Published on 02/26/2024

A Touch of Modern

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Today's article is going to be a bit more personal than usual. This is all about my babies. My personal Modern decks. I chose seven of my Modern decks, and for each I'll write a little about that deck, provide a deck list, and then answer three rules questions involving the cards in that deck.

As always, if you have rules questions, you can email us at or tweet short questions to @CranialTweet. One of our authors will reply to you, and your question might even appear in a future article!

Deck #1 Jund Saga

So I have a large planeswalker collection, at least four of each different named planeswalker. This means I was sitting on more than four Wrenn & Sixes. It seemed like a waste to have them and not play them, so I went hunting for a Modern deck that ran 4x Wrenns. This was a list I found where the only cards I was missing were 4x Monkeys and 3x Fables. After getting the missing cards, this has become my second favorite deck in Modern. Urza's Saga + Wrenn is quite fun.

Q: On turn 1 of a game I cast Alpine Moon naming Urza's Saga. On the following turn, my opponent plays an Urza's Saga. What happens to my opponent's Urza's Saga?

A: Alpine Moon strips the Urza's Saga of all its abilities. However, it will still be an enchantment with the Saga subtype. The game will see it enter the battlefield with no chapters and one lore counter. Rule 714.4 will see a Saga with as many or more lore counters as that saga has chapters, but no triggered ability on the stack caused by a lore counter being put on that Saga, so without using the stack the game will force the Saga's controller to sacrifice it. This means the opponent will have no chance to even tap the Saga for mana before it gets sacrificed.

Q: Across all graveyards there are currently only two cards: Bear Cub and a Forest. If my opponent tries to Lightning Bolt my Tarmogoyf, will it survive?

A: Like Gloria Gaynor, the Goyf will survive. The last thing a spell does before state-based actions are checked is go to the graveyard. So Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to Goyf, then Lightning Bolt goes to the graveyard, then state-based actions are checked. By the time the game checks to see if the Goyf died to the 3 damage, it will be at 4 toughness: 1 (creature card) +1 (land card) +1 (instant card) +1 (base toughness) = 4.

Q: I've just cast Inquisition of Kozilek and my opponent reveals their hand. Can I make them discard the Fire // Ice in their hand?

A: You can't make a player discard Fire // Ice with Inquisition of Kozilek. In all zones other than the stack, a split card like Fire // Ice has a mana value equal to both halves added together. So with Fire // Ice that makes it a mana value of 4.

Deck #2 Arcbound Scales

I've been playing Magic a very long time. I remember when I absolutely hated Ravager in Standard. With enough time, I have learned to love the Arcbound cards and play nicely with them. While typical Scales decks don't play white and go harder into red, I like getting to play Arcbound Mouser and have some fantastic sideboard cards like Blacksmith's Skill and Surge of Salvation.

Q: When I resolve the last trigger of Urza's Saga, can I grab a Arcbound Mouser from my library and put it on the battlefield?

A: You can't. Urza's Saga's last chapter says to find an artifact with a mana cost of or , not a mana value of 1 or less. This is rather subtle, but mana cost is the actual thing printed at the top right of a normal Magic card, whereas mana value is equal to the total amount of mana in the mana cost regardless of color. The mana value of Arcbound Mouser is 1, but its mana cost is , not .

Q: I've tapped my Agatha's Soul Cauldron to exile the Arcbound Ravager from my graveyard and place a +1/+1 counter on my Arcbound Worker. My opponent responds by exiling my graveyard by casting Rakdos Charm. My opponent claims my Worker doesn't get the +1/+1 counter, but I'm sure it still gets the counter. Who is right?

A: Your opponent is correct. Most spells or abilities that have more than one target will still try to complete as many actions as they can if they lose one or more targets but still have at least one target. However, Agatha's tap ability is really two separate abilities. Part one is the tap ability to exile a card in a graveyard, part two is a reflexive ability that only triggers if the first part happens. You don't actually chose the target to get the counter until after the card in the graveyard gets exiled by Agatha's Soul Cauldron.

Q: I control The Ozolith with no counters on it, Hardened Scales, an Arcbound Worker with one +1/+1 counter on it, an Arcbound Mouser with one +1/+1 counter on it, and an Arcbound Ravager with one +1/+1 counter on it. Assuming that I move all +1/+1 counters to Ravager when I can, if I sacrifice Worker and Mouser to Ravager before moving to combat, how big will Ravager be if I attack with it this turn?

A: It would be a 12/12.

Ravager eats Worker, giving itself two +1/+1 counters. The Worker dying puts two more +1/+1 counters onto the Ravager (making a total of five so far). The Worker dying also puts one +1/+1 counter on The Ozolith.

Ravager eats Mouser, giving iteself two +1/+1 counters. The Mouser dying puts two more +1/+1 counters onto the Ravager (making a total of nine so far). The Mouser dying also puts one +1/+1 counter on The Ozolith (making a total of two so far).

At the beginning of combat, The Ozolith will attempt to move its two +1/+1 counters onto Ravager, but this is increased to adding three counters because of Hardened Scales. 9 + 3 = 12.

Deck #3 Dimir Mill

I've been playing Mill since Modern became a format. It has seemingly only gotten better as time has progressed. Getting a second Hedron Crab in Ruin Crab, Tasha's Hideous Laughter as a card that just ruins some low to the ground decks, Jace, the Perfected Mind as one part mill card and second part extra copies of Visions of Beyond, and the near-perfect permission card for the deck in Drown in the Loch. It's crazy to me that Glimpse the Unthinkable is simply not a good enough card to make it into a Modern Mill deck anymore.

Q: My opponent knows they have no basic lands left in their deck and they suspect I have an Archive Trap in my hand. If I use Field of Ruin on their Xander's Lounge can they choose not to search their library to prevent my Archive Trap from becoming free?

A: Field of Ruin forces each player to search their library, even if they physically don't look through their library (such as skipping right to shuffling their library as they know there are no basics left to fetch). If Field of Ruin's ability resolved this turn, your Archive Traps will be free to cast until end of turn.

Q: My opponent controls Tormod's Crypt and has five cards in their graveyard. My opponent casts Shardless Agent cascading into Crashing Footfalls. I then cast Drown in the Loch to counter the Footfalls. The opponent responds to that by exiling their own graveyard with Tormod's Crypt. Do I still counter the Footfalls?

A: You do! The mana value of Crashing Footfalls is 0. When an opponent has no cards in their graveyard, Drown in the Loch can counter any spell with mana value 0 or less (so really only spells with mana value 0).

Q: My opponent has a Lightning Bolt in their graveyard and they begin to cast a Lightning Bolt from their hand. Can I cast Extirpate to stop the Lightning Bolt they are attempting to cast?

A: You can't do that. Once a player begins to cast a spell, the first thing they do is put that card on the stack and you won't get a chance to cast any instants (even those with Split Second) until after it's already on the stack and they have paid all costs.

Strategy Bonus: If you wait until after a player draws their card for the turn and they attempt to move to their first main phase, you can Extirpate any instant in their graveyard, hopefully grabbing any copies of that card they may have just drawn, and they can't respond with casting that instant because you have priority and Extirpate has split second.

Deck #4 Goblins

This is not the best aggro deck (or Goblins deck) but it's a great loaner deck. It's simple, the cards are easy to read, and the play pattern is straightforward, cast Goblins and swing. I regularly loan out this deck for people who don't have a deck but would like to join in local Modern tournaments. About the only thing that's tough about running this deck it to remember your Aether Vial triggers.

Q: My opponent controls a Chalice of the Void with one charge counter on it. If I cast Shattering Spree replicating it once and having both the original and the copy target the Chalice, will I destroy the Chalice?

A: You will. When a spell gets replicated, the copies it makes are made when the initial spell is cast, not when it resolves, and exist independent of the original spell. These copies are not cast, but are just placed on the stack. These copies can be countered, but each one must be countered separately from each other and from the original spell.

Chalice of the Void triggers each time a spell with the correct mana value is cast, the copies from replicate are not cast, so Chalice won't trigger for them.

The copies from replicate resolve before the original spell.

Q: I have two Aether Vials, one with one charge counter and one with two charge counters. Can I use the one with two counters to put a kicked Goblin Bushwhacker onto the battlefield? Can I use the one with one counter to put a Goblin Bushwhacker onto the battlefield and pay to kick it?

A: No and No. Aether Vial puts a creature onto the battlefield and isn't casting it. Kicker is an additional cost to casting a spell. You can only kick a spell if you are casting it. There is no way to combine Aether Vial and kicker.

Q: Warren Instigator is my only attacking creature. If during its first strike hit I put a Goblin Chieftain onto the battlefield with the Instigator's trigger, will the Instigator hit for 2 damage during the normal damage step of this turn?

A: Yes, the Chieftain will pump the Instigator in time to make Instigator strike for 2 damage during the normal damage step.

Deck #5 Extra Turns

I played a deck similar to this in Standard when Time Spiral and the original Ravnica sets were legal in Standard. It used many of the same cards in this deck plus Reclaim to take lots of extra turns, draw extra cards off of Howling Mines and eventually kill the opponent with an inexpensive flyer. Modern gives enough turn effects and Howling Mine effects that the deck can go mono-blue, with a devotion theme to make silly amounts of mana quicker than a non-green deck really should be able to.

Q: It's currently my turn during a Modern tournament when time is called. Both the opponent and I each have one game win so far this match. The opponent and I are told by a judge we only have five more turns to win or the match will end in a draw. What happens if I cast three Time Warps before passing the turn?

A: Assuming no other extra turn spells are cast, you will get turns 1, 2, 3, then the opponent will get turn 4, and you will get the final turn 5. If neither of you win during those turns, then the match still ends in a draw. The five turns during time are across both players, not necessarily distributed evenly. It's possible for this extra turns deck to take all five of the turns during time.

Q: During my opponent's turn they cast Thoughtseize, so I respond by Remanding it. I happen to draw Temporal Mastery with the Remand. This is the first card I've drawn this turn and I have two untapped Islands, can I miracle it even though it's not my turn?

A: Yes you can. Miracle's only limitations are that it must be the first card you draw in that turn, you must reveal the card as you draw it, and you must be able to pay its miracle cost.

Q: My current devotion to blue is five. I currently control two Islands, Minamo, School at Water's Edge, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. What's the most mana I can make?

A: Seven mana, all blue. Tap the two Islands to activate Nykthos. This will make five mana. Then use one of the five mana and Minamo to untap Nykthos. You now have four mana. Use two of the floating mana to activate Nykthos a second time. This reduces you to two mana, but then adds five more for a total of seven.

Deck #6 Martyr Caw Blade

Similar to the last deck, I played something similar back during the Standard set that included both Ravnica and Time Spiral. Proclamation of Rebirth + Martyr of Sands is now Abiding Grace + Martyr of Sands, which makes room for a Stoneforge Mystic package and a few Caws to carry those Blades.

Q: My 0/0 Germ wielding Kaldra Compleat is blocked by my opponent's Bear Cub. Does the Bear Cub go the graveyard or get exiled?

A: The exile ability granted by Kaldra Compleat is a trigger that only works on creatures still on the battlefield when the trigger resolves. So the Bear Cub will just go to the graveyard and not get exiled. If the Bear Cub was made indestructible by, say, wearing Darksteel Plate, then it would survive being dealt 5 combat damage and then get exiled by the Germ.

Q: If I Ghost Quarter my own Flagstones of Trokair can I put a normal Plains and a Mistveil Plains onto the battlefield from my library?

A: Yes, you can. Flagstones of Trokair lets you get any land with the Plains subtype — not just basic Plains — and Ghost Quarter will get you a basic Plains.

Q: If I cast Cleansing Nova does my opponent get to know which mode I'm choosing in time to respond before it resolves?

A: Yes, they do. The mode of a spell like Cleansing Nova is decided after the spell is put on the stack but before any targets are chosen. Before the spell will resolve, each player will get priority at least once, giving them a chance to cast spells and activate abilities, fully knowing which mode or modes where chosen for the spell.

Deck #7 Azorius Control

I've played W/U Control through various versions since the beginning of Modern. This build is a little out of date. The only card I've added to the deck since Modern Horizons 1 is Counterspell.

Q: My opponent controls Narset, Parter of Veils and I currently have three cards in hand. During my first main phase, I activate Jace, the Mind Sculptor's +0 ability. What happens when that ability resolves?

A: You would draw zero cards (as you already drew the one card you could draw this turn during your draw step), then you will take two of the three cards in your hand and place them on top of your library in an order of your choosing.

Q: Do tokens have names? My opponent has two 4/4 Rhino tokens from casting Crashing Footfalls and I need to know if I Echoing Truth one token, will the other get bounced as well?

A: Tokens do have names. If the name is not specified by the ability or spell that made it, then its name is its creature types with the word "Token" stapled onto the end. In the case of the Footfalls tokens, their name is "Rhino Token". So yes, if you Echoing Truth one Rhino token, you will also bounce the other Rhino Token.

Q: My Detention Sphere's enter the battlefield trigger is targeting my opponent's Omnath, Locus of Creation. Before that trigger can resolve, my opponent responds by Leyline of Binding the Detention Sphere. My opponent thinks his Omnath will never leave the battlefield and I'm convinced the Omnath just got permanently exiled. Who is right?

A: You are correct, the Omnath is on a one way journey to exile. What might be confusing your opponent is the difference between Oblivion Ring and Banishing Light.

What just happened to Omnath is sometimes called the Oblivion Ring trick. Oblivion Ring has two separate triggered abilities, an enters the battlefield trigger and a leaves the battlefield trigger. If the leaves battlefield trigger resolves before the enters the battlefield trigger does, then the game will try to return something that hasn't left yet, and then will exile that thing permanently. Detention Sphere works just like this if it's destroyed before it exiles anything.

To prevent this silly thing from happening, newer cards are worded like Banishing Light now, where instead of two different triggers there is only one trigger, but that trigger has a built in duration. If you destroy a Banishing Light style card before it exiles anything, then its duration was ended before it began so nothing gets exiled ever. This means cards like Banishing Light can't do the "Oblivion Ring Trick".

That's all the time I have for Modern today, good luck and see you next time.

- Justin Hovdenes AKA Hovey
Level 2 Magic Judge
Rapid City, SD


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