On February 28 it was announced via the official Magic Twitch stream that Modern Horizons would be the so called “innovation product” for this year. It’s a standalone set designed to inject cards into Modern without going through Standard. It will feature both newly designed cards as well as reprints of cards not yet in Modern. They only spoiled two new cards on stream, so I wanted to have some fun and speculate about which cards they decided to include. While this list has 25 cards, it’s not a ranked list and the order is totally random. Also keep your eyes open for the second part of this article in a few days when I will round out my list with another 25 candidates for Modern Horizons.
The catch-all stack answer
It’s no secret that Modern Control players wanted a catch-all answer to the diverse field for quite some time. A split of Negate, Mana Leak and Logic Knot is just not the same as an all-round answer for anything. If Counterspell is included in this set, I would expect Blue-White-based Control to sit comfortable on top of the metagame once it settles down.
Fact or Fiction
Instant speed card advantage
Another tool for Control decks, but I’m not sure they need it with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as alternatives. Where I could see Fact or Fiction being played is in Bring to Light Scapeshift as an action card on the opponent’s end step just like they used Dig Through Time when that was legal. With the various “turn 4” decks out there, Fact or Fiction is totally fine for Modern.
The sideboard tech for creature decks
For Armageddon to be effective in the main deck, you need mana from other sources than lands, whether that’s creatures or artifacts. If Blue-White Control becomes a major player, I could see Armageddon being a good sideboard card for white creature decks like Bant Spirits.
The catch-all permanent answer
Just like I explained Counterspell as a catch-all answer for the stack, I love versatile permanent removal rather than the wrong narrow removal spell at the wrong time. The mana cost makes sure that you can’t run a full playset of Vindicate, but I’m sure any deck that can produce the needed mana would play one or two.
The original Mana Tithe
I realize that Mana Tithe is already legal in Modern and sees little to no play but if it’s blue, that makes a difference. Ideally you would run it in a deck that needs to buy just that one crucial turn before it turns the corner (more on that later). Suddenly, you can play the card in game one, sideboard it out for game two and leave your opponent guessing, similarly to how Daze works in Legacy. I like countering their turn one play, and I like countering Karn Liberated on turn three, but I don’t like topdecking Force Spike later in the game. If players can figure out a way to make use of mid and late game copies, it could become relevant.
Fire // Ice
A versatile tempo gain
I love playing with this card in Vintage Cube because of its versatility. The default mode that will be used the most is definitely the tap-draw. It can act as a pseudo Time Walk and keep your opponent off curve in the early turns or prevent damage from a big creature later on. Dealing with one creature for two mana using Fire is a fine bonus, and of course punishing multiple toughness 1 creatures is gravy.
A Vintage staple in Modern
As you might know, I play a ton of Vintage and Dack Fayden interacts favorably with how that format is constructed. Shops is a top tier deck and the majority of the Power 9 are artifacts. But I’m not sure if it will be as strong in Modern. While the +1 ability makes sure that your excess lands or bad cards for the specific matchup get cashed in, the -2 will not be relevant against several decks in the format. However, if decks featuring Mox Opal or Ensnaring Bridge are good, Dack’s stock goes up.
Will Mini-Progenitus come back?
The way the format has been evolving these past few years, True-Name Nemesis doesn’t sound like the most broken thing you can do. A lot of decks can either race it or ignore it and combo off. I’m sure it would see play, especially in decks that can accelerate it out with Noble Hierarch or get benefits from Merfolk lords.
A splashable sweeper
A three-mana sweeper that is easy to splash and keeps your big creatures like Tarmogoyf, Gurmag Angler, Death’s Shadow and Hollow One on the battlefield against linear creature decks might be too much. So I don’t like the chances of its inclusion all that much, even though some have hopes regarding its inclusion.
The anti-countermagic counterFlusterstorm would provide an upgrade to Spell Pierce in a few matchups and will bypass things like Mausoleum Wanderer and opposing counter magic. It might be too irrelevant, but at least the reprint will help more players gain access to the card. I could also see a card like Divert becoming more relevant in matchups where both players want to interact with the board and thus look to protect themselves against removal spells.
Painful card advantage machine
This is a big one, I know! However, with so many aggressive decks in Modern that attack your life total from the get-go, I think Sylvan Library would solely be a sideboard card against Control decks. And as we know from Legacy, it’s very potent at that. Aside from being a one- or two-off in green sideboards, I could see it in Titan Shift to make sure you have enough resources to make your land drops, deal with your opponent’s board and find a win condition at the same time.
Thomas Enevoldsen’s favorite
I simply can’t get enough of the Monarch mechanic and Palace Jailer in particular. In grindy slugfests, Palace Jailer will do a lot of work and is balanced by both its hefty mana cost and the risk of losing the crown. Any white Hatebears style deck would include this card in their 75, as we know from Thomas Enevoldsen’s Death and Taxes in Legacy.
Mother of Runes
A huge boost for Humans
Maybe I’m building an unbeatable Humans deck with Mother of Runes, Palace Jailer and Armageddon, but I don’t mind living in a world where an aggressive strategy is a great choice. There are still a lot of combo decks, and removal plus Snapcaster Mage has always been a good strategy against Mother of Runes. With Toxic Deluge potentially in the format, it can’t be that bad, right?
Death’s Shadows favorite removal
Grixis Death’s Shadow or Arclight Phoenix decks might run a copy or two of this card and gain a little efficiency without it being harmful to the format overall. A nice, small roleplayer from back in the day.
Make Elves great again
The little insect that could might be the missing piece for Modern Elves to become viable. It combos with mana elves for more explosiveness or with Elvish Visionary for more durability while it is also relatively agile for combat steps to buy time by blocking with and returning an elf.
Make our Goblins great again (MOGGa)
Sticking to the tribal-theme, Goblin Lackey might help create a somewhat playable Goblins deck in Modern. My gut feeling is that it would require Goblin Ringleader and possibly also Goblin Matron, but maybe that’s asking too much. I would be shocked but excited if all three are spoiled in the coming months.
A 4-drop “Pod” inclusion?
Times are changing, because FTK will not be the powerhouse it was when it roamed the Standard streets of Planeshift. If Prime Speaker Vannifar “Pod” ever becomes a serious thing, I’m sure we would see a copy of Flametongue Kavu in the 4-drop slot.
Another take on Engineered Explosives
The Deed’s favorable interaction against artifact lands used to be relevant in Extended back in the day, but that will not be the case in Modern. As long as you only deal with nonland permanents, I think this will be an interesting tool for the format. Engineered Explosives will still be more efficient against a horde of zero and one drops, but P. Deeddy has the upside of cleaning both for four mana. Furthermore, you get to keep your Tasigur or Gurmag Angler and clear away everything else with Pernicious Deed, which would motivate clever deckbuilding.
Put Dredge and Phoenix over the top
I might be pushing the envelope here, as Careful Study would make Dredge change their mana base and be way more consistent as a result, and I’m sure Izzet Phoenix would incorporate Bedlam Reveler to make up for the lost card advantage. I’m 95% sure that this would be too powerful of an enabler for Modern, but I thought I would include it anyway for sake of discussion.
Sower of Temptation don’t cut itSower of Temptation used to see a little play back when Abzan Midrange’s removal suite featured 4 Abrupt Decay, and Siege Rhino was all the rage. These days, the 2/2 body is a liability rather than a bonus, so I would like to see this effect return to its enchantment form as Mind Control.
Slow grind with Life from the Loam
I even think these would be interesting for Standard, but I’m 100% confident that these would be safe for Modern despite Life from the Loam in the format. I see no reason why players shouldn’t be allowed to spin the wheels to create card advantage in a fast-paced format like the Modern of today. And I would love to see what Knight of the Reliquary aficionados would create with these in the pool.
The Death and Taxes dream
I’ll probably take some heat for this one, but I think it would be cool to see Karakas pull double duty in white-based decks like it’s the case in Legacy. There it answers big fatties and protects your small critters from removal. It can even create late game shenanigans in Blue-White Control with Vendilion Clique and Venser, Shaper Savant.
A role player from Commander
Another Legacy role player from a Commander product, that I would be excited to see available in Modern. All three modes are relevant in various scenarios depending on your own deck and the matchup which is a huge quality in a card for a diverse format like Modern. Whether you use this to sweep the board, destroy pesky artifacts, finishing off the opponent or even a combination of these, it has great utility at a reasonably steep cost.
Return of the classic?
If Force Spike and Standstill are released together, I imagine it would be a playable one-two punch for “Modern Landstill”. Standstill forces you to play cheap answers early to make sure you can build your own “Ancestral Recall for two” and will have to find reasonable tools to play from behind in the face of an explosive turn one or two from the opponent. The creature land selection for the deck will also be interesting to follow, but I assume that a combination of Celestial Colonnade and Mutavault would be preferred in Blue-White.
Everyone deserves Stony Silence
The colorless Stony Silence will allow any deck to improve massively post-sideboard against Mox Opal decks, but it might not be needed right now. Just like graveyard hate is available to any deck, I like the thought of “Stony Silence for everyone” as well. However, this is another part of the reserved list, so I’d appreciate a functionally similar print on a new design.
That’s my first 25 picks for possible reprints that would be interesting for Modern Horizons. I will happily discuss my picks and hear about the ones I missed in the comments! Maybe you’ll see some of the in the next article.