Force of Negation
27, Apr, 24

Modern Horizons 3 Leaks Boast Free Counterspell with Broken Applications!

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Article at a Glance

With Pro Tour Outlaws of Thunder Junction in its early stages, it’s no surprise that a lot of players are focused in on Standard. However, even though Standard is rightfully garnering plenty of attention, fans of Modern have a lot to look to talk about as well. Over the past few days, a multitude of intriguing Modern Horizons III cards have been leaked to the public. Undoubtedly one of the most hyped cards leaked thus far is Harbinger of the Seas, a new take on Magus of the Moon. Harbinger of the Seas has the potential to be a big upgrade for blue decks like Merfolk.

As it turns out, more elite blue Modern Horizons III leaks are coming out of the woodworks. Today, we are going to feature an amazing Counterspell variant with a surprising level of flexibility. Flare of Cultivation had already been spoiled, and now we get to see the new blue “free” spell, Flare of Denial, in all its glory.

Of note, this is once again merely an unofficial leak. As with other leaks, this card could turn out to be fake. We are going to discuss the card under the assumption that it is indeed real. If you’d like to wait for an official preview, consider this your spoiler warning. With that out of the way, it’s time to take a look at Flare of Denial and what makes it such a scary addition to Modern and beyond.

Comparing to Force of Negation

Flare of Denial

Right off the bat, Flare of Denial is likely to draw some direct comparisons to Force of Negation. Both cards are Cancel variants that provide you with the opportunity to bypass their mana costs. In the case of Force of Negation, you have to exile a blue card from your hand to play it for free. For Flare of Denial, you have to sacrifice a non-token blue Creature.

For most decks, Force of Negation’s cost is much easier to pay. Flare of Denial generally requires you to sacrifice something you have already invested mana into, which is a big deal. There are also plenty of blue decks such as Crashing Footfalls shells that don’t have a high enough density of blue Creatures to utilize Flare of Denial. So, what makes Flare of Denial so intriguing?

The biggest appeal of Flare of Denial comes from its lack of restrictions as a Counterspell. First, Flare of Denial can hit Creatures. This opens the door for Flare of Denial to help in a much wider array of matchups. Getting to counter Primeval Titan at of nowhere, for instance, can be a backbreaking play.

Second, you can cast Flare of Denial for free on your own turn. This allows you to use Flare of Denial proactively to push through your own combo, akin to Force of Will. If you’re a Thassa’s Oracle EDH gamer, Flare of Denial may prove to be a strong addition as a result. The key, of course is making sure you have blue Creatures to sacrifice, which you ideally didn’t spend too much mana and resources to put into play. Fortunately, there are a few archetypes in Modern where Flare of Denial feels like a slam dunk.

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An Obvious Consideration

Vodalian Hexcatcher

Likely one of the easiest archetypes to slot Flare of Denial into without much extra effort is Modern Merfolk. Merfolk is one of the few decks in Modern that floods the board with cheap, blue Creatures. Thanks to Aether Vial, it’s often trivial to build out a board in short order. As such, enabling Flare of Denial isn’t too tricky.

Current builds of Modern Merfolk do an excellent overall at keeping non-Creature spells at bay. Beyond Force of Negation, Vodalian Hexcatcher does an incredible job at making sure potent non-Creature spells like The One Ring and Living End don’t resolve. However, things get a lot tougher when the opponent is playing game-breaking Creatures.

For instance, one of the hardest matchups for Modern Merfolk is Golgari Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo. Once Yawgmoth hits the board, it threatens to start killing your Creatures one by one and taking over the game. On top of that, an early Grist, the Hunger Tide can take out your Lords or build an army of blockers. Subtlety can help delay these cards a turn, but unless you have a ton of pressure already assembled, this might not be good enough.

Luckily, Flare of Denial completely covers your bases. The only concern is that the deck does have a lot of Merfolk “Lords” that you won’t want to sacrifice. Still, getting rid of Merfolk Trickster or Rishadan Dockhand to counter an opposing bomb can be a big swing in your favor. It may be worth increasing your one-drop count to further enable Flare of Denial. Between Yawgmoth, Primeval Titan, Murktide Regent, and beyond, there are a lot of critical cards to counter that Force of Negation or Vodalian Hexcatcher simply won’t touch.

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A Potentially Busted Interaction

Narcomoeba

Obviously, there are plenty of decks that won’t be able to reliably have non-token blue Creatures in play to sacrifice. Even for Merfolk, sacrificing Creatures you already paid mana for isn’t exactly a good tempo play. However, what if you had access to blue Creatures that were both easily expendable and required no mana input? Enter: Dredge decks.

Dredge in Modern was once a force to be reckoned with in the format. It easily beat up on midrange strategies and Creature-decks that relied on combat damage to win the game. Creeping Chill and Conflagrate made racing the Dredge deck a tough proposition. Meanwhile, Life from the Loam, Ox of Agonas, and recursive threats like Prized Amalgam made it quite difficult to win an attrition battle.

Unfortunately, Modern has become significantly faster and more combo-centric over the years. Modern Dredge is a bit slow and lacks disruption for combo archetypes, which has put it in an awkward spot. Perhaps the printing of Flare of Denial can change that.

Cards like Cathartic Reunion and Thrilling Discovery make sure that once you have a Dredge card in your graveyard, it’s not hard to flip a large portion of your library into your graveyard in one turn. In doing so, chances are you will hit a mix of Narcomoebas and Prized Amalgams that will enter the battlefield directly from your graveyard. Now, you have multiple Creatures to sacrifice at will to cast Flare of Denial, and bringing back Prized Amalgam is trivial! Flare of Denial may finally give this deck a fighting chance against Amulet Titan or Indomitable Creativity.

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Digging Deeper

Leyline of the Guildpact

Funnily enough, another way to make Flare of Denial a little less restrictive is to throw in cards like Leyline of the Guildpact or Painter’s Servant. These cards then allow you to sacrifice Creatures of any color, which can be useful depending on the archetype.

For instance, with Painter’s Servant out, you can crack a Fetchland and grab Dryad Arbor as fuel to sacrifice to Flare of Denial. Albeit, this is quite niche, but could be a cool interaction from some Commander decks. In Legacy, it’s unlikely Flare of Denial will overtake Pyroblast which benefits in a similar manner. Still, it’s something to keep an eye out for.

It’s possible Flare of Denial even strengthens Delver of Secrets or Snapcaster Mage strategies in Modern. This card opens up a world of opportunities, so it’s up to us explore them and find the best fit!

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