This week we got some more Modern Horizon previews, and while the fireworks didn’t quite light the sky up as much as they did early, there’s still plenty to talk about.
The Latest from Modern Horizons
Wrenn and Six
Every time I see a new 3-mana planeswalker, I underrate it. Cards like Liliana, the Last Hope looked just okay to me, and I didn’t realize at first how powerful 3-drop planeswalkers can be in both Standard and Eternal formats.
My initial reaction to Wrenn and Six was the exact opposite. Wrenn and Six does an incredible Crucible of Worlds impression, and has a built-in way to take out mana dorks. It’s going to be best in a land-denial strategy with cards like Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin in Modern and Wasteland in Legacy. Mox Tantalite can also ping down a Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise on its way down, and then start ticking up to accrue advantage. Or you can cast it on turn 2, pick up a Wooded Foothills for value, then start activating Field of Ruin every turn. This is best against fair decks with few basic lands and decks like Tron. Speaking of Wooded Foothills, a 2-mana investment with a fetchland essentially means you’ll never miss a land drop again.
Wrenn and Six doesn’t slot right into any existing deck, but with a little work I believe it has the right power level to break into Modern. It’s just a matter of finding the right shell.
Not much needs to be said here. In almost all circumstances you’d play Lotus Bloom over this card, and Lotus Bloom doesn’t see much Modern play so I doubt Mox Tantalite will have much of an impact. It’s a cool card for Commander and maybe Cube, but outside of that it’s just too slow.
Sword of Truth and Justice/Sword of Sinew and Steel
Sword of Truth and Justice and Sword of Sinew and Steel both have weaker triggered abilities than their predecessors, but they make up for it in the colors they have protection from. Most removal is red or black, and blue-white is the most popular control deck. That said, I still don’t think Swords are strong enough for Modern, and without Stoneforge Mystic to find them and put them in play, they’re just not going to see a ton of play due to how much they cost. I really like that Wizards is adding to the cycle in this set (since they don’t put protection from colors in Standard sets anymore), but I’m not looking to play them in Modern.
Sliver decks have pretty much been a meme in Modern to this point. I remember them having a little success here and there, but mostly they were a worse version of Humans. It was a tribal deck that didn’t have enough disruption to pull its weight. I don’t think that’s going to change with Cloudshredder, but it’s certainly a piece of the puzzle. A combination of Heart Sliver and Winged Sliver, Cloudshredder is a very effective 2-drop.
What Slivers does have over Humans is mostly just Sliver Hive. With Cavern of Souls, Sliver Hive, and Unclaimed Territory, the mana is actually pretty good and doesn’t need Ancient Ziggurat to function, which means it can consistently cast Aether Vial on turn 1. But Humans has great disruptive elements, and Slivers simply lacks that, so while I love the idea of the tribe being playable in Modern, I don’t think it’s going to happen.
This seems like a great Modern card, as it’s a green version of Stony Silence. Between this and Force of Vigor, green is getting some great artifact hate. Collector Ouphe can be found with Chord of Calling, Neoform, Collected Company, and so on. The one problem is a lot of decks that play it will play plenty of other creatures, so Mox Opal decks will already board in a decent amount of removal. Generally, it’s better to have hate cards attack from a different angle—so Collector Ouphe loses a few points for actually having a power and toughness—but I still can’t imagine registering a Chord of Calling without at least one Collector Ouphe in the sideboard.
Goblin Engineer looks busted to me, but I haven’t thought of anything particularly special to do with it. Trash for Treasure is the most obvious abuse of this card, but building a Tinker isn’t nearly as powerful as having one, especially with a lack of extremely powerful artifacts. Sure, we can get something like Inkwell Leviathan, but is that really going to get the job done in Modern? A two-card combo that puts a 7/11 into play? My guess is no. Torpor Orb appears to be the most “broken” artifact in Modern, so maybe there’s something to getting it into the graveyard. Outside of doing completely broken things, one thing the Engineer can do well is find specific “hate” artifacts like Damping Sphere, Torpor Orb, Grafdigger’s Cage, or Relic of Progenitus and put them into play a turn later. Ensnaring Bridge also fits the bill, though we generally see all of those in main decks.
Goblin Engineer has a really high ceiling and while I don’t think it has the tools to break into Modern now, it has a ton of long-term potential. Wizards is bound to eventually print an artifact that is extremely powerful and worth accessing from the graveyard. On that note, keep in mind that a Goblin Engineer brew will have to be a good graveyard deck in addition to a good artifact deck. With Surgical Extractions everywhere, that is a steep barrier to entry.
There are a lot of reasonable modes on this card, and if it didn’t have such a tough mana requirement I think it would break into Modern. Stealing 1-mana permanents is nothing to sneeze at when so many cards like Death’s Shadow, Hangarback Walker, Hardened Scales, Champion of the Parish, Aether Vial, and Amulet of Vigor and so on are key parts of the format. Even if you can’t get value from their cards, stealing them is effectively removing them. Countering a spell for 3-mana is pretty expensive for Modern, but it’s not unheard of. Dismiss would also be “too expensive” for Modern, and yet it’s a common mode for Cryptic Command. Divination isn’t a strong Modern card either, but I’ve seen Hieroglyphic Illumination cast a decent amount.
All the modes rolled into one card make it viable, as the flexibility gives it solid utility in most matchups. But is it really worth hurting your mana base to play two or three copies of a card that’s solid but not great? I’m not sure yet. You could use filter lands like Mystic Gate to help cast Archmage’s Charm while also playing enough Plains in your U/W Control decks. This is the most difficult-to-evaluate card I’ve come across, but my instinct is that it’ll be good if you can reliably cast it. Just make sure your mana can support it against decks filled with Field of Ruins or Blood Moons.
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
This is a sweet and interesting card. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is exciting, but what can you do with it? You can chain a pair of Geralf’s Messengers for a Channel–Fireball type effect. Yawgmoth feels like a card that would thrive in a more fair Modern format, one with more creatures and fewer third and fourth-turn kills. Sacrificing a creature and paying a life to draw a card could be an effective value engine, and since Yawgmoth helps you dig for more action by itself, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this card in decks that can create large amounts of creatures. In fact, I’m excited to see if Yawgmoth can combine with Seasoned Pyromancer and creatures like Bloodghast to create a card-drawing machine that gets to the bottom of its deck incredibly quickly. I can even see Cabal Therapist getting into the mix as another way to utilize token creatures for an added disruptive element.
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician can be played as a combo card or a fair card that punishes creature decks like Humans by picking off small creatures immediately and later larger ones, thanks to proliferate. I’m sure there are a ton of ways to use this card, and even though I haven’t figured it out yet, someone will.
Nether Spirit is back! Unfortunately, time has not been kind to it. I can’t imagine that a single recurring 2/2 that requires only itself in the graveyard is going to be very good in Modern. Maybe we see a single copy in decks like 8-Rack to discard to Liliana and protect her, but outside of that I don’t think Nether Spirit will do all that much in Modern. The power level of cards has dramatically improved from Nether Spirit’s glory days. Also, Surgical Extraction exists now.
Ranger-Captain of Eos
A throwback to Ranger of Eos, Ranger-Captain of Eos looks like it could very easily slot into Humans. I wouldn’t add a playset or anything, but I could see playing the Captain in Humans’ “flex slots,” where we sometimes see Anafenza, the Foremost, Militia Bugler, and Kessig Malcontents. Militia Bugler has better potential hits than the Ranger-Captain, but it’s a worse rate for the creature and also doesn’t have a built-in disruptive element. There are plenty of games where shutting off your opponent’s ability to cast a sweeper or preventing them from comboing will win you the game, so I’m pretty confident this is an upgrade to Militia Bugler.
I’m not a big fan of this one. Like Archmage’s Charm, this card has a lot of modes, but the biggest problem is that they aren’t always relevant. Against Tron, do I want to make a 1/1 and force them to sacrifice a Wurmcoil? Against Humans, which modes are worth a card?
The entwine cost is the big upside as it allows you to get all modes, but when is that actually important for 6 mana? I mostly see this as a mediocre removal spell tacked onto clunky graveyard hate in a format where graveyard hate needs to be as explosive as the decks it’s used to counter, and I doubt it will see much play.
With most of the biggest cards previewed, I think Modern Horizons will impact Modern but maybe not as much as I would have hoped. I believe Force of Negation may slightly warp the format over time, and I’m really happy it exists to regulate Modern when necessary. What card do you think is the most important addition to Modern from Modern Horizons?