Modern Horizons, a new Modern-only Magic: The Gathering set, is sparking tons of conversation in the community. One topic I find particularly interesting is based around the question: “What decks will get better in Modern Horizons?” We’ve already seen a couple of Modern Horizons spoilers (Serra the Benevolent, Cabal Therapist) but they don’t have defacto, solid homes in Modern. However, with 250 cards entering the format, we’re sure to see at least a couple of decks get some fun new toys. We’re going to look at Merfolk, Humans, and Delver decks.
Once a tier 1 Modern superpower, Merfolk has fallen a long way since its glory days. According to MTG Top 8, Merfolk was present as just 1% of the meta when looking at every competitive Modern event in 2018. Suffice to say, this is a low percentage.
In recent months, we’ve seen a little love thrown towards Merfolk in the form of Mistcaller, Merfolk Trickster, and Benthic Biomancer. Mistbinder has been a solid sideboard piece for the deck, coming in to help Merfolk against decks such as Izzet Phoenix or Dredge. Merfolk Trickster and Benthic Biomancer, however, have made a huge splash in the Magic: The Gathering Merfolk community and both are now seeing play as a 4-ofs in many people’s decklists.
These two cards have steered the Merfolk deck towards a more reactive style that likes to hold up two mana so their opponent never knows if the Merfolk player wants to cast countermagic, flash in Merfolk Trickster, or activate Benthic Biomancer’s adapt ability. This new playstyle capitalizing on ambiguity has led to a resurgence in Merfolk decks, and we’re now seeing it pop up in competitive tournaments again.
With these recent additions, and with a comment from Gavin Verhey towards the end of this interview hinting at more Merfolk support in War of the Spark, there’s a distinct possibility that Modern Horizons will continue this trend of having playable Merfolk cards. As a Merfolk player myself, I am extremely excited about the possibility of new playable cards in War of the Spark and Modern Horizons.
Humans (and Death and Taxes)
This one is a little bit of an obvious inclusion because basically, every set except for the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor sets has had human creatures in it. Due to the sheer amount of humans printed throughout Magic: The Gathering‘s history, the Modern Humans deck is an incredibly versatile deck that can easily adapt to most changes in the Modern meta. I bring up Humans because there has been a lot of talks circulating one potential Modern Horizons spoiler card in particular that just happens to be a human: Containment Priest.
This card is a huge deal because, if it is in Modern Horizons, then we will have a very clearly defined counter to the current Izzet Phoenix and Dredge driven meta. Both of the aforementioned decks function by resurrecting creatures from their graveyards instead of casting them. Containment Priest straight up counters this strategy and doesn’t have to sacrifice herself to do so the way Mistweaver does. It’s worth mentioning that Containment Priest could also easily slot into any of the Death and Taxes variants (Traditional Mono White, Mono White Eldrazi and Taxes, White-Black Eldrazi and Taxes, etc). The Death and Taxes style decks haven’t been as strong as they had been in the past, but Containment Priest could bring them up a notch.
In addition to Containment Priest, we could see a number of other interesting humans since the creature type is so common. Only time will tell, but the Humans deck in Modern may soon get a new staple if Modern Horizons brings us Containment Priest.
Delver of Secrets is probably one of, if not the, most impactful commons ever printed. Decks built around it are tier 1 in Legacy and Pauper, where the card Daze is legal. Daze goes with Delver the way peanut butter goes with jelly or the way Tarmogoyf goes with Thoughtseize. I bring this up because there has been quite a bit of talk about what countermagic could be in Modern Horizons and most of the talk circulates around three cards: Force of Will, Counterspell, and Daze. Force of Will is extremely powerful and more or less defines Legacy, so being printed into Modern seems extremely unlikely. Daze and Counterspell, however, are up in the air.
Delver decks traditionally love to play Delver of Secrets on turn one, have him flip into Insectile Aberration on turn two, and then beat their opponent while they hold up countermagic to protect Delver. So far in Modern, the best countermagic we have on this front is Spell Pierce, Deprive, and now Wizard’s Retort. One thing you may notice is, all of these have a downside to them. Enemies can pay for Spell Pierce, Deprive sets you back land, and Wizard’s Retort would require you to have at least one other creature out with the Wizard type.
Daze cannot be paid for turn one when an opponent tries to kill Delver of Secrets since they just used their one mana to cast a removal spell, and Counterspell can counter literally any spell with no downside. Either of these cards making it into Modern would bolster Delver decks a fair amount. The deck just isn’t as strong as it is in Legacy or Pauper and tends to play second fiddle to Death’s Shadow decks in Modern, but Modern Horizons could change that.
For anyone who made it this far, thanks for reading. As a Modern player, I am super excited to see what Horizons has in store for all of us! Whether Modern Horizons brings us new Merfolk, Humans, or countermagic, Modern is sure to change forever. Remember, we can expect to see more Modern Horizons spoilers in May so keep your ear to the ground! Also, don’t forget to watch the Magic: The Gathering Twitch channel for War of the Spark spoilers March 31.