As was announced last week, Modern Horizons will be the first set designed to skip Standard legality and aim straight for Modern. Releasing June 14th, Modern Horizons contains 249 new-to-Modern cards, with a mix of new cards and reprints not yet legal in Modern.
Those reprints are particularly exciting to me. I started playing competitive Magic in 1998, and between 1998 and 2003 (before the first Modern-legal set was released) I played with many iconic cards that I have fond memories of. From that perspective, I want to share my Top 20 cards that I hope will be reprinted in Modern Horizons. My aim is not to predict the contents of the set, but rather to highlight cards that evoke a feeling of nostalgia within me and that may provide new, reasonable possibilities for the format.
My list deliberately excludes:
- Cards already legal in Modern.
- Any card first printed in a supplementary set after 2003 because I don’t have a personal connection with them.
- The most popular Legacy staples, specifically Brainstorm, Force of Will, Daze, Swords to Plowshares, Lotus Petal, Wasteland, Pyroblast, Hydroblast, and Hymn to Tourach. I would like Modern to have its own clear identity—one that is separate from Legacy.
- Cards on the reserved list, such as Cursed Scroll, Treachery, Academy Rector, and Aluren.
- Cards that are banned in Legacy, such as Gush, Survival of the Fittest, and Oath of Druids.
- Cards that would take too much time off the clock, such as Scroll Rack and Sylvan Library.
But I’m happy to include any 4+ mana cards that don’t immediately win the game, especially if they are iconic and may open up new strategies. Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor didn’t destroy Modern either. Let’s get to the list! (Again, I have no actual knowledge of what’s in the set—I just selected my personal favorites.)
20. Pattern of Rebirth
I played various Pattern of Rebirth decks over the years, but I distinctly remember a deck from 2004 that would enchant Sakura-Tribe Elder and sacrifice it to select from a toolbox of creatures. In the current Modern, you would probably just take Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but to me that’s fine on turn 4.
The Modern-legal Polymorph could already accomplish a similar feat, and that deck never took off. Because Pattern of Rebirth imposes different deck building constraints and gives its owner the choice of any creature, I’d be interested to try it out.
I also considered the somewhat similar Natural Order for this list, but that one seems a little too powerful. Practically every green deck would just jam four Natural Order and one Progenitus without having to worry about making their own creature die first. Pattern of Rebirth is a more restrictive build-around and may be good for diversity.
19. Fact or Fiction
Back in 2000, Fact of Fiction was one of the most powerful card advantage spells around. It even spawned its own acronym: EOTFOFYL, that is, “End of Turn Fact or Fiction, You Lose.” When Carlos Romao won the 2002 World Championship with his U/B Psychatog deck, he naturally played four copies of Fact or Fiction in his 75.
In the current Modern format, it’s far from clear that Fact or Fiction would be superior to Gifts Ungiven. But it would be nice to get the option, if only for nostalgia.
18. Nevinyrral’s Disk
Nevinyrral’s Disk was the sweeper of choice for control decks back in the day. Since planeswalkers didn’t exist as a card type before they were introduced in 2007, Nevinyrral’s Disk swept the board of all nonland permanents.
In the current Modern, Nevinyrral’s Disk would be worse than Wrath of God or Damnation against aggressive creature decks because it takes a turn to come online. But the ability to sweep at instant speed for just 1 mana could help against Collected Company or Arclight Phoenix, and mopping up Hardened Scales or Amulet of Vigor adds a fair bit of utility as well.
Pernicious Deed could fulfill a similar role and I would be happy with that reprint too, but Nevinyrral’s Disk has the better name. Did you know that the word Nevinyrral is derived from the famous science fiction author Larry Niven? It’s actually his name spelled backwards.
17. Control Magic
Control Magic is an iconic card. When I started playing Magic, casually at first, the ability to take control of an opposing Shivan Dragon or Serra Angel was amazing. As a result, any time I see a similar card, I refer to it as a “Control Magic effect.”
Control Magic wouldn’t be too powerful for Modern. We already have Threads of Disloyalty and Domestication, which see little to no play. And it would compete with Jace, the Mind Sculptor at the 4 mana slot. Yet gaining control of Primeval Titan or Wurmcoil Engine would be sweet, and it would be nice to have the option in deck building.
16. Flametongue Kavu
To continue with another nostalgia-driven pick that will likely have no meaningful impact on the format, I’m hoping that we get access to Flametongue Kavu in Modern. It was one of the best cards in Invasion block, and it featured prominently in the black-red “blow stuff up” deck that Tom van der Logt used to win the 2001 World Championship. Moreover, Flametongue Kavu spawned a naming convention that still lives to this day.
Ravenous Chupacabra? That’s a Flametongue.
Bloodbraid Elf? Flametongue.
Murderous Redcap? You guess it—just another Flametongue.
Wouldn’t it be great if the actual, original Flametongue Kavu would be legal in Modern too?
15. Spike Weaver
Spike Weaver was often seen as a one-of in decks that could tutor it up with Survival of the Fittest or Oath of Druids and then re-use it with Tradewind Rider, Recurring Nightmare, or Gaea’s Blessing. In those decks, Spike Weaver represented a game plan all by itself, and it influenced many games in the 2000 era Extended format.
In Modern, Spike Weaver could provide a new angle to Chord of Calling decks with Gavony Township. Since practically all decks contain some kind of interaction against creatures, this wouldn’t be too powerful, but it would add an interesting and unique dynamic to the format.
14. Sneak Attack
This is surely the most powerful card so far. Legacy players will be familiar with the power of Sneak Attack, where it has been putting Griselbrand and Emrakul onto the battlefield for a single red mana. And back in the day, before those creatures were even printed, I was already trying to sneak Serra Avatar onto the battlefield for the one-shot kill.
Despite Sneak Attack’s high power level, you’re paying 5 mana before sneaking the first creature onto the battlefield, which is the same as Through the Breach. The instant mainly sees play in Grishoalbrand, where it might actually be better than Sneak Attack because it can enable 4-mana kills when spliced onto Nourishing Shoal. With that in mind, my first impression is that Sneak Attack wouldn’t break Modern. Rather, it would allow for novel deck building opportunities, which is exactly what I’m hoping for with Modern Horizons.
Admittedly, it is a somewhat dangerous pick because a focused deck with both Through the Breach and Sneak Attack might turn out to be overpowered. I’m probably biased by nostalgia and memories of Cube Drafts, causing me to throw caution to the wind. But hey, this is my wish list, so Sneak Attack is on here. Just don’t have high hopes it will actually be in the set.
Back in 2002, when Carlos Romão became World Champion with his U/B Control deck, one of his main game plans was to stall an opponent until he could play a devastating Upheaval and Psychatog on the same turn.
I asked Carlos which of the two cards he would like to see most in Modern Horizons. “I would go for Upheaval,” he replied. “I think it fits better for modern Magic. What I am about to say really makes me sad, but I think Psychatog is outdated.”
I agree with him there. As iconic as Psychatog might be as a creature, a simple 3-mana, vanilla 7/8 might not even be good enough for the current Modern, and Psychatog has a tough time doing better than that.
Upheaval, on the other hand, could act as a mirror breaker in control matchups, and it could spawn a novel mana ramp archetype with cards like Pentad Prism and Joraga Treespeaker. I’m not sure how such a deck would win exactly, but I’m excited to find out.
Back in the day, we had very powerful reanimator decks that would exploit Entomb along with 2-mana reanimation spells like Exhume or Animate Dead. Having played with and against these deck in the past, I believe these cards would be too powerful for Modern. You just feel too powerless when facing nonsense like Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur or It That Betrays on turn 2. Sure, we might also die to Griselbrand on turn 2 in Modern, but at least Goryo’s Vengeance and Nourishing Shoal come with large deck building costs, and it’s not a guaranteed kill.
In my view, 3 mana is the sweet spot where a permanent reanimation spell would be reasonable for Modern, especially when it can be answered with enchantment removal. That’s why I hope to see Necromancy. Despite its horrendous Oracle text.
It’s no coincidence that I propose Foil right after Necromancy, as I love a good graveyard enabler. I can already imagine discarding Arclight Phoenix for value. But my main reason for proposing Foil is as a reliable 0-mana counter that would give Modern players a new tool against combo decks.
Thwart comes too late to stop the degenerate turn-3 combos, and Daze and Force of Will should remain in Legacy to give that format a clear, unique identity. With these restrictions in mind, Foil seems perfect. I don’t expect it would be too powerful, as it sees practically no play in Legacy. Rather, it’s a unique effect that would add something novel to Modern.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Modern Horizons offers Undermine, Memory Lapse, and/or Force Spike instead, but Modern already has Ionize, Remand, and Mana Tithe. I would rather see the more revolutionary combination of a discard enabler and combo answer in a single card.
10. Basking Rootwalla
Blue-Green Madness was the most memorable deck of Odyssey block, and it partly lives on in spirit. We may not have Wild Mongrel, Careful Study, or Arrogant Wurm in Modern, but we do have Noose Constrictor, Faithless Looting, and Reckless Wurm.
Yet what we’ve been missing all this time is a creature with madness cost zero. Please give us back Basking Rootwalla! I mean, I also wouldn’t mind seeing Aquamoeba, Circular Logic, and/or Wonder, but Basking Rootwalla could lead to the revitalization of this archetype.
One of the very first competitive decks I ever put together was a White Weenie list with four copies of Cataclysm. The goal of that deck was to cast Cataclysm while controlling a Mox Diamond and a creature (say, White Knight) enchanted with Empyrial Armor. This way, I could escape the carnage with one permanent of each type.
For the current Modern, I would like to see slightly more resource denial strategies. It surely isn’t fun to play against a land destruction deck every round, but if it’s once every 20 matches or so and they are not overpowered, then that adds depth to the game. Land destruction strategies offer a completely different gameplay angle, and it would be nice to give more options to players who enjoy such decks.
In my opinion, Cataclysm would be of an acceptable power level. Unlike Armageddon, it at least leaves your opponent with a single land, and it requires more deck building prowess to break the symmetry.
Also, Cataclysm would represent beautiful Tron hate, as they don’t even get to keep their Karn Liberated. Wow.
8. Tangle Wire
Am I evil for liking all these cards that leave opponents unable to cast their spells? Am I just clamoring for cards that might boost Affinity? Well, that’s for you to decide, but I hope to see Tangle Wire in Modern Horizons.
Tangle Wire was part of the Tinker deck that Jon Finkel used to win the 2000 World Championship. The artifact would often lock an opponent out of mana for the next 2-3 turns or so, leading to a major tempo advantage.
Unlike the decidedly unfun Back to Basics, Tangle Wire doesn’t leave your opponent completely hopeless, as it’s a temporary measure only. What’s more, it promotes interesting decision trees and knowledge of the stack.
If not Tangle Wire, then I would also accept Winter Orb. Or perhaps even Stasis, Smokestack, Opposition, or Braids, Cabal Minion (even if those cards wouldn’t slot into Affinity). In any case, I’m hoping for one or two reprints of iconic resource denial cards to add diversity to the format.
Doomsday has seen a small amount of play in Legacy, where you could stack your library with Laboratory Maniac and four card draw spells. But without Lion’s Eye Diamond and Dark Ritual, my first impression is that its power level might be acceptable for Modern.
While I wouldn’t want Modern to turn into a combo fiesta where everyone is just goldfishing against each other, I would enjoy an even larger number of possible archetypes. For this, Wizards could opt to reprint Mana Severance for the combo with Goblin Charbelcher, or Patriarch’s Bidding/Living Death to enable some graveyard engine deck, or Enchantress’ Presence/Argothian Enchantress to support an Enchantress deck. Or just Doomsday.
I particularly like Doomsday because it’s the type of card that has you plan five turns ahead. I love those types of complicated puzzles.
6. Cunning Wish
Cunning Wish was a centerpiece of Daniel Zink’s Mirari’s Wake deck that he used to win the 2003 World Championship. In his deck, Cunning Wish acted as a toolbox that could either get interactive cards or a win condition from his sideboard.
The question is whether a 2-mana tutor or a 3-mana tutor would be too powerful for Modern. (1-mana tutors, like Enlightened Tutor or Worldy Tutor, would surely be too powerful.) My instinct is that 2 mana tutors should be avoided, whereas 3-mana tutors with a restriction would be fine. Idyllic Tutor and Fabricate are legal too. I remain a little hesitant because Angel’s Grace + Ad Nauseam combo is already a competitive combo and Cunning Wish would slot too easily into that deck, but if R&D decides it’s safe, then I would welcome the return of Cunning Wish.
5. Cycling Lands
I have fond memories of these lands. I played Astral Slide to a Top 16 finish at Pro Tour Venice 2003, I watched Julien Nuijten win the 2004 World Championship with a similar deck, and I played a Seismic Assault + Life from the Loam deck on my way to a 2nd place at the 2005 World Championship. (That deck also contained the combo of Solitary Confinement and Genesis, but that may not lead to fun gameplay.)
There’s a world of difference between a cycling cost of 1 and a cycling cost of 2. So although we already have the likes of Canyon Slough and Desert of the Fervent in Modern, it’s not the same at all. The Onslaught cycling lands may enable a competitive Assault Loam deck, can reduce the cost of Hollow One, and might spawn an entirely new archetype if we would also get Lightning Rift and Astral Slide. Here’s hoping.
4. Goblin Sharpshooter
We recently got Goblin Warchief and Skirk Prospector in Dominaria, but a competitive Goblin deck still hasn’t appeared in Modern. Goblin Sharpshooter might be the missing piece of the puzzle. Around 2003, it was often combined with Skirk Prospector and Siege-Gang Commander to dominate the board and offer “can you win this turn?” puzzles.
If Goblin Sharpshooter doesn’t return, then I would hope to see a reprint of Goblin Lackey, Goblin Matron, and/or Goblin Ringleader. The Goblin tribe could use some help, and those value creatures seem reasonable as long as we don’t have the degeneracy of Food Chain or Phyrexian Altar.
3. Wirewood Symbiote
There is already an Elves deck in Modern, and this is the perfect moment to congratulate Dana Fisher for accomplishing her goal of becoming the youngest player to Day 2 a Grand Prix. Yet her trademark Elves deck hasn’t found the tournament success that top-tier decks like Izzet Phoenix, Dredge, or Hardened Scales have.
Wirewood Symbiote could change that. It can return Dwynen’s Elite or Shaman of the Pack so you can reuse their enters-the-battlefield triggers. It can untap Llanowar Elves or Elvish Archdruid to produce tons of mana. And together with Beast Whisperer, it could bring back memories of the Glimpse of Nature deck that dominated Pro Tour Berlin 2008.
Many of the cards in my list have been proactive, but the reality is that Modern needs more interaction. Indeed, the fair decks need some additional ways to fight the unfair decks. A removal spell that could also deal with Urza’s Tower and Ensnaring Bridge would be perfect, so Vindicate (or alternatively Pillage) would make for a great reprint.
At Pro Tour New Orleans 2001, I played a midrange deck where Vindicate was part of the glue that held it all together. The card gave a way to deal with everything, and it was a great feeling to know that I always had an out, no matter what kind of threat my opponent presented, whether it was Treetop Village, Cursed Scroll, or Avatar of Woe.
In Modern, Vindicate could offer similar protection to Abzan and Mardu Pyromancer. Given that these decks seem to have fallen in popularity over the last year, they could use the help.
1. Adventurers’ Guildhouse
So the thing with banding is that—
All right, all right, let’s move to the real number one.
In response to the question: “Was the card Counterspell ever on the table to be reprinted in Dominaria,” Mark Rosewater answered, “We decided we didn’t want to bring Counterspell back to Standard.”
Reading between the lines, this answer indicates to me that Rosewater believes that Counterspell might be fine for Modern but would be too powerful for Standard. If so, then that’s exactly the type of reprint that Modern Horizons is meant for.
Counterspell is one of the most iconic cards in the history of Magic, with 25 different printings. It has just never been printed in a Modern-legal set. This could very well change, as it would add an excellent interactive card to the format. Logic Knot and Mana Leak are too restrictive, and Counterspell would represent a sweet upgrade.
Modern Horizons will have prerelease events at local game stores on June 8th–9th. Then, on the release weekend of June 15th–16th, you can participate in Modern Horizons Limited Grand Prix tournaments at MagicFest Washington D.C. and MagicFest Copenhagen. In addition, CFB Events will be celebrating Modern Horizons at MagicFest Seattle (June 20th-23rd) in a new Grand Prix structure with two Day 1s.
Modern is my favorite Constructed format, and I hope that this set will make the format even more diverse and healthier. In any case, the set shows that Wizards wants to keep supporting the Modern format. Perhaps that support is contingent on card sales from these supplementary sets (which makes me wonder why it wouldn’t also include much-needed reprints of key Modern staples) but I would be happy to buy a box if it features some of the cards on my wish list. I’m looking forward to the start of the actual preview season at the end of May.
Which cards are you clamoring for? Berserk? Buried Alive? Cabal Coffers? Chain Lightning? Dust Bowl? Engineered Plague? Fire // Ice? Forbid? Impulse? Innocent Blood? Insidious Dreams? Ivory Tower? Karakas? Land Tax? Maze of Ith? Meekstone? Mishra’s Factory? Moment’s Peace? Mother of Runes? Nimble Mongoose? Regrowth? Rishadan Port? Snuff Out? Standstill? Stifle? Sylvan Safekeeper? Thran Dynamo? Tradewind Rider? Yavimaya Elder? Whatever it is, change is on the horizon.