I have an exciting new Modern Horizons preview card in store for today. I was asked to preview this card for two powerful reasons. The first is that I, myself, am a human. The second is that I piloted a deck, also called Humans, or Humanitarian Tribal, as I prefer, to the Top 8 of the most recent Mythic Championship in London.
Two birds with one stone. Two, really terrifying human-like birds.
Budding Sherlocks amongst you all have likely pieced together that the card I have to preview today is, in fact, a Human creature. Too smart for me. I could never keep secrets from you.
Yes. Yes it is a Human creature, and one that has the potential to see play in both Modern Humans as well as other decks in Modern and even Legacy.
So, BBD, will this card actually see play in Modern Humans? Well, Ranger things have happened. Heyooeos.
This card bears frightening similarity to another Human creature card, also of the Eos variety. I'm talking, of course, about Ranger of Eos, which likewise found creatures of a singular converted mana cost or less. It found two, even. Two birds (humans?) with one card.
Ranger of Eos doesn't see play in Humans. What is different about this card? In some regards, Ranger-Captain of Eos is superior in that it's cheaper to play, has slightly improved stats, and has an activated ability that has a ton of relevance in a number of matchups. In a format as fast and unforgiving as Modern, I think the speed aspect of costing one less mana nearly alone makes up for the extra value Ranger of Eos provides, even excluding the extra point of toughness or the activated ability.
Ranger-Captain of Eos is a must-kill for a deck like Storm, that relies on sorcery-speed spells to finish its combo. With a Ranger-Captain of Eos in play, you can sacrifice it at an opportune moment, say after they have expended all their rituals, and force the Storm deck to have to wait a full turn cycle to try again, with a reduction in resources for their next go at it.
Ranger-Captain of Eos also has occasional sacrificial applications against a variety of other strategies. Against a control deck, you can sacrifice it on their upkeep if you have lethal in play, preventing them from casting any sweepers against you. My personal favorite would be to sacrifice it in response to a revealed Terminus trigger, preventing them from casting the miracle sweeper, or anything else for the turn. Even something as routine as sacrificing it in response to a Snapcaster Mage could be enough to win a game.
Don't get me started on the glory that would be sacrificing this on your opponent's upkeep as the last time counter comes off an Ancestral Vision. Someone call Jarvis, cause that's some valYu.
It's also conceivable to lock an opponent out for a number of turns by chaining Phantasmal Image with Ranger-Captain of Eos to repeatedly Silence them while also building a board by finding more one-drops (likely Champion of the Parish) to grow and mow the opponent down.
In reality, I think this ability is useful, and can situationally be excellent against nearly any deck. I can see it coming into fruition against Tron, Jund, Affinity, Burn, Death's Shadow and so on and so forth...thus shall it be written, thus shall it be known. There are going to be situations that arise from time to time against nearly any deck where you have lethal in play and just need to fade one draw step from your opponent or one turn of interaction, and this takes the guesswork out of that.
With that being said, I think having a 3/3 in play is generally worth more than marginal possible sacrifice value in the vast majority of gameplay scenarios that will occur with this card. While there will be useful situations that arise from sacrificing this card, and while the threat of it can also influence your opponent's play in beneficial ways, more often than not this will be better served as a 3/3 that attacks and blocks than denying your opponent some small value. As the game goes on, that value goes up, but in most games it will just be a 3/3 that found a 1 CMC creature. Or less. A relevant line of text considering that Walking Ballista is a juicy zero that can be found.
Let's take a look at some Humans decks.
One of these is the list that I played at the last Mythic Championship, and the other is the list by Eli Loveman, who won the event. You'll notice that both of these lists only have eight total one-drops, all in the maindeck, consisting of four Noble Hierarch and four Champion of the Parish.
That is standard for Humans (or is it Modern? Badum Tish!) and there are precious few Humans lists that deviate from this.
The question then becomes: is this better than Militia Bugler? Ranger-Captain of Eos serves the same general role as Ferris Bugler. It's a grindy card-advantage three-drop without much punch in the combat step, and small added utility. Sure, Ranger-Captain hits for an extra point of damage, but Bugler's vigilance is often surprisingly relevant.
These cards basically compete for the same slot. As it stands now, with only Noble Hierarch and Champion of the Parish to search up with the Ranger-Captain, I would guess Bugler is likely better—but ultimately, I can't say for sure. The jury is still out on how impactful the activated ability will be and if that pushes it over the top.
Noble Hierarch's value decreases significantly as the game progresses. It's an essential piece to improve the speed of the deck, similar to Aether Vial in that role, and it has some relevance later on with exalted and simply being a human to pump Thalia's Lieutenant and Champion of the Parish, but it's far from what you want to draw in the later turns of the game, outside of specific Ensnaring Bridge scenarios.
That leaves Champion of the Parish as far as late-game relevant one-drops to find with Ranger-Captain of Eos. Champion of the Parish also has significantly diminished value as the game progresses. I wouldn't say it has no value—a Champion found with Ranger-Captain of Eos on turn three or four will likely match or eclipse the Ranger itself in terms of size within a turn or two, but that takes a while to get online and is only truly useful in games that go long. Militia Bugler finding a hate piece to further twist the clamps on an opponent is typically way more useful than grabbing a mid-game Champion of the Parish.
This isn't to say that Ranger-Captain of Eos is necessarily worse than Militia Bugler or will always be worse than it. For example, in a Storm-dominated metagame, I'd much rather have Ranger-Captain of Eos that can search up a sideboard card like Burrenton Forge-Tender to protect my hate-bear creatures. Ranger-Captain then also serves as a hate-bear itself, or rather hate-centaur, as it were. Hate-armodon? No? Just trying it out.
Burrenton Forge-Tender is fairly low-value in Modern right now, but if cards like this are what will be essential to make Ranger-Captain of Eos viable, then I suspect there will be a time where this card will be good, and with Phantasmal Image in the mix, potentially very good. Is it time to dust off Thraben Inspector yet?
While I think that Ranger-Captain of Eos is only a possibility for Humans in Modern, I also think it will definitely see play in other decks. While these decks are certainly fringe, one thing I've learned about Modern is that every fringe deck has its vehement supporters and lovers and some of Modern's top decks once started as fringe archetypes themselves, like Amulet, Lantern, KCI, and even Death's Shadow Zoo.
For example, this Mono-White Legends deck could easily benefit from searching up one of its legendary creatures.
Another mono-white deck, Mono-White Hatebears, could find value in searching up Thraben Inspector, Weathered Wayfarer or other juicy one-drop critters.
Since we're on a Mono-White kick, I think the real kicker lies in a fan favorite Modern deck that never quite seems to make it, but always seems to hang on in Modern, often fueled by nothing more than the love and dedication of its player base. Tom Ross has played this deck on more than one occasion, and even Reid Duke piloted it in the last Modern Super League.
I'm talking, of course, about Soul Sisters. With Ranger of Eos and now Ranger-Captain of Eos, there now exists multiple ways to search up one-drop creatures, and Soul Sisters plays a plethora of viable one-drops to find, including, but not limited to: Soul's Attendant, Soul Warden, Serra Ascendant and Martyr of Sands.
Some lists—my personal favorites—splash into red for Norin the Wary and Purphoros, God of the Forge to create a devastating combo. Ranger-Captain of Eos seems a perfect fit for that deck, as you don't need more than one copy of Norin the Wary, making Ranger of Eos's second creature occasionally redundant, and those decks can get glutted at the four-mana slot, desiring both Ranger of Eos and Purphoros, God of the Forge. Costing one less mana and curving Purphectly into the four-drop God could signal a rebirth for this fringe deck.
Here's a version of the deck all the way back from 2016, but there aren't a lot of competitive results for it. Not yet, at least. Ok, let's be honest, probably not ever, but a man can dream.
One interesting application for some of these Modern Horizon cards is that they could see play in Legacy. This is one of those cards. Humans has been a somewhat successful Legacy deck and Ranger-Captain of Eos is a Human that searches up Mother of Runes, one of the defining cards of any W/x creature archetype. If Mother of Runes ever comes to Modern, you can bet your backside that this creature and Ranger of Eos will both surge in popularity to find it.
With Storm being one of the best decks in the format, the activated ability on this card is also at a premium. This is a three-drop you can tap out for, confident you won't die on the next turn, while getting some added value in the mix.
Legacy also boasts Recruiter of the Guard and Imperial Recruiter, which kind of Douse some of the hype on this card, since those creatures can basically find everything in the deck. With that said, Ranger-Captain of Eos comes with a bigger body and a relevant ability against a variety of decks in the format, including miracle strategies relying on Terminus to take care of decks like this. I wouldn't be surprised to see a copy or two find its way into this deck eventually. A deck like Death and Taxes could also play this creature, especially as some lists now play Walking Ballista as a tutor target.
One of the common complaints that comes with every new set is talk about Humans as a tribe getting more and more playable options for it, whilst longsuffering tribes, like Brushwaggs, continue to get nothing. One of the things about storytelling is that, since we are humans ourselves, we are drawn to stories that feature human emotion, or even just things we can relate to. We relate more to humans or humanoid creatures because they represent us and we can see ourselves in their stories. It's easier to relate to the humans on Innistrad trying to not turn into weird tentacle beasts than it is to relate to a being like Emrakul with unknown or foreign designs turning everyone into tentacle beasts.
Maybe if we were tentacle beasts ourselves, we would see things differently. The point I'm getting at is that, at its core, Magic is about storytelling. We like the stories of epic gameplay, and we like the stories of our favorite cards doing what we put them in our deck to do. Frequently, these cards end up being humans. Or in my case, sometimes they are a collection of five dead humans, but who's counting? Me. I'm counting. Every day. Never forget.
Magic is going to keep printing humans at the core of their stories, and thus every set that comes around carries the potential that it brings new cards for the Humans deck in Modern. With each new set, and each epic Human fighting the forces of darkness the question raises up: "Will this one see play?"
Most of the time the answer is no. With Ranger-Captain of Eos, I'm not so sure. It's got stiff competition at the three-drop slot, but this Alaran didn't rise up the ranks to Ranger-Captain by being a slouch. No, he didn't get there for no reason. Nepotism played a huge role, or so I heard through the grapevine.
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