Magic the Gathering: Top 8 Under Rated Modern Cards

Posted November 21, 2016 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Nerdy Bits

This piece was a collaboration worked on by the credited author (me, Jean-Luc) and a good friend and decent Magic player, Abdullah El-Hawary.

Despite years of existence, the Modern format is still not fully explored. New decks show up periodically, or people find hidden gems that become staples. And because of the size of the format, it becomes easy to take advantage of stock decks. Is this a bad thing? Of course not. But there are definitely cards that are legal in the format that fly under the radar – and wrongfully so, in the opinion of the authors. So we compiled this list of eight cards we’ve played with in decks in the past and have been impressed with.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver


I’ll be the first to admit that Ashiok is a bit of a personal favorite. I’ve loved the card since it was first printed back in Theros – I played it throughout its time in Standard, and have it in multiple Modern decks. And look, the current meta is not necessarily the friendliest to a card like Ashiok. It’s too slow and doesn’t do enough against Infect and Zooicide, and even some draws out of Bant Eldrazi. But against the slower Eldrazi draws, other Blue decks, Jund, Abzan, and even combo decks like Goryo’s Vengeance and Ad Nauseum, Ashiok is great. Exiling key combo pieces and mind controlling creatures – virtually for free – is really powerful. The critique of the card that I see most often is that it can’t protect itself. But it comes down on turn three with five loyalty – against a lot of decks, that’s a turn at least. And even more importantly, you’re playing it in a control or midrange shell. Which means that, hey, you have a bunch of removal you want to point at your opponent’s creatures anyways. And in Blue decks, you often have ways to protect it from spells on the stack as well. I could go on for a while about why I think the “planeswalkers have to have built on protection” critique is a little silly, but hey, maybe another day. In the meantime, play some Ashioks.

Sudden Shock


Sudden Shock is, in my eyes, the best sideboard card against Modern’s best deck right now. And somehow, it’s woefully underplayed. Sudden Shock absolutely ruins Infect – it’s going to be a 2-for1- at least nine times out of ten. On top of that, Infect has no ways to interact it with it whatsoever. Removal in general is pretty good against Infect, but with all the pump spells the deck plays, burn based removal doesn’t match up against it all that well. And with Blossoming Defense getting printed, the deck can now play up to 12 protection spells to dodge spot removal. Of course, they usually don’t play the full contingent – but they still play a lot. The other issue with sideboard cards against Infect is that Infect plans for them. They have cards like Dismember, Twisted Image, Dispel, and Spell Pierce – sometimes even in the main deck. Of course, if they don’t draw them, cards like Melira and Spellskite are going to ruin Infect even more than Sudden Shock will. But all around, Sudden Shock is going to be a lot more consistent. It already sees some sideboard play, but the fact that it’s not a consensus sideboard card for Red decks – especially decks like Grixis, Jund, and Jeskai – baffles me.



If it were an Instant, Roast would probably have been an immediate four of in a lot of Red decks. As it is, I think the card is woefully underplayed. For as great as cards like Lightning Bolt are, Red often has to branch into other colors to find efficient removal spells. Which I do find odd, considering that Roast exists, and, for just two mana, deals with a lot of the formats major threats. The fact that it kills large Tarmogoyfs and Tasigur is enough to make its downsides seem worth finding space for the card. There’s not really all that much else to say about Roast – it isn’t particularly flashy, but it does the job it was designed to do. And more importantly, it does that job really, really well.

Threads of Disloyalty


If you’re unfamiliar with Threads of Disloyalty, or are even think about writing this card off, just go watch Shaun McLaren’s run in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Obviously, it hurts to be results oriented, but come on. For what it’s worth, Shota was also playing it in his Eternal Command list. Threads gives Blue decks an answer to cards that they can’t deal with if they don’t have a counterspell – creatures, mainly, and Tarmogoyf is the big one. But it operates as a pseudo removal spell, especially against decks that rely on a single threat to carry them – looking at you, Zooicide and Infect. But the versatility of Threads is really where the magic of the cards lies. Yes, it’s pseudo removal, but it also gives slower decks both a blocker and a win condition. Depending on the draw, stealing Jund’s turn two Tarmogoyf could be the death knell for your opponent. Alternatively, taking a Death’s Shadow at a low life total, or even a counter laden creature from Affinity, locks down the ground and lets midrange and control decks execute their game plan. It also neuters certain hate cards, like Spellskite, which require your opponent to control them to be disruptive. It fills numerous roles that benefit Blue decks, and is a potent option in both the main deck and the sideboard.  

Eternal Witness


It’s baffling that Shota Yasooka’s Eternal Command deck doesn’t pop up more often. It combines powerful early game removal with an unbeatable mid/late game, with Eternal Witness at the center of it all. But hey, I can see legitimate arguments for it being maybe a bit too clunky in today’s metagame. But that doesn’t explain why this card doesn’t see play in any way except as a one of in Chord/Collected Company decks. It’s great at grinding, it’s great at chump blocking, and hey, sometimes two power is enough to trade off with relevant creatures. And then you just buy it back with another Eternal Witness, demonstrate a loop, and… well that doesn’t actually work as well as I would like it to. In all seriousness, I think that E Wit should be a legitimate consideration for a lot of decks in the format, even as a sideboard option for decks like Infect that have trouble going late against midrange and control strategies. It’s a card that could also enable new decks – there’s a Sultai deck somewhere in this format built around being able to consistently recur their removal spells and high impact cards.

Courser of Kruphix


How the mighty have fallen. Courser of Kruphix, a card that was once a ubiquitous four of in what was undeniably the best deck in Standard, has been reduced to a mere one of in some Chord lists. Which surprises me, because the card fits the gameplan of most midrange decks incredibly well. Courser provides tons of pseudo card advantage for almost no downside. With the presence of all 10 fetchlands in the format, Courser means you will rarely ever have to draw Lands, and yet, you can continue hitting your land drops. You get to draw all gas, and still have the mana to cast said gas, all while gaining a little bit of life which is relevant in a lot of matchups. On top of that, Course just has a really good body. It’s out of Bolt and Helix range, and it blocks Nacatls for days. Ground creatures out of Affinity can’t profitably attack into it, and it holds down the fort against early Grim Flayers and Tarmogoyfs. On top of all of that, it provides an extra card type for both Delirium and Tarmogoyf counts, which gives little edges in mirror matches. Often, that’s all you need.



Smother is the answer to Esper and Sultai’s removal problem in Modern. Without access to Terminate, the two decks have to settle for a smaller removal suite. This is an issue that Smother solves. Even in established decks, like Jund, Grixis, and Abzan, the card has a home. It solves the manland problem, and kills nearly every relevant threat out of the format’s best decks. It’s notably weak against Bant Eldrazi, but with that deck on the decline, Smother is poised to make a real impact on the meta. Modern is a format dominated by efficiency, and as such, the creatures tend to be either very cheap or have Delve, which is where Smother shines. It’s especially good against Infect and Death’s Shadow, both of which play cheap creatures that can rapidly be put out of range of Lightning Bolt with a single payment of life or pump spell. And while Bolt will always be a defining pillar of the Modern format, it’s at an all time low point right now, in terms of its positioning in the metagame. I’m actually in the camp that many of the 2 cmc Black removal spells are underrated in Modern, but the drawbacks on Go For the Throat and Doom Blade are relevant enough to keep them off this list. The drawback on Smother just isn’t.

Liliana, the Last Hope


Considering the fact that she’s already seeing a decent amount of sideboard play, and even creeping into some mainboards, Liliana, the Last Hope may seem like an odd card to have at #1. But I do truly believe that this is the most underrated card in the Modern format, and the deep seated popularity of Liliana of the Veil has a lot to do with that. At 3 cmc and with the same subtype, the two compete for very similar slots. The thing is, I actually think Liliana, the Last Hope is correct to include in some decks where Liliana of the Veil doesn’t make sense. Take, for instance, UBx decks. The latest iteration of Liliana is absolutely busted with Snapcaster Mage, allowing you to regrow the card almost indefinitely. The card is also the ultimate trump in midrange mirrors – the direction that I think the format is going to be moving. It allows your creatures to beat your opponent’s creatures in combat, and renders most removal (with the notable exception of Path to Exile) nearly useless, all the while fueling cards like Snapcaster Mage, Scavenging Ooze, Tarmogoyf, Tasigur, and Grim Flayer. And that’s to say nothing of the ultimate, which is a very real win condition in a meta where decks aren’t set up to attack planeswalkers. Her +1 is also a lot better than it looks – yes, she comes down on turn three, but if you can reach that point it becomes very difficult for decks like Infect and Affinity to ever stick a real threat. Pound for pound, she’s probably still worse than Liliana of the Veil, but she warrants a fair bit more consideration than she’s currently getting.


About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.