Modern Horizons 3 Tier List: The Best New Cards For Modern | Magic: The Gathering

Growing up, my favorite kind of Magic: The Gathering articles to read were always the speculative articles that came out just before a set was released. These articles would discuss which new cards could be good and how they would fit into existing decks or make new ones. I always found these articles to be the ones that got me the most excited to play and try new things. They also helped me to understand what made a MTG card "good" and how to iterate on existing archetypes.

Lately I have found myself wanting to improve my understanding of what makes a Magic card good. I have moved past the point where I can do this just by reading articles, to improve I feel I have to write them. In order to accomplish this, I plan to make a tier list of cards in every major set before release, as well as a grading of how I did on the previous tier list. This way I can track my predictions publicly over time and hopefully improve as I go.

Modern horizons 3 Tier List: The Criteria

The criteria for my tier lists is fairly strict. I only wanted to include good cards rather than having some expansive list that includes the whole set while not differentiating between tiers. Differentiating between the top couple cards in the set is more important to me than judging whether some niche sideboard card is C or D tier. If your tier list has 5 cards in S tier, it probably isn’t well thought out. The tiers are ordered left to right and top to bottom, by how I would rank the cards within that tier. Each tier follows the following criteria:

S tier

These cards create a new tier 1 deck/archetype or are overwhelmingly strong on rate. Past Modern Horizons examples include Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Crashing Footfalls, Urza's Saga and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.

A tier

These are strong 4-ofs in popular archetypes. The staples of the format, but not format defining like the S tier cards. Past Modern Horizons examples include Force of Negation, Wrenn and Six, Murktide Regent, or Grist, the Hungertide.

B tier

These cards either make a fringe archetype playable or provide a meaningful upgrade to existing decks. Some current examples of B tier cards are Unholy Heat, Force of Vigor, Endurance, and Territorial Kavu.

Modern Horizons 3 Tier List

S tier cards from MH3

Nadu, Winged WisdomUgin’s Labyrinth

Nadu, Winged Wisdom

Nadu is in S tier due to its potential as a one card combo, centered around triggering the static of this Bird Wizard as much as possible. These decks would presumably use something like Shuko or an il-Kor creature that can be used for free repeatedly in a turn to trigger his static ability. Similar to Goldspan Dragon, Nadu’s ability even provides value when your opponent tries to stop you. 

Ugin’s Labyrinth

Sol lands are broken. That being said, Ugin’s Labyrinth has quite the downside and very specific deck building restraints. But such restrictions are worth it, especially with cards like the One Ring and Karn, the Great Creator in the format. If Ugin’s Labyrinth is indeed S tier, it will likely be in conjunction with Devourer of Destiny to get up to enough playable 7 drops to consistently get 2 mana off the Labyrinth.

A tier cards from MH3

Chthonian NightmareNethergoyfTamiyo, Inquisitive Student

Chthonian Nightmare

Chthonian Nightmare is a sort of "fixed" Recurring Nightmare in that it can’t reanimate a large creature. But any cube player will tell you that the best way to use Recurring Nightmare was not as a reanimate but as an infinite value engine. In this role, Chthonian Nightmare has potential to be even better than its Exodus counterpart due to the cheaper mana cost, warranting its A tier status.


1 mana Tarmogoyf in a better color, need I say more? Not counting your opponent’s graveyard is certainly a downside, but costing half the mana is a big enough upside to make up for this. Black is also a better color for this sort of threat than green, due to having better interaction. The escape clause is pure upside here.

Tamiyo, Inquisitive Student / Tamiyo, Seasoned Scholar

Tamiyo is a strange card in that it's a creature that provides value by being in play, but it doesn't do real damage to the opponent. It is sort of like Nat Paegle from Hearthstone. Or like a blue version of Llanowar Elves. The front side is probably stronger than the back and is what would make this card good. The whole cycle of these flip planeswalkers is hard to evaluate, but Tamiyo looks to be the best of them.

Vexing BaublePhyrexian TowerKappa Cannoneer

Vexing Bauble

Vexing Bauble is a colorless, low cost, unique hate card. But that would not get it into A tier on its own. Bauble really shines as a tutor target for both Urza’s Saga and Karn, the Great Creator, both for shutting off opponents' combos as well as key interaction such as Solitude. How exactly this fits into existing decks and sideboards will be interesting to see.

Phyrexian Tower

Phyrexian Tower is another strange card because it both demands a specific kind of deck and is typically only playable as a 2-of. But when these decks do draw it, the Tower is very good. Yawgmoth is probably in the market for 2 copies and Phyrexian Tower will provide a boost to any creature sacrifice shenanigans in modern in the future.

Kappa Cannoneer

Kappa Cannoneer is a card that already sees play in legacy. The only reason it is not a slam dunk S is that the enablers in modern are much worse than in Legacy. That being said, the Turtle Warrior is still a strong artifact payoff. What differentiates it from other artifact payoffs is that it both costs a lot of nominal mana and protects itself via ward. This makes it resilient to cards like Engineered Explosives and Solitude, and potentially better postboard than preboard.

B tier cards from MH3

For B tier, I am giving brief comments and divide the cards into categories as to why exactly they are in B tier. It would be easy to add many more cards to this tier, but I have deliberately aimed to be selective here in order to show off the cards I actually think are strong, rather than cards that will see play as a 1-of or in some fringe deck. 

Strong on rate

Ajani, Nacatl PariahFlare of DenialAmped RaptorPhlage, Titan of Fire's FuryPsychic FrogSink Into Stupor

These are all generically strong cards, mostly without a clear immediate home in Modern. Phlage and Psychic Frog are held back by their color combination and Flare of Denial potentially has too hard of a cost to use consistently. The only one with a clear home is Sink into Stupor, which will likely replace Lorien Revealed in many decks, though I don’t think that will be super impactful.

Powerful sideboard cards

Disruptor FluteHarbinger of the Seas

Both of these cards give us options we haven't had before. Disruptor Flute is a more flexible Pithing Needle effect and helps improve Karn sideboards. Blue getting a Magus of the Moon is a great tool against things like Amulet that has not existed before.

Archetype revitalizers

Devourer of DestinyBuried AliveRuby Medallion

Eldrazi Tron, Vengevine, and Storm were all once strong archetypes in Modern that have fallen by the wayside. New additions from MH3 can potentially give them the power boost they need to compete again. 

Autor: Zach Kiihne

Zachary Kiihne was a longtime grinder on American tournament circuits with success on both the Star City Games and Grand Prix scenes, then a breakout performance at Players Tour Phoenix saw him join the Magic Rivals League. He found even more success online battling on Arena than in paper with two Set Championship Top-8s and has continued to be a critical part of Team Handshake Ultimate Guard. Zach's ruthless efficiency combined with his constant drive mean that few players are as productive as him.