The massive announcement at Gen Con regarding upcoming sets for 2024 and beyond has brought a lot of interesting discussion points. From lots of new Universes Beyond crossovers to unique main sets, there’s a lot of things to look forward to. Given the wide variety of sets that Wizards of the Coast is preparing to release, it can be difficult to keep track of what sets impact what Constructed formats. For example, while some Universes Beyond crossovers will not be legal in Modern, the Assassin’s Creed set will be. Much like was the case with Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth, this could greatly shake up the Modern format.
If that wasn’t enough, there is confirmation that Modern Horizons Three is scheduled to release in Q2 of 2024. Given just how impactful the first two Modern Horizons sets were, it’s safe to say that Modern could be in for some major metagame changes. For better or worse, Modern is a very different format than it used to be, and it looks like it will continue to evolve rather rapidly. Even though little is known about the contents of each of these sets, there’s certainly speculation to be had, especially given the precedents that other Universes Beyond and Modern Horizons sets have laid in front of us.
Modern Horizons Power Creep
One of the biggest defining factors of both Modern Horizons and Modern Horizons Two has been power creep. It’s dangerous to print a card that is likely to be a Modern powerhouse in a main set, because a lot of these styles of cards end up being way too good for Standard. Modern Horizons helps fix this problem, allowing cards to be added directly into Modern, skipping formats like Standard and Pioneer. Additionally, these cards tend to be designed specifically for Modern, and Wizards of the Coast has been pushing the envelope regarding the power level of a lot of the cards that are introduced to the format.
Obviously, there are bound to be mistakes like Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis that end up being way too good for Modern. Beyond that though, tons of cards, from Wrenn and Six to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, change the overall landscape of the format a huge amount. For example, with the existence of Fury and Solitude, small Creature-based decks like Infect and Humans have largely been wiped out of the format. This is only exacerbated by the dominance of Wrenn and Six, Orcish Bowmasters from LOTR, and even Lava Dart punishing one-toughness Creatures.
The reality is that these sets that go directly into Modern while skipping over Standard give Wizards of the Coast a free window to create absurdly powerful cards. This definitely creates mixed opinions, and comments like the Reddit one above suggest people are prepared for even more extremely powerful cards to get added. Of course, this definitely has some negative implications, even beyond just power creep.
The Rush of Cards
Perhaps one aspect of the introduction of Universes Beyond and Modern Horizons sets to Modern that is sometimes overlooked is how much it impacts players that look to buy into decks in paper. Years ago, one of the most desirable parts of Modern compared to formats like Standard was that it largely gave players the ability to invest in a specific archetype and play that same archetype for a long time.
Obviously, sometimes bans played a role in how long top tier archetypes could stick around, such as the case with old-fashioned Arcbound Ravager Affinity and the banning of Mox Opal. Still, there were decks like mono-green Tron that were decent and remained largely unchanged for years.
Both the Universes Beyond sets for Modern like LOTR and Modern Horizons sets continuously change the metagame every time they are introduced. In some cases, this means that certain strategies become somewhat outdated and pushed out by “the new hotness.” However, even like with mono-green Tron gaining The One Ring, established archetypes still acquire new goodies that force players to either adapt and spend lots of money or play a version of the deck that is not updated. This constant influx of cards has some players on edge, and others can’t keep up with buying the cards they need.
“On average, Modern is a lot more interactive now, in part due to the Modern Horizons sets. It was a goal of those releases to offer powerful options to stop your opponents’ combos and play longer, more interactive games. As a result, we believe that Preordain will do more to boost fairer blue decks rather than simply increase the consistency of combo strategies.”USBacon
While these sets may appear largely as a cash grab, especially given the dominance of flashy mythics like The One Ring, straight-to-Modern sets can also be used to try to address potential issues with Modern beyond simply banning more cards. The new Evoke Elementals from Modern Horizons Two, for example, are extremely strong, but Solitude in particular reduces the presence of all-in Creature-based combo decks. Likewise, the existence of Force of Negation means that even if your opponent is tapped out, the coast isn’t necessarily clear for your game-ending combo.
Wizards of the Coast made it clear in today’s “ban” announcement that this was one of the goals when releasing Modern Horizons sets in general. Rather than ban a plethora of different combos from the format, introduce new tools to help fight them. This is an interesting approach, but it can help potentially lower the number of cards that need to be banned. In fact, given the power creep that comes with these sets, there’s additional room for cards to be unbanned, and it looks like Preordain getting unbanned further showcases this.
The Dangers of Over-Adjusting
Of course, there are instances like with Hogaak’s dominance that introducing new cards that push power level boundaries can be dangerous. Even beyond that, though, some players feel like these sets have overcompensated. After all, the existence of extremely powerful late-game cards like The One Ring coupled with the cheap, interactive Evoke Elementals and great removal like Unholy Heat has definitely reduced the percentage of pure Creature-focused aggro decks in Modern.
It will be interesting to see how the introductions of Modern Horizons Three and Assassin’s Creed into Modern further shake up the format. Only time will tell how strong these sets are, but given the power of Modern Horizons One and Two along with Lord of the Rings, there could be major metagame shifts underway soon enough.