Modern Horizons Set Review – Green

(Ayula, Queen Among Bears | Art by Jesper Ejsing)

Squirrels and Rhinos and Bears, Oh My!

Hello, green enthusiasts, and welcome to the Modern Horizons green review! Mark Rosewater described the set as a “love letter to Time Spiral,” and R&D has more than lived up to that promise, with almost every card in this review being a shout-out to cards from all over the multiverse. With that in mind, I’d like to try something a little fun with this review and frame the cards we discuss side-by-side with their inspiration, assisted by my elementary knowledge of mathematical symbols.

So let’s dig in, and see what blasts from the past we’re getting this time around!


Mythics


Hexdrinker

All too often in games of EDH, I see people dump out their entire hand early, then see them frown when the first Wrath of God appears. They know they’re never going to recover, and are questioning their choices (as they should be). Hexdrinker and its Level up ilk can help with that issue by providing another way to move forward your board state without having to contribute more cards to it.

As for Hexdrinker itself, lets do some math on exactly how much we’re spending over time and what we’re getting for it. Right off the bat, we’re getting a Savannah Lions for our initial one mana investment. While that used to be a great deal, these days it’s more of a par-for-the-course type of thing. We then have to pay three more mana to get to a 4/4 with protection from instants, which can basically be rewritten as “Protection from Spot Removal.” Again though, a four-mana beast that protects itself doesn’t exactly scream “you have to play this!” these days.

No, the real payoff here is when you really put some mana into our friendly neighborhood Snake-who-looks-like-he’s-choking-on-a-cough-drop. For a total of nine mana, you get Progenitus-lite, a 6/6 with protection from everything. That means nothing outside of a board wipe will kill Hexdrinker, you don’t have to worry about blocking with it, and nothing can block it. The only other card that can do that costs two mana of each color, so even with the reduced power and toughness, this feels like a huge discount.

So combining all of that, Hexdrinker seems like it’s going to see play in more than a few decks that happen to have some mana floating around, especially since the single green in the cost allows for it to be played even in four- and five-color decks. At the end of the day, it’s still an expensive card to make work, but it might be fun to run if you like creatures and have a lot of excess mana.


Unbound Flourishing

Rosheen Meanderer fans unite! For the mere price of three mana, you too can double all of your X effects! Bring on the X-Men deck title puns, and strap yourself in for a grand old time! Being able to double the effectiveness of a Genesis Hydra or an Animist’s Awakening would already be good enough, but the fact that this can also double the counters added to a Helix Pinnacle or transform any of the many relevant abilities with “XX” in their activation cost into a single “X” is just huge. Hydra Broodmaster, Blast Zone, Polukranos, World Eater, and even the old-school Gorilla Shaman all love this card for making their costs reasonable instead of backbreaking.

While this is an auto-include in Rosheen Meanderer decks, what about elsewhere? Does the full flexibility of affecting not only X spells but X abilities as well mean that this is good enough to see play in your average big-mana deck? Well, as with almost everything, it depends. If you’ve played many of the various “free” effects in Magic, you’ve probably run into the issue where X spells don’t mesh well with them. Etali, Primal Storm, Omniscience, and Rishkar’s Expertise are all great effects that can be abused in decks playing lots of big spells, but for all of them, “X” costs get translated to “0” when cast for free. Big-mana decks often like abusing those free spell effects, so this becomes a tough include.

This means that Unbound Flourishing will be a huge staple in things like Hydra tribal, “X spells” tribal, and combo decks where the effect can be abused to facilitate a win, but it may not be very widespread outside of those specific lanes. In other words, it will be a great build-around card, but I wouldn’t expect to see it every time a green deck plops down at the table. Still, I can’t wait to try and abuse this with the likes of Mirror Entity and Lazav the Multifarious, even if most folks are more opting for the Walking Ballista or Fireball approach.


Rares


Ayula’s Influence

Many Modern Horizons cards are shout-outs to previous portions of Magic history. Ayula’s Influence is definitely part of that overarching theme, being a direct reference to Seismic Assault. It perhaps should not come as a surprise, then, to find that many of the same decks that are already playing Seismic Assault will also be in love with this card.

So then, the real question is whether triple green makes a difference as opposed to triple red. It does allow for play in mono-green lands decks, but they’re fairly dominated by Titania, Protector of Argoth and Azusa, Lost but Seeking, neither of which it synergizes with very well. Borborygmos Enraged decks, which love returning lands from the graveyard to the hand, really don’t have much interest in making Bears when their ultimate goal is to dome opponents directly. So that really just leaves the lands decks that care about getting lands back to hand or to the graveyard in a more direct fashion, meaning there’s only two ready-made options for this card:

Of the two options, Mina and Denn, Wildborn probably aren’t going to blow anyone away, but The Gitrog Monster chucking lands into the graveyard and then immediately drawing more cards is downright scary. While Lord Windgrace has more or less won the Lands deck battle lately, The Gitrog Monster just got a very lethal new tool that could have people racing to get it back in the command zone.

Oh, and of course, this enchantment slots right into the 99 for our next card…


Ayula, Queen Among Bears

The only new green commander in Modern Horizons is also the one I personally believe will be the most popular new commander from the set. Ayula, Queen Among Bears has been long awaited as a Bear commander that is a Bear’s Bear. At two mana for two power and two toughness, she has the classic stat line, and triggers any time you have another Bear come into play. This gives Bear tribal a real leader, unlike the previous legendary Bear who didn’t synergize with Bears at all, Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma.

Indeed, Modern Horizons gives us quite a few new treats for Bear lovers everywhere, and I would expect that you will see them on a battlefield near you soon with Ayula at the helm. With 21 true Bears available to choose from, and an additional seven cards that make multiple 2/2 Bear tokens, there are more than enough effects to trigger Ayula’s ability, and both options her ability provides are very good indeed. Being able to plop down your commander on turn two, then immediately start making her or other Bears bigger, then subsequently fighting other player’s creatures just seems darn strong.

Add to that the relative ease of making Bear tokens in the late game with engines like Ayula’s Influence, Bearscape, or Grizzly Fate, and it doesn’t seem like finishing out games after a board wipe will be a problem either. In case people try a nasty board wipe, though, I’m sure you’ll have Caller of the Claw at the ready.


Collector Ouphe

Speaking of Bears, green is getting another Hatebear! While the flavor text on Collector Ouphe doesn’t quite live up to its Null Rod inspiration, having the effect itself printed on to a small threat is actually hugely useful for those decks looking to keep opponents behind so they can swing in for damage. This exact wording also nerfs mana rocks, which not only ups the power of the card immensely, but is something that probably could not have happened outside of a Standard-skipping set like Modern Horizons.

As for where we’ll see our bearded friend, the obvious inclusion would be further scooping salt into wounds alongside Gaddock Teeg. That said, other Hatebear decks that can play green will also be looking for this effect, as will green decks that don’t play artifacts themselves and want to prevent other players from being able to take advantage of them. Add to that that Null Rod is a $30 card that is in over 1,000 decks, and it’s very possible you’ll be seeing this little Ouphe at a table near you as a discount option.


Crashing Footfalls

Without Clockspinning shenanigans, it’s kind of hard to place exactly where this card belongs. Four turns is a long time, even if you do manage to Suspend this on turn one, so it seems like aggro decks don’t actually care that much. That said, tokens decks that want larger creatures may not mind the wait. Look for this one in Populate decks like Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice that don’t just want to go wide, but want to go tall as well. Even in those builds, however, drawing this in the late game is going to be such a kick in the teeth that I don’t expect it to make the cut for long.


Deep Forest Hermit

  

Along with the love that Bear tribal got in Modern Horizons, there’s a small amount of Squirrel love to go around as well. An echo of Deranged Hermit, we now have Deep Forest Hermit. While that unfortunately only gets the total count of Squirrel cards up to 14 (without Changelings or other such assistance), it does inch us just a tiny bit closer to Squirrel tribal as a possible EDH deck.

Outside of the tribal concerns, Deep Forest Hermit looks much the same as the old Hermit, creating four tokens as it enters the battlefield. It’s nice that this version sticks around to continue pumping the tokens for three turns, though some recursion decks perhaps like the original Hermit’s self-sacrifice. The real question is whether that’s enough to warrant inclusion in token decks, where it obviously wasn’t with Deranged Hermit. My money is on no, at least for those of us that aren’t forcing Changeling-Squirrel-Hermit tribal quite yet. If you like recurring or blinking creatures, though, this is a fun target.


Force of Vigor

Force of Vigor has a lot of similarities to a lot of different cards, but the combination of all of them really makes it its own effect, and it is a very playable effect. With the obvious caveat that a couple of the commanders from this set may actually make a splash in competitive EDH (lookin’ at you, Urza), for the format as a whole, this may very well be the best card in the set.

Up to now, we’ve been very happy to pay four mana to run Return to Dust, Crush Contraband, or both. You can now do the same in green, killing two artifacts, two enchantments, or one of each, and that would have been playable just by itself. The fact that you can do so at instant speed, during another player’s game-winning turn, getting rid not one but two problems, while tapped out, is insane. It more than makes up for the lack of exile, especially since it’s an effect that up to now has not been available in green in the same way that it has been in white. Just don’t assume that you have to pitch cards to play this as a surprise! Paying four mana is still a fine way to get rid of some problems, and you don’t want to be pitching cards from your hand if you don’t have to.

Regardless of how you pay for it, this is a staple for green decks going forward, and you’re going to be seeing a lot of it.


Uncommons


Glacial Revelation

The return of snow-covered lands has everyone trying not to sing Christmas songs out loud, and perhaps one of the least exciting new cards for those of us looking at blinging out entire decks in frost is Glacial Revelation. Still, it’s not always about the exciting cards, especially when it comes to draw spells. Let’s dig in and find out if Glacial Revelation is worth the price of admission.

With the addition of all the new cards in Modern Horizons, the total number of snow permanents available is up to 63, with 6 of the top 10 available in green. Of course, the reason that Glacial Revelation resembles and probably exceeds the power level of Mulch is that you can play as many snow-covered basic lands in your deck as you want, meaning that while you’re digging to try to find your Ohran Viper, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a couple lands along the way. In fact, doing a bit of hand math, the odds are as follows for how many lands you can hit, assuming you’re playing the standard 37:

  • One or More Lands: 94% chance
  • Two or More Lands: 72% chance
  • Three or More Lands: 39% chance
  • Four or More Lands: 13% chance

While that doesn’t blow me away with raw power, a 39% chance to draw three for three while feeding my graveyard is at least intriguing in the right deck. That’s before we take into account the other snow permanents or any possible top-of-the-library manipulation, but then again, that isn’t factoring in nonbasic lands that aren’t snow-covered. If it’s snowing in your deck, give it a try, but of the snowy things happening in this set, it’s not exactly an avalanche.


Llanowar Tribe

Llanowar Tribe feels more like a meme than a card, but I actually think in mono-green it’s not an entirely awful idea. The only real existing options for this kind of return when it comes to mana dorks is Karametra’s Acolyte, and this is more consistent and cheaper. It’s not the sexiest card, outside of center guy’s biceps, but in big creature aggro or untap decks it will definitely fill a niche. In Elf tribal, it will be a staple, period.


Scale Up

There’s some hype out there that Scale Up will be monstrous in Modern Infect decks. I’m just here to tell you that the same is true for EDH Infect decks. People are out there playing them, and making your Glistener Elf into a 6/4 on turn two is just as devastating in EDH as it is in competitive one-on-one formats. As for the Overload here, it can be a fine Overrun despite the lack of trample, but this card is really better in the gotta-go-fast aggro decks overall. There are enough mass pump spells already available for the token decks of the world, pretty much all of which are better than this one.


Commons


Rime Tender

It’s tempting to dismiss Rime Tender out of hand as an overcosted mana dork, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Its ability does more than just untap lands a la Voyaging Satyr, which itself is in 2,387 decks. It also untaps nonland snow permanents, allowing for a bit more flexibility when it comes to snow creatures and artifacts. All in all, I don’t see it seeing quite as much play as Voyaging Satyr, but not because it’s not a better card. Rather, even with the price of snow-covered lands coming down with a new printing, I think that the snow strategy will still end up rather rare at tables in the long term.


Springbloom Druid

For years I’ve personally been on a personal crusade to convince people that Harrow is better than Cultivate, and now here we are with my favorite ramp spell on a stick. It’s not quite as good in a vacuum, given that the lands come into play tapped with Springbloom Druid, but if you have any creature recursion he’s definitely worth the inclusion over the original. The real question is whether Lands decks will be interested enough to find room for both!


Treefolk Umbra

Totem Armor has become a much more common annoyance around tables since the printing of Tuvasa the Sunlit‘s Commander 2018 enchantress deck, and is a powerful means of making sure that your commander or key creature sticks around through a board wipe. While Treefolk Umbra isn’t quite as flexibly excellent as powerhouse Octopus Umbra, it is quite a bit cheaper and will work to the same effect with a toughness-heavy creature. It can also act as a backup commander in Arcades, the Strategist or Doran, the Siege Tower “Toughness Matters” decks, or can pump the commanders themselves while providing protection.


Weather the Storm

Weather the Storm is one of the bigger shout-outs to the Jennies & Johnnies of the world. It’s precisely the kind of card you know is bad, but you want to build around anyway. Just thinking about chaining cheap ramp spell after cheap ramp spell into a gigantic Storm turn that doesn’t actually accomplish anything at all gets you excited about the possibilities, and might even eventually draw you into that Aetherflux Reservoir so you can get around to finishing the game. The real question is whether the existence of Weather the Storm will add some diversity to the Lifegain theme page here on EDHREC, as currently the entire archetype is made up of Orzhov in one way or another. That page could use a little greenery. Which commander would you choose that both allows for Storm shenanigans in green and cares about lifegain? My money’s on Selvala, Explorer Returned, personally.


The Bear Necessities

That’s it for Modern Horizons‘ green spells… or is it? Are there any cards from the spoiler you’re excited about that we skipped over here? Is there a niche we missed for one of the cards we went over? Let us know what you think of the set and the new green options in the comments!

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.