Modern Horizons 2 Set Review - Blue
(Svyelun of Sea and Sky | Art by Howard Lyon)
A Dream Come Blue
Hello, everyone! It’s your friendly neighborhood Jesguy here, and welcome to the Modern Horizons 2 blue set review!
Today, I’ll be going through all the goodies that this set brought my fellow blue mages! Will Modern Horizons 2 bring an all-blue-can-eat buffet, or will it leave us feeling high and dry? Let’s not waste any time, and dive right in!
Svyelun of Sea and Sky
As a one-off God in this set, Svyelun of Sea and Sky is a really cool design. We haven't seen a "tribal" God before, so does this interesting new design give Svyelun what it takes to make the jump to Commander?
To be blunt: no. Svyelun is interesting, and I won't take that away from her, but there are two things working against this God.
The first is that if you want Merfolk Tribal, there's already a better commander, Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. Kumena rewards you in multiple different ways for going wide with Merfolk, and more importantly provides access to green, which is arguably more important for Commander decks these days.
Second, Merfolk is not the most... robust tribe in EDH. Merfolk do (marginally) well in 60-card formats thanks to mixing aggression and tempo, but both of those strategies are at their weakest in this format. Trying to win by going wide with combat damage is already difficult, but coupling that with the fact that most of your creatures are 1/1s and 2/2s without access to Overrun just makes that style of gameplan that much harder.
I'm not saying that making a Svyelun of Sea and Sky deck is impossible, or even bad, I just don't think she is better than options already available to Merfolk. Where she does shine is in the 99 of preexisting Merfolk decks, providing a powerful utility creature to help bolster their fishy forces.
Most cards with Delve fall into two categories: borderline broken spells, or undercosted beater, and it's sad to say, but Murktide Regent is the latter.
Now, I don't want to disparage this regal reptile, but while it has the potential to get huge over time, Commander has no shortage of huge creatures to beat face with. There could be some +1/+1 Counters decks or Spellslinger decks that may be able to take advantage of the Regent, but it honestly seems like a lot more trouble than its worth for such a minimal payoff.
I won't fault anyone for wanting to try Murktide Regent in their deck, but this was a card aimed more for Modern than Commander, so don't look too deep into it. If it works, it works. If not, don't be afraid to skip over this mythic.
Subtlety is anything but. A solid card that could see play in any blue deck? Sign me up!
Do I think Subtlety is format-defining? Of course not, but I do think that it is a powerful tool that a lot of deck could want access to. Having a free way to interact with creatures and planeswalkers is always welcome, even if it costs a card. Even at four mana, a 3/3 flier with flash that can delay a creature or 'walker is pretty good, especially if you can take advantage of its body. Flying decks, Blink decks, and Elemental Tribal decks are some thematic homes for Subtlety, but honestly, it could fit into most blue decks without any worry.
Despite the praise, there are two knocks against Subtlety. The first is simple: it's a temporary Essence Scatter more often than not. This isn't an inherent downside, but it's something that you want to keep in mind. Second, on average, we need interaction against some form of noncreature spell most of the time, as those will often wreak the most havoc. Whether it's a board wipe, a removal spell, or a combo piece, Subtlety will miss these spells, so if your deck is soft to them, perhaps you would do better with a Negate or Force of Negation.
More often than not, Subtlety would be a fine card in most decks, whether you plan on using its Evoke cost or not. It isn't a catch-all, like Force of Will, but it still has its applications and homes in the format. While it might not be the most powerful in its cycle, it is a welcome addition to a blue mage's repertoire.
Dress Down might seem like a niche card, but I think that this nifty little enchantment has a bit more application than meets the eye.
Dress Down is an interesting trick that is reminiscent of Polymorphist's Jest. While it doesn't modify both power and toughness, which is a huge boon of the aforementioned card, I think being one mana cheaper and also cantripping is a decent tradeoff. Jest sees play in a little over 3,000 decks, so I think there may be a home for an effect like this in reactive decks that aren’t in white and therefore don’t have clean answers to indestructible threats
Along with being used to surprise opponents, there are corner cases where you can use Dress Down to negate the effects of your own cards. Unfavorable abilities from Phage, the Untouchable or Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath mean nothing in front of Dress Down. This use is quite niche, and I’m not sure if it worth taking into consideration for most decks, but I wanted to be sure to mention it regardless.
Whether you play it precombat to Stifle attack triggers for a turn, or during combat to take out some indestructible or hexproof attackers, or even to mitigate the effects of your own cards, Dress Down is an interesting tool for blue. While it has interesting applications, if you're looking for a powerful reactive spell, I would always run the first copy of Polymorphist's Jest over the first copy of Dress Down in your average U/X deck.
Fractured Sanity is narrow, but powerful, providing a bit of power to fan-favorite archetypes.
There are over 4,500 Mill Decks on EDHREC, and all of the ones that contain blue will want a copy of Fractured Sanity. Fourteen cards is a lot of cards to mill from each opponent, especially for only three mana. Cycling Decks could also want this card if they are going down the Mill route with cards like Psychic Corrosion, Teferi’s Tutelage, or another uncommon that I'll mention later in this review. Bruvac, the Grandiloquent, in particular, is hungry to add this card to the 99.
Fractured Sanity is not a card for every blue deck. In fact, quite often, milling your opponent without a solid plan to destroy their deck or graveyard will often be a detriment. However, for the decks that want this kind of efficient, potent effect, they will gladly take it and ask for more.
Yes, yes, I know:
Memes aside, I think Inevitable Betrayal is quite a good card, especially when compared to the rest of its cycle.
Being able to grab any creature out of an opponent's deck is quite strong, but how powerful is that compared to a green Yawgmoth's Will or a Replenish from an Enchantress deck?
With Betrayal, your opponents are not only in the dark about what creature you might nab, but they are also have no idea who you're even going to target. Maybe if someone does you a favor, you won't pilfer through their deck to grab their best creature? Or perhaps there is a something like Bane of Progress that could be exactly what the table needs, so you strike up a deal with its owner in exchange for solving their problem with their own creature?
Revealed information comes with caveats and downsides, but there are always ways to spin situations in your favor, especially with a spell like Inevitable Betrayal where the result is so ambiguous and open-ended. Betrayal lacks the pure power of Bribery, but in exchange, it opens a lot of doors for politics and interaction between players.
Rise and Shine
As someone who won the M15 Game Day with an Ensoul Artifact deck, Rise and Shine sets my heart aflutter with the possibility of animating my board of artifacts to beat my opponents to death!
Other effects that animate inanimate permanents, like March of the Machines or Opalescence, will give the newfound creatures power and toughness equal to their mana value, meaning tokens immediately die, and small permanents become worthless and a liability.
Rise and Shine sidesteps this by simply turning each artifact it animates into a 0/0 with four +1/+1 counters, which is quite a respectable body no matter the artifact. This means that your board full of dorky artifacts like Mycosynth Wellspring or Tormod's Crypt are now sizable threats that can rumble quite nicely. This isn't even taking into account Treasure decks where a hoard of Treasure becomes a legitimate alpha strike!
More often than not, Rise and Shine will be cast for its Overload cost, and its single target mode will be only used in dire circumstances. For all intents and purposes, Rise and Shine is a six-mana spell that can be used as a kill condition in Breya, Etherium Shaper or Padeem, Consul of Innovation, and not much outside of that.
I don't know about anyone else, though, but I am ready to roll some heads with an animated Hot Soup regardless!
While Rishadan Dockhand might be up to some fishy business in 60-card formats, it won't be doing a whole lot in Commander.
The best place for Dockhand will be in Merfolk Tribal lists as a cheap tribal creature that can sometimes shut off problematic lands like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or Cabal Coffers, but that utility isn't needed a whole lot in our format when Ghost Quarter or Tectonic Edge can be easily slotted into most land bases for no cost.
Rishadan Port sees play in about 950 decks, and it's spread out between colorless decks, which will take any utility land they can get their hands on, or Stax decks. In theory, a U/X Stax deck could play Dockhand, but I don't think it's worth it, if I'm being honest. Unless you're running a Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca or Svyelun of Sea and Sky deck, I suggest you forget Dockhand at the port, and even those commanders may not need to invite the Dockhand on board.
As another piece of blue's removal, I think Suspend is quite solid.
While it won't get rid of threats permanently, like Pongify, Rapid Hybridization, or Reality Shift, Suspend is cheap interaction that can use its lack of permanent threat removal to your advantage.
Known information can be a powerful tool in Commander. Did someone play an Avacyn, Angel of Hope or Blightsteel Colossus? Well, you could let these threats go unchecked as long as they aren't heading your way, or you could Suspend them at the opportune moment, give the table a bit of breathing room, and make another player indebted to you for such a kind favor.
Even outside of political applications, two entire turns can often be enough tie to disrupt key combo creatures or threats. Two full turns around the table is quite a long time, especially later in the game, so don't underestimate it.
I believe Suspend is best in blue decks that don't have black or white in them, giving those lists another way to cheaply interact with creatures. Temporary removal that is unconditional is still unconditional, and it has plenty of applications, it's just up to you to find them. I quite like Suspend's potential, so I give it a thumbs up!
And here I thought they were done with printing cards with Affinity.
Thought Monitor is Thoughtcast on a body for just two extra mana, which is an absolute steal. Any Artifact deck that churns out a lot of artifacts or already runs Thoughtcast will happily add this to their repertoire. Breya, Etherium Shaper, Urza, Lord High Artificer, Sydri, Galvanic Genius, all of these legends will gladly add another artifact-based draw spell to their lists.
With the added proliferation of Clues, Treasure, and Food from Modern Horizons 2 and recent sets, even more decks could be poised to take advantage of Affinity cards, too, including this one. Thought Monitor isn't game-breaking or deck-defining, but what artifact deck wouldn’t want a Mulldrifter with Affinity??
Uncommons and Commons
- Filigree Attendant might not look like much, but this could easily be a 10/3 flier in a lot of decks. I don't know if Artifact decks need (or even want) a beater, but I wanted to make sure to mention it since it could be a sizable evasive threat that works well with artifact synergies.
- Mental Journey reminds me of Boon of the Wish-Giver as another card that pushes big expensive spells like Opportunity out of the format. Being able to have early game potential and also refill you hand late is great flexibility for any deck wanting to smooth out their curve.
- Mystic Redaction is another way for Wheel and Cycling decks to try and close out games. Psychic Corrosion sees play in over 7,500 decks, and while these two cards are marginally different, effects like this are desired and welcomed.
- Phantasmal Dreadmaw is a card I wanted to mention for the sheer fact that if I didn't, I know there would be someone in the comments asking about it. Yes, it's Colossal Dreadmaw and it can go into your Illusion Tribal decks, so all 16 of you, rejoice!
- Said // Done is a slightly more expensive Flood of Recollection, but with more upside. Flood sees play in almost 2,700 decks, and despite the additional mana, this seems like just a pure upgrade. Call to Mind appears in about 1,800 decks, so this effect on its own may be in low demand, but it has been upgraded here. Not exiling itself is awesome, and having the ability to Frost Breath two creatures when you need to is a lovely bit of flexibility. Players do seem to prefer stuff like Archaeomancer, though.
- Scuttletide is a cheap, easy, and repeatable way to pump out tokens. It isn't flashy, but for the decks that don’t care about the actual body of the token, like Esix, Fractal Bloom or Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, Scuttletide can easily make lands and other dead cards into tokens that will get out of hand quickly. The addition Crab Tribal-related text is just upside! 🦀🦀🦀
- Specimen Collector is an easy way to get three bodies on the board in a single card. A 1/1 and a 0/3 aren't the most desirable of bodies for tokens, but it could see home in the decks I just covered with Scuttletide. The Populate death trigger is just a bonus!
- Step Through is a second copy of Vedalken Aethermage 99% of the time. Any deck that cares about Aethermage (which is about 3,300 of them) will also want Step Through. Any list that doesn’t revolve around powerful Wizards, though, will have no problem skipping it.
- Tide Shaper is just a cheap tribal creature for Merfolk decks like Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. Having cheap creatures with decent effects is something Merfolk decks are always in the market for, and being able to turn a Cabal Coffers or a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx for a few turns incidentally seems nice to have for those lists.
While there are some neat blue cards in Modern Horizons 2, one word I found myself coming back to when describing these cards was “interesting”. There were few, if any, broad, powerful cards.
This isn’t a complaint, mind you, just an observation, and it makes complete sense. Unlike Commander Legends, a set like Modern Horizons 2 was designed first and foremost with Modern in mind, which is why a lot of these cards may seem out of place in our format. As Commander players, we’ve been blessed with copious amounts of cards and product over the past year, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down, so I’m honestly happy for a bit of a reprieve.
Even with that tepid reception, two cards I am excited to try out is both Rise and Shine and Thought Monitor. I’m in the process of brewing a Jeskai Artifact deck, and I’ll happily be slotting the two of them into the list once they’re released. 😋
What about you though? What cards are you excited to tinker with? Any cards I’m too high or too low on? Make sure to let me know down below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the blue cards from this set!
Until next time, stay blue-tiful!
You can reach me on Twitter (@thejesguy), where you can always hit me up for Magic- or Jeskai-related shenanigans 24/7. Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch! Stay safe, wear your mask, and keep fighting the good fight. I support you. No justice, no peace.