Modern Horizons Commander Review

Nathan McCarthy
June 12, 2019
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People love hyperbole. A lot of the online hive mind has called Modern Horizons ‘Commander Masters’ to highlight just how sweet this set is for Commander. I feel that title is a tad overblown, and downplays a lot of the impact this set will have on Modern, but I cannot deny that this set has a huge amount of new staples for Commander. Because of this, I’m not just going to highlight the new legends, but also the cards I think will meaningfully change how the 99’s will be constructed.

Unbound Flourishing

This card is a big deal. It is effectively a 3-mana mana doubler if you jump through some minor hoops. X spells are already super powerful in Commander and this turns them into overdrive. If you’re a fan of Green decks, It is likely correct to pick up a copy of this and slant your deck to have a few more Animist’s Awakenings and Comet Storms. Be ready with enchantment removal as well, because stacking this, Mirari’s Wake, Zendikar Resurgent , etc gets better and better the more redundancy these doubling effects have.


Echo of Eons

Wow. Just wow, I have a hard time believing this card was printed. There are so many decks playing Wheel of Fortune effects and I can speak from experience that casting one from your graveyard is unbelievable value. I’ve played Runehorn Hellkite in plenty of my Red decks and been constantly impressed. This costs ½ has much from the graveyard and also has a front half that actually matters! If your deck has a significant amount of mana ramp, you’re going to want this card in a lot of circumstances.


Force of Negation / Force of Vigor

   

These forces deserve to be grouped as the only two playable ones. When you’re potentially trading 2 of your cards for something, you really want that to be worth at least two of your opponent’s cards. Both of these forces are definitely worth two cards in used correctly. Force of Negation being able to save your life in a tough spot or even just counter a big Sphinx’s Revelation is a big deal when tapped out, and having a more affordable version of Force of Will is never something I’ll complain about. Force of Vigor is much more obvious and great for either four or zero mana.


Astral Drift

Another Astral Slide is incredibly cool. Cycling decks have existed for a long time in Commander, but frequently relied on Zur, the Enchanter or other powerful tutor effects to actually get one of their few engines into play. At this point, I think that just having all the card filtering that Cycling provides naturally can allow you to play a synergy-focused Cycling deck without cluttering it with tutors and a heavily targeted Commander.


Archmage’s Charm

Cryptic Command is one of the most played cards in Commander solely because of its versatility. Archmage’s Charm is similarly versatile and I think will also see play in one and two color Blue decks almost universally. This card taking a Sol Ring or countering a game-winning spell or just drawing two cards is a big deal. All of these modes are so relevant so often.


Cordial Vampire

Goes in the Vampire decks. Simple as that. Auto-include but narrow.


Goblin Engineer

I’m so into this fixed Goblin Welder. It can actually create a bit of a toolbox package, where you have different hateful artifacts to tutor into your graveyard for any given situation. Or it can just work well in conjunction with Daretti to re-loop your Wellsprings.

Ayula’s Influence

This might be my choice for coolest card in the set. A lot of people are sleeping on just how absurd this effect is at instant speed. There are so many powerful ways to interact with lands moving from graveyard to hand to battlefield to graveyard and this is just another powerful super-potent option. However, this one can actually win the game, which is terrific.


Collector Ouphe

In contrast, this is my least favorite card in the set. Green being the best color at ramping in Commander has been an issue forever. The fact that Stony Silence is White has been a big boon on the format because I feel it would be an auto-include in many Green decks to shut down the busted fast mana options this format has without hurting your own ramp. However, this has the unfortunate splash damage of hating out Signets, Coalition Relics, and other very fair artifact ramp sources that non-Green decks have to rely so heavily on. Putting this on a Creature is already dangerous and the fact that it’s Green is just offensive. I will be tilted off the face of the planet by my opponents casting this card more than once, I am sure.


Winds of Abandon

I have been a big proponent of Mizzium Mortars and Cut // Ribbons for a long time. I love having spot removal that actually does things when the board gets out of control or you need to win the game. Winds of Abandon is another effect like these, where if you need to exile someone’s Commander that they played turn 2, you can do it, or if you’re way far behind and need to Plague Wind, this fills that role as well.

Tectonic Reformation

First of all, this card is card disadvantage. Secondly, that doesn’t matter at all. This effect is desired in most decks and allows you to run more lands than you otherwise would. If you have graveyard synergies, that’s just gravy. I am a big proponent of running a lot of lands and a lot of card draw in Commander because missing land drops is the quickest way to have a non-game. This card takes away the drawback of my preferred deckbuilding style and makes me want to pick up a Trade Routes as well and play a really high land count deck to see if it runs well.


Mirrodin Besieged

This is not a particularly fun card. I think it’s extremely cool to exist in Modern, but honestly taking out one player out of the blue in Commander is sort of miserable. Because it also can just be a Sai, Master Thopterist, it is really silly to not just play this in your artifact decks. Its front half is just a good card you want to play and its back half is a sort of miserable effect to play against.


The Ninjas, Changelings, and Slivers

   

Tribal cards. Pumping all these new playable cards into all these tribes is so powerful. I am so happy that Changelings specifically are receiving more support, as there are a good number of fringe tribes with powerful Commanders but just too few cards to fill out the 99’s.


Generous Gift

It’s a White Beast Within. Simple as that. Beast Within is a format staple because of its insane versatility and Oblation is not because a 3/3 really doesn’t matter but a Divination really does. Put this in your white decks and get foils because I bet they’re hilarious.

Wrenn and Six

This is sweeeeeet. Wrenn and Six is an insanely powerful effect for two mana. I almost cannot believe it was printed. This duo requires absolutely zero synergy as long as you play a density of fetch-lands in your manabase. Play them if you’re in their colors and < 4 colors. Simple as that. Howling Mine is a fine card and this pair is wayyyyy better if you have basically any board presence at all to protect them.

Hall of Heliod’s Generosity

Buy this card. Simple as that, you want it. I know it’s going to feel a little dumb because you don’t have any decks that abuse it and you don’t think it’s even that good. You’re wrong. You will at one point want to build a deck with enchantments in it and you will regret not buying this card when it’s at its cheapest. Suck it up and buy your Academy Ruins… I meant to say Hall of Heliod’s Generosity… Oh well.


Prismatic Vista

Great card. I frequently limit my deckbuilding by assuming that saying a basic land type in your text counts as your color identity. I do this because I personally don’t feel it’s flavorful to run a Polluted Delta in your Orzhov deck and I think running fewer staple lands makes for more interesting mana bases. That being said, I am far from upset that all my mono- and two-colored decks get access to another fetchland. I love good mana and I love playing Magic. Card is great and I personally preordered 5 copies already.

Cave of Temptation

This is a very cool take on Shimmering Grotto. It’s a low cost to put this into two-colored decks, but honestly can be quite punishing in the more typical decks you’d think of like Atraxa. When you’re playing >2 colors, having a land as clunky as this is frequently too bad to justify and buffing two-color strategies with powerful utility lands is something I am a huge fan of.


The Commanders

This is the part that I’m more used to doing: analyzing legends. I have pretty mixed feelings about the legends in this set. I love the set overall for what it’s going to do to Commander, but honestly I’m pretty disappointed in the Legendary Creatures we received this time around. Let me go through them for you.


Yikes. Urza easily joins the ranks of kill-on-sight Commanders. It really is a shame, too, because just like Prime Speaker Vannifar before him, he has so much potential as a cool build-around! I love so much about him: the blink shenanigans, the mana sink/card advantage, the built-in ramp! But that’s honestly the problem: he’s too good. If he had two of his three abilities, he’d already be one of the best Mono-Blue Commander options. But as it stands, I think he will be relegated to CEDH tables for the time being.


This is much more up my alley. What Yawgmoth does is extraordinarily powerful and versatile but also stupendously fair. He demands specific deckbuilding requirements but also has big payoffs for synergies. He synergizes super well with Blood Artist, value creatures, and most exciting of all: -1/-1 counter synergies! I will definitely be putting him in my Teysa Karlov deck ASAP. However, I do feel he lacks a certain uniqueness as a Commander. While I do think he is the de facto best option for Mono-Black aristocrats from this point forward, he is also sort of boring. He just does what he’s supposed to and requires out-of-color cards to do the really interesting stuff, in my opinion.

  

These cards are narrow but good. Pashalik will be an auto-include in all Goblin decks but I really cannot see a use outside of them. Additionally, Pashalik really has no place at the helm when options like Krenko and Ib Halfheart exist. Similarly, Ayula is a super focused tribal card for a strangely supported tribe. She offers a huge, potent payoff for playing Bears, but honestly I’m pretty disappointed she’s in Mono-Green. While there technically the most Bears in Green, the best Bear cards and best ways to support a weaker tribe like this are accessed by going into more colors, specificially Temur. Ayula did a lot right, but I can still find room to complain.

I hate this card very much. This is, in my opinion, one of the laziest designs I’ve ever seen. She feels so hamstrung into five colors, and I know it fits her flavor, but unlike the other TWO five-color Commanders in this set, it really feels like this is pandering too much to a certain sub-set of Commander players. Additionally, she is a great Commander in CEDH because she is five colors and has an activated ability that wins the game with infinite mana. This card is boring and powerful, a terrible combination.

Now, to contrast Sisay, I feel this is a terrific five-color design. Slivers is already a tribe that has a storied history of badass 7/7’s for WUBRG, and adding more to that category just feels right. Additionally, Cascade as a five-color mechanic feels very right and this is the only way I can imagine fitting this cool mechanic onto a sliver. Whether as the Commander or in the 99, this card is guaranteed to be a blast.

Hogaak is for sure my favorite new Commander. They use two cool cost-reducing mechanics and a very interesting drawback. Additionally, even though it doesn’t look like it, the ability to cast Hogaak from your graveyard really is a potent form of ramp/card advantage, which we love to see on a Commander. An 8/8 Trample really is a threat your opponents will want to answer over and over again, which will just get you more value as you eat up their removal with your Commander that keeps coming back and never gets prohibitively expensive. Very cool, very unique, and a compelling reason to play a Green/Black Commander that isn’t just Meren of Clan Nel Toth!


We’re finishing off today with another creature that just puts Sisay, Weatherlight Captain to shame. Morophon is also admittedly pandering, but they also are filling a huge hole that existed. While there really wasn’t a hole for five-color goodstuff or legends-matters themes, adding a Commander to the mix that is generic tribal is huge. Karona, False God did her job for a long time, but honestly she has become way too weak as Commander has gotten more powerful. You cannot really justify giving your opponents such a powerful effect anymore, as they’re likely to just kill you with her! This left your Commander sitting in your Command Zone for the whole game if you wanted to play an unsupported tribe but still wanted a Commander that technically synergized with it. Morophon, however is exactly what we wanted for this slot. They’re extremely flavorful as a giant Changeling that buffs whatever it chooses to mimic, and has generic effects that are good but not overpowered. Obviously, you can do Fist of Suns shenanigans with Morophon, but if you sit down with a seven mana Commander, you’re generally allowed to durdle around for a while setting up your engines and are unlikely to be immediately targeted. While Modern Horizons has not impressed me with its selection of Legends, Morophon is a great one to end with.


Conclusion

This set looks like a ton of fun for every format. It offers meaningful upgrades and cool new designs all around. This article simply went over a few of my favorites, but if there are cards you think I missed that will really shake up Commander, let me know! Follow me @suddenoats on Twitter and keep up with my general exploits.


The last few sets have just been an absolute blast to build around and I’m just looking forward to what WotC has in store for us next!

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