Welcome back to The Modern Perspective! My original plan for this week was to write about a tweaked Mono-White Vial "Death & Taxes" list. I was trying to make it less like a port of the Legacy deck and more of creation all to its own.
I couldn't make it work the way I wanted.
I played about three matches with it and the results were miserable. I couldn't decide on my final changes and it was all over the place in games. In the end, it felt like I was better off using the stock ideas instead of my own. That wasn't what I wanted to write about, it felt too much like G/W Hatebears. I DO want to write about G/W Hatebears sometime in the next few weeks, so the D&T plan fell through.
Since the holidays are already very busy, I decided to write about something "Light and Fluffy" instead.
I'm going to talk about the Modern Banned List.
Part I. Talking About the Banned
Part II. The Modern Land Prices
Part I. Talking About the Banned
Before we start talking about the list, I'm going to throw out a few important details to help with context.
Wizards has stated that they don't want decks in the format that can "consistently" win before Turn 4
Hey, it's not my rule, it's theirs. It has become THE defining "vision" of the format. There are still decks that can win on Turn 2-3, but that's ok as long as they aren't doing it very often.
Also, when looking at the current state of the format, in regards to which types of decks are making top finishes, the following opinions come up often:
There aren't enough valid Aggro Decks
Lots of people feel that aggro is being held back in the format. Affinity/Robots seems to be the only "true aggro" deck that has actual finishes to back it up. Gruul, G/W Hatebears, Goblins and others can't seem to do enough "to count". Some decks, like Infect, Soul Sisters and Burn (the creature-less aggro?), aren't always classified under the Aggro umbrella, so they aren't helping boost the numbers. Overall, players think more decks should exist that win with creatures simply swinging early and often.
There aren't enough valid Control Decks
The commonly accepted definition of "Control Deck" seems to be a deck that uses timely Counter Magic and occasional Board Sweepers to establish "card advantage" over the opponent and "control the game" so that a finisher of some sort can end the game in a few turns. Players may be too rigid about what constitutes "Control", but decks that take a reactive/defensive stance to win the game are not very well represented in Modern.
Ok, so those are some notions to keep in mind when I talk about the cards.
Let's start with an easy one. Here we go!
If you didn't play during Standard when Skullclamp was legal, I'll let you in on a little secret.
Skullclamp is 100% re-donc-ulous.
An admitted mistake of the highest order, the Clamp was one of the first cards banned in Standard in years. It doesn't look like much at first; creatures die, you get cards. What's the big deal?
Trust me, if you design your deck to abuse the Clamp, it gets really good really fast.
Here, this is probably what happens to the format if Skullclamp comes back:
- White = Procession/Spirit Clamp, Kithkin Clamp, Cat/Soldier/Cleric Clamp
- Green = Elf Clamp, Saproling Clamp, Insect Clamp
- Red = Goblin Clamp...maybe Elemental Clamp
- Black = Zombie Clamp (Gravecrawler + Skullclamp = blarg)
- Blue = Wizard Clamp (just because Trinket Mage can tutor for it.) or Merfolk Clamp
Sure, this is probably a little farfetched...but not entirely. Skullclamp warped the meta so hard when it was legal. Heck, they didn't even take the chance of leaving it legal in Legacy, a format with even more answers to pull from than Modern.
There are several Modern decks that would gladly let you waste a turn to cast/equip/draw cards while they combo off on T3 and win the game. "Nice Cards". On the other hand, turning the format into a game of "Combo or Clamp?" is a mistake that we should never suffer through.
Verdict: Skullclamp can stay banned, they are doing us a favor.
Glimpse of Nature
Glimpse is another card that seems very harmless at first glance. Cast some creatures, draw some cards? Not so bad, but won't you need a nice bit of mana to make that worth your while?
Enter the Elven mana engine that is Heritage Druid + Nettle Sentinel.
Suddenly, with enough Sentinels, you can draw through a huge portion of your deck in just one go. Awesome. So awesome that it is a constant pillar of the Legacy Metagame.
I wrote about an Elf Deck in Modern a few weeks ago. That deck could already win pretty often on T4 and if you got really lucky, had T3 and even a T2 win! Adding the ability to get lucky and draw 3-30 more cards on T2 or T3 or just win seems unfair and a touch "too good".
Wizards found a way to "fix" Glimpse by tweaking a word and adding a Blue mana to the cost. This seems to be holding for now as that U mana really gums it up. (If they had made it GG, it would probably still have ended in tears.)
Verdict: Glimpse itself should stay banned until they have printed enough cards in the future that would reduce it to a "fair" status. Note that "fair" means "We tested it again and again and again and again....".
Chrome Mox was the newest attempt at making a "fair Mox" to continue the tradition of Moxen existing in the game. It lived out its time in Standard and Old Extended just fine and never seemed to cause much concern. It saw use in a variety of deck types as well. The cost of Imprinting a card is steep, but some decks dealt with it better than others.
Why isn't it legal in Modern? I'd guess it's the Turn 4 Rule.
Chrome Mox speeds up, well, everything. No matter the deck type, Chrome Mox could help. This would be particularly threatening in Combo Decks that can drop a win on the board a turn sooner.
Mox shakes up everything in random and unexpected ways. They probably haven't begun to imagine what this does to the format if they bring it back. We could get Mox back, but then they might have to ban a bunch of other cards instead.
Verdict: Sadly, Chrome Mox should stay banned so that other cards don't become too threatening.
Rite of Flame/Seething Song
They banned these two rituals in an effort to slow down U/R Storm decks. A lot of folks gnashed their teeth and howled; by the time they got to banning Seething Song, that Wizards had gutted Storm to the point of death.
Then Finkel made a new version and suddenly the deck seemed worth testing again.
U/R Storm hasn't become the new dominant deck, nor has it even made any super high GP appearances, but it does put up steady results here and there on MTGO. The deck isn't the easiest deck to pilot and sometimes you have to get lucky, but it can still win on T3-4 with some consistency.
Verdict: A success. They managed to leave Storm playable without banning all of the Storm cards.
Here is one of the more debatable cards. Nacatl was banned at the end of 2011 and is often regarded as one of the more laughable cards on the list. The reason provided was that it was such an efficient creature that it obsoleted most other smaller creatures in the format. All it took was a few Fetchlands into Shocks and *pow*, 3/3 creature swinging on T2.
It's true; there was no real reason to bother with most other creatures. Between Nacatl and Tarmogoyf, you had the best cheap beaters possible. Why try to grow an Ajani's Pridemate or the later printed Experiment One? What good was a Pyroclasm if you weren't on the play? Heck, since you were fixing your mana, why not drop T1 Nacatl, T2 have counter spell mana up? Yeah, that was a deck. You think Delver of Secrets can be annoying, try a creature that was always a 3/3 on T2.
I honestly believe that the Format needed time without Nacatl in order to develop.
It's almost 2014 and Deathrite Shaman now exists.
Nacatl isn't so scary anymore, is it?
Not so fast.
Is the following sequence so unlikely?
T1 - Fetch, Stomping Ground, Nacatl
T2 - Fetch, Temple Garden, cast Burning-Tree Emissary, another BTE, another Nacatl, Goblin Guide. Swing for 5
T3 - Swing for 12 - Bolt Opponent. Win.
Is that Magical Christmas Land or is that what a Naya Aggro deck is designed to do if Nacatl was legal? Oddly enough, you can almost replicate that same sequence with Experiment One already. If you had Nacatl and EO, then you are hoping for that hand every game. Sure, the opponent can cast Pyroclasm to kill most of that board, but it wouldn't remove the Nacatls that are swinging for 6 a turn.
On the other side of the argument, when Nacatl was banned, we didn't have long with Snapcaster Mage or Liliana of the Veil, the more frequent use of Dismember and1 mana discard spells or main deck Spellskite to block. Also, it was before Abrupt Decay, Tidebinder Mage or the ubiquitous Deathrite Shaman ramping people to 3 mana on T2. The format has added new cards and developed a touch.
Is it time to let the cat be free? Why let the GB/x shell be the only early shell with some power behind it? Maybe it's time for a Naya core to come in and shake things up? Or maybe decks would use Nacatl and Deathrite and it would be a nightmare?
Wizards stated at the banning that Modern wasn't a format consideration when they designed Wild Nacatl and so it couldn't exist in the format. When you look at cards like Burning-Tree Emissary, I get the feeling that they design a lot of cards with the notion that it is never coming back.
Verdict: I think that they should unban Nacatl for the Born of the Gods announcement and be very upfront that if they see it becoming a problem, that it will be banned again before the PTQ season starts. That gives them a few months to see what kind of impact it makes on MTGO and any GPs. Since they probably won't do it so soon, then I think they should wait until next year around this time and certainly give it a try then.
This is another card that slightly warped the meta while it was Standard legal. At the time, the old Legend rule was in effect so at the very least, people were casting Jitte to blow up Jitte. It's a flexible card and it gives the owner the ability to take over creature matches handily.
Right now in Modern, the best Equipment cards are the 'Swords of X and Y'. As is, they barely see any use. If the Jitte comes back, those Swords are NEVER getting any deck time. The Jitte is hands down the best equipment card in the game (not counting Skullclamp). There would hardly be a reason to use anything else. It lets you off small creatures, pump yours faster or just gain life.
Would this help aggro? Hurt aggro? Make aggro angry?
I like the Jitte a great deal, but it would be stifling to the format.
Verdict: I'm sorry, Umezawa, leave that at home.
Speaking of equipment, time to talk about the Mystic. If we keep the Jitte in the Land of the Banned, what is so scary about the Mystic?
She can create a Turn 3 uncounterable Batterskull.
In a format where people can cast T3 Karn Liberated, T3 Primeval Titan, T4 Infinite Faeries, T4 Infinite Persist Life/Damage or T3 20 copies of Grapeshot, is a 4/4 Vigilant Lifelinker honestly so scary?
Not really....unless you think there isn't enough Aggro in the format.
See, this is the problem. In a bubble, Stoneforge is fair enough. She is a nice tutor with a bonus instant speed ability. She can also craft a nice shiny nail to close the coffin on decks that want to swing with lots of 2/x's and 3/x's. The cause and effect on a few of these cards is a vicious cycle.
I've always been a fan of Stoneforge Mystic; it's one of the most powerful White cards that had been printed in years. I would love to use it in Modern....but at what cost?
Verdict: *sniff* It should stay banned for now, until Aggro can be solidified in the format.
Green Sun's Zenith
This is another card that people mock when they look at the Banned List. Wizards stated that thanks to the Zenith, all Green decks would look mostly the same:
4x Green Sun's Zenith
1x Dryad Arbor
?x random good things and silver bullet utility creatures
And then everybody would start getting the same haircuts and wearing the same boring white button down and then the world would be doomed.
Wizards was simply saving us from ourselves.
Seriously though, there is some truth in their assumption. Why wouldn't you use a card that can mana ramp you on T1 or just make you extremely consistent on every other turn for 1 extra Green Mana? None of the other colors have a card that grants them such an ability either; it gives Green something so much better than the other colors.
Verdict: Odd as it maybe, keeping it banned for a while is a good idea. Maybe someday.
Nobody thought that a mostly forgotten Kamigawa block card would be combined with Infect to become a huge game winner, but some Pros find amazing interactions. My main complaint on the banning of Shoal was that they didn't give the players much time to adapt to it. It was a glass cannon strategy that even a well-timed Gut Shot or Marrow Shards could have answered. Heck, a Fog blanks the whole combo win.
Also, they banned Ponder and Preordain at the same time so the deck may not be as consistent as it was when it could use both of those.
Sure, much like the "Rituals", by banning the Shoal, they kept a legitimate Infect strategy intact without having to gut a whole mechanic. Infect even made a T8 finish recently at a GP, so I imagine its fans are glad it is still around.
Verdict: A success...for now. They should release it again in a year or two.
The card that, temporarily, broke Legacy. I'm sure they banned Misstep to avoid that same situation happening to Modern. Modern does use a lot more 3 and 4 casting cost cards, compared to Legacy, so heck, maybe it wouldn't be so bad?
I can't imagine they want to risk finding out...
Verdict: There are a lot of other cards I want to see unbanned before they even get to testing this one.
When combined with Grove of the Burnwillows, Punishing Fire is an endless supply of 2 Toughness creature removal and some light burn to the face. If you didn't have Graveyard removal, there was little to do but watch the Fire burn.
Wizards had a choice; get rid of the pricey rare land, or the .10 cent uncommon.
People don't mind, much, when their .40 cents gets banned. They are angry when their $80.00+ does. Since the Grove is staying, Punishing Fire cannot. It rips through small creature strategies too easily for hardly any effort.
Verdict: It should stay quietly banned.
We are going to end this first half with another highly debatable card. Many of the best Modern decks "end" the game on T4. At best, Bitterblossom has made 2 1/1 Faerie Rogues and cost its controller 2 life. That doesn't look like a terror worth banning?
While being under costed for an Enchantment that makes Flying creatures is something to keep an eye on, what really added a layer of the "unknown" to BB was the 'Tribal - Faerie' type classification. On first glance that doesn't look like much, but here are three annoying interactions that came up often.
- "I flash in Spellstutter Sprite, Sprite plus Bitterblossom means I counter a 2cc spell.
- "Target Bitterblossom with removal?" - "In response, flash in Scion of Oona." Fizzle.
- "Target Bitterblossom with removal?" - "In response, flash in Mistbind Clique." Temp Fizzle
- "At last Bitterblossom will kill them in a few turns!" - "Flash in (Mitbind Clique)." It's hiiiiiding.
This "unexpected" ability to protect Bitterblossom from being destroyed was what really made it frustrating. You have to use sideboard slots to attack it, but the opponent could just use normal, MD cards to render your attempt meaningless.
Plus, the Faerie Tokens interacted with those abilities as well. Enough tokens plus Spellstutter was a super counterspell that could deal damage. Championing tokens for Mistbind had to make some Fae players feel dirty as they locked up games, right?
Despite the Tribal synergy, unbanning Bitterblossom should be fine. I played against the card a lot in Standard and know how big of a pain it can be. But, "annoying" by itself isn't a good reason to ban a card. It is hard to tell if it does more harm or good being unbanned?
Helps Control - provides a cheap source of blockers each turn that can eventually turn into a win condition for minimal life payments.
Hurts Aggro - creates cheap blockers to stand in the way. Changes one non-trample creature's damage to 1 each turn.
So who needs the help more, Control or Aggro?
Verdict: Bitterblossom will be unbanned someday. It isn't destructive enough to the format to stay banned. I could see it being legal in the Fall, after the PTQ season.
That brings us to the end of the first half of the Modern Banned list. Tune in next week to see my thoughts on the other cards.
Part II. The Modern Land Prices
All prices are from MTGOtrader.com. The version linked was the cheapest when the land was added, but be sure to check for the best available price!
The Zendikar Fetch Lands
The Fetch Lands are the lynchpin of most mana bases in Modern. Being able to fix your colors by finding a Ravnica Shock Land is critical to the various top tier multi-color decks. The Fetchlands also have great synergy with the best one drop creature in the format, Deathrite Shaman. The price of Fetchlands is often considered the defining cost barrier of Modern, however, on MTGO, they are usually cheaper than many high demand Mythics.
Some price leveling this week for the fetches. The White fetches had the most room to grow and I wasn't sure why Catacombs dropped like it did. If you are looking to spend some holiday money getting into Modern, it looks like a stable time to invest.
The Ravnica Shock Lands
The Shock Lands, with their dual basic land types, are very important pillars of the Modern format. The nickname is derived from the 2 life paid to put the land into play untapped compared to the 2 damage from the card Shock. After being reprinted in the Return to Ravnica block, the prices dropped dramatically and it is now much easier for players to acquire these lands with a modest budget.
The Shocks are steadily recovering from the crash. At the very least, they are starting to climb out of the low 3-ish range. Foundry continues to hold the high ground, even though Shrine "won" the GP?
The Scars of Mirrodin Fast Lands
The Fast Lands are a great way to ensure two colors of mana in the first few turns of the game. Only available in allied color pairings, they see the most use for colors that have strong aggressive themes that are not affected by the drawback. The Fast Lands have a relatively low price threshold and are an inexpensive way to add mana consistency to a deck.
Cliffs comes down from the huge surge from the previous week. It's surprising that Seachrome is finally picking up steam since it lagged behind for so many other months. The meta shifts and the prices go with it.
The Worldwake Man-Lands
The ability to produce two colors and provide a creature with an ability makes these lands rather attractive. More useful in mid-range and control oriented decks that don't mind the drawback as much. Currently only one of these lands appears as a '4-of' in a deck; so while they have a moderate price threshold, keep in mind that you usually only need about 1-2 copies of each per a deck.
Even without many strong results, people have faith in Tar Pit again this week. Ravine regains some of its lost value and Colonnade continues to wobble. I'd only jump on the Man Lands right now if you know exactly which deck you want to play and need them ASAP.
The Core Set/Innistrad Check Lands
While they do not provide mana on the first turn of the game, the Check Lands still have enough potential to see use in Modern. When combined with the Ravnica Shock Lands, the Checks are an inexpensive way to create reliable 2 color mana bases. Now that the Check Lands have rotated out of Standard, their prices are extremely low. Newer players to Modern, as well as those with very tight budgets, may want to start with these extremely cheap lands.
As always, tiny adjustments look like huge changes when it comes to the Check Lands, but they are really only swinging by about .05 on some of them. Nothing Wallet-Slaying is really happening.
The Utility and Deck Specific Lands
This section covers Utility Lands, off cycle mana fixers and Deck specific lands that you might need if you want to build a Modern deck. Whether it's the Urza Tron Cycle, Affinity or you just want to know how much the most used lands that blow up other lands cost, this should give you some idea of what you are working with.
The most interesting cards to watch on this chart continue to be Tectonic Edge and Mutavault. 'Vault finally dropped a bit. It's a rare in a set people might not want to draft, but I have to wonder if the gamble is worth taking, especially if you are good at the format? Tectonic keeps climbing steadily. If we don't get another round of ZZW drafting before the PTQ season next spring, expect them to climb a lot higher.
Here we are at the end of this half of the Banned List! My opinion of these things isn't the "Written In Stone Law" or even the "This Was Exactly What Wizards Is Thinking Rule", but so often I see people hate on the list or say outlandish things and felt it would be very "in the holiday spirit" to be supportive. At the very least, it might get some conversation flowing?
Next week I'll look at the other cards on the list, including the card I feel should most likely come off the list.
Until next time,
The Modern Perspective Archive