Modern Horizons: Extensive Legacy Set Review!
Today, I (Max) am doing a set review of Modern Horizons as it applies to Legacy. While a lot of people have reviewed particular cards from the set, has anyone reviewed the top 51 cards? I don't think so. Here is my rating criteria:
5/5: Format Warping. The format revolves around these cards, either playing them or answering them. (Brainstorm, Chalice of the Void, Griselbrand, formerly Deathrite Shaman)
4/5: Archetype Defining. Archetypes exist in order to play these cards. (Delver of Secrets, Aether Vial, Show and Tell, Life from the Loam)
3/5: Archetype Staple. Auto-includes in decks that can effectively utilize these cards. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor, True-Name Nemesis, Green Sun's Zenith)
2/5: Legacy Playable. This card is strong enough for legacy, but may not see play in every deck that can fit it. (Lingering Souls, Liliana, the Last Hope, Reality Smasher)
1/5: Not Competitive. These cards are unlikely to show up in a tuned deck aiming to win a big tournament. (Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Haze of Rage, Pteramander)
0/5: Unplayable. You have to be out of your mind to register this card in Legacy. (Colossal Dreadmaw, Shock)
With that out of the way, let's get to it!
Force of Virtue: 0/5
Stone unplayable in Legacy. Outside of a combat trick on your opponent's turn, this 4-mana Glorious Anthem is worse than every real card it would replace.
Generous Gift: 1/5
Possibly played in the sideboard of decks like Bomberman, but I don't think a color-shifted Beast Within is playable. At least Cast Out can enter off of a Show and Tell. It does have the upside of turning your own extra Mox Opal into a 3/3, though.
Giver of Runes: 1.5/5
Not nearly as good as her Mother, but could be used as Moms 5-6 in decks that want it. Notably, colorless protection can stop stuff like Maze of Ith or Barbarian Ring.
It's worth noting that she's a 1/2, so she can survive a Dread of Night or Zealous Persecution, which you can't say about a lot of other creatures in Death & Taxes, including Mother of Runes herself.
Martyr's Soul: 1/5
In the right deck, this is a 3 mana 5/4 with convoke, meaning it is often a 0 mana 5/4. I'm not sure if a deck like Death and Taxes would want it, since all it does is attack and block, but it has a really good rate.
On Thin Ice: 1/5
Chained to the Rocks no longer needs a Mountain, but it now needs a snow land. I expect it to be tried in UW Stoneblade sideboards over the 1-of Path to Exile, but am not sure if it's an upgrade. Sorcery speed is a real downside.
Ranger-Captain of Eos: 1.5/5
Ranger-Captain has a lot of text, which means that some of it has to be good. In Bomberman, it can tutor Walking Ballista, and sacrifice itself before you combo, allowing you to go all-in on a Lion's Eye Diamond without fear. In Death & Taxes, it can find Mother of Runes. In either application, it is yet another Storm hate-piece.
Flickering this seems like a great value engine, and a 2-power flyer is the key stat to trade with a Delver of Secrets. People sometimes play Remorseful Cleric, and this seems comparable in utility. However, 3 mana is a lot more than 2, and Death & Taxes is already quite saturated at 3 mana. They're not even playing Brightling!
Archmage's Charm: 1/5
I want to do everything this card allows me to do, except pay UUU to cast it. I'm not above playing Esper Charm in Legacy, but that somehow seems easier to cast off of a diverse basic landbase than this does. With a cost of UUW, I think this card would be very legacy-playable, but I think UUU is too much to ask of the decks that could utilize it.
Bazaar Trademage: 1/5
It's worth noting that if it's your last card (or your hand is blanks), it's a 2U 3/4 Flying that mills you for two. Outside of Sea Stompy variants, though, I can't see this seeing play. Manaless Dredge could technically Dread Return it, although I'm not sure why they'd choose to do that over Whirlpool Rider.
Echo of Eons: 2.5/5
People have been calling this card everything from broken to unplayable, and not to accidentally fall into the middle-ground fallacy, but I think the reality is actually in the middle. The combo with Lion's Eye Diamond effectively created a 0-mana Timetwister, since you don't care that you discarded your hand if you're drawing a fresh 7 anyway. The question becomes how good Timetwister actually is without leveraging moxen. Storm decks are obviously the most set up to abuse this card, but it's unclear if it is actually an upgrade to their current engine. Storm already has a positive matchup against fair Blue decks, and the likely required swap of Duress into Defense Grid would further polarize Storm's matchup profiles. This interaction has my brewer's mind working, though, especially with the new Urza.
If you're splcing this onto a Storm card, you've either already won the game, are tacking it onto a Haze of Rage, or are going to be disappointed when your Flusterstorm copies fizzle. None of these scenarios seem to win a game you wouldn't otherwise be winning. Beautiful art, though, so props to Nils Hamm.
Force of Negation: 2.5/5
Additional copies of Force of Will are exactly what you want when Force of Will is good, such as against combo decks. I expect many sideboards to replace sideboard copies of Flusterstorm with copies of this card. Force of Negation has the additional upside of exiling the countered spell (like Past in Flames). Also, in games that drag on a bit, paying 1UU to cast it is very reasonable. People hardcast Force of Will all the time, and this is way easier to pull off.
Mirrodin Besieged: 1/5
A bad Sai, Master Thopterist that can potentially win the game in extreme corner cases. I'm not seeing it.
Tribute Mage: 1.5/5
She's literally holding a Sword of the Meek, in case you had any question on what kind of deck would support her. If an Urza/Sword deck exists, she might be part of it. The other 2U 2/2 artifact tutor mages have all seen play in some form. Okay, maybe not Trophy Mage.
Urza, Lord High Artificer: 3/5
Urza is finally a black-bordered card, and I am floored by this card's potential. Urza has a lot of text, as he damn well should, so lets work through it.
His ETB trigger is a free Karnstruct, which, combined with his static ability, can immediately recoup one of the four mana you spent for him. The fact that he turns every artifact you control into a Mox Sapphire obviously makes Sword of the Meek / Thopter Foundry into an infinite combo, but also makes Paradoxical Outcome into a likely kill. I'm not sure if a deck exists with Chalice of the Void, 8 baubles, Mox Opal, Karn, Scion of Urza, Karn, the Great Creator, and the new Urza, and I'm not sure if creating a vulnerability to Pyroblast and Karakas makes it anything short of worse Bomberman. He also naturally fits in some broken shell with Echo of Eons and Lion's Eye Diamond, playing out the baubles from your hand to tap them for Blue before drawing a fresh 7. All I know is that I want to tap Defense Grid for U, and I want to generate UUUU with Lion's Eye Diamond. Did you know that Lion's Eye Diamond doesn't need to tap to sacrifice? You do now.
His last ability reads more like flavor text, but it does mean that if you're flooding out (or have a bunch of dead artifacts sitting around), you can probably draw out of it. Paying 1W a few times to repeatedly cycle a bauble with Auriok Salvagers is often enough to draw you into a win, and I see this ability in the same light.
Cabal Therapist: 1/5
"Playable in Nic Fit" is just a roundabout way of saying "unplayable."
Dead of Winter: 2/5
I think that Grixis / UB Control can rebuild their manabase to leverage this card into a better Toxic Deluge. You're not going to be able to kill a Reality Smasher anymore, but you probably weren't winning those games anyway. Being able to put a board wipe on the stack against Delver decks without paying life upfront is huge, and means that it's an out to a bad boardstate when you've already been hit to a low life total.
Force of Despair: 2/5
This card reads somewhere between a Plague Wind, Force of Will on True-Name Nemesis, or a worse Murder that you already have to have in your hand, depending on its application. In decks that want to play to a board advantage, this card does an excellent job in furthering this gameplan. The main problem I can see is a difficulty finding a critical mass of Black cards in the deck to consistently alt-cast it. At least the extra Gurmag Angler stuck in your hand finally has a use!
Plague Engineer: 3/5
In the past, deck-builders would debate about which sideboard board sweeper was right for the expected metagame. Players would play Electrickery, Marsh Casualties, Blazing Volley, or extra copies of Forked Bolt for this purpose. The good news is that you no longer have to make this tough call. Just play Plague Engineer. The one-sided Engineered Plague stapled to a 2/2 Deathtouch can wipe a board of Elves, or kill an opponent's True-Name Nemesis (while keeping your own safe), and then stick around to trade with an opposing Gurmag Angler. Thanks to the asymmetrical nature of modern card design, Plague Engineer is stupidly good at what it does.
Shatter Assumptions: 0/5
If you want to shatter your assumptions about the competence of Legacy and Vintage players, I've seen social media posts by people legitimately excited to play with this card, and others legitimately afraid of it.
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician: 1.5/5
Eddie Zamora said this card seems really good in Humans, converting the Imperial Recruiter you used to tutor Yawgmoth into a fresh card. He can also cycle excess Thalia, Guardian of Thrabens or Noble Hierarchs. Basically, Eddie says it looks good and I believe him, and you should too.
Force of Rage: 0/5
The first time I read this, I thought it wasn't so bad. Then I realized that the last word of text wasn't "end step," but "upkeep." This card exists only to make people looking at Force of Virtue feel better about themselves.
Goblin Engineer: 2/5 (5/5 Flavor)
This seems really good in Painter decks, where Entombing half of your combo is basically like putting it into play. I see it replacing Imperial Recruiter in this shell. While it's resticted on the size of artifact it can pull out of the graveyard, it can Entomb an artifact of any CMC, and leave the hard work to Goblin Welder. As a professional mechanical engineer, the flavor of designing something that's too hard for you to manufacture, so you ask your coworker who is way better at welding to help you build the prototype, rings a little bit too true.
Pashalik Mons: 2/5
I see no reason this wouldn't be a solid role-player in Goblins, unless there isn't room. Goblins have a nasty habit of dying, and Mons provides removal, reach, and runs a nice little engine with Skirk Prospector.
Planebound Accomplice: 1/5
Sneak Attack for Planeswalkers could see play in a meme Doubling Season deck, where you can ultimate the Planeswalker immediately. This is certainly sweet, but does not look like a competitive shell to me. It's funny that the art depicts Sneaking in a 2-mana Planeswalker.
Seasoned Pyromancer: 1.5/5
Artwise, Enthralling Victor might finally have competition. Textwise, if you're Hellbent, this is a 1RR 2/2 that draws 2 cards when it enters. If you're looking to convert nonland dead cards into new ones, you get some elementals for your trouble. This card is packed with value, but I'm not sure what shell would play him over the other options at 3 mana, like True-Name Nemesis.
This is artifact hate that Dredge can mill over and then return to hand in order to use. In Vintage, where the primary artifact hate piece is Grafdigger's Cage, this is a significant upgrade over something like Ingot Chewer. In Legacy, where graveyard hate is a bit more Surgical, it might not make the cut.
Throes of Chaos: 1.5/5
If Jund becomes playable, this card is why. It converts every extra land you draw into a spell on the stack, which is the same effect as Brainstorm, but in a much more roundabout and random way.
Ayula's Influence: 2/5
Despite Shock killing Grizzly Bears, making Grizzly Bears is usually better than casting Shock, so I think this is an upgrade in Lands decks over Seismic Assault. It's worth noting, however, that it's significantly worse under Blood Moon.
Collector Ouphe: 2/5
I've run into Elves decks playing actual Null Rod, so a 2/2 Null Rod that you can find via Green Sun's Zenith it's certainly going to see at least some play.
Crashing Footfalls: 1.5/5
Are two 4/4 Rhinos with trample better than drawing three cards? Does combining this with Ancestral Vision give enough upside to a Shardless Agent shell again? Note that if you're suspending this one Turn 1, you're not attacking with Rhinos until Turn 6. They don't have haste.
Force of Vigor: 2/5
This card lets Manaless Dredge answer graveyard hate, and might be better than Abrupt Decay or Assassin's Trophy in the Elves sideboard. For Elves, it makes you worse against Delver, but might be enough to swing some bad Chalice matchups to make this tradeoff worthwhile. Even when youre alt-casting it, if you're hitting 2 targets, it's a 2-for-2.
I've seen a few people get this wrong, so I wanted to point it out here: you will not be able to alt-cast this to break a Karn, the Great Creator & Mycosynth Lattice lock. Mycosynth Lattice makes your cards colorless, but Force of Vigor requires a Green card to pitch to it, which will no longer be possible.
Anything that turns into a mini-Progenitus is at least worth keeping yourself aware of. With a few creatures and a Gaea's Cradle, you can level this up very fast. If it sees play, I expect it to be out of Maverick.
Scale Up: 2/5
This + Invigorate + an Infect creature = 10 Infect. I think when your opponent is at 10 Infect, they lose, so that seems like a combo. Sorcery speed means you have to commit before combat, which can create a blowout in the infect opponent's favor. I don't know enough about Infect to fully weigh these pros and cons, but it feels playable to me.
Cloudshredder Sliver: 1.5/5
At first, this read like an auto-include into Legacy Slivers, but after thinking about it more, I'm not so sure. While turning all of your Slivers into Mantis Rider is an amazing effect, Slivers already beats the fair decks. Slivers struggles against the unfair decks, and I don't think that Cloudshredder Sliver does anything to alleviate that issue.
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis: 2/5
This is obviously a card for Dredge, but the question is whether this is better or worse than the Dread Returns it would be replacing. It appears to be easier to cast but not as powerful. This trade-off strikes me as worthwhile for Dredge.
Ice-Fang Coatl: 2/5
There is a straight UG Aluren deck that aims to leverage Back to Basics as another avenue of attack, and a color-shifted Baleful Strix into UG (since you're fetching snow basics) might be what this deck needs to push it back into playability.
Kess, Dissident Mage: 1/5
Since the banning of Gitaxian Probe, Kess has been right below the threshold for Legacy playability. At least nonfoil copies exist now, so your cards don't have to be marked.
Nature's Chant: 2.5/5
Any deck that plays Naturalize or Disenchant should split with Nature Chant. There's no reason not to, since Flashfreeze doesn't count as a reason, while Cabal Therapy and Surgical Extraction are both cards that see Legacy play.
Unsettled Mariner: 1/5
This is a Human and a Sliver, but I think it is slightly too weak in either shell. Of note, it Dazes spells and abilities that target you or permanents you control, not just your spells targeting your creatures. This means that Wasteland becomes Tectonic Edge, and Umezawa's Jitte activations cost 1 on each use, at least until they kill the Mariner. It's more likely to see play in Humans in order to tax removal spells, but I think it's worse than the cards it would be replacing.
Wrenn and Six: 4/5
Wrenn and Six is a good 2 mana Planeswalker that can immediately put itself out of range of Lightning Bolt. Its +1 is card advantage, its -1 is removal (and reach), and its -7 isn't relevant. This card reminds me of a cross between Crucible of Worlds and Liliana, the Last Hope. Like Crucible of Worlds (and unlike Life from the Loam), you don't have to replace your draw step or pay 1G every turn in order to Wasteland your opponent every turn. For the -1 ability, coming down on Turn 1 or 2 means that the -1 is particularly relevant, sniping Delver of Secrets, Young Pyromancer, or Mother of Runes before they get out of hand.
I think this card will not just be an auto-include in 4c Loam (although it will be), but could also spawn a new archetype. Imagine a deck that looks like RUG Punishing Dack, except now it plays 4x Mox Diamond and 4x Wrenn and Six to help it comes out of the gates faster. The existence of Blast Zone means you're also no longer cold to a resolved True-Name Nemesis, and Wrenn even lets you recur it! Here's a really rough shell of what I'm thinking:
Instants / Sorceries
Mox Tantalite: 0/5
Lotus Bloom isn't playable, and this is worse. I don't even think Mox Tantalite would be playable in Standard.
Scrapyard Recombiner: 2.5/5
In Vintage Shops and Legacy Steel Stompy, this is a creature that helps make opposing removal bad. Between this card and Arcbound Ravager (who is sadly not a Construct), these artifact aggro decks really get to leverage being as hard to play against as they are to play. I expect this to show up as 1-2 copies in both Legacy and Vintage artifact aggro shells. The only thing holding it back is that the cards it's replacing are also really good. The current worst card in the deck is Hangarback Walker, which is quite good, and you're going to want to keep at least one of those around to tutor for. Perhaps it's worth keeping the creature count high and trimming on Thorn of Amethyst, since I think that Steel Stompy also wants access to the new U/W Sword.
Sword of Sinew and Steel: 1/5
Rudely breaking up my train of thought on Steel Stompy developments, the best part about this card is the word "Steel." Specifying your sword is made of steel seems redundant, which fits perfectly into the flavor of this card. The protection from Red is mostly redundant once you consider the +2/+2, and the ability to destroy planeswalkers is mostly redundant once you consider that you already managed to connect with the creature. The relevant parts of this sword are the protection from Black and ability to destroy artifacts, but these do not make this card playable over the other options available.
Sword of Truth and Justice: 2/5
Blue and White are the two best colors to protect from, since you can stay safe from Swords to Plowshares and Jace, the Mind Sculptor unsummons, while attacking through a True-Name Nemesis. It makes sense, then, that they would make the ability on this sword a bit more modest to compensate. At a bare minimum, connecting with it puts two +1/+1 counters on a creature you control, but the more counters you have, the better this card becomes. Steel Stompy is a deck that creates a plethora of +1/+1 counters distributed amongst many creatures, and being able to proliferate them is big game. It also accelerates a Ratchet Bomb's ability to tick up.
Against Steel Stompy, ironically, if someone connects with a Sword of Truth and Justice against you, they can tick your Chalice of the Void up from 1 to 2, shutting off most of your deck.
Horizon Land Cycle: 3/5
The ability to use a land over several turns, and then convert it into a card when you start to flood, is an insanely powerful ability. Horizon Canopy has been kept in check as a fringe card due to its narrow color applications, but has always been low-key one of the best cards in the decks that played it.
Now that Burn has access to 8 Red Horizon Lands, and UR decks have access to Fiery Islet, I expect decks to be rebuilt in order to utilize these. Note that you can't fetch them, and still don't want to get Wastelanded off of fetchable lands. Also, one-damage pings add up.
While the worst thing about the Blue lands is that they don't alt-cast a Daze, they do untap under a Choke.
These lands also seem particularly good with Death's Shadow. Being able to control your life total is a very powerful tool, and the deck wants to operate on a low land count.
Hall of Heliod's Generosity: 2/5
The most interesting application for this card is in Lands, where you can now return the Explorations, Drop of Honeys, and Chokes that you flip over with Life from the Loam. Between Riftstone Portal and Mox Diamond, White mana should defintely within reach.
It'a also playable in Nic Fit and Enchantress, I think. Whether this pushes these Tier 3 decks up to Tier 2 remains to be seen, but I'll generously give it a rating of 2 for now.
Prismatic Vista: 3/5
In basic-heavy decks, this functions as extra copies of your best fetchland. UW Control decks these days play 9-10 fetches, 1-2 Tundra , and 9 basics. Instead of having off-color U and off-color W fetches, you now get to play 4x Flooded Strand , 4x Prismatic Vista, and whatever off-color Blue fetch you find in your collection first.
Of note, it also can fetch for Wastes , meaning that integrating colors into Eldrazi (or Eldrazi into colored decks) gets way smoother. 4x Wasteland , 4 Prismatic Vista, and 1 Wastes = 9 colorless sources. If you weren't yet aware, Thought-Knot Seer is insane, and this card will let more decks play it.
I hope you enjoyed this fairly extensive set review of Modern Horizons for Legacy. Let me know what applications you are finding for these new cards. Happy brewing!
Written by Max