Flexibility Or Power? Finding The Balance In Modern Horizons 2 Draft

Modern Horizons 2 Draft presents tricky trade-offs between flexible picks and raw power. Ryan Saxe highlights three tricky choices from a recent draft.

Razortide Bridge, illustrated by Rob Alexander

One of the hardest parts of drafting Modern Horizons 2 is getting the right balance between synergy and card quality. A variety of commons are best in a single deck, yet playable in any deck that can cast them. In most Limited formats, there’s a pretty simple heuristic: prioritize flexibility over power, unless the power is game-warping. Take commons that go in multiple decks over those that go in one or two, and break this rule for the best uncommons.

It’s a lot muddier in Modern Horizons 2. It can be pretty hard to evaluate how good some blue cards are. For example, Hard Evidence (or Craben Inspector as I like to call it) is a strong blue common. It’s best in Simic because that archetype cares about tokens and amassing objects on the battlefield. However, most blue decks will play it happily. Does that mean you should first-pick it? Not really, as this set has too many great cards. That being said, I do believe people are underrating how flexible that card is, and I am pretty happy to take it early.

With all that in mind, let’s jump into a draft!

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

Duskshell Crawler Guardian Kirin Gilt-Blade Prowler Step Through Jade Avenger Gargadon Razortide Bridge Guardian Kirin Mount Velus Manticore Tourach's Canticle Dragon's Rage Channeler Tide Shaper Said Zuran Orb Carth the Lion

The Pick:

This is one of the worst starting packs I have opened in this format. The rare is basically unplayable, all the uncommons have extremely niche applications, and none of the commons are where I want to be.

In this case for most Limited formats, there are two options: go for an aggressive strategy or take the land. However, in this one the only option is the land. It’s not that aggressive strategies can’t work in Modern Horizons 2 Limited; they definitely can. It’s that the aggressive strategies don’t use Jade Avenger and Dragon’s Rage Channeler well. The best aggressive decks are Selesnya Proliferate, Rakdos Madness, and Boros Modular. Dragon’s Rage Channeler can be a very good card, but it requires a specific type of deck, and hence is more a card I’d look to play if I wheel it.

Hence, I think the only card you can really justify taking here is Razortide Bridge. I’m pretty sure I would take every single artifact land, but it certainly helps that the Azorius one is the best one due to blue’s love for splashing and Azorius being the home of the most artifact synergies

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

Razortide Bridge

The Pack:

Lens Flare Landscaper Colos Hard Evidence Darkmoss Bridge Storm God's Oracle Step Through Rift Sower Arcbound Slasher Gilt-Blade Prowler Ghost-Lit Drifter Ravenous Squirrel Slag Strider Yavimaya Elder Bloodbraid Marauder

The Pick:

Yavimaya Elder, oh how the mighty have fallen. Look, Yavimaya Elder is a good piece of cardboard, but it is such a slow card. I’ll basically always play this card in my non-aggressive green decks, but it’s nowhere close to as exciting as it used to be. Getting some lands to your hand as a source of raw card advantage is a good ability, but there is another, more efficient way to get raw cards in this pack!

Hard Evidence has impressed me. The aggressive decks are fast, and the 0/3 body puts in work. The Clue provides more than card advantage, as being an artifact for those synergies comes up a lot. It even helps with delirium in Izzet too! This card does everything, and I’m pretty happy to follow an Azorius artifact land with Hard Evidence. It’s certainly a better pickup than Lens Flare. Flare is a solid removal spell if you have enough artifacts, which white often does. But you rarely want to play so many, and hence I don’t recommend prioritizing the card.

So this pick is between Slag Strider and Hard Evidence. Slag Strider is an extremely powerful top-end to any artifact deck. In my first twenty drafts of the format, I would have taken Slag Strider here, but after a while I came down on a lot of the affinity cards. Double-red is awkward, and the card is rarely just killing everything the opponent is casting. It’s at its best in Boros, since rearranging counters through modular is extremely potent. Still, I would rather find myself in a deck that can utilize this first, and then take the card, instead of picking it early.

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

Razortide Bridge Hard Evidence

The Pack:

Unbounded Potential Duskshell Crawler Faithless Salvaging Step Through Tragic Fall Flourishing Strike Phantasmal Dreadmaw Slagwoods Bridge Darkmoss Bridge Ornithopter of Paradise Young Necromancer Rakdos Headliner Healer's Flock

The Pick:

Look, I love Rakdos in this format. I am absolutely willing to Pack 1, Pick 1 Rakdos Headliner. In fact, I would take it first pick over Tragic Fall. But it can’t go with my first two picks, and the other options in this pack are solid.

Between the Bridges and Ornithopter of Paradise, I think I would rather take the Thopter if I decided to take fixing. I don’t prioritize the lands unless there is nothing else for me, and I do want to play the Hard Evidence. I would certainly consider taking land if it produced blue mana, though! Regardless, Ornithopter has been fine, but unexciting. I still wouldn’t recommend taking it here.

For me, this pick is between Young Necromancer and Tragic Fall. While you can’t go wrong either way, I believe the correct pick is the Necromancer. The Orzhov reanimator archetype is extremely potent, and this is one of the few cards that is crucial for that deck while also playable in any black archetype. I would even take the Necromancer over Tragic Fall if this was Pack 1, Pick 1 too. If you wouldn’t, I strongly recommend trying out the Orzhov deck and seeing if you change your tune. That deck has some unbeatable draws!

Unfortunately, I never got to finish this draft due to losing internet during the draft, so I can’t share a picture or record. Nonetheless, I hope the lessons above were useful, and remember to always be thoughtful about whether you’re properly optimizing the balance between your card quality and synergies.