Winning Commanders - Modern Horizons
With the full spoiler of Modern Horizons released last Friday we are now entering into one of the most exciting times in the Magic the Gathering calendar: a new set’s release. Regardless of the format(s) you play, there is something for everyone to be excited about—except standard players, maybe next time guys. Modern, Pauper, Vintage, and Legacy players are busy brewing and enhancing their decks for what will hopefully be a format shakeup, limited players are looking for some fun draft experiences in a high powered set, and EDH players are considering new commanders and cards to upgrade their existing decks.
Today we’re going to look at this last point; with every new set there are some commanders that walk away with more new goodies than others. Sometimes these “winners” are cards or archetypes which were already powerful that get several cards that enhance their decks, like Scion of the Ur-Dragon after the release of Dragons of Tarkir. Other times, these winners are legends which were on the fringes of playability until they got cards which synergized with their abilities and gave them new playability, like King Macar the Gold-Cursed upon the introduction of vehicles in Kaladesh or Mishra, Artificer Prodigy with Dragon’s Maze’s release of Possibility Storm. Today’s article will highlight 5 existing commanders that are going to come away from Modern Horizons with new cards that will significantly enhance their decks.
Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow
Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow was released a little less than a year ago in Commander 2018. Yuirko’s commander ninjutsu ability excited EDH players when it was first revealed, and her atypical lord ability encourages you to play with ninjas in a way that is flavorful, synergistic, and fun. But when many brewers first started to build their own Yuriko decks they encountered a problem that many unique tribes face: a lack of viable creatures. Prior to Modern Horizons there were only 11 black bordered ninjas, 19 if you counted Mistform Ultimus and the other Blue/Black Changelings. While Yuriko could be a fun card to play, she didn’t have enough Ninjas to be consistent; she needed Ninjas or Changelings to meet her full potential; with both tribes hailing from planes that seem unlikely for a return set any time soon, many assumed it would be a while before she had the tools to be consistent and powerful.
But then Modern Horizons came along, with not just Changelings or Ninjas, but both! Some of the new changelings, like Venomous Changeling and Changeling Outcast, are difficult if not impossible to block, allowing them to serve double duty as either unblocked creatures to bounce for Ninjutsu or Ninjas in their own right to collect more Yuriko triggers.
Currently a creature only really needs the subtype Ninja to be worth considering for Yuriko, but most of the new Ninjas have terrific abilities that pair well with ninjutsu; Mist-Syndicate Naga and Moonblade Shinobi grow your board with every hit (the former giving you more ninjas to trigger Yuriko in later turns), Fallen Shinobi lets you steal straight from your opponent’s library, and Ingenious Infiltrator serves like a mini Yuriko, drawing you cards whenever any of your ninjas connect.
Even the ninjutsu-less ninjas Throat Seeker and Phantom Ninja work well on a ninja team, giving your unblocked ninjas lifelink or being unblockable ninjusu fodder respectively. All of that would have been plenty enough for Yuriko, but she also gets Smoke Shroud—an aura that can reattach to her ninjas from the graveyard—and Cunning Evasion, and enchantment which can bounce blocked Ninjas back to your hand in time for them to be ninjutsued onto a different unblocked creature. All in all, Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow clearly comes away with the greatest benefit from this set, getting almost as many members of her tribe as there were in addition to some great support spells.
Lord Windgrace and Lands Matter Decks
Another prevalent theme of this set is cards which care about and/or put lands in graveyards. While such effects are the Gitrog Monster’s turf, these cards have been focused in Green and Red for this set, which is unfortunately partially out of the great Gitrog’s colors (everyone’s favorite Frog Horror does get Nurturing Peatland, which is effectively a Divination for one life with Gitrog out). When you want to play Gitrog but don’t want to give up red cards Lord Windgrace is who you should turn to. Several cards synergize well with Wingrace’s loyalty abilities; Tectonic Reformation, Ayula’s Influence, Nantuko Cultivator, and Springbloom Druid all give you value for getting rid of lands, which Windgrace’s -3 ability can then immediately return to the battlefield. Alternatively, you could leave those lands in the graveyard to power up cards like Ruination Rioter.
Perhaps the most exciting card for Lord Windgrace in this set is Wrenn and Six. Wrenn and Six’s +1 ability perfectly complements Lord Windgrace’s +2, in tandem the two planeswalkers draw you two additional cards per turn at no cost. This pairing and some of the recent planeswakers from War of the Spark have me interested in the idea of a Lord Windgrace Superfriends deck (stay tuned for an upcoming Commanding Respect!), but even if we weren’t diving headfirst into a planeswalker heavy theme, Wrenn and Six is worth inclusion thanks to their synergy with Windgrace and unbelievably low casting cost. Lord Windgrace gets some seriously good cards from this set, the only challenge for people wanting to upgrade him will be figuring out what to cut.
The first two commanders in this article benefit from this set because they happened to work well in a limited theme that they share a color with, but the remaining winners of this set just got lucky with some powerful new cards.
In Brago, King Eternal’s case, a few cards massively reward his flicker heavy playstyle. Soulherder especially will be slotting into every Brago deck going forward, a single Brago trigger can make Soulherder unmanageably large, and this creature’s second ability helps get some additional value out of the creatures Brago wants to be flickering. One such creature you will want to exile and return repeatedly is Watcher for Tomorrow. Watcher gives you some decent card selection when used once, when abused by being exiled and returned multiple times you will have incredible control over which cards go into your hand. Finally, Brago gets Ephermerate, which is for the most part just a better Cloudshift (though be sure not to flicker anything that you’ve stolen from another player) and Settle Beyond Reality, a nice piece of targeted removal that gets around indestructible and nets you another flicker trigger.
Any artifact commander with blue in their color identity
Artifact commanders in EDH didn’t need any help, but here we are. While there is no strong artifact theme in Modern Horizons, there are some very powerful cards that interact with artifacts in this set. First and foremost is, of course, Urza, Lord High Artificer. Printing an Urza card seemed like an impossible task for Wizards of the Coast, how would they make a card that lived up to the lore of one of the most powerful and revered of Magic’s characters? Wizards overwhelmingly succeeded, successfully printing a card that doesn’t make players wonder how it can be broken, but rather how many different ways it could be.
Aside from his considerable real world value, the only reason a mono blue artifact deck wouldn’t want Urza in the 99 is because he’s replacing its commander. In addition to Urza, Modern Horizons introduces Mirrodin Besieged, a card which will often kill a player the turn it enters play. Mirrodin Besieged works best in decks that can fill their graveyards quickly, commanders like Silas Ren, Seeker Adept will have a wonderful time quickly self-milling and slamming this enchantment onto the battlefield to kill their opponents. This is assuming you name Phyrexian when you play this card, which you do most often unless under pressure and need some chump blockers. Finally, though not blue, there is a cute combo with Mycosynth Lattice and Shatter Assumptions that some artifact decks might want to play around with.
Hapatra Vizier of Poisons
Our final winner of the set is Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons. There are already several good cards that interact with -1/-1 counters, but Hapatra is always happy to see more of them, especially in cards as powerful as Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. Yawgmoth combos incredibly well with Hapatra, with her steady stream of snakes to sacrifice, Yawgmoth lets her draw cards and place counters as long as she has life to pay and your opponents have creatures to target.
His ability to then repeatedly proliferate is delicious icing on the cake. Sword of Truth and Justice also helps Hapatra place several extra counters by proliferating, and with the added benefit of putting counters on a target of your choice (such as Hapatra herself, who would benefit from being a little bigger much of the time). As a more budget friendly option, Sadistic Obsession is a way to gain some repeatable -1/-1 counter placement.
Finally, with all these new ways to place counters and thus create tokens, Hapatra gets a powerful finisher in Scale Up. Overload is perhaps my favorite mechanic in Magic the Gathering, and this latest iteration of it can turn Hapatra’s 1/1 mostly defensive snakes into a massive wave of powerful 6/4’s to close out the game against your opponent’s weakened boards.
Honorable Mentions: Rosheen Meanderer and Zada, Hedron Grinder
Rosheen gets Unbound Flourishing, which is the dream card for our mossy friend. While this card could curve neatly into Rosheen if cast the turn before her, the correct play is probably to cast Rosheen, then play Flourishing the following turn and immediately casting an X spell with Rosheen’s now effectively 8 mana, as Unbound Flourishing will undoubtedly quickly draw removal. Regardless, even a single use of Unbound Flourishing will be very strong for Rosheen Meanderer, and if left unanswered Rosheen and her pumped up spells could easily run away with the game.
Zada, Hedron Grinder meanwhile gets another spell that can lead her and her army of tokens to an explosive finish. Fists of Flame will let her draw an astronomical number of cards and give an increasingly large boost to each creature down the line that gets targeted by its copies. Especially if it is played after another cantrip, this spell should give your creatures enough of a buff to easily win in a single furious combat step—just make sure you have another spell that gives your creatures trample, (with the amount of cards you’ll be drawing, it shouldn’t be too hard to find). Fists of Flame helps to create a very goblin amount of damage, albeit with a very un-goblin amount of math.
And there we have it. Is there an existing commander that you think we’ve missed in today’s article? Or is there a card that you’re excited to put into one or more of your EDH decks? Let us know in the comments below! Here’s hoping you get great pulls from Modern Horizons this weekend!
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