Modern Horizons 2 has been out for about a week on Magic Online, and sweet lord Bontu it is insane. I don’t think I have ever been as excited to play Modern as I am right now, the decks and strategies that have popped up with the help of MH2 look like a tonne of fun to play.
There is a very deep well of new cards and decks to talk about, but I’m going to focus on the three cards that have made a serious impression in week one: Shardless Agent, Urza’s Saga, and Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar. Let’s dive in!
Shardless Agent has made Living End good!?
Last Saturday’s Modern Challenge saw a whopping 48 copies of Shardless Agent in the top 32, with a similar number on Sunday also. And the deck that has apparently benefitted most is none other than Living End, which put up more copies in the top 32 of both events than any other deck.
Here is the deck that user The_nayr piloted to an undefeated 5th place finish on Saturday:
In case you are unfamiliar, the game plan of Living End is to spend the first few turns cycling large creatures like Striped Riverwinder and then casting a Violent Outburst or Shardless Agent to Cascade into a Living End, wiping the opponent’s board and putting your graveyard of large monsters straight into play.
Apparently all that was holding Living End back for all these years was having to play Ardent Plea! Shardless Agent is obviously a better card, being a 2/2 rather than a useless enchantment, but, more importantly, this has finally given the deck a functional mana base. Previously, Living End was base blue for the cycling cards, but then had to play red and green for Violent Outburst and white for Ardent Plea. This meant the deck had to play a painful mana base of fetches and shock lands, would frequently not have the colours it needed for its Cascade spells on the crucial third turn, or would have lands that couldn’t cycle creatures in the early turns. This made the deck vulnerable to aggro decks and inconsistent enough that small amounts of disruption were enough to stop the deck from functioning.
There are a couple of aspects of the list above that I think are worth keeping in mind. First of all, even though Violent Outburst adds two extra colours to the deck compared to only one extra from Ardent Plea, the latter was still the weaker Cascade spell due to being sorcery speed. Aside from the obvious benefits of playing at instant speed, playing on the opponent’s end step means that you can protect your Living End with Force of Negation. The list above plays the full four copies, which I whole-heartedly endorse—I see some lists only playing three, which I think is a mistake. This list is also running Brazen Borrower, a relatively recent addition that helps out with Living End’s ever-present conundrum of not being able to play any cheap interaction.
Also, the sideboard is hilarious. It looks like exactly the sort of mana base you would hastily put together at the last minute: four artifact/enchantment removal spells, four graveyard hate cards, four anti-discard/burn cards, and three counterspells. Perfect!
Looking elsewhere, Shardless Agent has enabled or powered up many other archetypes: Humans, freshly upgraded 5c Scion Zoo, and new deck on the block Temur Rhinos, which uses Cascade spells to land an early Crashing Footfalls within a Temur Control shell.
Looks like Urza’s Saga is busted
It looks like the weirdest card from Modern Horizons 2 might also be the most broken (told you!). Urza’s Saga has been slotted into a wide variety of decks for a wide variety of purposes. It turns out that a land being able to spit out two Karnstructs (which are frequently 4/4 or larger) and then tutor up a key piece of your deck is just an insane amount of value to staple onto a land, even one that only hangs around for three turns.
Rather than do a deep dive on one particular deck, let’s take a look at a few of the new homes that Urza’s Saga has found.
First up, here is Bedell’s Amulet Titan that ran undefeated to 8th place on Saturday:
With Amulet of Vigor in play, Amulet Titan is a lightning-fast combo deck capable of winning on turn two or three, while without Amulet it is a mediocre ramp deck. Urza’s Saga offers a zero-mana tutor for Amulet of Vigor, that also happens to have an alternate win condition contained within. Being able to tutor up Amulet means there are fewer games with no Amulet in play, and also more games where there are two Amulets in play, which is usually all the deck needs to win on the spot with a Primeval Titan. Better yet, you can use the bounce lands such as Simic Growth Chamber to repeatedly bounce and replay the Saga, meaning you can pump out more and more Karnstructs. It’s kind of the perfect upgrade for the deck.
Next up, Hardened Scales is back!
Hardened Scales has been on death’s door ever since the banning of Mox Opal, but Capriccioso came away with first place on Sunday with a new and improved build. The deck’s power comes largely from Urza’s Saga, which is capable of producing some exceptionally large Karnstructs l while also acting as a tutor for The Ozolith, Welding Jar, Animation Module, or newcomer Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp. Also new to this build is Power Conduit (yeah, look that one up), which can do some very silly things in this build, including removing Lore counters from Urza’s Saga to get repeated uses out of Chapters II and III so you can make an endless stream of ever-growing Karnstructs while adding +1/+1 counters to your team and searching your library for more trinkets every turn. Sweet!
The best indicator that Urza’s Saga might be busted is the fact that non-artifact decks are now throwing in some cheap artifacts and a playset of Sagas. Check this out:
No artifacts in your UW Control deck to abuse with your Urza’s Sagas? No problem, just throw in some Mishra’s Baubles, a Brainstone, and some Expedition Maps and laugh all the way to an undefeated 6th place! Expedition Map pulls double duty in this list, acting as both a mana source to fetch with Urza’s Saga, but also searching up Urza’s Saga so you can start pumping out Karnstructs. Or you could use Saga to fetch Map to fetch another Saga. If you’re into that sort of thing.
UW Control got a few new toys from MH2 to go along with Urza’s Saga, not the least of which is Counterspell which I would expect to see in full force in every blue-based control deck from now on. The quieter, but possibly more impactful, addition is Prismatic Ending, which may be even better than Path to Exile. The ability to snipe non-creature permanents like Amulet of Vigor, The Ozolith, or Wrenn and Six makes for an incredibly flexible removal spell.
This is far from an exhaustive list of Urza’s Saga decks. The card has been showing up in Hammer Time to fetch Colossus Hammer, in Lantern Control to fetch…basically anything, in new Affinity lists, and more.
Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar and TrollGaak
I’ve been saving the best for last! Last week I wrote about the potential for Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar + Hollow One + Vengevine decks to be quite powerful and I’ve been closely watching their evolution over the last week.
The early iterations of this deck looked quite similar to my build from last week, with Blazing Rootwallas and Burning Inquiries all helping to power out quick Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacars, Vengevines, and Hollow Ones. The latest builds, however, look a little more…trolly.
Drew3141’s 5th place finish on Sunday is a totally different beast…or troll, I guess. Feasting Troll King is threatening to be the new Hogaak: it’s a large trampling monster that comes into play from the graveyard on turn two for zero mana and just never stays dead.
This deck is full of little synergies. Street Wraith lets you cast Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar on turn one, The Underworld Cookbook discards Feasting Troll King while making Food to bring it into play, the Cookbook can discard Ovalchase Daredevil which will then immediately come back to your hand, everyone’s favourite Witch’s Oven + Cauldron Familiar combo is back from Standard, Emry can mill Troll Kings and recast Mishra’s Baubles from the bin, Urza’s Saga can search up Cookbook or Witch’s Oven, the list goes on.
She might not look like it on the surface, but Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar is actually the true powerhouse of the deck. Everybody, myself included, underestimated how powerful her six damage ability would be. Between Cookbook and Witch’s Oven, it’s just not that hard to assemble two food, which then turns Asmo into a one-mana 3/3 cantrip that murders the opponent’s entire board.
The only aspect I’m not sold on with the above list is the blue package of Emry and Metallic Rebuke. I think the deck’s Food plan is powerful enough between Troll King and Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar that I would be more inclined to just lean into that. Streamer d00mwake has been iterating on this deck, and I very much like where he has ended up:
This version leans harder into the Food theme with Gilded Goose, while adding Stitcher’s Supplier for the self-mill. If you’re as interested in this archetype as I am, this is where I would start.
How to approach the new meta
If you’re the kind of modern player that prefers to just tune your own pet decks rather than buy into the new hotness, there’s a few things you can do to tune for the new kids on the block. First of all, pack that graveyard hate! With the threat of Living End and Feasting Troll King looming, make sure that you’ve packed some Leyline of the Voids, Nihil Spellbombs, or Rest in Peaces in your sideboard. Engineered Explosives is also looking like a key piece of tech as a cheap way to wipe out rhinos from Crashing Footfalls, Karnstructs from Urza’s Saga, or Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar herself. Teferi, Time Raveler is also looking particularly strong right now since his static completely shuts down the Cascade mechanic and there’s plenty of tokens around for his minus ability to pick off. Blood Moon automatically destroys Urza’s Saga as well as the hopes and dreams of Amulet Titan players. And if you’re a BG player with a taste for some real spice, check out Crime//Punishment as a brutal answer to Urza’s Saga.
Best of luck with brewing and building your new Modern Horizons lists. As always, feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter @Calm_Mirror, I’m always keen to discuss some new spice in Modern.
Sam Maher has been playing competitive Magic since 2003. In the last two years he has accumulated multiple Grand Prix day 2 appearances, PTQ top 8s, and MCQ top finishes. He is generally happiest when stealing his opponent’s cards with Thief of Sanity and The Scarab God. You can follow him on his Youtube drafting channel Draft Punks and on Twitter @Calm_Mirror.