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Spoiler Highlight: Flares Cycle in Modern

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Modern Horizons 3 brings a new cycle of free spells with a new alternative cost take. In today's article, we analyze the Flares and their potential for Modern!

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Now that the Modern Horizons 3link outside website preview season has officially begun, we can start our highlights and address the set's main cards and their potential impact in the Modern format.

As usual, MH3 brings another cycle of free spells, this time called Flares, where their alternative cost involves sacrificing a non-token creature of the spell's color, thus limiting their use compared to cycles of previous sets, where its cost involved exiling a card of the chosen color from the hand.


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Each has a specific and relatively more conditional effect than other cycles, making them noticeably less explosive and/or less broken than MH2's Evokers. But that doesn't necessarily mean that this cycle won't have a place in the Modern Metagame.

In this article, we evaluate the MH3 Flares in Modern and speculate in which decks each of them could see play in the competitive scene!

Flare of Fortitude - A hope for White-based Aggro?

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Perhaps this is the first time that the white card in a cycle of free spells is the most interesting, and it's no surprise: Flares greatly value board extension as an additional resource and white decks tend, naturally, to have more creatures on the battlefield than other strategies in other colors.

White-Based Aggro has been sidelined from Modern since before MH2, and should remain low until strong enough staples emerge to leverage these archetypes.

However, Flare of Fortitude does exactly everything creature decks want: protects your threats, ensures you don't lose the game to some damage combo or infinite life loss, and can be played without needing to save mana for these occasions, leaving it a step ahead of other cards of the same theme.

Another use, less focused on Aggro, is in the interaction between its first line of text (“your life total cannot change this turn”) with effects that cause damage to you for some broken interaction similar to Madcap Experiment and Platinum Emperion - I'm not sure what interactions we could extract this way, but the potential is there and should be considered after the full spoiler.

Which Decks want Flare of Fortitude?

Flare of Fortitude obviously benefits creature decks that have enough cards to take advantage of its costs - that is, we need white creatures.

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Hammer Time is, naturally, the first deck that comes to mind, but it is also a strategy with a very high number of artifact creatures and, in some cases, having the white mana to cast Surge of Salvation or Blacksmith's Skill will be easier than having a target to sacrifice, except if we start to see an increase in white drops in the archetype, either with Novice Inspector, or with other creatures that may show up on the new set.

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Heliod Combo is another archetype where Flare of Fortitude could make some difference and which uses a decent number of white creatures to cast the card, despite reducing the consistency of Collected Company and, probably, being relegated to the Sideboard.

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Humans requires more than a protection spell to return to the Modern Metagame, but it is, along with Death and Taxes, clearly one of the strategies that benefit most from the card and has the potential to take advantage of it to preserve its board and avoid combos.


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Interestingly, Boros Convoke showed results in a Modern Challenge on May 12, and because it uses a low mana curve alongside many white creatures, it is another viable option to fit Flare of Fortitude into the Sideboard.

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Finally, Mono White Martyr had some occasional results in the last RC season, and as it is made up of a mostly Mono-White base, it can handle the new spell.

Flare of Denial - Strong, but lacks more homes

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Flare of Denial is possibly one of the most hyped cards in MH3 so far, and one of the main reasons why players are clamoring that Merfolks will finally return to the competitive Metagame.

In a vacuum, the idea of sacrificing a creature to counter any spell and having no turn restrictions to pay the alternative costs makes it comparable to Force of Will, but there are severe problems with the nature of this card compared to the others, which can be summarized in the non-token restriction.

For example, consider Delver of Secrets decks from Legacy. It is common for it to use Daze and Force of Will to disrupt the opponent's Tempo while Delver attacks from above and keeps the pressure rolling. Its other use, normally, is to prevent degenerate combos from happening too early.

In the first case, Flare of Denial doesn't work because you would need to sacrifice Delver of Secrets itself or have another blue creature in play to sacrifice - and spell-based Tempo decks tend to have few creatures. In the second, it is very conditioned by how absurd the combo your opponent is doing to the point of wanting to sacrifice a creature to stop it.

Which decks want Flare of Denial?

Flare of Denial fits into Aggro or Tempo that can support a decent number of creatures while needing reactive plays to maintain pressure.

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The first and obvious option is Merfolks, but the new spell doesn't seem like an instant staple as some claim, as there are two costs to be considered: how much pressure the player is giving up in favor of countering a spell and how many slots we will give up to include the new counter.

Merfolks has some flexible slots. Spreading Seas, Dismember and Force of Negation usually go into them to keep the strategy consistent and interactive, and Flare of Denial could go into at least one of these slots.

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Spirits disappeared since the “rotation” from the first Modern Horizons and never made relevant results again. Therefore, I don't believe that a new counterspell will be enough to take it back to the Metagame, but strategies like this can benefit better from the card.

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Speaking of which, Faeries would have some interest in Flare of Denial if it gets enough support to compete in Modern again. Furthermore, unlike Merfolks or Spirits, their interactions don't revolve around adding power to their creatures, but using them to generate positive Tempo and control the opponent's game - a Spellstutter Sprite can easily be sacrificed once its function was fulfilled the moment it came into play.


Flare of Malice - A great Meta Call

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Flare of Malice is the most playable and maindeck-worthy of the cycle. After all, its cost is relatively easy to cast with Orcish Bowmasters or Dauthi Voidwalker, and while four mana is a high cost to cast, it is still an excellent pitch for Grief, and its effect is ideal for dealing with Planeswalkers or specific higher-cost creatures, such as Atraxa, Grand Unifier, Scion of Draco or even Yawgmoth, Thran Physician.

It's not an instant staple (or it doesn't seem to be), but it deserves players' attention due to the prevalence of the Grief and Orcish Bowmasters package in the format currently, in addition to being an excellent Meta Call in case we have to deal with Eldrazi and/or other colossal creatures post-MH3.

Which decks want Flare of Malice?

This one is actually the easiest to identify:

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Any deck that has the Grief and Orcish Bowmasters package may want Flare of Malice in its Sideboard or even maindeck. It is necessary to consider the count of black creatures in each list to consider the consistency with which it can be cast, but its effect does not seem mandatory for the maindeck, and we are unlikely to see it as a 4-of in Sideboards - therefore, there do not seem to be any difficulties for any black Midrange to run it.

Flare of Duplication - Potentially broken… Or potentially useless

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Flare of Duplication is extremely difficult to evaluate because its ceiling is either very high, or very low. It's easier to explain with examples.

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Is it worth sacrificing a creature of yours to copy a Lightning Bolt, Tribal Flames or even Boros Charm? The answer, for the most part, is it depends.

Will sacrificing my Territorial Kavu to deal 5 more damage to the opponent win the game? Will Lightning Bolt copied for the cost of my Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer deal with any immediate threats or win the game? If so, in both cases it would be worth it - but if you drew Flare of Duplication outside those occasions, you probably have a dead card in your hand.

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Now, if we look at the other end of the spectrum with high-cost bombs that typically win the game on their own, is it worth having Flare of Duplication as a backup to Indomitable Creativity? In theory, yes. In practice, would we have to sacrifice one of your targets? Or would it be safe to sacrifice a Dwarven Mine token to pop the Treasure created by Fable of the Mirror-Breaker?

Will this protect your combo spell from a Dovin’s Veto or Counterspell? Would it be possible to use the copy on a different target to ensure it hits even in the face of removal and counterspell?

Flare of Duplication is very conditional, but it is also the card with the greatest potential to do something absurd and under the radar of the cycle. Therefore, it is necessary to keep an eye on the possible applications it can have with combos and/or spells that generate a lot of value.


Which decks want Flare of Duplication?

It depends, and it's difficult to assess.

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Domain Zoo, Burn and, perhaps, Creativity, are the decks in the current Metagame that may be interested in the new Flare to have more reach. However, its potential may be hidden with other MH3 cards or with some unexpected combo with other cards in the format.

Flare of Cultivation - Ramping for free can be a problem

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Flare of Cultivation may seem unexciting at first glance, but ramp for free even on the first turn always has the potential to break the game's metrics.

A combination of Fetch land + Dryad Arbor + Flare of Cultivation not only accelerates the player's mana on the first turn but also guarantees their next land drop. The same combination can be made with Arboreal Grazer or any other green one-drop available in the format, commonly giving players a wide advantage on the second turn.

Although conditional, this combination can accelerate plays of creatures like Yawgmoth, Thran Physician or Primeval Titan, in addition to establishing more aggressive and consistent postures around the combination of Dryad Arbor with fetch lands.

On the other hand, how different is Flare of Cultivation from Delighted Halfling or Noble Hierarch when we talk about accelerating mana? Of course, it doesn't take Fatal Push or Lightning Bolt, but its impact can be redundant in the format due to these dorks that have some additional bonus and can be sacrificed with Eldritch Evolution.

Which decks want Flare of Cultivation?

Probably Big Mana and combos that have a relevant amount of green creatures.

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Amulet Titan can certainly benefit from Flare of Cultivation with some changes to its list. The inclusion of Arboreal Grazer already guarantees the creature needed to cast it for free, a Cultivate isn't completely bad for the archetype and there are a few other cards it can sacrifice to play Primeval Titan earlier. On the other hand, this is a deck that already suffers from problems finding a room for new cards, and its flex slots have been getting smaller and smaller.

Golgari Yawgmoth has a relevant amount of green creatures and can use Flare of Cultivation to cast its combo pieces a turn earlier, in addition to being able to sacrifice Young Wolf to cast the spell and still maintain a creature in play to put pressure and/or keep the combo pieces going.


That's all for today!

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!

Thanks for reading