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Which Legacy Staples Could Show Up in Modern Horizons? (Part 1: Creatures & Lands)


A couple of days ago, Wizards announced one of the most exciting products we've had in a long time: Modern Horizons. The set does something that has been requested for forever by putting cards directly into Modern while skipping over Standard. While this might not seem like a huge deal at first blush, the importance of the set becomes clear when you consider how many sweet cards from Legacy and various supplemental products would be amazing in Modern but are either too good or too weird to ever show up in a Standard set. 

While we don't have a ton of information on the set, we did get a couple of nuggets from the live stream that announced Modern Horizons (along with two early spoiler cards, even though proper spoilers don't start until May). Most importantly, every card in the set (outside of basic lands) is not currently legal in Modern. While this will mostly be new cards, this also means that all of the reprints will be cards from Legacy and Vintage rather than fetch lands, Mox Opal, and other current Modern cards. It's also worth mentioning that, as far as we know, the Reserved List is still in effect, so don't expect original dual lands or other Reserved List playables. 

With this in mind, our plan for today is simple: we're going to look over the lists of the most played cards in the Legacy format and try to figure out which cards could show up in Modern Horizons. Our main concern will be power level, but it's worth mentioning that some cards that would be safe for Modern won't show up in Modern Horizons, simply because there's only so much room for reprints in the set (although if a card is safe, the odds increase that it could make its way into the format eventually, even if it isn't reprinted in Modern Horizons). Anyway, let's start off by looking at the most played creatures in Legacy. One note: the number by each creature's name is its ranking—from #1 to #50—on the list of most played cards of its type in the Legacy format.

Most Played Creatures

You can see the 50 most played creatures in Legacy here.

One of the weird quirks of Magic is that most of the best creatures in the game have been printed in the Modern era. In fact, of the 50 most played creatures in Legacy, only seven are not currently Modern legal, and three of these are from supplemental products that were produced in the Modern era. As such, it's pretty easy to break down the entire list.

#2: True-Name Nemesis

True-Name Nemesis is a scary card, mostly since it's so difficult to deal with. In Legacy, decks play cards like Toxic Deluge and Massacre in their sideboards specifically to deal with the Progenitus-like three-drop. Unfortunately, we don't have quite as many tools in Modern, with the most popular sideboard sweepers like Anger of the Gods not doing anything against True-Name Nemesis. While it might be possible for Modern decks to adapt, having True-Name Nemesis would further stretch already limited sideboard slots, which might not be healthy for the format.

On the other hand, some of True-Name Nemesis's best friends, like Umezawa's Jitte and Stoneforge Mystic, aren't currently legal in Modern, and (at least for now) the free countermagic (like Daze and Force of Will) used to protect the super-Bogle aren't around either, so maybe it would be safer than it looks. That said, the Bogles-like, uninteractive play style that True-Name Nemesis tends to support isn't exactly fun, especially if you don't have a very specific and often narrow answer at the right moment.

Reprints Rating: 2/10. I wouldn't write off True-Name Nemesis completely, but it seems unlikely that Wizards would want to put the three-drop in the format. It's not that the card is necessarily too good for Modern. It's more than the play style it supports isn't fun or interactive, and on the heels of banning Krark-Clan Ironworks, putting another uninteractive staple into the format seems like a strange move.

#5: Baleful Strix

Out of all the creatures currently played in Legacy that aren't currently legal in Modern, Baleful Strix is the card I'm rooting for hardest in Modern Horizons. While the two-drop is certainly powerful, it's anything but game-breaking as a value-heavy 1/1. One of the current challenges Modern faces is that unfair decks tend to be better than fair decks. Baleful Strix is the type of cards that seems safe for the format because rather than enabling some combo or pushing some sort of uninteractive Bogles or tribal strategy, it props up fair decks, giving them a solid blocking two-drop that doesn't cost a card. 

More importantly, Baleful Strix might help create a new archetype in Modern: Tezzerator. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is a powerful Magic card, but thus far, it hasn't really been able to make a name for itself in Modern, thanks to the lack of good support cards. Baleful Strix is the exact type of card that a Tezzerator deck wants. While the two-drop by itself probably won't make Tezzerator into a top-tier strategy, it might be enough to turn it into a solid second- or third-tier deck, and one of the most appealing aspects of Modern is the sheer number of decks and archetypes that are playable. Adding another to the list would be a good thing for the format.

Reprint Rating: 9/10. Baleful Strix is one of the safer bets for Modern Horizons, simply because it's the definition of a safe and fair (although powerful) card. While nothing is a guarantee, I'd be surprised if Baleful Strix doesn't show up in the set.

#11: Containment Priest

Containment Priest is a tricky card to evaluate. Currently, the two most played decks in Modern are Izzet Phoenix and Dredge, and Containment Priest might be the single best maindeckable card in Magic to fight against both of these decks. The question is whether Containment Priest would be so good that it actually pushes graveyard-based strategies out of the format altogether. Another concern is that it's a Human, which means there's already a top-tier deck (formerly the best deck in Modern) that can instantly slot Containment Priest into the main deck and potentially shoot right back to the top of the format by dethroning the top two decks. 

On the other hand, Containment Priest is just a 2/2 for two, so it dies to any of the popular removal spells in the format. And against a lot of top-tier decks (Death's Shadow, Tron, Burn, Humans, Spirits), it's basically just a Grizzly Bears, which isn't exciting in a powerful format like Modern. So perhaps it simply slots into the sideboard as a better version of Rest in Peace for decks that care about having a Grizzly Bears or have Human tribal synergies, which would probably be a fine outcome, especially considering how many powerful graveyard hate spells already exist in the Modern format.

Reprint Rating: 5/10. Containment Priest is an extremely difficult card to rate, so I'm taking the easy way out and putting it in the middle. Personally, I'd love to see Containment Priest in Modern, since it gives fair decks another way to fight unfair decks (something that will be even more important if the new mulligan rule actually slips through testing and becomes the rule of the land). That said, from an unbiased perspective, the fact that the top two decks in the format might be unplayable if Containment Priest hits the format is a concern—with Modern Horizons, Wizards' goal seems to be to make a fun, flavorful set that also impacts Modern, rather than a super-powered set that turns the entire format on its head, which means mean that Containment Priest would get left out in the cold.

#17: Mother of Runes

While I've heard some people come out in support of Mother of Runes in Modern, from my perspective, the one-drop is a non-starter. If you've ever played against Mother of Runes in Legacy, you'll know that unless you can kill it the turn it comes into play, it basically dominates the battlefield, shutting down targeted removal and eventually forcing damage through blockers. Combine this with the fact that Mother of Runes is a Human, and with four Mother of Runes in the deck, Humans will likely dominate the metagame from now until the end of time. Toss in the fact that it's hard to see that much upside to adding Mom to the format, and it's pretty safe to assume it won't be in the set.

Reprint Rating: 1/10. It's not happening.

#29: Sylvan Safekeeper

Sylvan Safekeeper is the perfect card to follow up Mother of Runes in our conversation, because in a lot of ways, it's a safer version of Mom. While it is still a Human, protecting a creature actually comes at a cost (sacrificing a land, which limits the number of times most decks can activate Sylvan Safekeeper). And granting shroud rather than protection means that it doesn't force damage through blockers in the same way that Mother of Runes does.

On the other hand, Sylvan Safekeeper is still a very strong option for decks that are looking to protect their s creatures from targeted removal, and if you're saving something like Primeval Titan from a Path to Exile, sacrificing a land isn't really that big of a cost. This means rather than being safe for Modern (as its name might suggest), Sylvan Safekeeper is merely safer than Mother of Runes, which maybe isn't saying a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. Decks like Hardened Scales or Bant Spirits being able to fizzle removal would be annoying, and Sylvan Safekeeper would likely at least become a sideboard staple for green creature decks for grindy, removal-heavy matchups.

Reprint Ranking: 4/10. While I don't think the odds are in favor of Sylvan Safekeeper showing up in Modern Horizons, unlike Mother of Runes, it does feel like a realistic possibility. Being a Human might be the final nail in the card's reprint chances. The Human tribe tends to get new pieces in just about ever Standard-legal set, so it might be that Wizards will try to avoid powering it up further with Modern Horizons. Throw in the fact that Modern Horizons was being designed a year or two ago during Humans' heyday in the format, and the odds of inclusion seem even less likely.

#32 & #43: Elves

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Maybe the two most interesting creatures on our list today are Wirewood Symbiote and Quirion Ranger, two cards that fit in exactly one deck (Elf tribal) but are extremely powerful in the deck. 

Let's start with the good news: Elves are currently somewhere between a tier-three and unplayed deck in Modern (although they do pop up from time to time), so in theory, the tribe could use some help. With some support in Modern Horizons, the tribe could end up being a legitimate deck in the Modern format, and Wirewood Symbiote and Quirion Ranger would certainly qualify as help.

On the other hand, one or both of these cards may make Modern Elves too good in the format. Wirewood Symbiote gives the deck another card-advantage engine in conjunction with Elvish Visionary, while also protecting key cards like Heritage Druid or Elvish Archdruid from removal. Meanwhile, speaking of Elvish Archdruid, untapping it with Quirion Ranger could lead to some incredibly explosive starts for the Elf deck, potentially starts where they literally win the game on Turn 3, especially with Beast Whisperer working like a Modern-legal version of Glimpse of Nature

If you look over Legacy Elves, the main pieces that are missing in Modern are Priest of Titania (which could theoretically show up in Modern Horizons as well) along with Green Sun's Zenith (which is banned) and Gaea's Cradle (which is on the Reserved List). While the lack of Green Sun's Zenith and Gaea's Cradle means that Modern Elves will never be as powerful as Legacy Elves, regardless of which pieces show up in Modern Horizons, either or both of these cards would be a major step up in power for the archetype. 

Reprint Rating: 1/10 for both, 6/10 for one. Giving Modern Elves both Quirion Ranger and Wirewood Symbiote is probably too much, especially at the same time. There's a chance it would take the deck from tier three to tier one with the release of a single set. On the other hand, Elves could use a boost in power to make the tribe into a legitimate deck in Modern, so reprinting one of the two in Modern Horizons makes a lot of sense. Considering that Legacy Elves tends to play four Wirewood Symbiote (since it is mana production plus creature protection plus card draw) and just a couple of Quirion Ranger (which is mostly just mana production), the safest plan would be to start with Quirion Elves, see how far up the metagame rankings the new card pushes Elves, and then—if need be—look at printing Wirewood Symbiote in a future set. Speaking of future sets, apparently, the official hashtag for Modern Horizons is #MTGMH1. While this could mean nothing, the number in the name seems to suggest that we could be getting more Modern Horizons in the future. If that is the case, there really isn't a reason to push any specific archetype too far with this first release, since there will always be the option to further increase a deck's power with a future Modern Horizons set.

Most Played Lands

You can see the 50 most played lands in Legacy here.

The land category is interesting. Since the most played lands in the Legacy format are either original dual lands (which are on the Reserved List and not eligible for Modern Horizons) or fetch lands (which are already in Modern, so they are also not eligible for the set), we only have six utility lands to discuss today, although some are quite powerful, including the single most played land in the Legacy format. However, before getting into the cards that could be reprinted in the set, I did want to talk a little bit about a cycle of cards that can't show up in the set thanks to the Reserved List but still might have a major impact on the cards that do show up in Modern Horizons...

Original Dual Lands

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No, the original dual lands won't be in Modern Horizons since they are on the Reserved List, but I did want to take a minute to talk about a more outside-the-box possibility: could Modern Horizons be the set where Wizards prints some sort of functional version of the original dual lands? In the past, Wizards has argued that the "spirit of the Reserved List" prevented it from printing something like snow-covered versions of the original dual lands, but if there were ever a set for Wizards to break this rule and give us a cycle of lands that looks and feels as much like the original dual lands as possible without breaking any Reserved List rules, Modern Horizons is it. It seems likely that the set will contain some sort of rare land cycle, and there really aren't many exciting reprint possibilities that aren't on the Reserved List, so a new cycle of dual lands is a pretty safe bet. Some possibilities that have been thrown around are snow-covered duals, legendary duals, or perhaps untapped duals without the basic land types, making them unfetchable. At this point, your guess is as good as mine, but it's fun to speculate on what high-powered dual lands could show up in the set. If you have some ideas, let me know in the comments!

Reprint Ranking: 0/10 for the original duals, 9/10 for some new dual-land cycle.

#1: Wasteland

Wasteland is an über-staple in Legacy, showing up in just under 50% of the top decks in the format at an average of 3.7 copies per deck. If it were reprinted in Modern Horizons, I'd expect something similar to happen in Modern—the card would be everywhere and fundamentally change the way the format is played.

Let's start with the good news regarding Wasteland: the card is a good way of punishing players for playing overpowered lands like Tron, Eldrazi Temple, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. On the other hand, if you look at Legacy play patterns, most decks aren't looking to play Wasteland fairly to deal with specific overpowered lands in the way that we currently play Field of Ruin and Ghost Quarter in Modern. Instead, Wasteland is often part of a mana-denial strategy, looking to play one threat (like Delver of Secrets) and keep the opponent from playing Magic long enough to ride that threat to victory. 

In large part due to Wasteland, cards that cost more than two or three mana are difficult to play in Legacy, since roughly half of your opponents will be able to destroy your mana and keep you from playing your top-end cards in a timely manner. Plus, this play pattern isn't quite as punishing in Legacy, since most decks have cards like Brainstorm and Ponder to dig for more lands, and these powerful cantrips are missing from Modern. 

This leave us in a position where, while Wasteland might look like a card you would want in Modern since it does work as an answer to some annoying decks like Tron, in reality, you don't want to deal with the number of non-games that Wasteland will create, a number that will likely be even higher in Modern than in Legacy thanks to the cards available in the format.

Reprint Ranking: 1/10. It's not happening, nor should it. As much as I enjoy making opponents not play Magic, even I admit that Wasteland would be a huge net negative to Modern and likely greatly decrease the number of playable decks and cards in the format.

#10: Ancient Tomb

This is going to be a short one: as much as I love casting Blood Moon on Turn 1 and as much as having Ancient Tomb in the format would help this happen more consistently, we don't want Ancient Tomb in the Modern format. Imagine the frustration caused by double Eldrazi Temple draws and now picture that any deck and color combination had access to an Eldrazi Temple that didn't care about creature types in the least. This is the Modern format with Ancient Tomb

Whenever there are conversations about the Modern banned list, usually some of the top banning suggestions include the fast mana cards currently in the format, like Mox Opal and even Simian Spirit Guide. Adding another card to this list is the last thing that Modern needs. While there might be some fun and interesting decks that Ancient Tomb would power up, the number of degenerate, unfun prison decks it would help enable would outweigh any potential good that could come from the Sol Ring land showing up in Modern Horizons.

Reprint Ranking: 1/10. While I'd love to Blood Moon you on Turn 1 every game, Ancient Tomb would make Modern even faster and more degenerate, which is more or less the opposite of what I'm hoping that Modern Horizons will do to the format.

#14: Karakas

Karakas is an interesting card for Modern. On one hand, it gives fair decks an answer to very unfair things like Turn 2 Goryo's Vengeance for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand, which is something that will be even more of a concern if the new mulligan rule goes into effect. On the other hand, the ability to use it to bounce your own legendary creatures, either to protect them from removal or to reuse their enters-the-battlefield trigger, might make Karakas a bit too much for the Modern format.

One of the things that Wizards mentioned in the live stream (and we saw exemplified in Cabal Therapist) is using Modern Horizons to design and print cards that aren't reprints but are callbacks to older cards. This design space provides an interesting opportunity when it comes to Karakas: perhaps Wizards will make some sort of Karakas-light card, with the same defense powers and also stopping unfair strategies, but without the additional upside of bouncing your own creatures for value. Something like "return target Legendary creature an opponent controls" would still stop Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

On the other hand, considering that Karakas is banned in Commander since it provides a cheap and easy way to repeatedly deal with opposing Commanders, it might be that Wizards will avoid Karakas or anything similar simply to avoid having to immediately ban a new card in the format.

Reprint Rating: 2/10 for Karakas, 4/10 for a Karakas callback. The biggest drawback to Karakas or something similar is its impact on Commander. If Commander weren't a consideration, the odds of Karakas itself or some sort of Karakas-light would be significantly higher.  

#23: Rishadan Port

In many ways, Rishadan Port is basically a safer version of Wasteland. It still allows decks to pinch their opponent's mana and potentially picks up free wins against clunky draws, but it does come with more of a cost since you basically need to spend two lands to tap down a single land each turn cycle. While two mana for one mana might seem like a poor trade, the power of the land becomes clear when you add cards like Aether Vial into the mix to allow creature decks to continue adding to the battlefield while disrupting their opponent's plan.

If Rishadan Port were reprinted in Modern Horizons, it would immediately push Death and Taxes up in the format, with Eldrazi & Taxes perhaps benefiting even more, since Rishadan Port also works as a colorless land to cast cards like Thought-Knot Seer. Apart from Death and Taxes, a more interesting possibility is whether Rishadan Port would allow for other Aether Vial decks—perhaps something similar to Legacy Goblins—to move up in the format. While Rishadan Port's potential for enabling new archetypes is exciting, at its heart, the land is another card that thrives by keeping an opponent from playing Magic—and one that is especially difficult to interact with since it comes stapled to a land. Is this a play style we want more of in Modern? That's a tough question to answer. Slowing down the format does have an appeal, but creating more non-games is a high cost.

Reprint Rating: 4/10. While certainly the lesser of two evils compared to Wasteland, Rishadan Port is still an incredibly powerful and possibly even format-changing card. While there is some chance that Wizards will deem it safe, I think it's more than likely that the "you can't play Magic" play style the land facilitates will keep it out of the set. That said, I'd be more slightly surprised than truly shocked if it did show up in Modern Horizons.

#40: Mishra's Factory

Mishra's Factory is very similar to Mutavault except you trade tribal synergies for a slightly better body up front on defense (since it can pump itself) and additional power in multiples. Is it better than Mutavault? While the right answer is "it depends on the deck," the cards are fairly close in power level—close enough that it's hard to argue that Mishra's Factory is too good for the Modern format. In fact, the more you look into the power and playability of Mutavault in Modern (it's currently the 45th most played land, showing up in just 6% of decks and only at an average of 2.4 copies per deck), the safer Mishra's Factory looks for the format.

If there's any drawback to printing Mishra's Factory in Modern, it's that it provides another powerful creatureland for decks like Colorless Eldrazi, although Colorless Eldrazi isn't exactly breaking the format at the moment, and the deck already has 12 playable creaturelands, so slightly upgrading something like Inkmoth Nexus into Mishra's Factory doesn't seem too devastating in a format like Modern. Otherwise, maybe it would show up in some control decks as a finisher, or maybe some sort of Legacy Pox-style Death Cloud shell could emerge using Mishra's Factory with Crucible of Worlds to close out the game.

Reprint Ranking: 9/10. There doesn't seem to be much downside to allowing Mishra's Factory into Modern. It doesn't power up any tier decks specifically, and similar cards like Mutavault are okay but not great in the format. Plus, considering part of the goal of Modern Horizons is to capitalize on nostalgia, it seems like just the type of card that Wizards might want in the set. Much like Baleful Strix, Mishra's Factory isn't a guarantee, but it seems like a solid bet to show up in an uncommon utility land slot in Modern Horizons.

#41: Maze of Ith

Maze of Ith is undoubtedly a powerful card, but it comes at a fairly high cost: spending your once-a-turn land drop on a land that doesn't actually produce mana. While the card is heavily played in Legacy, it's mostly just a one of (with an average of 1.3 copies per deck), especially in decks that have cards like Life from the Loam or Knight of the Reliquary to find specific lands in matchups where they are good. While both Life from the Loam and Knight of the Reliquary show up in Modern as well as Legacy, both cards are arguably less powerful in the newer format. Considering the cost of playing a land that is both dead in some matchups and doesn't add mana, Maze of Ith seems like a fairly safe addition to the Modern format.

On the other hand, there is some risk. While not as common as the one-of value Maze of Ith, every once in a while, full-on prison decks pop up featuring multiple copies of the card. Playing a board full of creatures only to have them stopped by a land is a pretty annoying play pattern, especially since it happens turn after turn after turn since lands are so difficult for most decks to interact with. Would this be a problem in Modern? It's probably less likely in the Modern card pool, especially considering that there's no Hymn to Tourach or Nether Void to help prison strategies keep up with creature-light combo decks.

Reprint Rating: 7/10. While the announce of playing against Maze of Ith keeps it from rating higher, the card has enough drawbacks and is limited enough in terms of which archetypes can reasonably play it that it seems more safe than unsafe for reprinting in Modern Horizons

Conclusion

Anyway, those are my ratings for just how likely the staple creatures and lands of Legacy are to show up in Modern Horizons (and thereby the Modern format). What did I get right? What did I get wrong? How would you rate these cards? Let me know in the comments! We'll cover spells—the category with the most potential Legacy reprints—in the future. Until then, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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