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Previews on the Horizon


This could be a potential Part 1 of several, depending on how exciting these Modern Horizons previews end up, but they're looking pretty solid so far, and this is only the first few days as of my writing this.

Today I want to talk about a few of the ones that stand out to me, along with where they might fit into the Modern format, consider it's a pretty competitive format, and I mean in terms of making the cut as a playable.

Ice-Fang Coatl

Ice-Fang Coatl

Will the card find a playable home in Modern? That I'm not sure, but I wanted to mention it because one card that I have wanted to see in Modern for ages is Baleful Strix. As you can see, the similarities are pretty uncanny: these are both two specific colored mana, they both have flying, they both draw a card, and they both have or have a way to get deathtouch. The Coatl makes up for its restrictive deathtouch with flash, however.

Unfortunately, I think the deathtouch is one of the best aspects of Baleful Strix, allowing it to trade with all sorts of Modern threats. A 1/1 flyer that draws a card is nice, but we're not really looking for Skyscanners in Modern, even if they do cost one less. That being said, if some kind of non-Red snow strategy exists, maybe if snow dual lands are printed (oh, god, can you imagine!?), this guy has a very real shot at seeing a lot of play. The downside, however, considering the fact that that is very unlikely, is that this means that Baleful Strix is also not likely in Modern Horizons.

It's worth noting that this is a trend I've already seen a few times now in Modern Horizons, where specific cards are in the set that aren't reprints, but are meant to fill the same roles as cards in older formats. We expect Baleful Strix, we get Ice-Fang Coatl. We expect Force of Will, we get . . . 

Force of Negation

Force of Negation

This card seems very strong. On its face, it's a Negate that cost one more Blue mana. But behind the scenes, it's a free counter against any of the combo decks that try to go off on their turn. I could see this doing work against things like Karn Liberated, Scapeshift, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Saheeli Rai, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, etc. One thing you can't do that Force of Will could is protect your own spells resolving on your own turn. If you're the combo deck and trying to go off, this won't help you. If you're playing a fair midrange deck, and want to resolve your own Jace, this won't help you.

Force of Negation is strong, but make no mistake, Force of Will it is not, even with the one life discount. I see this being a popular player in Modern, but it won't be nearly as ubiquitous as its predecessor; Force of Will is rarely dead, while against something like Humans in Modern, this is a hard sell.

Seasoned Pyromancer

Seasoned Pyromancer

Sometimes you can look at a card and immediately know why it's a mythic rare. Seasoned Pyromancer is great and has a lot going on. This is basically the same board value of Pia and Kiran Nalaar, only you're paying 3 mana instead of four, it's not legendary, you're getting two loots out of this, and you can later exile it from your graveyard for two more bodies at instant speed. For 3 mana, this is a steal! Sure, you only get the initial 1/1 tokens if you discard nonland cards, but if you're discarding land cards, you're getting rid of excess lands. This potentially much more useful, especially in the late game.

There are so many things this can be doing, from acting like a Faithless Looting, to fitting into Dredge, to discarding Arclight Phoenixes, to just being slotted into tokens decks. This is an incredibly versatile card at an incredible price point.

Considering the art on both this and Young Pyromancer have the same body position, attire, and door in the background, I would assume this is just an older version of Young Pyromancer, which is a fulfilling piece of lore and continuity there. Cynthia Sheppard even illustrated both cards!

Prismatic Vista

Prismatic Vista

Well, isn't this interesting. This is a fetch land for basics, but unlike cards like Terramorphic Expanse or Evolving Wilds, the land doesn't come into play tapped, which is a pretty sizable advantage. Try this: think of the fetch lands that are legal in a format like Legacy. Did you think of the five Onslaught and Zendikar fetches? Did you even consider the five Mirage versions, like Bad River and Mountain Valley? Could you even name all five if you had to? I have my doubts.

The point is, lands like this have always existed, but until the land enters the battlefield untapped, they are not going to see play. Another thing to consider is that Prismatic Vista can also get Wastes, which is a quality that no other fetch land could claim (short of the aforementioned inferior versions).

I think Prismatic Vista is going to see a sizable amount of play, because it can fit in virtually any deck that has some number of basics. This could even encourage decks to play more basic lands in their decks. While the ten fetch lands we have now are arguably better, there will be times where you need a specific color in your three color deck, and Prismatic Vista is the only card that is going to allow you to get it for one life instead of three. Need an Island with your Bloodstained Mire? You can get it, but it's going to cost you. This card isn't going to upend fetch lands in Modern, by any means, but it is a versatile tool to keep in your land arsenal.

Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction

Finally, Fact or Fiction. Truth be told, I don't even know if this will see Modern play. I think it will, but Modern is a really weird format where it's actually more oppressive than formats like Legacy or Vintage. There are far fewer checks in place (Mental Misstep, Swords to Plowshares, Force of Will, etc.) that prevent the degenerate decks from making Modern a turn four format. Because of that, a four-mana card that lets you draw the best of your top five cards, while drawing two to three total, might not be good enough. This is awkward to write, as Fact or Fiction is one of the best draw spells of all time, and it even has a strong place in Magic Online Vintage Cube.

To be fair though, Modern seems to have a lot more midrange decks going around currently than it used to, like Humans, wu Control, Affinity, Spirits, ur Phoenix, and Eldrazi Tron. This mean it could actually be the perfect time for midrange Blue decks to dig into a card like Fact or Fiction when you were keeping mana up for Cryptic Command (or Ice-Fang Coatl) anyway!

Truth is, Modern can be a strange and dangerous place and only time will tell if any of these cards will find homes, and if those homes will be in the main deck, or solely relegated to the sideboard. It's definitely interesting see all these new cards and speculating about their impact on formats even older than Modern, but it's also interesting to see cards that already exist making their way into the format for the first time.

Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to seeing what you guys think, along with what cards you're excited about, and maybe what you hope to see in the set! Be sure to leave a comment and your thoughts down below, and I'll catch you next week.

Frank Lepore