There’s been a lot of talk about the Modern banned list. Mostly what people think is getting unbanned and a little bit about what’s getting banned. It’s always fun to play the guessing game and what someone would do if they were in the situation of R&D. I’m going to do just that and take a stab and what I think should be banned. I’m also going to explain each card on the banned list as to why it’s banned and the chances of each card getting unbanned.
It’s been overly stated by WoTC that they want Modern to be a turn four format. This means that they don’t want any deck to be consistently capable of winning before the fourth turn. They understand that some strategies are capable of doing so and there’s just no reasonable way of preventing this from happening outside of banning a very large portion of the card pool.
So how do we decide what’s consistent to determine what, if anything needs to be banned? Well for starters I think we look at the numbers. Almost everyone is aware of decks like Grishoalbrand and Amulet Bloom can win as early as turn two. Being capable of doing just that causes panic. No one wants to lose a game of Magic while having a lonely fetchland in play. The problem is these decks just aren’t putting up the numbers that would suggest they receive a ban. Doing so I believe would be a bit premature since neither deck has really put up impressive stats. The closest thing to impressive we have for Amulet Bloom is a WMCQ win by Tom Martell. With Grishoalbrand we have one or two GP top 8’s.
Does this mean nothing should be banned? That depends on what WoTC deems as problematic. When Seething Song was banned it was barely being played and wasn’t putting up big results. Sure it was in Storm and that deck was popular, but it was hardly taking down every tournament. They banned it because of the ability to have more consistent turn three kills. With this logic they should ban Summer’s Bloom and Goryo’s Vengeance. Not only does Summer’s Bloom break the rules of Magic by letting you play additional lands but it’s the actual reason Amulet Bloom can win so quickly. Goryo’s Vengeance has the same issue as it allows Grishoalbrand to combo off technically as early as turn one. That being said, I don’t think either one should be banned, yet. These cards need more time in the hands of professionals and professional level events. There’s simply not enough data to warrant a ban if WoTC is looking at consistency. If WoTC is looking at it simply on the level of speed and when a deck can win, then they should ban these cards.
With that being said let’s take a look at what currently is banned and what cards may come off that list. There’s an extensive list to go over because WoTC didn’t want this format to turn into the O.K. Corral. Let’s get started.
Ancestral Vision – I think we all understand why this card is banned. It generates a large amount of card advantage for little investment other than time. People are mostly calling for this to be unbanned because Modern has been typically a fast format. Unbanning this would allow control deck access to something to refuel after trading one for one on a lot of removal or counterspells. You also don’t have to worry about cascade decks trying to abuse this card because the only good cascade spell is currently banned in Bloodbraid Elf. I do believe this card is safe to unban. It promotes more diversity in the format without breaking the turn four kill mold.
Artifact Lands – This is a very interesting dynamic. These have been banned since the inception of the format mostly in fear of Affinity dominating the format. A lot has changed since Modern first developed; Mostly the hate for the Artifact strategy in particular. Things like Stony Silence completely destroy the Affinity strategy already and I couldn’t imagine playing without having any access to mana at all. This would also lead to a dynamic of playing Artifact lands vs Creature Lands in both Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus. It could also open up the return of Disciple of the Vault or Krark-Clan Ironworks decks. This also would allow something like Thirst for Knowledge to be a more playable card than it currently is. I honestly believe allowing these to be unbanned would be completely fine. There’s enough good quality hate spells across all the colors that can answer Affinity and people are already playing a lot of these cards. Things like Shatterstorm or Creeping Corrosion become all the more back breaking.
Birthing Pod – A recent add to the ban list for being the best deck and not allowing diversity in the format. It wasn’t always winning every Modern event but it was usually representing half of the top 8. This one needs to stay on the banned list for a while to continue to allow diversity in the format. I can certainly see this being unbanned in the future depending on what other cards come off the banned list and what new cards get printed. How it currently sits however, this needs to stay where it is.
Blazing Shoal – As long as the Infect mechanic exists this card simply can’t be allowed. Being able to have multiple ways of turn two wins is breaking the mold and it’s going to stay banned in all likelihood for as long as Modern is a format.
Bloodbraid Elf – Similar to Birthing Pod this got banned for being in an overly popular and successful deck. On the face of it this card really isn’t all that powerful and when compared to other things shouldn’t really be banned. However the amount of power this card can unleash, especially behind the recently printed Kolaghan’s Command is not something to underestimate. I believe if this card falls off the banned list it will be if/when Ancestral Vision does the same. This would allow the blue decks to compete better against the card advantage and raw power Jund decks would receive.
Chrome Mox – This allows every turn four deck to become a turn three deck. Pretty easy to see why this is on the banned list and why it will stay there.
Cloudpost – This is an interesting one and I’ve seen a lot of interest in it. Cloudpost by itself is pretty underwhelming. Combine Cloudpost with Glimmerpost or Vesuva and all of a sudden you have a lot of mana. It gets particularly silly if both players are playing with Cloudpost. I can appreciate why this card is banned simply on Cloudpost mirrors alone. I do think it would add more diversity to the ramp style strategies and think this is a fair enough card to be unbanned.
Dark Depths – With this having multiple outlets in Vampire Hexmage and Thespian’s Stage to allow you the ability to sneak out a large indestructible monster I can’t ever see this coming off the banned list. The Loam player in me wishes it would however.
Deathrite Shaman – Here is a card that breaks the rules for what the color Black is supposed to do. Having the ability to easily cast a turn two Liliana of the Veil is not healthy for the format and should be restricted to being legal in Legacy only.
Dread Return – The fear of dredge is real. This effect is simply too powerful and quick when all the enablers are legal as well. I think for this to get unbanned they would have to reban Golgari-Grave Troll. Bottom line is even though this deck can be hated out from the sideboard pretty easily there isn’t much you can do about it game one and should stay on the banned list.
Glimpse of Nature – We all got to see Michael Malone win a Grand Prix with CoCo Elves and have seen different Elf builds over the last few months. It’s pretty clear this deck is powerful and unbanning Glimpse of Nature would be a huge mistake. This deck is capable of winning turn two and easily turn three if Glimpse would be unbanned. This is not going anywhere any time soon.
Green Sun’s Zenith – This is a very interesting card to be on the banned list. The obvious application is that it’s basically a Rampant Growth for one green mana thanks to Dryad Arbor. Otherwise I feel like this card is completely fine and if anything is something that Modern would enjoy. A simple solution would be to ban Dryad Arbor and unban Green Sun’s Zenith. I really think this would be a great move even if I highly doubt it will ever happen.
Hypergenesis – It’s like Living End; but actually good. Cheating large things into play that should never get into play early in the game is pretty unreasonable. The only way this gets unbanned is if they ban all the cascade spells.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor – Everyone is talking about how this should be unbanned. I get it, I really do. This is another card that promotes the control decks to blossom, much like Ancestral Visions. The problem with Jace is it would literally warp the format around it. I’m not sure if anyone actually remembers when this card was legal in Standard, but it was dark times. I’d rather not repeat that in Modern, even if it seems perfectly fine when compared to playing against something like Splinter Twin. This would have a very similar effect to the Birthing Pod or Jund decks that forced WoTC to ban something in each to reduce the efficiency of each. There would be Jaces everywhere and people would soon realize this isn’t actually what they wanted.
Mental Misstep – Non Blue decks shouldn’t be able to counter spells. Also do we really think every deck wouldn’t just play four Mental Misstep if this did somehow get unbanned? This is staying on the sidelines.
Ponder/Preordain – I clumped these two together because they’re one in the same. You know that feeling you get when your opponent casts a Serum Visions at any point in the game? Well exacerbate that tenfold and you’ve got Ponder or Preordain. These two fill a roll much different then Ancestral Visions since these two filter through your deck much more quickly, making strategies like storm simply too powerful.
Punishing Fire – The combo of Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows is quite powerful and reason enough to keep this on the banned list. I can’t imagine how any aggressive deck is ever supposed to compete with a repetitive shock effect like that. A reasonable solution to get this off the banned list, similar to the Green Sun’s Zenith/Dryad Arbor situation is to unban Punishing Fire and ban Grove of the Burnwillows. This would allow for Punishing Fire to potentially see play whereas Grove of the Burnwillows see’s virtually none.
Rite of Flame – A ritual effect that stacks is mighty powerful. Couple with the fact that it only costs one mana and there’s a mighty good reason why this card is banned and will stay banned.
Second Sunrise – Pro Tour Return to Ravnica showcased the power of Eggs. It also showcased the boredom of Eggs. Which in turn, caused Second Sunrise to bite the dust. It’s an interesting conundrum in that it really doesn’t break the mold but makes for long rounds and complicated board states. This is very similar to why Sensei’s Divining Top is banned.
Seething Song – I’ve mentioned this card a bit earlier and the reasoning for banning it seems just, according to the turn four rule. Having a spell that nets two mana that can be cast with reasonable consistency on turn two thanks to Desperate Ritual or Pyretic Ritual means it’s simply too powerful for a deck like storm to have. This is unfortunate though, as I loved watching fringe decks like Dragonstorm or Enduring Ideal have a shot of being somewhat competitive.
Sensei’s Divining Top – On the surface this card is fair. The problem is fetchlands makes this card not only overpowered but a burden on the clock. You simply cannot finish a match of magic within the given time constraints with Sensei’s Divining Top being legal. If they ever pushed round times to 60 minutes I could see this coming off the banned list. I don’t foresee that happening any time soon however.
Stoneforge Mystic – The reason why everyone is talking about the banned list. WoTC decided to add Stoneforge Mystic to the Grand Prix promo list and everyone is losing their minds. The simple explanation is it’s going to get unbanned. In reality it’s the best way to distribute Stoneforge Mystic to the magic population. The only way this gets unbanned however is if they ban Batterskull with it. Much like the days of Jace, the Mind Sculptor being legal in Standard, no one wants to play against Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull every round, even if it doesn’t break the turn four mold.
Skullclamp – This is actually really weird to me that this exists on the banned list. Obviously it’s quite a powerful card. But what deck can really abuse this thing? Also let’s not forget Abrupt Decay and Kolaghan’s Command is in every deck that can cast them. I may sound crazy here, but I really do believe Skullclamp is fine. It doesn’t break any rules on speed and there is enough maindeck hate across the popular archetypes to where I can’t see this being a danger to Modern.
Sword of the Meek – This is on the banned list thanks to its combo with Thopter Foundry. I do believe this is another one of those cards that could easily make its way back to Modern. There really isn’t a viable Tezzeret deck in Modern because the format is simply too hateful towards artifacts and Tezzeret is too slow. So what’s the deal with Sword of the Meek still being on the banned list? I honestly don’t really understand it. The combo is very slow and easy enough to hate out without any effort at all.
Umezawa’s Jitte – The final card on the list is another equipment. This card makes combat very one sided and shoots down things that decline to participate in combat. This is an interesting one because not only does it not break any rules for speed but actually promotes creature decks and thus slows down the format. Maybe it’s just me but all these equipment seem perfectly fine and especially with the main deck artifact destruction that already exists.
Ban – Nothing. As it stands Summer’s Bloom and Goryo’s Vengeance are the obviously choices but neither deck seems consistent enough for me yet to warrant a premature hammer.
Unban – Ancestral Visions, Artifact Lands, Cloudpost, Skullclamp, Sword of the Meek and Umezawa’s Jitte. All of these seem like they are fair enough to unban. I don’t believe they all come off at once of course. But any of these cards would be okay in my opinion.
Unban IF – Green Sun’s Zenith, Punishing Fire and Stoneforge Mystic. All three of these cards seem fine to unban IF you in turn ban Dryad Arbor, Grove of the Burnwillows and Batterskull in that order.
Staying Banned – Blazing Shoal, Bloodbraid Elf, Chrome Mox, Dark Depths, Deathrite Shaman, Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, Dread Return, Glimpse of Nature, Hypergenesis, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Mental Misstep, Ponder, Preordain, Rite of Flame, Second Sunrise, Seething Song, and Sensei’s Divining Top. All of these cards break the turn four rule are format warping or puts too much pressure on the game clock.
Well there you have it. Bannings and more particularly unbannings are the most exciting time of the year in magic for me. The potential for new decks and updates to existing ones makes for a good time for all deck builders out there. I hope everyone has a happy whatever you celebrate and I’ll see you soon!
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