Modern Horizons preview season is heating up, and every single day, new cards are being introduced that have the potential to make an impact on the way we view The People's Format. With many nods to tribal strategies to Slivers and Bears – and I suppose every other creature type, given all the Changelings also in the set – callbacks to older mechanics, and powerful albeit watered-down versions of Legacy staples, there's a little something for everyone in this set.
Today, I'm here to talk about a card that's yet another throwback to a card that has seen a reasonable amount of play throughout its history in Modern, ranging from Martyr-Proc to the earliest iterations of Four-Color Death's Shadow.
The ability to tutor not one but two creatures out of your deck, integral to both of the above decks' gameplans, made this card invaluable at helping in grindier matchups. It would seem that, since the days of Alara block, the Ranger has gained a promotion and an upgrade in rarity.
There's a lot to digest in Ranger-Captain of Eos, as the card seems like it has the ability to slot into many different types of strategies in the Modern format.
Naturally, my first inclination was to think about Ranger-Captain of Eos in the context of Modern Humans, as the creature type makes it automatically worthy of at least being considered. It checks off the boxes of being the proper mana cost for Humans as well, meaning that the most important part to examine is the abilities on the card itself.
As it stands, Ranger-Captain of Eos can find two targets in a typical Humans list: Champion of the Parish and Noble Hierarch. The question then becomes: Are those valuable enough targets to pull out of your deck on Turn 2 or Turn 3?
My initial reaction leaned towards no, but after thinking about it some, I could see the potential value of tutoring up a Noble Hierarch to help give one of your attackers that extra stat boost to push through a battlefield stall. On top of that, if you still have plenty of Humans to deploy in your hand, snagging a Champion of the Parish to kick-start the aggression while focusing on disrupting your opponent also seems beneficial. In general, it seems that finding a Noble Hierarch would be a more beneficial pick, while Champion of the Parish would be a better early-game pick.
Expanding beyond just the Humans archetype and brainstorming what other potential decks could use Ranger-Captain of Eos, the list of cards to tutor up with the Human Soldier overlaps quite a bit with their pre-promotion self:
At a glance, I'd imagine that there isn't an Orhzov-based version of Death's Shadow like Esper, Abzan, or Mardu that would emerge solely from the printing of Ranger-Captain of Eos, basing my assumption on the fact that Ranger of Eos was not enough to do so. However, this card costing three mana instead of four is not insignificant.
Walking Ballista and Viscera Seer are interesting tutor targets that might make Ranger-Captain of Eos a solid inclusion in Counters Company decks. In this specific archetype, even grabbing a Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch in a pinch seems reasonable.
Thraben Inspector has seen use in Death and Taxes, and occasionally Humans, to provide a little bit of extra value. Ranger-Captain of Eos tutoring up Thraben Inspector and generating a clue may be a strong enough value engine for Aether Vial decks that it's worthy of consideration.
Martyr of Sands and Serra Ascendant, two of the main engine pieces for Mono-White Martyr, are both tutor targets as well. However, I'm not sure you would want Ranger-Captain of Eos over Ranger of Eos, given that the deck is designed to go long, making the one-mana cost reduction worth only being able to tutor up one piece instead of two. It would seem likely that this decision would come down to how much this strategy would value the activated ability on Ranger-Captain, which we'll dive into next.
Before I do so, however, I want to briefly talk about another tutor target being printed in Modern Horizons:
I'm not going to dive too much into Giver of Runes, as Ross Merriam will be providing a deeper analysis on the card later this week, but this card is a noteworthy target to find with Ranger-Captain. I don't think the Humans shell will realistically have room for Giver of Runes, but it's possible that the combination of both Giver of Runes and Ranger-Captain of Eos would make a strong addition to the existing Death and Taxes style decks that crop up here and there in Modern. To me, that deck has always felt like it was just short a solid card or two to really round out the archetype. These two in conjunction with one another could be the missing piece to the puzzle.
The activated ability on Ranger-Captain of Eos, a pseudo-Silence of sorts, is challenging to evaluate on its surface. While fairly archetype-agnostic (meaning the deck in which this card potentially resides is likely not super-relevant in most cases), to imagine the specific scenarios in which this ability would prove useful requires a fairly deep analysis of every single deck you'd typically expect to face in the current Modern metagame. Some quick scenarios that pop into my head right off the bat include:
- Sacrificing Ranger-Captain with a miracled Terminus on the stack.
- Sacrificing Ranger-Captain in your opponent's upkeep to prevent them from casting a sweeper from their hand.
- Stopping a combo deck like Storm or Ad Nauseam from comboing off while on the battlefield. (While no self-respecting player of either of these two strategies would try to go off without first removing this creature, its presence serves to buy you a solid chunk of time to kill them before they can answer it.)
- Prevent Dredge from casting any of their spells like Faithless Looting, Conflagrate, or Cathartic Reunion, which may compromise a battlefield you're otherwise ahead on.
- Prevent Tron from casting any of their powerful haymaker spells like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; Karn Liberated; or Oblivion Stone.
Beyond this list, the applications become difficult to analyze as it involves taking a look at the deeper, possibly lower tier of the Modern metagame. For example, I can also think of a scenario where you could prevent a Living End opponent from cascading into their namesake spell, but Living End isn't a popular enough deck that it would be worth noting in most cases.
This in no way means I'm underselling the second ability on Ranger-Captain of Eos. While not exemplary, this ability, tied in with a solidly rated body, a form of card advantage, and some potential tribal synergy, all around makes Ranger-Captain of Eos worthy of further examination in the Modern format.
I know I will personally be testing it in the flex slots in Humans, as card advantage on a powerful attacker that can be pumped up by Thalia's Lieutenant and copied by Phantasmal Image interests me greatly. If I had to guess, I'd imagine the shell that gets the most out of this card is the aforementioned Death and Taxes, again primarily due to the fact that it is very good alongside Giver of Runes as well.
With a format and card pool as deep as Modern, any one card has very little chance of making that big of a splash. Ranger-Captain of Eos likely will be a card that serves to power up and/or round out existing decks to make them more viable.
I personally look forward to testing Ranger-Captain of Eos, as well as some of the other sweet new cards that we've been given in this unprecedented set.