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Looking at Modern Horizons 3

Modern Horizons 3 is our next major set release. As Modern is one of the most popular formats and previous Modern Horizons sets have shaken up the format, it's a controversial release with many eyes on how it might break Modern.

For that reason, I'd like to keep an eye out for that next Wrenn and Six, Ragavan, or Urza's Saga, and let's not forget a certain cycle of cards that don't cost mana.

As someone who hasn't played Modern much in the past several years, it would be good if Modern Horizons shakes up the format enough so I can start with a clean slate like everybody else rather than playing catch-up with nearly a decade of missed intimate knowledge.

Let's start with a couple of the alternate cost spells.

Flare of Denial

Flare of Denial is a Cancel with a simple alternate costsacrifice a non-token blue creature. Simple? Well, not quite.

Many have speculated that this is custom-built for a deck like Merfolka fringe deck with a following of players who register the deck despite its problems. It's not the first deck that comes to mind for this card because I'm always looking for the most competitive decks.

What's another deck that can put blue creatures in play quickly and reliably? A Dredge-style deck like Crab Vine can put Hedron Crab, Narcomoeba, and/or Prized Amalgam in play on turn one and perhaps hold up this free counterspell while pressuring the opponent. Is Flare of Denial able to push this deck into the top tier? Very unlikely.

Decks like Dredge are soft to cards like Leyline of the Void or Endurance that can break up their synergies, and Flare doesn't reliably help against either. You can play a Hedron Crab and hold this up while filling your graveyard and counter Endurance for zero mana, but it won't always play out like that.

Flare of Denial and this sacrifice-a-creature clause for a free spell is a solid way to continue this cycle of zero-mana spells in Modern. It doesn't create a guessing game regarding whether they have it or not at every stage of the game. They need to meet the condition of having a creature in play before it needs to be considered. Sacrificing board presence is more devastating than pitching a card in hand, so you must design your deck with the clause in mind, which is a fun way to continue the tradition of free spells.

It's a cool card but unlikely it sees much play. If you're a Dredge enjoyer, I'd be surprised not to see this card make it into the 75 in some number.

Flare of Cultivation

Next up in the Flare Cycle, we have Flare of Cultivation. This one has a lot of cool ways to meet the condition, and if anything, this is a card built for a deck like Scapeshift. Get as many lands in play as fast as possible, and close the game when you meet the conditional amount of lands necessary.

Why does Scapeshift come to mind? The two best ways to get this Flare online in turn one is with Fetch Dryad Arbor and, the even better way, Arboreal Grazer. Arboreal Grazer wants to be played with a lot of lands, and the body is mostly irrelevant. With these two cards, you can have three lands in play as early as turn one and continue the game from there. Scapeshift comes to mind because it can play an amount of basics for this to be realistic. A deck like Amulet Titan may work, but it wants to play as few basics as possible. Additionally, that deck isn't necessarily looking for a critical mass of lands like Scapeshift.

Flare of Cultivation is a weak card I don't anticipate seeing much play, but bear in mind that sacrificing a creature for zero mana always has some potential in some crazy way, as do free spells in general. It's one of those cards that may not see a lot of play initially and then something changes and it breaks the card.

Null Elemental Blast

A cool callback to two of Magic's most iconic sideboard cards, the red and blue Elemental Blasts.

While Null Elemental Blast is cool, flavorful, and maybe a solid card in a format like Commander, I don't think it will see much play in Modern. It's too narrow and doesn't answer many of the format's pillar cards. Null Elemental Blast will mostly have too few targets against any of the format's top-tier decks to be considered. This card may show up somewhere someday if a deck full of gold cards becomes the format's boogeyman, like a deck similar to Humans when that deck reigned supreme, but that's not the case right now.

I'm still happy this card was printed since even as a throwaway it's a cool, little, niche option.

Wight of the Reliquary

Wight of the Reliquary is such a unique card that there's not currently a perfect home for it, but it's powerful enough to see play. It can attack and be activated and can become large in a deck like Crab Vine or any deck capable of loading its graveyard with creatures.

Ideally, Wight of the Reliquary will be played in a deck that doesn't utilize the graveyard for much else, so the deck will be effective against graveyard hate and use to greater effect Wight's ability to sacrifice a creature and put a land into play while also becoming a scary, standalone threat.

Because this card can sacrifice at instant speed, it can sacrifice cards like Grief or Endurance with the evoke trigger on the stack and give the cards additional value as the game develops.

The only current top-tier deck that Wight of the Reliquary could sneak into is Yawgmoth, but even with Grist and Young Wolf around as free ways to ramp, it likely won't do enough in the deck. I wouldn't be surprised to see it land there, especially if it enables a land package with cards like Bokuja Bog that fit the format well when the dust settles.

While this card is cool and potentially powerful, it needs to find a deck that's looking for specific lands and can turn this into a gigantic standalone threat. I don't know of any current decks that check both boxes.

Chthonian Nightmare

The first deck I ever played in a Grand Prix was Living Death in Rath Cycle Block Constructed. The best card in the deck? Recurring Nightmare. Fast forward over 25 years and I'm writing about a "fixed" version of my beloved Recurring Nightmare.

Chthonian Nightmare is a cool and interesting card, as it allows you to set up loops, however, I'm not sure how to abuse this card because Chthonian Nightmare limits you with both energy and mana.

This card would work with an old infinite mana loop played with Recurring Nightmare, Priest of Gix. Because that card is not legal in Modern, we need to find more ways to go infinite with Chtonian Nightmare because we can use it to put an Atraxa in play without doing much work.

I don't like the prospects for Chtonian Nightmare without a concrete way to close the game immediately. It's weak to graveyard hate and merely there to generate value in longer games. It's mostly used like Ephemerate to get triggers from your creatures without keeping a Grief in play on turn one.

I'm not high on this card despite it being a callback to one of my favorite cards of all time. Even if we find the pieces to make this card tick, it likely won't play out better than similar creature-combo-style decks like Yawgmoth.


I had to read this card at least three times before realizing it doesn't grow in size for each graveyard, just your own, so it's not a strictly better Tarmogoyf.

This is a tricky card to evaluate because it looks solid but only if you're playing a proactive Thoughtseize deck that is not vulnerable to graveyard hate. You don't want your threats being shut off entirely by a Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace, but in a deck like Modern Jund, you're not too concerned with your graveyard. You play enough card types to have Netherghoyf become sizeable quickly and will often play longer, grindier, low-resource games where bringing back your threat could be a big benefit.

Netherghoyf is not the kind of card you want in multiples because paying the escape cost is nearly impossible unless you get deep into your deck. If you're good at creating a large Netherghoyf, maybe you want the full playset, but I could see black midrange decks looking for an additional one or two threats to play a singular copy or pair of Netherghoyfs to round out threat density.

Netherghoyf is bound to see play, as it's an efficient threat in a format with Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, and Fetch Lands to have it grow quickly. I don't expect to see it in a top-tier deck like Scam since there's not much room and Netherghoyf would have to overperform to get a spot. I wouldn't be surprised to occasionally see a copy or two like Kroxa, however.

I'm excited to see how Nethergoyf pans out. It's well-designed for a card that's supposed to feel like Tarmogoyf but with tradeoffs.

Winter Moon

What do you get when you mix a Winter Orb and a Blood Moon? Winter Moon makes sure you put basic lands in your decks and fetch them. This is a bad replacement for a card like Blood Moon because it doesn't cut anyone out completely, which is what you want out of a card like this.

If you're putting this card in your sideboard, you want it to be effective. Blood Moon isn't always perfect, but Winter Moon is only limiting, and not completely restricting, your opponent's mana. Winter Moon will never color-screw your opponent. While it's a cool twist on Blood Moon and Winter Orb, I doubt it will see much play. Modern decks have lower-casting cost cards, and Blood Moon has the upside of shutting off the opponent's, say, green mana, so they can't channel Boseiju or cast Nature's Claim.

Winter Moon looks cool, but I'd bet against this seeing any real play outside of Commander, in which it will probably be a contentious card since I'm sure it will cause more opponents to be annoyed than serve any real purpose.

Ugin's Labyrinth

Ugin's Labyrinth is by far the most intriguing card in the set thus far. This land is reminiscent of past broken cards like Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors, Chrome Mox, Mox Diamond, and Gemstone Cavern.

In many ways this card is similar, but it has a unique clause that you need to exile a seven-mana card to turn on its true potential. Later in the game, after getting a lot of additional mana from your land, you can get your seven-drop back and use it when you've developed your mana.

This card will see play in all legal formats at some point because that's how cards that generate extra mana at almost no cost work. Will it be good in Modern from the get-go? That remains to be seen.

Ugin's Labyrinth seems most effective when paired with cards like Myr Enforcer and used in an artifact shell, perhaps with Simulacrum Synthesizer. This is a simple, day-one home for the card where it could be used as a way to get on the board quickly and unload on the opponent. The worst case is you don't have a Myr Enforcer or Sojourner's Companion and it's just a land that taps for colorless in a mostly colorless deck. No harm, no foul.

I could see Ugin's Labyrinth paired with Eldrazi, potentially even the lean version with Thought-Knot Seer, Eldrazi Mimic, and Reality Smasher, but what seven-mana cards would we use to exile?

I'm sure we'll see more cards that function with it, maybe more Eldrazi with Emerge. There's no way it's more efficient to cast cards like Karn, Ugin, or Ulamog with Ugin's Labyrinth than it will be with Tron, so there needs to be a strong reason to play this card with seven-mana cards you're not trying to cast for less mana. Not of this World comes to mind as a card that could be exiled with this and that may have a few cards from MH3 that can support it, but it's unlikely.

There's no doubt this card will be heavily explored, but I'm skeptical it finds a reasonable home in a competitive Modern deck. It's a hard ask to put seven-mana cards in your Modern deck while not playing Tron.

Ancient Tomb required no work, Chrome Mox was good with cheap spells, and Mox Diamond just wanted lands. Ugin's Labryinth has high potential, but it's difficult to turn it into a broken card given its biggest restriction.

Ugin's Labyrinth is an elegant way to create a card people want to exploit, but it's difficult to create a deck where the card's powers are fully realized. This is my favorite card I've seen from the set thus far.

I don't think we've seen anything in Modern Horizons 3 that breaks the mold like some cards in MH1 and MH2. I'm sure it's coming, and I'll continue to keep my eye out.

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