Five Modern Horizons 3 Magic Card References You Might’ve Missed

Modern Horizons 3 is full of references and call-backs to MTG history. Chase Carroll highlights five of their favorites you might not have recognized!

Marionette Apprentice
Marionette Apprentice, illustrated by Steve Ellis

Modern Horizons 3 is a love letter to invested Magic players. From the designs straight down to the subtypes, this set is full of reverence and reference. It feels like what Un-sets used to be, brimming with little jokes. From Wight of the Reliquary to Nulldrifter, there is something special for everyone.

Scryfall has shown off a few references: Winter Moon, Chthonian Nightmare, Spawn-Gang Commander. They’re awesome and iconic…but what about other, more obscure callbacks? I wanted to dive into the complete Modern Horizons 3 preview and share with y’all some references you might have missed during preview season.

Colossal Dreadmask

Colossal Dreadmask

I absolutely love the fact that Wizards of the Coast (WotC) picked up on the Colossal Dreadmaw meme. I love it even more that they ran with it! From Phantasmal Dreadmaw to Earthshaker Dreadmaw to Then, Dreadmaws Ate, they just won’t stop.

The newest iteration of everyone’s favorite Dinosaur comes in the form of Colossal Dreadmask. It’s an Equipment that turns the equipped creature into a Colossal Dreadmaw. I am dead! It’s such a fun reference because the cards share mana values, keywords, and power and toughness (or, in the case of the Equipment, buff). There’s just something so silly about seeing the meme kept alive by the game designers, and I love to see it. 

Evolution Witness

Evolution Witness

Almost every Commander player has heard of Eternal Witness. This is practically a staple card, forever etched into the format. We saw this card referenced in Modern Horizons 2 with the printing of Timeless Witness. For just one mana more, you get an Eternal Witness with the power to recur itself! Commander players rejoiced.

Well, it’s time for Modern Horizons 3, and Eternal Witness yet again has a reference in the brand-new Evolution Witness. I think this card is pure gas that will more than likely find permanent homes in counter decks. See, it does what Eternal Witness does…except it has the potential to be repeatable multiple times a turn! Whenever one or more +1/+1 counters are placed on it, you get the typical Eternal Witness payoff. It is way too easy to consistently put counters on creatures in green, even more so in Simic. I truly think this is the best Witness so far. Who knows? Maybe we will see more in the future. After all, we keep finding women bending down near lakes.

Marionette Apprentice

Marionette Apprentice

Marionette Master is an infamous win condition in Commander artifact decks. As someone who used to run it, I can confirm that if this card were to hit the battlefield, you’d win the game that turn. It is one spell that is a true must-counter. That’s how brutal it is.

But before one can become a Master, one must first be an apprentice…a Marionette Apprentice! Everyone has to start somewhere, and the Apprentice starts at two mana instead of six. Rather than having the immense power of fabricate 3, it has fabricate 1 instead.

Their abilities are also similar, but not quite a perfect match. The Apprentice cares about creatures and artifacts rather than just creatures. It also makes your opponents lose less life. See, the Master makes target opponent lose life equal to its power. The Apprentice, on the other hand, makes each opponent lose one life. I guess the Apprentice is a lot more open to who attends her show. Good for her, because she really needs the practice.

Wurmcoil Larva

Wurmcoil Larva

Have you ever thought about where Wurms come from? And no, don’t say the ground…crafty reader. How are they made? Where do they come from? Where do they go? All we know is that Wurms have deathtouch and lifelink and sort of do a Hydra thing from Disney’s Hercules when they die. Yes, I’m talking about Wurmcoil Engine.

This card was like the white whale to me when I first started playing Magic. It was so cool and powerful. Of course, it demanded a reference, but I’ll be the first to admit that I missed this one. We got Wurmcoil Larva in Modern Horizons 3, y’all! Now I know where Wurm babies come from!

While the Larva is one mana less than the Engine, it has half the power and toughness with the same keywords! Like its parent, it also spawns into two tokens when it dies, except they are much, much smaller. It’s such a simple design, but it hits me right in the nostalgia.



There are two sides to every coin. Everything has an opposite. Some would say that everything needs…balance.

Please laugh at my poor attempt at a joke.

First we had Counterbalance. Now we have Powerbalance! These two cards present a beautiful harmony. The art is honestly my favorite. Fire and water battle each other, equally matched. The positions switch depending on which card you look at, and that just feels so perfect to me. Both cost two colored pips and trigger whenever an opponent casts a spell, giving you the option to reveal the top card of your library.

The key differences live in the second sentences on both cards. Counterbalance counters the spell if the revealed card has a matching mana value. Powerbalance, on the other hand, does the red thing and gives you the option to cast the revealed card without paying its mana cost if the spells share a mana value. One gives, the other takes.

In all honesty, I had never seen Counterbalance before until I saw its other half. It feels so timely and perfect that I discover both right as the opposing side appears. I guess you could say it was a…balanced debut. Right? Right? Please laugh.

Get it?

Referential, Reverential

These five cards barely scratch the surface of the dozens upon dozens of references Modern Horizons 3 has to offer. It’s why I enjoy this set so much. You can see all the love, care, and attention to detail that went into the creation of it. We get so many sets a year that often we forget what came out and what is to come. The fast-paced environment is exciting, but pretty cool pieces can slip through the cracks. Modern Horizons 3 is one set where I think this won’t happen. It won’t easily be forgotten, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Happy referencing, deckbuilders! 


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