Following a Mythic Championship, Modern Horizons proves capable of having more impact on Modern than any ban or unban. Introducing brand new cards directly into Modern alongside a slew of reprints, Modern Horizons gives WotC the tools it needs to solve issues that the most popular constructed format possesses.
When thinking about the cards I want to be introduced into Modern, I kept a few metrics in mind that follow the rules of the format. While I have broken some of them with this list, there’s usually a caveat to such violations.
- No Fast Mana. Sitting on the ban list are Rite of Flame and Seething Song, and Legacy is shaped immensely by the availability of fast mana in the form of Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal, Mox Diamond, and Ancient Tomb. Simian Spirit Guide and Desperate Ritual aren’t breaking Modern, but fast mana is dangerous in high densities, as it sidesteps the traditional operations of the game.
- No consistent and hard to disrupt wins before Turn 4. Each card on the list should either contribute to Turn 4 games at a minimum or allow for inconsistent Turn 3 kills.
- Each card should improve the number of nongames in Modern. Cards that prevent other players from playing Magic were considered lower, and in many cases not considered at all. Back o Basics exists in the same potential format space as Blood Moon but was not considered due to the adverse impact on quality of gameplay.
25 — Tireless Tribe
Settling in at #25 is Pauper icon Tireless Tribe. Immediately breaking one of our rules, Tireless Tribe can threaten consistent kills on Turn 2 and 3 by utilizing Twisted Image. Unlike Pauper, interacting with it is easy in Modern. Mana bases tend to have more colors, be faster, and have more creatures. In addition, nearly every form of interaction is effective against Tireless Tribe. Without Gush or Circular Logic, Tireless Tribe could spawn a tempo archetype long absent from Modern.
24 — Shardless Agent
Modern has shown a strong preference for Abzan and Jund, with little Sultai occupying the Tarmogoyf/Thoughtseize sphere of decks. While much of this is due to individually powerful cards of those colors, Red and White tend to have more powerful sideboard cards than Blue. With Shardless Agent, these decks are given another tool to use alongside countermagic for overcoming Azorius Control’s favorable Midrange matchup.
23 — Veteran Explorer
Fueling fringe Legacy Strategies, Veteran Explorer creates unique deckbuilding puzzles, while incentivizing players to use more basics. While it may prove troublesome alongside Valakut, it is also likely to be underpowered without Cabal Therapy and Phyrexian Tower to accompany it.
22 — Stern Proctor
Stern Proctor gives Aether Vial decks in the format more options for interacting with troublesome permanents like Ensnaring Bridge, but Spirits and Humans already have access to Knight of Autumn. Stern Proctor lacks an aggressive body, but maybe prove beneficial enough for Merfolk to justify copies in the sideboard.
21 — Hymn to Tourach
A hallmark of card advantage focused Midrange decks of Legacy, Hymn to Tourach gives slower Thoughtseize decks more opportunities to interact with bad matchups. We’ve seen a recent shift towards two-color mana bases to accommodate Field of Ruin, and with Hymn to Tourach Rock style decks would be given another tool to bolster unwinnable Game 1s.
20 — Astral Slide
Amonkhet block introduced additional cards that care about cycling and Astral Slide offers the potential for value decks that don’t win the game on the spot. Eternal Witness plus Astral Slide is an interaction from Mirrodin Standard that shows the power of repeatable effects. I want to see Astral Slide enter Modern just to see what cool decks can utilize it.
19 — Onslaught Cycle Lands
Cycling Lands form the basis of Life from the Loam decks in Legacy. In Modern we lack a density of powerful lands to recur with this engine, relegating these cards to Midrange or Control decks wanting to pack a bit of extra consistency into their decks. Giving nonblue decks access to card filtering, while ensuring slower decks can hit land drops is an important aspect of card quality that these lands provide.
18 — Divert
Modern lacks the quality of one mana interaction that Legacy possesses, and Divert fails to alleviate much of this. What Divert does add is the ability to main deck interaction for Burn without skimping on relevancy in grindier matchups. When Divert “counters” a spell like Thoughtseize or Path to Exile, you also get the spell, showcasing the higher ceiling of Spell Pierce. Divert is less effective against Cryptic Command or Planeswalkers, which increases the deckbuilding decisions involved in a tournament.
17 — Ruination
Ruination offers powerful sideboarding options to slower Red decks, in much the same way as Blood Moon. The primary difference is that Ruination is stronger against Tron and Azorius Control than Blood Moon, as each of those decks has multiple ways to interact with enchantments. This resiliency comes at an increased mana cost, giving players more time to find basics.
16 — Spellseeker
As a 3 mana 1/1, Spellseeker may prove too weak to adequately tango with the behemoths of Modern, but it gives decks more interactive pieces. Spirits can run more copies of Path to Exile without skimping on bodies, while decks like Blue Moon can find more Lightning Bolts. Coming attached to a 1/1 mitigates the potential to break the format with Living End chains, but incentivizing interaction is generally a good place for formats.
15 — Flusterstorm
Flusterstorm overlaps with Spell Pierce in many Modern decks but is more maindeckable. While it lacks the flexibility of hitting enchantments, Flusterstorm pairs better with Snapcaster Mage, acting as a pseudo-Mana Leak in many situations. Giving slower decks the potential to diversify interaction allows these decks to consistently interact with a variety of decks.
14 — Foil
Force of Will undoubtedly rests as a pillar of Legacy, but Modern lacks a universal free piece of interaction. Foil offers interaction at a steeper cost than Force of Will, and requires an excess amount of lands. While it’s possible that tempo decks like Merfolk or Arclight may use Foil, the biggest potential is among Blue Moon and Azorius Control. These decks can quickly be overrun when going second and play a large amount of Islands.
13 — Necromancy
Necromancy offers to bring a new graveyard deck to prominence in Modern but at three mana fails to push any boundaries of power level. The biggest strike against Necromancy entering the format is perhaps its complicated rules text, an unfortunate necessity of such a complicated enchantment.
12 — Crop Rotation
Crop Rotation allows for more decks to play small toolbox packages, without propelling Tron or Valakut to format dominance. While it likely would see play in Titan Shift and Amulet Titan, the upside for potential new archetypes is high, and we may see decks like Golgari Rock begin to play Crop Rotation as a way to find a variety of interactive elements.
11 — Baleful Strix
Following the most recent price spike and Modern Horizons hype, Baleful Strix proves to be a likely a certainly impactful potential addition to Modern. The epitome of value creatures, Baleful Strix gives long deceased fair decks the ability to interact with creatures while ensuring late game effectiveness. Much of the issue for interacting in Modern is the wide variety of potential decks, and aspect of Modern alleviated by giving interactive cards a level of turn longevity exhibited by Baleful Strix.
10 — Scourge of Nel Toth
Scourge of Nel Toth is a card that was on no one’s list, but I want to see it in Modern more than most other cards. Graveyard decks are at an all-time high in Modern, and Scourge of Nel Toth incentivizes these decks to sacrifice a backup game plan, while also giving Dredge and BridgeVine ways to get underneath a Rest in Peace. While promoting interaction is a stance I take strongly, allowing the linear decks to have reasonable back up plans also encourages this. Plus, it’s a Zombie Dragon.
9 — Firebolt
With the rise of Mono Red Arclight Phoenix, Forked Bolt has seen a resurgence in playability. Firebolt gives decks like these, as well as Burn, the ability to interact with the opponent without losing much closing power. By creating removal spells that have utility in the late game or card advantage, decks will be better equipped to handle linear strategies.
8 — Riptide Laboratory
Riptide Laboratory gives players more incentive to run colorless lands. This type of deckbuilding decision makes for unique archetypes, as utilizing powerful colorless lands has a natural tension with multicolored mana costs. Riptide Laboratory could cause Snapcaster Mage control decks to be a bit too powerful, but with Control consistently underperforming until recent events, incentivizing interactive game plans is one of the hallmarks of most changes to Modern.
7 — Accumulated Knowledge
Accumulated Knowledge would find a perfect home in Modern, and fixes many issues that controlling strategies have in the format. Ordinarily, there is a contrast between card advantage and mana cost, and the current Modern card pool allows for a few exceptions. What Accumulated Knowledge does is allow Control decks to have access to powerful card advantage in the late game, without sacrificing early game consistency. By stapling this card advantage to an early game cycler, Accumulated Knowledge proves to be the tool that Control was missing, as well as other spell based decks like Arclight or Storm.
6 — Cataclysm
Cataclysm is likely the riskiest card on the list, as the debilitating effect it has on a game state leads to one-sided gameplay. However, Cataclysm acts as a crucial check on the format, giving creature decks access to another variant on Armaggeddon. We’ve seen effects like this see play in Modern already with Cataclysmic Gearhulk, but the crucial sacrificing of lands allows Cataclysm to be more crossover hate against big mana decks.
5 — Innocent Blood
Since the induction of Fatal Push, black decks have had access to cheap removal spells on par with Lightning Bolt. What is lacking, however, is a clean answer to Gurmag Angler and hard to remove threats like Ulamog or Slippery Bogle. Innocent Blood allows decks to pack extra one mana removal spells while broadening the effectiveness of removal against the format. All of these are positives for Modern, so Innocent Blood is a card I would be excited for.
4 — Living Wish
With much of the Wish cycle providing powerful tutor effects, Living Wish proves to be no exception. Without backbreaking lands to tutor up, Living Wish could open up interesting deckbuilding choices, and encourages players to be more conscious of sideboard decisions. Amulet Titan can find a slew of toolbox effects, but at a higher premium than it can often afford. Perhaps Devoted Druid combo decks can begin a resurgence by adding an additional tutor while providing access to silver bullet lands like Bojuka Bog. The possibilities are vast with Living Wish, and the risk small.
3 — Engineered Plague
Contributing to a diverse fair deck metagame of Legacy, Engineered Plague is the backbone of many sideboards. While three mana may be a bit slow against faster decks, it allows nearly any deck to have a sideboard plan against tribal decks. In Modern, this gives most decks the capability of attacking Humans from a different angle, while allowing for crossover applications against Affinity.
2 — Containment Priest
Containment Priest offers creature decks the ability to interact with Dredge and Arclight without having to run actual removal. Perhaps the greatest risk for Containment Priest entering the format is the strength of Humans. It can be awkward with Vial or Collected Company, and it improves traditionally poor matchups for such decks.
1 — Counterspell
Logic Knot is a staple in control decks, but restricts the ability to run Rest in Peace and can often have similar issues as Mana Leak, but in the early game. Requiring a preponderance of cards in graveyard diminishes the effectiveness of Snapcaster Mage and Search for Azcanta — two key control cards. Counterspell, while too powerful for Standard, has been shown to be a perfect fit for Modern, while allowing potentially more archetypes open up. Blue Moon benefits greatly from Counterspell, while tempo decks likely still want Remand.
Modern Horizons has the potential to radically change the format as we know it and gives WotC the potential to take a hands-on developmental approach to the popular format. I hope that the set can live up to this potential, and I’m excited to see whether any of these cards make it into the set. Thanks for checking out this list, and if you have any cards you want to see in Horizons, let us know in the comments section below.
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