Hypothetically Modern: Vindicate
I’ve always said that Vindicate would be a fine card in modern. Let’s see if I can prove it!
The power of Vindicate is how flexible it is as an answer. The problem is that it’s a 3 mana sorcery. We’ve already seen that 3 mana to remove any type of card is fine in modern: Maelstrom Pulse loses a bit of flexibility for slightly more power at times, Fulminator Mage is proof of 3 mana land destruction, that even gives you a body. Vindicate would be a great tool as a broad sideboard answer to a number of strategies as well as a powerful maindeck option that has applications in many matches.
Where It Fits
The most likely home for Vindicate would be in any midrange deck that plays black and white (Abzan, Deadguy Ale, BW Tokens) as well as Esper control style decks. I decided to do my testing with Abzan and Esper, both of which include Vindicate as a 4 of in the main deck (which is likely not correct).
I needed to identify the matches that Vindicate should help these two decks, especially ones that are either very balanced or very one sided against them. For Abzan it made sense to test against Affinity (where Vindicate is a potent game one answer to cards like Cranial Plating) and RG Tron (main deck land destruction seems good). For Esper it also made sense to test against RG Tron, but sadly it’s not an established deck so it’s impossible to find an “even” matchup. To mix it up we are going to have the second deck to face Esper be UR Twin. I am not concerned with Vindicate being degenerate so testing the goldfish of either deck will not assist in proving if Vindicate is safe for the format at all.
Abzan fared about as expected against Affinity over a total of 10 games (5 on the play, 5 on the draw). Abzan won 4 games total of the 10, 2 on the draw and 2 on the play. Overall Vindicate did not seem to be a factor in Abzan’s victories, as it was often too little to deal with multiple copies of Inkmoth Nexus or Signal Pest.
Abzan did much worse against Tron, though it is one of their hardest matchups. The fact there were 4 maindeck land destruction spells didn’t seem to help things much, with Abzan winning once on the play and once on the draw. Tron’s ability to get the lands they need even through some destruction is very powerful and makes this a really tough matchup, especially when their haymakers are so crazy. One thing to note is that there were multiple games where Tron won at 3 or less life and a topdecked Seige Rhino would have made a lot of difference. Many games were closer than I expected.
Both of these matches would get better after sideboard I would tend to think, with the addition of Stony Silence and more land destruction (maybe). We’ve established that Vindicate doesn’t drastically change the expected results here, though part may just be the limited sample size.
2 Gurmag Angler
4 Jace, Vryn’s prodigy
1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Lingering Souls
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Serum Visions
1 Slaughter Pact
4 Thought Scour
2 Creeping Tar Pit
3 Darkslick Shores
2 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Marsh Flats
4 Polluted Delta
1 Watery Grave
Perhaps due to Esper being an undeveloped deck at this point made it’s performance really bad. I modeled the deck to be similar to the Grixis control builds that are being played at the moment, just instead of the Lightning Bolts, Terminates, and Kolaghan’s Commands you get Lingering Souls, Path to Exile, and Vindicate. Esper won only two games against UR twin, both on the play. There were some games Twin just won with the combo super early, and the lack of counterspells made it almost impossible to stop. The other games were generally very long and drawn out, but the combination of burn and pinging away with small creatures was often enough to overcome Esper. Vindicate was not able to be used as a mana denial card either, due to the necessity of using Path to Exile.
Esper also only won 2 games against Tron, though surprisingly both of these were with Tron on the play. One was a Tron mulligan to 5 with a total of 2 Vindicates played, and the other had a total of 4. The biggest issue it seems that Esper has it’s the complete lack of a quick clock. Best bet is to play a delve creature on turn 2, but even that often would not be enough….
After these tests it seems that Vindicate would be a very safe addition to the card pool. While there may be certain decks that could utilize it better than the above (Mardu Pox perhaps?), I highly doubt that a 3 mana sorcery speed removal spell would ever be problematic….
Well, except maybe Chaos Warp….