Commanding Modern Horizons

Posted in Ways to Play on June 13, 2019

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

It's fair to say that Modern Horizons is a Magic set like few others. Packed with both all-new cards and some of the most powerful options we've seen in years, Modern Horizons is poised to push the Modern format in exciting new directions.

But it isn't the only format that stands to benefit.

Packed with updated takes on classic effects and exciting fresh effects to play around with, Modern Horizons will make its mark on Commander as well. Here's how.

Fun New Cards

It isn't a new Magic set without exciting cards to lead the way. For Modern Horizons, that list of marquee cards is far longer than we've come to expect.

  • Force of Vigor
  • Unbound Flourishing
  • Fallen Shinobi
  • Kaya's Guile
  • Reap the Past
  • Sword of Truth and Justice
  • Sword of Sinew and Steel

Casting a spell to destroy artifacts and enchantments for free? Force of Vigor. Doubling up your big spells with X in the mana cost? Unbound Flourishing. Need a Ninja to steal more than your opponents' secrets? Fallen Shinobi. Want to exile opponents' graveyards and creatures? Kaya's Guile. Need a new weapon for your favorite commander? Sword of Truth and Justice and Sword of Sinew and Steel both carry like familiar friends.

  • Waterlogged Grove
  • Sunbaked Canyon
  • Silent Clearing
  • Nurturing Peatland
  • Fiery Islet

And for every Commander deck playing a pair of enemy colors, an entire cycle of lands that gets mana going and draws us a card later. It's hard not to appreciate these Horizon Canopy friends.

  • Astral Drift
  • Echo of Eons
  • Dead of Winter
  • On Thin Ice
  • Planebound Accomplice
  • Tectonic Reformation
  • Collector Ouphe

Astral Drift and Echo of Eons are, well, echoes of older cards. Astral Slide and Timetwister both have their place in Magic history, and both have obvious uses in a Commander deck. Dead of Winter and On Thin Ice power up anyone planning on playing Snow-Covered lands. Planebound Accomplice puts the power of multiple planeswalkers to work quickly, if only for a turn. Tectonic Reformation and Collector Ouphe add powerful dimensions to colors that often get other effects to work with.

Awesome New Staples

One of the most exciting features of Modern Horizons is how many cards for multiple Commander decks there are in the set. Even the basic lands!

  • Snow-Covered Forest
  • Snow-Covered Mountain
  • Snow-Covered Plains
  • Snow-Covered Swamp
  • Snow-Covered Island

Snow-Covered basic lands aren't new, but being both full art and available in every pack means it's a great time to collect a pile of them for that snowy Commander deck you'll make someday. Even if you're not looking to go all-in on a snow theme, snow basics work well with almost any card that cares about you having snow mana or permanents, like Arcum's Astrolabe and the aforementioned Dead of Winter.

  • Generous Gift
  • Tribute Mage
  • Shenanigans
  • Springbloom Druid
  • Prismatic Vista

Need tools like removal or tutors? Generous Gift is Beast Within for white, as trading a 3/3 Elephant token for something like Mirari's Wake or Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God is well worth the "small for Commander" token. Tribute Mage finds a handy array of tools, from Altar of Dementia to Blackblade Reforged, Nim Deathmantle, and dozens of mana rocks (see below). Springbloom Druid can fix your mana easily, and plays nice with ways to bounce, replay, or recur creatures.

Shenanigans is an easy-to-get-back answer for all the things someone else's Tribute Mage will find. Prismatic Vista encourages playing more basic lands in your deck and fixes your second, third, or more color in your decks.

  • Talisman of Curiosity
  • Talisman of Conviction
  • Talisman of Hierarchy
  • Talisman of Resilience
  • Talisman of Creativity

Fixing your mana doesn't need to be with flashy lands, either. The enemy color cycle of Talismans completes the full cycle for all ten color pairs, which has been outstanding since 2003! Since they cost two mana each, and can provide colorless mana as well as their painful colored mana, these are perfect for decks that need a little extra mana in the early game.

Perfect New Tools (for Your Favorite Decks)

A cursory look over the complete Modern Horizons set reveals more than splashy cards and powerful options for decks. There's plenty for the very specific ways to play some of the decks you enjoy best.

  • Archmage's Charm
  • Mirrodin Besieged
  • Graveshifter
  • Sling-Gang Lieutenant
  • Goblin Engineer
  • Deep Forest Hermit
  • Hall of Heliod's Generosity

I have a confession: I absolutely love my Kefnet the Mindful deck. I typically enjoy aggressive decks, and my commanders of choice often reflect that. But every now and then sitting down with a classic mono-blue control deck, kitted out with card drawing, artifact-based battlefield destructions, and literal Counterspell is just what I needed. Archmage's Charm hits the sweet spot of being an answer (Counterspell!), more cards, or even a sneaky way to steal something with low converted mana cost (Sol Ring and friends).

Mirrodin Besieged is another powerful blue card, but it doesn't go anywhere near Kefnet. If you play Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain or Saheeli, the Gifted, then you know what a deck packed full of artifacts can do. Playing Mirrodin Besieged with a graveyard full of them will be lights out for one opponent, but the constructive mode of making Servos can cascade with Goblin Engineer (another new card!) or Daretti, Scrap Savant.

Graveshifter is Gravedigger, but for any tribal deck running black. Have a life gain and Cleric deck with Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim? Need another Zombie to get back Zombies with Varina, Lich Queen? Want a Vampire to get back a Vampire and make a Vampire all at the same time with Edgar Markov? Graveshifter is an amazing tool as a changeling.

Sling-Gang Lieutenant is perfect for a Wort, Boggart Auntie deck. It's a Goblin that gets back a Goblin, which you can get back with Wort! Deep Forest Hermit is essential tech to anyone who loves playing around with Squirrels. And Hall of Heliod's Generosity is for enchantment decks (hello Estrid, the Masked and Kestia, the Cultivator!) what Academy Ruins already is for artifact decks.

Shiny New Legends (to Be Your Next Commander)

Anyone playing Commander will spend a lot of time sifting through cards and finding the right mix of spells and lands, but at the end of the day, it's still all about the commanders. Modern Horizons is loaded with them.

If you ever wanted Grizzly Bears to be a shining example of an awesome card in Commander, Ayula, Queen Among Bears is exactly what you need.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis cannot only be cast again from the command zone, but also your graveyard. This means after the first time you play it, you can let it go to the graveyard instead and avoid paying the commander tax every time you replay it. Just don't forget you need piles of creatures in play and maybe a sprinkling of cards to exile from the graveyard to make it work.

Kess, Dissident Mage isn't a new-to-Commander card, but as a powerful Wizard that can get back spells for you, Kess is a wonderful way to lead a powerful deck. While the Command Zone's breakdown is from when Kess first appeared, the strategies to use her remain timeless.

Don't have a way to lead your favorite creature type in a Commander deck? You do now, thanks to Morophon, the Boundless. Pumping your favorite creature type is fine, but it's the "make your favorite type of creature easier to cast" ability that's the real gem. Given we have Squirrel Nest entering Modern and the new Deep Forest Hermit to play with, Jason Alt's five-color Squirrel tribal deck around Morophon seems a good place to start.

Pashalik Mons is the kind of commander that might be best served sitting "in the 99" cards of your deck. Pashalik turns every Goblin into either another two Goblins, a ping of damage, or even both. Adding him to the likes of Krenko, Mob Boss is a surefire way to dish out damage even if your Goblin horde is annihilated. A good Goblin Commander deck primer is a great way to get started making your green army come to life.

Another commander that commands using all five colors, Sisay, Weatherlight Captain is your go-to way to put all your favorite legendary permanents in the same place. Getting her power high enough to pull those permanents you want is much easier with cards like Champion's Helm, Hero's Blade, or, my favorite, Blackblade Reforged.

The First Sliver is hardly the first Sliver we've seen, but it's certainly among the most powerful ever printed. When it and every Sliver to cast afterward nets you more Slivers, it isn't hard to get out of hand. Waiting another turn cycle to attack invites an opening for opponents to undo all your hard work cascading, so be sure to include Slivers like Blur Sliver, Heart Sliver, Firewake Sliver, and the brand-new Cloudshredder Sliver to take the initiative right after.

Urza, Lord High Artificer is a card asking to be broken. It didn't take long for some experts to step up to the plate showing us how it's done.

Yawgmoth is one of Magic's oldest villains, and now we get to see why in Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. There are so many ways to use all of Yawgmoth's abilities, it makes sense that Eric Levine went all-in on a primer for using The Ineffable in Commander.

What's Next?

Whether you enjoyed the Prerelease and need another round or are just dipping your feet into the waters of this powerful set, the release of Modern Horizons is an excellent place to get started powering up for Commander.

What will you start building first?

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