Welcome to Modern 2020. Another round of bannings and the release of Theros Beyond Death have shaken up our format yet again. With strange innovations and the return of some classics, it’s time to take a fresh look at what you’ll need to bring to the table if you want to stay current. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about as 2020 Modern begins to take shape.

Hot: Blood Moon. Not: Damping Sphere.

Dryad of Ilysian Grove has exploded onto the scene in a shower of glitter and Valukut triggers. Amulet and Scapeshift are very, very hot right now because of that card. Dryad is Prismatic Omen and Exploration on one sparkling body that can be found with Summoner’s Pact and Once Upon a Time. This makes Scapeshift faster and more consistent, and bounce land ramp is now the least of your worries when you face down Amulet.

Damping Sphere has been great in the past to slow Amulet and Tron, but with Amulet’s new dadaesque landbase, they can come after you with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Field of the Dead just as well as with fast Primeval Titans. Stopping those triggers is vital to fighting back, so if you can access red, Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, and (to a lesser extent) Alpine Moon are all much better choices now than they were pre-Theros.

It’s also relevant that Blood Moon shuts off Mystic Sanctuary and Blast Zone, which are untouched by Damping Sphere. Sphere’s other ability has real applications, such as keeping Gifts Storm quiet, but it’s not your bullet against the titans of the format.

Hot: Kataki, War’s Wage. Not: Collector Ouphe.

Mox Opal has been cancelled, but Urza decks carry on. The shape of things to come is unclear, but without Mox, they’re never going to be as fast. With that in mind, Kataki is huge. If it hits the board before Urza, they’re forced to choose between their board of artifacts or having any mana to work with. Even if Urza’s already in play, Kataki essentially cancels out his mana-generation ability by taxing each artifact for the one mana it could produce.

Most of the recent Urza builds showing up online have used the Thopter-Sword combo win condition (which Ouphe shuts down); but even so, I’d rather play the card that stops their progression in the game overall than the one that sticks a pin in their combo.

Heliod combo is showing promise, but the build that top 8d the Modern PTQ in Brussels had so many angles that didn’t rely on Walking Ballista that Ouphe comes up short. Collector Ouphe isn’t useless, though. It blanks Engineered Explosives, and is more effective against Eldrazi and Green Tron while insulating itself from Ballista and Oblivion Stone. If you have access to both Ouphe and Kataki, bring the War’s Wage or bring a split.

Hot: Rest in Peace. Not: Stony Silence.

This head-to-head might seem strange, but I think it’s worth attention. Like Collector Ouphe, Stony Silence doesn’t have wide applicability right now. Where you need it, Rest in Peace is just as good or better. Both cards shut down the Thopter-Sword combo, but your opponent can more easily set it up with Stony Silence in play while they wait for an answer. Stony Silence turns off repeated activations of Mishra’s Bauble via Emry, but Rest In Peace fully wipes away those tools if they’re in the graveyard when it resolves.

Of course, Rest in Peace also has immense power against graveyard-based strategies where Stony Silence is irrelevant. Rest in Peace is a Modern staple that varies in its relevance, but I think it’s more relevant now than a month ago. Gifts Storm and Dredge with its new friend Ox of Agonas are rising and do not want RIP to crash their party. If Uro or Underworld Breach find footing in Modern, Rest in Peace only gets better.

Graveyard interaction outside of Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void can be worked around by Mystic Sanctuary and Thopter-Foundry, but can have other uses. We may see more Collected Company and Finale of Devastation, so Grafdigger’s Cage is worthy of consideration.

Ashiok, Dream Render wipes opposing graveyards, but is even more important right now for its static ability, which shuts off all the search effects in Amulet and Scapeshift. Ashiok was good before Theros, and it’s better now as there’s every reason to believe that Modern will be overrun with Primeval Titans for a while.

Hot: Whirlwind Denial. Not: Negate.

Whirlwind Denial is an attention-grabbing piece from Theros Beyond Death. Though it’s one mana more expensive than Negate, I think that replacing one sideboard counterspell with copy of this spicy newcomer has promise. A lot of strategies right now involve tapping out for big spells. The return of Mana Leak is evidence of that. Leaking for four is meaningfully harder to play around, and will mean Whirlwind Denial is functionally a hard counter a good amount of the time. Still not impressive for three mana, but that’s the floor.

Its other applications are very interesting. Negate is mediocre against Storm, but Whirlwind Denial can take down every Grapeshot they point at you. It also does work against the Dryad decks. Denial can counter a Titan, or its ETB trigger if it’s been pushed through with Cavern of Souls. It can counter a stackful of Valakut and Field of the Dead triggers regardless of where they came from.

Whirlwind Denial also catches cast triggers. It’s efficient against Bloodbraid Elf, and we finally have a reasonable answer for Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. It’s also incidentally Stifle if you’re in a pinch against anything from Blast Zone’s activation, Tolaria West’s transmutation, Batterskull’s germ creation—the list goes on.

Oh, and Veil of Summer only protects spells, not abilities. Don’t mistake Whirlwind Denial for Flusterstorm.

More Hot Picks

These are some cards I would look to be playing in sideboards where I can, though they do not compare directly with other recent staples. Keep them in mind when you’re tuning.

Aether Gust—This is another consideration for the Titan decks. Aether Gust is a color-restricted Memory Lapse that gets around Cavern of Souls and still works after the fact against permanents. Dryads, Titans, and Blood Moons are all cards I’m looking to hit with Aether Gust in my blue decks.

Mirran Crusader—Shadow and Jund are still big players. Mirran Crusader was great for dodging Oko, and it’s still a card I’m looking to include for its strength in those matchups.

Auriok Champion—Shadow, Jund, Dredge, Burn, and Prowess all struggle with this card. Even if you’re not on a life gain synergy plan like the Heliod, it’s very strong. All of those decks have very few answers, and they are popular right now.

Hopefully this gives you some inspiration the next time you sit down to tune a sideboard!

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