A sweep of goodness from Modern Horizons wouldn’t be complete without some Modern content. There are a lot of cards in this set that are very interesting, as the set pays tribute to a huge range of keywords and mechanics from throughout Magic’s history. I’m attending two Magic Fests over the summer in which the main event format will be Modern, and I have hopes that this set will shake up the format a bit! I’ve already provided my take on some of the cards I think are interesting for the Commander format in an article which you can read here if you’re interested. In this article, I’m going to focus on cards that will be possible inclusions for existing or new competitive Modern decks rather than cards that are more nuanced or ‘interesting.’ At the time of writing, I think the most popular and successful decks in Modern are Izzet Phoenix, 5 Colour Humans, Green Tron, and Azorius Control.
Let’s jump straight in!
5 Ranger Captain of Eos
This card is like Ranger of Eos with a twist and looks like it can easily find a home in current Humans builds. A 3/3 for three mana isn’t that special, but it replaces itself upfront with a Noble Hierarch, Champion of the Parish, or maybe Giver of Runes if we choose to run one. Its activated ability provides yet more disruption, which plays to the deck’s strengths. Removal spells that our opponents will often running are typically of the noncreature variety, and having another way to delay the Wrath of God we know is coming is huge. In addition, we could even use Aether Vial to put this into play and then sacrifice it mid-combo or mid-sequence. For example, if the opponent casts an Ad Nauseam, implying an impending Lightning Storm, or transmutes for a Tolaria West looking for that crucial Engineered Explosives or Summoner’s Pact, we can buy ourselves an often game-winning turn by sacrificing the Ranger at the right time.
4 Collector Ouphe
Stony Silence with legs! One reason that Stony Silence sometimes doesn’t ‘get us there’ is because fighting decks like Tron or Whir Prison requires both ‘hate’ and pressure. Now both are rolled into one! Being able to put the ouphe into play with Collected Company, Chord of Calling, and Aether Vial (although it makes the vial useless in the future) is also big game, as opponents will have to play while anticipating this as a possibile counter play. I quite like this as an inclusion for Humans, but it’s creature type causes complications for Cavern of Souls and Unclaimed Territory. It’s much easier to include in a deck like Bant Spirits, Elves, or Devoted Druid/Vizier of Remedies combo decks. If this card becomes a necessity, we could see humans making concessions to it with its manabase.
The main question is how prominent artifact-heavy strategies will be in the new competitive metagame. With Krark-Clan Ironworks combo being banned and Hardened Scales on the decline because of Karn, the Great Creator being common in the maindeck slots of all the big mana decks, there’s certainly fewer matchups where the ouphe will be backbreaking. One interesting thing to note is that decks that are hurt by Stony Silence often sideboard Nature’s Claim. If the ouphe is the new weapon of choice, it forces these decks to potentially adjust their sideboards and plans for games two and three. However, this card will be hit by creature removal, and if our opponent was already going to tweak their deck to get better at killing creatures postboard, they may have killed two birds with one stone if the ouphe is something we’re relying on.
3 Force of Negation
Free Negate for blue players! I personally like this card’s design. It mainly allows its controller to tap out to cast other spells without being defenceless against the opponent’s ‘nonsense.’ A classic example would be that if you’re playing Azorius control, you can tap out on turn three to play Narset, Parter of Veils or Teferi, Time Raveler and not just automatically fold to a bigger play like Karn Liberated or Goryo’s Vengeance targeting a discarded Griselbrand (our opponent of course killing Narset before trying to draw any cards!). Unlike a Force of Will reprint, this card doesn’t provide additional resilience for a ridiculous combo or power play (unless this is done in the opponent’s turn – most decks can’t do this at all). I’m glad this is the case as I think a deck like Infect having free countermagic to protect its plays would be problematic. Finally, if not using the alternative casting cost in your opponent’s turn, a Dissipate for non-creatures is still castable, although admittedly not great. The relevance of having enough blue cards to use the ‘free’ mode remains to be seen, but it’s likely that the cost of inclusion for decks that aren’t predominantly blue already will be too high. How relevant is the exile clause? Faithless Looting is one of the strongest cards in the format and the exile clause means more game against that card, but it’s dubious how often we’ll want to 2-for-1 ourselves to stop a cog in a machine. Remember, this card does not counter Primeval Titan!
2 The ‘Horizon lands’
I’m not sure if this is what they are collectively going to be called, but I’m going with this for now. I’m sort of cheating with this 5-for-1, but I genuinely think they have important applications in competitive Modern play. They have a similar role to Horizon Canopy in that they provide decks with an additional opportunity to draw into more spells while fixing mana and not occupying spell slots themselves. Here are some examples of how I think they might be used in some existing decks:
- Burn: I think this deck will play two Sunbaked Canyon. The main reason I haven’t gone for the full set is that Burn needs to play a lot of spells to win the game, and potentially having to pay life for every spell can matter. There are a lot of decks that try to ‘race’ burn decks to get the win, and this will also be very relevant in the mirror match if burn itself becomes more popular! Ultimately it’s a great way to help power up the deck.
- Izzet Phoenix: I think this deck could include a single Fiery Islet. This deck is already very good at keeping the gas flowing until the opponent’s swift demise, so we’re only ‘preparing for the worst’ with this card rather than powering the deck up as a whole.
- Infect: This deck will want to play two or three Waterlogged Grove. Again, the point remains about having to pay life for every spell or animation of Inkmoth Nexus, but I think this deck needs fewer spells than burn to win the game, and it’s good draws kill a turn faster most of the time. Maybe it could play four, perhaps I’m being conservative. What do you think?
1 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
This card looks hard to cast, but in the right deck, it really isn’t! The addition of Altar of Dementia into Modern really powers up Hogaak, and if you add Bridge from Below to the mix, the engine is almost complete. Cards like Bloodghast and Gravecrawler can be sacrificed and recurred to generate Zombies while putting more cards in our graveyard. Once we have two black creatures in play and five cards in the graveyard, that restrictive casting requirement goes topsy-turvy and Hogaak basically becomes a free spell. Sacrificing Hogaak mills another eight cards which should find more Bridges and add more delve fodder to cast Hogaak over and over again. Sooner or later we can start targeting our opponent with the Altar so that they have no cards left. I’ve personally always seen ‘free spells’ as a bit of a problem for competitive play, as they are too easily exploited and this is a classic example.
I’ve explained some basics above, but I’m not going to explain all the interactions associated with this kind of deck in this article. I’d encourage a look at the results of last weekend’s Modern Challenge. TEN copies of the deck in the Top 32!
I’ve since seen builds adding Overgrown Tomb for Vengevine and to smooth the sideboard out with some Nature’s Claim/Assassin’s Trophy. This style of deck is already proving to be a very strong contender. It can consistently mill out the opponent’s library on turn three, and failing that, can attack with an 8/8 and a not inconsequential number of Zombies at a similarly early stage of the game.
Modern Horizons is teasing the nostalgia for Astral Slide, Aggro Loam, and other midrange piles as they look like they are getting a bit of a resurgence with the set through cards like Astral Drift and Wrenn and Six. However, in the short-term, I’m afraid I still see the heights of competitive Modern revolving around doing or stopping ‘degenerate nonsense’ in the first three turns of the game. On the other hand, Modern is a bit ‘Wild West’ in the sense that anything can potentially succeed in a tournament, so I’m actually absolutely terrified of my turn one Noble Hierarch being killed by Wrenn and Six‘s minus ability when I’m on the draw. Tastes and preferences aside, I hope to have provided Modern enthusiasts with some ideas here on how to update their decks or some things to watch out for going forward.
Hit me up if you have any further thoughts. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter. I play most of my Magic in Leeds in the North of England, but I’m planning to go to both Magic Fests in July (Barcelona) and August (Birmingham), so if you’re going to either, I may see you there! I’m not yet sure what I’m going to play, but I have narrowed my preferences down to a few choices that I may share in a forthcoming article.
As always, thanks for reading, good luck and have fun in your next game!