Modern’s taking up a large amount of my Magic playing, what with Grand Prix Richmond being next month. After a year of (on and off) playing with Li’s UW flash, I finally broke it apart to make Vjeran Horvat’s UWR Geist (that won GP Prague). Blue white was  a ton of fun to fun (tempo/flash is the best way to play Magic) and Restoration Angel is a phenomenal card that the deck plays four copies of (which smashes UWR decks as Bolt, Helix, and Electrolyze can’t kill her alone).

The problem is, UW kept losing to Tron, Robots, and Deathrite Shaman. It was the worst that I always had to upkeep Path a Deathrite Shaman when I was on the draw just so that my opponent couldn’t cast a turn two Liliana of the Veil. UWR has Lightning Bolt, which is the best way to kill a Shaman in Modern and keep one’s Snapcaster Mages online and the life totals stable (as you bolt, helix, and attack your opponent to death).

Deathrite Shaman

Sunday night, Wizards banned Deathrite Shaman. I’m happy to see it go—when fetchlands are available, the card is a one mana planeswalker that doesn’t die to Gut Shot (which it totally should have—it’s a Grim Lavamancer with three times the abilities; four if you count incidental graveyard hosing). It was one of the best cards against WU and helped to suppress  strategies that relied on having specific cards in the graveyard over the mid to long game (Vengevine, Life from the Loam).

With Deathrite Shaman gone, decks will have to commit to mana acceleration with Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, Wall of Roots—cards that drastically lose their value after the first turns. I’d expect that this will slow down decks like Jund  and encourage decks like returning champion, Zoo (welcome back, Wild Nacatl! We missed you!) to trim their curves so that they don’t need acceleration. In such a world, I expect Spell Snare to hit much, much more now that there’s no Shaman to allow everyone and their mother to jump the curve on turn two.

Bitterblossom card

Bitterblossom is legal again, bringing all of Standard/Extended Faeries back to Modern. I’m glad that I’ve got my Spell Snares. The card threatens to make one of UWR’s main creatures, Vendilion Clique, miserable, though it makes Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix stronger (due to Bitterblossom‘s consistent life loss).

I’m unsure how large an impact Bitterblossom will have on the format. If you play it on turn two, by turn four you’ll have lost two life (relevant in a format with fetches, shocklands, Lightning Bolts, Zoo, and Robots) and acquired two power in the air (half of which has summoning sickness). The value of the card increases as the game goes long, but there’s no top tier deck to easily slot it into. For tokens (which until now, hasn’t been a tier one deck), Bitterblossom is much slower than Lingering Souls at producing an army (which isn’t a foul by any stretch, but it means that it encourages tokens to play a longer game against a format with Tron and Splinter Twin). Jund might enjoy it, particularly in an attrition match, but alongside its ambitious (re:greedy) mana base, Thoughtseize, and Dark Confidant, it runs a real risk of being suicidal (particularly if Bitterblossom is meant to win long games). I’m excited to see whether Faeries will become a top tier deck now that Spellstutter Sprite can start being a hard counter (on turn three). But who knows? I’m a Limited expert, enjoying the new and unfamiliar. And speaking of the unfamiliar…

Xenagos god

Born of the Gods came out! It was fun to play! I don’t think that I’m sick to death of Theros Limited anymore!

I had a blast resolving Kiora, the Crashing Wave and releasing the Tromokratis. Born of the Gods looks to have diminished overall creature power and size to the improvement of the format—Akroan Skyguard is powerful, but only if you invest in it, whereas Wingsteed Rider is powerful without triggering its heroic ability. I think I was wrong about Sphinx’s Disciple (since I’d totally play a five mana Thieving Magpie) and I love being wrong about card evaluations, since that means there’s more time of discovery.

Here’s looking forward to a brand new season of Magic, both Constructed and Limited. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll be able to unveil my big not-secret design project to y’all. As always, thanks for reading!

—Zachary Barash — Join the livestream!

Magic Online username: Zennith

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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