The Free Spell From Modern Horizons That More People Should Be Talking About

Tom Ross can’t believe people are sleeping on one of his favorite cards in the free pitch spell cycle from Modern Horizons! And if you guessed it’s the one that promotes beatdown strategies, you’re on the right track…

Modern Horizons introduced a new cycle of free spells aimed at being more reactive than proactive. Force of Vigor and Force of Negation are squarely in the defensive camp. The one outlier of the cycle is Force of Virtue, which looks quite proactive to me.

Sometimes you’ll get someone by raising the toughness of your creatures on your opponent’s turn, say, in response to a Pyroclasm or Anger of the Gods. You can make combat very difficult with some surprisingly good blocks when you’re all tapped out. However, most of the time you’ll be getting Force of Virtue down on the opponent’s turn so you can hit them harder on your turn.

Keep in mind that Force of Virtue always has flash, not just if you pitch a white card to it on your opponent’s turn, so you can cast it on your turn for four mana after your opponent has declared blocked to really put a wrench in their combat math.

Of course, Force of Virtue costs an extra card to get onto the battlefield for free. You only start with seven cards, so that resource isn’t free by any means. What are some ways to recoup the card disadvantage?

Squadron Hawk will be the most natural combo with Force of Virtue. Getting three extra pieces of white cardboard is exactly what you need to fuel your free Glorious Anthem. You want to turn your small 1/1s into real threats, which Force of Virtue does very well.

Legion Conquistador is more expensive than Squadron Hawk, but if you’re in the market for raw cards, it’s a nice option. Let’s take a look at what such an all-in strategy could look like in Modern.

Shining Shoal and Sunscour are additional free spells to use your extra cards for value. A Shining Shoal for three from Legion Conquistador should be enough to swing any matchup that is interested in attacking you or burning your creatures. Shining Shoal is especially nice with Spectral Procession, which has a converted mana cost of six.

Martyr of Sands is a great fit for a deck that’s loaded up on white cards in hand. After that, Serra Ascendant comes in as an actual way to put pressure on the opponent once you’ve gained a ridiculous amount of life. I love Thraben Inspector too. In grindy matchups, I like getting two with a Ranger of Eos to keep the card flow going.

There’s a lot of negative “deck thinning” going on here with all the Squadron Hawks and friends plucking creatures from your deck. You tend to draw a ton of lands in the late-game when half of your deck is lands since you’ve pulled ten white spells from it. Utility lands like Horizon Canopy, Field of Ruin, and Mutavault are good ways to make sure you have something to do with your manabase when you inevitably flood out. I’ve started with ten lands that “do things” and wouldn’t be surprised if you wanted more.

This take on Soul Sisters is more of a lifegain trigger deck with Ajani’s Pridemate and Archangel of Thune rather than a Serra Ascendant deck. The deck often plays Honor of the Pure to pump your Squadron Hawks and Spectral Procession tokens but was awkward finding the right moment to cast it in a world as fast as Modern. Force of Virtue helps in that regard, allowing you to clock the opponent nearly a full turn earlier than before. By no means is Soul Sisters a beatdown deck – it has weak matchups against combo and great ones versus creature decks – but the difference between a win on Turn 5 and Turn 6 can be key.

One great thing about Force of Virtue is the ability to pitch redundant cards or cards that are weak in certain matchups. Path of Exile can either be your best card or your worst. Sometimes you don’t need that third Soul Warden or are stuck with Archangel of Thunes that you can’t cast.

Orzhov Tokens is always looking for the best way to increase the power and toughness of their swarm of various tokens. Black adds Bitterblossom, Zealous Persecution and Sorin, Solemn Visitor to the token strategy, but more importantly adds discard in Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize to interact with your opponent early to either stop their gameplan or strip away the sweeper effect they intended on using on your wide battlefield.

Serra the Benevolent is clearly powerful and has been largely overshadowed by recent previews. She’s similar to Sorin, Solemn Visitor in that she generates a flying token and then uses her plus ability as an Anthem effect. If there’s a place for Serra, it’s the deck with Bitterblossom, Lingering Souls, and Spectral Procession.

Of these lists, Orzhov Tokens likely has the fewest polarized matchups. It’s not as good against opposing beatdown decks as the white versions with Martyr of Sands. In exchange it gains discard spells to help against control and combo decks.


Force of Virtue won’t change the landscape of Modern in the same way that Force of Negation and even Force of Vigor are poised to. What it will do is give opponents a nervous pause when declaring attacks into your creatures or casting a critical damage-based sweeper effect.

I expect Force of Virtue and Squadron Hawk to be best friends for many years to come.