A Very Early Pick Order for Modern Horizons Draft

Since the Modern Horizons prerelease is Draft rather than Sealed, I decided to put out my Pack 1, Pick 1 list even earlier! The goal here is to rank all cards in the set from high to low for the purpose of the first-pick, first-pack decision in Draft. The ranking is also relevant as a rough guideline for the subsequent picks. The monetary value of cards is not taken into account.

Draft Archetypes in Modern Horizons

Before getting to the list, let’s start by breaking down the two-color archetypes in this new Limited format.

SoulherderEtchings of the ChosenLavabelly SliverGood-Fortune UnicornIngenious InfiltratorThundering DjinnAbominable TreefolkMunitions ExpertRotwidow PackRuination Rioter

Each of the 10 color pairs has a signpost gold uncommon that is meant to show that color pair’s theme. Based on the direction shown by these signpost uncommons and the commons in each color, all the archetypes become clear. As always, you need to draft a coherent deck with a focus on synergy.

Methodology and Data Sources

To construct an aggregate ranking, I took the weighed average of the following normalized grades:

  • My own initial grades. Usually, I would use the grades from LSV’s set reviews, but since I wanted to submit this pick order list super early, LSV’s set review wasn’t available yet. So I gave a rough, quick Limited grade between 0 and 5 to every card myself. I used these grades for a weight of 50%.
  • The Draftaholics Anonymous rankings were collected on June 4. Their scores for cards are derived from users who are presented with choices between two cards in a Pick 1, Pack 1 context. I scaled the ratings so that the card with the highest score became a 5.0 and the card with the lowest score became a 0.0. I used their rankings for a weight of 20%.
  • The average pick numbers of each card within a booster on draftsim.com. Draftsim is an online Draft simulator and practice tool where you can draft against computer opponents, and the data is based on over 31,000 Modern Horizons drafts done by users since the set was live. I transformed the average pick numbers so that the card with the lowest average pick number within a booster got a grade of 5.0 and the card with the highest average pick number within a booster got a grade of 0.0. Thanks to Dan Troha for providing me with the data! I used the resulting grades for a weight of 30%.

After taking the weighed average of the three grades, I made some adjustments for multicolor cards and colorless cards to get closer to a proper first-pick, first-pack order. After all, first-picking a gold card reduces your flexibility because it only goes into one color combination, whereas an artifact card keeps your options open. I subtracted 0.1 points for any gold card and added 0.1 point for any artifact.

The result was a number for every card in Modern Horizons—an aggregate of the above three sources that captures people’s first impressions. These numbers and the raw data in spreadsheet form can also function as a searchable text list. After I got a number for every card, all I had to do was to press sort, and the aggregate pick order list arose.

Tier 1: Bomb Rares/Mythics

Cards from this tier got a final adjusted rating between 4.1 and 5.0. If you prefer letter grades, then I would peg most of them as A-, A, or A+.

Sword of Truth and JusticeSerra the BenevolentDeep Forest HermitYawgmoth, Thran PhysicianSeasoned PyromancerSword of Sinew and SteelHexdrinkerWinds of AbandonEndlingGenesisPlague EngineerAyula, Queen Among BearsGiver of Runes

These are the best cards in the set according to this aggregate list, and I would first-pick them over any common or uncommon.

The cards are in order. Although this generally doesn’t matter for rares because packs don’t tend to have multiples of them, Sword of Truth and Justice is pegged as the best card in the set to first-pick, whereas Giver of Runes is on par with the best uncommon.

Tier 2: Includes the Best Uncommons

Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 4.1 and 3.9. That’s approximately B+.

FireboltCloudshredder SliverMist-Syndicate NinjaBattle ScreechPashalik MonsFuture SightWrenn and Six

Remember that this is all one continuous list, to be read left-to-right, top-to-bottom, and that the cutoff for my category grouping is completely arbitrary. The way to read it is that Firebolt should be first-picked over Cloudshredder Sliver or Mist-Syndicate Naga, which should in turn be first-picked over Battle Screech if they’re all in the same booster together. Wrenn and Six is on par with the best card from the next tier, at least in a first-pick-first-pack context.

Tier 3: Includes the Top 5 Commons

Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 3.9 and 3.3. That’s approximately B or B-.

MobFallen ShinobiGraveshifterPrismatic VistaFact or FictionBazaar TrademageUrza, Lord High ArtificerForce of VirtueCrashing FootfallsPyrophobiaIce-Fang CoatlDefileSpiteful SliverSmiting HelixTwisted ReflectionUrza's RageOneirophageKess, Dissident MageSling-Gang LieutenantSaddled RimestagKaya's GuileOn Thin IceTalisman of CreativityMan-o'-War - FoilFrostwalk BastionExcludeMagmatic Sinkhole

So according to this list, Mob is the best common to first-pick, followed by Pyrophobia, Defile, Man-o’-War, and Magmatic Sinkhole, in that order.

Tier 4: Great Playables

Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between a 3.3 and 2.7. That’s approximately C+.

Talisman of ConvictionRotwidow PackTalisman of HierarchyTalisman of ResilienceUnsettled MarinerSquirrel NestTalisman of CuriosityWatcher for TomorrowMorophon, the BoundlessThundering DjinnIrregular CohortWaterlogged GroveKrosan TuskerSoulherderFiery IsletNurturing PeatlandSilent ClearingRanger-Captain of EosHogaak, Arisen NecropolisSunbaked CanyonFeaster of FoolsMunitions ExpertSplicer's SkillRavenous GiantNantuko CultivatorDead of WinterIngenious InfiltratorGood-Fortune UnicornValiant ChangelingMarit Lage's SlumberWall of BlossomsOre-Scale GuardianAstral DriftLesser MasticoreForgotten CaveDregscape SliverTranquil ThicketSettle Beyond RealityBarren MoorAlpine GuideMother BearHollowhead SliverTrumpeting HerdLightning SkelementalPondering MageWindcaller AvenCrypt RatsThroatseekerLonely Sandbar - FoilWing Shards

Tier 5: Good Playables

Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 2.7 and 2.0. That’s approximately C or C-.

Birthing BoughsUndead AugurSecluded SteppeRhox VeteranIgneous ElementalFirst Sliver's ChosenLavabelly SliverTectonic ReformationConifer WurmReprobationEnduring SliverWinter's RestEtchings of the ChosenWebweaver ChangelingCleaving SliverMoonblade ShinobiCave of TemptationVenomous ChangelingReap the PastAbominable TreefolkForce of RageRime TenderFirst-Sphere GargantuaBlizzard StrixAyula's InfluenceScrapyard RecombinerZhalfirin DecoyFarmstead GleanerBladeback SliverScale UpCordial VampireLancer SliverPutrid GoblinRegrowthQuakefoot CyclopsSpringbloom DruidMurasa BehemothGoblin MatronGoblin War PartyKing of the PrideForce of DespairCarrion FeederVesperlarkSadistic ObsessionSnow-Covered IslandMirrodin BesiegedFountain of IchorImposter of the Sixth PrideRain of RevelationAnswered PrayersTempered SliverShelterAltar of DementiaTwin-Silk SpiderBellowing ElkCabal TherapistVengeful DevilWinding WayOrcish HellraiserSavage SwipeSnow-Covered Forest

Tier 6: Mediocre Playables

Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 2.0 and 1.6. That’s approximately D+.

Throes of ChaosSilumgar ScavengerWarteye WitchPhantom NinjaExcavating AnuridGluttonous SlugMartyr's SoulChangeling OutcastMox TantaliteArchmage's CharmFrostwallaRuination RioterUnearthChillerpillarAzra SmokeshaperEyekiteFaerie SeerScour All PossibilitiesSmoke ShroudGenerous GiftHeadless SpecterEladamri's CallRecruit the WorthyRansack the LabTreetop AmbusherChoking TethersString of DisappearancesForce of NegationGlacial Revalation

Tier 7: Mediocre Filler

Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 1.6 and a 1.0. That’s approximately D.

Amorphous AxeLlanowar TribeReturn from ExtinctionElvish FuryViashino SandsprinterSnow-Covered MountainScuttling SliverSpinehorn MinotaurIcehide GolemPhantasmal FormKnight of Old BenaliaSnow-Covered SwampSnow-Covered PlainsReckless ChargeBogardan DragonheartLava DartTreefolk UmbraEverdreamArcum's AstrolabeNether SpiritTribute MageCunning EvasionNinja of the New MoonUniversal AutomatonDiabolic EdictThornadoGoblin ChampionUmezawa's CharmProhibitWall of One Thousand CutsGoblin OriflammeStirring AddressTrustworthy ScoutEcho of EonsRank OfficerGoatnapFists of FlameThe First SliverEphemerateCollector OupheForce of VigorPillageIceberg CancrixFace of DivinityDismantling BlowSoul-Strike TechniqueSpell Snuff

Tier 8: Bad Cards and Unplayables

Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 1.0 and a 0.0. That’s approximately D- or F.

Volatile ClawsStream of ThoughtGoblin EngineerSegovian AngelMind RakeSisay, Weatherlight CaptainNimble MongooseGeomancer's GambitAria of FlameUnbound FlourishingNature's ChantHall of Heliod's GenerositySpore FrogGilded LightRebuildCollected ConjuringShatter AssumpionsShenanigansPlanebound AccompliceWeather the Storm

A Modern Horizons Bucket List

Modern Horizons is brimming with potential, which encouraged me to collect the sweet plays and powerful combos one could assemble in this format. Hopefully you can draw some inspiration from this list.

1. Enchant Crypt Rats with Face of Divinity. Now you can activate it for X=2 every turn and gain a bunch of life in the process.

2. Target Spinehorn with Fists of Flame to trample over for super lethal.

3. Turn 2 Iceberg Cancrix or Gluttonous Slug. Turn 3 Treefolk Umbra. Smash!

4. Experience at least one “oh yeah” moment involving Changelings. They are all creature types, which means that they are Cats for King of the Pride, Vampires for Cordial Vampire, Zombies for Undead Augur, Goats for Goatnap, Cowards for Pyrophobia, Spiders for Rotwidow Pack, and so on. Don’t forget!

5. Make a 5/4 Martyr’s Soul without convoke. This is most easily done by blinking it with a rebounded Ephemerate. Alternatively, tapping Fountain of Ichor, Talisman of Conviction, and a Mountain that gets sacrificed to Lava Dart also works.

6. Splice Splicer’s Skill onto Wing Shards after your opponent has cast a spell in their precombat main phase. That’s a lot of value from your storm spell.

7. Cast Phantasmal Form on two opposing creatures to shrink them down and/or to turn a creature into a legal target for Thornado.

8. When your opponent confidently targets you with a kicked Urza’s Rage for lethal, show them Gilded Light. Even though the card cannot be countered, gaining shroud still works to “counter” it.

9. Hit four creatures with Winding Way. In a typical 16-creature Limited deck, there’s about a 2% chance that you get this lucky. In average terms, you can expect to hit 1.6 creatures in your top 4 cards, which is actually quite good. The way I see it, Winding Way is close in power level to a two-mana Divination, while enabling graveyard synergies for free.

10. Win the game by attacking for lethal with a 20/20 Marit Lage, created by Marit Lage’s Slumber. In a dedicated snow deck, this is actually quite doable. Just watch out for Archmage’s Charm

11. Win the game via the Phyrexian ability on Mirrodin Besieged. This is incredibly difficult, as there are few common artifacts in the set.

12. Explain to an opponent how you are going to randomize Reap the Past when you have 14 cards in your graveyard and only one D6 to roll. A good way to approach this is by rolling the die, noting down the result, then rolling the die again. If the second roll shows 1 or a 2, use the result of the first roll. If the second roll shows 3 or a 4, add 6 to the result of the first roll. If the second die shows 5 or 6, add 12 to the result of the first roll. This yields a uniform distribution on {1, 2, …, 18} so if the end result is 14 or fewer, take the corresponding card in your graveyard. If you get 15 or more, you must reroll both dice and try again. Fun!

13. Have Smoke Shroud hit the graveyard only for a very brief time. Specifically, if you attack with a creature enchanted by Smoke Shroud and return it to your hand to pay the ninjutsu cost on Moonblade Shinobi, then Smoke Shroud falls off, ready to attach to Moonblade Shinobi immediately after.

14. Make infinite mana with Llanowar Tribe. The way to accomplish this is by turning it into a Sliver with Amorphous Axe and then continually untapping it via Scuttling Sliver. Then use Conifer Wurm to sink all that mana.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading. I rushed to get this list out before the prerelease, and I hope it will be useful for your first Modern Horizons drafts. Since the prime goal of this aggregate list is to spawn debate, let me know in the comment section which cards you felt were overrated or underrated.

All in all, Modern Horizons features an abundance of nostalgic cards and complex mechanics, so the Limited format looks like a lot of fun for the more enfranchised players. If you want a chance to open Modern Horizons boosters at the highest level of competition, then don’t miss the upcoming MagicFest in Copenhagen.

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