Modern Horizons II Pauper set review

Magic: the Gathering

Deck tech

Modern Horizons II Pauper set review

In today's article, I present you my Modern Horizons II review for Pauper!

By Humberto, 06/03/21, translated by Humberto - Comment regular icon0 comments

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Modern Horizons II has always been in a delicate position because of its predecessor's popularity and impact in all formats where the set is legal. At Pauper, the first Modern Horizons significantly changed the face of the format by adding cards like Ephemerate, Faerie Seer, Defile, Savage Swipe and, the banned from all formats, Arcum's Astrolabe. This makes players have high expectations for Modern Horizons II, whether it's for good or bad. Within Wizards' official calendar, this set was the most promising for Pauper, as Modern Horizons I brought several cards that see play in the format until now.

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But how relevant will its successor be to the format? That's what I'll try to find out in today's article as I review the main additions of Modern Horizons II for Pauper.
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Arcbound Mouser might not look like a big deal, but it's an interesting addition for decks like Brute Squad, which cares about having a relevant 1 drop on the board that interacts well with creatures like Gingerbrute, which particularly strikes me as the best target for Modular in Pauper. It wouldn't surprise me to see it in Brute Squad, and the creature's Lifelink might be relevant to a deck that typically deals with Aggro decks trying to win through the race.

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Unfortunately, this card is not Dispatch. Affinity already has Galvanic Blast to handle most creatures, and their Jeskai versions can easily adopt Journey to Nowhere to handle larger creatures like Gurmag Angler or Annoyed Altisaur.
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The mana cost of Soul of Migration is too restrictive for the card to be good enough to hardcast, but the card's combination with Ephemerate is strong enough to be respected and even considered within Pauper, since we are talking about 8 power divided between 7 bodies with evasion.
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This card is quite unique. Because it has an ability similar to Sai, Master Thopterist, I can't just dismiss the possibilities for interaction it has with plenty of cards. In Affinity, this card interacts with Frogmite, Thoughtcast, Myr Enforcer, and several other creatures with Affinity that the format has. On Tron, this card interacts with Mulldrifter, Mnemonic Wall, Stonehorn Dignitary, and more. It might not seem like the best option, especially when both the creature and its tokens die to Electrickery, but these are decks that don't normally care about Electrickery and Etherium Spinner can add another angle of attack for them, one in which other cards with similar effects are well known to be effective in other formats.
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A blue Thraben Inspector might not even be the most useful card in the world when blue has access to so many quality cantrips, but Hard Evidence might have a home in Serpentine Curve decks like a good blocker against Aggro decks that draw a card while increasing the number of cards in graveyard and exile.
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One of the issues of Blue-Based decks against Cascade is that any creature with the ability simply becomes an automatic 2-for-1, regardless of whether you respond to the spell or not. Lose Focus is the perfect answer to playing against Cascade, as given the Replicate, the card can be copied over and over again, with all copies being able to choose new targets. That way, it's possible to counter the creature with Cascade

and also

the spell it pulls off the top with just one card, and Cascade is such a mana intensive deck that normally it doesn't have any mana left to pay two or more to Lose Focus and its copies.

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This card will definitely be one of the Staples in the set for the format.
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This card, like Mirran Spy, has a combo with Retraction Helix + Lotus Petal or any other artifact with mana value 0 + any ETB payoff like Reckless Fireweaver or Nettle Drone. Since the deck is not competitively viable and already has redundancy in terms of creatures to untap, I don't think Steelfin Whale will bring the deck into the competitive landscape. Outside that deck, the card doesn't seem to have room inside Affinity, where Gearseeker Serpent is a much more prominent body in blue, and Somber Hoverguard would still be a better choice in the same color.
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Having a Madness or Sacrifice enabler that also works as a removal is an interesting alternative to these archetypes. Unfortunately, the card isn't precisely in the colors where Madness tends to stand out, but this and other cards added with the new set have the potential to make players want to test the archetype in a Rakdos or Golgari variant and maybe even have some success with that.
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I really like this card as a cheap and efficient option to resort to multiple threats in a single turn, no matter what they are. It can see play on the sideboards of some decks, although it competes with Reaping the Graves. The card also works well with cards that allow to have multiple copies in the deck like Rat Colony or Relentless Rats, making them interesting discard outlets for cards like Vampire Hounds.
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A 2/2 Haste and Flying creature for one mana, as long as you have a way to discard it, seems like a good threat to aggressive decks. It can be used with cards like Putrid Imp or Faithless Looting in the first few turns, but it's not a card that seems to me to have a home in the format yet.
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Nested Shambler is an interesting card for Aristocrats decks, as not only it is a black creature with man value 1 that leaves a body on the board when it dies, but you can increase the number of these bodies if you increase your power with cards like Rancor, for example. It's a nice addition to the archetype, but it still doesn't seem like enough to take it to Tier 1 level.
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Another addition to Aristocrats decks, and an addition that can help the deck have more reach as the game progresses, especially in games where combat isn't possible due to lock effects or the opponent's board position.
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Arcbound Tracker is an interesting addition to spellslinger decks that have good interaction with artifact creatures. It doesn't look any better than the options we already have available, but Modular can make a difference in the right lists, and it's even possible that we'll see Affinity or Brute Squad variants trying out the card.
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If it were an Instant, this card would be a

great

response for Burn to deal with lifegain and Weather the Storm, as it would give the deck a huge breath to reverse the unfavorable situation or at least mitigate the damage done by Weather the Storm, while also being a huge card advantage engine for other decks.

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As a Sorcery, this card seems unimportant to me as it's essentially a Storm that doesn't do anything for an entire turn, which means it's not worth spending your resources to play the spell and its copies unless you use it to generate a lot of value on the next turn, which is usually not what a Storm deck intends to do, and the archetype can generate that value with other options like Ideas Unbound.
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I particularly like this card more in Modern than in Pauper, but it's a clean answer against Gurmag Angler in the form of a free spell. It can see play on the sideboards of red decks that really need to deal with a Gurmag and the like (RDW comes to mind) and it's another good enabler for Spellslinger decks.
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Mystical Archives made Abundant Harvest legal in Historic and Legacy, and the card saw play in both formats to some extent. Seeing it come out as a common in Modern Horizons II is a very welcome surprise. The big advantage of Abundant Harvest is that it's a green cantrip that looks for exactly the kind of card you need. Want more lands? This card will find. Need something more proactive? This card can help you. In Historic and Legacy, the card is commonly used in Brainstorm decks to remove useless cards from your hand, along the same lines as Preordain, while helping you get what you need. On the other hand, I don't know exactly which decks really want Abundant Harvest, as it's not proactive enough for decks like Stompy or Elves, while also not having an immediate impact on the game to use in Cascade decks, despite this being able to use the card to guarantee your land drops or avoid mana flood if necessary.
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Chatterstorm is by far the most dangerous card of Modern Horizons II for Pauper. I have talked a lot about this card on this articlelink outside website and I don't really have, at the moment, anything else to talk about it.
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Glimmer Bairn is one of the best build-arounds this set has because it works with mechanics that Pauper has plenty of it while opening up as-yet-unexplored possibilities, as tokens are not necessarily the most viable archetype of the format. Lists where Glimmer Bairn can make some success likely include a relevant GW Sisters base, where you have access to Soul Warden and Essence Warden, as well as bombs like Battle Screech and Triplicate Spirits, or in RG Token versions with First Day of Class, Hordeling Outburst, and Hissing Iguanar. Looking at the viability of the creature in green, the cards that really stand out as options for playing the creature are Scatter the Seeds, which can be played for free, Sprout Swarm for the same reason, Fists of Ironwood for producing tokens and giving trample to the card and, despite having a heavier cost, Wolf's Quarry directly adds 12 power to the creature with its tokens, as Glimmer Bairn can feed from ANY token, not just creature tokens.

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The card has the potential to make a fun deck, but Tokens doesn't seem like a viable strategy at the moment and I don't think it's going to be exactly the most competitive archetype in the world.
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Chrome Courier is an interesting card advantage effect alternative for Midrange decks and offers a small but evasive body that can help set a clock with Mulldrifter on a deck like Familiars, for example. This card, along with others, can even generate new variants of midrange decks that seek to take advantage of artifacts (and artifact lands) to play cards like Thoughtcast and accumulate value. But at the moment, Midrange decks probably are better playing cards with Monarch than creating this kind of interaction.
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Drey Keeper is a good card for Midranges as it creates bodies on the board, can be blinked with Ephemerate or even Kor Skyfisher and its ability includes a mana sink that can cause your tokens to gain evasion and increase the clock generated by them. It would be a great payoff for the green and black Midranges and might even be an option for Jund Cascade, but I believe the Jund list is very well-built and doesn't have slots to add it.
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This card can be a great addition to Pauper because of its interaction with Ichor Wellspring or other artifacts, and a Warleader's Helix for 3 mana is a play to be respected and a huge tempo swing against aggressive decks. Unfortunately, the main deck that would benefit from this card, Boros Monarch, is currently not that great in the Metagame and Foundry Helix doesn't add anything the deck can't already do in other ways. However, Foundry Helix has great potential for being a powerful effect coupled to a card with a theme that is already well known in the format today, I wouldn't be surprised if I saw the game and/or collaborated on new archetypes.
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A card that reduces the cost of the main cards used in Gruul Cascade may eventually have a home in the format, although that seems unlikely since the deck currently bets on cards like Utopia Growth and Wild Growth to have a ramp that interacts well with Arbor Elf and does not die to removal.
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I don't believe this card will see play, but I'm mentioning it because it's the cheapest colorless manafixer and ramp that the Pauper has ever seen.
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This is possibly one of the most important cards Affinity has received in the recent years! Not only is the card basically the 5-8 copies of the Myr Enforcer, it also has the bonus of being able to use it to fix the deck's mana curve, which is often a chronic issue for the archetype in many games. In addition, Sojourner's Companion can even be used with Myr Enforcer to increase the amount of impacting creatures that can be dropped on the board for cheap or free, creating a highly efficient variant of the archetype. On my point of view, Sojournerโ€™s Companion is the best addition to Pauper in the set and is a card you can expect to see on the board for months to come.

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Speaking of Affinity, new artifact lands! There is significant discussion of whether Affinity wants lands that enters tapped, and current, more aggressive versions of the deck may not, but having a land that corrects its mana curve

and

has protection against Gorilla Shaman has many advantages for the archetype. We will probably see these lands being used in small amounts in the archetype to correct mana, especially in lists that already use some amount of Thriving Lands for this, as is the case with Jeskai Affinity. In addition to Affinity, this lands cycle is also a valuable addition to other decks that have great interactions with artifacts such as the Brute Squad, Boros Monarch and the most varied Metalcraft decks that may have a chance to resurface, among others. Finally, it is possible to see these lands also being used in some decks in particular to generate value with Cleansing Wildfire, as in Gruul Cascade, since the card now serves not only as hate for Tron or lands enchanted with Utopia Sprawl, but also as a significant value engine, as you can target an indestructible land to search for a basic land

and

to draw a card.

Conclusion

This was my review of Modern Horizons II for Pauper. In my view, compared to Modern Horizons, the set has a much less absurd impact for the format, adding relevant things without necessarily adding so many things that could make the format something radically different like what happened with Commander Legends at the end of last year or with the first Modern Horizons. In particular, I believe the set has good additions to the format (and a dangerous one), and it even helps less popular and less competitive archetypes to have new additions, but it doesn't have the potential to blow up the format entirely. Still, it brings more than enough to be relevant to Pauper and leaves plenty of room for innovations in competitive lists and even the return of a famous archetype. And the big question for me is whether the format will be able to handle Chatterstorm, or whether my 45-day ban prophecy will be fulfilled. Time will tell. Modern Horizons II comes out on June 18th, and I hope the future additions will be beneficial to the Pauper as a whole. Thanks for reading!
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Humberto

Writer and translator for Cards Realm and journalism student. Plays virtually every Magic: The Gathering competitive format.

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