Modern Horizons has officially entered the minds and hearts of Magic: The Gathering players worldwide, and, as much as the general joke has been that this set should be called ‘Commander Masters’ – something I don’t disagree with – I think it actually has something to offer everyone. There’s some fresh spice for Modern & Pauper and plenty of cards that will make a splash in Legacy too. Although there are many chase cards you’d love to open, the price point of a booster pack of Modern Horizons means you might not be able to crack as many as you’d like. That’s where the Budget series comes in – if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know the drill. We’ll look at a bunch of cards for Modern Horizons that are strong enough to make your Commander decks without burning away your fun money.
This time, I’ll be breaking things down into two categories – Five for Fifty Cents, and Five for Five Dollars. You should be able to pick up the cards in those categories for that price or less during release. The Budget series aims to provide options that cost as little as possible, but when it comes to more Premium sets, it’s good to look at some cards that are pre-ordering low and would make a strong investment, either because they have seen a reprint, or because they’re good enough to see play in 60-card formats.
Budget Horizons: Five for Fifty Cents
Defile is a solid one mana removal spell. Mutilate is an underrated card in decks playing a lot of Swamps, and Defile should definitely make the cut if you have the mana base to support it. Don’t forget that it’s easier to turn on than you’d think – you can run Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to help enable it. Defile scales with the game, and I’m always happy to run another one mana removal spell.
4. Tribute Mage
Artifact players have been praying for this card to be printed for a long time, and their patience has been rewarded. Tribute Mage is a snap include in many decks like Breya, Etherium Shaper, Sharuum the Hegemon and Teferi, Temporal Archmage. The ability to go and grab anything at 2cmc is very good – this will hit all-stars such as Sword of the Meek, Umezawa’s Jitte, Isochron Scepter, Time Sieve and the daddy of them all – Krark’s Thumb.
3. Etchings of the Chosen
Etchings of the Chosen is a very strong magic card. Anthems are always high on the picklist for a tribal deck, and the flexibility of this card means it’ll be making its way into a fair few decks. The obvious place to put this is Edgar Markov, where the free tokens can provide excellent sacrifices for your main creatures, but there are more decks than Vampires that will love this: Zombies, Clerics, Slivers, Spirits, Humans and Allies are the main ones, but you’ll likely see this making its way into other decks too, particularly value based five colour decks like Reaper King.
2. The Talisman Cycle
The newly fleshed out Talisman cycle has been anticipated with much patience from the casual player base, and having access to these in all colour pairs now helps a lot of more budget decks fix their mana. Less mana intensive than Signets, with the ability to tap for mana straight away, the Talisman cycle offers flexibility and speed for a price – your life total. If you’re trying to get to 5-6 mana in a four or five colour deck as fast as possible, these aren’t a bad bet, and if you don’t have access to some of the pricier includes like Coalition Relic (now $10!), you’ll appreciate a cheaper way to fix your mana.
1. Generous Gift
Generous Gift is a generous gift indeed. White players everywhere will snap up this flexible removal spell, with the ability to destroy any permanent a very strong play. Beast Within is a Commander staple, and it’s hard to see this card not seeing similar levels of play. White does have a lot of efficient removal, but the flexibility of Generous Gift coupled with the ability to hit lands and Planeswalkers gives it some real value.
The Cycling Lands
Secluded Steppe, Lonely Sandbar, Barren Moor, Forgotten Cave and Tranquil Thicket make up a cycle of cycling lands. If you haven’t picked these up from Commander pre-cons over the years, now’s the time to grab some. The ability to cycle for one mana is great, and if you’re in a one or two colour deck, you can definitely fit a couple of Cyclers in. I would always play the Deserts before these, but I often have room for both, and with some fantastic new art from Noah Bradley, I’ll be looking for excuses not to play them.
Budget Horizons: Five for Five Dollars
Getting a creature out of your graveyard in Green is rarely as efficient as Genesis – even with the limitation of being on your upkeep, being able to pay three mana without expending a card, paying life or expending other resources is great value. The more difficult part is getting Genesis into the yard in the first place, which requires a little setup, and at worst, encouraging attacks into the Genesis you have in play. Despite this, it should still be easy enough to get Genesis into the yard in decks playing with Blue and Green, and even in Red to an extent. It’s worth the little extra work for such a powerful effect.
Outside of a printing in Judgement and a Judge Promo, this is the first time you’ll be able to pick up Genesis, and the price should stay below $5 for the foreseeable future.
4. Kaya’s Guile
Kaya’s Guile is a card I think can make a strong case for inclusion in most decks with access to white and black mana. Exiling all cards from each opponent’s graveyard is a strong effect, and although I mostly prefer playing cards like Scavenger Grounds and Relic of Progenitus, the flexibility of this card makes it worth including as redundancy, and it will likely replace one of the options for graveyard hate in your deck. Having an out to giant hexproof indestructible creatures is always good, and occasionally a chump blocker or some last-minute lifegain can help you hang on in a game you otherwise have no right to win.
3. Eladamri’s Call
Eladamri’s Call is a fine EDH card, and one that was hitting highs of above $10 before seeing a reprint in Masters 25. It’s a great way to give consistency to decks, allowing you to find an answer to a problem permanent by grabbing whatever creature helps most. It can also grab a win condition, or…shudders… part of a combo. The price hit as low as $3, and has crept back up to $8, so a reprint is welcome. Expect this card to drop below $5 again, but bounce back before the year is over.
2. Tectonic Reformation
Card draw in Red or Red based decks is hard to come by. If you’ve read any of my articles about card draw on a budget, you’ll have seen that you often have to jump through hoops for it, especially in Boros. Tectonic Reformation is a card that may spike in price if the right deck emerges, and I think demand from Commander is enough to do that. I’d be happy to play this as a draw engine in a lot of decks, and I’d be happy to pick it up for the pre-order price.
1. Goblin Engineer
Many are calling Goblin Engineer the ‘fixed’ Stoneforge Mystic. I’m not sure it is, and I think it’s mostly disappointed people that are calling it that. Stoneforge sadly did not see a reprint, meaning its price will hold or rise, but that’s not to say Goblin Engineer isn’t a strong purchase.
On the contrary, I think in the right deck this card can be insane. Even without the sacrifice ability, being able to Entomb an artifact to then play Trash for Treasure the next turn on is borderline great. The second ability gives even more value, and does indeed allow you to fish a Sword or Jitte out of your bin.
I think this card will see a non-zero amount of play in 60-card formats, and for that reason it’s number one on my list of Budget picks @ $5 or less.
Modern Horizons looks sweet for Commander, and there are a bunch of cards I can’t wait to try out in my current decks. It also has some really interesting legends to brew around, and so I think at least for Commander players, there’ll be something for everyone. It’s gonna be expensive to pick up everything you need, so I’d encourage you to buy singles where possible. The cards outlined today are strong picks for EDH, so consider picking them up.
If you enjoyed today’s article, let me know on Twitter @TheKristenEmily. If you think I missed something obvious – tell me! I also love to talk Commander and Budget of all kinds, so just give me a tweet if you want to discuss card ideas or spicy brews. I’ll catch you next week.