Best Cards in Modern – White 
The Top 5 White Magic Cards in Modern
Authors: Andrea Piemonti, Sebastian Rosenauer, Ricardo Silva, Sven Stolz, Zen Takahashi
Editor: Philippe Zens
Last year I was approached by Sebastian, one of our magazine writers, about the idea of making a collaborative series – where a couple of authors would rate and review the best cards in Modern.
A couple of months later and here we are. Looking at one of the game’s purest colors: White.
This is how it works
We asked our authors to send us their personal top 10 white cards of the Modern format. No multicolor cards. We will do those another time. Then we created an aggregated list, based on their top 10, to come with a unified Top 5 list of cards. We sent them the top 5 and asked for their comment.
Do they think this is a good top 5?
Are these the worthiest cards?
Were there any snubs?
Is the number one spot deserved?
What impact do those cards have on the format?
These and many other questions will be answered in this article. One more note before we dive into the wilderness of Modern. We will go straight through the top 5 and then also share the initial top 10 lists of our authors.
We really hope you enjoy this, have fun reading, and don’t be shy and discuss this in the comments. We would love to hear from you.
Fifth Place – Ephemerate
Coming in at fifth place we have a card that I personally don’t think belongs in the Top 5.
While the one mana instant is certainly very powerful and flexible, especially in the current ETB-heavy metagame, it does nothing on its own. While this would not be a problem if it instead serves the higher purpose of a game-ending combo, such as Sigarda’s Aid, I think Ephemerate does not quite do that. Among the best things to do with the card is Grief + Ephemerate on Turn 1, giving you basically two Thoughtseizes and a 3/2 menace. But even though this is a strong start and can sometimes leave your opponent with nothing in hand, it is not a strategy that can win games consistently. Ephemerate is probably strongest in 4c Elementals, where every creature has a threatening ETB that can value-spiral out of control quickly. But there, again, it is not Ephemerate itself that makes the deck good and consistent.
So, I like the card and I think it is pretty pushed in power-level, but I would have liked to see a Rest in Peace or Sigarda’s Aid in the number 5 spot.
With the plethora of efficient removal spells in the format, playable creatures either need to be extremely efficient to keep pace (ex. Ragavan, Death’s Shadow, Darcy) or have an immediate impact on the game.
This immediate impact usually comes in the form of ETB (enters the battlefield) triggers, and Ephemerate is the best and most efficient way to trigger these effects multiple times.
Particularly when paired with the Elemental cycle from Modern Horizons 2, which all have powerful ETBs and can be cast for free, Ephemerate pushes the boundaries of what can be deemed reasonable.
I expect Ephemerate to get even better over time as newly printed creatures will be released in the coming years.
Ephemerate is one of those cards, which can be either non-existing or almost dominate the format, so I currently see it in between being really good in 4c Elementals/Omnath and Esper Reanimator. Especially the printings of Solitude, Fury and Grief helped the card going up in playability and usefulness, so as long as those cards stay relevant in the format, Ephemerate will continue to see play.
Initially printed in Modern Horizons, the white instant took a while to make its presence felt in Modern, but it has since then become a solid role player in the format. When the evoke elementals were spoiled in Modern Horizons 2, people waxed lyrical about how broken Grief with Ephemerate was going to be, but in practice that interaction did not make any material impact on the format, and instead it’s been more commonly combined with Fury and Solitude in the Four-Colour Yorion, Sky Nomad decks.
While Ephemerate isn’t always played in these Four-Colour decks, it does fit various builds of the archetype quite well. If you’re playing the Elementals-build, with cards like Risen Reef, then Ephemerate shines as the deck has so many enter-the-battlefield effects that you can utilize. It also sees play in some of the more traditional versions, usually as a two-off and in lists with Eternal Witness as they combine well together. Beyond the Four-Colour decks, the card also sees play in Esper Reanimator, where you look to blink creatures like Grief, Solitude, Mulldrifter and Archon of Cruelty.
Fourth Place – Esper Sentinel
Esper Sentinel was a little bit of a sleeper at the outset of Modern Horizons 2 but by December it was clear that this card would become a multi-format staple. “Rhystic Studies on a stick” for only one mana, and it is an artifact as well! The taxing ability is relevant in almost every match-up, and having a Turn 1 body is also pretty good in the current Modern environment. However, apart from Hammertime, there have not been many decks that utilize the little Human, and he has not yet found a home to really shine in.
For this reason, I don’t think he belongs among the best 5 white cards in Modern, because he has not yet shown his full potential.
Most of the time it’s just an annoying one-drop that slows the opponent down a little bit, but usually he can be played around effectively. Similarly to Blood Moon, which is not at its strongest in Modern right now, the time might just not be right for Esper Sentinel and maybe in a different Metagame he ends up at the Top of our list.
White creature decks have historically mostly either been interested in taxing your opponents’ resources with cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Leonin Arbiter, or in playing cheap creatures in an aggressive style of play (White Weenie).
Esper Sentinel slots in incredibly well in both of these styles of play. Its effect often ends up being very similar to Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and reactive decks playing Instants/Sorceries are faced with a hard choice. Do I give my opponent additional cards, or do I wait an additional turn to be able to pay one more?
Either decision ends up benefiting the player with Esper Sentinel, making the card a nightmare to play against for these decks.
With Esper Sentinel being that high up on the list and only being played in Hammer, shows the current state of the Modern format.
Tons of Ux Tempo, Control and Combo decks with plenty of non-creature spells which don’t like to see an early Esper Sentinel on the board. Here Esper Sentinel is doing one of its best jobs taxing your opponent for playing their game and creating card advantage. Played on turn 1 and dealing with it immediately it already replaced itself, while dealing with it with paying for the trigger it already did its job in slowing you down and letting the player gain a tempo advantage.
Once a land drop is missed, the effect of Esper Sentinel can be absolutely game crushing by letting your opponent draw cards and run away with the game quickly.
The only downside of it is drawing one in later stages where mana denial/taxing isn’t relevant anymore, which I think is the main reason the card doesn’t see more play. Besides that Esper Sentinel is worthy in the top 3-5.
Having only been on the opposing end of an Esper Sentinel, I have found the card to be an absolute pain to play against, but I do really like the design of the card. I just think the card is well executed – it being an artifact plays well with Urza’s Saga, Improvise and Springleaf Drum, and unlike Thalia, Guardian of Thraben where you’re locked out by the tax, you have the choice with Esper Sentinel which presents interesting in-game decisions as you have to balance the tax on the mana versus providing your opponent with card advantage – a similar decision to that of being on the play or on the draw. It also means that if you’re mana screwed, you still have a chance to crawl your back out, instead of just being unable to cast your spells.
The card has become a staple in Hammer Time, but hasn’t seen too much play outside of that, other than in some fringe Blue-White Affinity decks and some Thopter Foundry builds. It also hasn’t made too much of a splash in other formats.
Third Place – Stoneforge Mystic
While I was not too convinced by the previous two cards on our Top 5 list, the next three are exactly as I would have placed them as well!
At third place we have Stoneforge Mystic which is undoubtedly one of the best creatures in Modern. Any deck that plays white and struggles with threat-density will eventually ask the question: “What if I add Stoneforge Mystic?”
Occupying only six slots in the maindeck, the two-drop and his weapons add enormous consistency and speed to most decks, be it aggro or control.
While Batterskull has long been the best friend of Stoneforge Mystic, the printing of Kaldra Compleat added an even deadlier threat to the Artificer’s toolbox. Unlike some other cards on our Top 5 list, Stoneforge Mystic is played in a multitude of decks ranging from Hammertime to Azorius Control and he is brilliant everywhere. I think the best iteration is Jeskai Stoneblade, which is an Azorius Control shell splashing red for Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Lightning Bolt.
At the time of Stoneforge Mystics’ unbanning in 2019, many people were wary and believed the creature would turn out to be too strong for Modern.
Since then, Stoneforge Mystic has seen play in multiple different archetypes – from UW Control as a quick way to close a game, to one of the most aggressive decks of the format, Hammer Time.
One of the arguments against unbanning Stoneforge Mystic at the time was that it will benefit from any equipments printed in future sets. The idea behind that argument was that Stoneforge Mystic would either restrict the design of any new equipments, or eventually be banned again if more powerful equipments were to be released.
As it turns out, the power level of Stoneforge Mystic is just right for Modern. Since its unbanning, new strong equipments (Kaldra Compleat, The Reality Chip, Colossus Hammer) have been printed and have found a home in a very solid Tier 1 deck (Hammer Time) alongside Stoneforge Mystic, without being too powerful for Modern.
As of now, the remaining Stoneforge Mystics have mostly disappeared, but this can easily change in the future as well.
Back when Stoneforge Mystic was still banned and Modern was dominated by Arclight Phoenixes and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, I always thought a turn 3 Batterskull is not what’s going to be good in Modern, so Stoneforge Mystic should be a safe unban. 3 years after the unban in 2019, the card is fine and lines up harmonically with the overall power level of Modern.
The initial fear of Stoneforge Mystic homogenizing the format, making any deck whether tempo, midrange or control a Stoneforge Mystic deck has not come true, and the Kor Artificier rather looks for specific deck building in which it naturally slides in than being an auto include in anything which can splash white.
Therefore, the card is only really played in Hammer these days, in which its used as a toolbox for various equipments like Colossus Hammer, Kaldra Compleat, Shadowspear and others. Especially for Hammer, it’s important in finding Hammer more consistently and combo on turn 3-4. Overall Stoneforge Mystic has been an excellent unban and one of the most fun cards in Modern to play with.
Stoneforge Mystic is one of my absolute favourite Magic cards! Back in 2011, I built Boros Landfall in Standard, which was one of my first proper Standard decks, after being glued to the screen watching Paul Rietzl playing it to a second-place finish at Pro Tour Paris. A year later, I then got into Legacy, where I built Blue-White Stoneblade and then eventually transitioned it into Esper Stoneblade. For nearly three years, I almost exclusively played Stoneforge Mystic decks across all the formats I was playing at the time!
Funnily enough, likely due to my fond memories from the time, I was in the camp that believed Stoneforge Mystic would be too powerful in Modern and shouldn’t be unbanned. As it turned out, I was completely wrong, and the turn-three Batterskull I was fearing so much doesn’t ever happen anymore as most of the time the card is used to fetch Colossal Hammer, and even fetching Kaldra Compleat is often not powerful enough for the format as the card sees little play outside of Hammer Time.
This goes to show why I don’t work in game design, but also how much more powerful Modern has become over the years!
Second Place – Prismatic Ending
Now we come to the undisputed best white spells in the format. I am happy that we all pretty much agreed on our Top 3. In second place, we have Prismatic Ending, which is the premium removal spell in Modern right now and even an incentive to play white.
It does not even make sense to start listing all the relevant targets that it can hit!
While most decks look to cast the Sorcery for one or two mana, removing almost any early game permanent, some decks even splash a fourth or fifth color to unlock the full potential of Prismatic Ending. The card is at its best in reactive strategies like Azorius Control where it adds flexible removal in any stage of the game. Unlike March of Otherworldy Light, which is the next best alternative, Prismatic Ending is just hyper-efficient, removing a Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer for one and a Wrenn and Six for two mana, never having to overpay. The card is very powerful, but I think not too powerful given the wide array of premium threats printed in recent years. In fact, I think it is one of the most important cards in Modern, keeping the format healthy and making sure that white decks have an answer for almost anything coming their way.
Before Prismatic Ending and Modern Horizons 2 came out, Path to Exile was the uncontested best white removal spell one could play in Modern. Since then, Path to Exile mostly disappeared from every Modern deck and was replaced either by Prismatic Ending or our #1 placed card.
The flexibility of exiling key permanents such as Amulet of Vigor or Aether Vial is extremely relevant in a format as diverse as Modern, and many decks are even opting to splash an additional color by adding off-color Shocklands or Tri-color (Triomes) lands to their mana base, so they pay an additional color for the converge mechanic on Prismatic Ending.
Probably the best removal spell ever printed in Magic history, Prismatic Ending takes a worthy second spot in the list.
Dominating both Modern and even more Legacy, the card is an all star answer for anything your opponent is doing, almost changing the way decks being build preboard.
In Modern specifically, it still sees only moderate play compared to how many decks could truly play it, which is mainly a reason for Jeskai not being super popular right now. That might change in the future if any printing buffs White further and making Prismatic Ending merge into more shells. Especially in the context of earlier mentioned Stoneforge Mystic, a tier 1-1.5 Jeskai Blade shell might still be unexplored which gets to play all premium cards in blue, white and red.
I initially put Prismatic Ending on spot 1 in my list because of the straight up dominating potential I see in this card for the integrity of the format. I also do think that objectively speaking, there is one card it looses the winner spot to right now. Whether this changes and Prismatic Ending gets more relevant in the future the format will show, but if a card has a chance to shine and change how the format is being played, it’s definitely Prismatic Ending.
I believe that Prismatic Ending is the second-best white removal spell in the game right now, after Swords to Plowshares. It’s a multi-format role player, and its impact on both Modern and Legacy has been huge since it was printed one year ago.
Although white has always been good at dealing with creatures efficiently, with cards such as Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile and Terminus, noncreature permanents have always been an issue. The answers were generally either very narrow (Disenchant-effects) or expensive and clunky (Oblivion Ring). However, Prismatic Ending solves much of this problem, as the card can efficiently answer both creatures and noncreature permanents. Its downside is that it cannot answer expensive things well, and you need to be multi-coloured to take advantage of it, but in both Modern and Legacy that isn’t an issue as expensive cards aren’t played as much and most decks are naturally multi-coloured due to the manabases available in these formats.
Prismatic Ending has naturally shined the most in midrange and control decks, where cards such as Aether Vial and Chalice of the Void have historically caused a headache, but they’re now merely speedbumps that you can cleanly answer.
First Place – Solitude
First, I was unsure whether Solitude or Prismatic Ending should claim the top spot, but I have decided for Solitude and so did most of the other authors. Now that I have thought about it a few days, I think Solitude is clearly the better of the two, since it is not only a premium removal spell but also a viable win condition with its 3/2 body.
Along with Prismatic Ending it represents the pinnacle of white removal in Modern, pushing Path to Exile a few ranks down the ladder and even out of our Top 5!
Solitude can take care of many threats that are just too big for Prismatic Ending, most notably Murktide Regent but also things like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and so the two work very well together. The deck that makes the most use of Solitude is probably 4c Elementals where it can be tutored up and then Ephemerated for some crazy value, but it is also vital for Azorius Control where it represents one of the few threats the deck can present. The incidental Lifelink that Solitude brings with it makes it so that slower white decks have a decent chance against Burn or Prowess, which would otherwise just run them over.
I am interested to see if the Elementals turn out to be too powerful for the format or whether they will remain eternal staples.
Who could have imagined that a free Swords to Plowshares would be a good Magic card?
Just like every other creature of the Elemental cycle, Solitude can be seen as having two modes. One of them (Evoking) represents card disadvantage in exchange for efficiency, and once you start to cast Solitude for its full cost you will get the opposite, a “two for one”. This flexibility is extremely important for slower, reactive decks who need to survive the first few turns of the game.
Solitude also benefits from two companions which can be pitched to evoke Solitude. Any deck playing Solitude usually will at least consider playing Yorion, the Sky Nomad or Kaheera the Orphanguard, which mitigate the drawback by giving the player access to a free white card.
Solitude is one of the most impactful printings for Modern and definitely deserves the winner spot. Being the first Swords to Plowshares of the format, Solitude is a must-have for any white deck to have answers against Murktide Regent, Omnath, Locus of Creations and early Ragavan, Nimble Pilferers running away with game quickly. Solitude stays relevant in the format as long as powerful creatures are being played. In the case of Modern that will probably be forever, so I don’t see it going anywhere and keep its dominance. I have already seen people say the card is too good for Modern by making it too easy to interact with the board, while I think that slower Midrange and Control decks finally have the chance to interact with your opponent, which is the best thing which could happen to Modern in the long run. Too long the format was about fast non-interactive decks like Eldrazi, Phoenix or Hogaak.
The current state of Modern is fantastic with the printings of Counterspell, Endurance and Solitude which lead to more grindy games, more complex decision-making and more interesting games overall.
While I believe that Prismatic Ending is a “better” card than Solitude, as shown by how much more the former sees play in Legacy, I do believe that in the context of Modern, Solitude is the best white card in the format. The card was one of the most highly rated during spoiler season for Modern Horizons 2, and unlike its black counterpart, it actually lived up to the expectation.
What makes Solitude so powerful in Modern is that the format is slow enough and the lack of Wasteland means that you’re usually hardcasting them instead of evoking them, which when you combine it with blink effects like the previously mentioned Ephemerate and Yorion, Sky Nomad, is an extremely potent card advantage engine. However, the ability to evoke when you need to is very powerful as you can answer creatures like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Murktide Regent or a creature carrying a Colossal Hammer, and the decks that play Solitude tend to be able to recoup this card disadvantage pretty easily.
The reason why Solitude is much better in Modern than in Legacy, where it’s largely only played in Recruiter of the Guard decks, is that the presence of Daze/Wasteland and the format being faster means it’s quite difficult to hardcast Solitude. If you’re evoking Solitude most of the time, then it’s a lot less powerful than the other removal options in the format like Swords to Plowshares and Prismatic Ending.
Personal Top 10 White Cards of Each Author
- Prismatic Ending
- Stoneforge Mystic
- Esper Sentinel
- Sigarda’s Aid
- March of Otherworldly Light
- Path to Exile
- Sanctifier en-Vec
- Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
All Articles from the Series
Best Cards in Modern – Multicolor 
We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten multicolored cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a Top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.
Best Cards in Modern – Lands 
We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten lands in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a Top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.
Best Cards in Modern – Artifacts 
We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten artifacts in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a Top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.
Best Cards in Modern – White 
We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten white cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a Top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.
Best Cards in Modern – Green 
We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten green cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a Top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.
Best Cards in Modern – Red 
We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten red cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a Top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.
Best Cards in Modern – Black 
We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten black cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.
Best Cards in Modern – Blue 
We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten blue cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.