Modern Times - March of the Machine

19 Apr
by Corey Williams

Hello everyone! Today on Modern Times, we’ll take a look at some of the “high-potential” Modern playables unveiled in March of the Machine  (“MOM”), which releases this Friday, April 21st. Without further adieu, let’s dive in!

 

Invasion of Ikoria

 

As Atraxa, Grand Unifier foretold in its text a couple months ago, Magic is getting another card type: battles. Battles represent the largest innovation in the game since planeswalkers. As with any significant innovation, Wizards of the Coast has played it very safe with the battles they have released in this set (in many ways, the power level of most battles are on par with the initial power level of early Lorwyn planeswalkers).

In terms of which battles have Modern potential, Invasion of Ikoria is really the only standout. For and , you can snag a non-human creature with a mana value of X from your graveyard or deck and put it into play. When the battle is defeated, it flips and rewards you with an 8/8 that has vigilance. The immediate combo that is abuzz with this card is that for four mana total, you can dig out a Vampire Hexmage from your deck, and immediately sacrifice it to remove all counters from the battle once it enters, thereby giving you an 8/8 as early as turn three or four. In a sense, this combo is a lite version of Dark Depths with either Thespian's Stage or Vampire Hexmage.

Aside from the obvious aforementioned combo, you can also use Invasion of Ikoria as a means to search out Grist, the Hunger Tide from your deck since it counts as a non-human creature when it’s not in play. You could also use it to grab Death's Shadow, which can easily defeat the battle and flip it depending on how low your life total is. It is also worth noting for all the Boomer Jund fans out there that Tarmogoyf’s /+1 p/t ceiling is higher with the printing of this battle and all other battles as well.

 

Invasion of Ikoria

 

As of the writing of this article, Invasion of Ikoria’s market price is around $7. Assuming battles have a trajectory both in power level and in innovation on par with how planeswalkers have evolved since their introduction, it’s likely that we will see higher-potential battles in future sets, thus, I would expect Invasion of Ikoria to actually fall further in price as battles continue to evolve.

 

Grist, the Hunger Tide
Invasion of Ikoria
Vampire Hexmage
Death's Shadow

 

 

Ozolith, the Shattered Spire

 

Ozolith, the Shattered Spire is not The Ozolith, if you catch my drift. It is a redundant, albeit strictly worse version of Hardened Scales from a mana value standpoint. Unlike Hardened Scales, the additional +1/+1 counters Ozolith, the Shattered Spire provides to permanents you control applies to both artifacts and creatures, rather than just creatures alone. The additional activated ability to place +1/+1 counters on creatures or artifacts you control and the cycling mechanic add considerable utility and versatility to this card, however, on top of redundancy.

 

Ozolith, the Shattered Spire

 

Simply put, the value of this card in Modern (now and in the future) is entirely dependent on the adoption it sees in Hardened Scales Affinity decks. If Hardened Scales Affinity can make room for this card, then it will almost certainly see a price point above its current level ($7). On the other hand, Hardened Scales itself is only a $4 card, so I would find it hard to imagine that Ozolith, the Shattered Spire falls anywhere lower than that given its substitutability.

 

Ozolith, the Shattered Spire
Ozolith, the Shattered Spire (Extended Art)
Hardened Scales

 

 

Wrenn and Realmbreaker

 

Wrenn and Realmbreaker seems to be the biggest question mark of all cards in this set that could see some play outside of Standard. For the same mana cost, the static ability of Wrenn and Realmbreaker gives you half of what Dryad of the Ilysian Grove provides in terms of enabling all your lands to add mana of any color to your mana pool. That one comparison aside, the activated abilities of Wrenn and Realmbreaker don’t provide an obvious home for it in Modern, despite the fact that they are all solid.

The +1 ability turns a land you control into a 3/3 hexproof, hasty creature with vigilance, which has a lot of fun potential. In theory, Wrenn and Realmbreaker could target Inkmoth Nexus with its +1, and then for an additional colorless mana, one could use Inkmoth Nexus’ activated ability giving it infect and flying on top of vigilance, hexproof, and haste. In a deck like Elves, Wrenn and Realmbreaker could come out as early as turn two and use its -2 to dig for more permanents that can close out games sooner.

Beyond this, Wrenn and Realmbreaker also synergizes well with the core components of decks like Titanshift or Amulet Titan. Some have speculated this card makes Superfriends decks more compelling, especially since you can go turn two Wrenn and Six followed by a turn three Wrenn and Realmbreaker, which on paper seems really appealing, but in practice could be a little clunky.

 

Wrenn and Realmbreaker

 

The problem that Wrenn and Realmbreaker has is that for the decks it has the most potential in - namely Elves and Amulet Titan - it's not obvious what one would cut from the main deck to make room for Wrenn and Realmbreaker. Of all the cards discussed today, this probably has the potential to swing in price the most. My guess is that it will fall to around $15 or so upon release, but if it finds a home in Modern, it could swing upward sharply to well over its current market price.

 

Wrenn and Realmbreaker
Wrenn and Realmbreaker (Borderless)
Inkmoth Nexus

 

 

Some Concluding Notes

 

Unlike Phyrexia: All Will Be One, which gave us a lot of Modern playable cards ranging from Venerated Rotpriest to Jace, the Perfected Mind, MOM and its supporting products definitely favor the Commander crowds much more so than Modern or Legacy.

It felt like the Modern format was sort of grasping at straws for playable cards as this set was previewed, but like most things, only time will tell what and how MOM makes a splash in Modern. For now, however, the aforementioned cards are a terrific starting point for speculation.

As of now, most are very reasonably priced compared to the pre-release asking prices for ONE during its spoiler season. This is one of the few sets I’ve seen in the past few years where the cards with the most potential in Modern have bottomed out before the formal release date! That means the only potential is upward from here on out!

 

Check out these other articles:

 

New Horzions: March of the Machine by Matt Grzechnik  

History, Restapled: Power Creep Before Dollar Creep by Steve Heisler  

The Big Things: World Championship Decks by Harvey McGuinness

Corey Williams
Corey Williams

Corey Williams is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. He considers himself a macroeconometrician with his research body reflecting work in applied macroeconomics and econometrics. Corey is an L1 Judge who started playing Magic around Eighth Edition. He enjoys Modern, Commander, cEDH, and cube drafting. Outside of Magic, he loves running, teaching, and the occasional cult movie.


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