A few months ago when Modern Horizons was first announced, I wrote about the potential structure of the set. Now as we approach actual spoilers season, my anticipation continues to grow. I am more excited about Modern Horizons than any set I can recall, save for maybe New Phyrexia. What will the first new set designed specifically for Modern bring to the table? It is time for predictions.

The set overflows with possibility, so my predictions come in two parts—one now, one right as spoiler season is cranking up. I look forward to revisiting and seeing how close (or not) I was on these predictions.

Before I list cards that should be in the set, a few words on cards that will not. One thing Modern absolutely does not need: a free counterspell. Force of Will keeps Legacy honest, and it’s a beautiful design, but Modern isn’t the place for it. You see a lot of discussion of how bringing Force to Modern dilutes the appeal of Legacy—the Force/Brainstorm format—and homogenizes Magic. More to the point, the gameplay patterns it forces (counterwars, sudden reversals, “do they have it” guesswork) aren’t where Wizards wants to push Modern. Daze is even worse—if Mental Misstep is too domineering and swingy, how could you expect to play with Daze? Free counterspells are powerful regulators, but Modern can be regulated in other ways.

We also won’t see Wasteland. Not only is it incredibly potent and Legacy-defining, we have a full slate of Wasteland-lights between Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin, and to a lesser extent Tectonic Edge. Same with Rishadan Port, which is a more flexible Wasteland that requires precise management of priority. Dust Bowl is a distant possibility—it’s fair and could be printed into Modern, but I don’t expect to see it.

So what do I expect to see? What do I hope for? We know, per Mark Rosewater, that there will be a mix of old mechanics and references to Magic’s past, although I’d expect something closer to Dominaria than Time Spiral. We tried this a year or so ago in a much more limited capacity, but let’s walk through the Top Twenty together—my personal list of the cards I think will be reprinted and the cards that fill a niche currently vacant in Modern, starting with an easy one:

#20—Containment Priest

Containment Priest counteracts Griselbrand, Through the Breach, Arclight Phoenix, etc. and attacks for two in a pinch. Powerful, unsubtle, fair—I consider this basically a lock to be reprinted, especially after the market-saturating Ultimate Masters print.

Would it be too good with Eldrazi Displacer? Personally, I think we can handle a two-card combo that lets you permanently exile a creature for three mana, even if both halves of the combo can be snagged with Collected Company. Mistcaller and Hallowed Moonlight simply haven’t gotten there, so why not up the ante?

#19—New Infect card

Traditional Simic Infect is a problematic archetype—minimal interaction, linear, unevenly disruptable. But the “fair” mono-black control style of Infect is one of my favorite Tier 3 decks in Modern. Something to bolster Phyrexian Crusader would hit the spot, and I think it’s likely that Wizards can design a solitary Infect card to give hope to Infect players.

#18—Snow Lands

Another gimme. We know there are five basics in Modern Horizons, and I have a hard time imagining they’ll be vanilla basics. Why not use that to get a bit of added value into the set? Every Skred Red player can upgrade into foil Snow-Covered Mountains and every Extraplanar Lens player can finally get their full thirty for a pittance.

#17—New Tutor

It’s clear with Viven Reid, Elvish Rejuvenator, etc. that Wizards is deprioritizing “search, then shuffle” effects. So I’d expect a version of Demonic Tutor that, say, lets you look at the top ten, pick a card, then randomize and tuck the other nine. Alternately, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Grim Tutor make an appearance here in the Imperial Recruiter slot—it’s expensive enough to drive sales and low-impact enough to print into Modern.

#16—Proactive Hate

Ancient Grudge and Wear // Tear win for sheer efficiency, but I expect something more targeted and proactive that harkens back to older cards. Karn, the Great Creator is Null Rod with several benefits for twice the cost. That seems like a good start, but what’s stopping Wizards from printing, say:

Dreaded Knight (B)(B)

Creature—Human Knight

First strike

All white creatures your opponents control get -1/-1.


That’s the issue with hate cards right now: Damping Sphere, Damping Matrix, Amulet of Safekeeping—these are potent cards, but they’re inert. They can’t advance your game; they can only serve as static nodes to handicap your opponent’s strategy without implementing your own. Wizards has plenty of room to make a better version of something like Watcher of the Dead.

#15—New Mass Removal

They might reprint Toxic Deluge, but much as I love its flexibility, it shuts the door too easily on too many aggro decks. What about an Extinction variant for 1BB with a three life rider? (Grim Tutor is Diabolic Tutor minus one mana and three life.) Anything that shaves a mana off of Damnation would be ideal—even Fire Covenant would be an intriguing pick.

#14—New Living Weapons

There are a number of intriguing mechanics in the 6-8 range on the Storm Scale. Mark Rosewater defines this zone as the place where Living Weapon, Retrace, and Suspend go to languish. Now’s the time to bring them back when you’re dealing with an enfranchised player base and a flavor-agnostic set. I think we’ll see Living Weapon and Snow (as mentioned above), along with other forgotten mechanics. My dream is to see Wizards revisit Splice and shift it to “Splice onto Instant” or “Splice onto Sorcery.”


There was a period in Magic, circa Tempest, when hate cards were shut-outs against the opposing color and useless otherwise. Boil, Boiling Seas, and Choke made it into Modern, but we don’t have a potent sideboard card against Burn at that level. Maybe Chill is a bit good, but an updated version with “whenever you or a creature you control becomes the target of a red spell, counter that spell unless its controller pays (2)” sounds nice.

#12—Argothian Enchantress

Modern needs a new tool for Enchantress decks. Bogles is an established part of the metagame and a deck that brings joy to the Spike-Timmy psychographic. But what if they had a different kind of fun? There are a few possibilities: Argothian Enchantress, Enchantress’s Presence, or Sterling Grove could all make it into Modern Horizons. I’ve also been pushing for a reprint of Faith Healer for the last decade-plus, which would be an interesting dark horse choice.

#11—Cursed Totem

Maybe not the actual Cursed Totem, as it locks down mana abilities. A new version with updated templating could be more likely. Perhaps even one that locks down creatures and Planeswalkers, something like:

Cursed Matrix (3)


Activated abilities of creatures and Planewalkers can’t be activated unless they’re mana abilities.

That’s a pretty comprehensive list and we’re only halfway through. I perused over 6,000 cards—it turns out the bulk of Magic’s history is stacked with absolutely awful cards. Once you pick out the World Enchantments, reprints, outclassed cards, and the absolute dreck (Wild Aesthir, etc.), you’re left with about 2,800. Cutting that down to twenty was painful.

Aside from the headliners, I’d also expect the following reprints: Ancient Runes, Astral Slide, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, Gorilla Shaman, Disrupt, Oubliette, Gempalm Incinerator, Chainer’s Edict, Moment’s Peace, Glowrider, and Undermine. Some of those need foil versions for the first time, some can be downshifted in rarity for Pauper, and some will matter for Limited.

The Top Ten is up next—right in the heart of spoiler season.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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