Powerbalance – Modern Horizons III

Date Reviewed:  June 7, 2024

Constructed: 4.0
Casual: 4.25
Limited: 2.0
Multiplayer: 4.25 
Commander [EDH]: 4.25

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.

Reviews Below: 


Free spells are among the most powerful and hard-to-balance things in Magic – this is why they’ve tried basically every alternate cost you can think of. Phyrexian mana taught us that costing life instead is almost meaningless; costing an extra card from your hand is more significant, but easy to build around. Sacrificing a creature, as you’ll see in a few places including some notable Modern Horizons 3 cards, I feel is often almost as meaningless as paying life. But Powerbalance’s dependence on what your opponent does is a really interesting one.

It will read to some people like a disadvantage, since we’re often taught (overly glibly) that “punisher” cards that give the opponent’s choice are always bad. But in this case, your opponent’s so-called choice is to just not play spells, and it’s usually hard to win games of Magic when you don’t play spells. It’s like a sidelong form of spell protection and mana acceleration in one, and I also really like how it scales to all sorts of unexpected settings and matchups. In Legacy, your opponent’s one-mana cantrips give you free Lightning Bolts; in a Commander Eldrazi mirror match, you’ll be racing to drop Emrakul on each other’s head the most times.

Constructed: 4
Casual: 4.5
Limited: 2
Multiplayer: 4.5
Commander [EDH]: 4.5

 James H. 


The parallels Powerbalance draws are obvious: it’s a lateral riff of sorts on Counterbalance from Coldsnap, an infamous enchantment used to enforce Nothing. This is not quite the same card…though it takes a more proactive approach by letting you potentially retaliate.

I do think that this is maybe “better” than Counterbalance, in a sense, because it lets you push the advantage with it and dig deeper. It’s not a one-for-one parallel; Counterbalance can stop an opponent on its own, while this needs to hit a counterspell to do the same thing. Still, though, in formats known for their hyper-focused mana curves, even one hit can push you hard ahead.

It is worth mentioning that this does pair well with all the same things Counterbalance does (scry/surveil, Brainstorm, Sensei’s Divining Top, etc.), and a deck with one may well benefit from both.

Constructed: 4
Casual: 4
Limited: 2 (probably just going to sit and do little)
Multiplayer: 4
Commander [EDH]: 4

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