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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jun 11 2019 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Modern Musings!  It hasn't been long at all since I was last doing a huge set review with War of the Spark but here we are once more.  This time we are reviewing the Modern Horizons set and discussing the potential impact of the set on Modern.

THE SET

Modern Horizons is the first supplementary set to have its card become Modern legal.  As such, this set contains cards that skip Standard playability and go straight into Modern and later formats.  This is in contrast to products like Commander and Battlebond where the cards were only legal in Legacy and Vintage. The set does not contain any Modern-legal reprints and all of the cards are new to Modern.  The majority of the set is new cards but it also contains a number of reprints from before 8th Edition (the start of Modern legality).

Having a set specifically designed for Modern has created considerable excitement and some trepidation among Modern players.  There was the excitement of new cards and the fear that the format may become Legacy lite with cards like Force of Will, Wasteland and Brainstorm entering the format.

I wrote an article addressing my feeling about the set when it was announced and what I thought we could expect if you want to see my thoughts at the time.

THE CARDS

White

Astral Drift
Astral Drift
I personally love Astral Slide and the WR Cycling deck from Onslaught Standard was a deck I really enjoyed.  Astral Drift is for the most part an upgrade on the original Astral Slide which is definitely a good thing.  Sadly, I'm not sure how competitive the card can be in Modern but I'm sure I will have fun finding out.

Giver of Runes
Giver of Runes
A reimagining of the Legacy staple Mother of Runes.  Giver of Runes has a more palatable creature type, so it doesn't slot straight into the Humans deck, and also cannot protect itself making it easier to answer once on the board.  The power of Giver of Runes is that is makes killing your creatures much harder and more resource heavy and once you know removal is not a problem you can use the ability to force attacks past potential blockers.  Giver of Runes is a very powerful card but it's hard to see where in fits in the current format.  The lack of any meaningful tribal synergy hurts quite a bit.

Death & Taxes seems like the most appropriate home for the card - with Giver being an excellent precursor to Thalia, Guardian of ThrabenHumans could use Giver but it's not the most aggressive of cards and as a non-Human doesn't synergise well with the overall deck.  That said the deck may be able to find room to house Giver.

Ranger-Captain of Eos
Ranger-Captain of Eos
Ranger-Captain of Eos presents a new 3-drop option for Humans decks and also a nice creature for Martyr-Proc decks in the format.  The Ranger-Captain presents a solid 3-drop that also tutors up a one-drop from your deck, with options including Champion of the Parish, Martyr of Sands, Noble Hierarch and the new Giver of Runes.  The card certainly presents good value and its sacrifice ability can buy you an extra turn against a variety of decks, such as Tron and Prison strategies, which could prove just enough time to get a lethal attack in.

I'll also take a minute to note that this is one of the worst names I have ever seen on a Magic card.  The card is a reference to Knight-Captain of Eos and Ranger of Eos but the reference is horribly on the nose.  What is a Ranger-Captain?  Is he a Ranger who is a Captain or the Captain of the Rangers?  Questions that nobody really cares for the answers to.

Serra the Benevolent
Serra the Benevolent
Serra's first appearance on her own card.  Serra is one of two planeswalkers in the set.  Lets break down Serra's abilities:

  • The +2 ability is seemingly a reference to Serra Aviary, giving a temporary anthem to your flying creatures.
  • The -3 creatures the famous Serra Angel, that is a 4/4 flying white angel with vigilance.
  • The -6 is the most interesting/dangerous part of the card as it allows you to create a Worship emblem.  This seems pretty frightening as there are a lot of decks that just cannot deal with Worship, and a Worship effect that cannot be removed, destroyed or bounced is pretty threatening.

Sweet flavour aside, I actually think this card is pretty obnoxious.  It ultimates after one turn if untouched and then creates an emblem that makes it very difficult for the opponent to win the game.  A good number of decks probably just won't be able to beat the emblem once it's in place.  That said I still think it's a sideboard card for the most part as the Worship lock is unreliable.  In terms of current Modern decks that might be interested in Serra the Benevolent, really any deck that might have played Worship in the sideboard previously.  Decks like Bant Spirits and Bogles seem like frontrunners.

Vesperlark
Vesperlark
A miniature Reveillark makes for quite a fun card.  There are a number of decks that could be interested in this ability.  The most obvious is the (Matyr of Sands)/Proclamation of Rebirth decks where Vesperlark gives you a minature Proclamation on a stick.  I have also seen people discussing  how this combos with Body Double in the same way that Reveillark did in the Protean Hulk deck I covered a while back.

As Vesperlark's ability triggers when it leaves the battlefield it can also work nicely with Astral Drift or other blink effects.

Winds of Abandon
Winds of Abandon
This card is reasonable but not exciting as a two-mana sorcery removal spell but when you get to 6-mana you get to Plague Wind your opponent which is very tasty.  I'm not sure there is a great home in Modern for Winds of Abandon and perhaps it is destined to be the bane of games of Commander instead.

Wing Shards
Wing Shards
Wing Shards was the Settle the Wreckage of Onslaught Block - the card that could really punish you for attacking with all your creatures.  I don't really like this style of card as playing around it tends to be a nightmare and I don't think people should be punished for alpha striking.  I think Settle the Wreckage is the better card for the guaranteed blow out so I can't see Wing Shards seeing any play in Modern.

Blue

Archmage's Charm
Archmage's Charm
A card that brings to mind Modern Control staple Cryptic Command.  That is the kind of comparison you want to be making but I think it is slightly too favourable to a card that isn't really on the level of Cryptic. 

At 3-mana, countering a spell is effectively Cancel which isn't really what you want to be paying for a bog-standard counterspell in Modern.  The second mode is probably the one you want to be using most often - an instant speed Divination is nice and it wasn't that long ago that we saw Esper Charm in a Second Place SCG Open decklist.  The final mode is a little more niche but can be quite entertaining - there are a lot of viable targets for the ability from Noble Hierarch to AEther Vial.

Another thing that needs to be discussed is the mana cost.  Modern mana is great so generating 3 blue mana on Turn 3 isn't too difficult.  However, UW Control decks are often running Field of Ruin or other colourless lands which may make being able to cast this card on time less reliable.  It's a legitimate issue with the card even if you are playing a mono-blue deck as not being able to cast this on time makes it significantly worse.  I'm not sure you want to be cutting utility lands solely for the benefit of this card.

Bazaar Trademage
Bazaar Trademage
A big flying Human is not unusual to Humans as bizarre as it seems.  Mantis Rider is the current flying 3-drop of the Humans deck and despite being tougher I don't see Trademage supplanting Mantis Rider in Humans.  The drawback of discarding 3 cards is significant and Trademage doesn't have attack as quickly or provide as good a blocker as Mantis Rider does.

Echo of Eons
Echo of Eons
As we recently investigated playing Conley Woods' Pitch Blue deck, the combination of Narset and Day's Undoing can be very potent.  Echo of Eons gives us more options to investigate that synergy.  Apparently this card is pretty busted in Vintage/Legacy but in Modern I think it's just another Day's Undoing effect.  Essentially it's Day's Undoing and the Memory side of Commit/Memory as a newly combined Aftermath card.

Fact or Fiction
Fact or Fiction
If the question is "Will Fact or Fiction make an impact on Modern?" then I fear the answer is "Fiction".  FoF is a good draw spell and potentially draws you three cards but you aren't casting it until turn 4, which makes it significantly less versatile than a card like Hieroglyphic Illuminations.  On the positive side, Snapcaster Mage means that the cards that go into your graveyard can still be useful and drawing 3 cards is better than drawing two.  However, ultimately there aren't a lot of 4-mana draw spells seeing play in Modern and with Gifts Ungiven and Hieroglyphic Illuminations in the format I don't think Fact or Fiction is even the best available option for that slot.

Faerie Seer
Faerie Seer
An interesting one-drop for Faeries which has always been somewhat lacking in that area.  I'm not sure if it actually amounts to being any good but Scrying is powerful and you get an evasive threat.

Flusterstorm
Flusterstorm
Flusterstorm is powerful counterspell but limited to only instant and sorcery spells, which narrows it significantly.  It is a counter to Storm spells like Grapeshot but the level of hate for Storm has significantly reduced its presence in the format already.  A solid sideboard card for some matchups but I don't think Flusterstorm is likely to make a huge impact on the format barring a big metagame shift to spell heavy decks.

Force of Negation
Force of Negation
The approved Force of Will for Modern.  Essentially it's a Negate which can be pitched for to counter a noncreature spell on your opponent's turn.

The comparisons to Force of Will make this a very highly talked about card.  Personally I question how good it really is in the format.  Barring the Neoform deck there really aren't that many decks busting out game ending noncreature spells that make or break the game.  The card disadvantage from casting this means you aren't going to want to use it on a Faithless Looting, Lightning Bolt or a Thoughtseize.  On the positive side, countering a Karn Liberated or winning a counterwar is nice.  Having played Pitch Blue in Modern recently, along with Disrupting Shoal, I can attest to how much of a cost pitching a card from hand is and that it's not one to be taken lightly.  The efficiency and speed of most Modern spells means that countering them for two-cards is a significant loss of card advantage.

Ultimately, I think this is a potential sideboard card and not the main deck staple that Force of Will is in Legacy.  However, with the London mulligan on the horizon perhaps it will see more use as an answer to Neoform.

As an aside, I am also not a fan of the name of this card.  It feels like a nickname for a Magic card but not its actual name.  Negation isn't an emotion, concept or ideal that holds any force.  How about Force of Intellect, Force of Guile, Force of Cunning?  Instead it's Force of Will and Negate so Force of Negate - just feels quite lazy.

Marit Lage's Slumber
Marit Lage's Slumber
This is a worse version of Search for Azcanta but one that generates a game-ending threat in the late game.  It's a fun idea but Search for Azcanta really outclasses this card on pretty much every level.  I'm sure people will play this for the fun of getting the token but unless there is some way of rapidly amassing snow permanents it seems unlikely to be a competitive card.

Mirrodin Besieged
Mirrodin Besieged
With Sai, Master Thopterist and the new Saheeli, Modern doesn't really need any more 3-mana cards that generate 1/1 artifact tokens.  As such, it's really the Phyrexian side of this card that is interesting.  A fun build-around-me card.  It would be interesting to see how quickly you can get 15 artifacts into your graveyard.

Prohibit
Prohibit
Prohibit is a decent counterspell that catches a good number of cards in the format.  However, more versatile counterspells have found themselves outclassed in the format so I don't think Prohibit's prospects look good.

Rebuild
Rebuild
Hurkyl's Recall is a cheaper version of this effect, although this doesn't target a player and returns all artifacts to their owner's hands and not just one player's.  The Sram/Puresteel Paladin deck might be interested in having more copies of this type of effect but it already has Retract and Recall as more mana efficient versions.

Tribute Mage
Tribute Mage
A riff on Trinket Mage that is able to find two-drop artifacts.  There are a multitude of potential targets for Tribute Mage but probably the most enticing is either piece of the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combo.  That combo also gains a variety of other key pieces with this set so it will be interesting to see if it shapes up into a real contender.  Ironically, this set also contains extremely powerful artifact hate in the form of Collector Ouphe, Force of Vigor and Shenanigans and with Karn, the Great Creator becoming a format staple it may make the whole thing a bit redundant.

Urza, Lord High Artificer
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Urza finally gets his own card - and no Blind Seer doesn't really count.  Urza's primary use seems to be a way to go infinite with the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combo.  Urza allows the combo to generate mana and that excess mana can be used to activate his ability to play out your deck. 

It's not clear whether that is too much of a win-more card for the Thopter Foundry deck or how good a deck of that type will be with the prevalence of Karn, the Great Creator rising in the format.

Watcher for Tomorrow
Watcher for Tomorrow
The closest thing to a Ponder in the set - sorry Pondering Mage.  Watcher is a Human that allows you to draw your pick of the top 4 cards of your deck when it dies.  It's good value but Watcher comes into play tapped and is probably more valuable dead than alive.  It's not a bad card but it feels like Humans has better options in this slot.  Notably, you get the card to hand when Watcher leaves play rather than dies so you could blink or Astral Drift this card for repeated draws.

Windcaller Aven
Windcaller Aven
I am not sure this is substantially more exciting than the existing blue cycling creatures but it is another solid option.  As Foretold Living End decks may take note.

Black

Cabal Therapist
Cabal Therapist
Therapist calls back to a Legacy staple in Cabal Therapy.  Sadly, Therapist isn't that card and I fear is too slow at what it does to be impactful despite it's generous mana-cost.  It's just too slow to impact the game even if you follow it up with a Bitterblossom or some other repeated creature generator.

I think a more interesting design is for this to have been a Sliver with each Sliver gets 'Sacrifice this creature: Choose a nonland card name, then target  player reveals their hand and discards all cards with that name.  Only activate this ability any time you could activate a sorcery'.  That card would have been powerful enough to be interesting but I don't think it would actually be too much.  Just my two cents.

Carrion Feeder
Carrion Feeder
Viscera Seer has been the one-mana sacrifice outlet of choice in Modern up until this point (mostly for a lack of other options).  Carrion Feeder is a slightly more powerful version as it can actually generate a huge threat if you can produce an infinite sacrifice loop, of which there are a few in Modern.  It's also generally a pretty efficient creature and a tool that Zombie decks will be looking to capitalise on.  This is a nice reprint for Modern.

Cordial Vampire
Cordial Vampire
This is a strong two-drop Vampire but I think Zombies has the better creature suite currently with Gravecrawler, Geralf's Messenger, Relentless Dead and the new additions of Carrion Feeder and Undead Augur.  Might be an interesting card if the Vampire tribe strengthens at some point.

Crypt Rats
Crypt Rats
A Pestilence on a creature.  Crypt Rats is much more impressive in Pauper than in Modern and although it is a solid card I don't think it will make it in Modern.

Dead of Winter
Dead of Winter

I think this card is just a slightly cheaper Mutilate a lot of the time.  I don't think there are enough good Snow creatures to break the symmetry but I could be wrong.

 

Defile
Defile
A decent removal spell but you have to work fairly hard to get it to be Disfigure and to make it more than that you are probably compromising your manabase.  That said there is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth which allows this to just count your lands but I am not sure that's necessarily good enough in a format as fast as Modern.  A contender for a backup to Fatal Push but I think it has some work to do.

Diabolic Edict
Diabolic Edict
One of the more depressing reprints of all time.  This was an effect that was missing from Modern until War of the Spark released with Liliana's Triumph which is just a better card.  I am surprised they put this is the set for that reason.

Dregscape Sliver
Dregscape Sliver
This card seems very powerful in a Slivers deck.  Being able to bring all your Slivers back from the graveyard for a big alpha strike seems super cool.  It will be interesting to see how Modern Slivers can be updated and what tech will be most useful to the deck once Modern Horizons arrives.  Dregscape Sliver might not make the cut but it's definitely one of the more innovative Slivers in the set.

Force of Despair
Force of Despair
The Black Force is the middle ground in terms of the quality of the cards - Green being great, Blue being good, Black being mediocre and the Red and White ones being awful.  Force of Despair is somewhat playable and is very nice against a deck you expect to put multiple creatures into play in one turn.  It might be a reasonable play against an Arclight Phoenix or Elves deck for instance.  I don't hold out much hope but it isn't unplayable.

Nether Spirit
Nether Spirit
Nether Spirit is a really old-style card with a very unusual ability.  Nether Spirit returns to the battlefield every upkeep but only if it's the only creature in the graveyard.  This is kind of an awkward requirement and so you can either not play any other creatures or play cards like Scavenging Ooze or Relic of Progenitus by which you can remove other creatures from the graveyard to keep benefiting from the recursion.  Ultimately, I question whether it is truly worth the effort of building a deck around this guy as it really restrictive for limited gain.

Plague Engineer
Plague Engineer
I predicted that we might see Engineered Plague in my preview of the set.  It turns out it got turned into a creature in the process which makes for quite a powerful package, if a more vulnerable one.  The Engineer is a strong answer to token and tribal strategies and even outside of those situations it can come down and kill a variety of creatures in the format when hitting the board.  A solid card but likely to be a sideboard card for certain matchups if it sees play.

Unearth
Unearth
Unearth is a fun reanimator spell but with Clame/Fame failing to make an impact on the format it seems unlikely this will fair much better.  Certainly the cycling option makes it a more attractive package but short of a combo application I wouldn't expect big things. 

Notably it does get back creatures with up to 3-CMC which means you loop it with Eternal Witness among other things.

Undead Augur
Undead Augur
A draw engine for Zombie decks is an exciting prospect for fans of the tribe.  On its own this card would be reasonable but with Carrion Feeder also being printed into Modern this could be a strong addition to the format.

Red

Aria of Flame
Aria of Flame
In theory, you can respond to Aria's ETB effect with burn spells to kill the opponent before they gain the 10 life.  Otherwise, I think the advantage given to the opponent is too much to make this card worthwhile.  Pyromancer Ascension seems like it does a better job in decks looking for this kind of effect.

Goblin Engineer
Goblin Engineer
I find this card tricky to evaluate.  A two-mana 1/2 that Entombs an artifact isn't terrible exciting and I don't the artifact reanimation targets make that worthwhile currently.  The real value comes with the second ability to swap an artifact on the battlefield for an artifact of up to 3-CMC onto the battlefield.  That ability is a little slow but could be potent as a tutor package.  We also have Academy Ruins to make putting artifacts into the graveyard closer to putting them into hand.  Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek decks are certainly interested but I don't know if the package is too clunky beyond that.  There are a lot of cards you can stick into play with Engineer should it live to untap.

I've seen comparisons drawn to Stoneforge Mystic and while I don't think it's quite there Engineer does potentially pose a must-kill creature.  I will be interested to see how this plays in the format and whether it can find a real home.

Goblin Matron
Goblin Matron
I can't see Goblin Matron being all that useful for Modern Goblins.  There isn't that advantage engine like Goblin Ringleader in the format to really warrant using Matron and it's just quite slow for what Goblins usually wants to be doing.  Not really the reprint Goblin decks were looking for in my opinion.

Lava Dart
Lava Dart
Lava Dart has some potential as a card for UR Phoenix/Mono-Red Phoenix.  Those decks are already using Gut Shot as an additional spell and Lava Dart also fits that mold in that it can two spells off just one Mountain.  Sacrificing a land is a real cost but Lava Dart can be cast for free after discarding it to Faithless Looting and gives you extra spells to cast from the graveyard.  I'm not sure what the consensus is on Lava Dart versus Gut Shot in Phoenix but there is definitely a debate to be had.

Pillage
Pillage
Another Stone Rain effect for Modern but one that can relevantly hit artifacts when necessary.  Pillage is a more versatile Stone Rain which is certainly of interest to Ponza players.

Seasoned Pyromancer
Seasoned Pyromancer
Seasoned Pyromancer is an interesting card but I fear it will fall into the category of interesting red 3-drop that never achieves its potential.  Do you remember Prophetic Flamespeaker

Pyromancer can be 4-power over 3 bodies for just 3-mana but there is no guarantee that will be the case as you have to discard non-land cards to obtain the Elemental tokens.  Also, if you are pitching non-land cards to Pyromancer you probably want to be getting some added value from that otherwise you are just ditching useful cards - cards are generally better than 1/1 tokens on the whole.   It should be noted that if you are empty handed (or have fewer than 2 cards) because you discard before you draw you still get to draw  2 new cards but at the cost of Pyromancer just being a 2/2 with no tokens (a Divination Ogre if you will).

I think the best immediate homes for Pyromancer appear to be Phoenix, Dredge and possibly Mardu Pyromancer.  They all have cards that you want in the graveyard and can really abuse the Pyromancer's effect.

Shenanigans
Shenanigans
A powerful and repeatable artifact hate spell.  It gives Dredge a very nice sideboard card, as Dredge often has an issue with sideboard cards that they can't use from the graveyard, and gives red decks generally repeat-use artifact hate.

Viashino Sandsprinter
Viashino Sandsprinter
A potential card for Hollow One or Living End decks.  It has the big advantage of actually be a reasonably playable creature to smash in damage with if your main gameplan gets derailed or you're waiting for your combo pieces to arrive.  This card has some real force behind it and I can see myself playing this.

Green

Ayula's Influence
Ayula's Influence
Seismic Assault that makes Grizzly Bears rather than Shocks from each land discarded.  Assault is much better for a quick win but producing creatures is a much better long-term threat.  I don't think this really changes anything for Aggro-Loam decks except making them better at grinding out wins.

Collector Ouphe
Collector Ouphe
Another Hatebear but a very powerful one at that.  Collector Ouphe is Stony Silence on a bear and supplements existing artifact hate cards nicely.  Humans is always on the lookout for these types of creatures as they don't run traditional removal thanks to the manabase.  It also just generally a decent rate for a solid effect and continues the trend of the set to give more powerful artifact hate to green.

Hexdrinker
Hexdrinker
Hexdrinker takes quite a lot of energy but builds into a serious threat if you get the opportunity to level it up.  Hexdrinker probably sees out Dryad Militant or similar options in Stompy decks as it's a solid late game mana sink.

Force of Vigor
Force of Vigor
Arguably the best of the Force cycle in this set.  I think I would support that argument.  If you are casting Force of Vigor for free then you end up at least even in terms of card advantage as you get to destroy two artifacts and/or enchantments at a cost of two cards.  Also, later in the game this remains a powerful hate card even when cast for its full-mana cost.  This is likely to end up in the sideboards of most green decks to prey on the various artifact-focused decks in the format as well as Bogles.  It's also a handy out to cards like Blood Moon as you can destroy it despite your mana woes.

Nimble Mongoose
Nimble Mongoose
I think if there was a time that Nimble Mongoose would have been a Modern staple then unfortunately that time has passed.  Mongoose has fallen out of favour in Legacy and is a very different card in a format where you can restrict opponents mana with Wasteland and protect yourself with Force of Will.  Mongoose is made for formats where dropping a quick sticky threat and protecting it will win you the game - hence we see cards like Delver of Secrets seeing far more play in Legacy than Modern.  In a format where Wild Nacatl can't get a look in I wouldn't back Mongoose to be a big deal in the format.

Scale Up
Scale Up
Scale Up seems like a real contender for Infect decks where it can provide a one-mana +5/+3 boost to most of its creatures.  The card is also generally powerful as if you ever get to six-mana it doesn't take many creatures to make that a large lethal attack.  I'd watch out for some Craw Wurm-sized Infect creatures coming your way in the near future.

Weather the Storm
Weather the Storm
If Storm decks weren't already having a bad time in Modern this set really rubs it in for them.

Winding Way
Winding Way
A solid draw spell for green for just two-mana.  It falls somewhere between Mulch and Grisly Salvage in a good way and is also a way of filling your graveyard, which works nicely with cards like Tarmogoyf and Traverse the Ulvenwald.  Probably outclassed by other options in Modern sadly.

Multi-coloured

Cloudshredder Sliver
Cloudshredder Sliver
Probably the most exciting new Sliver for Sliver's playability in the Modern format.  Evasive abilities are important to Slivers and Cloudshredder gives the deck that along with an aggressive advantage in the form of haste.  It's a neat package for the Slivers deck at just 2-mana and makes the deck much better for it.

Collected Conjuring
Collected Conjuring
Collected Conjuring is a Collected Company for sorceries, which is certainly enticing.  It's not clear as of yet what the best use of it is but as with Collected Company you really want to be hitting 3-mana sorceries to maximise the impact of the card.  Stone Rain and the reprinted Pillage are hot options for some sort of variation on the Ponza decks that have seen some fleeting success in the format.  I'm not sure what the best use of this card is but it has some fringe potential.

Eladamri's Call
Eladamri's Call
Eladamri's Call is an instant-speed tutor for just two-mana, which is quite something.  That said in Modern creature-tutors are quite prevalent and many of them also put the creature onto the battlefield.  As such, it's unclear if Eladamri's Call has enough to compete with Chord of Calling, Finale of Devastation and Collected Company.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Hogaak is a huge creature which in theory you can get into play quite rapidly.  Not being able to spend actual mana to cast it though is a real drawback and means you need at least two creatures in play to cast it.  People have been touting Vengevine or Dredge decks as a home for Hogaak.  I think the question is whether it's going to be consistent enough particularly given you have to expend a lot of resources to get there. 

I could maybe see running 1 or 2 copies in a Dredge deck as the over-the-top threat to finish opponents off if going wide is no longer an option.  An interesting option for that deck.

Ice-Fang Coatl
Ice-Fang Coatl
Ice-Fang Coatl is an imitation of Baleful Strix, which is pretty upsetting for anyone expecting to get the real deal in this set.  Coatl is still a powerful creature but in a rather awkward colour combination.  Also, it doesn't gain deathtouch until you have three other snow permanents so it's unlikely to actually turn on until Turn 3 at best and in all likelihood, given decks are unlikely to be running just snow basics for their UGx deck, much later than that.  Unfortunately I'm not sure build-your-own-Baleful Strix is going to be worth the effort.

Kess, Dissident Mage
Kess, Dissident Mage
A solid creature that allows you to flashback a card from your graveyard every turn.  It's very powerful if it survives for you to untap with it.  However, I think in Modern Kess is probably too clunky to be viable.

Unsettled Mariner
Unsettled Mariner

This is a card that has some exciting applications and the first sure fire non-land staple to be spoiled in my opinion.  Unsettled Mariner slots straight into Humans as a way to protect our creatures and ourselves by taxing spell and abilities that target them or us.  It's also perfect for pretty much any other Tribal or creature-heavy deck that can afford to play it.  It makes being mana efficient very difficult for the opponent and catches cards like Thoughtseize and burn spells targeted to the dome, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle activation and Liliana of the Veil's edict with its tax and not just typical removal spells. 

Mariner works really nicely with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben as doubling up on tax effects can allow you to build your own Trinisphere.  With another cheap tax effect, you may be able to play cards like Vryn Wingmare or Dovin, Hand of Control to really tax opponents out of the game.

Thanks to Changeling, you can always cast Mariner off Cavern of Souls or Unclaimed Territory no matter what you name as Mariner has all creature types in all zones.  It also randomly hates on Grapeshot and Scapeshift combo among a multitude of other things.  Imagine your Tron opponent plays Turn 3 Karn only to not be able to +1 it or to exile any of your creatures because of a lack of mana.  They then are forced to exile a land or a AEther Vial and you can handle Karn the following turn.  Mariner can buy you a lot of time like this which is exactly what an Aggro deck wants.

I don't know whether I am overrating Mariner as a 1-mana tax isn't huge in a format like Modern where removal is so cheap.  Cards like Tithe Taker haven't really found a home.  However, it does more than just disrupt removal and makes hand disruption, direct damage, combo kills and some planeswalker abilities more problematic.  I expect Mariner to see play in Humans, Spirits, Merfolk and Death and Taxes and can see this becoming a real format staple moving forwards.  I think its real competition comes from Meddling Mage which fills the same slot in some of these decks.

Wrenn and Six
Wrenn and Six
Wrenn and Six is only the second ever two-mana planeswalker.  While Tibalt is the punchline to a lot of jokes, Wrenn and Six is not, but can still accumulate a lot of value.  Lets look at the abilities:

  • +1 - Return a land to your hand from the graveyard.  This isn't too exciting in itself but it is effectively drawing you a card if you have a fetchland in the bin which you can recast and return to hand again netting card advantage.  Also, with a whole new set of Horizon Canopy lands and cycling lands being added to the format there is the potential to gain even more value from returning lands.  That is not mention repeatedly using Ghost Quarter or Field of Ruin on an opponent where basic lands are not plentiful.
  • -1 - Pingining isn't too exciting but it hits a lot of creatures in the format, including Noble Hierarch, Snapcaster Mage and Dark Confidant.  Also, Wrenn and Six can ping multiple times which makes it no slouch when it comes to handing out punishment or finishing off damaged creatures.
  • -7 - The ultimate is a slightly strange one.  Although powerful it takes a lot of effort to get there and it isn't terribly likely to win you the game.  More likely it will give you a bit of value here and there.  I don't think people will be ultimating Wrenn and Six often.

Wrenn and Six is a solid value card but doesn't really slot naturally into any existing Modern deck.  Aggro Loam has got some new tools in this set but I am dubious that any of them actually make it back into a deck.  Maybe one day Wrenn and Six will find a home but they are a nicely designed two-drop walker.

Artifacts

Altar of Dementia
Altar of Dementia
A solid reprint for Modern.  There are a number of sacrifice outlets in the format but few that lead to a direct end-game in themselves.  If you can create an infinite sacrifice loop then you should be able to mill out your opponent and win the game on their draw step.

Arcum's Astrolabe
Arcum's Astrolabe
If Snow cards do become playable then I can certainly see this cantrip be a useful part of the deck.  A one-mana cantrip that gives you an extra Snow permanent might come in handy.

Scrapyard Recombiner
Scrapyard Recombiner
Hardened Scales Affinity already has a penchant for abusing Modular and Construct creatures.  Recombiner is slow but it's a long-term value play that can keep the gas flowing.  I'm not sure whether it makes it into the Hardened Scales Affinity list but it does provide a new option.

Lands

Barren MoorForgotten CaveLonely SandbarSecluded SteppeTranquil Thicket
Cycling Lands
The cycling lands from Onslaught Block are a welcome addition to Modern.  They are perhaps outshone by the Horizon lands discussed below but they have a utility outside dedicated cycling decks.

Fiery IsletNurturing PeatlandSilent ClearingSunbaked CanyonWaterlogged Grove
Horizon Lands
In a move that nobody really saw coming, Wizards decided to turn Horizon Canopy into a proper cycle.  Modern Horizons contains a full five enemy colour Horizon Canopy lands.  Cashing in lands for cards when you are out of gas is really valuable.  There are a lot of decks that could benefit from this cycle.  Izzet Phoenix, NeoBrand, Burn, GBx and Infect are just a few decks off the top of my head.

Hall of Heliod's Generosity
Hall of Heliod's Generosity
Some love for the enchanters and enchantresses among us.  Academy Ruins for enchantments is a card that has some potential.  I think it's probably too slow for the Bogles deck but worth experimenting with.  This card really shines in some sort of enchantment prison deck, though Force of Vigor may make those types of strategy substantially less viable, if it ever was.

Prismatic Vista
Prismatic Vista
It's hard to see how this isn't just worse than the other fetchlands in most Modern decks.  I guess if you are running five colours this could be better but not being able to search up a Ravnica dual really hurts.


MY TOP 8 MODERN HORIZONS CARDS FOR MODERN

Here are my Top 8 cards from Modern Horizons:

  1. Horizon Lands
    The enemy colour Horizon Canopy land cycle is going to have a big impact on manabase building in Modern moving forward.  I am not sure what the right mix is but a good number of decks are going to try running these.  Turning lands into extra cards in the late game is a big advantage and provides a card advantage for decks that otherwise don't have much access to it.
  2. Unsettled Mariner
    I am increasingly concerned I am overrating this card but I am really looking forward to putting it into action.  Mariner can fit into a number of different tribal shells while still gaining the buffs and activating any tribal-linked abilities.  It has a powerful disruptive effect and pairs nicely with cards like format staple Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
  3. Force of Vigor
    It's a bit dull but the green Force is a huge game against artifact and enchantments and is likely to be a staple of Modern sideboard moving forwards.
  4. Goblin Engineer
    I have my doubts about the Engineer's viability but is certainly an exciting card with some impressive abilities.  The real question is whether artifact decks remain viable with all the new hate in this set and the increasing popularity of Karn, the Great Creator.
  5. Cycling Lands
    Rather outshone by the Horizon lands but still a relevant addition to the Modern manabase in my opinion.  I can see some decks wanting to use these - particularly if they are focused on digging for specific cards.
  6. Cloudshredder Sliver
    The two-drop that could push Slivers up a tier in terms of playability.  I have my doubts that this changes things too much and Humans is likely to remain the deck of choice but this could improve the life of the Slivers.
  7. Wrenn and Six
    It doesn't have a home yet but I reckon this planeswalker is more powerful that it looks.  At just two-mana and with a host of useful if narrow abilities I can see Wrenn and Six being a powerful card in Modern.  It just needs to find the right home.
  8. Altar of Dementia
    A sacrifice outlet that wins the game once you can go infinite seems like a substantial upgrade on existing options.  An honourable mention should also go to Carrion Feeder here as another sacrifice outlet upgrade for the format.

This isn't an easy list to put together because there are quite a few cards with the potential to find a home.  However, I think the power level drops off quite significantly after the first few picks and then we get some quite narrow cards.  I will be interested to see which cards really make an impact on the format but I don't expect it to be on the same level as War of the Spark.

CONCLUSIONS

I was initially pretty disappointed in Modern Horizons as a set.  I think it's fair to say that it's not quite what anybody expected.  I think Wizards probably overhyped the Legacy reprints, leading to people expecting Force of Will and getting Lava Dart.  I think Wizards also overhyped the 'designed for Modern' and 'cards we couldn't print in Standard' aspects of the set as the set is not nearly as powerful as suggested.  I don't think you can point to too many cards in the set and say "this is definitely too powerful for a Standard set".  It also comes after one of the most powerful Standard sets of all time, which was a very hard act to follow.  I might put my thoughts on the missteps of Modern Horizons in another article as this is already quite a bulky article. 

Over time, I have come to terms with that and have ended up happy enough with the set.  The set provides some powerful new cards to the Modern manabase that will have a long-lasting impact and then provides some niche tools for a wide variety of decks.  Nearly every tier deck, perhaps with the exception of Tron, has cards of some interest in the set.  The balance is probably smarter than adding a bunch of very powerful cards to the format but I think a lot of competitive Modern fans will be left disappointed having hoped for a bigger shake-up to the format than is likely to be realised.

I hope you enjoyed this review of Modern Horizons.  Let me know your thoughts on the set and which cards you expect to make an impact on the format.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)