When the original Modern Horizons released for Magic: The Gathering in 2019, it was meant to be a set that breathed new life into the eternal formats of the card game, but with an obviously heavy focus on Modern. In reality, while it certainly introduced some new toys for the format, a lot of people associate the set more with the likes of the banned Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, the obnoxiously expensive Force of Negation, and some really cool Commander cards.
Basically, people felt that the set missed its mark, and it’s for that reason that a lot of people were a little concerned about this year’s Modern Horizons 2, especially given Wizards of the Coast’s commitment to printing new Commander cards in every set possible - sometimes even if it doesn’t feel like it needs to.
However, as the set began to reveal itself and more cards were previewed, it actually became pretty clear that Modern Horizons 2 is a very different kind of beast from the first set. Don’t get us wrong, there are still some fun Commander cards here, but the set does add a lot of new cards for Modern players in different established strategies, and may well even create a few new decks as well. Basically, the set looks to be very good, and we’re excited to see how it impacts things.
Modern Horizons 2 will release on June 18th, but that’s only in paper. If you’re happy to play digitally - which most people are after the last year - then the set is already out on Magic Online. We’re a little sad it’s not coming to MTG Arena to bolster the perpetually peculiar format that is Historic, but what can you do?
Modern Horizons 2 feels like a love letter of sorts to MTG.
The set, on the whole, feels like a love letter of sorts to MTG. It’s filled to the brim with a plethora of mechanics so numerous that you’d never see them in any other set. It has, to name a few, Modular, Affinity, Madness, Storm, Delirium, Suspend and Converge, among others. This is about as far removed from being a beginner’s set as you can manage. While that’s a tough sell to players who’ve only just gotten into Standard, it’s also not really for them.
It’s kind of nice to see Wizards assuming a bit more know-how among its intended audience. Sets for Standard have to be user-friendly - we’ve got no issue with that at all - but it is refreshing to see a set so confident in its players’ ability, as well as a degree of assumed familiarity with MTG on the whole.
It’s not just mechanics and keywords that make a return here either, as there are a number of incredibly cool reprints that bring new cards into Modern from previous sets. That means we get classic spells such as Counterspell, a two-mana spell that, shockingly, counters a target spell. It also means we get Legacy all-stars like Shardless Agent, which is a three-mana creature with Cascade - allowing you to play the next spell that costs less from the top of your deck for free - and then build your deck so you always know which spells you’ll be getting. It’s a nice reminder that there are other ways to bolster Modern outside of printing brand new cards, and that the ability to pull cards from Legacy and even Vintage suggests the next Modern Horizons set could have players shouting in the streets with excitement.
It’s a nice reminder that there are other ways to bolster Modern outside of printing brand new cards.
Those are just the bits we already knew of before the set arrived. It’s not just old favourites that are coming into play via Modern Horizons 2 though; there are a lot of powerful, but reasonable, cards that’ll be sure to find a home in a few decks in Modern.
Take Damn, for example, which is a two-mana Black sorcery that lets you kill off a creature. That’s standard enough, but you can also pay four mana instead and overload it to wipe out every creature on the board. Board wipes are the lifeblood of most control decks - and, with Damn, there’s now a good one that can act as a surgeon’s scalpel as well as a tidal wave.
Then there’s Fractured Sanity, a three-mana Blue sorcery that has each opponent mill 14 cards (discarding from their deck to their graveyard), but can also be cycled to draw a card and make opponents mill four cards instead. There’s a lot of flexibility in Modern Horizons 2’s card designs, and the set’s new cards feel genuinely exciting.
There are a number of Easter Eggs for MTG players who’ve been around a while.
You’ve also got a wealth of throwbacks to older cards, but in new ways. Cards such as Diamond Lion mimic the effects of staples like Lion’s Eye Diamond, but try and make them a little bit more Modern-appropriate by lowering the general power level of these Legacy staples. There’s also the likes of Sol Talisman, which is basically a Sol Ring that takes three turns to actually come into play.
There’s a lot of really intriguing card design in the set that seems to take aim at some of the cards that are far too powerful for some formats, and then make them a little bit fairer. Nearly every one of them is an Easter Egg for MTG players who’ve been around a while. It’s the kind of thing that’s going to bring a smile straight to your face whether you like it or not, and it’s nice to see.
That’s all good stuff, and Modern Horizon 2 drafts have all been a lot of fun so far as a result. Each colour-pairing not only has a strategy, but often a specific mechanic associated with it. It’s wonderful to play with a set that’s so full of powerful effects and knowing nods. Despite that, it’s important to criticise some of the stranger decisions in Modern Horizons 2.
The mix of old and new, the references and in-jokes, and the balance of genuinely exciting new cards with Draft fodder could well mean this is one of the greatest MTG sets in the last few years.
Wizards of the Coast has been steadily increasing the number of variants of basically everything with recent sets, which means there are once again Draft Boosters, Set Boosters and Collector Boosters available for Modern Horizons 2. That’s a complaint we’ve all come to learn to deal with; to be honest, while we’re still not 100% sure why it’s all necessary, we can live with it.
However, alongside that, there are also now multiple different card types, some of which can only be found in specific booster packs. There are Retro Frames, Mini Retro Frames, Sketch Cards, Retro Frame Fetch Lands, Borderless Cards, Extended-Art Rares and, of course, normal cards and foils. The whole thing is so complex that Wizards released some images and tables to make it a little bit easier to parse.
We’re not saying that there shouldn’t be multiple versions of cards - we’re fine with the special collector’s edition versions of whatever cards you want around - but even the most diehard collector has to admit that the six different special versions that exist within Modern Horizons 2 are too much. Sure, not every card is available in the six types, but it’s just a lot to be looking at - and, frankly, if you need images to explain your product releases, then you’ve probably made it too complicated.
With that incredibly convoluted complaint out of the way, it’s easy to see that Modern Horizons 2 is probably one of the best supplemental sets we’ve ever had. In fact, the mix of old and new, the references and in-jokes, and the balance of genuinely exciting new cards with Draft fodder could well mean this is one of the greatest Magic: The Gathering sets in the last few years.
There really is something for everyone here, as long as you’re not brand new to MTG. While it’s not a cheap set, it does feel like you’ll get your money’s worth if you decide to sink some cash into it. The only other issue with Modern Horizons 2 is that it sets the bar incredibly high. We’re kind of dreading finding out whether or not Wizards can manage to keep this balance up in the other Magic: The Gathering releases coming up soon. Sets such as Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, MTG’s anticipated crossover with Dungeons & Dragons, are going to have a lot of extra added pressure on them given how strong Modern Horizons 2 is. That’s not a bad thing for this set, but it might be bad for the next few.