Wisdom Fae Under the Bridge – New Modern by Graeme McIntyre
The recent bannings in modern are pretty big news. Bloodbraid Elf was reasonably predictable, although there was the possibility that it was a card in the Modern Masters set to be released this summer, which would have been pretty embarrassing. Deathrite Shaman might have been a better choice, but it’s a new rare, so that would also have been an unfortunate card to ban. When I asked about the bannings on facebook on the Friday before they were announced, no one I knew predicted the other card that was banned – Seething Song. I predicted Saclands, but that was mostly because I could have went on about how smart I was if it happened, rather that because I thought it actually would.
Anyway, I think the bannings will make a pretty big difference to the format, and that they pose a number of questions, which I will attempt to shed some light on.
What Got Better?
Swords! Last year Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of War and Peace were both a pretty big deal, seeing extensive play in Delver decks, but also Caw-Blade and some sideboard play in other creature based strategies. Sword of Light and Shadow was even getting some sideboard play.
Then Deathrite shaman and Abrupt Decay got printed, and Jund became a bit of a monster. Decay at instant speed would often result in a creature getting killed by blockers it was previously protected from, giving the Jund player a 2 for 1, but also loads of tempo. Now these exceptionally swingy artifacts will be less risky due to the impact the bannings have on Jund, and the resulting decline of Abrupt Decays.
The same applies to Knight of the Reliquary which wasn’t making a huge splash last year, but is certainly a powerful card. This card benefits from a decline in both Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman, but also in the decline (death of, I expect) Storm as a result of Seething Song, a match-up in which the slightly slow Knight was poor.
Vedalken Shackles is pretty awesome, and suffers from being an Abrupt Decay target. it gets better for this reason.
Naturally, it’s also a good time to try and play Abrupt decay and Deathrite shaman, because they didn’t get worse from the banning, they simply lost their most obvious space in the format; if you can find a deck where they are appropriate, then they will be as good as before, if not better due to the increased number of targets.
Living End decks, and graveyard strategies on the whole get better as a result of Deathrite shaman being less prominent, but also the decline of sideboard cards for the storm match-up, which will be less present now.
Slippery Boggle decks become marginally better as Jund becomes worse, as Liliana of the Veil is particularly good against them, but also because the disruption the Jund deck plays is pretty decent; a lot of hands which feature a single one drop become substantially worse when that one drop is taken by a discard spell on the first turn.
Decks which struggled against Jund and Storm. The ones which spring to mind other than the ones I’ve previously mentioned are traditional Zoo, which I think generally gets better with the narrowing field, doesn’t like either of these match-ups much, and gain’s Experiement One, which seems impressive, and control, which will be happy to see the back of Bloodbraid Elf.
What got worse?
Jund decks, and Storm decks, clearly. As a natural consequence of this decks and cards which preyed upon these two decks. Rest in Peace, Ethersworn Cannonist, Rule of Law, for instance, are pretty narrow now, but also Haunted Zoo, which was very much designed with Jund in mind.
Combo decks on the whole will suffer as a result of the narrowing of the field, which will free up slots in every decks sideboard which would previously have been required against Jund or Storm. Twin decks will likely face an increased number of Path to Exiles, as people either drop red in favour of white in what will no longer be called Jund (B/G/x? Rock?), or pick up blue white control or aggro control, both of which play 4 Paths. Birthing Pod suffers from both of these changes, as well as the fact that it’s a pretty obvious deck now; everyone should have this deck in their gauntlet, and should know what it does. This has been true for weeks, but it is especially true now.
Is Jund still a deck?
Conceptually, yes; there will still be a place in the format to do what this deck did, and to play a lot of the same cards. There is no longer a massively compelling reason to play red in it, though. Raging Ravine and Lightning Bolt are both very good cards, but so are Path to exile and Lingering souls.
A lot of people have said that people are Chicken Littling about the Jund, and that the deck can simply replace Bloodbraid Elf with Huntmaster of the fells or Falkenrath Aristocrat. Both of these are fine cards, and I’m sure that in making that replacement they will find that the card wins plenty of games and doesn’t feel like a total let down; in the case of Huntmaster they might even find that the card is better against aggro.
That said, one of the reasons that Jund was so successful was because it was hard to hate out, and over a long tournament it didn’t need to worry about that happening nearly as much as a deck like Storm or Eggs, allowing it to simply grind it’s games out round after round, resulting in a few always getting there in the end, which is why it was always at the top in GPs even though it wasn’t always there in modern dailies. Bloodbraid elf was perfect for doing this. I remain sceptical about the extent to which the card can be changed out for another simply “good card” because I think that Huntmaster and Bloodbraid Elf are functionally dissimilar in this respect; Huntmaster gains you value in certain circumstances, a well-timed Bloodbraid Elf will virtually always do you a favour.
As previously discussed, I think the deck might splash white instead of red now (maybe for Doran, the Siege Tower. If not, it might splash Blue for Gifts Ungiven and a reanimation package. A deck like that could make use of Noble Hierarch, a card which has been played in just about every midrange deck since it’s printing, with the exception of Jund, where it wasn’t a good card to cascade into. This is no longer a concern.
It might even be that all three of these things happen. The point I’m trying to make is that I think it’s an oversimplification to assume that you can swap Bloodbraid Elf for Huntmaster, and that will be the end of it. Six to eight weeks from now, I expect there will be a number of decks, all of which look a little bit like what we now call Jund, but slightly different.
Is storm dead?
Yes. I just can’t see how this deck is realistically going to be a tier one deck now. I expect some people will try and play Pyromancer Ascension, and make a go of it, but this is because of liking the deck rather that thinking it’s a good call. The shows over on this one, in my honest opinion.
What decks should I be testing against now?
I wouldn’t get too bogged down with B/G/x, unless I thought I wanted to be a midrange deck, with all that entails, in the format as I expected it to become. Build a black green red deck with Huntmasters and a black green white deck with Paths and Lingering Souls, and be done with it for now as that’s what most other people will do. Pod is probably the deck to beat, now. It’s a powerful, consistent combo deck with a decent B plan which has been doing pretty well.
Blue white control and blue white red tempo are both good decks, and I would expect a lot of people will move on to playing them, especially given the tendency of better players to want to play control anyway. Affinity should never be forgotten, and I think it would have shock-won a tournament or two if it wasn’t for the fact that Jund has been so prominent and as such Ancient Grudge and Creeping Corrosion are equally ubiquitous. Living end should be part of your gauntlet now, for the reasons mentioned above. People will still play burn, probably more of them now as it’s an obvious call for people building on a budget, who just lost their deck with the banning of Seething Song. Scapeshift and Tron are still decent decks, too.
That’s what I’ve started with, anyway. I’m pretty excited about these bannings, I must say!