I thought I’d do my set review for Modern Horizons 2 differently this time, given that it’s a pretty different set. I’ll talk in broad strokes about some of the mechanics and themes, then get to the twenty cards that I see will be most impactful to the format. The set has some great reprints, so let’s dive right in with my favorites by each color.
Favorite Reprints by Color
One of my favorite cards (remember when the foil was like $90?), it’s a card that can be good and fun for the format. Sure, it can be a combo-enabler, but I think folks will run that a few times and then just get bored with it.
I was going to be cheeky and say Upheaval, but Wonder is just one of those classic cards that’s been good the entire life of the format, and I’m pleased that a new generation of folks will get to see it. I understand that basic Counterspell coming to Modern is huge, but there’s not shortage of the card for us.
A HUGE, much-desired, long-awaited choice. Black and black-based tribal decks rejoice, the patriarch has returned. I’m still keeping my old school foil in the Zombie deck, but if I peel a new one I’ll be sure to find a home for it.
Making cards that have gotten ridiculously expensive more affordable for players all across the format is one of the best reasons for reprints. Imperial Recruiter is strong for both high-powered and casual players alike. Great choice.
The choices in green weren’t the best, although I know some folks are really happy about Enchantress’s Presence. Titania, Protector of Argoth is a popular card and commander, and putting more of folks’ favorite (non-broken) cards into the field is good for us all.
Even though it’s been reprinted multiple times, Mirari’s Wake is another extremely popular card in the format. I’m still going to try to get rid of it when it hits the battlefield while trying to pick up foils for some of my decks. Vindicate is also a pretty good choice.
Even though we hates it, I believe it’s the kind of card that the format needs. I’m not one of those people who believe, even in casual games, that players should just be allowed to do 100% of what they want to do. Clearly, I’m not an advocate of not allowing them to do anything at all, but that’s towards the other end of the spectrum. This is a reasonable protection card that I will welcome trying to work around when I see it.
I’m truly divided on Cabal Coffers. I believe it’s borderline unhealthy for the format. I believe that players should be packing plenty on nonbasic land hate. Still, this is the format of doing huge, splashy things, and Cabal Coffers, whose secondary market price has gotten out of hand, is an enabler for those kinds of plays. Its popularity is also a factor here.
The set is awash with flavor, especially with seven cards involving Food. The Underworld Cookbook is fun and clever, and it’s going to turn out better than some folks think. Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar (Asmor) would go into You Did This to Yourself if it where in the right colors (and no, that doesn’t open the H-word debate).
I’m a fan with All Things Squirrel. I’d make a “you can’t play Sol Ring unless you also play Acorn Catapult” rule in a heartbeat. There are fully thirteen (13!) squirrel cards in Modern Horizons 2. They’re not super-powerful, but they fortify the kind of archetype that the format loves. Fellow RC member Toby Elliott is already atwitter about Chitterspitter (I do have to admit loving that art). Underworld Hermit can also lead to some compelling situations, perhaps not even in just Squirrel decks. Squirrels are just happy and they bring that happiness to the table.
We’ve already talked on social media about how Grist, the Hunger Tide can be your commander, based on a rules tweak added to the current rules update. We were involved (mostly Toby) and have no problem with it. It doesn’t further the conversation about other planeswalkers as commanders. For any of you conspiracy theorists, it also doesn’t represent WotC trying to end run us on making planeswalker commanders. We continue to have an excellent working relationship with them. In fact, by the time you read this, Gavin Verhey will have been at my house for a few days (coinciding with a longer visit by Scott and Toby), talking about the format and playtesting future cards. There might also be a few meals and drinks involved.
I expressed my thoughts about fetchlands in Commander last week. For those of you who haven’t read it, take a look.
Break the Ice is fair in Commander. I frequently mention that folks need to pack more nonbasic land hate, and this applies. If you’re playing all snow lands in order to get additional value, you’re obviously getting pants by Break the Ice, but no differently than someone with no basic lands plus Ruination. I do love that overload is a returning mechanic, on this, Rise and Shine, and Damn, one of the cards we’ll talk about more. In fact, it’s my favorite (deserving to me explored more in future sets), although modular is kind of cool.
Modern Horizons 2 reinforces that Wheels are the unhealthiest thing in Commander, with cards like Dauthi Voidwalker and Sanctifier en-Vec (and Gaea’s Will, I suppose). This is of deep concern to me, and is going to undergo a great deal of thought. Banning an entire class of cards is awkward at best, potentially politically suicidal at its worst. I know that folks love Wheels, so it gets even more difficult. There seem like no good answers at the moment, but I’d really like to look for them. Hey, you asked for more transparency, so there’s a good window into my head (note that the rest of the RC may not share my views on this particular subject).
Here are my Top 20 Modern Horizons 2 cards for Commander. They run the range from powerful to flexible to simply thought-provoking.
20. Sol Talisman
I’ve already seen some division over fixed Sol Ring, but I’m definitely a fan. When I was working on Commander 2021, I tinkered with some designs that basically included a Sol Ring version of Serra Avenger but I never really got there. I like to think that this might be fruit of that work.
19. Chatterfang, Squirrel General
A good-rate commander with forestwalk is going to deal some damage, but the big part of Chatterfang is that it’s going to make some tokens. You might get sometimes blown out by getting 1/1 Squirrels instead of larger things that opponents want to give you, but for the main part you’re in control. The activated ability, along with a Grave Pact, is a pretty cheap sweeper for everyone else’s creatures.
Absolutely nothing could go wrong with effectively a free card that makes an opponent discard their best card, right? That’s a 3/2 with menace on Turn 1? I suspect this is going to make a smaller splash in Commander than it will in Modern itself.
17. Archon of Cruelty
It’s definitely expensive, but you’re going to get what you paid for. Just drawing the card when it attacks is enough, but there’s lots after that. The flying 6/6 body isn’t going to hurt anything, either.
The overload ability is everything here. Otherwise, it’s a sort of run-of-the-mill two-mana creature destruction sorcery. You’ll certainly use it to punch out of a tough situation, but you’ll most often want to use it as Wrath of God. Here’s the big part of the ballgame: overloaded, it gets around Gaddock Teeg.
15. Esper Sentinel
Sure, another “did you pay the X?” card is mildly annoying, but there’s a great deal of value in this little one-drop. The bigger it gets, the more difficult it will be to pay for. It’s an artifact, so it’s slightly more vulnerable, but that also makes it more easily recurred. I suspect it’ll see lots of play in higher-powered games.
14. Sword of Hearth and Home
Marching closer to the end of the Sword of Protection from Colors cycle, Sword of Hearth and home does what I, and I suspect that lots of my friends, like to do: get additions lands (untapped, by the way), and blinking creatures with great enters-the-battlefield triggers. Note also that the triggered ability targets a creature you own, so you can get back something someone has stolen.
13. Sanctifier en-Vec
A card that I suspect is going to harsh many of my mellows, there’s a great deal packed into this little 2/2. It’s pure red and black hate; color hate isn’t something we see much of anymore. The simple protection from the colors is just the start. The enters-the-battlefield trigger to exile all black and red cards is the big blast, which means I obviously won’t be playing it in a Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck. Then there’s the final ability, which goes back to the Wheel discussion. This is a card that will be in high demand and see lots of play.
12. Dress Down
Predicted (at least in name) by our friends Rachel and Dan over at The Commander Sphere podcast, Dress Down is the good kind of Humility: one that goes away. What’s neat is that you can attack with Sun Titan, bring Dress Down back, and it has only helped you. Sun Titan is still a 6/6, and its other ability, vigilance, is past begin relevant for the turn. I like it now much more than I did at first glance.
11. Academy Manufactor
Tripling up on Clue, Food, and Treasure tokens is going to be bonkers. The good news is that I think folks aren’t going to be much more likely to pay the two on Smothering Tithe just because you have Academy Manufactor. A bit that caught my eye at the last minute was that its’ type is Assembly-Worker, meaning you can go find it with Self-Assembler and buff it with Mishra’s Factory.
10. Sanctum Weaver
A card tapping for big piles of mana never caused any problems, so we’ll be just fine.
9. Unmarked Grave
Comparing a professionally-designed card to one from a time when the people making cards understood orders of magnitudes less about their craft is silly. Sure, Unmarked Grave is no Entomb. Entomb is objectively better, since it’s cheaper and does more. Still, Unmarked Grave is better for the format. One of the anxieties we’ve been experiencing lately isn’t power creep, but time creep. Unmarked Grave backs us off of that a tiny bit while still being a fine card.
8. Profane Tutor
The reason the card ranks so high for me is probably the exact reason other folks will hate Profane Tutor. I like to play board states instead of having tutors as combo pieces, and the cheap suspend cost of Profane Tutor means that I can let things play out for a while before coming up with a plan. I get that this is a totally stylist choice, but to the folks that say this card sucks, you’re simply wrong.
I knew Necrogoyf was going on this list by just reading the name. The follow-up is pure fire. The madness cost will make it pair well with any kind of self-discard effect, to include the aforementioned Wheels. It’s not going to be dangerous early, but mid- to late-game, it’s going to wreck some dreams.
6. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
Are we going too far with Pirates? Not when they’re Monkeys! We’ll likely see it played for its Dash cost most often so that folks can do it all over. The Treasure is already good enough (where you at, Academy Manufactor?), and the exiled card super sweet. Commander Advisory Group (CAG) member Shivam Bhatt has a pronunciation guide to Ragavan, so check it out.
5. Ignoble Hierarch
What can I say? One-drop mana creatures are good. The higher-powered folks are going to love it; the target demographic will like it nearly as much. For me, exalted is a nice bonus. Also goes into Shaman tribal. This card’s simplicity does not belie its power.
4. Thrasta, Tempest’s Roar
Huge Dinosaur with trample and haste? Check. Storm-ish cost reduction? Check. Trampling over your pitiful chump blocker for that planeswalker? Super check.
3. Garth One-Eye
We’ve been asking our friends in Studio X a while now to return to making five-color commanders cost five colors to cast, and Garth One-Eye has opened the field. Of course, the big news is that folks who have never even seen a Black Lotus will be able to cast one, as well as some other cool cards from Magic’s past. For those of you who will remind us that Black Lotus is banned in Commander, that’s fine. It’s not in your deck, so go for it.
2. Void Mirror
We’re into format-shaping territory at all power levels with Void Mirror. There’s been a long trend, especially in more recent years, with free spells and little to keep them in check. It’s fine to do insane, busted things. It’s also fine to make those things a little more difficult. The format needs, the format craves cards like Void Mirror.
1. Dauthi Voidwalker
I take it back. Shadow is my second-favorite returning mechanic. The other card I mentioned in the Wheels chat is going to be house — no, a mansion — in Commander. It’s relatively simple. It exiles opponents’ cards and gives you the chance to play them later, even in Dauthi Voidwalker has left the battlefield and returned. It’s cheap to cast, and in black, simple to recur. The activation costs no mana. There’s everything to love and fear about this card. It ‘s the idea of sublime brought to life.
Modern Horizons 2 will make big waves in Commander. If I were using my traditional rating system it would definitely get an A. There are loads of interesting, fun, narrowly-focused but useful spells we didn’t even talk about. Of course, it’s the splashiest cards that we’re most looking forward to. As soon as this set hits the streets, we’re going to be all over it.