Modern Horizons 2 Set Review — Black
(Profane Tutor | Art by Richard Kane Ferguson)
A Black Sun on the Horizon
Welcome to another installment of the Modern Horizons 2 Set Review! In this article, we're tackling black, where all of the mythics make your opponents play with their hand a little less full, the rares make you audibly say Damn!, the uncommons make for good Ice Breakers, and the commons apparently dine on rats.
Archon of Cruelty
An eight-mana value-engine 6/6 with flying isn't the greatest start, but in the right shell, this effect can be punishing. The fact that Archon of Cruelty has both an enter-the-battlefield trigger and an attack trigger means that with flicker, reanimation, haste, or a combination of any of these, the triggers start to pile up quick. It's no wonder that this mini-Cruel Ultimatum effect has Bolas horns and motifs in the background of the art - just check out the Nicol Bolas art variant of Cruel Ultimatum! Quite a nice artistic tie-in.
The way I see this card is similar to Grave Titan. No, it doesn't have the Nim Deathmantle combo potential, and it costs more, but if you have ability to repeatedly take advantage of the ETB effect, and/or give it haste, I think it can really begin to snowball. Think of reanimator commanders, like Chainer, Nightmare Adept and Chainer, Dementia Master. Or even Sedris, the Traitor King, who can cut the cost to one-third of its original and give it haste. Or maybe we'll see this in Belbe, Corrupted Observer lists, which might be able to drop this thing on turn three just because they pinged their opponents.
Personally, my money is on Araumi, of the Dead Tide. Yes, an Encore of eight mana isn't cheap, but getting three hasty 6/6s with evasion on top of 18 life to drain, 6 cards to draw, 6 cards removed from your opponents' hands, and 6 creatures/planeswalkers forcibly sacrificed from your opponents' boards, just seems so swingy. It goes from haymaker to "hey, (meet your) maker!"
Bonus points for Equipping this thing with Helm of the Host, or even Blade of Selves. Sure, you won't get the attack trigger on the Myriad tokens, but the ETBs with two 6/6s may still be worth it!
Good Grief, is this thing going to be annoying in Modern... and just okay in EDH? Assuming you don't cast Grief for the Evoke cost, Unmask on a body with menace isn't entirely exciting, and single-target discard just doesn't scale that well in Commander. Still, our format is incredibly conducive to value engines that might not make the cut in faster formats, and Grief's potential goes up a bit when we consider flicker, reanimation, or recursion engines.
We'll still likely see Grief crop up in the new hotness of hand-hate commanders, like Tergrid, God of Fright, Tinybones, Trinket Thief, or Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, but a lot of those lists might just find themselves tinkering with cruel classics like Mindslicer, instead.
Tourach, Dread Cantor
Choo choo! Next stop on the hand-hate express, Tourach, Dread Cantor!
We finally get Hymn to Tourach's namesake in a legendary creature. Tourach's potential to scale with discard cards means he'll be sharing what is now a crowded space with some of the very commanders mentioned above: Tergrid, God of Fright, Tinybones, Trinket Thief, etc. Tourach's Kicker potential is flexible, but not entirely impressive, and while he gains +1+1 counters with opponents discarding, I don't see that nearly as impactful as what Tergrid, God of Fright or Tinybones, Trinket Thief are already doing.
My prediction: I think we'll see Mr. Not-so-Golden Pipes featured on the labels of these other artists, rather than leading his own album. Some singers are just better as features, and that's okay.
Boy howdy, is this thing causing a stir, and rightfully so — this card is more pushed than a revolving door at the mall on Black Friday. A two-mana 3/2 with an evasive body and relevant creature type is already off to a good start, but tack a Leyline of the Void-esque counter to it, and we're not just cooking with gas, we're sizzling steaks with napalm. The ability to then sacrifice the Voidwalker (not exile, mind you, but sacrifice, so it's revivable) to cast one of those very exiled cards for free is just over the top.
I think, despite its potential to 'non-bo' with Anowon, the Ruin Thief, it still deserves play there. Being an evasive Rogue already helps, and I would gladly take
milling exiling cards from people's libraries with Dauthi Voidwalker out over a possible draw trigger with Anowon, the Ruin Thief (and that's assuming they're running enough creatures for Anowon to trigger). Dauthi Voidwalker not only takes care of many problems, for good, but also allows you to cash in later for a sweet ramp, draw, or removal spell exiled this way. Heck, you may get lucky and exile a haymaker or extra turn spell!
Finally, because Dauthi Voidwalker doesn't exile itself to its activated ability, it means we can repeatedly activate its ability and cast spells for free, so long as we can recur it. Lurrus, of the Dream Den, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, or Muldrotha, the Gravetide all seem like solid options. My money is on Chainer, Nightmare Adept as we can give the Voidwalker haste by casting him from the 'yard, making us able to cast exiled cards for only two mana! And did I mention how well Dauthi Voidwalker works with wheels, many of which happen to be in red, and which Chainer loves?
Not often does name of a card illicit the reaction to that very card. But this card is Damn good.
And yes, it's technically a card that can only go into black-white-plus decks, so it's not solely a black card, but for the the purposes of this review, it's fine to discuss here.
I think of this card as a sorcery-speed Flesh to Dust for two mana, with the flexibility of a Wrath of God when you need it. That's great. While I'm hesitant to say it's a straight 'upgrade' to Wrath of God or Damnation since you can't substitute it for either if you're not running Orzhov colors, if you are running at least a white and black deck, this has to be a major contender. There's also been whispers about board wipes in the 99 being slowly edged out in favor of more targeted removal, and this fills the best of both worlds. To the modal, go the spoils!
Magus of the Bridge
For me, this has to be one of the artistic masterpieces of all of Magic: the Gathering. The lighting, the perspective, the Dark Souls vibe paired with a literal bridge of Zombies is simultaneously beautiful and frightening. 10/10, Bryan Sola.
Having another "Magus of the [insert powerful card]" is always welcome, and we are darn close to being able to build a sufficient 5-color Magi cycle deck. Bridge from Below is a house in other formats, but not entirely effective in ours given that we have multiple opponents, constant access to a creature in the form of a commander, and there are creatures dying all the time. Bridge sees play in only 513 decks currently. I think, for Commander, Magus of the Bridge may well see more play, as it's a bit easier to respond to the exile trigger by sacrificing this creature at instant speed, compared to the difficulty of getting an enchantment out of your graveyard at instant speed. It also goes super well with exile-based replacement effects, like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet or Valentin, Dean of the Vein.
An allusion to the terrifying Modern Jund powerhouse of Tarmogoyf, this version comes with some upsides and drawbacks. It may look like the crazy shadow creatures from the second Tomb Raider movie, but its fixed toughness at 4 keeps it modest.
In a discard-matters deck, like Madness or Cycling, I can see this acting as yet another card to pitch for Anje Falkenrath. Greven, Predator Captain also seems a neat choice, as he likes high-power creatures for card draw, is not afraid to pitch cards if their power is big enough (e.g., Rotting Regisaur), and likely has to pitch cards at the cleanup step due to large swells of card draw. Where I like it most is in Tinybones, Trinket Thief, since it triggers on each upkeep. I also like it in Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord decks, where its power scales well with the deck's strategy, the incidental discarding hurts opponents while filling your graveyard even more, and it can become a viable 'fling' target for Jarad or a means of drawing cards with Greater Good.
Full disclosure: I love everything about this card. From the namesake alluding to the mechanic Persist, which first debuted in Shadowmoor, to the clear artistic representation of Shadowmoor as some Mistmeadow Skulk-variant re-emerges from the grave. Flavor aside, I think this is a fantastic card, and will oftentimes act as an efficient reanimation spell. Yes, it may not be able to hit any graveyard or reanimate legendary creatures, like Animate Dead can, but it's also a lot less confusing and less wordy. Plus, the counters can be a true upside, either with -1/-1 counter synergies, like Nikara, Lair Scavenger, offsetting them with +1/+1 counters, like Unspeakable Symbol, or stripping them away with Hex Parasite effects. It's not just a Reanimator card, it's also a potential card for Volrath, the Shapestealer, Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, and The Scorpion God!
A literal Demonic Tutor, but like the Game of Thrones book Winds of Winter, you're going to have to be patient before it arrives. Suspend 2 really isn't all that much time, though that depends on 1) the turn you cast this, and 2) how fast your meta is. Suspending this card on turn two seems not too shabby, as you'll see whatever you want by turn four, but maybe you don't want to sacrifice the ability to ramp out with that Arcane Signet or Rampant Growth. However, cast this too late, and you may never get it to resolve, as you've telegraphed to your opponents that you will be tutoring in two turns, and they might just take you out in the meantime. The power of many tutors is being able to hide that you have it and waiting until the opportune moment to grab what you need, whereas with Profane Tutor, the delay and heat it can draw may be a big enough setback for some to ignore it altogether.
Thus, we'll likely see it crop up in black-inclusive Cascade decks, like Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder, control decks that can stall long enough to wait out the Suspend, or tutor-centric decks that really just want redundancy.
10/10 for that Richard Kane Ferguson art, though, especially in the old border treatment. Funny, the subject reminds me of the old card Dakkon Blackblade....
You know how you can tell Entomb is a good card? When you see a sorcery-speed version that costs twice as much mana, and with a non-legendary stipulation, and it too still seems good. Entomb set such a high bar, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to consider other cards without making the comparison. Maybe it was a mistake, but it was a mistake that has become a litmus test for any cards seeking to tutor cards into your graveyard.
The non-legendary stipulation is a drawback, to be sure, but graveyard-centric decks are not hellbent on just reanimating legendary creatures, so there are definitely still tons of homes for this card. How many times have we seen a Meren of Clan Nel Toth search right for a Gray Merchant of Asphodel, after all? This card may just be for redundancy for your Chainer, Dementia Master deck, or happily supply Lazav, the Multifarious with a new nonlegendary identity. It might go find a new nom-nom for Varolz the Scar-Striped, or pluck out an artifact for Mairsil, the Pretender to impersonate. You know what sounds fun? Casting Unmarked Grave to put Archon of Cruelty into the graveyard, and immediately ripping it back out with that new Persist, or the classic Animate Dead.
Uncommons & Commons
Break the Ice
While this may well have been designed to curb Modern Tron decks, it still seems fantastic for our format. Yes, red and/or white are typically associated with land destruction, but this is a Sinkhole variant with more restrictions, and comes with the upside of an Overload cost. The proliferation of snow lands into EDH with their reprinting in Kaldheim, paired with how little downside there is to playing them, means Break the Ice is likely to have basic land targets.
More importantly, it hits so many utility lands in our format. It's likely never going to be a dead card, given the popularity and strength of cards like Ancient Tomb, Reliquary Tower, Scavenger Grounds, Temple of the False God, and even the pain lands like Battlefield Forge. Ruination appears in about 3,300 deck, after all. No matter the budget, many decks run utility lands. All are subject to removal, and I can see in many games where an overloaded Break the Ice just sets so many players back. The real question is, would it set you back as well? Do you choose not to run utility lands just to be able to run this one card more efficiently? I think that's a personal call. Wherever you come down on this, just don't be too mean and Overload this against your friendly Hope of Ghirapur player, okay?
It may not be as efficient as Reassembling Skeleton, but ole' Clatterbones, here, caught my eye for those Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker decks out there that love any possible redundancy with Dusk Legion Zealot-adjacent effects. Plus, it's Skullclamp-able!
Feast of Sanity
I like this card a lot. It honestly feels like a red card in that we get to point damage wherever we choose, rather than drain life from our opponents (like Dread Presence).
Considering how well black can discard its own cards (e.g., the newly reprinted Skirge Familiar, or how about the new Cabal Initiate or Hell Mongrel), or even synergize with Cycling (e.g., Shadow of the Grave) and Madness (e.g., Call to the Netherworld), I think this will actually act as a win condition, or at the least incidental chip damage and removal. The black-inclusive Wheels decks might enjoy this option, if they can make room for it, and even though she's often pretty combo-centric, Anje Falkenrath has got to be at least a little intrigued.
Explore doesn't crop up too often, but when it does, it can be a very fun mechanic positioned somewhere between scry and Surveil. While Path of Discovery is likely the gold standard (since it also works with tokens entering), options fall off hard after that. Tomb Robber isn't terribly exciting, but the Vanguard having a sacrifice outlet with the potential to filter the top deck into the graveyard, or to put lands to hand, seems decent enough.
While I've seen my fair share of Greek ruins and temples, I have no recollection of Squirrels at any of them.
Not only is Underworld Hermit our seventh Peasant to join the ranks, but in the right deck, it can be quite potent. It's of course likely to see some play in the new Chatterfang, Squirrel General, but outside of that, any decks wanting to have Gray Merchant of Asphodel-like effects to repeat enter-the-battlefield triggers seems a home for this Hermit. Chainer, Dementia Master can rip him out of the graveyard for half price, and with just those two alone, makes four Squirrel tokens. Toss in a Phyrexian Altar and a Blood Artist effect, and that's the game!
Yet another enter-the-battlefield uncommon, though I think it's much more situational than our Underworld Hermit or even Gray Merchant of Asphodel. For one, the Converge is a cast trigger, meaning reanimating or looping this thing out of your graveyard won't trigger it (unless you are casting it out of your 'yard, Underworld Breach- or Chainer, Nightmare Adept- style). It'll be fun to see if people can exploit this, as Vampire and Wizard are relevant creature types, but I ultimately doubt this makes a splash.
Shadowborn Apostle, Rat Colony, and Relentless Rats players, rejoice! (You too, Persistent Petitioners, should you be in Dimir+). Secret Salvage always pulled a surprising amount of weight in my Rat Colony deck of yore, and I think given just how efficient this card is at one mana, it is absolutely worth a slot.
That wraps up our set review! Boy, does it seem like both Chainers made out happy with this set. Between discard fodder, haste-lovers, and juicy reanimation targets, either version of Goggles Guy or Chain Chucker are sure to have some cuts to make.
What do y'all think? What are some of your favorite black cards from this set? Any you detest? Sound off in the comments below!