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Expanding Your Horizons, Issue #1: Modern Horizons 2 in Review Part 1

Written by SSquirrel76

Introduction

Greetings programs!!

Everyone loves preview season, although it feels like one is always just around the corner these days with as much product as Wizards is producing. That’s ok though, it gives us plenty of things to write about, and I always like getting to check out new cards. Prerelease events are the best, because then I’m getting to be one of the first people outside of Wizards to get to play with the new cards. Minus everyone playing online, because everything is there so much earlier now.

Anywho, the latest preview season is for Modern Horizons 2, a direct to Modern set that like its predecessor, is in the style of Time Spiral. Lots of old cards (42) printed Into Modern from mostly sets dating back to the Onslaught block or earlier (at least 1 Commander 2019 card found its way in as well) is getting printed directly into the format. That was how we got things like Flusterstorm, the Onslaught cycling lands, and Altar of Dementia into the format. Modern Horizons, like many sets in the 2019-2020 era, had an outsized impact on the format and led to a series of ban, both from the set (Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis), and already existing (Mox Opal and Faithless Looting for example) as cornerstones of decks.

Plenty of the original Modern Horizons set ended up making a splash in the format, whether as major cards in main decks (Lava Dart, Force of Negation), sideboard must haves (Force of Vigor, Plague Engineer), or just plain mistakes (Hogaak, and Arcum’s Astrolabe to name a couple). Whether Modern Horizons was actually good for the format or not has been rather hotly debated for the last 2 years, but you certainly can’t say that the set was boring, even if it’s early detractors labeled it Commander Masters. Hard for that to stick when the set shows up and numerous cards blow up the format though.

Modern Horizons 2 was also met with some of the same early comment and questions. More calls of Commander Masters 2, people worried it was going to wreck the format, etc. What we have been seeing instead is a pretty deep level of interesting cards, but nothing that feels as “What were they thinking!?” as the most egregious cards from the first set. It’s time to dive into the cards themselves and for that I’m going to do a couple of things. For the Printed Into Modern cards, I’m going to look at all of them and share my thoughts. For the brand new cards, I’m probably going to ignore cards that feel like they are just there for draft purposes and aren’t pushed for competitive purposes. Why? Because competitive Magic is what I enjoy best. There are plenty of people who will write about the sets impact on Commander or Pauper, but I don’t really play either format. I don’t even get to play Legacy very often, so I’m going to stick to what I know best these days and talk about the Modern format and the cards’ impact there.

Print Into Modern:

Lands:

We only have 3 reprint lands here, so this won’t take too much time.

Cabal Coffers is an old mainstay from Torment that was used heavily in Mono-Black Devotion decks back in the day. Considering the original was $115 these days, a reprint is certainly helpful for those who always wanted one but couldn’t take that hit to the wallet. 3 Swamps plus Coffers is only 3 mana, but every land after that adds 2 to your potential mana. 5 Swamps+Coffers lets you tap for 8 mana, 10+Coffers is 18, etc. I’m not sure if this land will make much of an impact in the format, but if it does, expect to see playsets of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth included to make sure that Coffers counts as a swamp too, along w/any other non-Swamps in the deck.

Mishra’s Factory is the original creature land, dating all the way back to Antiquities, and it has featured as the win con in many decks over the years, especially counterspell-based control decks or decks like Pox that put both players in top-deck mode and kill extra creatures. Then it’s easy to just slowly take your opponent down 2 at a time for the win. We already have lands like Mutavault or Raging Ravine in the format, but Mishra’s Factory has the ability to swing with one and use another copy to pump the other one. This has seen multiple reprints and definitely wasn’t a price control reprint, but it has a shot at earning slots in the same sort of decks it has traditionally been in.

The last card is the one I’m least sure about, Riptide Laboratory. This card was originally in Onslaught to help support it’s Wizard tribal theme, but has seen recent reprints via Jumpstart and inclusion on The List, but there also aren’t a ton of Wizards in the set, so it’s likely Wizards is trying to help the Wizards tribe become a thing in the format. Izzet Wizards was a deck a couple of years back in Modern and it was pretty popular for a bit, largely on the back of work by Jeff Hoogland, but it died off as other decks took its place and hasn’t really been seen again. Returning Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique or Spellstutter Sprite have obvious implications depending on your deck, but it’s unclear if it’s something you will really use more than 1 of in your deck or not. I’m curious to see what it adds to the meta and definitely hoping my box has a copy in it.

Gold Cards:

We have 6 Gold cards that made their way into the format from the past, including one from Commander 2019, Chainer, Nightmare Adept. The other cards are Fire//Ice; Mirari’s Wake; Shardless Agent; Sterling Grove; and Vindicate.

Chainer, Nightmare Adept is definitely in the set to help provide an animation strategy in draft, but we could maybe see that archetype form around him in Modern as well. Fire//Ice is a popular spell from Apocalypse, the original enemy colored gold set, but I think this is more nostalgic than actually good. Expect to see some folks force copies into their list, but I believe there are better cards out there. Nice to be able to play it if we really want to though.

Mirari’s Wake serves dual duty as both an anthem for your creatures and as a mana generator, making each land tapped for mana produce one more of a type it could produce. 5 mana is a lot for Modern and while I’m prepared to be wrong here, I don’t see it happening. Sterling Grove is one of the cards in the set that looks to be pushing for an Enchantress deck to become a thing in Modern, like it has existed in the past in formats like Legacy. Protecting your other enchantments from being targeted as well as being able to be used as a tutor to find an enchantment you need is pretty good and it’s cheap mana-wise, so if Enchantress is going to be a thing, expect to see a lot of this card.

The last 2 gold cards are probably the most interesting to me. Shardless Agent was originally in Planechase 2012, a supplemental set Wizards tried a couple of times, and it did a lot of work in Sultai (aka BUG) decks in Legacy. Plenty of people, myself included, expected to see it in the first Modern Horizons. In the pre-Oko, Thief of Crowns and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath era, there was a lot of talk that Shardless and Jace, the Mind Sculptor would be the cards that could make Sultai a deck to play in Modern. Cascading into 1 and 2 cost cards is a great ability and I’m very hopeful for Shardless to see some play in the near future. Vindicate is in a weird spot as it’s one of the most flexible permanent destruction cards ever. Problematic land? Vindicate. Planeswalker? Creature? Artifact? You guessed it, Vindicate. The things that could hold it back are 1) it’s Sorcery speed and 2) it’s a card in B/W, which isn’t the most played combination. I think there are definitely cards in this set that can help remedy problem #2, and Esper Control has been seeing a lot of play leading up to this set release anyway, so maybe we see some copies pop up. Another I am hopeful for, as they even kept the original art.

Artifacts:

We have 6 new/old artifacts coming to join the party in Modern Horizons 2: Cursed Totem; Extruder; Millikin; Nevinyrral’s Disk; Zuran Orb; and Patchwork Gnomes.

Extruder (Urza’s Destiny) feels like it’s along to help the +1/+1 G/W Counters draft archetype, but its possible it could join the list for Hardened Scales decks as each artifact sacrificed could mean a LOT more counters being added than just 1. I’m also pretty skeptical of Millikin (Odyssey), altho maybe a deck like Lantern Control would want the mana dork that helps clear the top of their library as they look for more goodies.

Cursed Totem (Mirage) is quite the card. Activated abilities of creatures cannot be activated. That means no Grim Lavamancer shocking dudes, no mana dorks giving you mana, no Heliod, Sun-Crowned or Walking Ballista doing their thing. All for the low cost of 2 generic mana. Expect to see this card show up in a lot of sideboards. With no printings since 6th Edition, this should drop a good bit from its former mark of $30, as it will be a lot more accessible. Of course more demand for the card could still see its price increase, so we will have to wait and see what set supply is like. Zuran Orb was actually banned in Ice Age block constructed, as well as banned in standard a month later in June 1997. The card was also restricted in Vintage and banned in Extended/Legacy, but was let off for good behavior and not done a lot in either format since. The ability to trade extra lands for life was a very strong one and one we could easily see show up again here in Modern. It’s definitely a wait and see though.

The last 2 cards are Nevinyrral’s Disk and Patchwork Gnomes. Disk was the classic control answer to everything back in the day (all the way back to Alpha) as there was nothing it couldn’t destroy back then outside of lands, and there were ways to turn lands into creatures so even lands weren’t truly safe. These days it leaves Planeswalkers undisturbed and I’m not sure how much play it will see, but I hope to see it hit the tables soon. Originally there was a fake spoiler of Tangle Wire that had people excited, but it was revealed as fake and we received Patchwork Gnomes. I’m definitely disappointed vs Wire, but the Gnomes are a free discard outlet once in play, so they potentially have a home from that.

White:

White is getting 5 cards into Modern in this set: Angelic Curator, Karmic Guide; Seal of Cleansing; Solitary Confinement; Soul Snare.

Seal of Cleansing (Nemesis) is pretty straightforward, as it’s a Disenchant you can leave on the table. Seal of Fire shows up, so this could turn up as well, especially if Enchantress becomes a thing. Soul Snare (Commander 2011) is another pre-emptive card, helping Pillow Fort and other Control decks have an answer waiting to handle an attacker. 1 mana upfront and 1 to activate, it could easily see play, but it may just be a draft thing too. Wait and see.

Karmic Guide (Urza’s Legacy) is more support for Reanimator in draft and could see some play in Constructed in Reanimator becomes a thing. Have to wait and see for that, but at least it’s safe from Force of Negation. Solitary Confinement (Judgment) is a curious card. You skip your draw step and have all damage you would take be prevented. You also gain shroud, so no one can target you. Every upkeep you have to discard a card though, so you either need lots of card draw in your deck so you are keeping your hand full, or be running things like Howling Mine-style effects that get you a card outside of your draw step, like Asylum Visitor. Definitely something to keep an eye on, as it’s very powerful, but has some major deck building requirements. The final card for White is Angelic Curator. Not sure this is seeing play outside of limited personally.

Blue:

This time around blue gets 5 cards, although one of these probably counts as more than 1 card in the hearts of blue mages: Sea Drake; Seal of Removal; Upheaval; Wonder; and yes…Counterspell.

Sea Drake (Portal: Second Age) is likely a draft card, but maybe there are Landfall decks that want the extra triggers, so putting lands back in hand isn’t a big deal. I know Radiant Fountain had a lot of play in Standard paired w/Pearl Lake Ancient, so maybe something similar could develop here, not expecting it though. Seal of Removal (Nemesis) is an Unsummon paid for in advance. No activation cost, just sacrifice it to do its thing. Not something I expect in constructed, unless your deck is actively wanting lots of enchantments.

Upheaval is something I was not expecting, and the minute it showed up, Psychatog fans were begging for Dr Teeth to make an appearance in the previews as well. While they were let down on that one, Upheaval has the potential to be disruptive to the format. Not sure if there are decks designed to really take advantage of its abilities at this point in time, but maybe some turn up. Wonder (Judgment) was part of a cycle of Incarnations that granted abilities to your creatures if it was present in your graveyard. I could see a deck like Dredge deciding to throw it in as a 1 of to give flying to all their creature. There are plenty of games that Dredge gets locked out on the ground, although Creeping Chill does a LOT of work in that deck. Wonder is a draft bomb, so expect to see it there for sure.

There’s been a lot of waiting and begging from Control players for this last card, so I figured I would talk about it on its own: Counterspell. The Alpha OG way to say “No!” to your opponent has finally made its way into the format. Existing Control lists are typically running 3 Mana Leak and 1 Logic Knot, but those can go back in your binder in favor of a playset of these. I’m not sure how much it changes things on a fundamental level, but it’s not a conditional counter and, like Apple says about their products, “It just works”. Expect to see a LOT of these show up, anywhere Islands are tapped for mana.

Black:

Black also gets 5 cards this time around: Bone Shredder; Braids, Cabal Minion; Greed; Patriarch’s Bidding; and Skirge Familiar.

Bone Shredder (Urza’s Legacy) is one of the original 187 creatures (Nekrataal being the black version of the first cycle in Visions. Why were they referred to as 187 creatures? That’s the police code for Murder. Terror isn’t that exciting of a card these days, even tacked onto a body, especially with another 3 mana echo cost the following turn to keep it around. Expect this to mostly be a draft thing. Greed first showed up in Legends, although my original copies came from packs of 4th Edition. Very simple card, a 4 mana enchantment that for the low price of 1 black mana and 2 life, nets you a card. This card would later inspire Necropotence in Ice Age and most black draw spells that have ever been created. This has definitely showed up in decks in the past, it’s just likely too slow and mana intense for Modern Magic.

Skirge Familiar (Urza’s Saga) is a cool card, as it lets you trade cards for black mana on a 1:1 basis. 5 mana for a flying 3/2 is not a great rate, but if you have a lot of cards and need a lot of black mana, he’s your Imp. Not sure this one will make a splash, but maybe someone can work out some combo with Enter the Infinite and Banefire and torch people. Just have to figure a good way to cheat that 12 mana enchantment into play first. Not too hopeful here, but it’s sure to show up in an Against the Odds deck from SaffronOlive at some point.

The last 2 black cards are the ones I’m most excited to see show up. Braids, Cabal Minion (Odyssey) has been the backbone of many Stax decks over the years, slowly making all non-planeswalker permanents disappear from play. A 4 mana 2/2 is not big game in and of itself, but in the right list she could be powerful, it just depends whether time has passed her by or not. I picked up a set at my LGS just to be safe. Lastly we have Patriarch’s Bidding (Onslaught), this card was all over the place back in 2002 Standard and block constructed, with Bidding being one of the primary archetypes played at PT Venice in various forms, including Goblins, Clerics, and Beasts. Most tribal play in Modern these days is built around Humans, Elves or Spirits, with occasional Slivers or Goblin decks turning up. It even showed up in a couple of lists from the 2003 World Championships. Will Bidding be enough to make Tribal play more of a thing in Modern? Only time will tell, but it’s a great card and a cool effect.

Red:

Red gets to pick up 6 cards in this section: Chance Encounter; Flame Rift; Goblin Bombardment; Gorilla Shaman; Imperial Recruiter; and Mogg Salvage.

Chance Encounter is an alternate win-con card from Odyssey (I think that block had several of these), this one is based around coin flips. Coin flips are usually the bane of tournament players existence, so I’m not anticipating it to show up much, but there is definitely a subset of Magic players with pockets full of chance rubbing their hands eagerly at this reprint.

Gorilla Shaman (Alliances) is a Vintage all star where the card reads: R: Destroy target Mox or Mana Crypt. There are plenty of great artifact destruction spells in Modern already, but there was an artifact them in draft, so it showed up. I won’t be surprised if this turns up in sideboards in Modern, but I won’t be surprised if it does nothing either. Imperial Recruiter (Portal: Three Kingdoms) is a former $300 card before recent reprints as a Judge promo, Masters 25, AND Double Masters card brought its price back down to earth. It used to be a key player in the Legacy Painter decks, and now it’s a Human who finds other cheap creatures. Don’t be surprised to see it come down from your local Human’s player who has a Vial on 3 so they can drop what they find from another Vial in the middle of combat to change the math. It can also grab any of the 3 creatures in the Kiki-Jiki combo (Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker; Pestermite; and Deceiver Exarch), so maybe we see Recruiter added to Kiki decks. Definitely a card to look out for in the coming months. It’s certainly going to be at it’s cheapest price in quite awhile too, so grab them from this set if you want them.

Mogg Salvage (Nemesis) is from a cycle of enemy hate cards that is probably best known for Massacre, which did a great job of housing White Weenie decks back in the day. Not sure this will see a lot of play, but Modern is likely to shift a good bit with this set and the D&D set on its heels on July 23rd, so maybe so. Goblin Bombardment is another card that people have wanted in the format for years. A non-mana sac outlet once it’s in play, it was also the cornerstone of the Pebbles line of combo decks (Fruity, and Cocoa most often) along with Enduring Renewal and free creatures like Ornithopter. I want to see if something like this can be made good in Modern, so I’m making sure to grab some Renewals and see what I can come up with. Aristocrats fans will also likely be working overtime on this one. Lastly we have what was once a staple of the Legacy Burn deck, but I think Skewer the Critics finally knocked its last copies out of the deck, Flame Rift (Nemesis). Man, there’s a lot of Nemesis cards hitting Modern, very cool. Flame Rift is 2 mana to go to the dome for 4 to all of your opponents, and yourself. Remember your life total is a resource and as long as they die, it doesn’t matter if you are at 1 or 100. It doesn’t target either, so it gets around Leyline of Sanctity. I plan to fit it into my Burn deck, even if it’s just a couple of copies in the sideboard. This is a personal favorite for sure.

Green:

Lastly, we come to green, with 6 cards being added: Enchantress’s Presence; Hunting Pack; Quirion Ranger; Squirrel Mob; Titania, Protector of Argoth; and Yavimaya Elder.

Hunting Pack (Scourge) is there to support Gruul Storm in draft. It’s pretty expensive for what it does, although it can drop a LOT of 4/4 beasts if you make enough mana to cast it after also storming off. You know Storm players are already working on this one, so keep your eyes peeled for it. Squirrel Mob (Odyssey) and Yavimaya Elder (Urza’s Destiny) are also more likely to be in the set for draft reasons, although the Urza’s Odyssey blocks had a lot of squirrel action and some tournament level decks, courtesy of Deranged Hermit, so maybe? Yavimaya Elder (Urza’s Destiny) is one of the cards from Urza’s block that I hated the most. Mono-Green Control was definitely a thing back then, and damage still used the stack. Block w/Elder, damage on the stack, sac him, find 2 basics, THEN draw a card. Oh yeah, and often he killed your guy he blocked too. It was gross. Hoping not to see him across the table from me again, but he’s a ton of value if you have the mana to use him best.

Enchantress’s Presence is another card being used to push a potential Enchantress deck in Modern. 3 mana enchantment to draw a card every time you cast another enchantment adds up quickly. Quirion Ranger is a great addition to Modern Elves, as it is one of the key cards in the Legacy deck. There are still a couple of cards from that deck that haven’t made the transition to Modern which would be nice to have, but this is a solid add. Titania, Protector of Argoth is another Commander pre-con card brought to Modern. There’s already a lot of conversation happening about combos including her, and one of the cards that people are expecting to use with her is Urza’s Saga. Keep an eye on Titania for sure.

Conclusion

Well that’s been my trip thru the Printed Into Modern cards from Modern Horizons 2 today. I’ll be back for part 2 (and maybe 3) talking about the rest of Modern Horizons soon. Until next time…

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