Modern Horizons 3 Set Review - Budget


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Modern Times Call for Modern Sets

We've returned for the third time to the Modern Horizons series, and it's looking just as incredible as the last two. I've loved the ways the other two sets have delved backwards, taking inspiration from older sets with older mechanics to create new ideas and strange themes. This time around, our big themes are the Eldrazi, energy counters, +1/+1 counters, and Lhurgoyfs. That's quite the lineup! We're looking at the budget cards today, but just because they're cheaper doesn't mean they'll be any less good. I expect nothing less than some incredible classic Magic art and elegant interactions between every card. Just taking a peek ahead, I'm not disappointed!


Cranial Ram

Wizards of the Coast announcing that this card was extremely likely to get banned in Pauper tells you everything you need to know about where this card should be played. It's extremely similar to Cranial Plating, which was banned years ago, and All That Glitters, which was banned only a month ago. Chances are, Cranial Ram will follow. There are certainly some key differences, most notably color identity, which will prevent it from being as ubiquitous as Cranial Plating, but pretty much any deck that plays artifacts and wants a really big creature will take this happily alongside the other two.

Waterlogged Teachings

Is it a great tutor? No. Is it a great land? Definitely not. But having both options on the same card could make this playable. Some people like to reduce their land count with these cards, but that's a dangerous game. Because the backside of Teachings is a tapland, you're essentially adding a tapland to your land count, and unless you're filling in what was already going to be a Guildgate, it's not worth it. I find that these cards are fantastic, but only if you really do need the front side. They can't be shoehorned into a generic land slot. 

That being said, this card absolutely has a home as a budget tutor for certain cards. Who knows, maybe your deck really needs to find Synthetic Destiny to pop off. Waterlogged Teachings will get it for you, or it'll make your land drop if you already have it.

Bloodsoaked Insight

Bloodsoaked Insight is a lot less niche, and therefore requires much less thought to include. Any deck that deals a lot of damage could consider it, like Rakdos, Lord of Riots or Thantis, the Warweaver. Aggro decks are always looking for card advantage, and this card is extremely low to the ground. Taking cards from an opponent's deck isn't perfect, but you can usually count on hitting a land drop at least. Its inclusion cost is also pretty cheap, given that it can be played as a land, a two-drop, or a seven-drop in desperate times. All in all, it's very modal and perfectly adaptive to a deck's situation, making it a convenient card to have on hand. 

Planar Genesis

This card immediately compares to Growth Spiral, and looks even better than the classic ramp spell. Growth Spiral draws you a card, Planar Genesis gets you a card from the top four. Growth Spiral needs you to have a card in hand, Planar Genesis can find one from the top of your deck. The downside, however, is that if you find a land, you don't get a card. And to be fair, if you're playing Growth Spiral just for the ramp, then you should be running Rampant Growth instead. Same deal with Planar Genesis. It looks good at first, but in reality, it's a mediocre ramp spell with a mediocre consolation prize if you low roll. It's not that this card doesn't have a home, but you better have a good reason for playing it, because in green, this card is very outclassed as ramp.


Charitable Levy

This card is extremely efficient as a ramp and hate spell. Early game, people are doing nothing but casting mana rocks, and if you get this out turn two, your opponents will be slowed dramatically. Eventually, though, they will break through, but then you're launched ahead with an extra card and land. Even against three other players, this card has the potential to create a huge gap in pace, making a difference that could last the entire game. White has received plenty of tax-themed card draw and ramp, but this is one of the best, even low enough to the ground to compete with some green ramp. The downside is, of course, that it taxes your own spells, but if you can play creatures until it cracks, Charitable Levy is nothing but upside.

Jolted Awake

We recently got Helping Hand, the white version of Unearth, and Jolted Awake fits very well with those two. Assuming you're running it without any extra energy cards, it can reanimate a two-drop. The key difference is that it can also grab artifacts, which heightens its utility tenfold. Artifact decks are practically guaranteed to have an Ichor Wellspring or Myr Retriever in their graveyard, and reanimating those creates an absolute load of value. There're so many good targets that Jolted Awake will never be dead in hand, but if by some miracle it is, you can just cycle it! Any deck that sacrifices artifacts regularly wants this, and many others with small creatures will take it as well.

Thraben Charm

I love packing my decks with charms, and I never regret it. (Except for the time I made a deck with nothing but charms, and spent every turn rereading the thirty different options in my hand.) In Magic, the more options you have, the better, and charms give you three options on a single card. Thraben Charm starts with removal that can remove things based on how many creatures you have, reminding me of Hobbit's Sting, which was mostly a draft card but was still strong in any deck that goes wide. Removing any enchantment is potent as well, and I assure you, you'll never lack a good target. Finally, the ability that really draws my eye, which is unlimited graveyard hate on an instant. You can remove any number of graveyards? This is possibly the strongest graveyard hate we've seen, and thanks to its modality, it's not an awkward inclusion. 

Metastatic Evangel

It's no secret that proliferation is a strong mechanic, and this card triggers very frequently. Any commander who deals in +1/+1 counters, like Sovereign Okinec Ahau, or his smaller friend, Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar, will get out of hand fast with this. When a single Llanowar Elves can add five or six power to a player's board, you know you've got trouble. We haven't even considered the combo potential of this card, which I'm certain is huge. It goes off with so many cards, from Scurry Oak to Fathom Mage, and fits into so many archetypes. As small as it is, I think this card is kill on sight.


Kozilek's Unsealing

Two Scions? Two free mana? Or three cards? Obviously the card is incredible in any Eldrazi deck, and it's great in a ton of artifact decks. The advantage it provides gets insurmountable very, very quickly. That's pretty clear. But what I noticed is that it gives you the two things that storm decks really want, card draw and mana. How long could you go with this card, just by casting Myr Enforcers, Thought Monitors, and Sojourner's Companions for zero? That's not viable in a singleton format, but I expect to see some interesting builds in 60-card formats. Still, wherever you're playing it, this card's going to be busted.

Consign to Memory

Stifle isn't a card that sees a lot of play because it usually doesn't answer what needs to be answered. In Commander, it's almost always the spells that need to be countered, and Stifle just doesn't do that. However, that's not to say that there aren't a lot of triggered abilities in Commander. Anything with an ETB trigger, for instance, could be countered. You could counter a Vial Smasher the Fierce trigger, or a large instance of Warstorm Surge damage. Consign to Memory can counter all of this too, but it can also counter another bigger subset of Commander cards, like the Eldrazi titans, Blightsteel Colossus, and even Sol Ring. It's still significantly more narrow than anything like Counterspell would be, but does it have enough targets to be playable? Time will tell, I think. Also, it has replicate, which makes it hard for your opponents to play around, which is a sizable bonus.

Utter Insignificance

I will stand by this opinion no matter what: in EDH, these cards are the best removal spells. No abilities, no power, whatever's enchanted is practically gone. But why is this any better than good ol' Terminate? Commanders can be recast after being destroyed. They can't come back from being a 1/1. If your opponents can't sacrifice them, and the other players don't give them a chance to block, that commander is stuck there forever. Sometimes, this is the only way to deal with cards like Edgar Markov, who's a danger in and out of the command zone, or Eris, Roar of the Storm, who evades commander tax. To be honest, I don't even know why the option to exile the creature is there. Making your opponent's commander utterly insignificant is exactly what you want.

Tempest Harvester

Energy cards have this weird dynamic between cards that produce energy and cards that use it, and of course, cards that do both. Obviously, on its own, Tempest Harvester is a worse Merfolk Looter. But in an energy deck, it enters and creates two energy counters that can immediately be used for something like Liberty Prime, Recharged. But later, the deck can absolutely make more energy, and the excess can be used for looting. The energy cards really do work like charging a battery. Tempest Harvester provides a quick boost, and later settles into the circuit.


Accursed Marauder

Fleshbag Marauder, Merciless Executioner, and Plaguecrafter are a weirdly relevant group of cards that a ton of decks want. They're just edicts, but they have the bonus of sacrificing themselves, being additional death triggers, and being revivable. My old Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest deck wanted nothing but more of these creatures, and Accursed Marauder is the new best one. The nontoken requirement is huge, and costing a mana less is great as well. This set of cards is so good that Accursed Marauder won't push anything out of a list, but will simply be an incredible addition to the decks that were already running them.

Consuming Corruption

Consuming Corruption is a big upgrade to an old card, Tendrils of Corruption, that saw fringe play as a bad removal spell. Four mana was too much to pay for removal, and the life gain didn't make up for it. At two mana, however, Consuming Corruption is on par with plenty of other black removal spells, and the life gain is just an incidental bonus. It'll only really see play in mono-black, of course, but with an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth on the field, or just an excess of basic Swamps, it can rapidly change the balance of a game.

Marionette Apprentice

Marionette Master has been a powerhouse in artifact aristocrats decks for years, rapidly closing the game out as a top-end threat. Marionette Apprentice will fill a similar role, dealing out slightly less damage for a third of the cost. Dealing four damage to a single opponent like the Master does is good, but one damage to each opponent is almost equivalent. Marionette Apprentice will slot nicely into decks with Agent of the Iron Throne and Reckless Fireweaver.

The Creation of Avacyn

The Creation of Avacyn is one of my favorite cards in years, flavorwise. The slow birth of the creature you fetch is nothing short of spectacular and really feels like the painstaking process that Sorin went through. Unfortunately, the card itself is not all that great. Enchantment removal is all too common in Commander, and the Saga gives your opponents all the time in the world to stop the imminent threat. Trying to get a Blightsteel on the board? What's actually going to happen is you're going to take twelve damage, then the Saga is going to get removed, leaving Blightsteel Colossus in exile forever. I think you'll find the most success if you search for a modest target. Just fetch some utility creatures from five to seven mana, and you'll probably get it onto the battlefield with little fuss. But if you do manage to create an Eldrazi Titan, your opponents deserve to lose.


Amped Raptor

This is another case of the weird relationship between energy production and consumption. To get the most out of this card, you want to cast it with a ton of energy open and cross your fingers that you hit something big. If you do, the payoff is huge, allowing you to cast a massive spell for only two mana. But most likely, you're going to run into a mana rock, at which point Amped Raptor will have done something, but probably not what you were hoping for. The other scenario is one where you cast it turn two, cross your fingers you find a Signet, and ramp yourself. But then you have a chance to hit a three-drop or higher, and you'll once again be disappointed. The only way to make this consistent is to put it in a deck with only two-drops or lower, in which case it might be somewhat efficient?

Glimpse the Impossible

First things first, I love the art on this card. It really does have that red feeling of going mad, and the style suits the theme very well. The card itself is also fantastic, being a strong version of Reckless Impulse. There's a downside, of course, which is that you can only play the cards on the same turn, making it a poor early game spell. The upside is that you can make your mana back. Good tradeoff? Not really, but I think the key is when you play it. Generally, I wouldn't want to play Reckless Impulse early anyways, given that on turn two, I still have six or seven cards in my hand. I think these cards shine late game, when you have a ton of mana but not a lot to do with it. Glimpse the Impossible needs the right shell, but I'm confident that some Rakdos sac deck with a need for card advantage could use it.

Unstable Amulet

Recently there's been an overload of commanders who specifically care about the cast from exile theme, and a card that says: "whenever you play your deck, deal one damage to each opponent," is highly desired. Pia Nalaar, Consul of Revival, Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald, and of course, Prosper, Tome-Bound, could all use the easy damage output that feeds itself. You could totally play it as some extra card advantage in an energy deck, but Unstable Amulet has a clear home.

Siege Smash

This card has two uses, but one is going to be used much more often. Destroying an artifact for two mana puts it up against Abrade, an extremely popular removal spell. The problem is, Abrade's other mode of three damage is also very good. +3/+2 on the other hand, is merely alright. Even in a Voltron deck all about pushing early damage, I'm not sure it's enough. So the question is, does split second push it far enough? It makes the artifact destruction much better, that's for sure, as it prevents activations of stuff like Birthing Pod. Still, a deck would really have to make good use of that +3/+2.


Collective Resistance

Holy crap, this card is good. I guess I shouldn't expect anything less from Modern Horizons, but this card is a must-have in so many decks. First things first, is it better than Return to Nature? They're both instants, and for two mana, both of them can remove either an artifact or enchantment. But, if you pay an extra mana to Collective Resistance, you can blow up both, a huge boon that puts the card ahead of Return to Dust as well. The second difference is the third ability. Return to Nature has the ever-important ability to exile cards from graveyards, something that's extremely convenient to have on a modal spell. It saves you from having to run cards like Tormod's Crypt, which are often dead draws. Still, the third ability on Collective Resistance is also very strong, imitating Tamiyo's Safekeeping. The ability to protect your creatures, remove an artifact and an enchantment, all at instant speed, makes this card my new favorite Naturalize variant, and probably my first pick for that slot. Still, there's little reason not to run both Collective Resistance and Return to Nature. The more modality, the better!

Colossal Dreadmask

This card is mostly here for the meme. It's a Colossal Dreadmaw! If all you do is play it as a Germ, then you simply have the iconic Dinosaur, but who doesn't want a giant T-rex equipped to their fearsome Voltron commander? This is the biggest of the big in terms of Equipment, that's for sure. Unfortunately, if you're paying almost a dozen mana for the cast and equip, you're still better off playing Argentum Armor.

Evolution Witness

In some decks, this is Eternal Witness but easier to cast. Renata, Called to the Hunt makes Evolution Witness do the exact same thing, which is good, but not its full potential. In the right deck, this card can win the game. Take a graveyard deck, like Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest, for instance. Cast Accursed Marauder, then sacrifice it, Mazirek puts counters on all your creatures, and Evolution Witness brings the Accursed Marauder right back to your hand, ready to go again. This card has so much combo potential it's ridiculous. I guess they forgot to put the "once per turn" rider on cards in this set?

Basking Broodscale

Speaking of cards that could use a "once per turn" rider, we have Basking Broodscale. Cranial Ram is almost certainly the card that's going to get banned in Pauper, but when this card was spoiled, people were convinced it was the one getting the hammer. Free mana for every counter? A free creature for every counter? A free sacrifice/death trigger for every counter? Mazirek is eating well this set, because this card also goes infinite with him. Heck, this card goes infinite with everything. Cathars' Crusade, Rosie Cotton of South Lane, Blade of the Bloodchief, the list goes on. This is the kind of card that people will look at halfway through a game and say, "Oh, I think I win." And it's two mana!


Null Elemental Blast

In Commander, this card will be extremely potent. A one-mana counterspell and removal piece? For multicolored cards only, of course, but out of the top 100 commanders on EDHREC, 81% of them are legal targets for Null Elemental Blast. Get ready for the frustration of having your commander countered by a single colorless mana. And the colorless diamond isn't even that much of a restriction. Plenty of people are running the Pain Lands, which will always tap for colorless!

Solar Transformer

I thought this card was just another Manalith, but I checked again, and it actually costs two mana. Coming in tapped and only producing colored mana three times makes it a far cry from Arcane Signet, but people are still playing Coldsteel Heart, and I would say this card is a big upgrade from that.

The Landscape Cycle

Ooh, this cycle is really good. If you're playing three colors, these cards are strictly better than Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse. Just like on the Ikoria and Streets of New Capenna Tri-lands, cycling is a huge boon, allowing you to turn late game land flood into card draw. 

There! On the Horizon!

Holy crap, this set is packed with a ton of power. I guess I shouldn't expect any less from a Modern Horizons set, but I'm blown away by the incredible design of the entire set. Modern Horizons has been my favorite series in recent years due to the spectacular art, the thrilling bombs, and the unique designs in every card. It really feels like a set that a ton of effort was put into, and I think the entire thing is an art piece in itself. I'm sure some people will be salty about the way it reshapes the Modern format, but I wasn't going to spend $4000 on a quickly outdated Amulet Titan deck anyways, so whatever it does, I'm fine with it. As you can see, even without the expensive rares and mythics of the set, it's still spectacular, and I'm glad to be able to enjoy the cards with a lower price tag. 

Alejandro Fuentes's a nerd from Austin Texas who likes building the most unreasonable decks possible, then optimizing them till they're actually good. In his free time, he's either trying to fit complex time signatures into death metal epics, or writing fantasy novels.