Magic: The Gathering Modern Horizons has made big splashes in the Modern format, so we continue our series breaking down all the homages and references in the set. Today we cover red. The blue references and black references were done previously. If you have any shoutouts we missed, post them in the comments!
This creature is based on “Trick’s Goblin,” a card that was designed by Patrick “Trick” R. Jarrett that’s been floating from set file to set file for six years. It originally was a 3 mana 3/2 that let you search a mountain from your deck to the field, but then it had you sacrifice that mountain at the end of the turn. This was a twist on red’s temporary bursts of mana known as rituals. Alpine Guide tweaks the card into a snow-themed explorer that lets you keep the mountain, but it loses it if the guide dies.
Aria of Flame
Aria of Flame makes use of verse counters. These debuted on several song-themed enchantments in Urza’s Saga. The last time we saw a card with one was on Yisan, the Wanderer Bard. That card was designed as part of a special collaboration between MTG and several game designers for the Magic 2015 set. Yisan was designed by Brian Fargo as a shoutout to The Bard’s Tale series of games he wrote and directed for.
Cleaving Sliver is a remake of Bonesplitter Sliver that effects only Sliver creatures you control. For decades Magic designers have made tribal boosts effect only your own creatures as that leads to better gameplay. Time Spiral was done as a throwback set, so the Slivers created there effected all Sliver creatures. Recognizing this mistake, Slivers were brought into line with the standard for other tribal lords when they returned in Magic 2014. Bonesplitter Sliver itself was a reference to the card Bonesplitter, as both cards gave +2/+0.
Fists of Flame
Fists of Flame references Jared Carthalion, the main character of The Shadow Mage and Wayfarer, MTG comics published by Armada Comics in 1995. The quote is pulled directly from Magic the Gathering Wayfarer #1. The +1/+0 effect reflects the fire-breathing ability of Shivan Dragon, which Jared summoned several times in his stories.
Force of Rage
Force of Rage is the red counterpart to Force of Negation. As Force of Negation is an updated Force of Will, this makes Force of Rage a counterpart to Pyrokinesis, which was Force of Will’s red counterpart. The tokens made, 3/1s with haste and trample that last one turn, are identical to Spark Elemental. Spark Elemental was made as a smaller version of Ball Lightning, an iconic card from The Dark. The first card to make these tokens was Sparkspitter, which was part of a Time Spiral cycle of cards that all created tokens that were copies of other cards. The 3/1 tokens, now unnamed, would go on to show up in other red cards such as Akoum Stonewaker and Valduk, Keeper of the Flame.
Goatnap takes the common red “Act of Treason effect” and unites it with a homage to Goatnapper. That card could only take control of Goats. The joke being — the set it was in, Lorwyn, had no Goat creatures aside from Changelings, which had all types. Head Designer Mark Rosewater pushed for at least one Goat to be printed in the set to avoid confusion. Just as before, Modern Horizons has no natural Goats, but a goatnapped Changeling will get the +3/+0 bonus.
This goblin is a variant on Goblin Welder and Stoneforge Mystic. Goblin Welder lets you exchange an artifact on the battlefield with one in a graveyard. Goblin Engineer has the same ability. Although, it’s limited to those that cost 3 or less. Like Stoneforge Mystic, the goblin fetches its target immediately when it enters the battlefield. It is also a 2 mana 1/2 artificer like Stoneforge. Stoneforge searches equipment to your hand and then lets you put it on the field, while the Engineer lets you put an artifact in the graveyard when it enters and then bring it back. The engineer’s name keeps a tradition of goblins with job titles and effects that show they are ironically bad at them. (Such as Goblin Guide finding your enemies new lands). In this case, it’s trashing an artifact and swapping it for scrap, as the original goblin Welder did.
This card pays homage to an iconic misprint. In the original Alpha set, Orcish Oriflame was meant to cost 3R but a misprint labeled it as 1R. This was fixed in Limited Edition Beta, but at the time, pre-Oracle, cards were played as printed. So the Alpha and Beta Oriflammes were functionally different. This led to Oriflame being banned. Years later, the game has reached a point where 1R is the proper cost for the effect. It becomes Goblin Oriflamme as it is smaller in cost and goblins were the smaller allies of orcs in their attack on the Dwarves of Sarpadia. The flavor text is from Sarpadian Empires, an in-universe textbook that detailed the lore of kingdoms of Sarpadia on Dominaria. Quotes from it were featured heavily in the Fallen Empires set.
In Modern Horizons, Hollowhead Sliver gives all your Slivers the ability of Rummaging Goblin. The mana cost is the same, though the power and toughness have been increased. Rummaging Goblin was the creature that gave the name “Rummaging” to the red effect of discarding then drawing. Rukarumel is a field researcher from Dominaria, who first showed up on flavor texts of Slivers in Time Spiral.
Koth of the Hammer is a Planeswalker from New Phyrexia who fights in the resistance against the conquering horde. Koth uses mountain and volcanic magic. Lava Dart a fitting spell for him.
Mons is a character first referenced in the first Magic set, Alpha, on Mons’ Goblin Raiders. It was named after Mons Johnson, a longtime friend of Magic‘s creator Richard Garfield and a developer for Wizards. A Mons card was originally intended to be made for Commander 2015, but Wizards at the time had a policy again vanity cards, cards named after or based on people in the company. Years later, Mons was deemed suitable to print, as the character already existed in the lore.
Mons is a 3 mana 2/2, a statline shared by other Goblin “lords” such as Goblin King, Goblin Warchief, Mad Auntie, Goblin Rabblemaster and Goblin Chieftain. His ability is a variant of Goblin Warrens, which had a top-down design of goblins’ deadly breeding habits. Here we see Mons making tokens that of course are 1/1s just as his goblin raiders. Goblin Warrens has two goblins mating to death to spawn three children, while Mons himself survives to make his progeny while his mate does not.
In Modern Horizons, Planebound Accomplice takes the red enchantment Sneak Attack and shifts it from getting you a free creature for a turn to having a free Planeswalker for a turn. The Planeswalker being summoned here is Wrenn and Six, a new one created for Modern Horizons.
This card references Norin the Wary and Boldwyr Intimidator. Pyrophobia stops cowards from blocking just like Boldwyn Intimidator keeps them from blocking warriors. As with Goatnap, there are no inherent cowards in this set aside from Changelings and Reprobation, which makes the target a coward. The creature in the art running is Norin the Wary, a fearful creature that would have been made a Coward, but the creature type was created after he was printed. Norin debuted in Time Spiral, about 60 years ago in-universe, thus his aged appearance. All three of these cards are red.
Ravenous Giant is a color-shifted Juzám Djinn, created in the second MTG set, Arabian Nights. It became an iconic, powerful creature and was used on many early marketing materials.
In Modern Horizons, Seasoned Pyromancer is an aged-up version of Young Pyromancer, a nonrotating format powerhouse that was flavored as a fan of Chandra. Grown up, he still wears goggles like his idol and also creates Elementals as she does. The 1/1 tokens are the same type made by the original card.
Spiteful Sliver takes an ability seen on cards such as Stuffy Doll and Boros Reckoner and puts it on a Sliver. The name is a callback to Spitemare, although the Sliver can only damage players and Planeswalkers, unlike the mare that can damage anything.
This card is a version of Viashino Sandstalker. Both have haste and return to their owner’s hand at end of turn. This effect was used on several other Viashino and inspired the Dash mechanic of Fate Reforged. The addition of cycling allows you to trade in the card once it’s in your hand if it would no longer affect the board. The addition of trample and the toughness of 1 also gives the card similarities to Ball Lightning, which was a 6/1 trample haste creature that sacrificed itself at the turn’s end.
Volatile Claws is an upgraded Burn Bright that also gives the affected creatures all creature types. Burn Bright itself was based on Path of Anger’s Flame but without the arcane subtype. Path, in turn, was based on Trumpet Blast, which debuted in Urza’s Destiny. The card spells out giving all creature types instead of giving Changeling because of MTG‘s layer system. Giving a creature an ability in Magic takes effect after everything that adds or removes subtypes. A card saying “creatures you control gain Changeling” grants an ability too late for its effect to do anything.
That’s all for this batch. Check back soon when we break down the Modern Horizons Green cards of the set. Please leave comments about any references we may have missed!