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Welcome back, readers! It feels like forever between visits now that I've switched to doing articles every other week, but life gets busy, so I definitely like having a bigger time gap in between articles. So, we know very little about Modern Horizons and I imagine we'll start seeing more spoilers starting any day now. We only have two spoilers for the set so far:
We've also been told that nothing in the set is currently Modern legal, but there will be reprints from past sets. This means we will see pre-Modern reprints, though there is no guarantee they will be cards that see play in Legacy. We also know they will not be from the Reserved List. However, that begs the question; what are the most valuable non-Reserved List pre-Modern cards?
Imperial Seal is number one on this list, even with the somewhat recent judge printing. I actually think this could be a good option for the set. While it is a powerful tutor, it is sorcery speed and is actually card disadvantage. I don't think it would break Modern. I imagine it would most likely show up in the Modern Ad Nauseum decks or Grishoalbrand style decks as these are Modern's two black based combo decks, though it would obviously be a great addition to the Death's Shadow decks as well. The set will need a big name reprint to help justify the box cost.
Zodiac Dragon is another Portal Three Kingdoms card with a high price tag, but in this case, a reprint would absolutely tank the value. Dragon collectors would be thrilled, except those who shelled out $200+ for their copy of the P3K version. This is the type of card that would likely be $8-$12 if it were reprinted and because of that, it would make a bad "flagship" card to sell boxes, though it could still show up in the set.
Grim Tutor would be the other "flagship black tutor" they could include to sell boxes. This one would likely be even safer for Modern thanks to its sorcery speed and costing 3 mana. The danger here would be that like Zodiac Dragon above, this card's value is heavily influenced by its extreme rarity; Starter 1999 was not a set people were racing to crack packs of. A reprint in Modern Horizons, even at mythic, would likely make this a $20-$30 card. I would expect it to follow a similar trajectory to Imperial Recruiter which went from being a $340+ card to around $120 with the reprints available for under $30.
Mana Crypt is a card I feel I can say with almost absolute certainty will NOT be in Modern Horizons. WoTC has banned all the free mana rocks save Mox Opal and even that one is often described as being near the line. If Chrome Mox is too good for Modern, then Mana Crypt would be insane. All this being said, I do expect we'll see another reprint of this card before too long, just not one that would put it into Modern.
Force of Will would definitely be an interesting addition to modern. I do think that control decks could use a bit more help against some of the degenerate combo decks of the format, however, I would be concerned that adding Force of Will might simply be pushing Modern into being more of a diet version of Legacy. I think WotC wants to keep Modern a unique format. The recent price jump of FoW makes me think that some people are speculating on its inclusion, as there certainly hasn't been any major Legacy format changes to justify the 30%+ jump we've seen in the past couple of months.
Ravages of War is the Portal Three Kingdoms version of Armageddon, yet thanks entirely to Commander it commands a price tag of over $100. However, that's entirely due to scarcity and any non-special reprint would bring the price crashing down likely to $15-$25. It's also important to note that WotC has definitely seemed to shift away from any mass land destruction spells, as they tend to lead to a lot of "non-games", which would be a bad direction to push a format you want to grow. For that reason alone, I think this card is very unlikely to be included in Modern Horizons.
Capture of Jingzhou is the Portal Three Kingdoms version of Time Warp. We have Time Warp already legal in the format, and there is a tier 2 deck that tries to go infinite with extra turn effects. This would definitely fit well into that deck, though I don't think a bit more consistency would make it tier 1. As with most P3K cards, a large scale reprint would tank the value hard and it would likely fall into the $20-$30 range, similar to Imperial Recruiter. This is definitely a card that could be included in Modern Horizons.
Warrior's Oath is the Portal 3 Kingdoms version of Final Fortune. Interestingly, despite three different reprintings, none of them were in Modern sets. They could also choose to print Last Chance which is the original Portal reprint of Final Fortune, though it's a lot less valuable. Honestly, any of these three versions of the same card could show up in Modern Horizons and I don't know what effect, if any, it would have on the format. We have seen some combo decks based around Chance for Glory so having an additional option might make these builds more viable.
Riding the Dilu Horse's value is entirely based on it being a rare in P3K. I truly doubt we will ever see Horsemanship as a mechanic return, so again, I can say with almost complete certainty this card will not be in Modern Horizons.
Mana Drain is likely too powerful for modern. Currently, Modern doesn't even have regular Counterspell so it seems unlikely to get its far better big brother. If it did, we'd likely see a resurgence in Mono-Blue Tron decks, and we don't need that in Modern. Counterspell on the other hand seems plausible, but definitely not Mana Drain.
There you have it, a somewhat extensive list of the most valuable non-Modern legal and non-Reserved List cards. As you may have noticed, a fair number of them are only valuable because they have a single printing from Portal Three Kingdoms so any reprint would tank almost all of their value. I do think we will see at least one card on this list in Modern Horizons as the set will need a pretty expensive "flagship" card. Here are some examples from the past:
- Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015 - Tarmogoyf
- Eternal Masters - Force of Will and Jace, the Mind Sculptor
- Iconic Masters - Mana Drain
- Modern Masters 2017 - Liliana, of the Veil and Snapcaster Mage
- Masters 25 - Imperial Recruiter and Jace, the Mind Sculptor
WoTC knows that to sell a premium set at a premium price they have to put at least one big chase card in it. There are plenty of other possible lower-priced reprint options I could see being in the set including the other portal tutors, Goblin Settler, Scroll Rack just to name a few. Did I miss any obvious ones? Please feel free to comment below or reach out to me in the Insider Discord chat.