Modern Horizons Archetype Primer: W/U Blink, Slivers, G/W Swarm and U/B Ninjas

Once more, we have an interesting draft format on our hands with Modern Horizons! I have done 15 or so drafts by now. I can tell you already that the format is great and quite deep and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have. My plan is to outline some of the draft archetypes, like I did with Core Set 2019 and Ixalan. I’ll break down some of the archetypes and discuss some of the more important cards for each, including a few rares, uncommons and commons that benefit the most from being in that exact archetype.

However, that doesn’t mean that’s always the best pick. Even if I’m playing BG Self-Mill, I will pick Hexdrinker over Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis 10 times out of 10. In some archetypes, some cards are needed for the synergy to work, while other times they are less important–that’s what makes Draft so interesting! Let’s dive in!

The Archetypes of Modern Horizons

White-Blue Blink

WU Blink, much like the name suggests, is about generating tempo and value from “blinking” your creatures, netting an advantage when they reenter the battlefield. This archetype is almost all about its multicolor uncommon Soulherder, which is something you’ll see repeated in Modern Horizons. In most color combinations, its multicolored uncommon points the direction the archetype wants to go. This also makes them a clear signal for what archetype you want to build around. Soulherder is actually quite nutty once you get it going. Blinking Man-o’-War or Irregular Cohort every turn gets out of hand quickly and even if you find a way to get rid of Soulherder (which grows large on in its own right) it has already generated enough of an advantage to get you that extra mile. What’s great about WU Blink and Soulherder is that all cards you want to blink are great cards in their own right. Once you find the right blink effects for your deck, you just add them like salt and pepper and your deck’s power level exponentially increases.

There’s a small subtheme of caring about snow permanents and it mostly comes down to Blizzard Strix being so great in the archetype. Blizzard Strix doesn’t only blink something at instant speed, but does so as a creature while being a great target for Soulherder itself. If you blink Blizzard Strix at end of turn with Soulherder you can blink a pesky permanent, for example. Since it will be exiled until the beginning of the next end step, if won’t be able to attack that turn as a creature or use its abilities if it’s a planeswalker. Don’t forget that you can also exile your own stuff if you need to net an extra draw from Arcum’s Astrolabe. By the way, Soulherder also gets another counter each turn for Blizzard Strix ability, meaning it will grow twice as fast. Along with Man-O’-War, these are the cards that get much better in UW Blink.

Cards that get better in WU Blink

Urza, Lord High ArtificerWatcher for TomorrowSoulherderVesperlarkTribute MageBlizzard StrixEphemerateArcum's AstrolabeIrregular CohortSettle Beyond RealityPondering Mage

WR Slivers

I purposely skipped WB as an archetype basically because I don’t think it exists. I think WRB (Mardu) is an archetype as an extension of WR Slivers, so I’ll address that next.

WR Slivers is all about those Slivers and there’s tons of good common ones as well as payoffs at each rarity level. Cards like Cleaving Sliver or Lancer Sliver get much better with additional copies in play, while others like Enduring Sliver or Bladeback Sliver don’t really get that much better in multiples. To go with the Slivers, you have a range of different Changelings to get those sweet buffs. Speaking of Changelings, the next level of drafting this archetype is going wide with cards like Battle Screech or Goblin War Party, then enabling those Sliver buffs to all your creatures with Volatile Claws for an absurd alpha strike. Every Cleaving Sliver almost adds an additional Trumpet Blast effect and every Cloudshredder Sliver makes them very dead.

Cards that get better in WR Slivers

Cloudshredder SliverSpiteful SliverMorophon, the BoundlessHollowhead SliverLavabelly SliverFirst Sliver's ChosenValiant ChangelingBattle ScreechRecruit the WorthyEnduring SliverImpostor of the Sixth PrideBladeback SliverLancer SliverVolatile ClawsIrregular CohortCleaving SliverGoblin War Party

Mardu Slivers

Mardu Slivers is an extension of WR slivers but with Etchings of the Chosen and Smiting Helix, making the splash worth it. The way you go about drafting this deck is usually either being WRb or WBr. Drafting WRb is pretty much like drafting WR Slivers as normal, but if you see cards worth splashing, you take them and try to find way to splash. WBr doesn’t have as many Slivers as WRb, but it does have the most Changelings as black adds three great ones in Changeling Outcast, Venemous Changeling, and Graveshifter. Changeling Outcast is great with First Sliver’s Chosen and Cleaving Sliver, which is the red card you most want to splash (other thanremoval spells and uncommon/rare Slivers). Venemous Changeling is fantastic with Lance Sliver and Graveshifter, and is generally great on its own. But it gets dope with Dredgescape Sliver, making it possible to use its ETB trigger multiple times. The Mardu version is the most powerful of the different Sliver archetypes, but it’s also the hardest one to achieve. And with so many Changelings available, including other tribal synergies like Pashalik Mons is something to look for!

Cards that get better in Mardu Slivers

Cloudshredder SliverSpiteful SliverPashalik MonsCordial VampireKing of the PrideSmiting HelixUndead AugurHollowhead SliverFirst Sliver's ChosenLavabelly SliverEtchings of the ChosenValiant ChangelingChangeling OutcastImpostor of the Sixth PrideReturn from ExtinctionVolatile ClawsIrregular CohortCleaving SliverVenomous Changeling

GW Go-Wide Creatures

WG wants as many ways to make creatures as possible, and aims to get beneficial triggers from its permanents and then keep doing it over and over. Playing so many creatures is also great not only for the classic pump spells in green-white, but also Overrun effects. As Good-Fortune Unicorn says, having creatures entering the battlefield is great and the more the better. That means blinking your own stuff can be great to trigger Answered Prayers or even surprise someone by giving Bellowing Elk indestructible in combat with Ephemerate or Recruit the Worthy.

Cards that get better in GW Creatures

Crashing FootfallsForce of VirtueDeep Forest HermitScale UpSaddled RimestagSquirrel NestBattle ScreechZhalfirin DecoyElvish FuryRecruit the WorthyElvish FuryStirring AddressMother BearTrustworthy ScoutTreetop AmbusherGood-Fortune UnicornAnswered PrayersRhox VeteranTrumpeting HerdBellowing ElkKnight of Old BenaliaSettle Beyond Reality

UB Ninjas

This might be my favorite archetype, not only because it’s sweet to play but because I started playing Magic in Kamigawa block and Ninjas were the real deal. Also, I was a teenager, so you know… Ninjas.

Anyhow, Ninjas is all about being proactive enough with a low curve so you can get on board fast to get the most out of ninjutsu. Clearly, ninjutsu gets much better when you have cheap evasion creatures that are easy to replay like Changeling Outcast and Faerie Seer, but sometimes you just want to pile on the pressure. Azra Smokeshaper is one of my favorite Ninjas because it’s excellent when you are attacking and forcing your opponent to block leads to some blowouts. If your opponent is confidently racing you, that’s a completely different story and hard-casting the Ninjas are a lot less impressive.

However, I often see people ninjutsu too much, even when it’s definitely worse. Sometimes, you just want to cast your Ninja pre- or post-combat to make your curve more efficient. Ingenious Infiltrator is a great example of a card you hardcast more often than you ninjutsu it, because why not cast it before attacking with Phantom Ninja or Venomous Changing? Tempo is key. Another thing Ninjas are great at is squeezing out another ETB trigger from creatures like Man-o’-War or Sling-Gang Lieutenant, which is something to keep in mind while drafting.

Cards that get better in Ninjas

Mist-Syndicate NagaFallen ShinobiIngenious InfiltratorWatcher for TomorrowChained ThroatseekerGraveshifterBlizzard StrixFaerie SeerChangeling OutcastString of DisappearancesNinja of the New MoonMoonblade ShinobiPhantom NinjaAzra SmokeshaperWindcaller Aven


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