JXClaytor's picture
By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
May 27 2019 11:00am

Typically when I get a free preview card from the fine folks at Wizards of the Coast, I make a post in the writer's group that we have on Facebook and see who wants to write about it.  I wanted to try something different with this preview and asked for ideas.  CheshirePlaysGames suggested that we do a round-table discussion, and after deciding to not do it in podcast format, we went with a written type.  AJ_Impy fired up a Google Document for us and we talked about the card, which lets face it, you've probably already scrolled down to! 

Here is who participated in our discussion. 

Joshua:  The content manager of the site and new columnist for State of the Program.

AJ_Impy:  Tribal master and one half of the hosts to our podcast, Freed from the Real.

CheshirePlaysGames:  Columnist that features Commander and variant play for the format. 

Kumagoro:  Another Tribal master, and the person that runs the player run event, Tribal Apocalypse (and others) on MTGO.

Paul Leicht:  Artist, musician, master of Eternal, and the other half of the team behind Freed from the Real. 

STsung:  Creator of the new deck editor, eternal format master, dance game enthusiast. 

Now that you have met us, we can off the card from Modern Horizons that we are talking about today! 

Paul: Cancel with upside. Nice.  The art is sweet. 

Joshua: Yeah, I called it half a Cryptic Command when I was talking to Heath about it. I figure as the owner of the site, Heath deserves to see what we are previewing after all. I like Fateful hour as a mechanic, but I’m not a huge fan of being at 5 life and only drawing a card out of it.  I think I would be a lot more excited about this card if it were a cost reduction, to give it that Counterspell feel, or if there was a bit of lifegain added on, but the countermagic so far revealed in Modern Horizons is something that I was hoping would help out Modern more.  I mean sure, we get Flusterstorm, Exclude, Archmage's Charm, Force of Negation and Prohibit, so I don’t think we are going to get Counterspell proper. I think it would have been nice if we got the cost reduction instead of draw a card. I’m not sure a conditional slightly cheaper Dismiss is going to see any play in Modern, and I am not sure that there is room at all for a Cancel effect in the format with so many other options coming and already in the format. Especially now that the only slightly harder to cast Archmage's Charm exists in the format. That is the kind of flexibility I would have loved to see on the card, but also realize that at common, getting that kind of flexibility would have come at great cost to the card. Do I think it's going to see play in Modern? Maybe, if a Laboratory Maniac or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries deck really needs and extra way to draw a card, it could possibly slot in there, but other than needing to stop a clutch spell from resolving in a sealed deck tournament, I just don't see Spell Snuff getting a ton of run in Modern.

Paul: I think of it as a bonus that should rarely come up but it might be a really good tool in Death's Shadow decks. You know I barely play Modern but I like this card. Would wish it were a pod card but eh, Birthing Pod is never coming back.

AJ: Ooh, nice. Cancel but with a desperation cantrip. I dig it.

Paul- As I said Death’s Shadow counterspell.

I can see the possibility. Back in the day there was a fringe deck using Convalescent Care and Form of the Dragon, which 5 or less, draw a card reminded me of.

Chesh: Well I don’t think this will be a blue commander staple, but I like having access to a “panic button” cantrip. On one hand, you have Counterspell. But on the other side, I can see this actually seeing played in heavy counterspell decks that just want to say “nah mate” to everything ever.

In Oathbreaker, I can definitely see this being a signature spell in your deck to ensure you have an out near the end of the game to stop some big ugly creature or maybe some clutch spell from hitting the board and finishing you off. I wonder how this card will feel in draft though, as usually if you’re at five life or below your hand is slim and your options are too. A counterspell cantrip could be a clutch play!

Kuma: I’ll be the Debbie Downer here and say I don’t think this is going to see play, like anywhere. It’s a perfectly reasonable application of fateful hour, but as Paul says, as a reward to using Cancel while you’re at five life, just a card draw is a bit too little, too late? Incidentally, I hope this doesn’t mean fateful hour is heavily represented in the set (I doubt any single mechanic is, but I’m still not sure what they were aiming for with this set, it’s very unique), because where competitive play is concerned
. Fateful hour didn’t produce anything of value – perhaps only Gather the Townsfolk was a thing during Dark Ascension Standard, but just because it works pretty well on turn two too, and then it works better when the fateful hour has arrived. Otherwise, efficiency rules suggest your cards should be at their optimal function right away, whenever possible. Outside of suicide strategies (and I’m skeptical about Death’s Shadow decks heavily committing to blue for this), if you run this, you’ll have Cancel in your deck for most of the game. And you don’t want Cancel in your deck, not with all the Cancel variants currently in existence. Even Sinister Sabotage looks to me like it’s doing better work, honestly.

On a historical note, this is the first fateful hour card in blue.


STsung: Modern Horizons as far as I know has cards that are meant for Modern play. For a very long time we saw that we needed more responses in Modern which would be good for stopping linear decks and new more resilient threats. The format since it's inception actually got faster by even one turn which is becoming a very deadly place full of linear combo decks and then decks that are trying to cheat the tempo of the game in a different way (Tron) or trying to stop those decks (more prison like decks) or being faster but still taxing or overwhelming in a certain way (Humans).

We got a reprint of Flusterstorm for Modern which is a nice card in a very blue xerox format but may not really have enough impact in a format like Modern where the combos are mostly gravebased and even if there are spell based combos they don't necessarily get stopped by something like Flusterstorm or Stifle.

Prohibit on the other hand is a very good spell that could find play in the format since it is so fast. For the decks that utilize a lot of 1 or 2 cmc spells this card can be ideal to let us catch up with the deck, control the game for a while and then be able to win the game with a good midrange threat because I don't see how we could get back to the times of were the game is decided in late game (it happens but we strive to end the game shortly after midgame, since the odds of winning later don't get higher but for many decks, they get lower).

Being able to have the ability to counter 4 mana spells and lower for 4 mana is actually pretty huge because that is what the impactful cards cost.

This is the reason why we were looking for the Counterspell in Modern. We needed a two mana counterspell that would allow us to be fast enough (I omit the fact that we also needed some kind of Force of Will that could deal with certain decks).

Spell Snuff is pretty much a Cancel with certain upside effect. This card seems to be good enough in Blue-Red Aggro Control but when we can play something like Izzet Phoenix why even bother trying to built something like Izzet Aggro Control. The problem of Spell Snuff is the mana cost. It cost 3 mana which is simply way too much for the format as it is now. The card could become more useful if the format slows down and becomes more of 'clash of midrange decks'. Unfortunately, there are many other 3 mana counterspells that were printed for Standard that might be better for a more control-y midrange deck. For example I'd even prefer Sinister Sabotage because that allows the player dig deeper of needed and putting a card in a graveyard may also be a positive effect for the deck (for example with (Search of Azcanta) in play).

Fateful Hour mechanic is one of the mechanics that didn’t really catch up. I mean we got like one card that was played in Standard and worked little bit like Timely Reinforcements. I don’t even remember other cards using that, or if I ever cared about the life total and willingness to cast something with a condition like that in constructed, in limited the cards were in general good (I played GW a lot). The ‘Black’ Temple land was pretty cool though for example, but it allowed one to get back to a healthy life total and it was more under our control. Decks that control the life total and want to be suicidal are usually very fast decks that don’t care about something like 3 mana counterspell. We have a Xerox deck - Death’s Shadow - that could potentially play the card but is that even worth it? It seems way more dead card for me than having Stubborn Denial without DS in play. Since Nimble Mongoose will be in Modern we might even get to see a more straightforward xerox deck but the future will tell.

I hoped that Modern Horizons would slow the format because it’s starting to be really bad. Take this with a grain of salt, as you may know I am not a fan of Modern.

Anyway if one looks at the spoiler we can see many pauper cards and while pauper has access to way more powerful cards it will also lose Gush, Gitaxian Probe and Daze. Decks play Counterspells and Foil depending if they are control or xerox and none of these may want to consider this card but there’s still Tron that doesn’t really care if a card costs UU or 1UU. I got in many situations in which this card could have won me the game since my life total often gets very low and all I needed was one more draw step. No matter what I’d still prefer a card that would do something that could impact the game more or rather with more certainty. 1 card may not be something to save us. Especially if we need to be down to 5 and less to profit from the ability. (Unwind, Prohibit, Exclude are still better spells. What we need to deal with is usually creatures. If we fight with something non creature spell heavy all we usually need are blasts and some dispels). On the other hand since Tron has access to a lot of mana it can play Condescend for greater value which we get any time during the game.


After all the initial thinking I think that this card won’t see play in any constructed play but may be fine in limited.  


Paul:I just want to say I love that STsung always gives a book full of text!

I think that our overall thoughts on the card are that it is going to be nice for limited play, while not really impacting Modern.  It's got incredible artwork from Nic Klein and I look forward to seeing it in foil.  We know not every card is going to be an exciting one, one that will define the format for years to come, and we appreciate our free preview from Wizards of the Coast!