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The Final Preview-Review: Modern Horizons 3

Approaching the Horizon

The time has come. We now have a final list of all the cards Modern Horizons 3 has in store, and I wasn't too impressed until now. There were some cool cards but nothing truly format-warping. This week we got quite a few bangers though.

Let's get into it.

Harbinger of the Seas

Harbinger of the Seas - Nonbasic lands are Islands.

This is a simple, time-shifted version of Magus of the Moon. The obvious home is Merfolk. Merfolk is far from tier 1, though this will help push it in the right direction.

Harbinger of the Seas feels more like Blood Moon than Magus of the Moon, as Magus could at least be Lightning Bolted or removed with other red removals. Harbinger of the Seas will have to be attacked differently.

This card will see play somewhere, but it shouldn't change the format since it was already easy to splash Blood Moon. This gives a time-shifted option of one of the more frustrating cards to play against in Magic's history.

It's a solid card but not a necessary printing. I'm sure a lot of players will use it to avoid putting red in their decks and still have the option of playing a Blood Moon effect.

Wrath of Skies

Wrath of the Skies - Energy boardwipe

There's not much hype around this card, but it looks interesting. Wrath of Skies looks great at combatting low-to-the-ground decks that put tons of cards in play in the first few game turns, say, a deck like Affinity. The reason I want to take a peek at Wrath of Skies, however, is its interaction with Urza's Saga, one of the most played cards in the format.

Wrath of Skies can clean up everything Urza's Saga is capable of doing for two to three mana. It's backbreaking to lose all the permanents you put into play in the early game turns, even more so when you lose a land in the process.

While Wrath of Skies is better suited for the rare reactive deck in Modern, the format might slow down for a reason I'll get to next.

Wrath of the Skies has a lot of sleeper potential, especially in decks with Teferi, Time Raveler. I won't be surprised if it makes its way into some control decks that may break into the format soon if the format slows down enough.

Vexing Bauble

Vexing Bauble - Artifacts that auto-counters free spells.

I'm happy Vexing Bauble is an uncommon. Everyone is going to need a playset.

Vexing Bauble could flip Modern on its head and completely change the format. I could probably write a book on the potential applications and trajectories this card could send Modern into, but I'll keep it brief.

Vexing Bauble's design is meant to combat the free spells printed into Modern.

Bauble is close to free to include in your deck as it cycles and has a potentially huge gameplay impact in the early turns of games. As the game develops, the impact isn't felt as much because both players can develop their mana and cast their Grief or Solitude.

Vexing Bauble could end up being played in every deck, even decks with free spells because you can get rid of it once it's in play.

The impact Bauble will have on the format is not known because it creates quite the prison's dilemma for deck builders. You can either accept that free spells are much worse with this in existence, and thus remove them from your deck entirely, or fight through the fact that these Baubles exist.

At some point, if people remove cards like Grief and Solitude from their decks entirely, it will behoove you to remove these from your deck as well, which could create a cyclical effect benefitting players who adjust quickest to the churn.

I'm still not sure everyone will play the Bauble, but many decks will at least initially try the card. What could end up happening is scam still exists and be tier 1. Players may scam on the play to win and sometimes lose to this card on the draw. Vexing Bauble makes it feel like play-draw will matter even more. Players who put their free spells into play before a Bauble hits the table will benefit most.

Urza's Saga is one of the surefire reasons you'll see this card in a lot of places, even as a singleton. It's free to put a copy into your deck as a card that will have value when drawn but also to be cashed in for a new card or used to set up a key turn.

Vexing Bauble is the defining card of this set, It has the most potential to shake up the format. Almost every good deck in Modern is trying to cast spells for zero mana, and Vexing Bauble will completely impact how we build our decks.

Regardless if you're a serious or casual Modern player, you'll need a playset of these Baubles because they can slot into just about any deck. It may wax and wane when you want these in your main deck and when you won't play them at all.

Warren Soultrader

Warren Soultrader - Pay 1 life, Sacrifice another creature: Create a Treasure token

Warren Soultrader likely won't have a huge impact on Modern, but it's worth noting that a three-card creature combo does exist and that you could technically build around it, perhaps even in a shell with Collected Company.

Warren Soultrader is a template we've had before in the form of cards like Ashnod's Alter or Phyrexian Altar. Warren Soultrader is a Phyrexian Alter on a body and that body is a zombie, so you could play it along with Gravecrawler and any Blood Artist effect, which is an infinite combo draining opponents for infinite life.

Warren Soultrader has the potential to pop off, but my guess is it will strictly be a tier 2 or 3 meme deck with a powerful but fragile three-card combo.

Nadu, Winged Wisdom

Nadu, Winged Wisdom - Your creatures get a when-targeted ability.

Nadu Winged Wisdom is a complete boom or bust, but it has the highest potential of any card in the set outside of Vexing Bauble.

Nadu looks like a meme card meant to be thrown into some fun decks, but it's incredibly pushed. It didn't take the internet more than a few minutes to figure out how powerful this is with equipment like Shuko or Lightning Greaves that equips for zero mana, giving you nearly infinite triggers.

While Nadu's ability says creatures targeted only trigger twice a turn, that's for each creature. When combined with cards like Delighting Halfling or Dryad Arbor, you can get tons of triggers and put lands into play to cast additional cheap creatures, essentially churning through your deck. You'll want a low-curve deck so every card with Nadu is either a one-mana creature or a land to cast them.

I could see Nadu being played alongside Stoneforge Mystic so you can find Shuko or Lightning Greaves while providing a solid plan in games where your opponent can keep your combo potential in check.

Shuko - Equip 0

Nadu appears to be busted. It will be difficult to iterate on a deck that needs such a high density of cheap spells, specifically cheap creatures. I'm curious to see what the best version of a Nadu combo deck will be and what people close the game out with once they've drawn their whole deck.

While I think Nadu has the potential to be the best card in the set, it also may not be good if the shell itself isn't strong enough. Time will tell, but Nadu is the card I'm most excited about in Modern Horizons 3.

Shifting Woodland

Shifting Woodland - 2GG: Becomes a copy of a card in your graveyard until end of turn.

Last but not least, let's take a look at the cycle of lands we have coming to Modern with Shifting Woodland. While each color has its own version, Shifting Woodland is one of the more interesting ones with the ability to turn into anything in a graveyard for four mana. This could be a Griselbrand, an Archon of Cruelty, or in Legacy a Dark Depths.

Shifting Woodland is powerful, and its biggest hurdle is turning on the delirium mechanic. As we've seen in the past with decks like Jund Death's Shadow, it's simple in a deck with interaction to play a card like Mishra's Bauble, or maybe Vexing Bauble now, along with fetch lands to turn on delirium easily. It's worth noting that this should likely be an ancillary plan and not a main plan since it's slow on its own and the graveyard provides easy interaction.

At the cost of including a copy or two of this in your deck, it can find its home in almost any green deck, especially one with expensive, powerful permanents to copy. Decks like Amulet Titan might want a copy, as in interactive games you can turn this into a Titan and start the combo.

While all these lands are interesting options for Modern, we are kind of overloaded on options for what value lands to play, especially with the new cycle of spell lands, many of which are playable.

I don't think this cycle of lands will have a big impact on Modern because they're mostly tame and worse than the creature lands in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

This will wrap up my analysis of Modern Horizons 3. I thought the set looked weak until this week's cards and now I think the set will have quite the impact overall.

It's hard for a card to break into a format like Modern. The developers did a great job creating interesting cards that we'll need to explore thoroughly. Nadu is one of the coolest cards we've seen in a while. I like when a combo is organically created and not forced, and the community works together to find the best version of that particular combo or interaction.

Modern players will have quite the puzzle to solve when MH3 is released, and I can't wait to see what the Pro Tour players develop. As great as those players are, I think it will take months to fully determine this set's capabilities.

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