Modern Horizons – Part 1

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By Byron King
@DoneTheMath
 
I had been planning on completing a set review for War of the Spark this month, but it seems like a waste at this point.  By the time I sat down to write, multiple events had happened, and we were already getting a good idea of what was hot and what was not.
 

In particular, I wanted to mention Chandra, Fire Artisan.  I spent some time explaining how the card wasn’t good, then a full playset showed up in the winning deck the following weekend.  What I failed to consider and explain was the metagame necessary for Chandra, Fire Artisan to flourish.  That weekend, copies of Mortify were everywhere and copies of Vraska’s Contempt were noticeably low.  That makes for a good environment for Chandra.  With those results in the book, people have the option to switch to whatever is better positioned.  The caveat is that Experimental Frenzy is still the better card.  More notably, Despark is now a common sideboard option that hits both cards.  I’d still stick with Experimental Frenzy if you have to make a choice, unless you feel like you’ve got an excellent read on the format.

That said, lets dig into Modern.  Modern Horizons is coming out soon, and we have most of the full spoiler.  I’m going to go over several of the cards in the set and where they could find homes in existing decks.  I’ve got a few ideas for new decks, and I’ll be sure to slot those in where appropriate.

 

We’ve come a long way since Astral Slide was a powerhouse constructed deck.  I can imagine a format where the traditional Living End cycler deck wants to incorporate Astral Drift against other creature decks, but it seems like a long shot.  Living End is already at it’s best against other creature decks, and it doesn’t get much value blinking its own creatures.  Maybe some Avalanche Rider action???

If we had another good cycler payoff, this might have a shot.  The only thing coming to mind is Drake Haven, but that wasn’t even good enough for significant Standard play.  I think this is a few cards short of a playable strategy.

One last thing I want to mention, any deck playing Astral Drift should be playing Street Wraith.  That card has cycling, not just “draw a card”.

 

Token decks have never been particularly strong in Modern.  That said, a free Glorious Anthem is a pretty nice bonus.  Token decks tend to be glutted around the three mana spot, which is where most anthems are costed.  If you want an anthem effect, this is probably about the best you will get, since you can’t really beat the tempo it provides.  I might avoid a full playset, since going down an extra card is a steep cost.  Just consider that extra card a Black Lotus for an anthem that you would have needed to hardcast otherwise.

 

The biggest hit here is the lack of a Human creature type.  I don’t think you can stretch the Human manabase enough to fit this in, so you immediately have to discount the current frontrunner for creature decks.  There are plenty of Tier 2 or tier three decks that this fits into, including Death and Taxes, white Eldrazi, and I’m not sure what else.  Spirits can probably do a better job fitting this card into the deck, but I’m not sure they want it.  That deck already has layers of protection with Drogskol Captain, and there are other new options that might be a better fit.

Any deck with Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies should be playing this card, since another lightning rod is always useful.

 

Probably not going to find a home, but this is a powerful card for a mono white deck.  If anyone is still playing Soul Sisters, On Thin Ice might be a nice fit

 


The new, upgraded Ranger of Eos is here, with a body better costed for Modern.  In a vacuum, Giver of Runes might be the best card to tutor for.  Realistically, I expect any tutoring will be for Champion of the Parish or Martyr of Souls.

The sacrifice ability is a nice bonus, but you won’t be playing the card just for that reason.  If that was good enough, Frontline Medic would be seeing some play.  Go ahead, I’ll wait while you look that one up.

The spiciest option would be tutoring for Death’s Shadow, but I’ve got no idea what that deck would look like.

 

I don’t have a lot to talk about with this card, but Storm might want to consider it.  “Splice onto instant or sorcery” does combo with any card with Storm, giving a copy of the spliced spell for every storm count.  I’m skeptical that this is worth the extra color and mana over Empty the Warrens, but an army of Golem tokens is nothing to scoff at.

 


This smaller Revillark has the potential to enable multiple combo decks.  The deck I’m most interested in currently involves Vesperlark and either Phantasmal Image or Body Double to generate infinite sacrifice triggers with your outlet of choice.  Something like this list.

4 Carrion Feeder
4 Hedron Crab
4 Stitcher’s Supplier
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Vesperlark
4 Body Double
4 Unearth
4 Altar of Dementia
2 Revival//Revenge
1 Blasting Station
21 Lands

There are probably several legitimately fair uses for Vesperlark, but that isn’t a place I’m excited to explore in Modern at the moment.  There will need to be a fairly dramatic shift away from fast combo decks before that sounds appealing to me.

Sam Black also mentioned Gigantomancer to go with this card.  That seems like a real long shot, but your mileage may vary.

 

Archmage’s Charm is a sweet one, but I’m worried about finding it a home in Modern.  The mana cost obviously draws comparison to Cryptic Command, and I would reasonably expect Charm’s mana cost to delay it until the fourth turn a substantial amount of the time.  Between off color shock lands (Sacred Foundry in Jeskai) and utility lands (Field of Rune, Blast Zone), you probably can’t ever manage a manabase that 100% taps for blue.

For the extra colorless mana, counter a spell and draw a card is significantly better than counter a spell or draw two cards.  By the time I’m ready to draw cards in Modern, all I’m ever looking for is more counter spells anyway.  I can easily invasion casting Archmage’s Charm a few dozen times without ever drawing cards.

The comparison between Archmage’s Charm and Cryptic Command is good and all, but the real issue is probably with Force of Negation.  Blue is now incentivized to run a three mana counter spell that has a free alternative casting cost.  There isn’t going to be much room for three or four mana counterspells, so it is very believable that Charm just doesn’t find a home.

This all means that Archmage’s Charm needs to gain a lot of value from the final mode.  That isn’t particularly hard, as there are certainly some options to steal.  My favorite would be Marit Lage, but that isn’t very realistic.  Stealing an opposing Death’s Shadow or pumped Champion of the Parish might stabilize a game.  Stealing an Aether Vial or Mox Opal could really hamper the opponent’s mana development.  Stealing an Amulet of Vigor could buy you multiple turns against Amulet Titan.  Remember that this doesn’t untap the permanent, so you can’t steal a creature as a combat trick.

 


I was around when people were getting fooled by Time Reversal in Standard.  Echo of Eons certainly looks like the better card, but I’m not particularly excited about it in Modern.  Getting this card into the graveyard is a real task, so you’re probably already looking at red for Faithless Looting.  If you want to stay in Blue, Gifts Ungiven seems like the best way to get Echo of Eons in the graveyard.

Narset, Parter of Veils is the new hotness in eternal formats, and it certainly pairs up well with Echo of Eons.  Day’s Undoing has already seen some play, and Echo is the far stronger card if you can set up the flashback.

Even with all of those options, I don’t think there are a lot of decks interested in messing with Echo of Eons.  The setup cost is high, and there aren’t many decks interested in trying to refill both player’s hands.  Storm seems like the most likely option, particularly since they can run both of the discard outlets I already mentioned.  I’m not sure if this card warrants the drastic deck reconstruction.

Legacy is a completely different story, since Lion’s Eye Diamond makes discarding and casting Echo of Eons laughably easy.  I assume some number of these belong in Storm, but I’m certainly no Storm expert.  That probably isn’t the only home either.

 

Like Splicer’s Skill, I am mostly interested in stapling this onto a copy of Grapeshot.  This is a realistic way to refill a hand if you can’t manage a lethal storm count.  I’m not sure you can manage the extra three mana on the combo turn, but it is an exciting new tool to try.

I’m looking forward to someone stapling this onto Flusterstorm for a free reload at the opponent’s expense.

 


Like with Astral Drift, we’ve come a long way from the days of Fact or Fiction dominance.  However, Fact or Fiction doesn’t require a deck built specifically around it to be good.  Jeskai or Azorius Control might be interested in a copy or two to really lock a game up.  Sultai Wilderness Reclamation should certainly consider it, though I’m not sure it’s better than another copy of Mystical Teachings.

At four mana, it’s going to be hard to sell a draw spell that isn’t Jace, the Mind Sculptor.  I’m sure people will try Fact or Fiction, it’s pedigree alone confirms that.  I’m just not sure that anyone will still be talking about it in a couple months.

An additional bonus, Fact or Fiction does get around the new Narset.  That is not a small bonus, as Fact or Fiction is at it’s best against other slower decks that could easily be running Narset.  It is also an instant, so you can back it up with a Force of Negation if you cast it on the opponent’s turn.

 

This card is good, and you should probably have some number in your blue decks.

The existence of this card presents some opportunities that didn’t exist in Modern.  Tapping out for a Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a lot more appealing if you can hold a Force of Negation up to protect it.  Opponents comboing out with Neoform on turn one seems a lot less scary if somebody is able to act as the police to keep things under control.

The “alternate” mode of this card is casting it for three mana.  As someone who has cast a large number of five mana Force of Wills, a cost of three mana is a huge blessing.  Three mana is obviously more than you normally want to spend on a counter spell, but it’s a perfectly reasonable fail safe mode.  This is the main reason this card will see at least some play.  It stops what you need it to if you are absolutely about to die, and it’s perfectly serviceable later in the game when you are working on taking over the game.

 

The all important consideration is the number of snow permanents you can fit into your deck.  For this to work, you really need the vast majority of your lands to be snow basic lands.  The Blood Moon Izzet control decks seem like the only decks that might be able to manage in their current configuration.  It’s just too tempting to run additional dual lands in your deck otherwise.  Fetch lands and one or two shock lands are fine, but that is about the limit.  You probably need a few other snow permanents too.  Arcum’s Astrolabe and Coldsteel Heart come to mind.

Ice-Fang Coatl is the other big snow payoff card, but you are asking a lot for a snow deck to successfully cast gold colored cards early in the game.  You will just have too much inconsistency.

 

The easy answer for this card is to replace any instances of Sai in Modern with this card.  An enchantment is far harder to remove than a creature, so you should have a much easier time keeping it around.  This is an easy backup plan for any deck that relies on artifacts, as an army of tokens won’t care at all about Stony Silence.

The looting and win condition mode are probably not the best use of this card, but they are certainly the flashiest.  Some version of Eggs or Whir Prison might use this as a faster win condition, but those decks usually avoid cards that can actually win a game.  The looting might be enough of a benefit to justify it, but I kind of doubt it.

 

Sam Black already spent a long time talking about this card, and I’m inclined to believe just about anything he writes on the subject over my own opinions.  I do hope Urza manages to break into Modern and not just Commander, since the abilites do look like a lot of fun.

Also, how on earth is this card preordering for over $50?????

 

I’m pretty sure I’ll be playing this deck at my first local Modern event where it is legal.

4 Carrion Feeder
4 Gravecrawler
4 Cryptbreaker
4 Thoughtseize
4 Wayward Zombie
4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Lazotep Reaver
4 Undead Augur
4 Diregraf Colossus
4 Dark Salvation
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Silent Clearings
8 Swamp

Carrion Feeder and Gravecrawler combine to give permanent +1/+1 counters on Carrion Feeder.  The instant speed sacrifice effect combos with Tidehollow Sculler to permanently exile cards from the opponent’s hand.

In other decks, Carrion Feeder gives another free sacrifice outlet besides Viscera Seer.  In the infinite combo decks, I think I will value the Scry on Viscera Seer a little higher, but the option to diversify is always appreciated.

We haven’t heard much from Bridgevine since the printing of Stitcher’s Supplier, but Carrion Feeder is a huge boost to that deck as well.  Pretty much any deck that would have considered Gravecrawler really wants Carrion Feeder.

 

This is a powerful reload ability for Slivers.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they have either the speed or the disruption to really shine in Modern.  The deck either needs to be fast enough to race combo, or stop combos somehow, and we don’t have anything that offers that option yet.  We didn’t even manage to get another good one mana sliver, which would have been nice.  The deck is already locked into a set of Galerider Sliver as the best one drop, though the new haste Sliver also happens to give flying.

If Slivers ever does become a deck, this belongs in the 75.  If nothing else, it is a phenomenal tool against something like Jund to squeeze out some last minute value.

 

At least Brightling only cost three mana.  Stay away from this one.

 


A completely irrelevant creature type means that Plague Engineer will be relegated to sideboards of black decks.  There aren’t a ton of tribal synergies, but Plague Engineer is certainly a beating against Elves and Goblins.  Humans is easily the most popular name, but you’ve got to work around Thalia’s Lieutenant.  Probably not difficult, so you should consider this one in all of your black decks.

 

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but this set didn’t offer whatever Modern needed to have a Goblin deck.  Based on Goblin’s previous successes, The best route would be something like a Patricarch’s Bidding combo deck.  There are some neat cards to combo out if you can dump them all into play at once, but an aggressive value deck would just be outclassed by things already happening in Modern.  Siege-Gang Lieutenant could literally be the kill condition for a mass reanimation combo deck, but we don’t have the critical spell yet.

 


If that Carrion Feeder Zombie deck is actually competitive, Undead Augur belongs in it.  My heart wants that to be true, and my brain knows it is not.

 

The rate on Unearth is good enough that there will be a home for it somewhere.  The easy answer is Grixis Death’s Shadow, but Claim//Fame didn’t manage to stick.  I’d like to think that cycling will make the difference, but I’m not sure it will.  Devoted Druid decks might be interested, since some versions are already playing Postmordem Lunge.  Not granting haste might be a deal breaker though.

The Vesperlark list I was looking at above also includes Unearth.

 

I’m pretty confidant that any deck looking for a free sacrifice outlet doesn’t want Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, but I’m not positive.  It does grind a lot of value, and it might be a good chord target if you need to turn a lot of mana dorks into value.  That said, I’m pretty sure that any deck that plays Chord of Calling and can hit X at four or higher should be able to win the game on the spot.  That said, any new tool in the toolbox shouldn’t be ignored simply because it doesn’t look like the other tools.

 

I’m pretty sure there are multiple decks that should be looking at Aria of Flame.  Despite the life gain, Burn should at least consider this as a sideboard plan.  There aren’t any good plans for Burn to currently fight life gain decks, but Aria of Flame does fix that.  If you can keep it in play, this goes way over any life gain in the format short of going infinite with Kitchen Finks combos.  However, you pretty much lose on the spot if they can remove it within the first turn cycle.  I’m not saying it is the new answer to make Burn a Tier 1 deck, but it is a niche sideboard card.

Izzet Phoenix should probably be interested in this too.  Current versions use Pyromancer’s Ascension as a win condition, putting a lot of eggs in the graveyard basket.  Aria of Flame isn’t as good since it takes an extra turn/mana to even get it into play, but it should win the game just as easily.  Removing any reliance on the graveyard outside of Arclight Phoenix is very appealing, and this warrants some testing.

 

WHY IS THIS SACRIFICE ON UPKEEP???

 

Stoneforge Mystic is back!  Fake excitement aside, Goblin Engineer checks a lot of the “broken card” boxes.  It is a straight up Entomb for artifacts, and it offers a route to get cheap artifacts out of the graveyard.  There are two different ways to use Goblin Engineer

The first method is self-explanatory, since the card pulls you along by the nose.  You tutor for your three mana artifact (Ensnaring Bridge, Sword of X and Y, Sword of the Meek, Crucible of Worlds, etc…).  Next turn you switch some dinky artifact you already have for the card you actually wanted.  This goes in some deck like the Red Prison decks or a Lantern Control deck.  There is a small chance Affinity is interested, but it is an awful slow method to get a Cranial Plating or Arcbound Ravager.

The second, more exciting use for Goblin Engineer is only to abuse the Entomb part.  After you find your Mindslaver/Sundering Titan/Inkwell Leviathan, you use something like Trash for Treasure to cheat a giant monster into play.

 

We are pretty much only missing Goblin Ringleader, Goblin Lacky, and the lands from legacy Goblins, and we still aren’t there.  I’m pretty sure they could reprint both of those cards and it wouldn’t break the format.  Goblin Lacky has a chance to cause some shenanigans, but Modern isn’t the format for Goblin Ringleader.  By the time you are setting up Goblin Warchiefs into Goblin Ringleaders, Humans would already have someone dead.

 

Love the callback to the original Orcish Oriflamme.  If you don’t know the story, that card was costed at 3R and misprinted at 1R.  This is a functional reprint of the original misprint.  Small chance it even shows up, since red is probably the best color at producing fast tokens these days.

 

Check back soon for the rest of the Modern Horizons cards!

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