Modern as a format is kind of like an all-star league for power cards of Magic printed since 2003. The banned list has the biggest powerhouses, of course, but the cards that see competitive play in Modern are a nice selection of the best cards printed in recent years. It’s no surprise that Misty Rainforest, Mox Opal, Tarmogoyf, Path to Exile, and Primeval Titan show up regularly at the top tables.

But there are some powerful cards that don’t show up too often in Modern. Cards that have proven themselves in Legacy, Extended, or other large formats. Two obvious ones are Aether Vial and Gifts Ungiven, although both have seen play periodically and have started to take their place in the core of tier one decks. We can dig a little harder for some deep cuts in the Modern card pool.

This week I want to look at some of these cards and think about why they aren’t big players in Modern. Here’s an example of one:

This little bad boy has done hard work against Force of Will and Storm decks in Legacy for years, though Gaddock Teeg is a tough card to fit in most competitive deck’s mana bases. Green-white is not always where you want to be, but Teeg is a brutal hate bear to play against. Spell-based combo decks can’t really win with him on board—Past in Flames, Gifts Ungiven, Empty the Warrens, Scapeshift, Through the Breach, and Ad Nauseam can’t be cast. He also shuts down Conflagrate, Karn Liberated, Sphinx’s Revelation, Logic Knot, and Supreme Verdict.

Gaddock Teeg dies to Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push, of course; but that’s not the real problem. He also shuts down a couple key spells in green decks: Collected Company and Chord of Calling. Most decks that want to play Razorverge Thicket also want those cards. You can build a deck around other creature engines, like Aether Vial, or perhaps Eldritch Evolution, but that hasn’t really happened for the Kithkin Advisor. That’s the other big problem—he’s not a human or any other useful creature type, making Cavern of Souls deck lose interest. Still, he’s a card worth keeping in mind when looking for powerful ways to interact in the format.

Yeah, I know. Monastery Mentor really wants to play with Mox Sapphire, Gitaxian Probe, and Sensei’s Divining Top. There’s a reason this one sees more play in Vintage than Legacy and more in Legacy than Modern.

I think the big problem for Monastery Mentor in Modern is the lack of space in spell-centric decks for creatures. Those decks tend to want Delver of Secrets or Young Pyromancer first, because they’re cheaper and in more popular colors for the archetype. Those decks have been around in Modern forever, though they aren’t exactly dominating the top tables these days.

To want Mentor, you have to be a more midrange or controlling spell deck, which sounds like Azorius Control or something along those lines. I think there’s something to explore there, especially out of the sideboard. As Foretold hasn’t really been pushed to the breaking point yet—maybe it’s not good enough, but it’s too soon to say yet. Monastery Mentor seems pretty good in a deck with As Foretold and Ancestral Vision.

I have a soft spot for Plow Under, which leads me to remind people periodically that it’s legal in Modern. Five mana is a lot to pay, but my God is this card a beating to play against. Red-green Ponza decks—land destruction, basically—have had some success in Modern over the last couple years. Mwonvuli Acid Moss, Stone Rain, and Beast Within kinda do the same thing for less mana, but I wonder if there’s a place for Plow Under in that archetype. Ramping into Karn Liberated seems better, but any deck with Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl can cast Plow Under starting on turn three.

Did you know they reprinted blue thopter tokens in Unstable? I assume that’s been the main impediment keeping Thopter Foundry out of Modern since they unbanned Sword of the Meek.

Seriously though, there are a lot of esper-themed power cards that could make a good artifact deck in Modern but mostly get crowded out by Affinity. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is a deck engine that shows up here and there, but has never been tier one. Now that Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry can join that deck, and with Fatal Push joining the format, why can’t there be a real deck here?

I will admit, though, that I’m tempted to buy a box of Unstable just to stock up on tokens and borderless lands. And Wall for Fortunes.

Shrine of Burning Rage is probably too slow for Modern burn decks. There also aren’t a lot of creatures with protection from red that you need to kill, which is one thing this card does particularly well. Kor Firewalker and Burrenton Forge-Tender show up sometimes, and I guess Master of Waves is a thing, but you aren’t hard-pressed on that front.

Still, Ramunap Ruins has done a good job of reminding folks that burn decks get a lot of mileage out of colorless damage sources that get better if the game goes long. Shrine of Burning Rage may be relegated to cube decks mostly, but it’s a useful effect to keep in mind.

Hah. Anyone want to buy two playsets of Grand Prix promos? Please?

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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