Modern Horizons 2 Set Review – White
(Serra's Emissary | Art by Nils Hamm)
On the Horizon...
Preview season for the highly anticipated Modern Horizons 2 ended last week, leaving a slew of new cards to play with. Although the set is intended for Modern players, many of the cards have fantastic applications in EDH. So, without further ado, let's kick off this week's set reviews and go over the white cards of Modern Horizons 2! You know what they say - we saved the best for first.
Wait, hold on a sec, sorry, it looks like I'm getting a call from Jason.
Oh, people don't say that? Bah, whatever. Maybe they should, once they see what's in store!
Our first mono-white mythic was spoiled very early on, and although many gloss over it due to its high mana cost, I believe the card has a home in more decks than you might think. Giving your team protection from a card type of your choice is nothing to scoff at - if you're afraid of removal, then giving your creatures protection from instants might protect them better than Avacyn, Angel of Hope would in some cases. If you need to swing in for the win, then Serra's Emissary can also make all of your creatures unblockable! If you've got vigilance, it'll be nearly impossible for opponents to crack back!
This means that, like Avacyn, Serra's Emissary is a very good Reanimator target for you to grab with spells such as the quintessential Reanimate, or the new Late to Dinner. Serra's Emissary also has one more leg-up over Avacyn, Angel of Hope: if you manage to Clone it, you can ready your creatures for a myriad of dangers. I have a feeling this will be a pretty decent replacement for the perpetually-pricey protection pieces (though, as a mythic from a non-Standard set, its price may also creep on up, too).
This card may start out most commonly in Angel tribal lists, like Lyra Dawnbringer, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, and Kaalia of the Vast, but I think it could pop up in plenty of places outside that sphere once it establishes its usefulness, like Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign, Reanimator decks, and even Atla Palani, Nest Tender.
This is a card that the greater Magic community has been raving about during spoiler season. And now that I get the privilege of reviewing it... I give it a B+.
I'm half-joking - I don't particularly like letter grades. For casual EDH players, though, I'm of the opinion that free spells in EDH aren't just unhealthy, they're also not powerful enough to be worth it, in many cases. When you're playing games where resources are the most important thing, losing card advantage (one of the rarer base resources, especially in mono-white) simply isn't worth saving 1 mana (one of the most abundant resources) most of the time. So I think it's a mistake to treat this card like a mere 0-mana Swords to Plowshares.
Luckily, though, there's a lot more to it than that. This effect is also tied to a creature, which means that the effect is easily reusable, more so than an instant would be. Disregarding Gaea's Will, white is supposed to be secondary in reanimation from the graveyard, allowing you to repeatedly make use of Solitude's effect with, say, a Karmic Guide. It's also arguably the best color at flickering and blinking permanents, using cards such as Eldrazi Displacer and Ephemerate. However you choose to go about it, if you manage to synergize with and reuse Solitude's effect, you can more than make up for the card disadvantage from the Evoke cost by repeatedly exiling any and all threats. Duplicant will have a new duplicate friend.
Here we are with the second card the entire Commander community seems to be excited for this set: Esper Sentinel. The ceiling on this one is impressive - drawing three cards per turn for merely 1 white mana - but the ceiling isn't always reliable, and if playing with Bennie Smith has taught me anything, it's that somebody is always willing to pay for Rhystic Study, and this card is no different. Since Esper Sentinel is likely only going to trigger once each turn (if it at all), paying the 1 mana to deny card draw is all too easy. However, it can serve a secret, dual purpose: it makes it slightly more difficult for anybody looking to cast spells on their opponents' turns, disincentivizing your opponents from playing counterspells and the like.
Similar to Solitude, Esper Sentinel also has some easy synergy to raise the floor. We all know how tough it is to pay the 4-mana tax on a Mystic Remora, and by increasing Esper Sentinel's power, we can make it similarly difficult to pay its tax. Decks that run a lot of anthems, +1/+1 counters decks, Modular decks, etc., really love this card. Commanders that care about this card's artifact-ness will enjoy taking advantage of this fact, too; Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle likes it very much, and Osgir, the Reconstructor will be happy to make two copies of it, as well. However, it's still a slightly unreliable and frankly fragile source of advantage. This may end up as one of the more popular cards from the entirety of Modern Horizons 2, but truth be told, Esper Sentinel doesn't blow my mind - especially for the preorder price it's going for.
This card is expensive, but gosh, can it be fun. I think it can earn a home in decks that manage to support the high mana cost and trigger it regularly. Felidar Sovereign appears in nearly 10,000 decks, after all. This card sounds extremely funny to pair with Beacon of Immortality or Revenge, and commanders like Lyra Dawnbringer, Liesa, Shroud of Dusk, Lathiel, the Bounteous Dawn, and especially Regna the Redeemer + Krav the Unredeemed have natural sources of lifegain right there in the command zone. Frankly, even Trostani, Selesnya's Voice is perking up her ears, especially if she can make token copies of this thing. The Paragon is not Archangel of Thune, but it's not not Archangel of Thune, either.
Out of Time
Forever the unapologetic Jenny, I have been trying to find some way to synergize with and break this card since I first saw it, with limited success. The most obvious synergy is with obscure Phasing cards from Mirage block, such as Time and Tide, but that hardly seems consistent enough to justify trying. So then I tried playtesting the card, looking for lines of play and stack interactions that would break the symmetry on the card, none of which worked besides the existing ways to break symmetry on every boardwipe, such as Eerie Interlude. The best synergy I could find is for creatureless decks, repeatedly returning it to the battlefield using cards such as Sevinne's Reclamation, if that strikes your fancy.
Without any synergy, Out of Time seems like a slightly cheaper, slightly meaner variant of the standard boardwipe, one that prevents any graveyard shenanigans and that locks commanders away for a bit. That's definitely a point in its favor: it answers commanders. However, it is also answerable, itself, and any opponent who casually plays a Reclamation Sage will get their entire army back, ready to attack, because Phasing doesn't reinstate summoning sickness. This card is just unique enough to keep in mind as more cards come out (especially ones involving Phasing), and maybe just mean enough that you hear some complaints about it when it's played, but it also might just miss the cut when you're deciding which of white's already-great suite of board wipe options to use.
Speaking of ways to return enchantments to the battlefield, we got a new Replenish! Having to Suspend it may paint a gigantic target labelled "Bojuka Bog" on your back, but with some good timing (or an As Foretold), that shouldn't be a problem. In fact, the delay may even be a boon sometimes, buying you extra time to stuff your graveyard with relevant cards or prime the battlefield with cards that will take advantage of all the new enchantments, like Doomwake Giant, Setessan Champion, or the new Sanctum Weaver.
Like Serra's Emissary, Resurgent Belief manages to make a decent impression of its older counterpart for any players looking for a cheaper version of the same effect, even being situationally superior to the classic.
This card serves as a great reminder that this is Modern Horizons 2, not Commander Horizons. Sanctifier en-Vec is a callback to Modern staple Auriok Champion, which keeps the aggro decks of the format in check (and acts as a synergy piece for Heliod Company). Hating on one color pair is already narrow enough in Commander, a format without sideboards or a largely established metagame, but hating on just one archetype within those colors is even narrower. If you want to give your local Rakdos Reanimator player a hard time, then this is a good way to do it, but if that's not your style, then this card doesn't have much more to offer you.
Search the Premises
Spot the Thraben Inspector! Clues are getting a lot of support in this set, and this is one of the tamer choices if you're looking to go down that path. At a glance, it seems most comparable to Isperia, Supreme Judge, which disincentivizes any and all attacks against you, without necessarily drawing you many cards. It's tough to tell if Search the Premises will do the same, or if you'll actually draw cards off of it. All in all, I think it's very meta-dependent. Cunning Rhetoric was happily received by some but dismissed by others. It doesn't actually stop any attacks, after all, and if we're making lots of Clues from this card, we might actually be in a lot of trouble. The type of trouble that a different card in this slot may have helped us prevent.
Here we are with another callback, this time to Eternal Dragon. If you enjoy this card, it fills pretty much the exact same niche as its predecessor, so all you need to do is look at Eternal Dragon's EDHREC page. The Eternalize ability does give us extra token synergy, though, if you happen to run Anointed Procession in any decks that want either of these.
Uncommons and Commons
There are some surprisingly strong commons and uncommons in this set, so I'll rattle a few of my favorites off here!
- Abiding Grace – Aristocrats decks love being able to reanimate small creatures every turn, even just to get an extra scry using Viscera Seer and making sure it stays around. Aristocrats decks are also already full to the brim with good cards, though.
- Constable of the Realm – Like Trapjaw Tyrant, this can be a potent control piece in the right deck. Be sure to use it responsibly, otherwise you'll become a target!
- Healer's Flock – Is Bird Tribal a subtheme in this set?! In Modern Horizons, we got Llanowar Tribe, and this seems to be the latest part of the cycle. What do you think is next?
- Blacksmith's Skill – When this card was spoiled, you could almost hear all of the Feather, the Redeemed players' ears perk up. Feather and Mavinda, Student's Advocate can always use more protection pieces like Gods Willing.
- Disciple of the Sun – Both a cute callback to Sun Titan and, hopefully, a sign of what is to come with more reanimation effects in mono-white!
- Thraben Watcher – Notable for being a low-cost Angel card, so Angel tribal decks will snap it up. Flying tribal decks might like it too, though those decks are usually hungry for more flying tokens to pump up instead.
Sanctum Prelate, Karmic Guide, and Solitary Confinement
I was surprised at the price of all three of these cards. They all sit at or above $10 at the time of writing, and hopefully will come down with this reprint. Karmic Guide and Solitary Confinement manage to be very fun cards for us Johnnies and Jennies, and I'm always happy to see them become more accessible, and Sanctum Prelate's reprint is a welcome one for Legacy, with interesting potential for Modern as well.
As Dusk Sets on the Horizon...
We made it through the first day of set reviews! In a vacuum, disregarding the boundaries that have been pushed in some other colors this set, I think white did decently well. Modern Horizons 2 is a set that's very heavy on multicolor cards and themes, but despite that, white still got some fun tech to play with in a variety of different formats. I do wish we could've gotten a fun mono-white legend to build around, but I'm happy enough with other commanders in this set and in Strixhaven that I'm not too hung up on it.
My personal favorite white card of this set would have to be Resurgent Belief. It manages to be simple, elegant, and easy to understand, but it opens up so many different lines of play that I feel like every time I Suspend it, I'm in for an adventure. I feel similarly about Abiding Grace and Serra's Emissary, which is why I personally put them higher than what'll probably end up being other people's favorites, such as Solitude and Esper Sentinel.
Are Solitude and Esper Sentinel at the top of your list? If not, what is? How do you think mono-white fared this set? I'd love to hear it in the comments below, or over on Twitter where you can find me @rosequartz_26. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the next week of Set Reviews!