Modern Horizons lands next week and with it comes a whole host of sweet new cards. While the level of impact many of them will have on the format of Modern itself, there's no doubt that it will have long lasting effects on all formats that aren't Standard. Commander and Cube both get tremendous boons to the point many nicknamed the set "Commander Horizons." Even Legacy and Vintage get some sweet cards out of the mix. Have you seen the wild new Echo of Eons and how it interacts with the likes of Lion's Eye Diamond? In the right build, it's basically Timetwister for crying out loud!
But we're not here to talk about those kinds of high powered expensive cards. No, we're here to talk about Pauper, the format of commons! And boy, let me tell you: this set is JUICED in terms of power level for the Pauper format. The cards are strong and are going to have a big impact on the format across a number of decks, including some that have been down in the meta or even incentivizing the creation of all new ones.
In fact, there's so much to talk about here that I've needed to split my review into two parts! Today I'm covering the White, Blue, and Black cards and in a few days I'll cover the rest. This set is wall-to-wall greatness and I can't wait to cover it all with you, so let's dive right in!
Answered Prayers really could be just that for Soul Sisters players. The deck has been tried plenty of times in Pauper to often middling results, but throwing this in the mix as a way to gain an effective board presence could be a game changer. Not only is it a Soul Sister on its own, but turning into a 3/3 Angel can be huge to get needed damage through. The Angel does unfortunately die to Lightning Bolt and the like, but it's still a very effective piece for the deck and hopefully breathes new life into this archetype.
With Modern Horizons comes a whole ton of new Slivers, starting here with Enduring Sliver. I've played with Slivers before and while I like this card, Slivers is normally the deck that wants to be attacking, not tapping your creatures to make them bigger. If Outlast was at instant speed, then we'd be talking, but as it's not I hesitate to think this card will make the cut. There are roughly two instances where I see it putting in work: when you have Sentinel Sliver on the field alongside it or when you're facing the mirror match as a way to slowly break through your opponent's forces. The mirror is easily the worst you could face in Pauper, and possibly beyond, so any way to ease it is a plus in my book.
When the Professor asked me to help review some brand new cards for Modern Horizons, I jumped at the chance. This was one of the cards shown to me and it made me love the design space of the set. As I said in the video, this is largely just Cloudshift, which already doesn't see much play. It does have some possible legs though if only from the fact that you hit more than one creature. It can be used as a slow Ghostly Flicker effect or for spicier things like targeting Tethmos High Priest as Alex pointed out in the video.
While it doesn't really affect Pauper all that much specifically, it is worth noting that the card actually does have different text than Cloudshift. Cloudshift reads you flicker the creature back to your side of the field, while this says return it under its owner's control. The only way this matters in the context of Pauper is largely Threaten effects, which already see barely any play as is, but it is worth noting when building decks.
Changeling is back! This card is a bit innocuous as a vanilla 3/1 creature, but there's one creature type that might actually like the beatstick: Slivers! This creature gets all the buffs that all your other Slivers get with some extra attack points. Metallic Sliver and Hive Stirrings have seen play in the past, so I could definitely see this sweet callback to Blade of the Sixth Pride putting in some work.
I'm not sure Irregular Cohort does enough. We already had cards like Call the Cavalry and Gallant Cavalry which gave arguably better creatures as they had keywords attached to them. If you can find a deck that could want the tribal aspect, then that could make it better. As is, I'm not sure it has a home, but I'm sure it'll find a use somewhere among the likes of Slivers or Soldiers.
We've already had a number of four-mana creatures in White that are 3/3 and give +1/+1 to your board, so when this one costs five I'm not sure it's where we want to be. Suspend for one White mana, however, has me looking at it a little bit differently. I'm not totally sure it'll be worth it, as you'll often want to be trying to kill quick and early with White Weenie decks, but if you expect a game to go long it could certainly be an option. Remember too that when it enters the battlefield off Suspend, it gains Haste, so it can attack right alongside the rest of the team when it lands.
Talon Sliver already exists at two mana, so I'm not sure this one will really be the one that sees play. This one, however, has the advantage of being one-sided as opposed to symmetrical, so it could be worth sideboarding to swap out for the mirror match. It's not one that comes up frequently, after all, so generally you're fine with the cheaper option, but because the mirror is so awful, giving yourself little edges like this can be a game changer.
Martyr's Soul is one of the coolest cards for Pauper in the entire set in my opinion. This card alone could be the one to single-handedly reinvigorate the White Weenies archetype. A three-mana 3/2 isn't terrible, but often far from Pauper playable. Tapping one creature makes it a two-mana 3/2 which is much better. A one-mana 3/2 following a Raise The Alarm is even better, but nothing beats tapping three creatures and dropping a 5/4.
This isn't hard either. Cast a Thraben Inspector turn one then Raise The Alarm or Gather The Townsfolk on the following turn. By turn three you should be able to cast this by tapping all three creatures and still have a full three mana to use on other spells, or even just cracking the Clue from the Inspector. This card does a ton and I absolutely expect it to see play, though exactly how much remains to be seen.
Recruit the Worthy is another sweet addition for White Weenies. Most of the time, the deck doesn't want what's effectively a single 1/1 for one mana, but having the ability to Buyback in long games is a big boon. I can't see lists running more than one of this, but it's a fantastic tool to have and some excellent design harkening back to Lab Rats.
When War of the Spark dropped, one of the commons players were talking about the most was Kasmina's Transmutation. By and large, this is much of the same. It's even better since the creature becomes a 0/1 as opposed to a 1/1, not to mention the creature becomes a Coward of all things. Blue decks still likely want Transmutation to avoid splashing, but for White decks this is an excellent tool to have.
At one point Territorial Hammerskull saw play in Heroic decks as a way to tap creatures down while attacking. This costs one more mana, but survives more effectively with four toughness as opposed to three and even pumps your other creatures when they attack. This is a good curve topper for aggressive White decks and could easily see play.
While we've had 1/1 Flying creatures for one White mana before, like Suntail Hawk, we've never had one that also had Vigilance. I'm not sure just how much White Weenie or Boros style decks might actually want this card, but there is certainly some effective potential. Being to attack, even if for just one point of damage a turn, and still block is good, even if the block is more often than not just going to be a chump block. It's still better than losing the game entirely.
As a small aside, I feel obligated to mention just how perfect the flavor is on this card, talking about a battle between Worzel and Thomil. In case you weren't aware, they're the very first walkers ever depicted in Magic's lore, dating all the way back to the original Alpha rulebook. Even if the card doesn't dominate the Constructed scene, it's a home run for every single one of the right reasons.
This card is sweet on so many fronts. It's got great art, amazing flavor, but more importantly it's very playable. You can use this in conjunction with the likes of Mnemonic Wall or Archaeomancer and it effectively becomes a removal spell that goes back to your hand upon resolution. You can also just use it on another creature you control for value and remove an opposing creature should you want to use it simply at a base level. Tron decks love this, but so too does something like Acid Trip that will happily let creatures like Dream Stalker or Kor Skyfisher flicker to pick up Reality Acid. Expect to see this plenty.
This card is an absolutely amazing piece for Bogles and Heroic. Both decks haven't had many ways to utilize Vigilance, and this does it with a buff as well. Before now the only real effective means of granting the keyword to Bogles was Favor of the Overbeing, and even that only showed up every so often.
What makes this one such an improvement, however, is that it gives you extra insurance against Edict effects, which have been the bane of the so-called Voltron style decks for years. Should your suited up creature die, you can still come out with a 2/2 Manifested creature. If it's your only creature, you will lose all your auras which is problematic. You can, however, enchant it onto a secondary creature to get two Edict preventions out of one card. Young Wolf does this quite well in Bogles sideboards already, but this has the advantage of putting in double time as well as potentially giving you another Bogle off the top, so I expect this to see more play in the future.
While I don't think Stirring Address will see play (how often will you really reach six mana in an aggressive deck?) having a combat trick that can be overloaded if a game goes long is pretty sweet. This is definitely one that's a bit more meant for Limited formats than Constructed ones.
Similarly, I don't quite think Trustworthy Scout does enough on its own. The fact that you can replace it with excess mana on your end step is pretty sweet, though, ensuring you always have a creature to play. What it gets you is only a "vanilla" 2/2, though, which is a bit less exciting. White Weenie lists could like this, but it gets worse the more you draw in your opener.
Wall of Swords sees no play. This can be made to attack, but it will see exactly the same amount of play overall.
A Hill Giant that doesn't do anything until you can activate Monstrosity isn't all that exciting. Most decks run Snow-Covered basics nowadays so it's not a stretch to say that it couldn't be played. That said, using ten mana over two turns for a 5/5 Flying creature isn't what you want, even more so when it can be killed virtually every bit of removal the format has to offer.
Eyekite offers some really sweet play. It's not a stretch for Delver decks to draw extra cards per turn thanks to the likes of Ponder, Preordain, and Brainstorm, and a 2 mana flipped Delver is still pretty good. It doesn't a power boost from Ninja of the Deep Hours draws, which is unfortunate, but I think it's hardly a stretch to imagine this seeing play somewhere.
Remember when the Banned and Restricted announcement landed a few weeks ago and people said Delver decks, specifically the likes of Mono-Blue would die? Faerie Seer would like a word. This card is so good, it could single-handedly replace Faerie Miscreant in most decks with the Spellstutter package. It's even possible we could see a new version of Mono-Blue show up, much like the Faeries list that made an appearance at both the LA MCQ and the Richmond Championship last year.
We have a snow crab now, and boy is it sweet! A two-mana 0/4 is unlikely to do much on its own, but the fact that you can mill your opponents' cards with it is fantastic. Because Snow-Covered basics are so prevalent, it's not hard to build your mana base around them and throw this into a Turbo-Fog list.
The best part too is if you have multiples of the crab on the board, it will mill for every one of them! So if you have two your opponent will mill four cards, three and your opponent will mill six, and so on. They even trigger off one another when they enter! Flicker effects can get pretty good as you can flicker two lands, effectively milling an opponent for a large amount with multiples for only one-mana. Couple these effects with Jace's Erasure and some Fog spells and you've got a deck.
Even if you don't have Fogs, the fact that this is a 0/4 means it blocks low to the ground creatures with ease. As such, it makes itself even better versus aggressive strategies than it already is. With that high of toughness, it's also difficult to kill, as spells like Lightning Bolt, Firebolt, Searing Blaze, and Galvanic Blast without Metalcraft all won't kill it. I'd expect this one to show up.
I'm somewhat inclined to believe Moonblade Shinobi won't see much, if any, play. The new ninja is clearly best in a Delver kind of deck where Ninja of the Deep Hours already exists. Additional 1/1 fliers are certainly great, but this will often only get one, maybe two, activations in, much like Ninja of the Deep Hours. When comparing the two, the card draw Deep Hours provides is often going to just be better than the small body Moonblade Shinobi provides. Even if I don't think the card will see much, if any, play I still think it's a great card with sweet design space. I hope someone finds it a great home one of these days.
This card seems fantastic. Can't flip your Delver of Secrets? Need to get your Ninja of the Deep Hours through some ground blockers? This will get you through for some serious damage for a fairly low cost. Even better still, it even cantrips upon resolution, effectively replacing itself. I fully expect to be crushed by this card a few times at the very least.
A downshifted Phantom Warrior isn't as exciting as it might sound. For that mana you could be dropping multiple small fliers, going through your deck, or holding up countermagic. That said, we've never seen a three-mana unblockable creature before in the format, so this could easily be a misevaluation. Time will tell on this type-shifted classic.
Ponder, this is not. While the great effect is plastered onto a solid body for a reasonable cost, it simply doesn't compare quite as well to similar effects in Blue like Augur of Bolas or Sea Gate Oracle. If the cost wasn't two Blue mana, I could see this slotting into Tron reasonably well because the selection is in fact better than Sea Gate Oracle, but as is, I'm inclined to pass on this one.
This card is Sift at Instant speed. That card sees zero play currently, but giving the option to play it as an Instant may make it that much better in the right deck. I'm not sure where this slots in a world of cards like Compulsive Research or the smaller cantrips like Ponder or Preordain, but I imagine this will find a home somewhere reasonably easy, even if in smaller numbers.
Preordain with Flashback is pretty sweet, but costing two mana instead of one for the initial cast is rough. In Pauper, this is probably only good for the most dedicated of control decks, or decks that would want another Preordain effect over, say, Ponder. This is especially true given that Preordain is - or at least was up until the bans - the most played card in the format. Given the costliness of the card, I think this is unlikely to make a major splash in Pauper in its current state but will see plenty of play in Modern.
Smoke Shroud is a deceptively good card with some really great design to it. Normally Auras are bad because they require your creature to stick around and can lead to pretty rough two-for-ones. With something like this, however, that's not so much the case. It actually comes back into play the moment you drop a Ninja.
Let's say you play this on a Delver of Secrets that you just can't flip. You then attack with the Delver and a Faerie Miscreant with a Ninja of the Deep Hours in your hand. If your Delver gets struck by a Lightning Bolt, you can then use the Ninja's Ninjutsu cost to return the Faerie to your hand and it will trigger Smoke Shroud's ability, putting it onto the Ninja. If the Delver is left unharmed and is unblocked, you can bounce the Delver back instead. Because the Smoke Shroud fell off the Delver and is in the graveyard when the Ninja comes into play, Smoke Shroud will trigger here as well!
No matter what, you get it back and can get in for serious damage and draw lots of cards with the usual Ninjas. It even triggers off of Changelings which is somewhat relevant thanks to another card I'll mention soon. Because the effect itself is a bit limiting, I don't think I'd want more than one or two of this card in my deck, but I definitely think it's very much worth running.
Cancel isn't where we want to be in a land of Counterspell, Deprive, and Logic Knot. Most of the time, that's exactly what this card is going to be. The only way you're going to benefit is if you're at five life or less and as the Control player, odds are you're going to be in control long before you get that low or you want a different card if you actually manage to get that low.
Remember that mill strategy I was talking about before? Here's another amazing card for it! If you don't have a whole ton of mana to spend, this is still an excellent mill option for one mana, as it also refills your deck in the process. It gets even better once you get the mana to Replicate it, allowing you to mill even deeper if you have nothing else to play. The Replicate ability gets even better as well by being a way to win off of having infinite mana, which is a no brainer for Familiars, Wonderwalls, or Freed From The Real combo decks. If there's been one card that's setting off people's brewing radars, it's this one.
While the callback to Chain Lightning is really awesome, this is often times just going to be an Unsummon that your opponent can use against you in return. Unsummon already doesn't see play so I'm not seeing this making any big splashes anytime soon. The only possible way this could be playable is if a deck wanted you to bounce your own creatures repeatedly. Familiars does this, but with a discounted Snap as a means of generating infinite mana. As such, I'm not seeing this one showing up anywhere, but I think it has some potential down the road if the right support comes along.
Windcaller Aven is great because of the versatility behind it. If you can cast it, it's a big ol' beat stick that flies over your opponents' creatures. If you can't cast it, or it's way too early to matter, you can cycle it away. When you do, it even turns into a better, uncounterable, cantripping Jump. The package here feels really good, even if I'm not quite sure where it fits into the format at this particular moment.
Once again, Snow-Covered basics are everywhere in this format. By and large, this is almost always going to be a cheaper Claustrophobia and an all around better Curse of Chains or Narcolepsy for Blue decks. I absolutely expect this card to see play in these kinds of decks.
Most of the time if you're using a Ninjutsu activation, you're getting something sweet out of it. The two most played ones are Ninja of the Deep Hours and Okiba-Gang Shinobi, and they make you draw cards or your opponents discard cards respectively. This making a creature indestructible is nowhere as good as those abilities, but it does make your combat options much more interesting. It also allows you strong aggressive plays for cheap and following it up with replaying for ETB effects. I could see a more aggressive Black deck running this, but currently we don't really have one short of Zombies where this doesn't slot in quite as well.
Remember that card I mentioned when talking about Smoke Shroud? This is the one! Changeling Outcast is a Ninja, meaning Smoke Shroud comes back when you drop the Outcast, the Shroud comes back for free. You know what creature Changeling Outcast also is? A Faerie! It's very safe to assume that by being a creature that easily enables both Spellstutter Sprite and Ninja of the Deep Hours is worth playing, making this something worth slotting into a new riff on a post-ban Dimir Delver or Faeries archetype.
Three words: Mono-Black Control.
Yes, you can play this in multicolored decks, but more often than not those decks don't run a tremendous number of Swamps. It might show up in decks like Dimir Delver, Alchemy, or Teachings if they fix their mana, but really it's going to be an absolute powerhouse in Mono-Black Control. It's a real easy replacement for Disfigure and can scale up to take down even the format's biggest like Gurmag Angler and Ulamog's Crusher. Expect a lot of your creatures to die at the hands of this all-star moving forward.
I have some real mixed feelings on this card. What I don't like is that unless it's in your graveyard, First-Sphere Gargantua is six mana. While a solid curve-topper for some decks like Mono-Black Control, you'd probably just want something like Gurmag Angler or Gray Merchant of Asphodel more often than not.
That said, I do think a card like is fairly easy to put into the graveyard with a number of various mill abilities like Thought Scour and Forbidden Alchemy. If you can Unearth it from your graveyard, it's a giant one-turn attack Phyrexian Rager which is fantastic. Still, there's going to be plenty more times where it sits in your hand doing nothing, so running this card may ultimately be quite a tall ask in the end.
NO AMOUNT OF SALT WILL SAVE YOU!
That's what your attitude should be when you take down opponents with this bad boy. I don't know where it'll slot, though if we get an aggressive Black deck as mentioned before, I could see this having a shot. Until then, though, this will largely end up a 2/5 tops with the decks we currently have, meaning I don't think the rate isn't going to be worth playing.
More fuel for an aggressive Black archetype! This card is a sweet callback to Hypnotic Specter (as well as Hymn to Tourach in the flavor text) but once again doesn't really play well with most of the Black-based decks we know and love today. This wants you to have no cards in your hand where current Black decks are more Control oriented and want to hold cards as long as possible. There's been suggestions of this showing up in the Mono-Black Land Destruction variant but I'm unsure even that is where you want it.
For the sake of Pauper this is almost certainly just going to be Mind Rot, which is unplayable in the format. I could see it in some multiplayer formats outside of Pauper, but in the realm of commons, it's not all that great, especially when we have Delirium Skeins already.
Mob is clean cut, efficient removal that continues the recent trend of Black removal spells that can even get rid of other Black creatures effectively. There aren't many go wide Black archetypes that can currently make use of this card, but it can't be hard to do something involving tokens or cheap effective creatures. The one deck that I could see making use of this now with ease is likely Golgari Aristocrats, but hopefully more show up down the line.
This Ninja may be big, but even the Ninjutsu cost isn't worth it. Pass on this card.
Putrid Goblin doesn't seem great at first glance with stats like Walking Corpse or strictly better versions such as Miasmic Mummy or Khenra Eternal. Unlike those cards, though, this one has a full package of minor aspects. Let's check the boxes:
- As a Zombie that can come back after dying, it has potential for Mono-Black Zombies.
- With Persist it's a reasonable addition to Golgari Aristocrats.
- Given that it's also a Goblin, it also slides in fantastically to the Rakdos Goblin Aristocrats list that's seen some play.
It's also possible that this shows up somewhere completely different from where we might normally expect, but this is one that certainly looks promising.
Rank Officer is a strange card. The stats - including the token it makes - don't really line up too well with the mana cost and the ability is kinda weird if I'm being honest. I don't think this makes the cut, but the oddball amalgam of things going on here make me wonder if it can't show up somewhere.
Card selection is great and so is filling your graveyard. It's easily one of the main appeals of cards like Forbidden Alchemy and Thought Scour as mentioned before, two of the best draw spells in the format, and it's all on a great rate here. Really the only downside is that it's a Sorcery, so you can't hold up counter magic or a removal spell and use this if you don't use either, but it's a minor thing. This card is great and I fully expect to see it show up.
Most current decks don't really want this. Zombie is the only real tribal deck that could probably make good use of it, and that deck already has Ghoulcaller's Chant, which it doesn't even run as a full four-of a lot of the time. It's possible this could make an appearance from time to time because it's such a unique effect, but it doesn't quite have a home right now.
Aristocrats keeps getting gas! This card might be a bit too pricey to make effective use of in the deck, but once it gets going, it goes hard. As far as I'm aware, it's the only "sacrifice creatures to make this bigger" creature in the format with Flying, so having the full package of effects makes it a solid deal on the whole. I don't know just how much you'd want of this card, but I could see it showing up as at least a one of to top your curve.
Umezawa's Jitte this is not, though the callback is great. The individual abilities were so great on Jitte in other formats because they could be used multiple times in various ways all at once, as well as being colorless. A one-time activation that costs actual mana isn't all that playable even with the choice between effects.
A Giant Scorpion with Changeling isn't really all that exciting no matter how cool it is.
Another tool for Aristocrats! It's questionable whether you really want this more than Viscera Seer, which already sees no real play, but it's a great tool to have in your arsenal all the same. It's especially sweet for Goblin Aristocrats because it's, well, a Goblin!
And that ends part one of my Modern Horizons Pauper set review! I'll be back very soon with the remaining cards and trust me, there's some serious spice I'm really excited to talk about, especially when we get to the Green cards. Until then, let me know what you think of these cards and let me know if there's any spicy ways these cards might be used that I may have missed!