Modern Horizons 3 Set Review - Allied & Shards

Brandon Amico • June 5, 2024

Gluttonous Hellkite by Josiah Cameron

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The One With the Tarmogoyf-Maker

Welcome (back) to the Commander's Herald/EDHREC Modern Horizons 3 set review series! I'm Brandon Amico, writer for CH's Flavor of the Month series and host of the new Magic content channel MTG Variety Hour on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter (you've possibly seen me in your Reels feed getting whacked across the head with an oversized Resplendent Angel card).

Let's make quick with the preamble, shall we? Modern Horizons 3 is here, it's incredibly powerful, and it looks really, really fun. There are even dedicated Commander decks in this designed-for-Modern product--frankly, a good portion of the main set MH3 cards seem like clear EDH plants more than things that will see play in Modern. And in fact, a subset of the Commander set cards can be found in Play boosters, meaning cards designed for multiplayer will be legal in competitive Draft and Sealed events for MH3. Because why should there be any Magic product that isn't geared toward Commander players? 

Today, we're looking at the cards that fall under allied color pairs and shards; that is, any two adjacent colors or any three consecutive colors on Magic's color wheel (look at the backside of a card for a refresher if you need it).

Let's get into the goodies, shall we?


Arna Kennerüd, Skycaptain

Esper Modified was not on my MH3 archetypes Bingo card, but this is potent. Arna's a 4/4 flying lifelinker (flinker) for five mana, which is respectable and borderline threatening out of the gate. Five mana is a lot, though, and commanders at that rate nowadays need some way to protect themselves or the ability to impact the board before passing the turn to be viable. Arna has both. She doesn't need to attack to get her main bonus: you can drop her in the first main phase and then send your modified creatures into the Red Zone right away for benefit, and while discarding a card to her ward is doable, most players will probably avoid 2-for-1ing themselves unless Arna becomes an emergency.

Granted, Arna probably is an emergency anytime she's on board because doubling the counters, Auras, and Equipment of all your attacking creatures, permanently, is patently absurd. Extra shield counters via Contractual Safeguard, making combats basically riskless for your creatures? Check. Additional buffs or card draw from Auras like All That Glitters and Sage's Reverie? Check. Leaving your opponents slack-jawed as your creature picks up a second Sword of Feast and Famine on the way toward your opponent's neck? Check. Arna can be built around any of these "modifications," or all of them at once, making it an open-ended but very powerful commander that can do some fun and broken things. Just imagine how many Bloodforged Battle-Axes you can make, or how dangerous Nerd Rage becomes when multiple copies are stocking your hand. Go wild!

Coram, the Undertaker

"Dredge got a new toy..." Oh wait, not a toy. It got a whole new playground to mess around in. This guy is a house, and while a Jund commander that wants things in your graveyard would normally make an easy case for a sacrificing or even discarding theme, Coram (outside of the power buff) only cares about things being in graveyards if they were milled or Buried Alive.

Worth noting is that Coram's finicky and only wants freshly Entombed things: they have to have been milled, or put there directly from the library in some other fashion, that very turn. You get the top card of each library when he attacks, but one card each is not enough for a format where we can get way, way more excessive. Mill all-stars, like Altar of Dementia, Mesmeric Orb, and Sword of Body and Mind, will do good work here. Getting a land and a spell from a 'yard each of your turns is generous, and while Coram will lose interest in that Balefire Dragon that you milled over three turns ago, bringing along your Reanimates and Animate Deads is a no-brainer.

(Speaking of no brains, seems like a Zombie build will be a fun with this guy! There are sixteen red or green Zombies, and where else are you going to use them? Dreadhorde Arcanist seems fun with a stocked bin....)

That said, it's probably easier in nonblue colors to mill yourself rather than your opponents, and getting access to your own cards is generally better than getting to play your opponents' on average (since they're more likely to work with your gameplan). Coram will shine in a self-mill or Dredge build; there hasn't been a good Jund Dredge commander since... well, ever (you can do dredge stuff with The Beamtown Bullies, but that deck will play very differently than here). So if you love your The Gitrog Monster deck and have longed to add red to it, come get your boy.

But don't just take my word for it, check out this primer on Coram by fellow Commander's Herald writer Queer Phyrexia on YouTube.

Disa the Restless

Wait, does Disa just want you to self-mill too? In order to what, get a Mortivore for free? Despite Lhurgoyfs not having the deepest bench among creature types, instant reanimation of your creatures when they're put there in any way other than an honorable death is an extremely unique ability. I can't remember ever seeing it before. And it's not even a delayed trigger; it comes back right away! The "anywhere other than the battlefield" clause prevents people from just winning the game with Blood Artist, a Viscera Seer, and some poor Terravore that would be killed and resurrected more often than Duncan Idaho in the Dune series (spoilers).

The real draw to Disa, though, is of course the dreaded Tarmogoyf!!!!....token. Yeesh. Kind of an ignominious fate for a creature that once was the terror of, well, Modern. Now, Disa is going to spit out up to six of them every combat step. Yes, I said six, and no, it's not because we're playing a seven-person Commander game (I'd rather have simultaneous root canals performed by two dentists with an unfriendly rivalry than play an EDH game with that many players). It's because Disa's trigger is worded like Professional Face-Breaker's: it triggers once per instance per player, so, because we're smart Magic players, we are going to be packing double-striking creatures or enablers as well. Berserkers' Onslaught works, and I'm partial to Blast-Furnace Hellkite so long as you can make a decent offering.

If I may offer a suggestion to come at it from another angle: try a Disa deck that's a dedicated discard deck! Pitch a Goyf to Chainer, Nightmare Adept, get it back for free while unlocking another dead creature in your graveyard! Build in madness, flashback, whatever discard or graveyard synergies you want! You're in Jund: the graveyard is your oyster (gross)!

Internet clout tip: Use Goblin Shaman tokens in place of the Tarmogoyfs Disa makes. Post the photos. Profit.


Genku, Future Shaper

Tamiyo's husband--er, widower. Right in the feels.

Anyway, Genku is quite a unique Azorius commander. He can create tokens more easily than you may think at first glance: permanents need to leave your battlefield, not necessarily die, so that opens the door not solely aristocrats shenanigans (we're not in the right colors for it anyway) but also effects that blink, bounce, or otherwise make our permanents dance around zones.

Genku could function as the general for an Azorius value deck, using the new good doggo Phelia, Exuberant Shepherd or the recent mana sink Another Round to re-buy battlefield-entering effects while churning out blockers or simply extra cardboard along the way. Five mana isn't a great rate for one counter on everything (I mean, that's what Cathars' Crusade costs and you never need to pay anything beyond that for way more counters), but go-wide payoffs are limited outside of green, and if you're furiously flickering enough that you have an army of tokens, it won't take much for those tokens to become a real threat. I'm not convinced Genku will helm a lot of decks, though. Most likely, he will do well in the 99 of a blink commander to accrue value; I see a great case for him in an Aminatou, the Fateshifter deck, as the tokens he generates will help protect the planeswalker.

Imskir Iron-Eater

Remember kids, iron is a crucial mineral and an important part of a balanced diet. Which is why you should pour yourself a heaping bowl of mana rocks and Treasure tokens every morning and slam this dude for two mana to refill your hand early and often.

And let's be real: if Imskir is in the command zone, he's never not going to cost BR to cast. Rakdos colors spit out Treasures almost as an afterthought, and since you don't have to give up any of your artifacts when you cast Imskir, it won't be hard to go from the six artifacts you need for the first fully discounted cast to eight, ten, and so on, especially because you'll be refilling your hand every time. Sure, you'll take a life hit after awhile, but 40 life is a lot to work with, and depending on what your deck is trying to do, there's probably a way in black to offset that life loss via Blood Artist, Nadier's Nightblade, and so on. Reckoner's Bargain is the perfect card to pair with Imskir: after you've drawn your cards off him, eat him with the Bargain to get eight life back, draw two more, and reset him into the command zone for further casts.

He has another ability, too, let's not forget! While four mana to activate and only a single target for the damage, the Bosh, Iron Golem text (geez, how outclassed is Bosh nowadays compared to this) is harder to abuse. But it's not irrelevant: people have been cheating high-mana artifacts into play with Goblin Welder and Trash for Treasure effects for a long time, and it's a nice little bonus to have an effective way to put your Portal to Phyrexia back into the graveyard for future reanimating, with a solid chunk of direct damage as gravy.

Imskir will also fit quite nicely into decks helmed by other commanders if they care about artifacts. Really, that's the whole criteria: he can show up in pretty much any RB+ deck with an artifact theme or subtheme and do work there. It may be lazy deckbuilding, but it gets the job done.

Kudo, King Among Bears

Finally, we can all stop writing impassioned emails to Wizards, Mark Rosewater, and PETA demanding that Ayula, Queen Among Bears get boo'd up. (What, that was only me?) Kudo's ability is simple, but powerful, especially since it affects your opponents' creatures as well as your own. You can just as easily double all your Saprolings or Soldier tokens stats and make your token army a little more formidable as you can make your opponents' Dragon army considerably less deadly (but far more adorable; Bear Dragons!).

To me, Kudo only really makes sense in the command zone unless you're in a token deck, but Bear decks will get the bonus of another color when upgrading from Ayula, Queen Among Bears, unlocking key cards like Anointed Procession and Smothering Tithe. Fittingly, Ayula does seem to be the best possible card to have alongside Kudo, as you can just pick off every creature your opponents try to play with whatever you have in your hand, and you'll keep your creature too if you have even one Glorious Anthem effect out. Plus, just last year we got one of the best anthems ever printed in Flowering of the White Tree.

Playing Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite with Kudo out will be funny exactly one time, but don't let me stop you. It's hard to imagine a better way to herald the end of a game if your opponents are all playing heavily to the board.

Psychic Frog

Let me put my Magic Boomer hat on for a second. Back in 2001, we had Psychatog, and for a while, it's all we could care about. An archetype-defining card, a madness- and graveyard-enabler, and a threat whose toothy grin haunted our dreams. We loved it, we feared it.

Fast-forward to 2024, and power creep has given us this doozy of a sound-alike amphibian. The discard-buff is now permanent in the form of +1/+1 counters, which is the key change in making this viable in a format where your opponents have a combined life total of 120 compared to 20. The exiling cards from your graveyard ability now gives this fella flying for the turn (side note, I do love the flavor of a lot of recent Frog cards in Magic being able to Leap for a turn of evasion). And connecting with it nets you a card, also shoring up a weakness of the old 'Tog in that resources dried up pretty fast.

This is a slam-dunk in any discard decks that can run it, notably Oskar, Rubbish Reclaimer, Sefris of the Hidden Ways, and any madness decks, which is an extremely fun and value-oriented mechanic that is underutilized in Commander. I can't wait to jam some games with this Hypnotoad. All hail.

Bloodbraid Challenger

A 4/3, even with haste, is not nearly impactful enough in Commander nowadays to pay five mana for. And yes, the cascade is the real draw here, but we're in a different world than we were when the Challenger's namesake, Bloodbraid Elf, hit the scene in 2009. Being able to escape this is a nice touch, so I could see it slot into decks that are filling their graveyard and never want to leave mana unused, but it's hard to see this doing all too much in most decks. There are better things to spend your mana on.

Broodmate Tyrant

Snooze. Yes, this puts a lot of power and toughness on the battlefield. And yes, it puts a lot more with the encore effect. But you're spending eight or nine mana for a handful of fliers that don't do much else, so this is either your move toward an endgame when you cast it fairly or you're reanimating it early, and in both cases there are better options. Of course, this will see play in Dragon decks that just want to fill the skies, but it's nothing exciting. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that encoring this with Dragon Tempest out will do a ton of damage; have fun mathing out the ETB triggers, plus all of the additional tokens will have haste that turn and can get right in the mix. If anyone wants to math that out in the comments, go for it!

Exterminator Magmarch

Double the single-target spells! In black and red, that means largely kill/exile spells and artifact removal.  This is pretty cute with Hell to Pay or other removal or interaction spells that have additional benefits. The way this is worded, you do have to select a second possible target for your spells if one exists, but there will usually be plenty of pesky permanents to pick off. That's the worst part about opponents: they're always trying to have stuff. Ugh! Plus, a 5/3 that regenerates will happily get into combat early and often. This won't make or break a deck, but it'll be a solid addition to many.

Gluttonous Hellkite

Gah, I REALLY wish this thing had haste. Still, it's a mana sink we don't see often, a scaling edict and a payoff for having many little disposable bodies, something that Jund decks make almost as an afterthought. The rate on this thing is great: assuming you're in a four-player pod and your opponents have plenty of things to sacrifice, you get an 11/11 flying trampler (flampler) for five mana, a 19/19 flampler for seven mana, a 27/27 for nine, and so on (on second thought, maybe this shouldn't have haste). Plus, you've knocked off at least some of your opponents' boards.

Note that this Dragon's triggered ability is on cast, not entering, which means two things. First, if an opponent counters the Dragon, the sacrificing still happens. And second, if you have no board, you can still choose an X above zero and not have to sacrifice this creature because the ability will happen before it lands.

Infested Thrinax

If you're hearing little alarm bells going off in the back of your mind, it's not just you. This thing is meant to be played unfairly (the "fair" usage is what, flashing this in into a board wipe to end up with a pile of 1/1s? Nah, I'm off it.). The Thrinax doesn't care if the soon-to-be-dead creature was already on the battlefield when it came in, which means any creature you repeatedly feed to Ashnod's Altar or Phyrexian Altar will bring plenty of Saprolings with it. Preferably something that doesn't need any other pieces to go infinite; Slimefoot and Squee comes to mind.

Just sacrifice the Thrinax and S&S to Phyrexian Altar, netting six Saprolings -- six mana, thanks to the Altar -- then use five to bring them both back and keep looping. (Worth noting is that when Infested Thrinax enters the battlefield for the second, third, and so on time each turn, whether through this loop or some other means, each instance of Saproling creation will stack, so you start generating Saps faster with each loop.) Infinite mana, tokens, enters/leaves the battlefield (or leaves the graveyard, hello Insidious Roots!) effects for you to use how you'd like. Wow, we finally broke Altar, y'all!

Rosheen, Roaring Prophet

Also not on my Bingo card this time around: a second Rosheen Meanderer card! She's back, and this time she's angry!

I love the Metalworker-style mana production, and while it's limited to cards with X in their mana cost, she helps you find one when she enters (or more realistically, more than one, since green can easily Regrowth any X spells beyond the first you mill over). And we all know how powerful X spells can be once you hit a high threshold of mana.

These kinds of decks build themselves: stock the deck with X spells, ramp, and the essential Unbound Flourishing, then have fun. And there are some very fun X spells to slot into this deck. Comet Storm, Awaken the Woods, Gelatinous Genesis, and Storm King's Thunder can all end games.

If you want a critical mass of X spells in your hand so you can tap Rosheen for a burst of mana, try having her helm a Hydra deck. The incredible Lifeblood Hydra is nice and cheap now thanks to the Commander Masters reprint, Voracious Hydra is a flexible card that should see more play anyway, and I could list well over a dozen other Hydras that basically just read: sink mana, get stupid large. If you're wondering what to do with the Goldvein Hydra you pulled from an Outlaws of Thunder Junction pack that, shockingly, still doesn't have much of a place in Standard or Pioneer just yet, here you go.

Sphinx of the Revelation

What, Will, Scion of Peace didn't show deckbuilders how easy it was to gain heaps of life and how powerful it was to get an additional payoff for doing so? The rate of one life for one card via the pseduo-Sphinx's Revelation on this card is hard to beat. Because energy has limited outlets, you're either fitting this in a deck that gains life and wants to make and utilize energy throughout the game (and there are some powerful things you can do with buckets of energy), or you're taking the risk that this thing just gets Abraded before you can utilize it and leaves you with some useless energy counters. Not too many decks will want this, but those that do will be happy to draw it every time.

Uncommons & Commons

Golden-Tail Trainer

Starting with a reduction of one mana for Aura and Equipment spells and then scaling up from there is solid. It's nice to have a target for buffs and attachable permanents that isn't your commander so that enemy fire will have to pick one of the two. Selesnya is the easiest color for modifications (it's the color pair of choice of Auras and +1/+1 counters, and 95% of the best Equipment cards are colorless), but don't sleep on this in just regular ol' +1/+1 counter decks: the Trainer buffs all modified creatures, so if you have even put a couple counters on him, everything else that has even one on it will get a big boost during combat.

Pyretic Rebirth

First off, that RKF art is sick; glad he's been getting to do a lot more cards again lately! Four mana is a lot for a Raise Dead, but you get a lot of extra advantages with this one: instant-speed, the option to grab an artifact instead, and of course the single burst of damage. At best, this will be a removal spell at a key time that also buys back something that was killed off earlier in the game. You can do worse! Food for thought: only five other cards in Magic let you pull any creature or artifact from the 'yard to hand: Emergency Weld, Fortuitous Find, Remember the Fallen, Restoration Gearsmith, and Treasury Thrull. The others that come close generally cap the mana value of the creatures, and Pyretic Rebirth is the only one you can do at an instant speed.

Cranial Ram

Anyone who has ever killed an opponent with a Cranial Plating (or been killed by one) knows how quickly the power buff on this thing can get out of hand. While this new version loses the ability to attach at instant speed, it now comes with a pre-attached body, which, while I'm not going to say is a better trade-off, will come in handy often. The extra point of toughness isn't worth writing home about, but it's not nothing. Any deck playing Cranial Plating that's also in red should sleeve this thing up.

Titans' Vanguard

Not a lot to say about this one; if you're doing a Gruul-but-colorless aggro creature build, this will juice the board, maybe one that's gone wide with the many ways to make Eldrazi Spawn and Scion tokens we now have. The same goes for an artifact creature build in a red-green inclusive deck; otherwise it's not worth running this Vanguard. No, the real reason I'm bringing this card up at all is to direct you to the preview video for it by the good folks at Good Games Morley. Enjoy, and you're welcome.

Two-Color MDFC Spell Lands

Welcome to the latest cycle of two-color staples! Zendikar Rising showed us how powerful having a card that doubles as a spell and a land can be: at the cost of a little bit of efficiency on either side (or life if we're talking the mythic cycle), having a land drop when you need it or an impactful spell if you don't makes for some great cards. Now, we have that same flexibility, but with two-color lands on the back. While I've been off of enters-tapped lands unless they have major upside for a long time, I think these easily qualify as reasonable inclusions.

The spell side of these cards are nearly universally useful. Suppression Ray is the only one I have some doubts about, and while Bloodsoaked Insight is a little situational, it's a powerful effect. Waterlogged Teachings and Stump Stomp will be useful in every deck they're eligible for, and while Strength of the Harvest appears to only be relevant for specific archetypes, be honest: when was the last time you saw a Selesnya deck that wasn't about spamming the board with either creatures or enchantments? Having a potential game-winner (we've seen what All That Glitters and its ilk can do) also double as a two-color land is incredible.

Pick these up early when the set drops and they're nice and cheap; I doubt they'll stay that way for long, even at uncommon; did you know that Malakir Rebirth and Bala Ged Recovery are both pushing $5?

That's it for this half of the gold cards; what here has you itching to build? What upgrades will you be picking up? We have a lot of new options to lead decks, some unique payoffs, and maybe even a few future archetype staples. Given Modern Horizons I and II's pedigree, I think we can expect to see a lot of these cards make some waves in our pods soon. Tell me in the comments what you're most excited about, what I got wrong in this review (or what I got right! You can be nice on the internet, despite common belief), or whatever else is on your mind about MH3! I've been Brandon Amico, and I'll see you on the interwebs.

Brandon hosts the MTG Variety Hour (@mtgvarietyhour on TikTok, IG, YouTube, and Twitter) and has been playing Magic since Odyssey back in 2001. When he's not slinging cardboard, he works as a freelance copywriter and is an accomplished poet with a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowship. His literary work can be found at