamorphose

4 Nourishing Shoal

1 Noxious Revival

1 Pact of Negation

1 Samut's Sprint

4 Summoner's Pact

4 Eldritch Evolution

4 Neoform


3 Chalice of the Void

1 Defense Grid

1 Engineered Explosives

4 Leyline of Sanctity

1 Dispel

1 Echoing Truth

2 Nature's Claim

2 Spell Pierce

As scary as this combo is, a lot of things need to go right for you to secure a win. You need to keep a hand with a Chancellor of the Tangle, Gemstone Mine, Neoform, Allosaurus Rider and another green card to go off turn one. Not to mention how bad your outlook becomes if your opponent can counter the Neoform or has a chance to hit you with a Thoughtseize before you go off. All of this is adding up to a deck that looks fun but fails to do anything more often than you get the kill (especially with Force of Negation on the…um…Horizon).

Up next is a deck that, frankly, looks incredibly sweet. Niv-Mizzet Reborn, when cast, lets you look at the top 10 cards in your deck and then draw one of each color pair in the game. The Rainbow Niv-Mizzet deck aims to capitalize on this by running an array of multicolor cards to go with mana acceleration to get Niv on board and try to bury your opponent in card advantage. If you get lucky with your lands and pull out an early Birds of Paradise, Niv can get online as early as turn four, and you have Nahiri, the Harbinger and Bring to Light as ways to dig for Niv.

Rainbow Niv-Mizzet

Main Deck

1 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper

1 Nahiri, the Harbinger

1 Teferi, Time Raveler

4 Birds of Paradise

2 Bloodbraid Elf

3 Niv-Mizzet Reborn

1 Sin Collector

4 Bring to Light

2 Inquisition of Kozilek

1 Primal Command

3 Safewright Quest

1 Supreme Verdict

1 Thought Erasure

1 Unmoored Ego

3 Assassin's Trophy

2 Izzet Charm

2 Kolaghan's Command

4 Lightning Helix

1 Detention Sphere

1 Bloodstained Mire

2 Blooming Marsh

1 Breeding Pool

1 Forest

1 Godless Shrine

1 Hallowed Fountain

2 Mana Confluence

1 Overgrown Tomb

4 Pillar of the Paruns

1 Plains

1 Sacred Foundry

1 Steam Vents

1 Stomping Ground

1 Swamp

3 Windswept Heath


1 Abrupt Decay

1 Ashiok, Dream Render

1 Cindervines

1 Countersquall

1 Crumble to Dust

1 Deafening Clarion

1 Fracturing Gust

1 Fulminator Mage

1 Grafdigger's Cage

1 Izzet Staticaster

1 Kambal, Consul of Allocation

1 Knight of Autumn

1 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade

2 Rest in Peace

As fun as it looks, this deck can be very slow and, if you can’t stick a Niv, doesn’t actually do much. That being said, the deck is inexpensive to assemble (for Modern) and has a high novelty value when things are going right. I wouldn’t run this in a tournament, but it looks like a hell of a fun time.

I’m Keeping an Eye on You

Before I leave you, I wanted to talk a bit more about some of the planeswalkers in this set. These walkers with static abilities are unlike anything we’ve seen in Modern to this point and are very powerful even if we haven’t seen a deck built yet to capitalize on them. To some degree, this category encapsulates every walker printed in war, though the rare walkers and 3-mana uncommons are the best of the bunch.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Saheeli or Ral in an Izzet Spells build. Vivien adding flash to creature spells gives a new dimension to green-based creature decks. The new Sorin could do some work in an Aristocrats build, and Ashiok seems poised to make sure no one has any fun at all given the right shell. All of this points to a lot of exciting starting points for possible decks in the future.

That’s about a wrap for my take on the impact of War of the Spark on Modern, but know that for everything I’ve talked about here, there are still more cards in WAR that do weird and powerful things that I didn’t get a chance to talk about today (looking at you, God-Eternals - maybe in another article).

I want to close out with a call to action: Have a favorite card from WAR that I neglected to mention? Get brewing and show me your decklists! The next few months are going to be wild for the modern format, and I’m excited to see what everyone sleeves up for battling.

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