Modern Horizons Preview (Part 2) - Modern Duds
Last week, I discussed Modern’s most exciting new toys from Modern Horizons. This week, I'm bringing out the cards that make my shake in my head in disappointment. From cards that are a few words away from being interesting build-arounds to cards that left me dumbfounded as to why they were designed the way they were, I'm going to give you a run down of the biggest MH1 misses. Stretch your thumbs and prepare your booing because this might get ugly - here's to hoping you won’t open any of these cards in your prize boosters!
1. Collected Conjuring
Collected Conjuring is a callback to former Standard menace Collected Company, and at first glance, it looks as good as its prototype. A closer look at it, however, reveals that Collected Conjuring can't quite live up to its parent.
The first big difference is the color requirements for casting the Conjuring - being a gold card is going to create a lot more restrictions when it comes to the decks it fits in, whereas Company could be cast in any creature decks able to splash green. Back when Collected Company was a bigger part of the Modern format, even decks that were five-color tribal decks could reliably cast Company due to its mono-colored nature. Any deck that wants to incorporate Conjuring, on the other hand, will find itself restricted most likely to Jeskai, as Conjuring can hit some of the better suspend cards such as Ancestral Vision and Restore Balance in that color combination.
This brings us to the second issue with the card - the restriction of the type of cards Collected Conjuring can hit. Oddly enough, Collected Conjuring only casts sorcery cards, which narrows down the list of spells that can be played in a Conjuring deck. Furthermore, a deck that wants to reliably cast two spells for free with Conjuring will have to pack a good number of sorceries in the deck, taking away the instant-speed advantage that spell slinger decks tend to have. A Collected Company deck can get away with running a high number of creatures because it can always cast those cards normally and enact a proactive beat-down gameplan, but a deck full of sorceries will not enable a proactive gameplan due to the inability to play to the board, and it won't be able to play a reactive strategy either because it doesn't play at sorcery speed.
Speaking of sorcery speed, Collected Conjuring being a sorcery may be the biggest reason the card simply won't cut mustard in Modern. In a format where four-mana card advantage range from the versatile Cryptic Command to the game-winning Jace, the Mind Sculptor, having a four-mana sorcery that may or may not hit for value is already a bad position to be in. Having four mana open and not being able to flexibly use the mana at the end of turn a la Fact or Fiction or Hieroglyphic Illumination forces the player casting Conjuring to tap out on his or her turn for a card that might not even win the game. If Conjuring could have hit both sorcery and instant cards, as well as being instant speed itself, it may have become an interesting build-around for controlling shells. As it stands, however, it's unlikely that the deck will make any headway in Modern.
2. Force of Virtue
In my last article, I gushed about my enthusiasm for two of the Force cycles in Modern Horizons. Force of Negation and Force of Vigor are powerful main-deck and sideboard options that will likely have huge ramifications in matchups in Modern. Force of Virtue, on the other hand, looks like a card whose power was absorbed by its two siblings in the cycle.
Modern has, for quite a while now, needed better safety valves for fair decks to combat the unfair, linear strategies that dominate the format. While some members of the Modern community have called for Legacy-level answers such as Force of Will and Wasteland, Wizards of the Coast have seen much more keen in ensuring that Modern is a distinctly different format than Legacy. Force of Negation and Force of Vigor cover some of the format's bigger problems, but no card in the cycle addresses the elephant in the room: using the graveyard as a resource. Many of the current top decks in Modern treat the graveyard as a second library, whether it's Izzet Phoenix, Dredge, or the new Hogaak Bridgevine deck, and hate-cards targeting these decks would have been a welcome addition. Force of Virtue is a cute card, but one is left scratching his or her head when three other cards in the cycle are obvious tools for keeping linear strategies in check. Especially with white being the best sideboard card in Modern, there would have been even more justification for Force of Virtue to have been something of a cross between Containment Priest and Rest in Peace. Unfortunately, we're simply left with a four-mana enchantment that will see zero play in the format instead.
There was a time in Modern's history when Wild Nacatl was banned, then unbanned, and saw quite a bit of play in various aggro / Zoo strategies. Those days are long gone, and the one-drop slot has been replaced by the likes of … well, nothing. Zoo archetypes left and never came back, and Burn has trimmed down to two colors for a more consistent manabase after the printing of Inspiring Vantage. Hexdrinker is perhaps Wizards' way of hoping that the Zoo archetype would make a comeback with a little nudge, and yet it falls flat compared to its competition.
Creatures have come a long way over the past several years, and the best creatures to be casting in Modern are typically the ones that let the player cheat on mana. Cards like Gurmag Angler, Hollow One, and Arclight Phoenix all have converted mana costs that actually betray how little players pay for them to cast. Furthermore, even among the one or two mana creatures, Hedrinker's 2/1 body can't compete. Requiring a four-mana investment to get a 4/4 creature with protection from instants is a terrible rate in Modern when all sorts of things could go wrong. Best-case scenario, the opponent casts a removal in response to the third level counter being put on Hexdrinker, and worst case scenario, the opponent already won the turn before. Modern is a blazing fast format, and that might be a difficult potion to chug - even for Hexdrinker.
4. Kess, Dissident Mage
Kess, Dissident Mage is a four-mana value engine that, if left unchecked, can easily take over the game by burying the opponent in card advantage, and that is the exact reason why Kess is not quite good enough for Modern. Grixis Control is the obvious deck that might consider Kess, an archetype that has not seen play since Corey Burkhart put it down ages ago, but Kess doesn't answer any of the problems the deck has. Namely, Grixis Control decks struggle against Burn and aggressive strategies, doesn't have a win-condition on the level of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and has a mana base too stretched out to play multiple copies of Field of Ruin. Kess is great against midrange and control decks, against which Grixis Control already has good matchups.
Another key issue with Kess is the lack of Gitaxian Probe in the format. Although Modern is better with Probe out of the format, being able to cast Probe immediately after playing Kess makes the pains of playing a four-mana creature more palpable. Noticeably, Kess has shown up a lot less since probe was banned, even though Grixis Control is a powerful deck in the format. Not having access to that play on turn four or having to wait until turn five to cash in on some value with Kess makes her a worse Jace, the Mind Sculptor or a variant of Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.
If Kess had a CMC of three instead, perhaps she would have had a shot. As it stands, however, only the die-hard Grixis players will be trying her out in their decks before she makes her way back into trade binders and EDH decks.
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!