Wizards of the Coast released their big announcement for Modern today. Modern Horizons is the new set coming out on June 14th, and it is “straight to Modern”. This is the announcement summary page
Let’s look at the new cards!
For anyone not familiar with Legacy, this is a clear reference to Cabal Therapy. Stapling the effect to a creature comes with benefits and costs. The costs are pretty obvious, and cannot be ignored. Cabal Therapy is a strong card because you often cast and flash it back in the same turn. This means that you should, at a minimum, be guaranteed a hit on the flashback. Cabal Therapist will only trigger once a turn, so the opponent can play around a second trigger. That is, if they don’t remove Cabal Therapist before it ever triggers. That is the biggest vulnerability about putting the effect on a creature instead of a spell.
There are some noteworthy benefits too. As a creature, you can find Cabal Therapist with Chord of Calling and Collected Company. You also have access to the trigger every turn of the game, provided you can protect the Cabal Therapist. It also a presence on the battlefield, so as a worst-case scenario can deal small amounts of damage.
One of the first places that Cabal Therapist might find a home is in Dredge. At the absolute worst, Cabal Therapist is a subpar Insolent Neonate. You can sacrifice Cabal Therapist to itself and discard all your copies of a dredge card. There is no card draw to immediately start Dredging, but that is the floor Cabal Therapist. Bloodghast is already a staple creature in the deck, and it is possibly the best partner for Cabal Therapist. The recursion is fantastic, and Bloodghast can even still attack if you have a fetchland and the opponent is at 10 or less life.
It also might be worth taking a look at an old Sam Black special.
4 Tidehollow Sculler 4 Bloodghast 4 Carrion Feeder 4 Gravecrawler 3 Zulaport Cutthroat 3 Goblin Bombardment 2 Lightning Bolt 4 Cabal Therapy 4 Faithless Looting 4 Lingering Souls 4 Thoughtseize 2 Swamp 3 Badlands 3 Bloodstained Mire 2 Marsh Flats 3 Polluted Delta 3 Scrubland 1 Undiscovered Paradise 3 Verdant Catacombs
If it wasn’t obvious, this is a Legacy deck. However, the vast majority of the cards are Modern legal. The biggest reason that we haven’t seen a Modern variant yet is that the only cards we don’t have are the payoffs. Carrion Feeder, Goblin Bombardment, and Cabal Therapy are the rewards for playing this motley pile of cards, and we never had a decent analog for any of them. Cabal Therapist can clearly take the place of Cabal Therapy with only a minor downgrade in power. That won’t be enough on its own, but it’s a good start. Carrion Feeder and Goblin Bombardment are cards I could easily imagine appearing in Modern Horizons.
If it wasn’t clear, Cabal Therapist triggers at the beginning of your first main phase. That means you aren’t getting this effect until turn two at the earliest. If you don’t want to sacrifice Cabal Therapist, you either need a one mana flash creature, or you are waiting until turn three. That seems a little slow for Modern, but I’m not ready to write it off completely yet. I really like the idea of using Chord of Calling to find this on your upkeep, and that slots into decks that already exist in Modern. Both Elves and the Devoted Druid combo decks run an assortment of expendable creatures and Chord of Calling already. This would probably be the first place I started testing Cabal Therapist.
Serra the Benevolent
I have a lot of hope that Cabal Therapist will be a roleplayer in Modern. I don’t have any of those same feelings about Serra the Benevolent.
Just to make things simpler, I will be referring to the +2 as the anthem, the -3 as the token, and the ultimate as Worship.
Planeswalkers are typically hard to analyze, but there are a lot of comparisons that seem reasonable in my mind. Initially, I want to compare Serra the Benevolent to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Serra the Benevolent’s anthem is mostly gravy, so we would be comparing the token to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar’s tokens plus the 5/5 creature mode. Serra, the Benevolent can make two tokens over three turns, with Serra dying on the last activation. Gideon can produce a stream of tokens forever if unchecked. Gideon can also animate, creating a body similar to the Serra Angel token if that is necessary.
The Worship ultimate is certainly better than Gideon’s anthem emblem. Worship is already a fringe playable card, and a planeswalker emblem does not require protection. The issue is that you’ll need to use the fairly useless +2 ability on Serra the Benevolent to trigger it.
I expect this is a card that the Spirits decks might be interested in. That is probably the only current deck in Modern that can really use Serra’s anthem ability. Having some more muscle with the token won’t hurt, and very few decks can win through a Worship and a pair of Drogskol Captains.
Unfortunately, we won’t be getting any more spoilers until the end of May. That will give the masses months of time to make up a wishlist of cards to add to Modern. It’s difficult to speculate on what cards might show up, since they could literally pull from anything. I’ve got some hopes for various tribal decks (Elves, Goblins, and Merfolk all come to mind). Plenty of combo pieces would be awesome in the short term, but most of those cards are particularly degenerate. I would be very surprised to see something like Show and Tell make an appearance.
One final note. If you have been considering getting into Modern, now will be the best time for quite a while. Modern Horizons won’t have any currently Modern legal reprints, and we don’t have anything like Modern Masters to look towards. Beyond a few reprints in the Commander decks, I would not expect prices to go anywhere but up.