Goodbye, Horizon Canopy.
Ever since Future Sight gave us a cycle of lands that all had different abilities, people have constantly wondered what it would be like if we were to see other color combinations with the sets of abilities that have previously only been given to a single land (with Graven Cairns and the associated filter lands being the long-established exception).
Tuesday, a new set of cards with Horizon Canopy’s effect were previewed, settling the internet ablaze with discourse. Where are these cards going? What decks get better? Worse? What cards are more abusable with these in Modern?
Most of the time with lands, rather than looking at brand-new archetypes, it’s best to look at what decks can play these cards and what it would take to make them want this style of effect. Why? Because ultimately, what these cards do is add a layer of consistency to what a deck is already doing.
Sure, there will be some cards that abuse recurring lands over and over or care about the cards themselves, but for the most part, these cards are going to be played as painful multicolor lands with the upside of having a chance at being a spell in the later stages of the game.
So what decks will be the most excited for these cards?
The first place that most players’ minds will gravitate towards is Sunbaked Canyon and how naturally it fits into something like Burn.
A deck like Burn isn’t ever going to need more than three lands to function, so having lands that function as mana sources in the earlier stages of the game, yet also can be converted into more fuel later on, is a welcome addition. This will have a similar effect on decks to what the cycling lands from Amonkhet had on decks that used them.
Whenever playing lands that can be turned into spells once their pilot has hit the threshold of lands required to pilot a deck, it’ll be better to load up on an extra land or two when playing these strategies. After all, these lands create a sort of failsafe for decks that are drawing too many lands, and the same can’t be said for spells producing extra mana sources. Check out an article I wrote when those cards were first previewed here.
These lands will give decks the ability to rely on having a higher spell density than they normally would with a deck that’s playing upwards of twenty lands. Take this version of Burn, for example:
People toyed with this version of Burn shortly after the release of Ravnica Allegiance, due to the spectacle cards getting a ton of eyes on them. It was eventually determined that the spectacle cards were a hair too inconsistent and relying on having other spells to enable them wasn’t always realistic.
What happens when 40% of the lands in the deck can be re-draws?
This version of the deck is effectively giving up most of the spells that cost more than a single mana in exchange for a higher virtual spell density. For a deck like Burn that is effectively a combo deck, where the combo is simply asking if it resolved seven burn spells, loading up on cheaper, albeit less impactful, spells is another direction that these lands can allow the archetype to explore.
The issue that these lands face when looking for homes in the format is looking specifically for decks that aren’t trying to utilize the near-perfect mana that the fetch-shock manabases offer to decks playing three or more colors.
Even with a deck that had Noble Hierarch and Aether Vial, loading up these kinds of effects can have a real cost, so unless the base colors of the deck are the two colors that the land is tapping for, you aren’t going to be able to fit more than a couple of copies in the list itself.
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 2 Geist of Saint Traft
- 4 Drogskol Captain
- 4 Spell Queller
- 2 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Mausoleum Wanderer
- 4 Supreme Phantom
- 2 Deputy of Detention
Note that previously this deck could only really afford to play two or three copies of Horizon Canopy, but now that there’s a land that can cast most of the deck’s spells in Waterlogged Grove, it has the ability to play more of them.
Being a two-color deck doesn’t always mean that a deck will want these lands, though. An important deckbuilding consideration is why certain cards are played over others and what would be given up in order to include something else.
In the case of a deck like Infect, it’s harder to justify adding something like Waterlogged Grove. Consider the importance of Dryad Arbor as a fetchable threat mixed with a mana source and Become Immense wanting cards to fill the graveyard quickly. There are real costs to moving away from previously accepted manabases.
Decks like Bant Spirits and Infect are examples of things that may end up getting some tweaks with an extra copy or two of the Horizon lands, but ultimately aren’t getting a whole facelift over them.
Naturally, the next thing to consider is what doesn’t mind eschewing a fetch-shock manabase.
- 3 Flickerwisp
- 4 Tidehollow Sculler
- 4 Leonin Arbiter
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 3 Wasteland Strangler
- 4 Eldrazi Displacer
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Giver of Runes
The Leonin Arbiter decks in Modern very pointedly aren’t interested in searching their own libraries. Multicolor lands with late-game upside will be a shoe-in.
Outside of the aforementioned color requirements, there will be two styles of decks that are very interested in playing these kinds of lands. The Eldrazi deck above falls under one style’s umbrella: a deck that is looking to go long, without playing anything particularly great at going over the top.
This is to say that midrange decks are happy with these styles of effects because they lean on cards that are efficient for their mana cost, but ultimately can’t stand up to some of the heavy hitters of the format. Taking that a step further, that means having ways to ensure that the deck has more spells in the late-game, in order to win via card quantity rather than quality, is something that these lands enable.
The other style of deck that’s interested in cashing in lands for random cards: all-in combo decks that aren’t interested in playing a traditional game of Magic.
Decks like Storm need their lands for the first couple of turns in order to develop their cantrips and find the combination of cards they’re going to use in order to win the game, but after that, it doesn’t matter how many lands they have on the battlefield as long as they get to assemble one of their Grapeshot-fueled kills.
Decks that are two or fewer colors that aren’t playing conventional games of Magic will be ecstatic to have a way to effectively cheat on their mana count with lands like these.
Outside of the reasons that decks wouldn’t want to play these cards for deck construction purposes, why else wouldn’t a deck want to play any of these lands? It’s all in the first couple of words on the card:
Any decks that struggle against the aggressive strategies of the format are only going to have those problems exacerbated by the way that these lands play. Drawing multiple copies of Horizon Canopy has always been one of the easiest ways to lose to Burn as Humans, and that’s still true here.
If a deck isn’t necessarily invested in having one of its lands cost a bunch of life in order to tap for mana, these aren’t going to make the cut. There’s a reason that Mono-Green Tron has all but erased Horizon Canopy from most of its lists.
Decks that don’t have a problem running out of cards are also likely to leave these cards on the sidelines. If there isn’t much upside in sacrificing lands to add extra cards to one’s hand, things are obviously going to balance towards being a net-negative when evaluating the Horizon lands.
Looking past the drawbacks, there are even decks that could end up getting upgraded by the fact that there are so many different versions of these lands. Sure, the Izzet multicolor lands in Grixis Death’s Shadow may be the worst ones by a fair bit and make Fiery Islet not-so-good in Grixis Death’s Shadow as a result, but what about Nurturing Peatland in the Jund flavor of Death’s Shadow?
The point is that, with a card pool as expansive as Modern’s, these lands will be incredible. It’s no accident that it took Wizards of the Coast over ten years and a set that would never be Standard-legal in order to get around to continuing the cycle.
Maybe they won’t end up being broken, but these cards absolutely will change the landscape of the format.