Analysing the Modern Ban List – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

9026
Analysing the Modern Ban List – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

Analysing the Modern Ban List – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

 

Hello again both of you. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything, and for those of you who care, I’m sorry. My work’s been pretty hectic over the last few weeks, so I’ve not really managed to play much Magic, which has had a knock-on effect in that I don’t really have much to talk about. Over the next wee while, we’re going to start winding up for Christmas, so I’m hopeful that I’ll have a bit more time to shuffle 60 cards, and consequently have somewhat interesting things to share with you.

For today though, I intend to take a look at the Modern format, specifically the ban list. Now that we’ve had a Pro Tour and a couple of Grand Prix’s using Modern, and it’s not the under-explored format it once was, it’s possible to take a slightly closer look at the ban list, to see what could and couldn’t be unbanned, whether anything should be added to it, and finally, what I’d like to see reprinted for Standard, and consequently Modern in future sets.

First though, I’ll run through the cards that are currently banned, and offer my opinions on the current list. Disclaimer – This is an entirely opinion piece. There is no science behind it whatsoever. Personally, I’m in favour of as small a ban-list as possible, but I do want to adhere to the ethos of Modern as a turn four format. Obviously, it’s likely that my opinions will be representative of the decks I typically enjoy playing, and I make no apologies for that. However with that said, I would love to hear your thoughts ad comments on all of this.

The Existing Modern Ban List

Ancestral Vision

Modern players have complained almost since the format’s inception about the absence of a true control deck. There have been various attempts using either Gifts Ungiven, Mystical Teachings or both, as well as a large number of answer spells. While a Gifts Control deck Top 8’d this weekend’s Grand Prix Chicago, it was very much an outlier.

Ancestral Vision acting as a draw engine seems like an improvement to me, although it’s less explosive that the Gifts for Unburial Rites + Fatty plan. Wizards has said that it wants Modern to be a ‘Turn four Format’, meaning that, unmolested, a deck should be winning (or stabilising) on or around turn four. Why then is a card that resolves on turn four at the earliest on the ban list?

Sure, it’s not just one for Control decks. Presumably, Storm would want this, and so would Splinter Twin, but I’m of the opinion that the format would be better if Ancestral Vision were in it.

Verdict: Unban

Artifact Lands – Ancient Den, Great Furnace, Seat of the Synod, Tree of Tales, Vault of Whispers

Robots is absolutely a tier one deck in Modern currently, and the only pure artifact land it gets to run is Darksteel Citadel (Inkmoth and Blinkmoth Nexus don’t count). These lands would go in Robots, and nowhere else, outside of Trinket Mage control decks, which would be very fringe. The question is firstly, do we want to improve the consistency of Robots, and secondly, how much would the artifact lands actually do for the current iteration of the deck?

Current versions run sixteen to seventeen lands, of which eight can attack, three or four are rainbow (tap for any colour), leaving us with only five or six slots to actually work with, of which currently four are Darksteel Citadel. While we’d love upgrade the Citadel into Seat of the Synod, adding one or none of the others doesn’t seem like too much of an upgrade to me. It’s possible that, if we’re taking off the Artifact Lands, we’d need to add Disciple of the Vault, but that would be a variant rather than the norm, so I’d be quite happy to say unban the Artifact Lands. I think the options currently are just better, as Glimmervoid lets you cast Galvanic Blast and Master of Etherium, so I can’t see it being trimmed down to less than two copies.

Verdict: Unban

Bitterblossom

I understand why Bitterblossom was pre-emptively banned. For whatever reason, people hate playing against Faeries, and Bitterblossom is absolutely the best card in the Faeries deck. That said though, how good would it actually be in the format? Presumably, assuming that Faeries decks look like their old extended version, it would be very similar to the current UW deck, just with a slightly better curve, and more reliant on synergy than the power of individual cards.

Of all the cards currently on the ban list, this is the one that I’d most like to see removed. I don’t think it’d be that big of a problem, especially when we consider that Abrupt Decay is already a maindeck card in various archetypes. I’d love to see a synergistic monster like Faeries again, as all the decks currently just seem like a mass of the best cards in the colours you’re in, with very little in the way of variation.

Verdict: Unban

Blazing Shoal

This is the first card that I approve of having on the ban list. It does nothing other than facilitate the end game of Infect decks, and does so too early in the game. When it adds nothing, and infringes on the turn four nature of the format, it has to go.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Chrome Mox

Chrome Mox is a difficult one for me. While it’s inherent card disadvantage, the fact that you’re effectively paying two cards to Time Walk is incredibly powerful. This is a card the Control decks would like, but combo decks would probably like more. It builds Storm for free, ramps mana, and possibly lets it go off a turn earlier than it would otherwise.

I don’t think it’s safe for Chrome Mox to be legal for Modern play at this time.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Cloudpost

This was one of the first areas of exploration in Modern, and ended up being format warping at the first Modern Pro Tour. Every deck needed to have a way to deal with a turn three Primeval Titan, or it would lose. While the deck itself underperformed, the effect that it had on the format was obnoxious, so it almost had to be banned.

In most of the cases, when a deck is oppressive or obnoxious enough, Wizards will look to ban the most egregious offender, or the least exciting card. In this case, people could perceivably use Vesuva and Primeval Titan to do fair and/or fun things, but Cloudpost was only used in the Cloudpost decks (how surprising), so by banning that, you’re mitigating the effect of the ban, in that people can still use their ‘fun’ cards, just not in the oppressive deck.

What we’ve seen now is a move from Cloudpost to the Urza Tron for those who’re interested in Big Mana decks, and more recently, the unbanning of Valakut, for those who want their lands to end the game rather than just make mana. Urza’s Tower and co are far less consistent than Cloudpost and co, as they don’t operate efficiently autonomously, so are far safer to have in the format.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Dark Depths

Dark Depths is another card that was snap-banned in the format’s introduction, presumably as a result of the success of the Dark Depths and Vampire Hexmage combo in old extended, where it was the best deck by a country mile for the remainder of the season after the deck was discovered. The version with Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek meshed in as well was dominant, and played like a treat as well. I’ve heard it likened to playing Vintage against a Legacy opponent, and frankly, that’s not too far off.

As fun as the deck was for the pilot, indestructible flying 20/20’s aren’t particularly enjoyable for the opponent, especially on turn two, so sadly, Dark Depths will need to stay on the ban list for the foreseeable future.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Dread Return + Golgari Grave Troll

Nobody likes playing against Dredge. Legacy Dredge wins a higher % of game ones than any other deck in the format. Sure, it loses a higher % of games two and three than any other deck too, but it’s non-interactive, and attacks on a difficult to profitably hate out angle. Sure, the format would currently be pretty hostile to Dredge, as there’s a lot of Graveyard hate, but that doesn’t mean it would be better for having these two cards in it.

Again, these serve no purpose outside of the Dredge decks, and there are better options for those who want these types of effect if they’re going to use them ‘fairly’, so these have to stay on the list.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Glimpse of Nature

I’m not sure how good Elves would be without Wirewood Symbiote and Quirion Ranger, but there are enough replacements that I’d be very hesitant about this card coming off the ban list. Again, it can win really early, looping through Nettle Sentinels, Heritage Druids etc to draw the entire deck and kill with a Grapeshot, or it can just attack with the horde of 1/1’s.

The danger of this deck is that it’s not really interactive, and it encourages a lot of ten-fifteen minute masturbatory turns where one person strokes their deck while the other looks on frustrated and annoyed. This is not what Modern should be about. See: Eggs.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Green Sun’s Zenith

This was banned after the first Pro Tour, under the rationale that it made all the Green decks look the same. Currently, all the green creature decks still look pretty similar, but they’re not as able to utilise silver bullets like Gaddock Teeg or Melira, Sylvok Outcast.

Whether or not this is a good thing is certainly debateable, but I don’t see the harm in the card. It’s not like paying one more mana for additional copies of a card is an inherently broken thing, though it’s possible that the synergy with Dryad Arbor is a little too powerful at the moment, but I’d certainly be happy enough to let Green Sun’s Zenith have another go-around in Modern, as I think it’d do positive things.

Verdict: Unban

Hypergenesis

This should really be obvious. It does nothing outside of a combo deck that CAN go off as early as turn one, though obviously it doesn’t win until a turn or two later. Nobody’s ever used it for anything outside of the combo, and people don’t like playing against it.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Punishing Fire

After the Pro Tour, and the bannings that followed, Punishing Fire became the ‘best card’ in Modern. A lot of matches came down to Punishing Fire battles, which weren’t particularly fun to watch, or be involved in. It basically invalidated any but the strongest X/2 creatures, which wasn’t particularly health for the format. I don’t think enough has changed since then to warrant what would essentially be a regression.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Again, Modern is a turn four format. Jace would come down on turn four, at which point the game would continue for several more turns, and would continue to be interactive.

This is interesting, because it’s the first card in ages that was banned in Standard, and while the anti-Jace sentiment was high, Modern was announced, which pre-emptively banned Jace, and his partner in crime, Stoneforge Mystic. We’ve never actually seen what Jace can do in Modern, but pretty much all the conditions that kept him from seeing widespread play in ALA-ZEN standard are still here. Bloodbraid Elf is a four of in Jund still, and that deck is pretty popular, from what I can see. Lightning Bolt is ubiquitous, in many decks, and almost always as a four of.

The format isn’t particularly friendly to Jace, but he would act as a draw engine and a kill condition in a control deck that’s very badly needed in the format.

Again, he seems to fit with the ethos of the format, and since we’ve never seen him in Modern before, I’d be very interested to see what, if anything, Jace can do.

Verdict: Unban

Mental Misstep

Misstep was fine while it was in Standard, but has been banned in Legacy, based on making the blue decks too powerful.

How good Misstep is is generally going to be reflective of how many one drops people are playing. Modern seems, to me, like a format more defined by its two drops than it’s one’s, so it seems, at first glance that it might be ok. However, we have to consider the types of deck that are likely to want this, which would be combo and possibly control decks. Combo would want this to stop disruptive cards like Thoughtseize or Path to Exile, and would add an additional element of resilience to their decks, which is not really a good thing. Control probably wouldn’t want more than a couple in the board, to bring in in matches where it’s likely to be good.

I don’t think this is safe or healthy for Modern at this time, so…

Verdict: Stay Banned

Ponder + Preordain

I’m covering them together as they’re very similar.

Both cards are one mana cantrips that allow you to regulate your draws. Both lend consistency to combo decks, and not much anywhere else. Both should stay banned.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Rite of Flame

Goes in Storm, and nothing else. Improves Storm, which is already a occasionally a turn three deck, while adding nothing anywhere else. Easy.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Sensei’s Divining Top

I’d vote to keep this on the ban list purely for time constraints. Watching less experienced players using Sensei’s Divining Top is painful, and the synergy with Counterbalance is enough to make sure that this will never see the light of day in Modern.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Stoneforge Mystic

Again, this was pre-emptively banned from the format’s inception, so we’ve never seen what Misty can do. I think this is a far less safe unbanning than Jace, as it’s quite likely that a lot of people would want a turn three 4/4 Vigilant Lifelinker, not to mention the additional utility of equipments available in Modern that we haven’t fully explored yet.

While it seems like an innocuous card on the surface, it’s one of the premier creatures in legacy for a reason, and for now, it’s probably safer on the ban list. It’ll probably come off at some point in the future, but I don’t think that time should be now.

Verdict: Stay Banned

Skullclamp

I haven’t played with Skullclamp personally outside of cube, but I’ve heard it’s been oppressive in every format it’s been legal in. I don’t see any reason to go out on a limb for a card I don’t have firsthand experience of, so for that reason…

Verdict: Stay Banned

Sword of the Meek

This is not, as many people perceive incorrectly, a combo card. This is a control card. In concert with Thopter Foundry, you can gain a lot of life, and make a decent number of creatures, to continue to stem the bleeding, and eventually take over. It’s only when you add cards like Time Sieve that we get into combo territory, and even then, you need five mana every turn, which would be fine for Modern.

I can’t really see any reason for this not to come off the ban-list at this point, as it doesn’t immediately go into any of the existing decks, and adds an extra dimension to deck-building, while strengthening an under-represented archetype. All of these sound like good things to me.

Verdict: Unban

Umezawa’s Jitte

Jitte is the original Planeswalker. It behaves very similarly, although it can operate at instant speed, making it better than most. Again, this is a card with an oppressive pedigree, and one that’s been experimented with a lot in Legacy, where it’s one of the best cards.

Any card that rips apart a creature mirror is one that needs to be monitored carefully, as we don’t want the format to degenerate into Jitte mirrors. While I think it would be safe to unban at the moment, I’d like to see the format evolve a little more before letting the cat loose amongst the pigeons.

Verdict Stay Banned (though it’s very close)

Wild Nacatl

It’s just a creature that attacks and blocks, and banning it neutered one of the most popular, enduring archetypes in Magic ever, Zoo. I thought it was moronic to ban it in the first place, and I’d be stupid not to unban it in a column that holds no weight beyond my personal opinion.

Verdict: Unban

That’s the current ban list discussed, so moving on, we shall look now at the cards that I think wouldn’t look out of place on the ban list in the future.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

I’d like to see Kiki-Jiki on the ban list shortly. He’s an interesting card, but what he does isn’t particularly interactive, as once he hits the table, the game’s generally over that turn. I can see him getting the nod over Splinter Twin, as people generally prefer creatures, and can do more with them than Enchantments. Over the years, there’s been a fair number of Pestermite type creatures printed, so either Kiki Jiki or Splinter Twin should, in my opinion, leave the format to reduce the consistency of the deck. If we remove Kiki Jiki though, we’re getting both Splinter Twin (the deck) and Naya Pod, which is also somewhat obnoxious.

Verdict: Ban

Lotus Bloom

This fuels combo decks, and nothing else. If we ban Bloom, we hit Dragonstorm, Hive Mind and Eggs, to the point where Eggs would be neutered, and Dragonstorm and Hive Mind crippled. None of these decks are particularly fun to play against or watch, and Eggs falls into the same area of Elves re: masturbatory turns, so seeing it leave the format would be unlikely to cause any but the most hardened of combo players any upset.

Verdict: Ban

Proposed Modern Ban List

So, for those of you who’re playing along at home, my proposed ban-list for Modern looks like the following below, please let me know what yours would be.

Blazing Shoal
Chrome Mox
Cloudpost
Dark Depths
Dread Return
Glimpse of Nature
Golgari Grave-Troll
Hypergenesis
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Lotus Bloom
Mental Misstep
Ponder
Preordain
Punishing Fire
Rite of Flame
Sensei’s Divining Top
Stoneforge Mystic
Umezawa’s Jitte

18 cards total, which seems pretty healthy to me.

Which 3 cards should Wizards reprint?

At the beginning, I mentioned that there are a few cards that I’d like to see make their way into a Modern set so’s we could try them out. These would be cards that would need to be not particularly oppressive going through Standard, but be put into the set almost entirely for their eternal appeal. Wizards has done this previously with cards like Dispel and Mental Misstep, and though the former worked out far better than the latter, it’s important to note the precedent that’s been set.

As much fun as designing cards is, it’s not something I’m interested in personally. If I were able to reprint three cards in the next core set, specifically with Modern in mind, I would reprint:-

Brainstorm

Were Brainstorm legal for Modern, a lot more eternal enthusiasts would be drawn to the format. Many have heralded the restricting of Brainstorm[/ard] as the death of Vintage. People love casting [card]Brainstorm, and it would help a lot of decks consistency as well. This would be a huge win, in my opinion, and I’d love to get to cast Brainstorm more than once or twice a year.

Force of Will

Hear me out. Force of Will is the glue that holds legacy together, along with Wasteland. While I think that Wasteland doesn’t fit with the current Wizards policy re: Land Death, I don’t think Force of Will would be particularly oppressive, or even good for a year in Standard.

The reason it’s powerful in Legacy is due to the number of combo deck that have a number of must-counter spells, and Force allows you to do so without sacrificing tempo. It’s the card that Blue decks in legacy side out the most, as it’s awful against creature decks, and pretty poor in a control mirror, as it’s rarely worth the card disadvantage.

It would afford a lot of decks an extra dimension in their permission and disruption, and enable them to maintain tempo with the combo decks, which would be a good thing.

In standard, I can’t think of anything that I’d be willing to pay two cards to counter just to do it for free, as there aren’t really any combo decks, outside of fringe Epic Experiment decks, so it’d probably be fine to see print in a core set, so it’d only hang around for a year, if things didn’t work out.

Pernicious Deed

This is more a pet card, but it’s one that a lot of players enjoy, and would be very useful to have access to in Modern. Apparently, this was in the file for Alara Reborn, but ended up getting replaced by Maelstrom Pulse. I’d love to see the Deed making its way through standard again, as it’d add more relevance to the Kami of Ancient Law type effects that Wizards seem to print in every block now.

So what do you think?

What do you think of my suggested ban-list for the format?

What would YOU suggest as a ban list? and which 3 cards would you like to see reprinted?

Does it sound like it’s an improvement on what we have currently, or am I way off-base?

Sound off in the comments below – I’d love to hear what you think.

Stay classy mtgUK,

Grant

 

Please let us know what you think below...

Visit our Manaleak online store for the latest Magic: the Gathering singles, spoilers, exclusive reader offers, sales, freebies and more!

Magic The Gatherig Freebies Giveaways