Modern Horizons Set Review — White

(Winds of Abandon | Art by Noah Bradly)

From Small to Swole

Welcome everyone to EDHREC’s Modern Horizons set review! Today we’ll be looking at a few cards in white that have stirred discussion, sparked creativity, and may have implications for the Commander format. Some of these cards riff on old favorites, some add redundancy to popular strategies, and others provide interesting points of discussion. Without further ado, let’s look at some of the noteworthy white cards in Modern Horizons.


Mythic


Ranger-Captain of Eos

Tutoring for a creature that costs one or less mana on turn three may seem like a bad deal, but there are actually quite a few one-drops worth fetching in Commander in a variety of strategies. Viscera Seer and Carrion Feeder, for example, are both excellent sacrifice outlets that also help enable combos. Meanwhile, Spore Frog and Kami of False Hope can both become powerful with recursion engines. Finally, cards that only have X in their casting cost, like Walking Ballista and Hangarback Walker, have a converted mana cost of 0 and can therefore be tutored with the Ranger-Captain. His older brother, Ranger of Eos, is a powerful tool in Commander specifically because of how many creatures that cost one mana or less are played in the format.

The new Ranger-Captain seems to be an upgrade. Sure, it only fetches one creature, while Ranger of Eos fetches two, but it costs one less mana, has a more substantial body, and has an incredible activated ability that splices Silence and Negate onto a body. Ranger-Captain of Eos tutors for a combo piece and protects that combo. This is an innocuous role-player that I expect to quietly shine in EDH.


Serra the Benevolent

Serra doesn’t look like it was designed for Commander, but she could still be a decent option for Angel or token decks. While her +1 ability is largely irrelevant, Serra lives or dies by her -3 ability. Producing a Serra Angel for four mana is not a bad rate. If Serra the Benevolent survives for several turns, making two or more Angels for four mana is powerful.

Finally, her -6 ability won’t win you the game, but will, with the right deck, indefinitely postpone defeat. This ability is Worship on a planeswalker emblem, and that ability on an emblem instead of an enchantment is very significant. Worship provides two options to your opponents: remove all of your creatures, or remove Worship. Planeswalker emblems, however, can’t be removed. In a deck with a variety of ways to put creatures onto the battlefield at instant speed, like Luminarch Ascension, Oketra the True, Spawning Pit, or Kjeldoran Outpost, this emblem can be extremely pesky. This Worship effect is tricky, though. Because it specifies damage, you can still lose to Exsanguinate or even a stray Sign in Blood.

I could see a few applications for Serra the Benevolent. First, who doesn’t want to put the Serra into an Angel tribal deck? Outside of that, she could be decent with green-white token commanders such as Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice; these Angel tokens are begging to be Populated. Finally, she might even be decent in a Superfriends strategy, especially one that Proliferates or doubles loyalty counters onto planeswalkers.


Rare

 

Sisay, Weatherlight Captain

First things first, though this is a white card, it has all five colors in its color identity, which means it’s actually a five-color commander, along the same lines as General Tazri.

Commanders with tutor effects are extremely potent, and this one shouldn’t be an exception. Although she may look like General Tazri or Najeela, the Blade-Blossom at a glance, this general is very open-ended. This isn’t another five-color commander that hosts Food Chain combos, nor does it gesture toward a very specific tribe or strategy like Warriors and infinite combat steps. The field is wide open for Sisay. You could pursue a legendary creature strategy and use cards like Arvad the Cursed and Heroes’ Podium to pump your team and fetch massive legendaries from your deck. Or you could jam a set of Glorious Anthem effects like Spear of Heliod to buff Sisay, then cheat legendary token generators into play, like God-Eternal Oketra or Trostani Discordant. How about a deck that uses Sisay to put Bolas’s Citadel into play and then burn through your deck?

There is so much space to explore with this commander, and this is just the beginning. Personally, I’m pondering the legendary enchantments from Ixalan block like Search for Azcanta, Journey to Eternity, and Hadana’s Climb. Maybe I’ll even look at +1/+1 counter, Proliferate, and planeswalker subthemes. I can’t wait to see where people take this general and what she’s capable of.


On Thin Ice

Chained to the Rocks is surprisingly decent removal in EDH, despite only seeing play in 442 decks on EDHREC. The stipulation that Chained to the Rocks must be attached to a mountain is a little off-color for the decks that want removal on a one-mana enchantment, though. This style of removal is most suited to enchantress commanders, most of which do not include red in their color identity.

On Thin Ice avoids this issue, allowing you to attach it to any snow land you control, opening up this effect for any combination of colors. Because there is such a low deckbuilding cost to replacing your basic lands with snow-covered basic lands, I think this card is better than it seems. I would consider On Thin Ice with commanders like Daxos the Returned or Tuvasa the Sunlit.

Estrid, the Masked in particular is very synergitic—enchanting a land you control that can then be untapped with Estrid’s +1 ability. One mana is a premium rate for creature removal, and this card’s type is very beneficial for some of these enchantment-focused commanders.


Winds of Abandon

This is a pretty obvious nod to Cyclonic Rift, and there have been many unfavorable impressions of Winds of Abandon largely because of the comparison. While it doesn’t fill the shoes of Rift – one of the best cards in the format – I do think it deserves consideration on its own merit.

There is a lot of room between ‘unplayable’ and ‘format staple,’ especially for a card like this. Versatility is a valuable asset, and Winds of Abandon is quite versatile. It can either be a two-mana, sorcery-speed Path to Exile, or a six-mana Path to Everything. Path to Exile is one of the premier removal spells in EDH, and one-sided board wipes are extremely powerful in multiplayer formats.

The downsides are real. Sorcery speed limits your ability to effectively assess and deal with threats at the the table. Most notably, fetching a significant number of lands for your opponents can lose you the game. It may not seem like much, but if you use Winds of Abandon to clear an early board and fetch each of your opponents three lands, suddenly you are extremely far behind on mana and probably made an enemy or two in the process.

That being said, this card can and will win games. Decks that try to win by beating down on the ground can use this to clear a stalled board and break a stalemate. Additionally, many decks with three or four colors run an extremely low number of basic lands for your opponents to go and fetch in the first place. This card isn’t Cyclonic Rift, but there are absolutely moments where it will excel.


Astral Drift

This card is fairly straightforward. It’s another Astral Slide that has Cycling itself but doesn’t trigger when your opponents Cycle cards. Astral Slide can be brutal in EDH, especially in the hands of Zur the Enchanter. Zur helms a potent and nuanced EDH deck focused on turning discarded cards into extra value. It uses Astral Slide both offensively and defensively to flicker blockers, flicker attacking creatures, or flicker creatures that would otherwise be removed.

Astral Drift is another copy of the best card in that deck. Even better: the effects stack. So if you have both on the battlefield, each card you Cycle will net you two triggers. This can be especially potent if an opponent tries to wipe the board—allowing each Cycled card to save two of your creatures. Or, if you don’t need that many triggers, you can cycle Drift away to dig for other cards. I expect Astral Drift to find a home in this particular style of Zur deck and in any other with a heavy Cycling theme.


Giver of Runes

This card is on par with Mother of Runes in EDH. The fact that she can’t target herself isn’t a huge deal, especially at one mana. People run Mom to protect their bombs, not herself. Meanwhile, Giver’s ability to grant protection from colorless can be quite important in Commander. Allowing a creature to block Wurmcoil Engine, Steel Hellkite, or Myr Battlesphere with no repercussions is very relevant indeed.

I like this effect quite a bit and will most likely consider Giver of Runes alongside Mother in any deck that wants her. Because the Protection keyword is so specific, this could mean any number of things—Giver of Runes could help you squeeze some creatures through blockers of a specific color, or protect control centerpieces from targeted removal.

This type of effect is also powerful in stax and hatebear strategies, where you can use Mother of Runes or Giver of Runes to prevent your opponents from interfering with your lockdown components. Consider Giver of Runes with commanders like Gaddock Teeg or Grand Arbiter Augustin IV.


Uncommon


Vesperlark

This card doesn’t quite have the combo potential that its older sister Reveillark does. That being said, it’s still an interesting design and potentially powerful for decks that rely on small creatures. Some of the most important combo pieces for Aristocrats decks in EDH have one power, including Blood Artist and Viscera Seer. A potential home that immediately comes to mind is Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Evoking Vesperlark only costs two mana, and there are plenty of targets in EDH worth that investment.

Another potential application for this card is to cheat costs with creatures that have one or less power but have disproportionate effects. For example, Vesperlark interacts favorably with creatures with Modular and creatures with Graft, mechanics that place +1/+1 counters on creatures as they enter the battlefield.

On that note, we could consider Vesperlark with creatures from the long-forgotten Spike tribe, such as Spike Breeder, Spike Weaver, and Spike Tiller. Alternatively, we could explore creatures that produce tokens upon entering the battlefield such as Bellfry Spirit, Evangel of Heliod, or Deep Forest Hermit. We haven’t even mentioned Golgari Grave-Troll, another powerhouse that has zero power. Powerful synergies exist for this card, it just depends on where and how you choose to exploit them.


Generous Gift

This card is stellar removal, dealing with the most pressing problem at the table at any given moment. This card is essentially a color-shifted Beast Within, a format all-star that fills the gaps in green’s removal suite.

That being said, white actually doesn’t have as many glaring gaps in removal as green does. It is already fairly efficient at dealing with a wide variety of permanent types like creatures, enchantments, and artifacts.

Although I think this effect is significantly better in green than in white, Generous Gift is still a welcome addition to white’s removal pantheon. The flexibility of this card will always make it desirable. It can play the role of Path to Exile or Disenchant depending on the board state. This is a possible inclusion in any deck that includes white and needs a robust removal package.


Common


Ephemerate

This card outclasses Cloudshift, and it’s easy to see why. For the same cost, you get double the effect. I expect Ephemerate to either replace or coexist with Cloudshift in decks that want this type of cheap, efficient flicker effect. Consider this card with similar commanders such as Brago, King Eternal, Roon of the Hidden Realm, and Feather, the Redeemed.

With Brago and Roon, Cloudshift is efficient as a way to either double up on a powerful enters-the-battlefield trigger, or to save a creature from targeted removal. Because of the Rebound effect, Ephemerate can do both. In Feather, this upside is lessened but still present. Cloudshift is a powerful effect with Feather, because it protects her from removal while also targeting her, returning to your hand at the end of turn. This interaction essentially nullifies the Rebound effect, but you can choose whether you want to return Ephemerate to your hand or Rebound it. This card may seem unassuming, but it is a substantial upgrade to an effect that is already decent in flicker decks.


Reprobation

This style of Aura is generally useful in Commander. Cards like Song of the Dryads and Imprisoned in the Moon are good measures to lock down problematic commanders, effectively removing them from the board while also denying them access to the command zone. Darksteel Mutation, the most salient comparison to this card, is a powerhouse. Word for word, they appear to be very similar.

However, the reason that Darksteel Mutation is so good is because it gives the enchanted creature indestructible. Because the enchanted creature, commonly a commander, can’t be removed by chump blocking or an errant board wipe, it is difficult to send it back to the command zone. Reprobation doesn’t grant such an ability, unfortunately, but I imagine it is still playable and will lead to situations in which an opponent is forced to make a deal for someone to attack them just to block with their Coward.


Honorable Mentions


King of the Pride

Three mana is not a bad rate to pay for a Savannah Lions that tacks Savannah Lions onto all of your Cats. In Cat tribal, this is a good option, so consider this for play under Arahbo, Roar of the World, Kemba, Kha Regent, and Brimaz, King of Oreskos.


Recruit the Worthy and Splicer’s Skill

These two cards seem different but serve a similar function. They can be used early to give you presence on the board, or they can provide long-term value for when you’re flush with mana but have little to do. Never bet against Buyback. Buyback and adjacent effects are deceptively powerful in EDH because of their flexibility. Every deck needs something to do with its mana when it has down time. Even so, Recruit the Worthy doesn’t seem to cut it. Even in token decks, both one mana for a 1/1 and three mana to buy it back won’t be worth the cost unless you have near-infinite mana. If you have near-infinite mana, you hopefully have better things to do with it.

Splicer’s Skill is a slightly better deal, but with the contingency that you can only Splice when you have and cast an instant or sorcery. As an added bonus, Splicer’s Skill is a sorcery but can be Spliced onto instants as well, cheating the timing restriction of the card. None of this sounds particularly broken, but it is decent long-term value and will probably be one of the better cards in Golem tribal. If only it was in Karn, Silver Golem‘s color identity. Alas! On a funny final note, though, here’s a neat trick: if you Splice this card’s text onto an instant or sorcery, and that spell is copied, the copies also have the spliced text. Consider tacking on Splicer’s Skill‘s rules text to a bunch of copies of a Storm card and you might have yourself a hilarious time!


Valiant Changeling

This card is notable for one specific reason—if you control any other Changeling when you cast this, it only costs two white mana. Two mana for a 3/3 with double strike is quite above the curve. Because of this, Valiant Changeling is an option for tribal decks that rely heavily on Changelings—maybe an under-served tribe with Morophon, the Boundless at the helm. Consider it also in Odric, Lunarch Marshal, who famously looks for important keyword abilities to share with his friends. He alone knocks two mana off Valiant Changeling‘s mana cost, and just a cursory glance through his Top and Signature cards shows a lot of unique tribes such as Dwarf, Knight, Cat, Angel, God, and even Dinosaur.


Recap-tain of Eos

White has certainly received some notable cards in Modern Horizons. Although none of them are revolutionary or fundamentally overhaul an entire archetype, several offer fun improvements to established strategies, and more than a few have potential in a wide variety of decks. Personally, I am itching to sleeve up copies of Ranger-Captain of Eos and Vesperlark, and I’m definitely excited brew up a Sisay, Weatherlight Captain deck.

What do you think? Did I miss any important cards or interactions from this set? Am I dead wrong about Winds of Abandon? What cards are you most excited for in white? Please let me know in the comments and I’ll see you all on down the road.

Steven Vincent is an ESL teacher located in Oaxaca, México who uses Magic as a teaching tool. He hasn't introduced his students to Commander yet, but he is inching them toward the format so that he has a play group and can more frequently sate his thirst for EDH.