Modern Horizons 2 Might Just Break Mox Amber

Remember Mox Amber? Bryan Gottlieb does. And he has good reason to believe that it’s on the cusp of breaking thanks to Modern Horizons 2.

Mox Amber, illustrated by Steven Belledin

We’re fast approaching the end of the Modern Horizons 2 preview season and at this point we can safely say the needle has been moved for the Modern format. Free spells will completely change what is achievable on a given turn, and there are certainly cards that have the potential to fuel unfair engines and combos. Once we accept that this is the new normal, we’ve got to ask ourselves a critical question:

Does it still make sense to play fair in Modern?

I strongly believe that the answer to the question is almost always yes, but you’ve got to get a bit creative with what playing fair means. Personally, I’m still planning on doing plenty of blocking, attacking, disrupting, and answering. But I don’t think I’m going to have the luxury of doing these things at quite as leisurely of a pace as I did in the past. If Modern is powering up, then I gotta go fast. And Modern Horizons 2 might have just unlocked one of the most powerful pieces of fast mana left in the format.

Sure, this card has seen spot play. But Mox Amber has always felt a little lacking to me. However, with seventeen new colored legendary creatures and three planeswalkers previewed as of press time, I’m convinced that this card is moving from bit player to format staple.

My focus today leans towards the fair side of things (for Modern anyway). I know Mox Amber has powerful combinations alongside Paradoxical Outcome and other artifact engines. We’re quickly reaching a point where it can just function as a generic accelerant though, and Mox Amber might be exactly what we need to keep some old standbys running at Modern’s new pace.

First, everyone’s favorite fair deck that nobody ever wins with.

This deck is making two seemingly opposing adjustments at once to a typical Jund Midrange list, but it all comes together when you consider how the individual cards work in concert with each other. First, we added acceleration in the form of Ignoble Hierarch and Mox Amber. Then we dramatically slashed our average mana value and became a Lurrus of the Dream-Den deck. Normally, the presence of more accelerants would push us towards a higher converted mana cost so we could get max payoff from our explosive starts. Here, we can instead open up a bunch of double spell turns, and find homes for our mana through recursion, modality, and the companion mechanic.

Tourach, Dread Cantor kicker; Wrenn and Six buybacks of Nurtured Peatland; Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger escapes; Scavenging Ooze activations; Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter; Valki, God of Lies activations; Lurrus of the Dream-Den coming into our hand; and our opponent’s expensive spells revealed by Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer are all extremely real places to spend excess mana in the late-game. Despite the presence of all these big plays, our early turns will be defined by aggression and double spell turns. This is a version of Jund Midrange that still disrupts early, still has powerful spells and card advantage going long, but can also just get you dead on the back of an explosive Ignoble Hierarch, Ragavan, Tarmogoyf, Mox Amber, Thoughtseize opening two turns. This is exactly what a fair deck must be capable of in Modern’s powerful new world.

We’re looking at thirteen enablers for Mox Amber with 3 Wrenn and Six; 4 Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer; 3 Tourach, Dread Cantor; and 2 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. I think this is an entirely acceptable number, but there are some other options out there should you decide the deck needs more. Chevill, Bane of Monsters was in one of my early drafts, and maybe Jolreal, Mwonvuli Recluse could even do some work if you wanted to increase your count on Nurturing Peatlands.

I first saw a draft of an Imperial Recruiter list posted by Pascal Maynard on Twitter, and I was immediately intrigued.

There are a lot of directions you can take this archetype, and the point where Pascal and I split is Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Mox Amber. Abstractly, I love everything that Pascal’s list was attempting to do, but I just don’t know if you can do it at such a languid pace. Ragavan not only opens random wins through early aggression, but it has the potential to ramp you on its own in an extremely mana hungry archetype. Maybe this whole Mox Amber article was my sub-conscious dying to talk more about Ragavan. There’s no question that its vulnerability to Lava Dart is a real problem, but in the event an opponent doesn’t have the answer, the potential output for one mana invested is just beyond anything we’ve seen in a very long time. I hope that all the brewing around this card isn’t me getting caught up in Magical Christmas Land and only viewing the best case scenario, but the truth is that it’s just hard for your one-mana play to go wrong.

Speaking of one-mana plays, Pascal’s list went hard on Esper Sentinel, and I really do believe that card is the truth. We’re just limited on slots, and I thought combo protection and more Ragavan connections via Giver of Runes was the way to go. It would not shock me to be proven wrong and find out that Esper Sentinel is far more meaningful towards achieving your game plan.

We’ve got fourteen enablers for Mox Amber here (not counting Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker) and the weird collection of two-mana legends we’ve assembled can all be searched up by Imperial Recruiter as well. How many Turn 4 and 5 wins are we unlocking by committing to accelerating? Even if we don’t win early, how many Imperial Recruiters will now be able to find and cast the perfect bullet in the same turn? Is the reduction in the number of silver bullets worth it? I tend to prefer decks like this when they have solid plan Bs, and I think Ragavan is a plan B in and of itself. For that reason, I’m extra incentivized to see what Mox Amber can offer.

Alright, time to get weird.

Like everyone else, I was starting to get excited about the combination of Titania, Protector of Argoth and Zuran Orb, but only after catching this tweet from aspiringspike did I realize we might have a Splinter Twin… excuse me, Splinter Triplet situation brewing.

Titania in conjunction with Urza’s Saga and Zuran Orb is going to make some massive armies, so the question we need to answer is how best to reach that point. Presently, I’m attempting to channel 2019 Urza decks and just play some really overpowered cards. Lonis, Cryptozoologist certainly reads on the weak side, but there’s no question we’re playing short on Mox Amber enablers, and we’ve got a secondary use for Clues and the mana to burn through a lot of them with Urza, Lord High Artificer. It’s a speculative inclusion, but it seems better than the fourth copy of Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy.

Let’s all be very thankful that Mystic Sanctuary is not still with us, because if this deck could set up a Cryptic Command lock, we might be in for round two of Simic Urza dominance. As it stands, I think this deck has a chance in some metagames, but we’re also just going to get runover in a bunch of spots. I’m looking forward to tuning this idea, but there’s no way this list is a finished product yet. Of particular concern is an extremely light legend count, and few other candidates for inclusion. Ovira Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter ain’t it.

Here, we have no such problems with our legend count. However, we are also playing Norin the Wary. You win some, you lose some. I half believe this could actually work, and that probably says a lot about how strong the non-Norin cards in this deck are.

Finally, we close out with a Braids, Cabal Minion list. I think there a bunch of ways to build Braids decks, but it’s hard for me to believe that anyone who attempts to just make a Braids on Turn 4 is going to be successful. Obviously you can just ramp with boring mana creatures, but how about something a little flashier?

Sometimes immediately after the release of a new set you should push ideas as far as they can possibly go. Turn 2 Braids is as far as you can push. Should that fall through, maybe Turn 2 Blood Moon or Turn 2 Liliana of the Veil are enough to get the job done. The mana production Ragavan and Mox Amber are capable of is something else, but I really wanted to take a moment to highlight Strike it Rich.

This card is low key messed up, and I’ve seen almost no one mentioning it. It puts some very simple acceleration into the best prison color, it creates an artifact which is probably the best kind of fast mana, and the flashback means its even capable of coming out resource positive. One of the neat things about this list is how good we are at sustaining Braids on our side of the battlefield simply by playing cards that we wanted to play anyway. Strike It Rich and Ragavan both produce Treasure tokens. Valentin, Dean of the Vein is our best (only) black one-mana legend, but if it starts seeing your opponent’s creatures die to Braids, you’ll have plenty of your own fodder. It even seems plausible that we might occasionally want to cast a Lisette, Dean of the Root.

The only question I have about this deck is “how good is Braids, actually?” In a world with Subtlety and Solitude, it’s very possible I’m overestimating the potential impact of an early Braids. If it’s a solid card in the format, though, this shell seems promising.

I have to say, I’ve really turned the corner on Modern Horizons 2 this week. I have no idea if it will ultimately be remembered fondly or as a set that again destabilized the format much to the chagrin of the player base. Regardless of its legacy, there’s no question that Week 1 of Modern Horizons 2 is shaping up to be a deckbuilders paradise.

I can’t wait.