Grand Prix Copenhagen and Washington DC are this weekend, so I want to talk a little bit about Modern Horizons Draft. The set has only been out for about a week, so it’s mostly just early impressions, but it should be good enough to give you an idea of what to do, what’s important and what the format looks like before your first draft.
Like the Modern Masters formats, there are so many playables that you don’t have to worry about having enough cards for your deck. That means that you shouldn’t be afraid to keep taking the most powerful cards early on and switch colors later if you need to. Identify the open colors and give yourself the highest chance of getting passed bombs.
This format is very aggressive. There are many good playables and a lot of cheap removal. This format is unlike the grindy Dominaria that we just had a chance to play on Arena; in Modern Horizons you better believe your opponent will play a creature on turn 2 and get aggressive. At the same time, the fact that there is a lot of cheap removal means you can draft slower midrange decks, you just have to make sure you have enough ways to stop early aggression.
I like to stay in two colors, sometimes even just one. The set having so many playables and most of the colors being pretty deep means that you don’t really need to draft a third color or even take fixing very highly.
I like to draft the most synergistic 2-color combinations, but all of them are perfectly playable. Here is what all the 10 color pairs should be doing.
Modern Horizons Draft Archetypes
- WU – Blink
- UB – Ninjas
- BR – Sacrifice/Goblins
- RG – Lands in graveyard
- GW – Creaturefall
- WB – Changeling Tribal
- UR – Draw two
- BG – Graveyard
- RW – Slivers
- UG – Snow
Let me start with the archetype that, unsurprisingly, I enjoy drafting a lot.
White is super deep and it’s not unusual to end up being completely mono-white. The key cards to this archetype are Answered Prayers and Rhox Veteran. These aren’t necessarily cards you should be taking p1p1, but they make this archetype work. Stirring Address is also very important, giving you a decent trick early and a full-on Overrun-type effect in the late game. White being so deep means you can pretty much pair it with any other color, though W/G and U/W stand out to me. Green has a lot of good two-drops and most importantly Savage Swipe, which is an extremely efficient removal spell. Trumpeting Herd is another card I’m very high on. I usually like to play 1 copy of Recruit the Worthy because it’s good in the late game and it triggers Answered Prayers.
Blue gives you bounce effects. String of Disappearances and Man’o’War pair incredibly well with Soulherder. Pondering Mage looks like something that wouldn’t really go into an aggressive deck, but it’s just so good that I’d always play it even in a low-curve deck.
U/R Draw 2
As the description suggests, this color pair revolves around drawing extra cards, which is always a good place to be. Most of the cards for this archetype tend to go pretty late, except for cycling lands, which you should take very highly. The most important creatures for this archetype are Eyekite, Orcish Hellraiser and Spinehorn Minotaur. There are many ways to draw you the extra card to trigger your stuff and even a lot of bounce and removal, so I like to take the cheap aggressive creatures first.
I’m not a big fan of this archetype because most of the cards don’t really get that much better with snow mana and without it are usually mediocre. This archetype also forces you to waste your early picks on Snow Lands, because you absolutely need to make sure you have those for your deck to function. If someone is taking the same in front of you or just takes the lands, you usually end up with a pretty bad deck. It feels great when you get 2 Abominable Treefolks and a bunch of other good cards, but sometimes you take all the snow cards you can get your hands on and still end up with a curve of Iceberg Cancrix – Frostwalla – Conifer Wurm, which is hardly exciting. You are probably supposed to be U/G Tempo with the good cards and a touch of snow stuff, but not rely on the mechanic.
It’s hard to rate how good certain cards are because most of them heavily depend on how many snow lands you have. If you have a lot, Rime Tender becomes really good and you take Frostwalla very high. If you don’t, it’s better to take some non-snow card that’s gonna work fine even without the snow mana. It’s very important to keep an eye on the snow lands in the booster packs and make a mental note of which are likely to table or not.
Springbloom Druid makes it easy to splash one or more colors if you pick up some bombs along the way.
You can draft a ”normal“ R/B deck with just solid creatures and removal (I usually like First-Sphere Gargantua in those decks for value), but it’s usually better to take advantage of the Goblin/sacrifice synergy. The most important creatures are Sling-Gang Lieutenant and Munitions Expert, followed by Putrid Goblin and even Bogardan Dragonheart, which doesn’t look amazing at first glance but is actually quite decent in this archetype. As usual with these kind of decks, you need to find the right balance of sacrifice outlets and things to sacrifice so you don’t end up with too many of one and too few of the other. Removal and tricks seem less important to me here than the synergy. The more enter-the-battlefield creatures you have like Goblin Matron and Munitions Expert, the better Unearth and Return from Extinction gets.
There are two types of red-green. The first one is very low curve where you take everything cheap and aggressive like Treetop Ambusher, Orcish Hellraiser, Elvish Fury and Savage Swipe. The other one is more midrange where you take advantage of the synergies by having a land in your graveyard. You need to decide which one you are drafting because the card evaluations change drastically. For example, Igneous Elemental is amazing if you have a land in your graveyard, but very bad if you are trying to be aggressive and low to the ground. Similarly, Springbloom Druid or Murasa Behemoth are amazing in the midrange deck, but not good if you are just trying to end the game as fast as possible. There aren’t that many good cards that put a land into your graveyard, so take them reasonably highly because your deck doesn’t work without them.
As with the other synergies in this format, it’s important to find the right mix of cheap enablers and creatures with ninjutsu.
You can’t have all expensive creatures with ninjutsu because your deck will be too slow, but you also don’t want to have too many cheap creatures, because if they have a removal spell for your one Ninja, you’ll end up with a bunch of mediocre creatures. I tend to play a couple one-drops like Changeling Outcast, but usually not more than two. Smoke Shroud is one of the best possible cards for this archetype. It gives you evasion and it comes back from the graveyard, so it’s really hard to get rid of. It’s also amazing with Moonblade Shinobi and Ninja of the New Moon, which isn’t otherwise very exciting. You need creatures with evasion over “solid“ creatures with better stats, so for example Eyekite is a better card for your deck than Putrid Goblin.
This archetype is basically just solid removal and solid creatures with some graveyard synergy thrown into the mix. Defile is one of the key cards for this archetype, so it’s important to try to be more black than green. It’s a perfectly fine removal spell if you are casting it as a -2/-2, but it really shines if you can kill big creatures with it. So when presented a pick between a green and black card of a similar power level, I tend to take my mana base into consideration and usually pick the black one. Ransack the Lab is a card that tends to go very late but works pretty well in this deck. Other important cards for this archetype outside the removal spells like Defile are Springbloom Druid and Mother Bear. The more cheap removal you have, the more reasonable it is to choose the draw.
I haven’t drafted a full Sliver deck, but my impression is that you will want to play the Slivers that are good on their own and fill your deck with Changelings, other solid creatures and removal. I don’t think it’s necessary to focus on drafting 20 Slivers, just try to have a good deck with a solid curve and tricks and removal. The First Sliver is also something that probably goes better into a 5-Color Green deck with a lot of Springbloom Druids, rather than a Five-Color Sliver deck because it would be otherwise pretty hard to fix your mana.
I know people like to rank colors and have pick orders, but this set is so much about synergy that everything changes so much based on what color combination you are drafting. You can check an early pick order for Modern Horizon draft from Frank Karsten here.
I’d like to end this article with a couple of tips and hit-or-miss cards that I wasn’t sure how to evaluate when I drafted for the first time.
Diabolic Edict: Miss. there are too many tokens and persists creatures and one drops in this format that will make Edict mediocre way too often.
Generous Gift: Neither hit nor miss, as you can always target your own creature in response to a removal spell or upgrade a smaller creature to a 3/3 and surprise something with an instant-speed blocker. But in general, I think of this as a sideboard card against bombs, rather than something I am excited to put in my maindeck.
Amorphous Axe: This is something that only goes into the super-aggressive decks with unblockable or other evasion creatures but not something you should ever put into G/B Midrange. The higher your curve, the worse this gets.
Horizon Lands: Hit. Cycling lands were always a very high pick because they ensure you get screwed or flooded less often and they don’t take up space in your deck. The Horizon lands are even better because they also fix your mana and the damage you have to take is often comparable to having your land come into play tapped.
Savage Swipe vs Trumpeting Herd: I tend to see these two cards in the same print run and am never sure what to take. Both cards are excellent, but it should usually depend on your deck if you want a cheap removal spell or a good value card. When it’s my first copy, I usually take Savage Swipe.
In general, the colors I liked the most were green and white because of how deep they are. There’s lots of good cards and synergy, so you rarely end up with a bad deck, but it’s still very important to be open and know all the archetypes.
I hope you enjoy drafting Modern Horizons and good luck if you are playing any of the events this weekend!