Branching Evolution | The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander | Art by Lucas Graciano
28, May, 24

New MH3 Spoilers Push Modified Synergies To The Max!

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Well, here we are. After a tumultuous preview season that featured more leaks than a Winter soup, we’ve reached the end of Modern Horizons 3 spoilers. Rather than go quietly into that good night, Wizards decided to give us some real bangers today. Specifically, a bunch of MH3 spoilers that play very well with the Modified mechanic.

Modified is a fairly recent addition to the game, entering circulation with Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. This mechanic cares about creatures with +1/+1 counters, Auras, or Equipment on them. All three of these are concepts that have existed in Magic forever, but Modified brings them neatly together under one roof. If you enjoy messing with the natural order (not that one) of things, then these new spoilers will be right up your street.

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Branching Evolution

Let’s start off by looking at a notable reprint. Branching Evolution is a staple in most +1/+1 counter-focused decks in Commander, and for good reason. Doubling all of your counter placement is a huge deal, and can get out of hand very quickly in the right shell. Three mana is a lot, but the fact that this is an Enchantment and not a creature makes it fairly resilient.

This card was first seen in the original Jumpstart back in 2020, and it has graced several Commander precons since. This is its first Modern-legal printing, though, which is significant indeed. Where might Branching Evolution see play in the format? That’s a tricky question to answer. None of the top decks at the moment really make use of +1/+1 counter synergies. With the exception of Yawgmoth, but getting extra counters would actively hinder that deck’s combo strategy.

It is possible that a new deck rises up around this, but I’d say that was unlikely. What’s much more likely is this remaining a Commander staple, but coming down in price a little thanks to this reprint. If that’s all this printing achieves, then it will still be well worth the slot.

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Fangs Of Kalonia

Another of the MH3 Modified spoilers from today that’s likely destined for Commander clout is Fangs of Kalonia. For two mana, this is a Sorcery that places a +1/+1 counter on a creature, then doubles the number of +1/+1 counters on it. At worst, this is two +1/+1 counters for two mana. At best, this is far, far more than that.

On a creature that already had a couple of +1/+1 counters stacked up, Fangs can represent a massive stat boost for a relatively low cost. Particularly if you combine it with other +1/+1 counter synergies like Winding Constrictor and Branching Evolution. Modular creatures, like Arcbound Ravager, get a particularly good deal here and they may well be coming back, what with all the Artifact synergies in MH3.

Of course, we can’t ignore the supercharged elephant in the room. Fangs of Kalonia also has Overload, which lets it hit all of your creatures for six mana. While the base version of the card could maybe see some play in Modern, the Overload side is totally priced out of the format. It’ll be hilarious in Commander, though, and a game-ender on par with Craterhoof Behemoth in many scenarios.

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Lethal Throwdown

Moving more into the ‘potentially Modern playable’ side of things, we have Lethal Throwdown. This is a Bone Splinters-type card, the kind we’ve seen a few versions of in Standard in recent years. The best example of this trend is probably Eaten Alive from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. In Throwdown’s case, you can sacrifice a creature to destroy a creature or Planeswalker.

What sets it apart from its peers is how it interacts with Modified creatures. If you choose to sacrifice one of these, Throwdown draws you a card in addition to its other effects. Turning your sacrifice-based removal into a cantrip feels fantastic, and it’s a nice way to mitigate the innate card disadvantage that comes with trading two-for-one with a card like this.

On the other hand, if a creature is Modified you’ve likely invested some amount of resources into it, which makes the free card feel like less of a worthy reward. There are decks where this won’t be the case, such as those playing Modular or Undying creatures, but for the most part, it won’t feel great. Throwdown also feels like a sidegrade of Eaten Alive, since it doesn’t exile, and can’t be paid for in mana rather than a creature in a pinch. Eaten Alive has never seen Modern play, so I doubt this will either.

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Lion Umbra

MH3-Modified-Spoilers-Lion-Umbra

Now this one is both a blast from the past and a glimpse into the future. Fans of Auras will remember the old Umbra cards, all of which came with the Totem Armor mechanic. This was renamed Umbra Armor in 2023 for cultural sensitivity reasons, and now we’re seeing the very first cards with the new name in Modern Horizons 3. Lion Umbra is one of these cards.

Though the name has changed, Umbra Armor still functions as it did before. It protects against the two-for-one risk of playing Auras by keeping the enchanted creature alive should your opponent remove it. It also offers a chunky +3/+3 boost and two keywords in Vigilance and Reach. This is a very good deal for two mana, but there is a downside. The creature you enchant with it must be Modified already before you do so.

This means the card works best in a dedicated Modified build. Something like the long-dead Bogles decks of old, where you stack multiple Auras on one creature and swing for the win. The card feels a lot like a color-shifted Daybreak Coronet in that respect.

Without Coronet’s Lifelink, it’s not quite as good in that style of deck, but Lion Umbra is still very serviceable. The fact that it can just attach to a creature with a counter, rather than specifically an Aura, greatly opens up your options.

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Titans’ Vanguard

MH3-Modified-Spoilers-Titans-Vanguard

Finally, we have Titans’ Vanguard: a new Eldrazi that plays perfectly alongside the other Modified synergies we’ve discussed today. It wouldn’t be a Modern Horizons 3 spoiler article without an Eldrazi, after all. The Vanguard is a 5/5 Trampler for five mana, with an ability reminiscent of the original Titan cycle from M11.

Whenever it enters the battlefield or attacks, it puts a +1/+1 counter on all your colorless creatures, itself included. This offers a nice boost immediately and also makes sure all your creatures are Modified if you want to lean into that side of things. While not typically associated with the creature type, a go-wide style can work wonders with this card, especially if you get a lot of Eldrazi Scion generators involved.

It may look like little more than a Limited signpost uncommon for a red/green Eldrazi deck, but I think Titans’ Vanguard has real potential. You get a lot for your mana in a Modern Eldrazi deck, and you can ramp into it early with Eldrazi Temple, Ugin’s Labyrinth, and the like. It’s a slam-dunk in any kind of Eldrazi Commander deck too. And of course, I’d be remiss not to mention the stunning artwork, courtesy of Richard Kane Ferguson himself. As final flourishes go, you can’t do better.

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