This is the first part in a series of 3 set reviews:

Black & Green – Luke Mulcahy (Mulch)
Red, Brown & Multi – Lachlan (Loki) Saunders
Blue & White – Sarv

Modern Horizons has given us a heap of new cards to play with. Over the next week we’ll be releasing reviews for the rest of the set.

CABAL THERAPIST
Sweet art.

At first glance this appears to cost you tempo just like DITS do (Duress, Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize); You spend what the sacrificial creature costs and they spend zero mana on the card that gets discarded. When you look a little deeper it’s not that simple: if the card they discarded was their only three-drop and the rest of their hand costs more, they actually lose 3 mana rather than zero.

Also, the creature you sacrifice might have cost you zero mana, e.g. Bloodghast or it may have even wanted to die, e.g. Academy Rector/Arena Rector.
Of course Cabal Therapist’s ability triggers each turn, provided it’s still alive. The aforementioned Bloodghast (also tutorable with Entomb) will eat away at their hand very efficiently. Bitterblossom and Dreadhorde Invasion also provide Therapist fodder.

Of course the first trigger is blind, so having a look beforehand with DITS, Gitaxian Probe or Vendilion Clique will increase effectiveness. Of course your opponent may even reveal a card in their hand from a tutor, or even by simply being unco!

I’ve played Cabal Therapy blind many many times in Highlander and holy crap does it feel good hitting blind. One of the highest skill testing in Highlander.
Cabal Therapists’s 1/1 Menace is a bad aggro body, but there’s no chance you’re going aggro if you’re sacrificing your creatures, so this is more of a midrange/creature combo card, where disruption is really needed.

YAWGMOTH, THRAN PHYSICIAN
Dies to a lot of one-cost removal, two-cost removal and planeswalker activations, so you really need to a lot of little critters to sacrifice to get full value. The ones mentioned below Cabal Therapist work. Even saccing mana dorks is fine, you would’ve already got value from them.

It’s worth noting that you choose targets before paying costs, so if your opponent has no targets, you can target the creatures you sacrifice.
Small combo potential if you manage to get Yawgmoth and two undying creatures; what a Yawgmoth’s Bargain and a Plague Wind to boot.

This card is just so fitting. The whole package of flavour, colour scheme and power come together really nicely. A card fitting of the name Yawgmoth.

CORDIAL VAMPIRE
Triggers off your opponent’s creature’s deaths too, which is powerful. If only you could turn Walking Ballista into a vampire…
Cordial Vampire is for tribal strategies only. There’s nowhere near enough good vampire payoffs YET, but this is a step towards that. The only Vampire payoff I’m excited about is Vampire Nocturnus and maybe Legion Lieutenant. We’ll need some more vampire sets I think.
There isn’t a persist Vampire yet but it makes flavour sense so it’s possible.

DEAD OF WINTER
Sweet art and name.

I hope all you mono black players didn’t invest in beta swamps! With the printing of Modern Horizons there’s a good chance that ‘basic basics’ become obsoleted by snow-covered basics. Even if you aren’t playing things that care about snow, now there are some powerful things that you can bluff playing.

Theoretically pimp normal basics should all drop in price and foil snow-covered lands shoot up. The question is which snow-covered land is most pimp? Back to the actual card – sweepers aren’t maindeckable in all metagames but they can be. They are certainly sideboardable.

There are already plenty of neg neg sweepers available, the most popular being Toxic Deluge. Some, like Cry of the Carnarium exile. You may have certain threats that you want to be sure to deal with or you may simply want the next best black sweeper. Either way Dead of Winter is playable.

DEFILE
‘Swamp Skred’
It’s not Fatal Push but in mono-swamps it’s fine, and mono-swamps is a playable deck.

DREGSCAPE SLIVER
Has potential. Unearth Basal Sliver and Dormant Sliver to draw a card for each Sliver in your graveyard. Add Psionic Sliver in their and you can also shock something each time. The new Lavabelly Sliver also helps here.

FIRST-SPHERE GARGANTUA
Not super powerful since it can just be chump blocked, but if your deck can discard cards at will, then this is some decent value: 5 damage and draw a card.
Likely in decks with dredge cards, so that draw effect can be replaced. Maybe better than Think Twice for some Laboratory Maniac / Jace, Wielder of Mysteries kills.

SMITING HELIX
Good value in a ‘Mardu Pyromancer’ style deck with Faithless Looting, Liliana of the Veil and Bedlam Reveler etc.

FORCE OF DESPAIR
How much does your opponent have to pay to cast Mind Rot for you to be ahead? Cause this card kind of turns your opponent’s creatures into Mind Rots on your terms. If your opponent deployed multiple creatures then it’s amazingly efficient.

In Highlander there are some absurd card drawing engines which are desperate for ways to regain tempo and Force of Despair can be a way.
Late game this is fine to hard cast.

In a three colour deck it’s harder to get the coloured spell density that blue can get for Force of Will because other colours don’t have cantrips; something to keep in mind if you intend to build with this.

This doesn’t target, so it’s a good answer to True-Name Nemesis and Protean Hulk piles using Sylvan Safekeeper.

PLAGUE ENGINEER
At last!

A great answer to True-Name Nemesis, which can be found with creature tutors. Much stronger than the existing Orzhov Pontiff or Plague Mare.
Devastating against elves.

Bad news for tribal decks, which were already struggling, but I don’t imagine this will see a huge amount of play.

UNDEAD AUGUR
High quality zombie tribal payoff. Zombies are only just starting to get there despite being one of the oldest tribes. Zombie Trailblazer, Cryptbreaker, Undead Warchief and Gravecrawler are some of the more exciting payoffs.
Goes nicely with the next little guy:

PUTRID GOBLIN
Persist creatures are always exciting for their combo potential.

The ways to repeatedly remove the -1/-1 counter include:
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Vizier of Remedies
Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Metallic Mimic
Rhythm of the Wild
Master Biomancer

Then all you need is a sacrifice outlet that provides some value and voila, combo. Notable sac outlets include:
Viscera Seer
Goblin Bombardment
Altar of Dementia

annnnd

SLING-GANG LIEUTENANT
Able to sacrifice itself.

Very gummy card. Great vs spot removal. Amazing at holding back Tarmogoyf/Gurmag Angler. Can pull tricks like blinking for value or sacrificing blockers to prevent Jitte triggers. Can be tutored for by Goblin Matron, which is good news for the Food Chain + Squee, the Immortal combo. In that case you can also substitute Food Chain for Aluren.

CHANGELING OUTCAST
Very poor stats but changelings are powerful nonetheless. Some creature types are so exotic or only printed at high mana costs, these creature types can have super powerful tribal payoffs printed for them. Crucible of Fire for example; Even if all your dragons are 1/1’s for 1, that +3/+3 is a heap of damage.
It may not currently be the case, but I can imagine a deck which is just cheap changelings and all the insane tribal payoffs. Like the following:

AYULA, QUEEN AMONG BEARS
Would’ve been a lot funnier if Ayula was male. Bears aren’t a thing but they could be one day! Cummon Words of Wilding!

AYULA’S INFLUENCE
A lot more castable in Life from the Loam strategies than Seismic Assault and a lot more efficient than Zombie Infestation.
Amazing with Land Tax.

The triple G casting cost is manageable if you run the allied green ‘battle lands’ and ‘cycling duals’ as third and fourth green sources for your off-colour fetchlands, e.g. Canopy Vista and Scattered Groves respectively.

Instant speed activation is great for winning combat and playing around removal. Lots of green devotion for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which is best in green due to mana dorks and land tutors.

COLLECTOR OUPHE
Best mono green card in the set. Best green card goes to Wrenn and Six.

Nice answer to Umezawa’s Jitte, Vedalken Shackles, Black Lotus and Time Vault. Especially for decks with creature tutors: Green Sun’s Zenith, Survival of the Fittest, Eladamri’s Call, Worldly Tutor, etc.

A huge tension with this card is that the decks which want it most are probably taking advantage of equipment to supplement their creatures. I wouldn’t maindeck this in a deck with equipment and creature tutors but I’d consider it in the sideboard where it can be powerful enough against some strategies to let you win even with the nombo. And besides, Skullclamp sometimes gets boarded out against combo because you just want to be as fast as possible. Previously Green Sun’s Zenith would’ve give you an answer to Time Vault until 4 mana. Now it protects you a whole turn earlier, which is huge against that deck.

When sideboarding you often want to bring in cards which are different to your maindeck because your opponent will be bringing in hate for those. This reasoning makes Collector Ouphe arguably weaker than Stony Silence and Null Rod despite attacking for 2 damage each turn. However, it can be tutored for easily. But it comes with a free froghurt!
Creature decks aside, you might just be a Sultai control deck and use this postboard when their creature removal is scarce.

FORCE OF VIGOR
up to are important words here.

If you tap out your opponent probably thinks it’s safe to cast-equip their equipment or go for their Time Vault kill. Force of Vigor can be a huge blowout in these situations. Not having to hold up mana is huge.

Like the other ‘forces’ in this cycle, hard casting it is still fine. Whether this is maindeckable is a metagame call.

CRASHING FOOTFALLS
Two 4/4 tramplers are better than three cards and therefore this is better than Ancestral Visions albeit in a weaker colour. Unlike creatures with suspend, the tokens won’t have haste because this is a sorcery, not a creature spell. Times really nicely with Wraths if you suspend turn one. This card is mostly for green control decks. Sultai has been popular in the past.

Yet another strong no-cost sorcery to ‘cheat cast’ with cards like Goblin Dark-Dwellers and Finale of Promise.

DEEP FOREST HERMIT
Wow. Definitely in the running for second best five-drop after Titania. In competition with Thragtusk, Tolsimir, Friend of Wolves and Regisaur Alpha.
Leaves plenty of value behind if you continue up the Pod chain. Fantastic to blink.

Low toughness can be an advantage: can be brought back with Reveillark or flipped off a small Grenzo, Dungeon Warden.

Can be tutored for with Green Sun’s Zenith, Imperial Recruiter and Recruiter of the Guard. Almost certainly the biggest Elf. Five bodies makes any kind of anthem amazing. Even though this is a five-drop, it’s still fast enough against combo in the mana dork decks; swinging for 9 is no joke.

HEXDRINKER
Very strong aggro creature. Aggro’s greatest weakness is the late game and Hexdrinker helps in that regard.
Figure of Destiny and Student of Warfare have always been good cards, it’s been their mana requirements which have kept them out of the spotlight.
This card is much weaker in midrange because you won’t be fast enough to effectively use the 2/1 aggro level and the risk of tempo loss before level 8 is too high. Still playable in midrange though, especially builds which can produce a tonne of mana.

SCALE UP
Strong pump spell for infect and double strike strategies.

UNBOUND FLOURISHING
Unique and powerful (Rosheen Meanderer) doesn’t count.

Being an ‘all X’ deck probably doesn’t have the critical mass of payoffs required yet, but it could happen. Those cards are certainly powerful with Channel and other big mana producers.
Enchantments are the hardest card type (apart from planeswalkers) to tutor for, so building around one enchantment can be tricky.