The best Modern cards in Magic: The Gathering aren’t always the most powerful ones - at least, not at first glance. While Modern does have some absurd spells and creatures in the format, it tends to be the cards that help you maintain your own strategy that rise to the top of any deck. You can often take away one giant creature and replace it with another, but the same can’t be said of the best Modern cards.
Modern as a MTG format is extraordinary. It is likely to be the competitive one you get into after a year or so of playing Standard. It’s filled with a plethora of different strategies, an almost uncountable number of cards and more janky combos than you could ever hope to see the end of. It’s all a lot of fun most of the time, but it’s much easier to get into if you can get your hands on the staples.
Best Modern cards in MTG
- Fetch lands: Every day I’m shuffling.
- Shock lands: No pain, no gain.
- Thoughtseize: I can read your mind.
- Snapcaster Mage: Another one.
- Aether Vial: Casting creatures is so last year.
- Serum Visions: I can read my mind.
- Path to Exile: No to that.
- Collected Company: Seriously, nobody casts creatures.
- Lightning Bolt: Bolt you.
- Veil of Summer: No no, this is a counterspell.
It would be very easy to do a list of the best Modern cards a hundred times and come up with a different selection each time. So, rather than going for any of the powerhouse creatures or absurd planeswalkers, we’ve chosen to go with the cards that form the core of a lot of Modern decks. These are the spells that are almost guaranteed to see play in any deck with the right mana to cast them - either that, or they’re the cards that give you the chance to have the right mana to cast any of them.
1. Fetch lands
Every day I’m shuffling
Without fetch lands, you basically have no Modern format. If you took them away, the way Modern would look would be unrecognisable. Having a stable mana base is essential if you want to do multicoloured strategies, and the only way that works is with fetch lands.
Just in case you’re new to this whole thing, fetch lands are land cards that don’t tap for mana, but tap and get sacrificed to allow you to put a different land into play. This lets you fix your mana, largely due to our next entry.
2. Shock lands
No pain, no gain
Shock lands are lands that enter tapped unless you pay two life to untap them. The thing that makes them special is that they can tap for two colours of mana and that you can put them into play using fetch lands. If fetch lands are the tool to fix your mana base, then shock lands are the nuts and bolts.
You’ll find plenty of decks with shock lands making up over half the mana base because it means you can easily play three colours. These first two entries aren’t flashy at all, but if you took them away, Modern would be incredibly odd.
I can read your mind
Thoughtseize is a one-mana card that forces your opponent to reveal their hand and then allows you to make them discard a nonland card of your choice. It’ll cost you two life to do so, but it’s nearly always worth it because it should be the one card in their hand that can stop you. Plus, if you’re playing something like Death’s Shadow you probably want to be losing life anyway, which makes this card even better.
4. Snapcaster Mage
Let's go again
There are a lot of powerful spells in Modern. You’ll know that if you’ve been playing for any length of time, but you’ll know it just from having read until this point in this list, too.
Snapcaster Mage is a 2/1 creature with Flash that costs two mana. When it enters the battlefield, you get to choose an instant or sorcery from your graveyard and then recast it. This essentially adds extra copies of those cards into your deck, and it’s the reason that Snapcaster Mage is in nearly every Blue deck that matters.
5. Aether Vial
Casting creatures is so last year
As the only artifact on this list, you had better believe that Aether Vial is something special. For only one mana, you play an artifact that lets you put creatures into play without casting them or spending mana. Every upkeep you can choose to put a charge counter on it, then tap it to put a creature into play with a converted mana cost equal to the number of charge counters.
This lets you get around counterspells, play creatures at instant speed and even surprise opponents with blockers at the last second. It’s an absurdly powerful card and pushes some very good Modern decks into the top tier.
6. Serum Visions
I can read my mind
Card selection and card draw are two of the most important parts of any Magic: The Gathering deck that likes to take its time. Serum Visions costs one mana, and lets you draw a card and then scry 2. Scrying, for the uninitiated, is a process that allows you to look at the top cards of your library and then choose to change the order of them as you place them back on top of the deck or instead put them onto the bottom of your deck. That’s a lot of work for one mana.
7. Path to Exile
No to that
There’s a theme for most of the spells on this list, and that’s that they only cost one mana. Path to Exile is the White entry on the list, and it’s one of the best removal spells of all time. It costs one mana to exile a target creature, and the only downside is that the creature’s controller gets to put a basic land into play. That doesn’t sound ideal, but you’ll find that it’s rarely a big enough issue to stop you. Better yet, you can even use it on your own creatures if you find yourself in need of extra mana.
8. Collected Company
Seriously, nobody casts creatures
This is the only four-mana card on this list, but it’s a doozy. Collected Company breaks some of the basic rules of MTG by allowing you to put two creatures into play at instant speed. It lets you look at the top six cards of your library and then choose any two creatures that cost up to three mana and put them into play. If you’ve seen some of the cards available in Modern, you’ll know that this gives you a disgusting amount of options, and doing it all in reaction to somebody attacking you or during their end step is rather silly.
9. Lightning Bolt
Back to the one-mana spells, and this time it’s a Red one. Lightning Bolt is a one-mana spell that deals three damage to any target at instant speed. That means you can kill a creature, a planeswalker or even a player with only one mana. It’s an absurdly powerful MTG card, and it’s integral to any Modern deck that wants to kill an opponent off as quickly as possible or control the board. The versatility of this simple spell is impossible to overstate, and it’ll be relevant long after any of us are.
10. Veil of Summer
No no, this is a counterspell
Finally, we have another Green card - but, this time, in the one-mana category. Veil of Summer is an anti-control card. It stops spells you play from being countered, it gives permanents you control Hexproof from both Blue and Black cards, and it lets you draw a card if an opponent has played a Blue or Black card.
Frankly, it’s an obscenely powerful card. The sheer number of things it does for just one mana is almost offensive, and the fact that it does all of this on an instant makes it the kind of card that could end up banned one day. But it is not this day, so go and play with it.