Modern Horizons and the Road Ahead

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War of the Spark's hype cycle has concluded! Mythic Edition refunds have been issued, foil sheets will be sent out to be inevitably mutilated, and suddenly, many Magic players are left with anywhere between $249.99 and $499.98 burning a hole in their pockets. With Modern Horizons spoiler season coming up, we're on the cusp of a lot of card movement across the board in Modern. Many are looking ahead to potential reworks of old favorites or returning cards never before seen in Standard sets of the past 15 years.

A lot of baseless speculation on what Modern Horizons will contain has no doubt graced your newsfeed in some shape or form. I've heard everything from the return of Slivers to those that are 100 percent convinced that we'll get Flusterstorm and Daze. I'm more inclined to call these guesses rather than strong hints, but time will tell.

I'm looking back on the cards we already have, calls I've made in the past, and potential gainers within this new hype cycle.

Dead Horses

Yes, I know I've talked it to death, and I'm not the only one. Fetchlands are without a doubt the safest MTG finance investment going into the end of May. We've got several options here, but the lowest buy-ins are with the five from Khans of Tarkir.

All five are solid plays, but the most interesting one to me here is Windswept Heath. The best Selesnya decks like Bant Spirits have been on the decline in Modern as of late, giving way to the rainbow-landed Humans, Grixis Death's Shadow, or Tron variants. Still, decks like Infect, TitanShift, and Abzan Company all make use of it and remain in the conversation for some of the best decks in Modern.

To add to this, the early spoiler of Cabal Therapist hints at creature-based reworks of favorite non-creature spells, which may add new utility creatures in green and white. Should the metagame shift towards playing these, Windswept Heath is where you want to be. Speaking of Selesnya lands...

We're pretty far out from its most recent reprint in Iconic Masters, but Horizon Canopy is still at a great price compared to what it once was. It didn't take long for this card to start to recover from the initial supply spike and it has been trending upward ever since. Decks like Humans play the land as a full playset and it shows up in many other creature-based decklists as a way to draw cards later in the game.

Near Mint copies are still available under $60, which may seem a bit hefty. However, it's likely this will continue to be one of the most expensive utility lands once the new Modern goes into full swing.

It is frankly astounding to me that despite multiple reprints, Cavern of Souls's price snaps right back so close to the $90 mark in times of Modern demand. The story here is a bit different from Horizon Canopy, as they aren't always featured in the same decks, it's not unreasonable to say that the two are closely related. Again, Humans drives a lot of the demand for this card, but it's overall one of the best rainbow lands ever printed and will be an auto-include in any tribal build going forward.

Kind of in the same vein, I'm pretty high on Aether Vial. With creatures likely becoming a big focus, I'm very interested in this one-mana artifact. It's one of the most powerful fair cards in the format, as it essentially cheats the stack, paying specific mana costs, and being harder to answer outside of the normal suite of removal. Outside of its original Darksteel printing, Aether Vial has been featured in a From The Vault, the original Modern Masters, and Iconic Masters. Despite this, it has consistently maintained overall growth since Modern's inception, and will likely continue this trend moving forward.

A pillar of the format I've talked about a whole lot less than others is Thoughtseize. It is still the premier discard spell, alongside Inquisition of Kozilek. These are by far the best pieces of disruption in the format. Most of Modern's top decks are linear, redundant strategies that reduce the overall potency of discard spells, but I think there's a good chance that could change with the introduction of Modern Horizons.  We've seen many metagame snapshots where these cards were the best turn-one plays available.

Shaky Ground

There are a lot of cards we consider staples of the format. Modern Horizons presents an opportunity for a large paradigm shift in the format. At least, that's what I'm inferring from all the official verbiage given by WotC thus far.  There are a lot of cards that could easily be usurped and dethroned for appearing in decklists, and I think there are some cards that may be on thin ice. Some of this talk toes the line on what some consider baseless speculation, so please take some of these statements with a grain of salt.

Cryptic Command is one of the most powerful pieces of countermagic ever printed and has been the backbone of control decks since the format's inception. The major issue with this card is that it costs four mana, and doesn't always win you the game on the spot. That being said, UW Control decks have been performing very well as of late in Modern. The card has been on the upswing lately, largely having recovered from its Iconic Masters reprint. However, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the possible reprinting of cards like Counterspell, Flusterstorm, Daze, and even Force of Will present a threat of replacement.

UW Control has a lot of four-mana cards in it as is, and should we see the return of premier countermagic that sees play in Legacy, Cryptic may start getting cut from decklists in favor of leaner options. That being said, there is no guarantee that the texture of this format will be quite like Legacy, given the wide card pool available. If we get just one or two of the aforementioned spells, they will likely reinforce or push up Cryptic Command's price. If we get all of them, I predict the exact opposite.

Tron has been a hot topic of discussion for many Modern players for the past few weeks for several different reasons, but I think the deck could have some troubles going forward. Many have called Wasteland, or some fixed version of it to enter the format. Field of Ruin and Ghost Quarter are currently decent-enough options that are very well balanced, so I very much doubt we'll see Wasteland introduced. Running with what I do know, Cabal Therapist represents what will likely be a strong discard spell that improves the Tron matchup ever so slightly, especially for decks like Jund or Grixis Death's Shadow.

Bring It on Home

Modern Horizons presents an incredible opportunity to revitalize the format, and shake things up gameplay wise. My recommendation for nearly guaranteed growth will be purchasing the evergreen cards of the format, primarily the fetchlands.

We've only got a few days left until spoiler season starts proper. We're going to see a lot of quick movement over the course of the next few weeks, and you'll want to keep your eyes peeled on spoiler sources. I'll be covering spoiler content here if you'd like to join me. As well, you can follow me on Twitter @chroberry or on Instagram @chroberrymtg for updates on spoiler content.


One thought on “Modern Horizons and the Road Ahead

  1. Great post, Christopher! I’d add that according to Gatherer, Aether Vial has been featured in at least one more set than you list:


    Modern Masters

    Masterpiece Series: Kaladesh Inventions

    Iconic Masters

    FTV: Relics


    Note – QS incorrectly lists Eternal Masters as including Aether Vial, though no data is shown. Whom should I report data errors to?

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