In the rich, 25-year long history of our great game, there is one Magic card that garners more hatred than all others. The most polarizing spell in the game today, the one that elicits more groans and eye rolls than any other, the one that has brought many a mage to their knees...
It started life as a rather innocuous red enchantment from The Dark.
In an era of unprecedented good mana, where players can freely utilize their manabases to do everything from pump up their Death's Shadows to enable third-turn Karn Liberated to summoning Marit Lage from deep within the ice of Dark Depths, Blood Moon promises to turn off everything while incidentally keeping the opponent from casting most of their spells. Even when it isn't on the battlefield, the mere threat of Blood Moon forces players to play differently, and its inexorable effects on both the Modern and Legacy metagames are nearly as format-warping as those of perennial powerhouses like Mox Opal, Thoughtseize, Lightning Bolt, Brainstorm, and Deathrite Shaman.
Blood Moon (alongside the unfun compatriots of the Urza lands and Ensnaring Bridge) is singlehandedly responsible for a number of pundits calling for the removal of Eighth Edition from Modern altogether! To be frank, if I had a dollar for every bad beat story I've heard (or told) about losing to an early Blood Moon, I'd be able to buy myself a playset and start inflicting the same pain on others!
It is with this background that I stopped while scrolling through the Rivals of Ixalan spoiler and sat with my jaw agape at the latest, hate-est, homage to red's best answer to nonbasic lands. Blood Sun is a remarkable card to see print in a contemporary set, and it deserves every bit of close scrutiny we can afford to give it. Let's talk about what it does better than Blood Moon and what it does worse than Blood Moon, and how it fits into Modern and Legacy.
Blood Sun Hates on Fetchlands Like No Other Card Before it.
With Blood Moon, there was often a two- or three-turn window before the enchantment came down, where a savvy player could preemptively fetch up a few basic lands to mitigate the damage of the enchantment. A manabase of ten fetchlands, four dual lands, and six basics was therefore, more than enough for old Miracles decks to navigate around Blood Moon effects; and even the four-color "good stuff" decks could play around Blood Moon to some extent with the two basics they often afforded. Though Blood Sun doesn't ruin dual lands, it makes fetchlands look like a joke and hates on the Brainstorm + fetch engine that makes Legacy decks so smooth and consistent.
Now, even on turns 3, 4, or 5, Blood Sun can come down and mess with the fair deck's ability to cast their spells and maximize their card selection engine. It's time for a new stressor on Legacy manabases, and in this regard, Blood Sun and Blood Moon will pin many multicolor blue decks between a rock and a hard place. And, in all fairness, fetchlands needed a predator in the Magic ecosystem. They are simply too good in concert with a number of other prevalent cards. Not only do they excel at fixing mana with dual lands, but they fuel Deathrite Shaman and delve spells in Legacy and Modern, and they combine with Brainstorm to make an unstoppable card selection engine. A card like Blood Sun is the perfect stressor to create a drawback to these powerful lands.
Blood Sun Out of Fair Decks Shuts Down Much of Legacy Lands
Blood Moon is a true hate piece against Legacy Lands, turning off just about everything and forcing the Lands player to find a Krosan Grip or go down in flames. Blood Sun doesn't quite do that much. It does, however, turn off the Marit Lage combo, as well as Wasteland, Ghost Quarter, Rishadan Port, and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. The fact that it cantrips means that this is theoretically maindeckable hate for Lands out of a certain type of fair midrange Legacy deck, albeit one with a manabase unlike any we've seen in Legacy thus far. The fact that all fair midrange Legacy decks incorporate fetchlands alongside Brainstorm or Deathrite Shaman or both means that there will have to be a radical retooling of those manabases in order to maximize Blood Sun. Losing those stellar cards is a huge hit to take, but it is possible that a midrange Legacy deck could arise that minimizes its own vulnerability to Blood Sun while incorporating it as a maindeck hammer to drop on Lands (as well as the traditional midrange decks).
Blood Sun Does Not Shut Down Tron
There must be a meme in here somewhere. The fact that the most powerful "land hate" enchantment this side of Blood Moon and Destructive Flow does absolutely nothing to stop the most egregious "nonbasic land big mana deck" in Modern reads like a joke. In fact, Blood Sun is a powerful tool for Tron decks to use to hate on the other big mana deck in Modern, Titan Shift. Get ready for more third-turn Karns, people!
Blood Sun Cantrips
This is the fun part. The most powerful additional line of text one can add to a card in this game is "draw a card." It's what separates Silvergill Adept from Coral Merfolk. This is what makes Blood Sun so tempting to build around, as a card that you can incorporate for a low in-game cost, where even when it doesn't impact the opponent much, it replaces itself with no fuss. Without the line to draw a card, there would be no discussion of Blood Sun as a true heir to the throne of Blood Moon. In the Blue Moon-style decks, adding a cantrip effect to the powerful hate piece is enough to justify maindecking more copies, and that low opportunity cost to add Blood Sun to one's deck will then force people to respect the actual hate piece of the card when building manabases.
Blood Sun Provides Redundancy for "8-Moon" Red Decks
This is also the fun part (for a particular type of sadistic Magic player, that is). Blood Sun, meet Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, Trinisphere, and Chalice of the Void. I'm sure you all will get along great. There's a class of Legacy deck out there that makes people sigh when they sit down across from it, and the new "12-Moon" deck is sure to be high up on that list. If you're that type of "griefer" player, this is for you. As much as I pooh-pooh the bad manners inherent in promoting that style of play, it's as much a part of the game as any, and as such, it deserves a spot in this article.
So what strategies are the best homes for Blood Sun? Here are three lists to get the brewing process started.
Blue Moon has been a fringe player in Modern for many years. Format novices are often surprised by a sequence of "Serum Visions, Remand, Blood Moon, game over" from an ostensible blue deck. Relying on a pile of fetchlands and basic Islands to ameliorate the impact of Blood Moon on itself, Blue Moon turns a symmetric card on its side to great effect. However, the pressures of Blood Sun push the manabase of the traditional U/R Combo-Control macro-archetype in a different direction, resulting in such beauties as this:
The specific ingredients in these decks have changed over the years, but the formula often stays much the same. In column A, we have a combo. It could be Deceiver Exarch + Kiki Jiki, Mirror-Breaker (as Splinter Twin was too good), or it could be Through the Breach + Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. It could even be Madcap Experiment + a Platinum Emperion in the deck! All of these are swingy ways to win a game out of nowhere, or to force an opponent to play scared in order to play around the threat of potential death out of nowhere.
In column B, we now have a backup plan of choice. It could be a Blood Moon, or it could be a creature or planeswalker plan, or (now) it could be a Blood Sun! These alternate packages provide additional pressure for normal decks trying to navigate their way around potential death from combo as well as potential death from a hate permanent.
In column C, of course, there is now the choice of manabase, which is intricately tied in to the choice of hate permanent in column B. A Blood Sun strategy demands the above manabase, while a Blood Moon strategy requires oodles of fetchlands and basics. The tension between the two makes for quite the brewing dilemma, one which will take many iterations of development to solve, and may never come to a single decisive conclusion. Such is the joy of brewing with radically new, powerful cards, though!
Back in the realm of proven decks, Anneliese Faustino made it all the way to the finals of the Modern Classic this past weekend with G/R Tron. Oddly enough for an ostensible nonbasic land hate card, there doesn't seem to be a ton of conflict between Tron and Blood Sun. It may not be a maindeck card in such a linear strategy, but sideboarded Blood Suns could wreak havoc on unsuspecting opponents. With a few tweaks, G/R Tron gives fetchlands a bloody nose, combining two of Modern players' most common "least favorite" parts of the format into one troll-tastic package!
As mentioned before, Legacy is a tougher nut to crack than Modern. Most existing Legacy decks are heavily reliant on their nonbasic lands to do some heavy lifting in a number of matchups. From Wasteland to Rishadan Port to Dark Depths to the fetchland + Brainstorm alliance, manabases in Legacy tend to do more than just provide mana. There are a few shining exceptions, though, and there we will find the best spots for Blood Sun. The best one, of course, is the most offensive to lovers of fair Magic. As mentioned above, people will groan when they play against this particular brand of Prison strategy. 12-Moon may play a bunch of Simian Spirit Guides, but when it comes to shutting down the opponent's game plan, this deck just ain't monkeying around!
What a nightmare to have to play against as any multicolored fair deck! There's certainly room to tinker with specific card choices, but every deck from Lands to Leovold is a potential victim of the cheesiest deck this side of "Oops, All Spells." If you want to make your matches as lopsided as possible, this is the Legacy deck for you. It's also one of the cheapest options in the room, eschewing fetchlands and dual lands for a manabase built like a rock.
Make no mistake, in Blood Sun, Wizards has made a bold statement with an elegant hate card to punish the quietly overpowered fetchlands, and a new set of in-game and metagame calculations will now come into being for every multicolored, fetchland-heavy deck in Modern and Legacy. The traditional heuristic to save fetchlands in order to maximize Brainstorm in Legacy will finally see some pushback, and we might start seeing decks reduce their fetchland count in order to effectively incorporate the powerful enchantment. It may not topple "King Fetchland" in Legacy completely, but it will provide an incentive to go in a different direction.