Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis - Illustration by Vincent Proce

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis | Illustration by Vincent Proce

Magic has had its fair share of iconic sets. Some are known for returning to fan-favorite planes, like Dominaria United or Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. Others introduced unique, defining elements, like Dominaria’s introduction of sagas or Ixalan’s introduction of dinosaurs and pirates as supported creature types.

Modern Horizons (MH1) has a few notable elements. It represented a change to supplementary sets and a departure from how previous Masters sets were released. It also unleashed some truly broken cards into Eternal formats.

Let’s look at what made this set so interesting and the dizzying number of mechanics it contained!

Modern Horizons Basic Information

Urza, Lord High Artificer - Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski

Urza, Lord High Artificer | Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski

Set Details

Set SymbolModern Horizons set symbol
Set CodeMH1
Number of Cards254
Rarities101 commons, 80 uncommons, 53 rares, 15 mythic rares, 5 basic lands
MechanicsBattle Cry, Buyback, Cascade, Changeling, Convoke, Cycling, Dash, Delve, Devour, Dredge, Echo, Entwine, Evoke, Evolve, Exalted, Exploit, Fateful Hour, Flashback, Hellbent, Hideaway, Kicker, Level up, Manifest, Modular, Monstrosity, Ninjutsu, Outlast, Overload, Persist, Proliferate, Protection, Rebound, Replicate, Retrace, Shroud, Splice, Storm, Suspend, Threshold, Totem Armor, Undying, Unearth, Vanishing

Important Dates

EventDate
Set ReleaseJune 14, 2019
Available on Draftsim's Draft SimulatorYes!

About the Set

Modern Horizons was a landmark set for Magic. It was the first set to print cards directly into Modern, a practice continued with The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. This allowed for a higher power level since the set didn't have to enter Standard.

It also changed the pattern established by previous Masters sets. The Modern Masters series were all reprints of cards legal in Modern, with an emphasis on staples like Dark Confidant and Bitterblossom. But MH1 had a combination of reprints and new card designs, with the reprints only being cards that had never entered Modern.

There are many things to remember MH1 by. It gave classic MTG characters like Urza and Yawgmoth their first cards. It was the first set to print Swords outside Mirrodin-based sets, heralding the cycle’s completion. It completed the Talisman cycle and introduced enemy-colored canopy lands, continuing the cycle that began with Horizon Canopy in Future Sight.

MH1 staples litter Eternal formats, from Modern to cEDH. Cards like Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Wrenn and Six, and Crashing Footfalls are format-defining staples. Ranger-Captain of Eos and Collector Ouphe are cEDH staples. Casual EDH gained powerful commanders like The First Sliver and Morophon, the Boundless. Even Cube got some staples like Hexdrinker and Fallen Shinobi.

But MH1’s most memorable cards may be the banned ones. With the introduction of so many powerful cards, some were bound to be a bit too strong. As one might expect from the most broken cards in the set, one was “free” and the other an artifact: Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Arcum's Astrolabe.

At a glance, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis has a novel design. But like many “free” spells, Hogaak proved powerful. Too powerful, it turns out. A format-warping brew rose from the dead city, combining the new card with Bridge from Below and Vengevine to facilitate incredibly explosive draws.

An explosive deck can be handled, but Hogaak proved resilient, capable of grinding out longer games its Vengevines couldn't end quickly. Players began using maindeck graveyard hate to combat the deck, but its win rate was still high. On July 8, 2019, Wizards banned Bridge from Below in Modern to weaken the deck. It ultimately proved fruitless, with Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis being banned on August 26, 2019. It was banned alongside Faithless Looting, one of Modern’s best enablers for graveyard-based strategies.

It makes sense that an unkillable, mostly free 8/8 that utilized the most broken resource in Magic would prove too strong for Modern. Arcum's Astrolabe looks like a far less assuming card, but it would catch more bans than Hogaak; neither is legal in Modern, but you can't play Astrolabe in Pauper or Legacy. Astrolabe’s issue came from breaking one of the fundamental pieces of Magic: mana.

Magic’s five colors do a lot of heavy lifting in the game. They give it a unique identity and enable various playstyles, but they also serve as a check-and-balance. Players don't build 5-color good stuff decks with nothing but the strongest cards because the mana base would be atrocious. The resulting deck would have incredible card quality but constantly be hampered by the consistency a 5-color deck lacks.

Enter Arcum's Astrolabe. While the minutia of the bans varied between Modern, Legacy, and Pauper, they all shared a common theme: The card made multicolor decks far too consistent at too little a cost. Playing Astrolabe on turn 1 virtually guarantees perfect mana for the remainder of the game, regardless of how many colors you’re playing or what lands you have.

Since Astrolabe replaces itself and is a cheap artifact, it’s rife for breaking with various effects. Ultimately, the card broke a fundamental rule in Magic: The more colors you play, the greater concessions you must make to your mana base. For a couple of format-dependent quirks and an overall sense of homogeny in each format, Astrolabe was banned. Its Pauper ban came on October 21, 2019; the Modern ban came on July 13, 2020; and Legacy lost Astrolabe on February 15, 2021.

Modern Horizons Mechanics

Modern Horizons has a ton of mechanics across its 255 cards. This mechanical breadth led to an intricate, complex set with lots of interesting choices at all parts. Some mechanics only showed up on a card or two, while other were consistent, important themes throughout.

Snow

Snow was a fan-favorite mechanic from the Ice Age block that made a triumphant return as one of the primary mechanical themes in MH1.

Snow is a supertype on permanent cards. Any snow card that produces mana creates snow mana. Snow mana can be spent like any other color of mana, though certain spells and abilities require snow mana to activate.

Slivers

An iconic creature type from Magic’s past, slivers are a type of hive-minded creature. They’re a very linear typal strategy. Most slivers give your slivers a buff, like Sinew Sliver. Every color in MH1 had at least one sliver, but they’re concentrated in .

Ninjutsu

Ninjutsu allows you to pay mana and bounce an unblocked creature you control to your hand to put the creature with ninjutsu into play tapped and attacking. Cards with ninjutsu often have ETB abilities or abilities that trigger off dealing combat damage to maximize the mechanic’s surprise element. Ninjutsu costs are typically lower than the creature’s mana value.

Changeling

The changeling ability is on some creatures with the shapeshifter subtype. A creature with changeling is all creature types.

Cycling

Cycling is an activated ability that can only be activated from your hand. You pay a cost, typically mana, and discard the card with cycling to draw a card.

Flashback

A spell with flashback can be cast from your graveyard by paying its flashback cost. A spell cast with flashback is exiled instead of going to the graveyard after resolution.

Kicker

Kicker is an alternate cost you can pay while casting a card, often for a bonus action.

Outlast

Outlast is an activated ability on creatures. It allows you to pay mana and tap the creature to put a +1/+1 counter onto it.

Rebound

When you cast a spell with rebound from your hand, you may exile it when it resolves and cast it again at the beginning of your next upkeep. After the second cast, it goes to the graveyard as normal upon resolution.

Protection

Permanents can be given protection from colors and card types. A creature with protection from X can’t be targeted, enchanted, blocked, or damaged by a source it has protection from.

Suspend

A card with suspend has an alternate cost you can pay while the spell is in your hand. When you do, the spell is exiled with a specified number of time counters. A time counter is removed at the beginning of each of your upkeeps. When you remove the last time counter, you may cast the spell. A creature with suspend gains haste when cast this way.

Convoke

You can cast a spell with convoke by tapping creatures you control. Each creature you tap adds 1 or a mana of that creature’s color.

Buyback

Buyback is an additional cost you can pay when casting a spell. If you pay the buyback cost, the card returns to your hand instead of going to the graveyard upon resolution.

Battle Cry

Whenever a creature with battle cry attacks, other attacking creatures get +1/+0.

Manifest

Manifest is an ability that lets you put the top card of your library onto the battlefield face-down as a colorless 2/2 creature. Manifested creatures can be flipped faceup by paying their mana cost.

Splice

Originally introduced in Kamigawa block with splice onto arcane, the splice mechanic allows you to add a spell’s ability to another spell on the stack by paying the splice cost and revealing the card in your hand. Splice cards in MH1 splice onto instants or sorceries to make the mechanic less parasitic than its original application.

Overload

Overload is an alternate cost to instants and sorceries. Cards with overload target an individual card; when you pay the overload cost, any instance of “target” on the card is replaced with “each.”

Evoke

Evoke is an alternate cost on creatures. It’s often lower than the full mana cost of the card. When you evoke a creature, it’s sacrificed after it enters the battlefield.

Storm

One of the most broken mechanics of all time! When a spell with storm is cast, it’s copied for each spell cast before it that turn. You can choose new targets for the copies.

Replicate

Replicate is an additional cost on instants and sorceries. When you cast a spell, you make a copy for each time you pay its replicate cost, and you may choose new targets for the copies.

Replicate is an additional cost on instants and sorceries. When you cast a spell, you make a copy for each time you pay its replicate cost, and you may choose new targets for the copies.

Entwine

Cards with entwine are always modal spells with one or more options. When you pay the entwine cast while casting the spell, you can choose all modes instead of one.

Hideaway

Creatures and lands with hideaway enter the battlefield tapped. When a permanent with hideaway comes into play, you look at a specified number of cards, then exile one of them. Once a condition is met, some hideaway cards allow you to cast the exiled card without paying its mana cost while others put the exiled card into your hand.

Unearth

Unearth is an activated ability on permanents that can only be activated from the graveyard. When you pay the unearth cost, the permanent is returned to the battlefield from your graveyard. Creatures with unearth gain haste. At the beginning of the next end step or whenever the creature leaves play, it’s exiled instead.

Devour

As creatures with devour enter the battlefield, you can sacrifice any number of creatures. The creature with devour enters with N times that many +1/+1 counters on it; N is specified by the card.

Evolve

Evolve is only on creatures. Whenever a creature ETBs under your control, if it has power or toughness greater than the power or toughness of the creature with evolve, that creature gets a +1/+1 counter.

Hellbent

Cards with hellbent get additional effects or bonuses if you have no cards in hand.

Persist

When a creature with persist dies, if it didn’t have a -1/-1 counter, it comes back to play with a -1/-1 counter on it.

Exploit

When a creature with exploit enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice a creature. Exploiting a creature adds a bonus effect. A creature can sacrifice itself to pay for exploit.

Proliferate

When you proliferate, you choose any number of permanents and players, then give them an additional counter of any kind they already have.

Exalted

Exalted is a triggered ability on permanents. Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, it gets +1/+1. Each instance of exalted across your board triggers separately.

Delve

Spells with delve can have the generic portion of their mana cost paid by exiling cards from your graveyard. Each card exiled pays 1.

Echo

A permanent with echo has an echo cost that must be paid at the beginning of the next upkeep after casting it. If you don’t pay the echo cost, the creature gets sacrificed.

Dredge

If you have a card with dredge in your graveyard, you may put it into your hand and mill a number of cards instead of drawing a card. This is a replacement effect, so it doesn’t use the stack.

Cascade

When you cast a spell with cascade, exile cards from the top of your library until you exile a card with a lesser mana value. You may cast that card, then put all cards that weren’t cast on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Retrace

Cards with retrace can be cast from the graveyard by discarding a land as an additional cost.

Morbid

Morbid is only activate if a creature died during the turn you cast the spell or activate the ability of the card in question.

Vanishing

A permanent with vanishing enters with several time counters. You remove a time counter at the beginning of your upkeep and sacrifice the permanent when the last counter is removed.

Threshold

Cards with threshold get a bonus when you have seven or more cards in your graveyard.

Level Up

A creature with level up has a level up cost that can be paid at sorcery speed. When you pay it, the creature gets a level counter. The more level counters the creature has, the stronger its abilities become.

Shroud

Permanents with shroud cannot be targeted by spells or abilities.

Totem Armor

Totem armor is an ability on auras. If a creature enchanted by an aura with totem armor would be destroyed, the aura is destroyed instead. If a creature has multiple auras with totem armor, you choose one to be destroyed.

Modular

Creatures with modular enter the battlefield with +1/+1 counters. When they die, you can move their +1/+1 counters onto another artifact creature.

Modern Horizons Card Gallery

White

Blue

Black

Red

Green

Multicolor

Colorless

Lands

Notable Cards

MH1 has many notable cards that impact multiple formats. Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Arcum's Astrolabe count, but those aren't listed since I've given them plenty of time already.

Force of Negation

Unsurprisingly, the free counterspell was good! Force of Negation doesn’t see as much Modern play as it used to, but it’s still a vital component in many sideboards and great in Cube. It’s not quite Force of Will but is much easier to cast, and exiling the countered spell is far from irrelevant.

Crashing Footfalls

One of the most enduring staples from MH1, Crashing Footfalls is a powerful piece of Modern’s metagame.

The Temur Rhinos deck, also called Temur Cascade or Temur Footfalls, uses Shardless Agent and Violent Outburst to put 8 power on the board on turn 3.

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

Another big player in Modern, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician has also made waves in Historic thanks to one of MTG Arena’s expansion sets. It’s a powerful draw engine with board control for relatively little mana.

Canopy Lands

The canopy lands—Fiery Islet, Silent Clearing, Waterlogged Grove, Sunbaked Canyon, and Nurturing Peatland—were significant as continuations of the cycle first seen in Future Sight with Horizon Canopy.

Talismans

Another achievement, especially for Commander players, was the completion of the Talisman cycle from MirrodinThese 2-mana rocks are significantly more powerful than Ravnica’s Signet cycle, and completing it helped many mana bases.

Available Products

Booster Box

 Modern Horizons came out in 2019, barely predating Project Booster Fun. Because of this, it doesn’t come in all those newfangled Set Boosters and Collector Boosters or with extra tie-ins.

You can purchase boxes and booster packs of MH1 online. Booster boxes contain 36 booster packs. Each pack has 17 cards, including an art card, a double-sided token, and a full-art snow basic.

Magic: The Gathering Modern Horizons Booster Box | 36 Booster Packs | Factory Sealed, One Size
  • The first Magic set DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY FOR THE MODERN FORMAT, Modern Horizons unleashes all-new cards and strategies on the Modern metagame.
  • With a mix of reprints and new innovations, every one of the 540 cards in your Modern Horizons booster box is ELIGIBLE YOUR MODERN DECK for the first time.
  • In Modern Horizons, historic cycles get new additions and ICONIC CHARACTERS make their first appearance as cards.
  • From Battle Cry to Unearth, nearly 40 returning mechanics combine to make Modern Horizons a deep BOOSTER DRAFT experience with endless configurability.
  • Every booster pack includes a FULL-ART SNOWCOVERED LAND, printed for the first time since the 2006 expansion, Coldsnap.

Wrap Up

Force of Negation - Illustration by Paul Scott Canavan

Force of Negation | Illustration by Paul Scott Canavan

Modern Horizons has had an undeniable impact on Eternal formats. Its legacy isn’t all bright thanks to some broken cards that needed bans, but its staples are still fundamental pieces in Modern, and many sets benefited from the cards within. It also represented a change in how Wizards prints Modern cards that impacts us to this day.

What’s your favorite card from Modern Horizons? Are you excited about Modern Horizons 3? Let me know in the comments or on the Draftsim Discord!

Stay safe, and keep being iconic!

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