Modern Horizons is one of the most anticipated sets in recent memory. A lot of this is due to the fact there has never been a set quite like this one. Introducing a set that directly aims to impact Modern and other older formats is a new concept. When we are reviewing the cards, they naturally have a slightly higher power level than a set aimed for Standard use. To compound all of this, the London mulligan is also going to be officially introduced very soon.
What does all this mean? Modern is about to change. The London mulligan will help out decks that like to mulligan aggressively and can win off fewer cards. At the moment, decks like Humans and U/R Phoenix have been dominating, but I'm not sure that will stay the case. I'm going to talk about some of the cards from Modern Horizons that I expect to help change the format.
This card has a ton of potential. Only one other two-mana planeswalker has ever been printed because they're so potentially dangerous. There are definitely ways to utilize the uptick on Wrenn and Six, whether it be fetchlands, Field of Ruin, cycle lands and the list goes on. Being able to immediately get your fetchland back and then have a planeswalker sitting in play is great, and that is what this will do most of the time. It's kind of like a Crucible of Worlds effect on a planeswalker. Of course, the other abilities on Wrenn and Six will come up, but the one that stands out to me the most is the ability to bring lands back to your hand.
This card is clearly very good in the right deck. However, the reason why I think it is okay to print is that it's not really clear where this will fit. Dredge already has access to Life from the Loam. Midrange decks that are Gruul colors aren't seeing a ton of play right now, outside of a deck like Jund. I'm guessing this card is too strong to not find a home.
Wrenn and Six actually works quite well with the lands in Modern Horizons. The new rare land cycle that can sacrifice to draw a card are all very playable. We know how much play Horizon Canopy has received over the years—it's the perfect power level for Modern. I could see a deck like Storm wanting to make use of Fiery Isle and Sunbaked Canyon could be great for Burn. Two-color decks should be able to utilize these lands nicely. The less aggressive the format is, the more it becomes okay to play lands that lose you life.
The other notable cycle of lands actually comes with cycling! I'm pretty excited to see Barren Moor and the rest of the cycle lands that originally saw play back in Onslaught coming back. The deck that immediately comes to mind as a home for these lands is Dredge. Being able to play Life from the Loam alongside cycle lands is pretty disgusting. We also may see other Life from the Loam and Wrenn and Six decks that are built to abuse these cycle lands. It's possible to also build a cycling-themed deck that makes use of something like Astral Drift—I'm just not sure that will be powerful enough.
There are a couple other lands that are not cycles but are definitely worth mentioning as well. In some ways Prismatic Vista is your ultimate fetchland. It can get any color, with the downside that you have to search for a basic land. This is definitely a downside in a format like Modern, where manabases tend to be primarily nonbasics. Still, it's a very cool card that will find a home somewhere.
The other land I want to touch on is Hall of Heliod's Generosity. This card looks like it will fit perfectly into a prison sort of deck. I'm talking about playing this alongside cards like Runed Halo, Ghostly Prison and friends. Often this is an Enduring Ideal or white devotion-themed deck. While this strategy isn't a huge percentage of the metagame, Hall of Heliod's Generosity is essentially your Academy Ruins for enchantments.
This is a card that I have heard very mixed reviews on. First of all, zero-mana countermagic is extremely dangerous; we have never seen a card like this legal in Modern. Yes, there are cards like Commandeer and Disrupting Shoal, but this one is really on a different level. There have been direct comparisons to Force of Will, which is of course a Legacy and Vintage staple. It has a few key differences compared to Force of Negation though, since it can only counter a noncreature spell, and the alternate cost can only be paid on the opponent's turn.
Here's what this means. Force of Negation is not going to be a good card in combo decks or unfair decks as they are almost always trying to win on their own turn. Force of Negation will be good in midrange and control decks that need to disrupt the super explosive decks of the format. The good news for Force of Negation is that with the London mulligan being permanently introduced, the unfair decks will improve.
Personally, I land on this being a sideboard card. It will usually be better than Negate, so maybe we'll see a copy or two in control decks, but overall I don't think it will warp the format in a major way. Wizards got this one right in my opinion, in terms of power level. In older formats like Legacy maybe it's good if you want a fifth or sixth Force of Will effect.
This card is super powerful. It can be played in a midrange deck for value—I believe it is better than something like Pia and Kiran Nalaar, for instance. Provide card selection is a big deal. While the three-drop slot is heavily contested, Jund might want to play this card. There will also be decks that actually want cards in the graveyard for one reason or another. I'm thinking of a deck like Hollow One, where Seasoned Pyromancer will let you put Bloodghast and Flamewake Phoenix in the graveyard. There are a ton of graveyard synergies in the format, and this puts three creatures on the battlefield potentially as well!
I'm happy to see a creature in Modern that has protection from Humans. As far as tribal creature decks are concerned Humans has established itself over the course of the past couple years as the best one. Running a card with protection from that specific tribe is a great idea, but there are some issues here. This is a four-mana creature, and it doesn't have flying, which means it can't block Kitesail Freebooter or Mantis Rider.
By turn four the Humans deck will likely have already amassed a pretty big board presence. The conclusion I'm drawing is this won't be played specifically for its utility against Humans. I suspect it will be a build-around card in Aristocrats decks. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician's ability to start sacrificing creatures in order to draw cards and shrink creatures is very powerful. This leads us to the question of how playable an Aristocrats-style deck is.
Being one mana less than Ranger of Eos is a big deal, and you are also adding a point of toughness to go alongside a relevant ability to sacrifice itself. Overall Ranger-Captain of Eos is the stronger card. I can see wanting to run this as a four-of for value. However, the fact that Ranger of Eos only costs a single white makes it more splashable. We have seen Ranger of Eos as a singleton to be searched out with Traverse the Ulvenwald in Four-Color Death's Shadow, and that's not going to be a home for Ranger-Captain of Eos.
The artifact hate continues. If you have been a lover of Affinity over the past few years, I'm sorry. Collector Ouphe gives green a very powerful anti-artifact card, and the fact that it's a creature can be viewed as good or bad. The nice thing is you can attack with Collector Ouphe, and search it out of your deck with cards like Chord of Calling or Fauna Shaman. This is going to it an ideal one-of, though it can also be found off Collected Company. The downside to Collector Ouphe being a creature is of course that it dies to more removal spells than Stony Silence does.
It has been a while since Snow lands have been printed, and many players may be forgetting exactly what type of impact they can have. This may be the time to pick up your Scrying Sheets, as this is one of the ultimate payoffs from original Coldsnap. We have seen Red decks playing Skred be successful, but the question now becomes how much further Snow can go. There are now more payoff cards entering the format, like Dead of Winter. This is potentially an extremely powerful three-mana sweeper.
There isn't actually much reason to be playing normal basic lands over the Snow-Covered ones. On Thin Ice is a card I had the pleasure of previewing on behalf of Wizards of the Coast, and that is another card that really pushes toward playing those Snow-Covered lands. The other benefit to playing Snow-Covered lands is that it may help disguise your deck from the opponent. I'm still not sure there are enough good Snow cards in the same color to make a dedicated deck though.
Slivers has actually always existed as a strategy in Modern, but now with a bunch of new ones to choose from I expect players to try to mix and match more of the Slivers. This is a fun and powerful tribe that every now and again gets an influx of new creatures to choose from. Many Sliver decks utilize Collected Company and Aether Vial, but you can also skip Collected Company and go for an Ancient Ziggurat manabase similar to Humans decks. The First Sliver is also a completely different direction you can take, I'm just not sure how competitive a deck built around that card will be.
Modern Horizons looks to be a very special set. There are a variety of cards that look strong enough to be played in Modern. Many of them aim to help archetypes that are not currently tier 1. Wizards didn't want to give a deck like Tron or Humans a really powerful new tool, since those are already two of the top decks, for example. This is going to test out how much one set can actually change the Modern format in a significant way.
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