They're already calling this set "Commander Horizons," so you can imagine how good the cards might be for the format. Modern Horizons is a great follow-up to War of the Spark from the perspective of Commander players, with plenty of new tools for your decks and spicy reprints of older cards.
This is a set review for Commander only. There may be some cards which will be great in other formats that might not get a second look in the 100-card decks. I'll break down each color, pointing out some of the highlights (and perhaps of the few lowlights), making my top picks, and giving the color a grade.
Several things are making comebacks in Modern Horizons, from mechanics like outlast to creature types like Slivers. I won't say too much about the individual Slivers, since they're pretty straightforward. In addition to some cool reprints, the set also has some cards that are nicely reminiscent of cards from a bygone era.
Five tokens for four mana isn't the worst deal you'll get this week. Birds are an okay tribe, but you're playing Divine Visitation anyway.
The easy card to equate Ephemerate with is Cloudshift—the difference being that Cloudshift brings the creature back under your control, while Ephemerate sends it to its owner. Still, that's a nice rebound.
Force of Will's cousins will make an appearance in this set. Because it has flash, it's a combat trick in addition to an Anthem.
Some folks are probably upset about crossing the lines of the color pie, but white could use this kind of help. And giving someone an Elephant isn't all that generous.
Unlike Mother of Runes, Giver of Runes can't protect itself. What you get in exchange is the ability to protect other creatures from colorless, which, with a bunch of Eldrazi running around, will probably be worth it.
A fine addition to any tribal deck which contains white, you get two for the price of one.
The preconstructed deck Feline Ferocity is a nice starting spot for building Cat tribal. King of the Pride is a card you'll love using to update it.
Just a solid creature to start with, the two seemingly modest abilities make it strong. Preventing your opponents from casting any noncreature spells, especially if you want to force through an action, is a nice backup plan. You might also use it to keep someone from comboing off—but if their combo involves instants and activated abilities, you might need to choose your spot correctly.
The buyback interests me most. There are a number of ways to reduce a spell's total cost, and there are plenty of cards that reward you for casting spells, like Aetherflux Reservoir or Balefire Liege.
An improved Lignify. Who'd have ever thought they'd hear that?
You only need to activate this once before you can get the emblem, which is pretty sweet. You'll still need to control a creature (so it's an emblem of Worship that can't get Disenchanted); a card like Recruit the Worthy might be tons of help here.
In Commander, you're likely to always have two juicy targets. Because it's a sorcery, you'll need to make a plan, but exiling someone else's creature and blinking one of yours that has a saucy enters-the-battlefield trigger is a nice one-two punch.
It's listed with the white cards, which is why I put it in this section, but remember that its color identity is WUBRG. Clearly a commander that's going to get built around, I love that you have plenty of different possibilities for the directions you can go. You could probably build three or four decks with it and not repeat too many targets for Sisay's activated ability.
Reveillark-light still has plenty of opportunity to bring back useful things. The first one I thought of is Bone Shredder. Or anything that's 0/0 but gets counters that keep it alive, like Phantom Nishoba.
Overloading Winds of Abandon might get you out of a tight spot, but it could put you right back into one by giving your opponents way more lands than you have—unless, of course, that's the way you want it, and you're just setting them up for that Acidic Soil.
Grade: B. Fine density, but the best cards are good and not great.
The first two modes will obviously be the most useful, but I can't wait to see someone's Sol Ring get stolen. You'll need a heavy commitment to blue to play it; I'd avoid playing it in a three-color-plus deck without blue being the overwhelmingly major piece.
If you wanted to play Bazaar of Baghdad but didn't want to lay out the dollars, here's your chance (kind of). Certainly a nice thing for your reanimation deck so that you can put what you want into the graveyard.
I'm quite happy to see our R&D friends revisit the splice mechanic. I always thought that it had plenty of promise. Everdream is straightforward but strong. For just 1U, every instant or sorcery is now also a cantrip. Sweet, sweet card advantage.
Clearly Echo of Eons won't be the only card that everyone is clamoring to get their hands on. The casting cost is inexpensive enough that (at least in Commander), you'll see the card hardcast a great deal. Regular readers will know that I think in Commander counterspells have to do something other than just counter a spell in order to be worthwhile; exiling the spell fits into that field.
For what it costs, it doesn't need the second ability to be valuable. You play with all snow lands and you're scrying all over the place. Getting the Marit Lage token is just crazy good.
Your Vela the Night-Clad deck just got a little better.
It's no Chasm Skulker, but it also flies, so there's no need to go wide.
There's something about a Wizard with three power that makes warning bells go off in my head. I get that they needed to do it to make the card right at the mana cost, but someone on the creative side should have said "That's a really big Wizard."
You have 395 choices. I'm sure you can build into your deck a few things you want.
An already much-discussed card, Uzra, Lord High Artificer doesn't need much in order to go infinite. There's no need for emergency bannings and I suspect it won't need banning even after it's lived in the wild for some time, but it just might be one of those cards.
I've always been a fan of hideaway for creatures because it supplies some anti-Wrath connection. A few blink shenanigans, and you've got a nice little Watcher engine.
A peek into an opponent's hand right before you swing into the Red Zone can help you avoid any awkward circumstances. Naming what Fog variant they might be holding is probably the right idea.
Should be called Downright Cordial Vampire, because it's pretty nice to your whole Vampire team.
Go all in on the snow creatures and they'll overrun the south (unlike in certain other popular works of fiction).
Remember when Demons were dangerous to you? Not anymore. Sometimes they're just good, like Feaster of Fools. You can use the creatures you convoke to also devour, so the cost of Feaster of Fools is going to be cheap and it'll be large.
There are quite a few scenarios in which Force of Despair is going to be worth its cost, from simple ones like someone resolving Avenger of Zendikar or more layered ones, like Rise of the Dark Realms.
Card's nothing special, save for arguably best flavor text in Magic history.
For just 3BB, you can empty someone's hand. Almost seems too rude. Almost.
A nice way to keep tribal decks in check, an even nicer way would be to copy it multiple times.
Another tool for your reanimator decks, putting the creatures in the graveyard and the spell to get them back with in your hand.
Pushing a Goblin build toward splashing black is an attractive new variation, and you can always use Conspiracy to make all your creatures into Goblins and just start wrecking house.
There's a great deal going on here, and it's thoroughly exciting. You can do a great deal with either activated ability, and the second obviously feeds from the first. I love sacrifice outlets, and this Yawgmoth does not disappoint.
Grade: C-. Density is low, and things fall off sharply after the Top 3.
It's nice to see right out of the gate there's some hope that red isn't necessarily getting screwed again. Because the Guide has to attack each turn, that Mountain (not necessarily the one you get) is going away eventually, but half a ramp for red is better than nothing.
Okay, maybe I spoke too soon. You'll need to cast at least twelve spells to make up for the life you're giving away—although it might be a case where you need to just focus fire on one player.
It's called Force of Rage because red players are angry at how lousy their Force is compared to the other ones.
This is a solid and fair card. You get rid of a troublesome land but the person at least doesn't lose out on total mana, plus you draw a card for your effort.
This is the Goblin you should truly fear. Now Goblins will kill you when they're around, or they'll kill you from not being around. Quite savage.
Being able to draw artifact removal exactly when you need it is pretty cool, and it's not like someone is going to go out of their way to eat this from your graveyard.
A thought-provoking card, because you know there's a time in the late-game when lands aren't your optimal draw. If you want to play some kind of Terravore strategy, you have extra fuel. Nice to see a red card that makes you think a little.
The primary value of this seems to be getting to cast a small spell while also putting lands into your graveyard.
Grade: C. Which is ahead of the curve for red.
Bear tribal, coming soon to a Commander table near you.
Good Dredge decks have green in them anyway for Life from the Loam, so getting Bears while you're running LftL trickery seems okay.
There's a place in the format for cards that shut down certain other cards; it's when something shuts down everything that we have problems. Note that Collector Ouphe doesn't have the "unless it's a mana ability" clause, so it will turn off Darksteel Ingot as well.
Awkward to draw except for Turn 1, nice to cascade into early.
A better Deranged Hermit, because you can keep proliferating up those vanishing counters, effectively keeping it around forever. That is, of course, unless you want it to go to the graveyard so that you can Regrow it and get more Squirrels.
I'd certainly play this without the Force mechanic; with it, the card becomes very strong.
If you're playing all snow lands, you're going to get around two hits every time, plus more based whatever percentage of nonland snow cards you have. Seems okay.
If you're cheaply creating a bunch of 1/1s, this could be pretty cool. Also, those Plant tokens from Avenger of Zendikar each getting +6 power will get deadly fast.
Grade: C+. Unusual, since green tends to keep getting better and better stuff. The rating might be half a grade higher because of the excellent reprints of Regrowth, Krosan Tusker, Squirrel Nest, and everyone's favorite, Spore Frog.
If you're playing this, you're also playing snow lands and it'll be huge most of the time. The tap ability is almost unnecessary, but welcome.
While your tribe(s) must be in black and/or white, the two abilities on the card make it well worth playing. Note that only the sacrificed creature needs to be from the tribe, but it can make any creature indestructible.
Here's a Ninja to get behind. First, it's a nice hitter at five power. Then its ability to exile two cards and play with without paying the mana cost is a little silly. If they're cards you'd rather not let get to the graveyard, you can just leave them exiled.
Slivers cascading into other Slivers seems moderately dangerous. If you haven't listened to me before now when I say "play your Fogs," a resurgent Sliver population might bring the message home.
Good-Fortune Unicorn as the potentially game-breaking portion of Juniper Order Druid on it, possibly creating infinite or near-infinite loops with persist creatures and a sacrifice outlet. The simple part of just making your creatures a little larger is okay too.
The most design-intense card in the set, Hogaak is sure to create a great deckbuilding challenge. Obviously, creating lots of small creatures will get you there. Cost-reducers will similarly help. You simply have to change the way you think, but consider that you can cast Hogaak and still have mana to cast other things. I'll be interested in seeing the decks it spawns.
You're not likely playing it without snow lands, so for two mana it effectively becomes card draw and creature destruction, because you're going to flash it in and block with it, deathtouch killing whatever gets blocked.
Ninjas look like they're becoming a legit tribe. You're going to have a way to make your creatures unblockable or less-blockable, like Sun Quan, Lord of Wu, so that you can ninjutsu in the first place, so refilling your hand every time you attack is good beats.
Let's be honest, it's not choose two, it's "exile all cards from each opponent's graveyard and choose one." Plus it's an instant. Card is even stronger than it seems on the surface.
It's a tragedy of near epic proportions that the world's most renowned Spider player, Brian David-Marshall, did not preview this card. I'm not generally a fan of exiling my own stuff, but I'd make an exception for Rotwidow Pack.
Not quite Conjurer's Closet on a Stick isn't quite as brutal as its artifact cousin, because the creature returns to its owner's control. You can't borrow something and then stick it in the Closet to keep it. Still, Soulherder obviously goes right into your blink decks.
There's the somewhat obvious "draw a zillion, kill somebody," but that's likely winning more (since you're probably winning anyway with all those cards). It's the middle ground where Thundering Djinn will show its value, clipping off mid-sized creatures, or knocking down planeswalkers so you don't have to attack into their army as well. The card is a little stronger than it seems at first blush.
It's white and blue, so now you can go for the annoying "Did you pay the extra?" trifecta with Smothering Tide and Rhystic Study.
Loop your fetchlands or your Strip Mine with the first ability (once you have enough mana on the battlefield) and get the emblem just in case, because then you'll be able to start looping your instants and sorceries; you won't need more than one extra turn spell to create a great deal of value.
Grade: A-. The density is excellent, but the best aren't quite as good as we're used to.
Colorless, Artifact, and Land
Build-your-own tribal is a pretty cool idea. Paying a little less for them even cooler. The ability is a little difficult to parse without reading a few times, but I finally got it.
Another card that has generated loads of excitement, it's a good-but-not-broken Turn 1 draw in Commander. Otherwise, it's okay.
Destroying a planeswalker and an artifact every time you hit is quite powerful. They definitely didn't scrimp on the ability of the protection from red and black sword, keeping it in line with the rest of the cycle.
In a world where planeswalkers are beginning to dominate, the ability to proliferate nearly every combat is powerful indeed, especially when you get to also add a +1/+1 counter to something first.
I'm happy they took the opportunity to make the enemy-color Talismans. I might still prefer lands to mana rocks, but there are plenty of circumstances where having the artifact is better.
In a dedicated "counters matter" deck, it's probably okay, although sacrificing a land for a mediocre ability doesn't sit that well with me.
Great design, highly useful cards. In the early-game, they make sure you have access to your colors. Later, you can get a card when getting the color doesn't matter so much anymore.
Volrath's Stronghold for enchantments is all right by me.
The reason you pay the life is so that, unlike Terramorphic Expanse or Evolving Wilds, the land doesn't enter the battlefield tapped.
Grade: A. Even for the small absolute number of cards, there are some winners.
Overall, I'd give the set an A-. Most of the colors are great, but there's the by now common letdown in red and the unexpected one in green that drags the whole enterprise down a bit. The few legends that there are shine, making me only want for them to have made more. All in all, Modern Horizons is a set quite worth getting excited about and will make an impact at your Commander tables right away.
Sheldon Menery's Deck Database
Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database! Click each section for lists of all my decks.
These are the decks that define my personal play style to the greatest degree and to some extent lay the original foundation of the format. They're also the ones you're most likely to see me bringing along to spell-sling at an event.
The Chromatic Project
The Chromatic Project started as an effort to build at least one deck of all 27 possible color combinations, which was expanded to 32 when we finally got four color commanders. There's more than one of some combinations, mostly because I have a Temur problem, plus some partner combinations are too enticing to pass up.
Shards and Wedges
The Do-Over Project
The Do-Over Project is the next step after the Chromatic—building a deck with each of the same Commanders, but not repeating any cards save for basic lands (props to Abe Sargent's "Next 99" idea). The Do-Over Project is still ongoing because we keep getting saucy new sets with creative and colorful commanders to build new decks with.