Ever since the release of Modern Horizons and Modern Horizons Two, the landscape of Modern has changed drastically. Cards are significantly more efficient than they used to be. With cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer able to take over a game as a one-drop, cheap interaction is at a premium. On top of that, power creep has escalated over the years. Powerful cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor that were once on the Modern banned list barely see any play today. Despite being a strong, value-oriented card, Jace is simply too slow in most matchups in the format.
Another card that was heavily affected by power creep was none other than Snapcaster Mage. Back in the days of Splinter Twin and various full-on control decks, Snapcaster Mage was an elite threat. It was quite easy to get value out of the card, and the ability to give Flashback to Lightning Bolt and attack for two for a few turns was enough to close out games on its own. Nowadays, it’s more difficult to utilize the card effectively. Snapcaster Mage isn’t super efficient, and the body of Snapcaster Mage is much less relevant than it used to be.
Luckily for Snapcaster Mage fans, however, one Lord of the Rings card has helped revitalize the powerful Creature. The combination of Snapcaster Mage, Flame of Anor, and some cheap Counterspells and removal has proven to be a solid gameplan. Two different Izzet decks made top eight of various Magic Online Modern Challenges this weekend maximizing Flame of Anor and Snapcaster Mage, so let’s take a look at what makes this combination so strong.
Wizard is a Potent Creature Type
Much like Archmage’s Charm, Flame of Anor is a versatile, three-mana Instant with the ability to draw two cards as one of its modes. In the case of Flame of Anor, you also have the option to deal five damage to a Creature or destroy an Artifact. This card saw some play at Pro Tour Lord of the Rings in Crashing Footfalls sideboards, as it could remove problematic hate cards like Chalice of the Void while still being a decent card in other situations. At three mana, it also didn’t mess with the deck’s plan to cast a three-mana Cascade spell to hit Crashing Footfalls. In most decks, however, the spell is pretty inefficient.
Of course, that is unless you can get multiple modes out of the card at once. Luckily, Flame of Anor can do just that if you control a Wizard. This is where Snapcaster Mage comes into play. Despite having slightly different gameplans, both of the Izzet decks from the Challenges that utilized these two cards made sure to play cheap cantrips as well as cheap removal like Lightning Bolt and Unholy Heat. This would help stave off opposing threats in the early turns and provide efficient cards to Flashback with Snapcaster Mage.
As mentioned, the body of Snapcaster Mage isn’t as impactful as it once was, but the Creature type certainly is. The ability to use Flame of Anor as both a removal spell and a card advantage spell all in one is extremely powerful. Once you get to five mana, you can even cast Snapcaster Mage and Flashback Flame of Anor all in one turn at Instant speed. Importantly, once you cast Flame of Anor with a Wizard in play, you get the two modes no matter what, even if an opponent removes Snapcaster in response. Given how powerful casting Flame of Anor is with a Wizard in play, one of the Izzet players went even further on the Wizard subtheme.
Wizards Beyond Snapcaster Mage
Rather than take on a more controlling role, Magic Online user xfile decided to put together a more tempo-oriented gameplan. In addition to Ragavan, this deck makes use of a playset of Delver of Secrets. Delver hasn’t had much of a home in Modern, especially in recent years, but in a deck full of Instants and Sorceries, it hits hard. Notably, Delver of Secrets is a Wizard to start with, but it transforms into a Human Insect, meaning it doesn’t synergize with Flame of Anor once transformed.
Another Wizard this deck utilizes is Vendilion Clique. Clique is a decent Flash threat but has largely been pushed aside by Brazen Borrower since its printing in Throne of Eldraine.
The fact that this deck is playing all of these Wizards shows just how strong Flame of Anor really is. Between Flame of Anor, Snapcaster Mage, and Expressive Iteration, this deck can generate a ton of value. Thanks to Delver and Ragavan, it can also end games rather quickly. Add in removal and Counterspells, and this deck can play a quick or long game, depending on the matchup. Perhaps the biggest weakness of this shell, however, is that it plays a ton of one-toughness Creatures and card draw, making it very vulnerable to Orcish Bowmasters. If you’re less worried about closing out the game quickly and more worried about getting blown out by Bowmasters, consider playing a more controlling shell.
Tempo and Control
Rather than running a ton of different Wizards, Magic Online user WaToO took a slower approach. The only Creatures they are running are Snapcaster Mage and Murktide Regent as a way to help close out the game. This deck opts to play almost entirely at Instant speed, playing a playset of Archmage’s Charm in addition to Flame of Anor. From there, this deck fills out some of the other non-Creature slots with Dress Down, Fire//Ice, and Shark Typhoon.
This deck also plays more Lands and a playset of Lorien Revealed to help guarantee the ability to get to five mana and use Snapcaster Mage alongside Flame of Anor and Archmage’s Charm. While this deck is definitely better against Bowmasters and opposing Creature decks, it is rather slow, which can be more problematic against decks like mono-green Tron. Both versions have their tradeoffs, but one thing’s for sure: Snapcaster Mage is back and, at least, somewhat viable in the Modern format. Spell slingers rejoice!