While spoiler season for Modern Horizons is only halfway done, last week on Wizards weekly stream they confirmed Counterspell is not in Modern Horizons. Their reasoning behind this is not wanting it to outshine the new counter spells they are introducing, such as Prohibit, as well as not wanting cards like Mana Leak to fade into ambiguity,
Essentially, they don’t want to give us a powerful card to ensure we keep playing weaker cards. There are so many flaws with this ideology that I’m going to be breaking it down piece by piece in order for us to fully understand the stupidity behind such flawed reasoning.
Before continuing, the largest reason I’m upset about this statement is the disingenuity surrounding it. I can only think of Wyatt Cheng, principal designer for Diablo Immortal, and his infamous quote; “Do you guys not have phones?”
Do you guys not have Mana Leak?
Mark Rosewater on his blog has hinted many times at Counterspell being printed in a new set. I quote from his mothership post on May 28, 2018 as to whether or not Counterspell was ever on the table for a reprint in Dominaria:
“We did talk about it. We wanted Dominaria to have some high-octane reprints, which means we discussed just about every high-profile card that potentially could come back. In the end, we decided we didn’t want to bring Counterspell back to Standard and chose to pass on it, but there was honest discussion about it wherein we weighed the pros and cons.”
Okay, so they have given Counterspell a thought for printing it into a Standard set, subsequently making it Modern legal, but they deemed it best to exclude it, whether that be for power reasons or some other reason, we don’t know. Yet, he has noted multiple times they would like to introduce Counterspell into Modern.
How could they possibly introduce a powerful card into the Modern format without also printing it into Standard? Something like that has never happened before and they would have to design an entire set that is Modern legal but not Standard legal! They’ve never done anything of that sort before, and doing so would be a major undertaking in order to properly balance the set so as to not disrupt the format. If only they could design such a set.
When Modern Horizons was announced, nearly everybody’s minds went to Counterspell. If you do a quick Google search of all of the mindless top 10 inclusions for Modern Horizons, Counterspell is the only card that will show up in most every article. My immediate reaction to Modern Horizons was to buy a playset of foil Signature Spellbook Counterspells because I knew Counterspell would be printed in Modern Horizons, and I knew I would want to play Counterspell.
As you can tell, everybody partially agreed Counterspell was going to become Modern legal, and nobody was really upset with it.
Allow me to set all of my whining aside for a second. Counterspell is not in Modern Horizons, and nothing we do now is going to change that. So what do we have? The main card in question they mentioned on their stream when the question of Counterspell came up was Prohibit. Prohibit is a new addition, being printed into Modern for the first time (obviously). I don’t want to downplay this card, it is quite good and I do expect it to be played, not to the extent Counterspell would have, but still be played nonetheless, even though it may simply be a one-of or two-of in the control decks that want it. However, they use this card as the primary example as to why Counterspell wasn’t printed, when they could have literally swapped it out for Counterspell, and their entire argument falls apart. Mana Leak sees little to no play as it is, occasionally making a showing in U/W Control, so saying we can just play a card that already is too weak for the format proves how little they are listening.
By their logic, they need to ban Lightning Bolt so cards like Shard Volley and Collateral Damage can be played.
Not only does this reasoning fall shallow by making this comparison, but they go directly against this by printing Springbloom Druid in Modern Horizons, which, I won’t say is a strictly better Harrow, but having to sacrifice a land on resolution rather than cast is a huge deal, especially when Force of Negation is now a real card. Harrow is a card I have been wanting to play for a long while, especially in Titanshift, but now that Springbloom Druid exists, I can’t see a world where I would ever play Harrow in Modern.
That is okay.
Modern’s power level rises with each new set released, especially with Modern Horizons. It’s a natural symptom of being an eternal format. Decks will get better cards to include, so old cards will fade into ambiguity. This sort of thing is supposed to happen, and Wizards is denying two mana counter spells the right to evolve into better forms of themselves, and then claim they care about preserving their heritage, when their lineage is essentially dead.
The exclusion of Counterspell is a huge issue to me, and their dishonesty (or lack of basic reasoning) only kindles the flames of rage many people are feeling right now. Modern Horizons is looking to be an amazing set, outstanding even, with multiple cards already proving to be included in Tier 1 decks, with multiple more threatening to spawn their own new archetypes. I don’t want to downplay the influence this set will have on it’s namesake format, I only wish the people behind the set would be more honest and forthright with their communication to the community.