Exploring Modern Horizons Specs

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Wow. Modern Horizons is a truly unprecedented set. There is a lot going on with this ground breaking new product from our friends at Wizards of the Coast. As players, collectors and speculators it is important for us to wrap our heads around the various aspects of this set before naming our target personal pickups and speculative entry points.

Let’s review some basics before we get to the priority targets, shall we? Here’s what you need to know about Modern Horizons:

– 254 cards + 1 Buy-A-Box Promo (Non-Foil Flusterstorm)
– 36 packs/box with Standard set style foil distribution
– Art cards in every pack
– Full-art snow basics in every pack
– Double-faced tokens in every pack, including foil versions in 1/4 packs

Whew! That’s a lot of product in a single box. Full-art snow basics, art cards and foil tokens will all be contributing a bit to the estimated value (EV) of boxes, as is sensible for a set with a wholesale cost more than double (~$160 or so vs. ~$70 for Standard legal sets).

The other big factor in play that is likely to drive long term box EV appreciation is that 209 of the cards in the set have never been printed before, including 14/15 Mythics and 48 of the Rares. That’s a lot of fresh blood!

Another factor to consider is that WoTC has fairly stuffed the product release schedule this year, resulting in Horizons ending up sandwiched within 6 weeks on either side of the blockbuster War of the Spark release and the Magic 2020 core set that will start previews in just four weeks! Coupled with high box/pack costs, there is a decent chance that even though Horizons is in theory a “print-to-demand” style print run, Wizards will actually provide relatively modest replenishment of stock to vendors through their distributors once the hype cycle has shifted to other products. Word from our network is that Hozions is being printed at about 75% of the print run of a Standard set release, so that matters as well. Remember also that shortly after M2020 we have the summer Commander 2020 deck releases, to be followed up in early fall by the main Standard set of the year, (whose name is still under wraps, presumably to lessen the looming feelings of product exhaustion).

This article is being written in the last couple of days of previews, but already the depth of this sets at all rarities is incredibly obvious. People may have been expecting a pile of new Snapcaster Mages and Lightning Bolts, but what they got instead is a highly complex, varied and subtle series of odd duck role players, many of which seem suspiciously like set ups for the reveal of additional puzzle pieces in forthcoming Standard or ancillary sets. Believe me, with tremendous depth at common and uncommon, this is going to be the kind of set that bulk handlers are going to be salivating over five years out.

So what does all of this add up to? Put simply, Modern Horizons is likely to lead to some very strong card spikes and set EV appreciation just as soon as it stops being widely available for purchase. Once the boxed product dries up, there will be no easy source of replenishment and any cards that shift into the spotlight for Modern or EDH are just going to take off hard, especially foils.

Let’s set some ground rules. As per usual, we’re looking at these cards in order of rarity, with an eye to the ones that are most likely to require players to buy the greatest # of copies across multiple formats, with a priority on Modern and Commander.

The Early Targets

#1 The Horizon Lands: The Ringers

The Horizon Lands, named after Horizon Canopy, are the most obvious Modern playable staples in Modern Horizons. In decks that are looking to win in the first few turns trading off a few life points for even better early mana fixing is no big deal. Tack on the ability to extend your reach by trading in excess lands for fresh cards and you have an instant classic. Keep in mind that Horizon Canopy is both one of the most expensive and most played lands in Modern, and though it loses a bit of juice from the appearance of it’s cousins, the pedigree for top level play is already well established.

If these lands had been printed into a Standard legal set, we would be looking for them to settle into the $6-12 range and then start a long slow climb over $20. Thing is, Modern Horizons is not your average set. These boxes cost vendors twice as much as a Standard set, and that translates to $6-7 packs at retail. That means that you can count on a 50-100% bump in the expected price range at each rarity, especially for the key cards that are wanted in multiples by players in multiple formats. Many serious Modern players are going to want complete play sets of this entire cycle for their quiver, and Commander players will find reasons to want them too. Modern decks like Burn, Death’s Shadow and Infect all need playsets. In EDH Lord Windgrace and The Gitrog Monster seek to recurse their lands as resources, so Nuturing Peatland is an auto include.

The thing is, everyone clued into the value of this land cycle pretty much right away so they are pre-selling near $20 in the EU and as high as $35 for Fiery Islet in North America.

The question here then, isn’t if you will buy these lands, but when. I’m inclined to think that $15 is a solid target during peak supply, aiming to exit over $30 within 18 months, and possibly sooner if supply dries up like I think it might. Foils on the other hand are likely to jump high, retrace a bit under pressure during peak supply this summer and then start a slow steady march toward $60-80 or higher. Remember, these are single source cards that were only ever printed in a premium set and are unlikely to see a reprint for five years or more. Gains are inevitable.

Current Price: $20-$35
Target Entry: $12-$18
Target Exit: $25-35 (18 months)

#2 Goblin Engineer & Giver of Runes: Strong 2nd Choices

Here we have a pair of utility creatures that players seem divided on. Frankly, I don’t get it. Both of these creatures cross-format super staples waiting to happen. Giver of Runes is the closest we’re going to get to Mother of Runes in Modern, a card that is a good enough white creature to see play in Legacy. Giver of Runes can’t target itself, but two copies CAN target each other, and the extra point of toughness isn’t irrelevant in a format with Gut Shot & Lava Dart. Mother of Runes is in the Top 20 white cards of all time in Commander and the decks that want it may easily find reason to want some redundancy. Giver is pre-ordering in the $5-8 range, but I think you’ll be able to snag $16-20 playsets during peak supply and that’s a strong buy signal IMHO.


Goblin Engineer is clearly the WoTC approved fixed version of Stoneforge Mystic, but the card is powerful enough that it will see play in Vintage, Legacy, Modern and Commander. We’re talking about a 1R creature that tutors up any artifact here. Yes, of course, it does go to your graveyard, but depending on your format of choice, everything from Goblin Welder, Trash for Treasure & Refurbish can make that work out for you. If the artifact is three mana or less the Engineer will be all too happy to help you swap it into play if you don’t have another option handy, and it’s the open ended synergy of that play sequence that has me seeing $$$ down the road. This card is going be a slow gainer out of the gate, but the second it posts up some interesting Top 8s in Modern, it’s going to explode and you’re going to want to be holding copies.

Current Price: $6
Target Entry: $6
Target Exit: $15+ (18 months)

Current Price: $5
Target Entry: $5
Target Exit: $15+ (18 months)

#3 Urza, Lord High Artificer: Doomed to Overachieve?

Urza, Lord High Artificer

If there is one mythic card in this set that rang the power level bell for most players in Modern Horizons, it was Urza, Lord High Artificer. Putting aside the solid art and fantastic flavor and we’re left with a 4-drop of such a ridiculous power level that Commander decks built around it will almost certainly need to be intentionally de-tuned to allow you to avoid getting the boot from your playgroup. A pile of cards have already spiked on the back of this reveal, including Paradox Engine, Unwinding Clock and Thran Turbine.

This card peaked near $70 during early pre-orders, but has since collapsed back to a still lofty $40-50 range, a price that doesn’t really leave much meat on the bone.

I think your ideal play here is for Urza to not start putting up Modern results for a while, allowing Commander players to bite off their single copies and then allow the price to settle back into the $20-30 range. If it gets down to $14-22 I’ll start paying attention. Anything higher and the upside just isn’t juicy enough.

Likewise, foils are going to start very, very high, and retrace only 30-40% as peak supply rolls through. If a great Modern deck emerges early on that makes use of multiple copies, you may never get a shot at grabbing more than your personal playset at a reasonable price.

Current Price: $40+
Target Entry: $20-25
Target Exit: $40+ (18 months)

#4 Ranger-Captain of Eos, Seasoned Pyromancer & Wrenn and Six : Mythic MVPs in the Making?

Ok, so in looking over the rest of the mythics from Modern Horizons, these are the ones that stand out as being a) pushed, b) most likely to be played in multiples and c) capable of seeing play in both Modern and other formats.

Ranger-Captain of Eos only searches up a single creature vs. the two from Ranger of Eos, but it also provides some potential disruption as a bonus and you get that package for a mana less, which matters a lot in Modern. Just off the top, searching up a Death’s Shadow, Given of Runes, Walking Ballista, Thraben Inspector or Noble Hierarch seems like solid value. The thing is, Modern has not been very kind to fair decks in recent times and we didn’t really get the kind of disruption or sideboard options in this set that seem likely to push the meta back to the fair (a couple of great new counterspells not withstanding). The good captain can currently be had in the $10-15 range, but I don’t intend to acquire many until I see it doing work on camera deep into a big Modern tourney.

Current Price: $10-12
Target Entry: $6-8
Target Exit: $15+ (18 months)

Seasoned Pyromancer has already shown up in some SCGLive brews this week and while it didn’t blow me away on camera thus far, there may be something here at some point. A 2/2 body for 1RR is almost embarassing in Modern at this point, but the double discard/draw ability has real potential to do work, especially when it can also end up adding 3 bodies to the board only to do it again down the road in the rare long game. Keep in mind that they also just gave us Unearth to attempt to abuse in Modern, so there are more than a few interesting angles to attempt here. Ultimately we need to know whether the card can a) find a semi-permanent home in at least a T1.5 deck and b) how many copies they want to run. I’m adding this to my wait and see list.

Current Price: $10
Target Entry: $6-8
Target Exit: $15+ (18 months)

Wrenn & Six analysis starts with the simple fact that this is a 2-mana Planeswalker built around recursing lands in a set theme that seemed determined to push a deck of that style into Modern. Not only do we have 6 new sac ready lands in the format thanks to MH1, but they also gave us back the full cycle of Onslaught single mana cycling lands, Tectonic Reformation, Ruination Rioter, and we’ve already got Seismic Assault and Life from the Loam. And don’t forget about creature lands, Field of Ruin, Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge. It may all very well add up to a pile of Jank, but I won’t at all be surprised to see Wrenn & Six post some MTGO 5-0 leagues at some point in the near future. If you like this spec, cross your fingers that Sam Black and Zak Elsik take their time figuring out the build so that this card collapses under $15 and sets up a reasonable spec. There is just as much reason to play this card in Commander, so foil price weakness will likely be a buy during peak supply.

Current Price: $25
Target Entry: $10-14
Target Exit: $20+ (18 months)

Mythic Side Notes: Echo of Eons ($30-40) is the mythic I most want to see be insane and with Narset, Parter of Veils, Teferi, Time Raveler and Day’s Undoing you can clearly do the thing. A Timetwister you can flash back for the original P9 casting cost is no joke, and the art IS great, but keep your eyes on Conley Woods steam to see how real the card is later this month. Hexdrinker ($10-15) is a card that is likely to end up a 4-of if it finds a deck that wants an evolving half-hexproof beat stick, but I’m benching the spec until I see results. Kess, Dissident Mage ($10-15) is very likely to do some work in a Grixis control shell, but it will likely be as a one or two of, so no rush on moving in.

#5 Aria of Flame: Ready to Catch Fire?

Aria of Flame

A lot of players likely looked once at this card and dismissed it immediately. I mean, why would Burn oriented decks want to give their opponents half their life total back?

Let’s do some quick math. You play the card, and it does nothing but set you back -10 on your goal of killing your opponent. And if the card could have been a lightning bolt, you are actually back -13 and a couple of mana.

The next several spells you cast, play out as follows:
+1 damage
+2 damage
+3 damage
+4 damage
+5 damage

By the time you have cast five more spells, you have now gone net positive on the damage race, at +2 damage. The sixth or 7th spells likely kill your opponent, as they add 13 damage to the mix. That seems like a lot of set up and not at all what a Burn deck wants to do but Todd Anderson of SCG Tour fame has theorized that it might be what an Arclight Phoenix deck wants to do instead of Pyromancer’s Ascension as the backup kill plan. The mono-red version of Phoenix now has access to Lava Dart, each copy of which now represents two spells toward your goal. They also run 3-4 copies each of Desperate Ritual, Gut Shot, Manamorphose, Faithless Looting and a couple of Tormenting Voice. The UR versions of the deck run similar spells but add Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand into the mix. Storm decks might also find reason to lean on Aria for their end game.

In Commander, there are actually a LOT of ways for you to abuse the Aria triggers and giving the board a pile of life might not matter if they give you enough time to really go to town.

Aria of Flame is currently pre-ordering from some North American vendors at $1, and in the EU copies are under $.75. I like picking up this card under $1 to target a 1-2 year exit closer to $3-4.

Current Price: $1
Target Entry: <$1
Target Exit: $5 (18+ months)

#6 Archmage’s Charm & Force of Negation: Counter-Intuitive?

If you had suggested, we would be getting not one but two new strong counterspells at rare in Modern Horizons, I would have thought that pretty odd, but here we are.

Both of these cards are very likely to see significant play in the format, as they both provide a lot of utility to the decks that can cast them. The UUU cost on Archmage’s Charm is the biggest limiter on how widespread its’ usage pattern will become, since only U/W Control decks and possibly Mono Blue Tron builds with Urza are likely to be able to easily support the color requirements. That said, if you have correct mana, the ability to outright counter a spell or draw cards at the end of your opponent’s turn is pretty great. The third mode is being underrated by some players, as it can steal a long list of prevalent targets including Death’s Shadow, Noble Hierarch, Aether Vial, Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear. In Commander you’ll have the option of stealing Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Mana Vault and a whole bunch of other nasty little cards.

Archmage’s Charm is currently pre-ordering around $12, and I’d love to see it come down closer to $6-8 during peak supply, looking to out it over $12 within 18 months.

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Current Price: $12
Target Entry: $6-8
Target Exit: $12+ (18 months)

As the supposed fixed version of Force of Will for Modern, Force of Negation is riding higher on hype, and has a lot to live up to with pre-order prices close to $25. I don’t want any part of that price tag, but if I see copies under $15 I will start to get interested.

The need to be pitching blue spells to make it work is real, but there are enough blue decks in the format and enough combos that need to be stopped on your opponent’s turn that this card is likely to see constant play for years, even if mostly out of the sideboard.

Current Price: $25
Target Entry: $15
Target Exit: $25+ (18 months)

#7 Planebound Apprentice: Bogus Until Broken?

Planebound Accomplice

Here we have a card with no immediately obvious home but a ridiculously high power level should the right partner cards present themselves. The easiest way to evaluate Planebound Accomplice is probably to compare it to Sneak Attack, a card that has been doing busted things with creatures in a similar way for years. The Accomplice actually costs one less to get rolling, is more fragile as a creature than an enchantment, but should still be able to get off an activation assuming you have four mana available the turn you cast it.

Thing is, there are a LOT more options in the creature type than in the planeswalker type that are capable of doing really busted things when you get to activate them early. Even still, folks have already tossed around infinite combos involving two planeswalkers and Cloudstone Curio. In researching this article, I also found the following cute combo, which also works with Progenitus, Hornet Queen or Terastodon depending on your needs. Liliana, Death’s Majesty can bring a creature back from the yard, Liliana, Dreadhorde General forces folks to sac two creatures and Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God can double up on whatever jank you’re up to since he copies all planeswalker abilities. The other Bolas walkers are all equally charming when they show up early. Nissa, Vital Force brought in for R can bring back another previously used Walker (or perhaps Cloudstone Curio) to hand and let you go again. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon lets you sweep the board or colored permanents.

Jamming all of that into a deck is likely to amount to little more than a pile of FNM jank, but it’s only a matter of time before something more concrete coalesces around Planebound Accomplice and sends it into a price spike. I’ve already snapped up 100+ copies of the card in Europe for under $1, and my target out will be $5 or so within two years.

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Current Price: $2.50
Target Entry: $1-$2
Target Exit: $5 (18 months)

#8 Prismatic Vista – Straight Forward, Not Flashy

Prismatic Vista

Ah yes, the new fetchland for basics, including snow basics and Wastes. These are going to be a big part of mana bases in multiple formats for years, including Modern and Commander, as they let you find the right basic on schedule while providing very minor deck thinning. That’s enough to make them attractive buys but $20-25 pre-order pricing is not where we want to enter on these.

Peak supply should push playsets down toward $40-50 at which point I’d be more interested in moving in. Foils are also likely to be solid targets, but I’d really like to see them down closer to $20 before moving in.

Current Price: $20-$25
Target Entry: $10-12
Target Exit: $20+ (18 months)

#9 Morophon the Boundless: Open Ended Tribal Lord

Morophon, the Boundless

Morophon, the Boundless is never going to be a thing in Modern, and Commander players are only likely to need the single copy, but when these get low enough I’ll be looking to scoop some, mostly in foil. Most of the time targeting Commanders isn’t really the play, as the cards the Commander needs that are in short supply often do much better as specs. In this case however, Morophon isn’t aimed at one tribe, but as many of them as can profitably make use of the mana cost reduction and want to run under a 5 color banner to make use of all of their options. This will tend to matter more for multi-color builds and tribes with big mana costs in multiple colors, so your options ARE narrowed somewhat, but over time more and more options will appear. I could see Morophon ending up as one of the Top 30 commanders of all time, but my play here will likely be shallow in case it’s just a passing fad.

Current Price: $18-20
Target Entry: $10-14
Target Exit: $25+ (18 months)

#10 Unbound Flourishing: Doubling Down on Doubling?

Unbound Flourishing

Once upon a time a little card called Doubling Season became one of the more important casual and Commander cards around and made folks a bunch of money. Now Wizards is handing us a new 2G enchantment in a similar vein but with a significantly more narrow sphere of activity. In Unbound Flourishing we find ourselves looking around for permanents, instants and sorceries with X in their casting costs or abilities, and our options are definitely more limited than they are with counters and tokens. That said, the synergy here IS open ended so as time goes on we are likely to eventually reach a preponderance of synergy. The odds of action are better in Commander than in Modern at present, but this card is still commanding a high pre-order price of $20+. At this price I’m on the sidelines. Wake me up when this drops under $10 and we can talk but it still doesn’t likely to become a priority spec unless it gets closer to $5.

Current Price: $20+
Target Entry: <$10
Target Exit: $15+ (36 months)

#11 Crashing Footfalls: Free Rhinos Anyone?

Crashing Footfalls

Ok, so clearly no one is interested in actually suspending this card. No, here we have yet another spell set up to be abused with As Foretold or Bloodbraid Elf. No one really seems excited about this card, partially because the Rhinos don’t have haste. It seems a bit crazy to me that 8/8 trample spread across two bodies isn’t good enough on T2 in Modern, but I’m happy to bow to the likely superior group think and ignore this card for now. If it shows up in a tasty list somewhere or a new combo piece gets printed we can certainly reevaluate.

Current Price: $3
Target Entry: <$2
Target Exit: $10+ (36 months)

#12 Marit Lage’s Slumber: When Shall the Snowflakes Wake?

Marit Lage's Slumber

Let’s state the obvious: the snow theme in Modern Horizons feels incomplete. We got some very interesting puzzle pieces here, but they don’t all add up to a great deck yet. Many of us were expecting the snow theme payoff to include snow duals, which would have made cards like Marit Lage’s Slumber a bit more likely to succeed, but no such look…so far.

Part of me is now wondering whether this whole theme is just the setup for a forthcoming Ice Age style set on a new plane, perhaps Kaldheim and a Norse mythology themed set within the next couple of years. In the absence of such an event, I’m not excited to go deep on the more powerful of the snow cards including On Thin Ice and Dead of Winter.

Marit Lage’s Slumber is $3 but I’ll get more interested when it’s down closer to $1.

Current Price: $3
Target Entry: <$1
Target Exit: $10+ (36 months)

#13 Tectonic Reformation: Seismic Successor?

Tectonic Reformation

This card is really strong. In Commander it gives red decks and Boros decks significantly more protection from flooding out, and in the lands matters decks like Windgrace and The Gitrog Monster, it will do a ton of work. In Modern there are also a ton of puzzle pieces to place alongside this that may yield a deck, but we’re not there yet. The fact that you can cycle extra copies if they aren’t necessary may lead to running a higher # of copies. This could take a short or a long while to get there but the unique impact means that at minimum I’ll be looking to grab some cheap foils during peak supply.

Current Price: $4.50
Target Entry: <$3
Target Exit: $10+ (36 months)

Final Thoughts: Nice Commander Foils To Target During Peak Supply

All of these cards will have foils that will end up draining out of the market given enough time. The Commanders in this list also happen to fit into the 99 of other commanders, so their demand profile will be better than the average Commander option. Hall of Generosity foils are Volrath’s Stronghold/Academy Ruins for enchantments, so the long term prospects are very strong given likelihood of the effect on a land remaining unique for a long time. All of the new Talismans will also be worth snapping up in foil at their lows.

What are you thinking about Modern Horizons? Do you have pet specs that I missed here? What is your thesis? Until next time!

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy art fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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