Modern Horizons 2 is a set designed to shake up non-rotating formats. The first Modern Horizons broke Pauper for several months with Arcum’s Astrolabe and the residual impact of Ephemerate continues to ripple. Faerie Seer has become a format staple and Savage Swipe reinvigorated Stompy. And this is only scratching the surface of the set’s impact. So what can we expect from the next iteration? A lot. I’ve already made my feelings on one card well known, and as for the rest, well, that’s what today is for. The Modern Horizons 2 Pauper format could look significantly different.
Today’s review is going to be a little bit different. I want to talk about as many cards as possible and I will do my best to spend more words on the cards with a higher potential for impact. With that said, I’m going to stop wasting everyone’s time. Let’s go!
Arcbound Mouser coming first means we might as well talk about all of the Arcbound creatures together. The Mouser, Arcbound Prototype, Arcbound Slasher and Arcbound Tracker all give some power to various metalcraft strategies. Pauper has plenty of cheap artifact creatures including Ornithopter and Vault Skirge, as well as Arcbound Worker. Pauper is approaching a critical mass of cards for white and red-based metalcraft aggressive strategies. While we’re quite a way from Hardened Scales, Pauper does have a number of cheap Proliferate options.
If I were building this deck, I would look to go white-green. This gives the deck access to Travel Preparations and two mass trample effects in Pridemalkin and the new Duskshell Crawler. The other option is to go for a straight Boros build and add Foundry Helix as another closer in concert with Galvanic Blast.
All cards with metalcraft (or other artifact synergies) also get better thanks to the cycle of artifact dual lands. Previously, Gorilla Shaman had done a lot of work in keeping Affinity-style mana bases in check. The fact that these are indestructible means it will be a lot easier for different decks to add cards like Carapace Forger and Galvanic Blast as midgame threats.
These lands and the addition of Sojourner’s Companion as Myr Enforcer five through eight has rocketed various Affinity decks to the top of the beatdown chain in many player’s estimation. While entering the battlefield tapped might be a significant drawback, these lands are likely to generate a mana just by existing on the battlefield. There are already builds floating around using these lands as well as Etherium Spinner to flood the board with machines before feeding the masses to Atog.
Lose Focus is poised to make a splash. Annoyed Altisaur and Boarding Party have changed the way the mid and late game is played in Pauper. The fact that these spells are expensive does not matter since they tend to bring a friend to the party. Lose Focus could help to put a damper on these decks thanks to the opportunity to not only counter the main spell but also whatever they reveal off of cascade. While good in almost every deck that can cast it, I’m most excited about pairing Lose Focus with Quandrix Pledgemage, which will play rather nicely with any extra replicated copies.
The best black cards in Modern Horizons 2 all seem to care about discarding. Most of these are either madness cards or enablers. Hell Mongrel and Kitchen Imp are both reasonable options for an aggressive madness deck and follow a curve of Wild Mongrel or Cabal Initiate rather nicely. Bone Shards is an incredible removal spell that also happens to be a discard outlet, helping to turn on a wide variety of spells although both Basking Rootwalla and Call to the Netherworld have the best price.
But that only scratches the surface. Tortured Existence is a Pauper engine that just struggles to keep up with the other options in Pauper. The latest set is doing its level best to even the playing field. In addition to solid madness cards, we’re also getting Gilt-Blade Prowler, an absolute house of a draw engine provided you can discard a card at will. Revolutionist looks like a big get for these decks as well. Since Tortured Existence decks need to run a density of creatures, they tend to skimp on spells. The red Archaeomancer allows you to run fewer spells but get them back when needed.
Mine Collapse is interesting in that it’s a free removal spell in red. The cost of sacrificing a Mountain is rather small, especially now that there are dual lands with basic land types in the format. The fact that you can only use the alternate cost on your own turn is irksome but that does not change the fact that you can tap out to develop your board while holding up interaction. You can also use this to get around countermagic, either targeting something before casting a key spell or baiting out the counter and then taking down the mine on their best creature’s skull.
Abundant Harvest is a weird one. We knew about this card from the Strixhaven Mystical Archive but I would never have guessed it would have been a common. The card is going to do some serious work in Pauper. The ability to pick a land or spell in a key spot will do a lot to help make your game more consistent. That being said, I have no idea what the best shell for this spell is going to be.
I’ve already said my piece on Chatterstorm so I’ll just say this here: I give the card about a five percent chance of not being banned. This might be a bit conservative considering how much other power is in the set, but I’m sticking to it.
Elves is a deck that can get out ahead early but sometimes can struggle to keep cards flowing if it does not find a refuel mechanism (Distant Melody, Lead the Stampede or Winding Way). Deepwood Denizen might be able to help the situation. Denizen has the right creature type but what really helps it out is Elvish Vanguard. It’s trivial to get Vanguard large enough that Denizen will cost a single green mana to activate. Pair that with Quirion Ranger and you have yourself a solid engine to find those haymakers.
I know the art doesn’t communicate this, but Glimmer Bairn scares me. Tokens are a dime a dozen in the format and this will do a solid Atog impersonation in the right deck. Considering that Sprout Swarm is legal, it’s not hard to envision a deck that can spit out a ton of tokens at the end of the opponent’s turn and then stick a Fists of Ironwood on the Ouphe and go to town. Decks like this were fringe playable a few years ago with the likes of Nettle Sentinel and Thermo-Alchemist turbo charging Sprout Swarm and now we get to add Bairn and Goblin Anarchomancer to the mix.
These are just the highlights. There are plenty of other cards from the set that warrant a few words. So here we go:
Blacksmith’s Skill could be a potent option in metalcraft aggro decks.
There are enough abilities here on Break Ties to warrant a potential sideboard slot.
Custodi Squire is not bound by mana value but instead by card type; Disciple of the Sun could be the pick in metagames where lifelink matters.
Like all creatures with evoke, Soul of Migration pairs with Ephemerate to get you a decent amount of value.
Floodhound makes the count three for creatures in the set that can tap to draw a card.
Discerning Taste does just enough to be interesting.
The thought of getting four Street Wraiths back with Echoing Return in Cycling Songs is intriguing.
Nested Shambler might be a reason to add Hunger of the Howlpack to all Aristocrats decks.
Last Gasp was occasionally playable; Tragic Fall changes that.
For two mana you get two redraws. That isn’t bad and this could be good enough in some Prowess style decks.
If you cascade into this you’re “drawing” at least two cards for your next turn. That’s pretty good.
If that +1/+1 counter deck ever takes off, I found its removal spell.
Drawing a card, binning a card and gaining three life is really good. The only thing holding this back is its mana cost.
I’m a sucker for instant card draw with weird upside and Dihada’s Ploy fits that mold perfectly.
It’s no Mulldrifter but Wavesifter is a pretty good impression. Being able to bank two cards for later is no joke, especially early in the game when you might not want to be discarding to hand size.
And that’s not even all the cards. Modern Horizons 2 is a set where I could see just about every card getting a chance to shine. The set is wild and hopefully will lead to a shake up in Pauper – just one where Storm isn’t dominant.