Top 8 Modern Cards in Modern Horizons
8. Not Counterspell
Counterspell is fair for Modern, they said. It was considered for Dominaria, they said; they just didn’t want to put it through Standard first. What was supposed to be a shoo-in for Modern Horizons instead got turned into two other non-Counterspell counterspells, as though that’s supposed to make up for the lack of one Counterspell that is Counterspell. First, we have a pathetic, little-kid version of Force of Will that you can only use on your opponent’s turn and can only counter noncreature spells. Maybe next we’ll get a Tarmogoyf that can’t block and only counts card types in your opponent’s graveyard. Second, we have a weird instant-speed Divination stapled onto Cancel that can steal a Noble Hierarch for a casting cost that you’ll never reliably be able to pay. To cast a UUU spell on Turn 3, you basically can’t play any lands that don’t produce U.
In case you’re particularly unperceptive, I am a tad disappointed by the lack of Counterspell in this set. Nonetheless, people are always irrationally excited by Blue cards, and these spells are both exceedingly mediocre for Modern. In the early days of MH1’s release, there will be many players with Force of Negation rotting in their hand and wishing that Archmage’s Charm was Cryptic Command. As time passes, UW players will relegate these cards to the proper number, which, depending on the metagame, is 0-2 in the case of Force of Negation and 4 of Archmage’s Charm in Tier 7 Monoblue Control. I, on the other hand, will Opt to continue casting good cards in my UW Control deck, all the while hating these cards’ very essence for the fact that they don’t cost UU and read, “Counter target spell.”
(Real talk: Both these cards are fine, but overhyped and rather unexciting. Modern is not broken enough on a noncreature-based axis to merit Force of Negation seeing much play, and Charm is awkward to cast and clunky. They’ll likely both see limited play.)
As Faithless Looting enjoys reminding us over and over again, putting cards into the graveyard is really easy. With the printing of Dig Through Time: The Planeswalker Narset, Parter of Veils, people have goofed around with the combo of Day’s Undoing + Narset alongside pitch cards like Commandeer. Echo of Eons strengthens the pitch axis of the deck, as you actively want to dump Echo into the graveyard. Once it’s there, it’s Timetwister, arguably the worst of the Power 9, but still one of the Power 9. This archetype, which has mostly been tested as Monoblue, certainly merits further exploation with the addition of Echo, and that’s just the beginning. Modern players have access to a wide range of tools to attempt to break the symmetry of Timetwister, which is honestly not all that hard to do, especially with Narset in your deck.
6. Wrenn and Six
After Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded broke Standard in half, burned its corpse, and devoured its children, Wizards swore they would never again print a two-mana planeswalker. Thankfully, Wrenn and Six jump directly into Modern, so Standard won’t need to suffer their mighty wrath.
Designing a two-mana planeswalker is a really hard thing to do, and with zero playtesting, I nevertheless will assert that Wrenn and Six seems to hit the sweet spot. Niche in archetype, two colors, and only weakly protecting itself, this planeswalker seems to be playable in Modern, but narrowly. There may be a deck that is really happy to have this card, but I’m not sure it exists yet. If it does, it might be Loamy.
But before that happens, I need answers. Who is Wrenn, and why is their mech-suit a tree? Is Six the mech-tree-suit? Why is their name “Six?” Are they both planeswalkers, or just Wrenn, who is listed as the subtype? Will we see Wrenn hanging out with other numbers in the future, such as Seven? And if so, how will Six handle that, particularly given Six’s eternal fear of Seven after Seven devoured Nine? Not a whole lot makes sense here, and the Vorthos in me is screaming for an explanation that does not involve numbers personified as robot-trees.
5. Snow Cards
When it snows, it pours. The cards in this set that care about the Snow mechanic are all pushed and playable. The real question is whether any deck in Modern can be constructed to actually play the requisite number of Snow permanents (lands in particular) to reliably turn on the Snow payoffs. The tension between wanting to play one color to maximize Snow basic lands and not get colored screwed and the fact that the Snow cards are spread through all the colors is not fully mitigated by the presence of Arcum’s Astrolabe, though it will likely be a requirement in the deck. It’s even possible that we could see the rise of multiple, one- or two-colored Snow decks, though I really think that you need to be in multiple colors to get the most out of the payoffs.
4. Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Altar of Dementia
Once upon a time, there was a Modern deck that was destroying tournaments left and right, seemed to be too powerful for the hate against it, elicited widespread calls for bannings, and then simply vanished. No, not KCI. No, not Phoenix, Humans, or Grixis Death’s Shadow either. I’m talking about Bridgevine, the deck that started the Surgical craze that Phoenix helped to extend into the present day. Hogaak and Altar of Dementia, alongside two Bridge from Below, is a win. A player can repeatedly sacrifice Hogaak to Altar of Dementia, mill themselves, and then recast Hogaak off the two Zombies from Bridge. Once they have enough graveyard fodder and some Vengevines or Bloodghasts to make casting Hogaak easier, you can easily mill your opponent.
I love the design of Hogaak, and Modern Horizons is uniquely suited to blend mechanics like Convoke and Delve to create a unique card with a strange play pattern. But Modern also has the ability to play this as a combo piece. If Hogaak/Altar proves viable, we could see the emergence of a Bridgevine deck that is a combo deck first and a Vengevine deck second.
As someone who excels at reading, I have picked up on the fact that Unearth allows me to pay one mana for a card that should cost three mana. This seems like a good thing to do in a game of Magic. Whether you’re doing it for value or to make your Vizier of Remedies/Devoted Druid combo more consistent, it seems pretty hard to go wrong with Unearth. Also, it has Cycling. Any card with Cycling stapled onto it becomes immediately better, and this one is no exception. Thanks for choosing me to provide you with these blisteringly hot takes generated by me reading what the card does.
2. Canopy Lands
First, shout-out to Seb McKinnon for continuing to crush it in the art department, particularly on White/Black cards. As so many others have said, “Every time I look at a card and say, ‘Wow! That art is dope!’ I then look at the bottom and it’s Seb McKinnon.” Keep doing what you’re doing, guy.
The Canopy lands, so-named thanks to their Green-White counterpart printed in Future Sight, Horizon Canopy, are powerful assets to any aggro deck in those colors. Everyone loves trading lands for possibly not-lands in the late-game, as we saw this past Standard format with its plethora of Cycle Lands. Whereas the Cycle Lands were better in midrange or control decks because they came in tapped and cycled late, the Canopy Lands favor aggro decks, since they come in untapped, cause you pain, and cycle late. UW Control, for example, would never play a UW Horizon Canopy, as it cannot afford to take so much pain. Burn, on the other hand, is thrilled to play Sunbaked Canyon, and I fully expect the card to be a four-of in the archetype, adding very real percentage points to its currently abysmal win rate that its pilots continue to live in denial of. Infect might be interested in Waterlogged Grove, though it might be a bit slow now that it’s regularly killing you on Turn 0 by showing you its hand with Scale Up and asking you to concede. UR Wizards, the eternally “almost-good” deck, might pick up Fiery Islet. Bant Spirits is thrilled to take Waterlogged Grove, which will now allow it to cast both Noble Hierarch and Mausoleum Wanderer on Turn 1. I’m not sure what decks want the Abzan lands; Death’s Shadow Zoo might come to mind, but they’re likely tight enough on colors already that they can’t afford to integrate Canopy lands into their fetch/shock manabase.
1. KCI, the Lord High Glorious Return
I hope they tested this card a lot. I hope they then cloned Matt Nass and asked their Matt Nass clone to also test this card a lot. Stapling a repeatable Tolarian Academy onto a creature is a bold, bold choice for a format that has had lots of problems with Artifact-based combo decks. Urza really only costs three mana, as it creates an artifact that can immediately tap for U when it comes down, and it’s easy to see how it can be broken. Every zero-mana artifact (Mox Opal) nets you at least one mana, every one-mana artifact (Chromatic Star, Chromatic Sphere, Pyrite Spellbomb) is free, and every two mana artifact (Mind Stone, Ichor Wellspring) costs only one. Hey, look, we just built KCI! Urza goes infinite with Thopter-Sword combo, pretty much draws your deck with Paradoxical Outcome, and generates infinite mana with Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal. The scary thing is that I came up with all that without being Matt Nass!
Urza is a card that does broken things and lends itself to artifact-based combo. I don’t know which of the numerous combos will be the best one, and I don’t know what the shell looks like, but Urza promises to bring joy to KCI/Eggs players everywhere as they can once more do nothing for long periods of time before writing a five-paragraph essay explaining how they’re going to go about killing their opponent, then begging their opponent to concede so they don’t have to actually do it.
Those are my picks for the cards most likely to see Modern play out of EDH Masters Modern Horizons! What are yours?
Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic.
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