Modern Horizons looms large on the… what’s a word for “the line where the earth and sky appear to meet…”?
Modern Horizons is “just around the riverbend”and I’m stoked to see how the new release will impact Magic’s most popular Constructed format. Today, I’ll discuss eight cards I’d love to see repurposed into Modern mainstays.
Slotting Old Cards Into Modern is a Huge Deal
The concept of a set that drops old and new printings into Modern has been floating around since the format came to be. Nearly a decade came and went with no Horizons, but the fact we are getting it now is likely thanks to the fact that we need it now.
The power level of a Modern deck is high and tends to reward linear choices that make the game all about fighting a battle over some specific, exploitable point in the game. Modern has been pushed forward by Standard printings:
It’s not even that WotC can’t, or doesn’t, print Standard cards that impact Modern. They clearly can and do. With that being said, I love the idea of a set that doesn’t care about whether a card is too obnoxious for the Standard metagame. Cheap, reactive removal and interaction puts a ton of pressure on Standard:
The price of putting cards like these into Standard is two years of misery, and Modern Horizons seems like a great way to expedite the process of pushing Modern forward without running Standard off the road.
My primary criteria for picking cards was two-fold:
- The card can’t be on the reserve list for obvious reasons.
- The card has to provide a Modern impact. I didn’t include Oubliette on the list because Pauper needs it (fact), since this is an article Modern Horizons for Modern.
Other than that, I went with cards I find fun and exciting to play and build decks around.
8. Onslaught Cycling Lands
There are many Onslaught block cards I’d love to see in Modern, but the lands are high on my list. I like these cards because they offer interesting options to a wide array of decks.
The delineation between what is or isn’t Modern is arbitrary. Onslaught block “feels” Modern to me, but features the old card face and is thus excluded. Fetchlands, reprinted in Khans of Tarkir, were format-defining.
Loaming cycling lands is obviously sweet and opens up lots of options for Aggro Loam, as well as more controlling Loam-based strategies.
It would also be great to see these lands return alongside some of the other iconic Onslaught cycling cards:
Astral Slide, in particular, seems like a powerful engine that would be fun to build a deck around.
Modern is a format where “defensive checkmate” cards like Rest in Peace and Stony Silence reign supreme in sideboards. As much as I love casually casting a 2-drop enchantment that leads to games where my opponent can’t do anything, I’d also love some interactive sideboard cards too.
I like sideboard cards like Pyroblast and Hydroblast that don’t feel so narrow. It’s a counterspell or a removal spell, and useful against any deck playing either blue or red.
We may see Flusterstorm in Modern Horizons. It’s also cute that Flusterstorm is maindeckable for some blue decks. With that being said, I’d rather have BEB or REB. I prefer the flexibility to answer permanents more than overkilling Storm decks, and would prefer not to deal with Nivmagus Combo decks.
Truly, I’d prefer Force of Will, but I think it’s highly unlikely. Since I already wrote an entire article about the topic, I’ll spend the time today talking about a more likely printing, Counterspell. In fact, I’d be surprised if Counterspell didn’t find a home in Modern Horizons.
In terms of impact, I don’t think Counterspell will be as huge as people think. The decks that want it already play Logic Knot.
Yes, it is a better Logic Knot, but Logic Knot is pretty unexciting to start with. The point I’m trying to make is that Counterspell is unlikely to have a profound effect on Modern, but it would certainly see a decent amount of play and make an impact.
The price of Alpha and Beta Counterspell has been surging and it almost feels like a foregone conclusion that it will appear in Horizons.
5. Goblin Welder
Let’s go ahead and throw my selfish, “break the format” pick into the ring…
Goblin Welder is one of my favorite tournament cards of all time and I’d be remiss if I said I wouldn’t fist pump its inclusion in Modern Horizons.
Welder is potentially too powerful for Modern and might pose some problems, especially if Faithless Looting is allowed to remain. It’s one of those scenarios where it’s clearly a busted card, but I have to ask: is it really that much more busted than what’s already going on?
It’s close, and I’m leaning toward busted, but I think it raises an interesting question about expectations for the format after Horizons: what will, or should, the format be like? In a moment where 250+ cards designed to make an impact are about to be introduced, what do you hope that impact will be?
I’m not going to lie—I hope the set is full of cards I think are sweet and that I’d enjoy playing. It’s a tough balance because everyone likes different cards and types of decks. If the format is going to continue to be a bunch of decks trying to “out-break” one another, my preferred weapon of choice is a Welder.
I’d be interested to hear which cards readers think are too broken for Modern, but that you’d still love to see on the spoiler anyway.
4. Pernicious Deed
Pernicious Deed is one of the most all-time iconic, nostalgic Magic cards and earned that reputation as the lynchpin of Old Extended Rock decks.
Overall, I’m in favor of cards that slow the format down and actively punish linear decks for spamming “all-in” strategies. I’m looking at you, Mox Opal…
I enjoy playing The Rock, but would love access to a powerful, game breaking card like Deed. It’s an expensive spell, but provides a type of effect that simply doesn’t exist in current Modern. I’d be in favor of decks like The Rock having access to this type of card.
There is no doubt that Karakas is powerful, but is it suited for Modern?
Death & Taxes and Eldrazi & Taxes decks feel like they are close to being competitive, but simply don’t have enough tools to mount a focused defense. It’s a two-fold problem:
- Decks attack from too many directions for you to control.
- Taxes feels like it doesn’t have enough powerful pieces to make it worth playing over something better.
I think these aggro, prison-type decks need some help in Modern if they are to make a meaningfully combat combo.
The other, more important thing that Karakas does is protect Thalia, Guardian of Thraben from cheap removal. The biggest reason to play White Prison decks is Thalia and it’s super sad when she gets killed by a Bolt or Push. Karakas gives white mages a way to make her sticky in the matchups where keeping her alive is life or death (and taxes).
Karakas also opens up other avenues to explore:
Venser is a great late game mana sink for a control deck that could add a fun wrinkle.
2. Containment Priest
Speaking of ways to bolster Death & Taxes style decks….
Containment Priest may not be an oldie, but it’s certainly a goodie… Stephen Mann suggested the card to me in Tampa and I think it’s such a logical inclusion that I’ll be upset if it doesn’t find its way into Modern Horizons.
It’s a Human, which slots nicely into Tribal Humans. It would also be at home in a Taxes shell:
There’s also the sweet Eldrazi angle. Containment Priest prevents “blinked” creatures from returning to the battlefield from exile.
Containment Priest is also a great sideboard card for any white deck against Dredge and Phoenix. It seems like a card that plugs a lot of places where Modern feels leaky.
1. Riptide Laboratory
I decided to go with a fun one for number one:
Yes, the card is durdle city, except it’s actually powerful and worth the effort. To be fair, when I used to play this card in Faeries back in the day, “damage on the stack” was a thing, which made it even better.
I love the idea of Modern. A gigantic format full of thousands of powerful cards and viable strategies to contemplate.
One of the aspects about the direction of Modern I most enjoy is keeping it relatively free from insane cantrips like Brainstorm and Ponder and excessively fast mana like Dark Ritual and Rite of Flame. I’d like to keep Brainstorm and Ponder in Eternal where they belong. I don’t want to play a format without Force of Will where the game ends before I take my second turn. These are solid principles to build around.
What the format lacks, in my opinion, are solid, flexible ways to interact with the best decks and best cards. I’ve played a ton of Eternal with way more busted cards than Faithless Looting and Ancient Stirrings. The fact that people have complained so long and so hard about these staples is telling.
I would actually argue these two specific cards come too close to breaking the “we don’t have Brainstorm and Ponder” rule of Modern, which is why they are always the focal point of complaints about the format.
One of the biggest concerns people seem to voice about changes to Modern is the idea of the format’s identity and the importance of preserving it. I agree that having a bunch of formats that all feel the same, with the same decks, is not ideal.
With that being said, after playing the format since the very first Modern event, I’m still unclear as to what that identity is. I would suggest that Modern’s identity is and has always been a format where the interaction has consistently been outclassed by the powerful linear strategies.
It’s been that way since day one and the format has been a revolving door of bannings to prune back the frustrating game play experiences once it becomes clear the tools to solve the problem just don’t exist in any realistic form.
On a gameplay level, I’d love to see high quality, flexible answers in Modern Horizons. On a personal level, I’d love to see some of the fun, powerful, and iconic cards reprise a shade of their former glory. I’m also hoping to see some exciting new cards that serve to alleviate some of the recurring format tensions that come up time and again.
Are there any MTG cards you’d love to see make an appearance in Modern Horizons that I haven’t touched upon? Of course there are! How could there not be!? I’d love to hear about and discuss those picks with you in the comments section.
Before we get too deep on what is impossible, unfair, or broken, I’d like to point out that Tron is a thing and there are 12 cheap tutors to help set it up. When I step back, and try to internalize that piece of information, it doesn’t seem that absurd to me to ask for cards like Counterspell, Pyroblast, Pernicious Deed, Karakas, Riptide Lab, or even Force of Will. I’d much rather play with those cards than with Tron. I’d much rather play against those cards than Tron.
Ultimately, I’d love for the identity of the format to be one where people can truly play what they like and enjoy. If WotC is eliminating the arbitrary element of Modern’s identity that revolves around unique cards printed in a Standard-legal expansion with new card face, I say, “Let’s do this.” Let’s get the cards that people actually love and enjoy playing with back into sleeves and into decks where they can be enjoyed and appreciated.