It’s time to get weird, my friends! Modern Horizons 2 spoilers are flowing thick and fast and already showing some of the most outright bizarre cards we’ve ever seen.
If you’ve been playing for anywhere near as long as I have, then firstly, my condolences for being old and, secondly, you must be enjoying all the ridiculous in-jokes that are jammed into this set, just as they were in MH1.
Let’s see if we can make head or tail of some of these new bundles of strangeness for Modern. Honestly, some of these might be both head and tail. Let’s find out.
(Disclaimer: this article was written at the end of the first week of previews, so if I haven’t included any of the latest spoilers, it’s because I haven’t seen them yet. I hope you’re enjoying them in the future).
Free Thoughtseize anyone? This beautiful looking card has attracted the most conversation online of all the spoilers so far, and for good reason. Thoughtseize is one of the most played cards in Modern, so getting that effect for zero mana has to be worth a close look. Grief offers the ability to cheat on mana at the cost of putting you down two cards in hand. What kind of decks might be interested in this effect?
First of all, let’s be clear about where this card will not be good. Death’s Shadow decks don’t want this. Jund doesn’t want this. Decks trying to play fair, honest Magic with strategies that haven’t been good since 2017 don’t want this. Those decks are all looking to play a “low resource” game; they are interested in playing one-for-one, mana-efficient card interactions with discard spells and removal, and then sticking one or two threats to close out the game. The absolute last thing they want to do is to put themselves at card disadvantage just to save on a point of mana.
Of course, not every deck is going to try to play fair with Grief. The combo that has the internet all abuzz is combining Grief with Ephemerate. The line goes: turn one, play your land, then pitch a black card to Evoke Grief, let Grief’s Thoughtseize trigger resolve (potentially taking a Lightning Bolt or some other card that would disrupt you), then Ephemerate Grief before you sacrifice it. This will net you another Thoughtseize trigger, then a third one on your next upkeep when Ephemerate Rebounds, plus you end up with a 3/2 Menace. All told, you will spend three cards in hand to take three cards from your opponent’s hand and you end up with a body on board, all for one mana. This sounds like a pretty savage opening, even by Modern’s high-powered standards.
The question is what kind of deck do we put it in? The easy part is coming up with white creatures that pair nicely with Ephemerate: Stoneforge Mystic, Skyclave Apparition, and Elite Spellbinder all come to mind.
The more challenging part is coming up with enough black cards to reliably have a card to pitch to Grief. For starters, I think we can turn to Zendikar Rising’s modal double-faced cards. Agadeem’s Awakening is an easy-enough inclusion since it can be pitched to Grief or just come in as an untapped land. The more exciting one is Malakir Rebirth, which can act as a one-shot Ephemerate, effectively giving you eight copies of this effect, improving your chances of landing the turn-one dream. Tidehollow Sculler also fits the theme of the deck well, since it can be Ephemerated with its trigger on the stack to permanently exile a card from the opponent’s hand and it can be pitched to Grief. Round things out with some black removal and/or discard and you’ve got what sounds like a much more effective disruptive BW deck than the current Death & Taxes decks could ever hope to be.
Finally, the other use for Grief that has me excited is in Living End decks.
The downside of Living End has always been that it can’t run any cheap interaction to either disrupt the opponent’s strategy or defend its own (due to running Cascade spells like Violent Outburst that rely on the deck having only Living End below mana value 3). That has started to change recently with access to Brazen Borrower and Force of Negation, both of which have helped disrupt the opponent but still leave a bit of a hole in terms of pushing through Living End itself.
Grief is the perfect card for this purpose, able to grab discard spells, counter spells, graveyard hate, or any other element of disruption from the opponent, all the while putting another creature in the graveyard to be brought back when Living End resolves. Furthermore, this gives the deck a use for any copies of Living End that it happens to draw, which have historically just been dead cards in non-As Foretold lists.
I would start with something like this for a new UB Living End list:
Entomb comes to Modern, baby! Well, sort of: there will be no reanimating Griselbrands with this new toy. Worse still, we also have to write off Modern’s best reanimation spell in Goryo’s Vengeance. So, we’re going to have to get a little more creative to abuse Unmarked Grave.
The best idea that I’ve seen floating around is to use Unmarked Grave to get a Protean Hulk in the bin then use Footsteps of the Goryo to bring it back. Once you let it die in your end step, there are a number of combos you can pull out of your deck to win on the spot.
The “classic” Protean Hulk combo is fairly resilient to interaction, but does take up quite a few slots in your deck. When your Hulk dies, you fetch Viscera Seer and Body Double, which enters as a copy of Hulk. You sacrifice the new Hulk and fetch Reveillark and Mogg Fanatic. Sacrifice the Mogg Fanatic to ping your opponent, then sacrifice Reveillark, returning the Mogg Fanatic and the Body Double as a copy of the Reveillark. Repeat until your opponent is dead.
Protean Hulk combos have been around for a while, but have never had any success due to needing to find a Protean Hulk, get it into the graveyard, then also find a reanimation spell, all before your opponent kills you. Unmarked Grave solves the first few steps of the problem quite nicely, leaving us with the simpler problem of finding a reanimation spell. This could be achieved with some card selection and card draw, but Strixhaven has given us a way to brute force the problem: Solve the Equation. With this new toy, we can simply tutor for Footsteps of the Goryo, or Unmarked Grave, or even a piece of interaction if needed.
To round out the list I’d look to run some card filtering and interaction that can help get a drawn Protean Hulk into the graveyard. I would start with something like this:
We all expected weird cards to come in Modern Horizons 2, but sweet Serra above, this one is a brain bender. Is this good? Broken? Completely useless? I’m pretty stumped.
However, I am confident that this is one of the sweetest designs we’ve ever seen. “Enchantment Land – Urza’s Saga”? Pure beauty.
Ok, let’s see if we can crack this. I’m starting with the belief that this card is insanely strong. This is just an incredible amount of power to cram onto a land. A three-mana “Karnstruct” plus a tutor for a cheap artifact onto the battlefield is more than enough compensation for losing our land in three turns.
Fittingly enough, the most obvious card to pair with Urza’s Saga is Urza himself. Both cards make similar demands on our deck, merely asking for an abundance of cheap artifacts. Modern has no shortage of good cheap trinkets, but there are a few that I’m particularly interested in:
The major downside of Urza’s Saga is that you will lose your land drop after a few turns. Mox Amber catches my eye straight away because it can potentially act as a mana source to fetch with the last chapter of the Saga if it’s mana that you need. Mishra’s Bauble is a zero-mana trinket to pump up our Karnstructs from Urza and Urza’s Saga, a free cantrip, and a source of card advantage when paired with Emry, Lurker of the Loch or Lurrus of the Dream Den.
Possibly the most powerful aspect of Urza’s Saga is that it can act as a free artifact tutor. Modern players have been paying 1UUU to fetch these artifacts with Whir of Invention (with Improvise, admittedly), so getting this effect for no mana seems outrageous. Pithing Needle can shut down whole swathes of Modern’s most powerful decks, Nihil Spellbomb is one of the premier graveyard hate cards in the format, and Aether Spellbomb can act as interaction in a pinch. If none of these are required when your Saga pops off, you can simply fetch a Chromatic Star or Mishra’s Bauble to see some new cards.
I think the best end game for this sort of shell these days is the Thopter Foundry + Sword of the Meek combo. The combo pairs beautifully with Emry, which we want to be playing anyway to turn on Mox Amber, and it’s easily fetchable via Whir of Invention. It can’t be fetched by Urza’s Saga unfortunately, but I guess we can’t have everything.
I would start with a list something like this (inspired by MTGO user CONTRAEGO’s 5-0 list):
I think that will do us for this week of spoilers. I’ll be back next week to tackle the next batch of new cards. In the meantime, please send through your Modern brews using the new MH2 cards, I’d love to see them!
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.