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Modern Horizons Pauper Set Review: Red, Green, and the Rest


We're back with some sweet discussions on all the sweet new goodies Modern Horizons has brought us for Pauper! In part one, I covered the set's White, Blue, and Black commons. If you haven't read that one yet, I highly recommend checking it out. Now, we're going to touch on everything else! That includes Red, Green, Multicolored, and Colorless cards. Some of my favorite cards of the set are in this section and I can't wait to go through them at length.

Without further ado, let's jump right on in!


Multicolored & Colorless


Bladeback Sliver

Three color Sliver decks have been tried in the past and this one has the potential to do some serious damage, especially in mirror matches. Three color Sliver decks have always struggled a bit because they want to be an aggressive deck and cards like Gemhide Sliver don't really want to be aggressive. That's to say nothing of the fact that if you do happen to run afoul of a mirror match, it actually speeds up your opponent before you get to really go off. Your other options are often tapping lands, which are too slow to go off quickly.

There is some hope multicolored decks get a better chance to shine with the likes of the new Arcum's Astrolabe, but I'm not sure it'll be in Slivers. The other major setback is Sliver decks aren't able to dump their hands as fast as, say, Elves or Stompy, so it's unlikely you'll be hellbent all that often. As such, I feel like this won't see much play.

Bogardan Dragonheart

A Gray Ogre isn't generally something to write home about, but being able to sacrifice a creature to make it a 4/4 with Flying and Haste makes it a lot more attractive. Running it with the likes of Mogg War Marshal and in Aristocrats-style strategies seems like potential for pushing through some serious damage. I like this and expect it to show up every so often in aggressive creature-based Red decks.

Cleaving Sliver

This is a non-symmetrical reprint of Bonesplitter Sliver, which already sees no play in Pauper. Again, there's certainly a bit more potential for a three color deck to show up, but I think I'd rather focus on cards like Striking Sliver and Hunter Sliver first over this.

Fists of Flame

This card was one of those ones that made me go, "Wow am I glad Gush and Gitaxian Probe are gone!" This is the kind of card that would have been a bit high on the pushed scale with those cards in the format if used in a deck like Izzet Blitz. Even without those now banned cards, it still has a definite shot there. This cantrips, pumps for your draws and Kiln Fiend/Nivix Cyclops abilities, and even gives Trample to push extra damage through. I definitely expect this to show up, even if its uses are slightly limited in the format.

Geomancer's Gambit

I think this card is great. It reads like a bad Stone Rain, since your opponent still gets a land, but letting yourself draw a card helps mitigate that drawback. On the plus side, though, it keeps Tron decks off of full Tron. Yes they can grab a basic land, but Tron runs few basics, if any at all, unless they're on the more Removal Tron variant. Even hitting decks that rely on bounce lands can cripple their game plan if they were relying on that mana for the early game. In a world of actual Stone Rain, Molten Rain, and Earth Rift, I'm not quite sure this makes the cut, but it's great design and I'm sure it'll pop up here and there.


In roughly 99% of your matches, this is just going to be Act of Treason, which already isn't good enough. Even in the rare circumstance where you actually take a Goat (read: Changeling), the boost isn't worth casting this spell. Leave it in the land of Limited where it belongs.

Goblin Champion

Now here's some sweet design! Exalted isn't something we've really ever seen in Red and on its own it can be another better Raging Goblin variant. The problem is that most Creature-based aggro decks want to go wide and swing out all at once. If you're doing that here, then you won't get the Exalted trigger, making this a lowly 0/1. It may offer some fresh play options, but I don't think they're where you wanna be in most situations.

Goblin War Party

Goblin War Party looks like a bit of an oddball card. At four mana with no Entwine, you're just usually better off casting Hordeling Outburst. Where I could see this showing up is more Izzet Flicker lists, either with Tron or without. These decks often reach critical mass of mana and can get this back by flickering Mnemonic Walls and/or Archaeomancers. Being only one Red mana for a lot of situations is a boon as well, as it makes it easier to cast.

I'm not sure it'll actually be good enough even in those situations, though. Flurry of Horns exists and already sees some play in Izzet Pieces of the Puzzle decks, and that might just be better overall. It's especially damning that these tokens can be wiped out by an Electrickery with ease, but if nothing else, a card like this is great to have in the toolbox.

Igneous Elemental

Getting a land into your graveyard really isn't hard with the likes of Evolving Wilds, Ash Barrens, the Onslaught Cycle Lands, Thought Scour, Faithless Looting, and so on. Dealing two damage instead of four means this isn't quite on par with the old classic Flametongue Kavu, but the stats are still good and taking out a small creature can still be a big swing. I expect some aggressive Red decks will use this from time to time.

Magmatic Sinkhole

Red has always struggled to deal with some of the bigger creatures in the format. We've had Flame Slash to deal with 4 toughness creatures before, but it wasn't quite where a lot of Red decks wanted to be. Magmatic Sinkhole can help quite a bit by going down to one mana to wipe out anything up to and including a Gurmag Angler. It might not seem like a big step up from Flame Slash, but being Instant speed is certainly a big boon in its favor.

I've seen players compare this to Harvest Pyre which is a valid argument. The idea there is that if you could cast this by Delving away a large number of cards, you can instead cast an even bigger Harvest Pyre. Given that a lot of aggressive Red decks already have trouble getting enough mana to go off at times, I think it is in fact more important to have the one that costs only one mana. If this sees play, it will definitely be in low numbers, but I expect it to show up at least from time to time.

Orcish Hellraiser

Red Deck Wins absolutely loves this card. Great stats, even with the Echo cost, and if your opponent kills it, it still makes sure your opponent takes some damage. It's possible that Burn decks, which have run Keldon Marauders before, may want this also, but I think the current creature suite might just be better. Regardless, it's hardly a stretch to imagine this seeing play.


We just said a one mana deal five to a creature is strong but still iffy, so I can't imagine where this one would be even worth considering. Still, it's great to see Norin the Wary show up on a Magic card again. Now if only they could change his Oracle text to make him a Coward as well.

Quakefoot Cyclops

Quakefoot Cyclops is another of those cards I find difficult to evaluate. Generally speaking, this ability on these big of stats isn't really what you want, but the added versatility from the Cycling makes it at the very least worth considering. I don't expect it to be played but it's still a neat option.


Get ready to pistol whip some Artifacts! It's hard to say if this is necessarily better than options we already have like Ancient Grudge, Gorilla Shaman, or Smash to Smithereens, but it's an amazing option among them! The fact that you can bring this back every turn, all the while thinning out your deck, is really sweet and can be a big boon against the Affinity matchup. Decks like Rakdos Reanimator and Tortured Existence like this even more as they actually want their graveyards good and full, and it can even fuel Swirling Sandstorms! Expect to see this one.

Spinehorn Minotaur

A 2/3 for three that doesn't do anything upon entry is pretty bad, and given that Red on its own isn't exactly known for drawing extra cards, this will rarely have Double Strike, if ever. Pass on this guy.

Viashino Sandsprinter

I absolutely love this card. It feels like a callback to the Viashino cards of old, like Viashino Sandstalker, and Ball Lightning all at once. Even better, if you don't want to use it, you can Cycle it away for something better. I definitely expect decks like Red Deck Wins to bring this to the table.

Volatile Claws

We already have Burn Bright and that sees no play whatsoever. Tacking the Changeling text on doesn't make me want to play this any more. In most situations, I think I'd rather just play Blades of Velis Vel, as some of these aggressive decks already have.


Bellowing Elk

A 4/2 for four isn't all that exceptional, but the fact that it gets both Indestructible and Trample from playing another creature is actually awesome. It's not hard to chain something like Sprout Swarm so I expect this to be a reasonable option for some decks. Still, four mana is often a tall ask, and that could be what makes decks not play this, even if it is pretty great for what it does.

Excavating Anurid

You have no idea how much I'm loving the fact that we're seeing another Anurid show up. Anurid Brushhopper was a chase rare that dominated Standard once upon a time, and I very fondly remember the artwork on Anurid Swarmsnapper from my childhood. With this card, though, I worry it's too expensive to make good use of effectively. It's possible big ramp decks might want this because the set of abilities are great. They'd be even better, though, if this cost four mana instead of five.


I've had some friends tell me Frostwalla is really good, as its activation is one mana instead of two. Still, the deck that might want this is Stompy, and I can't see Stompy holding up a bunch of mana to drop this as well as protect it in the early game. Give me my free Basking Rootwallas instead and I'll be fairly happy.

Mother Bear

Much like Trustworthy Scout, the fact that this creature keeps giving even after it dies is sweet. Unlike the Scout, however, this costs way more to activate its ability and can't keep chaining multiple times. It's a great card, but I'm not sure it's where most decks want to be, unless you're on Stompy against a Control deck.

Murasa Behemoth

Giant French vanilla creatures aren't often great in Pauper. I can't imagine this one being any different.

Rime Tender

We don't really have many good Snow cards in Pauper and often times this is just going to be another two mana dork. As such, I don't think it's worth playing. However, there are infinite untaps if you have two of these on the field at the same time. While I'm not aware of any situations currently where this is relevant, there's likely an interaction that wants this somewhere in the format.

Savage Swipe

This is such an easy card to slot into Stompy it isn't funny. The deck often features a huge slew of 2 power creatures and the deck already plays Epic Confrontation to great effect. If you go even heavier on the two-powered critters, this is actually even better by being one-mana and gives an extra power as well. I love this and definitely brace yourself to get bear mauled in the future.

Springbloom Druid

This is almost Harrow stapled onto a small 1/1 creature. The big difference here is that your lands come into play tapped. There's been some talk about this maybe being played with multicolored decks, but if you wanted that already, why not just play for Harrow? Or even Grow from the Ashes? I don't see it there, but I do see it as another option for Elves.

Elves decks already run Sylvan Ranger as a way to find your Blue source to cast Distant Melody, and I feel this is largely going to be just as easy to play as Sylvan Ranger. Considering Elves functions quite well on only one or two lands, you want to avoid flooding out too hard when possible. By losing one land and drawing out two more from the deck, you get that many more lands out of your deck. In most decks, this would be relatively negligible, but in a deck with 13 lands, it starts to become very noticeable.

Yes, the lands coming into play tapped can still be problematic if you want to cast Distant Melody right then and there. In my experience, though, you're not always casting a Melody when you play your Sylvan Ranger, so this isn't a massive drawback. It's even less of a drawback when you consider that you still get your normal land drop and can go up to three lands if you're able. I like this card a lot and will certainly be trying it out.


Plummet's not great for the format, but Cycling makes it a little more bearable. I still don't think it's maindeckable or worth playing over the likes of Scattershot Archer, Aerial Volley, or Sagittars' Volley, but it's a great tool, especially when you can Cycle it away.

Treefolk Umbra

I can't really think of a home for this. Bogles doesn't want this, as there's cheaper and better Totem Armor effects and the Doran effect clashes with Rancor poorly. Stompy doesn't really want it either. As always, Auras are always a risk as well because it's so easy to get blown out by the ol' two-for-one, so I just can't see it here.

Treetop Ambusher

Dash is great, but I don't think these stats and the buff are enough to make it worth jamming, even in decks like Stompy.

Trumpeting Herd

Let me tell you that I never thought I'd see the day when Call of the Herd, once the big chase card out of Odyssey, was effectively downshifted to common. Yes, it's not the same, as this is four mana, not three, nor can you cast both sides on the same turn, but getting two 3/3 Elephants for 4 mana is a sweet deal. I'm not quite sure where the card itself slots, but it's still a fantastic card on its own.

Twin-Silk Spider

Making two 1/2 Spiders that can block fliers for three mana is a sweet deal in its own right. The same stats would previously be found combined on a Giant Spider for four mana. This can also be Ghostly Flickered for additional Spiders. I'm not sure it's good enough to get there, but making tokens that can battle back all the fliers of the format, including and especially Battle Screech tokens, has me interested.

Weather the Storm

Storm is back! This time it's in life gain form! This is clearly meant to be a way for Green decks in Modern and Legacy to counteract Grapeshot and Tendrils of Agony, respectively. That doesn't mean Pauper can't reap the rewards also!

A lot of the time Green decks struggle to find that right spot for life gain. Do your creatures get big enough to make Feed The Clan worth it? Do they die regularly enough to go with Life Goes On instead? Or do you even just go with the clean and sure way of Nourish? Weather the Storm continues this trend, being better for some decks than in others.

In decks that go a bit wider and cast multiple spells a turn, like Elves and Stompy, this can be a big boon. Elves especially, as Burn is one of its harder matchups and given the opportunity it can go off hard enough you can cast some four or five spells prior to this with ease. In the worst case, you just use it when your opponent uses up all their mana when their burn spells are cast. Negating every Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, and Chain Lightning seems pretty good if you ask me, and that doesn't even include the card's impact against other aggro decks. Expect this to see tons of sideboard play.

Winding Way

Before sending this article in, I've actually had a little time to sit down and play with Winding Way. The card is basically Mulch but instead of being limited to grabbing only the lands you see, you can opt to try for creatures instead. Being two mana and seeing four cards makes it worth looking at alongside Lead the Stampede in the context of decks like Elves and Slivers.

A user on Reddit's MTG Elves subreddit ran the numbers in the context of Modern and in that version, it's apparent that Lead is just better. Their numbers show 24 non-creature cards, while Elves usually runs about 20-22 in Pauper. Not a huge difference that implies Elves might not want this over Lead the Stampede.

There are a few considerations to take into account though. The biggest is that even though the count is lower, paying only two mana on this with a significantly lower land count than in Modern means this is easier to cast after a board wipe. I can't tell you the number of times and opponent wiped out my board only for me to get stuck with a Lead the Stampede and two lands.

The other consideration is the sideboard options a card like this opens up. There's been some rumblings about the possibility of Turbofog showing up again and decks like Fog Tron and Prismatic Strands Monarch decks are always amuck. As such, you could start to consider a miser's Flaring Pain in the sideboard to help ensure damage gets through. If you draw it, it can help you get a kill no problem, but if it ends up in your yard through Winding Way or another spell, you can still cast it with ease.

I don't think Winding Way is a total replacement for Distant Melody yet, though it certainly seems better than Vivien's Grizzly. Our time with the bear was short, but great nonetheless. I do expect to see this in solid numbers. I tried a split of 1 Lead, 2 Melody, 4 Winding at first. I always found myself nervous when dropping Winding so I'd maybe consider a 2-3 or 3-2 split of Lead the Stampede and Winding Way depending on your preference.

Multicolored & Colorless

Nature's Chant

A perfect middle ground between Disenchant and Naturalize and almost strictly better due to ease of casting, I expect this to show up every so often. We largely have way better Artifact and Enchantment removal by now, but the ability to be cast off White or Green mana is a tremendous boon all the same for this classic card.

Amorphous Axe

Bonesplitter this is not. Even Runed Stalactite is better than this. Easy pass on this card.

Arcum's Astrolabe

Arcum's Astrolabe is arguably the best card for Pauper in the entire set. A one mana Prophetic Prism is deceptively strong, especially in decks that can abuse it. This is, however, somewhat harder to evaluate because of where Prophetic Prism traditionally fits. Those decks include Tron, Boros Monarch and Bully, and Affinity. Each of these decks actually runs few, if any, basic lands, making it a harder fit than normal.

Monarch and Bully are probably the ones that can switch the most easily, cutting a few nonbasic lands to make room for a few basics that can cover this. Where I really expect this to shine, though, is in some all new fresh archetypes. This is the kind of card that really enables multicolored strategies and could be enough to see a rise in three color strategies. Mana fixing options have been getting better and better and it's fully possible this is what makes it really possible. It could even be played in various two color decks for cheap card draw and fixing, even to colors where that normally wouldn't be available. Expect to see this one quite a bit over time.

Fountain of Ichor

It's hard to say whether or not this is better than the likes of Guardian Idol which already sees very little to no play in the format. However, this tapping for mana of any color is certainly an improvement, as is the activated ability making this artifact into an even bigger creature than the Idol. I could see it showing up a bit here and there, but seeing as neither Darksteel Ingot nor Manalith see play as is, I'm not holding my breath on it.

Universal Automaton

This is a sweet callback to Metallic Sliver but in my opinion is worse for Pauper. Apart from Slivers, there's not really a tribal deck that wants this.

  • Elves is a bunch of small moving parts working in conjunction with one another, all having some kind of effect. By being a vanilla creature, this doesn't do anything. If you play it against an Elves player, it can actually benefit them by giving boosts to the abilities of Elvish Vanguard, Timberwatch Elf, Wellwisher, and Priest of Titania.
  • Goblins wants value creatures and a vanilla 1/1 isn't that. I believe the deck would sooner play Goblin Arsonist over this.
  • Zombies wants aggressive creatures or creatures with abilities. This is neither.

Some other creature types, such as Soldiers, see fringe play, but even there, there's better options. I love everything about the overall design of this card, but I'm not a fan of it from a play standpoint.

Cave of Temptation

This is a strictly better Shimmering Grotto or Unknown Shores and is a pretty easy upgrade, even if the actual pump ability is never used. It's like when people ask me why bothering switching from Massive Raid to Harsh Sustenance in Elves. Even if the extra upside ultimately doesn't matter 99.9% of the time and is almost flavor text, the 0.1% of the time it does matter, you'll be thankful you had it.

Overall, Modern Horizons is bringing the spice. I genuinely think that Arcum's Astrolabe is the set's best card on power level alone, but doesn't quite make it in any current deck. Cards like Faerie Seer, Defile, Weather the Storm, and Winding Way have really obvious levels of play right out of the gate and it's likely we'll see plenty more beyond that.

Modern Horizons is now live on Magic Online and ready for testing if you want to get right into it. I also highly recommend checking out your local shop for Modern Horizons events being held this weekend! There's lots ways to get your hands on these by now and try them out. Let me know below what you think is gonna see some serious play. What are you excited to rock at your local events over the next few weeks?

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