With the spoilers for Modern Horizons 2 more than halfway done, let’s have a look through some of the new cards and reprints that will make a splash in Modern upon release.
Thrasta, Tempest’s Roar
Thrasta is one big dinosaur that can be cast for as little as Green/Green. The cost is reduced by every spell cast, looking at the ways this can be achieved efficiently; Prowess, Storm, and Artifact decks seem the most likely to cheat this out quickly.
The similarity between those decks is the ability to cast multiple cheap spells in a singular turn. Between Phyrexian mana spells (Gut Shot, Mutagenic Growth), 0-cost artifacts (Mishra’s Bauble, Mox Amber, Engineered Explosives), and spells that generate mana (Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, Manamorphose).
Of these decks, the most likely to emerge as a competitor in the metagame is a Red/Green Prowess variant. Manamorphose is the best enabler to cast an early Thrasta: as a ‘free’ spell to reduce Thrasta’s cost, potentially drawing another spell (which may also reduce costs), and filtering your mana to create Green/Green. In tandem with Phyrexian mana spells, your Prowess creatures will become large and supported by Thrasta.
Another benefit to playing Red/Green is the inclusion of both Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage. This pair of spells is enough to kill most opponents, however there is always the fear of removal spells causing a waste of resources. Well. Thrasta has Hexproof the turn it’s cast, meaning should you be able to cast all three on the same turn, victory will be assured.
In this deck, turn two is the earliest you can cast Thrasta, depending on how many Manamorphose and Phyrexian mana spells are in hand. But casting it on turns three or four will be the more likely scenario.
Rishadan Dockhand & Merfolk God
It would seem Merfolk is the tribe that has received some love in Modern Horizons 2 (other than Squirrels!). So far receiving two additions in Rishadan Dockhand and a Merfolk God whose name is yet to be translated. But this is what it does:
Legendary Creature - Merfolk God
This Creature is indestructible as long as you control two other Merfolk.
Whenever this Creature attacks, draw a card.
Other Merfolk you control have Ward 1 (Whenever they become the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls, counter it unless that player pays 1.)
Rishadan Dockhand pays homage to Rishadan Port, an effective but frustrating card to play against. Tapping down lands in your opponent’s upkeep to deny them the mana to cast spells. It can stop a Plague Engineer being cast on turn 3 or a Supreme Verdict on turn 4. With multiple copies putting your opponent’s behind while Aether Vial puts more Merfolk into play applying further pressure.
The Merfolk God would change the way Merfolk decks are constructed, with current builds opting to play Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a Companion. Playing the Merfolk God would revert decks to an older build to include the 3-drop, filling the position formerly held by Kira, Great Glass-Spinner.
The Merfolk God provides great value to the Merfolk tribe, providing a decent 3/4 body for 3 mana, with indestructible potentially on turn 3.It refuels your hand when it attacks and protects all your other Merfolk by taxing opponents and forcing them to pay more to target your creatures.
This duo is a nice addition to the Merfolk, and could propel the deck into the metagame once the dust has settled.
I don’t see Subtlety being a Control deck mainstay at the moment, instead it’ll most likely succeed in a UW Blink or Living End deck.
Control decks don’t have an issue dealing with Creatures the way they are currently constructed, and Planeswalkers are already covered by Force of Negation.
Casting an Ephemerate on a Creature cast with Evoke in response to the Enter the Battlefield trigger will reset it and enter as a new creature, allowing you to keep it permanently and doubling the triggers.
It is a lot more effective with Solitude, being able to Swords to Plowshares two Creatures with Ephemerate and keep a 3/2 Lifelink Creature.
Solitude will be a nightmare for Death’s Shadow players, as exiling one Death’s Shadow with its ability will gain the opponent life equal to its power. This will reduce the Power and Toughness of all other Death’s Shadows in play to 0, destroying them all.
I’m really excited about the reprinting of the Portal: Three Kingdoms superstar into Modern. I first used this card in Commander to find the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Pestermite combo, so it’s pretty neat for them to be included in the background of the Borderless version.
Speaking of Kiki-Jiki, Blue/Red Kiki-Jiki is a Modern Combo deck where Imperial Recruiter would slot right in, as it is able to find both pieces of the combo.
A deck I’m excited to try Imperial Recruiter in is Humans. Alongside the newly reprinted to Modern and future partner in crime, Sanctum Prelate.
The addition of Imperial Recruiter shifts the deck to include a toolbox element, being able to play a wider range of 2 power or less creatures. Apart from General Kudro of Drannith and Mantis Rider, Imperial Recruiter is able to find any creature in the deck.
Alongside Aether Vial this can act as a free tutor for the turn, using Vial to put Imperial Recruiter into play and casting the tutored card, or vice versa.
If you have a large board and need more damage to finish your opponent off, find Thalia’s Lieutenant.
If your opponent is playing Prowess and can cast a lot of one-drop spells, find Sanctum Prelate and choose one.
Your opponent is playing Storm and you sense them about to combo off, find Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
Or you simply need to remove a blocker in order to push your attackers for lethal, find Skyclave Apparition.
Imperial Recruiter adds another element to the Humans deck and acts as another copy of any 2 power or less creature in the deck, gaining access to more options after sideboarding.
The sideboard includes targets like Auriok Champion, Magus of the Moon, and Plague Engineer, which are often backbreaking when played in the matchup they are brought in for.
So being able to have extra chances at drawing them and playing them in a matchup is a welcome addition to Humans.
That’s not a knife, that's the Sword of Kaldra as a Living Weapon!
Kaldra Compleat will instantly win creature matchups against decks without main deck exile effects. It is very hard to beat a 5/5 Indestructible with First Strike, Trample, Haste, and exiling any creature that is dealt combat damage.
This will slot into any decks running Stoneforge Mystic, adding another Equipment to search for. Decks should play four Equipments: Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Feast and Famine, Batterskull, and Kaldra Compleat. One for each Stoneforge Mystic, so drawing a Stoneforge late doesn’t mean drawing a 1/2 Squire.
If you do see your opponent searching for Kaldra Compleat off Stoneforge Mystic on turn two, I suggest killing Stoneforge Mystic immediately, or prepare to have a bad time.
Another reprint in Vindicate, for those that don’t know what it does:
Destroy target Permanent.
Simple as that, for 1WB it destroys any permanent (lands included). The decks this will slot into in Modern is Niv to Light, and the sideboard of Esper Control. With both decks currently opting to play Kaya’s Guile, Vindicate comes in as a clean answer to any Planeswalker or Land that may be harder to kill otherwise.
Pairing a mana accelerant like Utopia Sprawl or Birds of Paradise can lead to a turn two Vindicate on a land, setting an opponent behind and being unable to cast a counterspell or removal spell on your next turn play, and increasing the likelihood of resolving a Bring to Light or Niv-Mizzet Reborn.
I certainly did not expect a Jund version of Noble Hierarch to be in the set, but here it is, let’s see what it can do in Modern.
There has been a lot of speculation that this is a balanced Deathrite Shaman for traditional Jund decks. With the upside of casting Liliana of the Veil and Bloodbraid Elf a turn earlier or casting a discard spell before Wrenn and Six on turn two.
I am skeptical of its fit in Jund, with Lava Dart seeing a lot of play in a matchup that was already slightly unfavourable. Not to mention a juicy target for an opposing Wrenn and Six.
The game plan for Jund is to cast removal or discard on the first turn and continue to deny both players resources, and rely on drawing haymakers in the late game—something that Ignoble Hierarch is not.
Whilst Jund may not be the fit for this Goblin Hierarch, a deck this card will help is Black/Green Infect.
The other variant of Infect, which previously lacked an Exalted mana dork that could produce both Green and Black. Ignoble Hierarch helps cast Phyrexian Crusader on turn two which is very strong in a metagame where Red Prowess decks are prominent. Protection from Red and White making Phyrexian Crusader a good blocker the turn it is played, and an unblockable and untargetable threat.
I expect Black/Green Infect to become the more popular variant of Infect if Prowess remains the top deck in the metagame after Modern Horizons 2 is released.
With plenty of spoilers still to come in Modern Horizons 2, there could be many more impactful cards for Modern.
I’m looking forward to trying out Humans first in the new Modern metagame and seeing what other decks receive new toys and new archetypes that emerge once the dust has settled.
Kuang Wu has played Magic since the original Zendikar set. Qualifying for both Player’s Tours in 2020 and finishing 10th at Grand Prix Brisbane in 2017. He primarily plays Modern at Good Games Central and Town Hall. You can follow him @kuangfupanda on Twitter.