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Designing Cards for Modern Horizons 3


Hey everyone!

I'm back from the NRG Team 10K with a heartbreaking 9th place finish on tiebreaks with a 5-1-1 record. Zach Allen and Raja Sulaiman were great teammates and we were so close to getting to the elimination rounds it's hard to be too upset. Team RIW representing once again.

I've already broken down the decks Zach and I played so I'll also cover some cards that would be interesting to see in Modern Horizons 3. The set is not confirmed, but it's hard to imagine it not existing in the next few years.

The Grixis Shadow list I played was very close to the list used for the sideboard guide I posted on Twitter last week and wrote about in the past.

I faced White decks five out of seven rounds so I was very happy with the Tourach, Dread Cantor in the sideboard. It's better than Thrun, the Last Troll against Hallowed Fountain Control decks which is hard to pull off.

The Nihil Spellbomb was added at the last minute over a Soul-Guide Lantern because I heard a lot of teams were playing Grixis Death's Shadow and I strongly prefer it in the mirror. It's also better against Golgari Yawgmoth which is a tricky matchup thanks to undying creatures being 2-for-1s.

The maindeck and sideboard felt very good and I would not change a card. Grixis Death's Shadow had an excellent weekend as Corey Baumeister and Michael Rapp had strong results as well. Expect more Sanctifier en-Vecs moving forward.

Zach Allen and I worked on a Jeskai Control deck featuring Monastery Mentor for Legacy. Murktide Regent is weaker after sideboard against opposing Volcanic Island decks due to Pyroblast and it gets hit by Swords to Plowshares and Solitude against Death & Taxes without generating an advantage. It's public enemy number one thanks to Izzet Delver.

I would say Zach's greatest strength in deck-building is identifying the optimal win condition for control decks. My strength is refining decks so we were able to combine our powers and make a spicy number:

Zach cut Murktide Regent for Monastery Mentor and Dragon's Rage Channeler for more cheap spells. This version of Jeskai will draw more lands without Channeler's filtering, but the mana curve increases at the same time.

Ragavan still earns a space in the deck. The higher mana curve enables treasures to ramp out a Mentor or planeswalker on the second turn.

Dress Down is able to fit in the maindeck because Expressive Iteration is functionally another 3-drop. Dress Down is strong against Doomsday, D&T, and decks with Green's Sun Zenith. It's also an enchantment for delirium; Unholy Heat is good in most matchups Dress Down shines. Heat not only kills creatures, but also Grist out of Green's Sun Zenith decks.

Snapcaster Mage in the sideboard is a catch-all as not every matchup wants both Narset and Teferi. You're adding efficient 1-drops after sideboard which makes it more versatile in games two and three. It's also a great target to bounce with Teferi.

Court of Grace combined with Monastery Mentor in the maindeck creates the perfect storm of win conditions against Pyroblast decks and D&T. Since Force of Negation and Force of Will can be a liability in matchups based on card advantage they will resolve more often.

Zach finished 6-1 in individual matches losing only to Burn. He defeated the Jeskai Mirror, two Izzet Delvers, D&T, 8-Cast, and Lands. This is a fairly diverse matchup spread.

I have a Legacy 2K with ten proxies next week and a Legacy 1K the week afterward. It's an exciting time to play paper Legacy for high stakes twice in the same month! It's a no-brainer for me to play Jeskai Mentor.

On the car ride home there was a discussion about potential cards to be added to Modern. I currently believe Modern is in a great place because there are so many decks on a similar power level. There is still room to add more decks to the format without hitting the ceiling where the format feels like a lottery due to extreme diversity.

We came up with some cool cards to give a boost to some of the fringe decks:

Island Nacatl

Mana Cost: g

P/T: 1/1

Creature Type: Merfolk Warrior

Island Nacatl gets +1+1 as long as you control an Island.

Island Nacatl gets +1+1 as long as an opponent controls an Island.

Merfolk has had some reasonable results lately, but tribal decks are in a tough place thanks to Fury and Plague Engineer. The creature hate in Modern is very powerful while the tribal payoffs are not worth the risk of running into the hate.

Island Nacatl represents a 1-drop that will see play over the more fringe choices that are reasonable in certain matchups. If Ragavan didn't break Modern then Island Nacatl can be even stronger, but this is a good starting point.

A 2/2 for one mana in Simic Merfolk already exists, but Island Nacatl reinforces the incentive to make the opponent's land base matter. In certain matchups you can curve Island Nacatl into a Merfolk lord and attack for four damage.

I want Merfolk to get a boost in Modern because it has a die hard fan base. We all know that person at our LGS with the foiled out Merfolk deck. They even play Merfolk when it's bad so why not throw them a bone?

Urza's Charm

Mana Cost: one colorless mana


Choose 1:

-Destroy target creature with mana value 1.

-Look at the top 4 cards of your library. You may reveal a land card and put it into your hand. Put the rest of the cards on the bottom of your library in any order.

-Target opponent draws a card. The next spell you cast cannot be countered this turn.

Tron is currently a reasonable archetype in Modern, but it's falling behind thanks to the increased power level of the rest of the format. Tron has a fanatical following so I would like to see a reward for the dedicated few.

The flavor of Urza's Charm belonging to the tron deck is reinforced with the colorless mana in the casting cost. This is a powerful spell, but it requires commitment.

Urza's Charm will fill a needed role in the deck of interacting with creatures in the early turns while still helping the core game plan. Warping Wail is expensive and Dismember is painful; both can be dead draws in the wrong matchup.

The land search effect is powerful, but doesn't scale as well as Ancient Stirrings because you cannot find a nonland threat. It's not a guarantee that a missing Tron land will be found. Tron isn't good for the format if it's too powerful.

The last effect helps push through a critical threat against Control without being too backbreaking. Charms typically have numerous modes that are all powered down.

Tron has plenty of naturally bad matchups and it can be hated out if it becomes too powerful.

Searing Ignition

Mana Cost: rr


Searing Ignition deals three damage to target creature or planeswalker and three damage to it's controller.

Searing Ignition, hot n' fresh out the kitchen.

Burn is the great equalizer in Modern. This deck is not only the fun police, but also has a die-hard fan base. Burn punishes you for not respecting it, but can be beaten if it becomes too popular; an ideal Modern deck to exist.

Searing Ignition provides an upgrade to Searing Blaze in some cases because landfall is no longer required. In addition, it can deal damage to planeswalkers which brings the card up to code for this decade. Searing Blaze always felt bad to draw against control, but now it's less embarrassing.

There is a downside to Searing Ignition. The opponent is no longer being targeted so the spell can fizzle if the creature is removed. The templating on Searing Blaze was confusing and counterintuitive because spells with two targets only fizzle if there are no longer any legal targets.

Burn would have an improved matchup against creature decks because it can maindeck Searing Ignition due to it being a more versatile card and play extra copies of Searing Blaze in the sideboard. This would help Burn against creature decks because burning out threats creates a tension with your plan A of dealing twenty damage to the opponent.

Korvold's Plaguebeast

Mana Cost: bgr

P/T: 4/3

Creature Type: Legendary Zombie Beast


When Korvald's Plaguebeast enters the battlefield, lose one life and draw a card.

When Korvald's Plaguebeast dies it deals three damage to target creature or planeswalker an opponent controls.

Sacrifice Korvald's Plaguebeast: Destroy target nonland permanent with mana value four or greater an opponent controls.

Jund doesn't need to exist in Modern, but has a loyal fanbase. Korvald's Plaguebeast is an extremely pushed card and is enough to justify cutting Lurrus. This card is powerful enough that other archetypes should not benefit and cannot be cast alongside Omnath without adding a fifth color.

A new value-oriented creature would be preferred over simply reprinting Leovold, Emissary of Trest.

Jund's weakest matchups often include topdecked bombs such as Primeval Titan and Karn Liberated. They cannot be discarded if it's on top of the deck and enter the battlefield only to immediately generate an advantage.

The issue with the big mana matchups is not that Jund lacks the tools, but they're too narrow to broadly play. Korvald's Plaguebeast can destroy a large, topdecked threat and replaces itself.

It's difficult to find a scenario in which you generate the card, the dies trigger, and the sacrifice effect by design.

Liliana's Dilemma

Mana Cost: b


Choose one:

Two or less.

Four or greater.

Target opponent reveals their hand and you look at the top card of their library. You may mill a card or discard a card from that player's hand with the chosen mana value.

Liliana's Dilemma has some steep competition from Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. While this card is incredibly powerful it does have some risks of whiffing. The reward is being able to mill a large threat off the top of the deck. It gives you more information to help avoid the Thoughtseize bug of the opponent drawing the same card right after it's discarded.

I don't want the opponent to benefit from the top card of their deck being revealed so only you know what they will draw.

This card should ideally only target an opponent because you could otherwise mill the top card of your deck or decide when to break a fetch land. This goes against the spirit of the card.

Liliana's Dilemma also has the may clause, meaning if your only target is on the top of the deck you can choose to have the opponent to draw that card. They don't call it a dilemma for nothing.

It's not clear the discard split between Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Liliana's Dilemma which is the desired intent. Jund decks should consider playing some copies to help against their weaker matchups without sacrificing against the more aggressive strategies. It's never able to discard or mill a 3-drop, which is a real cost.

Modern is in a great place right now with dozens of archetypes able to take down any tournament. We still have some room before the diversity becomes too much so we might as well augment the decks that are fan favorites.

That's all for me today.

Thanks for reading!


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