Commander Set Review – Modern Horizons (Colorless)

Posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2019 by KingRamz
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Posted in mtg, serious business

We made it, readers. It’s the last group of cards, the ones that tend to be the most universally applicable across the format: colorless cards. I wrote this part of the review with the intent that you be listening to The Final Countdown by Europe while reading it, so make sure you do that if you want the full intended experience.

You can find the previous reviews here:

White Blue Black Red Green Multicolored

I talked all about the rationale behind my reviews in the White review, so if you missed that, just go back and read that one. I’m not going to waste your time repeating myself. Except for the previous two sentences. And the last one. And that one.

 

Colorless

Amorphous Axe

There are times when an effect like this can be handy. For example, in your Yuriko deck you might want to make Tormented Soul or Thalakos Seer into honorary Ninjas, or maybe you want to turn Surrak Dragonclaw into a Bear. That said, you should still not play this card – you can get the same effect at a significant discount with Runed Stalactite, or you can just use Arcane Adaptation to induct your whole board! Conspiracy and Xenograft do the same thing, though you have to *really* want to do it to spend five mana. And if you get to pick, Conspiracy’s better than Xenograft, because like Arcane Adaptation it affects your creature cards everywhere, not just on the battlefield.

Arcum’s Astrolabe

Another snow permanent that isn’t embarrassing! It’s not a great card, but it gives you another hit off Scrying Sheets and it gives you some badly-needed fixing, because if you’re snow-themed then you don’t get to run many duals.

Birthing Boughs

Well, it’s a better way to make Sliver or Scarecrow tokens than Riptide Replicator and Volrath’s Laboratory. That’s not saying much. You need to be getting a lot of value out of a 2/2 changeling to want to spend this much mana to make one.

Mox Tantalite

Is the chance at having a Mox on turn four worth the possibility of drawing this card late, when it’s deader than a Darksteel Ingot? I don’t really feel like it is. On its own it ramps you to five mana on 4, which is something that Manalith also does. And that card’s basically unplayable. Run this card if you must, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you draw it on turn thirteen and it Mox you as it sits uselessly in your hand (or in exile).

Scrapyard Recombiner

Sweet card! But it’s only really as good as the stuff it can tutor up. Did you know that Hangarback Walker is a Construct? So is Crystalline Crawler. Also Metalwork Colossus and Metalworker. Oh, and Myr Battlesphere. Scrap Trawler, too. Don’t forget Steel Overseer. Stuffy Doll? Yup, Construct. Traxos, Scourge of Kroog? Yep. Walking Ballista? Construct. Wurmcoil Engine? Well, it’s not, but guess who is: All five Gearhulks!

Sword of Sinew and Steel

Cards with repeatable permanent destruction always look better than they play, and I expect this to be no exception. You look at this and you think about how you’re going to get in every turn and wreck people’s shit, but what’s actually going to happen is you get one hit off and then nobody plays their toys and Bob decides that he has to kill you or the sword because your repeatable artifact kill means he can’t execute his game plan. It’s nice to get protection from two removal colors, and it’s kinda cute that you can punch someone in the face and then blow up an entirely different player’s stuff, but I don’t think that’s enough to save it.

Sword of Truth and Justice

You had me at proliferate. That’s one of the last words on the card, so it was getting pretty dicey there. I actually find that the Swords don’t make my decks as much as they used to. Proliferate is cool and I like that the two sides of the ability synergize with each other, but the truth is that I already have some Swords I don’t play that are justice good as this one, so I suspect this one would end up outside my decks, just like those.

Enemy-Colored Talismans

It’s about time! I’ve gotten less and less happy with mana rocks that cost three and only ramp me by one, but there aren’t that many good options at two if you really care about having colored mana. These give you another solid option, and I expect the nongreen ones to see a lot of play – they should probably go in most two-color decks that can run them. The BG and UG ones aren’t as important because green has lots of good options for ramp at two, but they’re still perfectly playable. Too late, it occurs to me that I should have included these in the multicolored review instead of in this one. Ah, the folly of youth.

Lands
Cave of Temptation

This is a replacement-level colorless utility land. Turning an extra land into two counters doesn’t seem game-winning to me, but there are decks that don’t mind running colorless lands that might want the effect.

Enemy Canopy Lands

Yeah, so, these are good. If you have them, run them. Nurturing Peatland is probably the most interesting for our format because it synergizes pretty well with The Gitrog Monster and Lord Windgrace. But unless I was running one of those commanders I wouldn’t go out of my way to pick these up. Also, I probably should’ve thrown these in with the multicolored review as well.

Frostwalk Bastion

I think all the snow stuff is cool, and this is no exception. But the bar for colorless lands is pretty high at this point, so I don’t think it’s worth just throwing in a deck that happens to be running snow basics. If you’re monocolored and/or have a snow subtheme, go for it. Especially if you’re green and can fetch this with Into the North.

Hall of Heliod’s Generosity

I do love me some Enchantress decks and I’m excited that this got printed. Do note that it’s typically more difficult for enchantments to end up in the graveyard than creatures or artifacts. Attunement is the classic way for the Replenish deck to fill its yard. Faith Healer is one of my favorite ways to sacrifice enchantments. There’s also Arenson’s Aura and its functional reprint, Teferi’s Care, there’s several Atogs, there’s some effects like Claws of Gix that just let you sacrifice any permanent, and there’s even Ertai, the Corrupted if you don’t mind drawing some hate. You can also look at enchantments that sacrifice themselves, like the Seals, Tattoo Ward, the enchantments from Urza’s Saga that stack verse counters over time (Serra’s Liturgy, Vile Requiem) and especially Sterling Grove. And if you’re sacrificing lots of enchantments, well, you’re going to make a Femeref Enchantress very happy. And yeah, I should’ve probably included this card with the white review.

Prismatic Vista

This is a neat card and I like that it exists, but ONS/ZEN fetches with duals or shocks are still better than this unless you’re many-colored snow or your meta hates hard on nonbasic lands. Also keep in mind that this isn’t *that* much better than Evolving Wilds or Terramorphic Expanse, so if your resources are limited (read: you don’t have a lot of money), they’re probably better spent elsewhere.

Top 3:
3. Enemy Canopy Lands
2. Hall of Heliod’s Generosity
1. Enemy Talismans

The canopy lands end up behind the Ruins of Heliod’s Stronghold because in most circumstances they’ll only be marginally better than whatever other dual you can scrounge up. Ramp is king, and the new talismans are going to be welcome in many Boros, Izzet and Orzhov decks, so they get the top nod. And I do mean top – see below. Now, if I’d put these three where they belonged instead of here, the enemy talismans would’ve taken the top multicolored spot, the Hall would’ve slot in at second in white, and enemy canopy lands would not have made the list. Over here in the colorless, I guess I would’ve picked Sword of Truth and Justice, Scrapyard Recombiner, and Prismatic Vista in some order or other.

Overall top ten:
10. Seasoned Pyromancer
9. Watcher for Tomorrow
8. Fallen Shinobi
7. Winds of Abandon
6. Springbloom Druid
5. Unbound Flourishing
4. Urza, Lord High Artificer
3. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
2. Morophon, the Boundless
1. Enemy-colored Talismans

When ranking those, I tried to strike a balance between raw power and impact on the format, as measured by how often the cards will show up in decks. Watcher for Tomorrow and Springbloom Druid are less powerful than some cards that didn’t make the list, but they provide good value, aren’t expensive to cast and will likely be cheap to acquire, so I think they’ll see a lot of play. I think Urza’s stronger than Yawgmoth, but I think Yawgmoth pushes in some less-explored directions, so he got the nod over his ancient foe. Morophon is the highest-ranked commander because he just enables so many archetypes that didn’t really have a commander before, and I think that counts for a lot. But I have to give top billing to the enemy Talismans, which I think are about as auto-include as any card in the format gets for Boros, Izzet and Orzhov decks. In those guilds, you should be starting every decklist with Sol Ring, Signet, Talisman and only cutting them if you have a specific reason to do so.

Overall I’m less excited by this set than I was when I started out, which I guess was kind of the point of this review – I don’t want to go out and buy a load of new cards that look exciting when they’re probably just going to get cut. The only cards I see myself picking up without first building a deck with them are the nongreen enemy Talismans and Morophon, because I know I will want to use those sooner or later. I’m almost certainly going to build Ninjas as well, which gets a few great pickups and several more solid ones. I think most of the Slivers in the set are kinda disappointing, but they do at least get a powerful and fun commander to make up for it. And the new commanders in the set are all at least interesting to build around, even if some of them don’t exactly explore uncharted territory.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this trip through Modern Horizons with me. Have fun slinging some cards!

 

 

 
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