I’ve been hoodwinked by spoilers for black rare creatures before, to the extent that I start to get a bit wary each preview season. For every Plague Engineer, after all, we get a couple dozen Cabal Therapists. Call me deluded, but I expect Dauthi Voidwalker to fall closer to the Engineer side of the spectrum.

Three power for two mana sets a solid floor, and Shadow ups the appeal while activating the nostalgia gland—but it’s those other lines that took me from “interested in building an aggro deck” to “preordering for entirely too much money.” Dauthi Voidwalker does a dozen things, and does them exceptionally well: attacks graveyard synergy, casts free Ugins, supplements Thoughtseize, beats down for three, juices up devotion, is easy to reanimate and reuse, and on and on. All he asks is that you play the game as it’s usually played in Modern.

Dauthi Voidwalker is Modern Horizons 2’s most immediate hit but also its subtle reference—one that relies on a decade-gone Gatherer ruling (for a forgotten black rare about which I was very excited back in 2006): Void Maw. Void Maw, at one point, used “corpse counters” to keep track of which cards were exiled with the Maw and could be fodder for the +2/+2 ability.

As originally worded, there was confusion about what happened when a creature exiled with Void Maw was used to activate the Maw’s ability but then was removed with, for example, Leyline of the Void. As printed, it looked like you could bounce the creature from exile to graveyard and back again, netting +2/+2 to your Void Maw each time. This was later rectified in a 2011 ruling, which pointed out that “Cards exiled with Void Maw that would go to the graveyard but have that replaced by an effect such as Leyline of the Void are considered new objects. They can not be used to activate Void Maw’s ability again.”

Corpse counters went away pretty quickly after that rules adjustment, but the technology lives on in Dauthi Voidwalker. “Exile instead of die” was canonized as “void” in Planar Void and later cemented in Leyline of the Void and Void Maw; it’s nice to see the ‘Walker living up to the tradition. That’s what Modern Horizons does best: tying Magic’s rich past into its present through subtle (or blatant) references while updating the mechanical aspects of old cards, and it’s hard to get older than “Dauthi.”

Shadow entered Magic with the release of 1997’s Tempest, which used it as a flavorful way to represent the plight of the Dauthi, Soltari, and Thalakos, who had been trapped between planes when Rath came into existence. They could war amongst each other, but they could not affect the outside world, trapped as they are in the pocket plane of the “shadows” between Rath and Dominaria. While I think Shadow is fine in the context of Tempest block, it basically reads as “this creature cannot block and is unblockable” outside of Shadow-heavy metagames, and is essentially flavor text for more aggressive Shadow creatures like Dauthi Slayer. There would be trades in Tempest Limited, where the Shadow deck was an absolute menace, but for the most part, creatures with Shadow don’t block.

The inconsistent ability to block was seen in design as a minor drawback, and so the Shadow creatures have aged exceedingly well compared to the mostly-underpowered tournament creatures from the era. Their stats line up with modern design, although Dauthi Voidwalker is obviously pushed pretty heavily compared to Standard staples like Soltari Priest and Dauthi Slayer.

Tempest-era White aggro decks were able to drop a turn two Priest or Soltari Monk and follow it up with a turn three Empyrial Armor, often attacking for six or seven on turn three. When your removal is Dark Banishing or Lightning Bolt, it’s pretty hard to come back from that. Even after a decade, the Time Spiral reprints of the Priest and Slayer saw play in aggressive decks. There’s precedent for Shadow creatures being a bit beefier than their mana values would suggest. Dauthi Voidwalker exchanges the protection abilities of Dauthi Horror or Soltari Priest in favor of an extra point of power (and the absurd Leyline/thieving abilities), which is a fair trade. If nothing else, Voidwalker offers a seven-turn clock in a vacuum.

So we’ve established that Dauthi Voidwalker isn’t an inherently unfair card—at least in theory. How do we go about breaking it in practice?

Modern Voidwalker (Lurrus)

Creatures (19)
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
Dreadhorde Arcanist
Dauthi Voidwalker
Young Pyromancer
Lightning Skelemental
Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Spells (19)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Fatal Push
Lightning Bolt
Kolaghan's Command
Lands (22)
Bloodstained Mire
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt
Blightstep Pathway

Obviously, Dauthi Voidwalker is a huge asset for 8-Rack decks, but I wanted something that interacts with the board a bit more. Right now, we have a wealth of playable targets for Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and I’m testing all of them out in a Dreadhorde Arcanist shell. The deck is a rock-solid 4×4 core that allows you to play some of Modern’s best interactive cards and adds the resiliency of Lurrus and the obnoxiousness of Voidwalker. I’m eschewing Sedgemoor Witch to keep the curve down, but she’s number one on the pine right now.

This is level one with the Voidwalker—plugging it into an established deck and letting it up your percentages with its power. But what if we wanted to do something truly bizarre with the Voidwalker? What if we wanted to warp reality around ourselves?

Modern Voidwalker (Eldrazi)

Creatures (20)
Snapcaster Mage
Sea Gate Stormcaller
Dauthi Voidwalker
Wasteland Strangler
Thought-Knot Seer
Blight Herder

Planeswalkers (2)
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Spells (14)
Glimpse the Unthinkable
Lands (24)
Eldrazi Temple
Watery Grave
Polluted Delta
Misty Rainforest
Drowned Catacomb
Darkslick Shores

Suspend is the MVP here—not only can it set up an early Wasteland Strangler and nuke two threats at once, but it can be Snapcast back. The mill core is probably too cute, but a single Glimpse the Unthinkable, in conjunction with a Voidwalker, can power up your Eldrazi for the rest of the game.

I tried something similar back when Battle for Zendikar block first came out—pairing Glimpse with Relic of Progenitus to power up Eldrazi—but it never went anywhere. With Dauthi Voidwalker, though, we no longer have to depend on non-interactive combos when we can instead attack. I considered Ulamog’s Nullifier, but I lose enough Modern games without running sub-Standard cards.

Interestingly, the best counter for a Voidwalker is another Voidwalker, so the card effectively self-regulates. That is to say, the more play Dauthi Voidwalker sees, the more likely it is to be balanced by an opposing copy. The card is certainly pushed, but it’s closer to Snapcaster Mage than Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. It is a more-than-worthy addition to the pantheon of Modern-defining two drops, keeping company with the aforementioned Snapcaster alongside Stoneforge Mystic, Dark Confidant, and perhaps even Tarmogoyf. Time will tell whether it’s overvalued, but the value it offers is as immediately apparent as it is tantalizing.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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