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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
May 16 2019 12:00pm

Welcome back to a series with an increasingly inaccurate title! Yes, Modern Horizons is going to have new cards (and we’ve already seen two), but previous precedent says it won’t have that many relative to the size of the set. Conspiracy: Take the Crown had 80 new cards of 221 (~36%) and Battlebond had 85 of 249 (~34%), so aiming for 30-35% new cards is a reasonable goal. Furthermore, the reprint range is much smaller than previous Masters sets, and I have to consider both Modern playability and price in my analysis. As such, I’m going to take on this challenge, but with one important caveat: I am not designing the new cards. Instead, my focus will be on the lower-end of the set, and where reprints don’t give a good fit I’ll put a placeholder in for a new card, usually just describing the archetype and/or effect. 

So where do I start here? I have two big questions to answer: what are the archetypes (assuming it has them) and what power level should I aim for? I’m trying something new here and instead of doing the typical archetypes associated with color pairs, I’m picking a few core themes (six here) and branching them across various colors. As for power level, I’m definitely at a higher level than the average Standard set, but since I’m relying mostly on pre-Modern reprints it can’t be too powerful, and downshifts and newer supplemental sets can only go so far. Let’s start with the archetypes.


Sacrifice: (Primary: Black, Secondary: Red, Tertiary: Green)

Cabal Therapist is a clear hint towards one of the themes, and I think Carrion Feeder and Goblin Bombardment would be great additions to Modern (though Blood Artist is one of my favorite cards ever, so I might be biased). The sacrifice theme also gets a lot of mechanical support, as the various non-Modern Devour and Morbid cards come back along with some new filler designs. To be honest, I feel like I always over-stuff my sacrifice themes, so the current iteration might be too strong.


Birds/Fliers: (Primary: White, Secondary: Blue, Tertiary: Black)

Serra the Benevolent may not be the most obvious place to get a theme from, but Fliers is a typical theme, especially since there are a lot of black Birds (including Baleful Strix, which seems to be a consensus pick to show up). There isn’t that much tribal synergy here, just a couple of new cards and some older cards like Soulcatcher and Cloudreach Cavalry.


Tokens/Goblins: (Primary: Red, Secondary: White, Tertiary: Green)

I don’t have Elves as a theme, but I do have Goblins, as some of the pieces like Gempalm Incinerator and Goblin Lackey are good for Modern. While I can fill in the Goblin slots with decent cards like Goblin Patrol and Hulking Goblin, a lot of token producers need to be created, especially in white.


Ramp: (Primary: Green, Secondary: Red, Tertiary: Blue)

Downshifting big creatures is the easiest way to get a higher power level from pre-Modern cards, and I also want to get nice ramp cards like Nature's Lore, Mana Flare, and a mana dork that’s competitive with Noble Hierarch into Modern, so a ramp deck is the easiest way to do that. I also get a lot of Kicker cards to help make ramp more accessible, including some high-profile downshifts like Kavu Titan.


Stompy: (Primary: Green, Secondary: White, Tertiary: Red)

This is probably the least defined of the archetypes, but there are a lot of efficient cards like Skyshroud Elite and undercosted Echo creatures, along with other efficient creatures I want to push into Modern. This might not have enough cards to be a good archetype, but it was a guide to help me select cards.


Artifacts: (Primary: Blue, Secondary: Black, Tertiary: White)

This was the last archetype to come together, mostly since there wasn’t much for blue to do in the original draft. While there are a lot of decent artifact creatures like Extruder and Junk Diver and Antiquities has some artifact synergies, a lot of it isn’t that good. As such, this archetype might have the most cards designed for it, as I added a lot of generic colored artifact creatures to give this archetype enough density.


Modern Additions:

Again, as I said above, this isn’t my strong point; while I know Modern decently enough, Play Design isn’t my focus, especially when I’m still leaving the new cards mostly as placeholders. As such, I’ll mostly be talking in generalities here.



While the consensus is that Recruiter of the Guard is getting reprinted here, I’m going a different direction with Sanctum Prelate, as Wizards doesn’t want much strong tutoring in Modern. Orim's Chant is also nice, even though Silence seems better for what it is. I also wonder if Prismatic Strands might be good enough for Modern, even if it’s primarily a reprint for Pauper. As for new cards, I have a slot for a good rare creature that creates tokens, which seems like a good weenie that doesn’t improve Humans more.



No, I’m not reprinting Force of Will! I think Wizards is going to wait and see with that for a possible Modern Horizons 2, and instead I’m putting in Misdirection. I am bending to the obvious with Counterspell and Fact or Fiction though, and I think Sea Drake could form a new archetype. I’ve also slotted in a new mythic blue noncreature spell, and while I have no idea what it could be I think it’ll be pushed for Modern.



Cabal Therapist has company in the sacrifice realm, as Carrion Feeder returns to help Zombies become a thing, and Skeletal Scrying might be good there as well. Black’s removal suite is also improved as it gets Toxic Deluge, Snuff Out, and Malicious Affliction, as well as a new artifact-based removal spell that might get pushed enough for Modern. Finally it gets a couple new creatures with a midrange rare and a mythic demon.



While I didn’t give Goblins Goblin Ringleader, I did give it Gempalm Incinerator, Goblin Lackey, and a new two-mana Goblin. There’s also the unrelated Goblin Bombardment, the efficient Sudden Demise, and the now color-appropriate Mana Flare. Finally I have a creature designed for a “Dragon Stompy”-style deck, and an attempt at a three-mana Planeswalker—maybe it’s time for Tibalt to shine?



Stompy gets most of the good cards here, with Skyshroud Elite, Quirion Ranger, and Hidden Herd, along with a great two-drop—I don’t think I can shove Tarmogoyf out of the format, but I can try (think 3/4 for 2 with a relevant ability or two). Brindle Shoat might also be good enough for Modern, and I don’t know how hard to push the regrowth-variant (or even to just reprint Regrowth). Finally, I am very aggressive with my ramp cards, with Wild Growth, Nature's Lore, and a Naya mana dork I want to be competitive with Noble Hierarch, even if I don’t know how to do so.



My good gold cards tend to be targeted at certain colors, starting with Dimir getting both Recoil and Baleful Strix. Next, Selesnya and Boros get token support cards, with a GW Enchantment and a RW Instant. Third, Orzhov gets the pair of Gerrard's Verdict and Vindicate. Finally, Golgari and Selesnya get legendary creatures that might be worth building around in Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest and Edric, Spymaster of Trest.



Most of the artifacts that could see Modern play are generic effects that could be efficient enough, like the cheap common fixer or the rare artifact lord. There are a bunch of quirky artifacts that could be good enough though, like Lotus Blossom, Herald's Horn, Cursed Totem, or one of the slots that I’m not even trying to predict. As for lands, the biggest deals are probably going to be the six Cycling lands (the five Onslaught ones and Blasted Landscape), but I’ve also slotted in a new five-color land. There’s also a cycle of rare color-aligned lands, and while Keldon Necropolis and Kor Haven probably aren’t good enough, Cabal Coffers or the new blue and green lands could be.


If you’re interested in my hardest design yet, I’d recommend taking a look at the full set. However, since I finished my design some more information has come in that makes me less confident: Modern Horizons is essentially “Time Spiral/Future Sight 2” in terms of mechanics and complexity. I’m not saying my set is simple, but it only has six non-evergreen mechanics (Kicker, Cycling, Flashback, Echo, Morbid, Devour), and even if there’s a new mechanic or two on the new cards (in this design, the new artifacts might have one) that’s not the ten-plus that were in Time Spiral block. While there’s clearly more room for mechanics (I specifically avoided Morph, Flanking was a late cut, and I’m predicting there are some interesting new Buyback designs), I feel like the set might need some newer mechanics. That means there are likely more new cards than the ~30% I was targeting (and undershot; I ended up at 67/249 new cards, or 26%), at least 50/50. Of course, the more new cards there are the more this leaves my domain, so I don’t know how much else I can do about it.


Even if this ends up as my least-accurate design yet, it was still an interesting experience, and I need something to do if there aren’t any more Masters sets. Next time you see me we’ll see how accurate I was with the Limited Review/Report Card on Modern Horizons.



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