Modern Horizons Preview (Part 1) - The Most Exciting Cards for Modern
While the winter holiday season is oftentimes referred to as "the season of giving," the true season of giving has to be spoiler season for any new Magic: The Gathering set. Modern Horizons spoilers haven’t been fully released yet, but just with what we've been given - almost a half of the set - there have already been several cards that have made my eyes pop out with excitement. Whether it's the card's power-level or their build-around potential, I'm quite certain that these cards are going to make a noticeable - if not far-reaching - impact on Modern, and I'm looking forward to diving into discussing them in this week's article.
1. Seasoned Pyromancer
Seasoned Pyromancer hasn't received the kind of fanfare that a three-mana, value-oozing Mythic would usually receive. Part of that may be that Modern hasn't been a midrange format in a very long time, and part of that may be that there are simply flashier cards that have been spoiled in the set. Don't make the mistake of sleeping on this card, however, as the rate that the card provides is phenomenal for its cost. When it enters the battlefield, Seasoned Pyromancer makes you discard two cards and then draws two cards. Important to note is that the discard isn't a requisite for drawing two cards, meaning having only one card or being hellbent still means you end up drawing two cards. The discard clause also provides value, as pitching non-land cards creates an 1/1 Elemental token for each non-land card that was discarded this way. Many decks such as Dredge and Phoenix actively want certain cards in the graveyard, so getting free creatures out of binning cards will be extremely enticing.
Another great aspect about Pyromancer is that it plays well with itself. Sometimes having multiple copies of cards don't turn out well, such as the case with legendary cards, but Pyromancer can pitch other copies in the hand to turn it into tokens. Furthermore, the last ability of Pyromancer ensures that when it ends up in the graveyard (whether it's killed or discarded), it can be exiled to extract that last bit of value.
Seasoned Pyromancer is currently sitting around 20 euros for a three-mana Mythic that does a kind of Huntmaster of the Fells / Bedlam Reveler / Lingering Souls impression. I picked mine up when they were eight euros, but as a potentially multipurpose Mythic, you might still consider picking some up.
2. Ice-Fang Coatl
When Modern Horizons was announced with its intention of printing cards straight into Modern and bypassing Standard as well as reprinting cards that aren't yet legal in Modern, players wondered if Baleful Strix would make its long-awaited arrival into the format. As has been the trend with the set, however, Wizards decided that they would print cards that were slightly different to the Legacy-legal staples that inspired them. Ice-Fang Coatl is in a different color combination than Strix (Simic as opposed to Dimir), isn't an artifact, has flash, and has a requirement for getting deathtouch.
However, the obvious comparison to Baleful Strix is there, and the ability to flash the creature in on the opponent's end step may push players to find a work-around of playing enough snow basics to turn on deathtouch. The great news for Modern about this card is that Modern has been a format where the Simic color combination has seen very little play throughout its history, especially when it comes to fair, interactive decks. If there's any card that might push players to start experimenting Temur control shells, Ice-Fang Coatl is going to be the big reason why.
3. Giver of Runes
In a format where decks are streamlined and tend to play the most efficient zero- and one-drops, cards costing more than one mana need to have a very good reason to find their way into decks. Thankfully, Giver of Runes is one of those one-mana cards that offers a ton for how cheap it is! The card is a callback to Mother of Runes, a card that Wizards can't reasonably reprint into Modern due to creature type (Human) and play pattern (it being nigh-impossible to kill once the player untaps with it). While it can't protect itself like Mother of Runes can, it's going to be a card that needs to be immediately dealt with because not doing so will make the other creatures on the board difficult to deal with - and “difficult” is quite the understatement.
Even if Giver of Runes eats removal all day, it's going to mean that other creatures you play after it will have a higher likelihood of surviving, and costing one mana means it will be trading at mana-parity even when hit with Lightning Bolt or Fatal Push. Giver also can't be deal with by cards such as Gut Shot and Liliana, the Last Hope due to the two points of toughness, which will be relevant in a good number of situations. I have no doubt that Giver of Runes will see widespread play in the creature-based strategies of the format.
4. Force of Vigor & Force of Negation
Magic's history is full of cycles of cards that are so improperly balanced that they're comical, and the Force cycle in Modern Horizons is one of them. Force of Rage and Force of Virtue are head-scratchers when it comes to power-level, and they're also not cards that look to be filling in a gap in the metagame that causes gameplay or metagame problems. Force of Despair will be great at fighting archetypes like Grishoalbrand and Hollow One, and it will find a home in a few sideboards.
I want to first take a look at Force of Vigor, a card that is going straight into the sideboard of almost every green deck from now until the end of Modern. Enchantment and artifact removal are prominent in Modern for several reasons: there are powerful, linear strategies that utilize the card types, and many hate cards that come out of sideboards to combat linear strategies are also enchantments and artifacts.
Cards like Mox Opal, Blood Moon, and Chalice of the Void see play due to the former, and Rest in Peace, Grafdigger's Cage, and Leyline of the Void due to the latter. Answering these cards can be generally difficult because investing mana either slows down your deck's gameplan or they come out sooner than you have the mana to get rid of them. With Force of Vigor, that problem is gone - an opponent slamming a turn-two Blood Moon or a turn-one Chalice will have to scramble for a follow-up play, and sideboard games where a player mulliganed aggressively for a hate-card will have a higher likelihood of being blown-out by having it immediately answered for zero mana.
Force of Negation is even more egregious and might end up being a mistake in the long run. Decks that will be running Force of Negation will be heavily blue, and one of the biggest weaknesses of those decks is casting a threat without any mana up to answer whatever came down on the opponent's turn. A turn-three Geist of Saint Traft meant that you were opening yourself up to a Karn, Liliana of the Veil, or whatever spell you might have wanted to counter. There was a risk to tapping out and leaving yourself vulnerable, but with Force of Negation, that tension is no longer there.
This applies to basically every single game-changing threat that the blue-based decks could be playing at sorcery speed, such as Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Threats that accrue card advantage make the Force that much better because the cost of exiling a card with Force becomes more negligible when your card advantage engine sticks to let you draw two cards a turn.
While it's true that Force of Negation can't be used as a protection spell for the spells on your turn, it's going to heavily incentivize a tap-out play-pattern that could likely play out similarly to having protection up. A blue-black control deck, for example, could lean on the discard to strip the opponent of instant-speed removal and then slam down a JTMS with Force backup. There's very little coming back from that, and there's very little interesting gameplay to that, as well. To take it one step further, imagine a curve of turn-one discard, into turn-two counter, into turn-three Teferi, Time Raveler, into turn-four Jace. If people were worried that control decks weren't being played enough in Modern, Force of Negation is going to change people's' tunes very quickly.
In any case, these cards are going to have a huge impact on the metagame, and with the entire set yet to be spoiled, I'll be looking forward to what else the set has to bring to the Modern format. What are other cards you expect to be big players from Modern Horizons? Let me know in the comment section below!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.
Check out our Modern Horizons page if you're interested in picking these up before everyone else catches on!