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By: The Milk Man, Michael Mulcahy
Jan 23 2015 1:00pm
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Hello again - long time no see. I have skulked out of the woodworks, dragging myself away from work, family and study to vent some thoughts and share some information on Modern thanks to the changes brought about by the Banned & Reserved list update.

So the recent B & R list revision was quite the bombshell and for several reasons.

Firstly, for those living under the proverbial rock, the following cards are now banned from Modern:

Treasure Cruise  Dig Through Time  Birthing Pod

It is no surprise that Treasure Cruise was going to be banned but Dig Through Time had a couple of arguments in its favour for giving it another chance (or is it just my wishful thinking?) and Birthing Pod was the wolf in sheep’s clothing that finally got caught.

This is going to have a far and widespread impact on the competitive meta and consequently the value of cards and decks - for the budget conscious player this is paramount.

Firstly I have some personal views on these changes that I wish to share.

I personally hate the decision to ban Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. I understand that it was the ‘fair’ thing to do but I certainly enjoyed playing with and against them, watching them in play. It was also really nice to have important and powerful cards that any individual could pick up while doing a draft, trading with online stores or from your friendly local gaming store - both cheap, plentiful and in perfect condition.

The impact of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time meant that for a brief moment in Modern some otherwise tier 2 decks finally got their time to shine in the spotlight. Without the oppression of cards like Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek and Liliana of the Veil, many decks that were previously considered to be ‘tier 2’ at best finally got to have a good crack at the competitive scene. This is not just limited to UR Delver either – the following deck archetypes all saw significantly increased amounts of play and success in the competitive scene:

GW Hatebears

Voice of Resurgence  Leonin Arbiter  Thalia, Guardian of Thraben  Aven Mindcensor

Soul Sisters

Auriok Champion  Soul Warden    Serra Ascendant

GW Bogles

Slippery Bogle  Kor Spiritdancer  Ethereal Armor  Unflinching Courage

Amulet of Vigor

Amulet of Vigor  Summer Bloom  Primeval Titan  

Burn

Monastery Swiftspear  Boros Charm  Eidolon of the Great Revel  Lightning Bolt

Through the Breach

Through the Breach  Emrakul, the Aeons Torn  Primeval Titan  Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

It was really nice and fresh to see new decks making their way to the top tables without having to slug through BGx after BGx match. R.I.P all of the above decks – they will surely all but disappear thanks to the decisions of Wizards updates to the B & R updates.

 

So why are these decks going to fade away, banished to the nether regions of ‘tier 2’-dom?

The main reason why the loss of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, which wasn’t even in most of the above decks, will render these decks once again subpar can be explained by these three cards:

Thoughtseize  Inquisition of Kozilek  Liliana of the Veil

In a meta where Thoughtseize type effects often just added mana to your Treasure Cruise pool the 1 mana staple saw less and less play. Decks that relied on this strategy of 1-for-1 discard, such as BG Rock, Jund, Junk and 8-Rack were themselves shelved, rendered all but obsolete, not able to compete with the Treasure Cruise decks for card advantage.

Then there were also the new top dogs – UR Delver, Burn and dare I say it, Jeskai Ascendancy. Before the introduction of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, Burn and Delver were often able to snatch otherwise bad matchups and even top spots at events by having some of the cards fall their way. The inclusion of Treasure Cruise and to a lesser extent Dig Through Time gave the decks so much momentum that it all but guaranteed that the cards would fall their way.

With the loss of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, Thoughtseize is once again every bit as powerful as it ever was. Many of the decks listed above have been able to thrive, not just survive, because of a lack of Thoughtseizes and Liliana of the Veils. Decks that might have fragile hand compositions, leveraging resources on a relatively small number of creatures or that require specific card synergies, combinations or interactions will be all but gone.

This was not unexpected though, Treasure Cruise was always going to be banned, and on the surface it looks like we will just be going back to a pre-Khans of Tarkir meta… not quite.

There are decks that will now make a comeback – decks that were poor in a Treasure Cruise meta, but thrive in a Thoughtseize heavy meta. These include –

8 Rack

The Rack Liliana of the Veil  Shrieking Affliction  Inquisition of Kozilek

Living End

Living End Fulminator Mage  Violent Outburst  Deadshot Minotaur

BGx / Jund / Junk / The Rock / Jundk

Tarmogoyf  Thoughtseize  Dark Confidant  Liliana of the Veil

BGx, Jund, or Junk is set to be the biggest gainer from these changes. This time last year the banning of Deathrite Shaman saw BGx drop significantly both in representation and success... but not for long. The deck is one of the control-iest midrange decks and control decks require an established meta to include the most efficient answers. Towards the release of M15 and up until the release of Khans of Tarkir, BGx had actually snuck back up the ranks, right through the tier 1.5 decks, through the tier 1 decks and to the top of the meta once again – being one of the most represented of the successful decks.

There are 2 specific issues that I have with this change back to a supposed pre-Khans of Tarkir Modern metagame.

Firstly – There is this card from Khans of Tarkir, which is pretty powerful in its own right, but unlike Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time it is pretty safe from the ban and restricted list.

 

Siege Rhino

 

Siege Rhino is good. In fact if is great. It’s great in Standard and its great in Modern. It’s great in Birthing Pod decks and its great in Zoo decks. In BGx it is even greater though – it does everything that this deck wants to do - Siege Rhino isn’t the best aggressive creature, but it sure is good in helping establish control of a board in a grindy matchup. To put this in to perspective, prior to the Deathrite Shaman’s banning, Bloodbraid Elf was considered the offender that made Jund too powerful. Siege Rhino is even better - take it from Kai:

 

Now here is the biggest problem that I have with the changes to the ban and restricted list:

Picture courtesy of Bob Barrie on Twitter. 

Now I wasn’t the biggest fan of Birthing Pod, but it was a really cool card and an even cooler deck archetype to see in action and it certainly put up the numbers, more importantly though it played a very, very, very key role in the format – it was the gatekeeper for BGx decks. It was the only ‘fair’ or ‘balanced’ deck that had a good matchup against BGx as well as not completely folding to other segments of the meta like Splinter Twin, Burn or Tron. It really did keep the BGx decks in check. Take it from Willy -

Now which deck fills that role? If the answer is none, and I suspect that it very well could be, it will be safe to assume that BGx will be even more dominant than it was this time last year, pre-Deathrite Shaman banning. Add to this the number of Birthing Pod players who already have the land base and some of the spells to be able to make the switch to BGx relatively easily and you have yourself a recipe for a format that is much less 'wide open' than the current Treasure Cruise meta. 

Modern does however seem to be a format where people are better off sticking to what they know rather than what is 'best', but most people know BGx and I am predicting it to be so far beyond best, that people will be crying out for Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time before long. BGx is also very ban resistant, as the high quality and value isn't vested in any one card or even a combination of cards.

 

 

But wait, were there any cards that got unbanned?

Golgari Grave-Troll is now unbanned! This card is really cool and has a lot of potential, but I have doubts that it can make anywhere near the splash in the Modern format like Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time did. Remember how broken the format was when Wild Nacatl got unbanned? Or when Bitterblossom came back and dominated the meta? Me neither.

The reality is that a Legacy style dredge deck just cannot exist in Modern because Dread Return is still banned, and cards like Ichorid and Cabal Therapy just aren’t there to get the wheels moving.

Maybe there will be some Become Immense shenanigans or something, but I would be seriously surprised if it had a bigger splash than the unbanning of Wild Nacatl or Bitterblossom. Keep in mind that Modern basically has access to the same graveyard hate as Legacy and Vintage, but without the mass of pieces to make Dredge work.

 

What changes I would have liked to see to the B & R list?

Wizards R & D has admitted in the past to literally only testing in Standard when designing new cards. Many people knew straight away just how broken Treasure Cruise was going to be in every other format but for some reason wizards didn’t see it coming.

Because the eternal formats are not even on their radar, the B & R list is the knee-jerk reaction, 'balancing' tool that they wield with all of the finesse of a Siege Rhino in a china shop.

Instead of banning all of the most powerful cards, why not unban other powerful cards to bring other archetypes up in power? Or better yet, design and release new cards to reinvigorate old archetypes that have fallen out of favour. This doesn't even need to be something that completely breaks standard - they just need to release these cards in a Standard format where it doesn't enjoy the synergies it would in Modern, Legacy and Vintage. 

A lot of people were hoping to see some of these cards make an appearance in Modern:

Bloodbraid Elf  Jace, The Mind Sculptor  Ancestral Vision  Stoneforge Mystic

Instead Wizards have gone the other way. They finally print a set with some cards in it that are truly interesting, powerful and can become the centrepiece of deck archetypes in their own right as well as adding a great deal to existing archetypes….and immediately Wizards thinks that they have overstepped the mark. Instead of designing cards that would help to increase the power of weaker archetypes, or unban cards that would also accomplish this goal, they just keep cutting the head off of whoever sticks his head up the highest.

 

 

 

The financial side of the changes to the B & R list

Firstly, I hope you have all already picked up your Tarmogoyf’s, Dark Confidants and Liliana of the Veils.

Tarmogoyf  

Dark Confidant  

Liliana of the Veil  

 

Here we had a metagame where 3 of the most expensive Modern staples had their value slowly decline thanks to Treasure Cruise – expect them to bounce back hard – really hard. If you hadn’t already picked some up you have missed the boat. With the expectation of Treasure Cruise being banned, people were speculating on the BGx all-stars.

Expect other former Jund and Junk staples to also increase in relative value – like Verdant Catacombs, Fulminator Mage, Twilight Mire and Scavenging Ooze. Many of these cards will also find their way in to Abzan midrange decks (as opposed to Junk decks, which are basically the white variation of the very established Jund archetype).

 

So how does the B&R list update affect the budget conscious player?

The big thing here is that the metagame is going to be turned on its head.

Competitive players are going to want to play with the best cards and the best decks and with a metagame that is about to experience a polar shift, there are cards and decks that had previously fallen out of favour and consequently will soon be very much in demand again.

By the same token, there are top decks at the moment that people will be getting out of as they will simply not be able to compete as strongly in the post-Treasure Cruise ban metagame. This might give you the opportunity to pick up those Primeval Titans that had become out of your budget's reach, or a playset of Voice of Resurgence that were just that bit too expensive.

Here is the metagame before the release of Khans of Tarkir:

Here is the current, pre-ban metagame:

 

My prediction for the post Treasure Cruise-ban metagame:

 

With the exclusion of Birthing Pod, there will be an abundance of Abzan coloured cards, many of which can be easily switched in to either Junk or Abzan Midrange. The exact composition of Junk/Jund/BGx decks and Abzan Midrange will be unknown, as some have predicted that Abzan Midrange will have a good matchup vs Junk, whereas Junk/Jund is a proven performer against the rest of the meta.

So who are the big winners and losers of the change?

Aside from the people whose pet decks couldn't compete with Treasure Cruise, the big winners are the ones who bought in to the BGx staples when they were low.

Another big winner with the changes to the B & R list is Willy Edel.

The almost certainty that BGx will see a return of the King and Queen to the top of the metagame means that the decks with a good matchup vs BGx will also improve in relative power. This should therefore mean that more people want to play these decks, and demand will be higher for these cards and decks. A finite supply of cards ensures that the prices of these decks will go up.

Another likelihood is that Birthing Pod decks will all but vanish from the format. Some die hards will try to make it work, just as the bannings of Second Sunrise, Seething Song and Deathrite Shaman basically just meant that the decks that used them had to employ weaker alternatives or fade away almost entirely.

 

 If people will try to make Birthing Pod decks work, I imagine it will involve some number of Yisan, the Wanderer Bard, Chord of Calling, & Eternal Witness. The alternative is to just have a Abzan aggro deck with more of a focus on Gavony Township and high value creatures rather than a silver bullet toolbox or bona fide combo deck.

 

Another deck that thrives in a BGx meta is Living End. Living End also enjoys the status of being a relatively budget friendly deck. This time last year Living End was a solid player in the metagame, however the prominence of UR Delver decks with Treasure Cruise, Living End's worse matchup, has all but removed Living End decks. I would expect this to not only reverse, but for the pendulum to swing even further and for Living End to be a genuine contender. It is also a deck that is quite good against non-blue midrange decks - with Abzan Midrange likely to become a popular deck thanks to the disbanding of Birthing Pod and the introduction of Siege Rhino.

 Monstrous Carabid  Living End  Street Wraith  Demonic Dread

Another deck that is set to benefit from the banning of Treasure Cruise is Tron. Tron isn't necessarily weak against Treasure Cruise, but it is one of the better decks against those that were weak to Treasure Cruise. Both the GR and Mono U variants of Tron have a decent matchup against BGx, with GR being the arguably more powerful of the two. Tron is also another deck that looks pretty darn budget friendly when placed alongside BGx decks. I would expect the staples - Karn Liberated, Grove of the Burnwillows and Oblivion Stone to spike in price as people get on board to combat the sea of otherwise oppressive BGx decks.

 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn  Karn Liberated  Oblivion Stone  Pyroclasm

Urza's Mine  Urza's Tower  Urza's Power Plant

Platinum Angel  Wurmcoil Engine  Mindslaver  Spell Burst

 The last deck that I want to give a nod to is one that has never really been the top deck in the meta, but is always a contender. UWR Control is a deck that can match BGx with its own high-value cards and it is one of the few decks that can match the grindy nature of  BGx. UWR Control is as tough and resilient as BGx, having many of the perfect answers to BGx's threats as well as decent threats of its own. The UWR staples like Snapcaster Mage Path to Exile and Restoration Angel have all lost a bit of value in the Treasure Cruise meta, but will assuredly climb back, higher than their previous values.

 Snapcaster Mage  Path to Exile  Restoration Angel  Lightning Helix

One caveat to keep in mind with investing in to the current Modern metagame is to be cautious about large investments. The reason for this is not because you might buy in to a deck that gets banned, but rather a known and positive impact on the availability of cards is incoming. The release of Modern Masters II is both imminent and will focus on cards from M10 to New Phyrexia. Innistrad Block to M14 will be safe from reprinting and will therefore be a safer investment, but it might just pay to hold off those Scalding Tarns, Noble Hierarchs or Fulminator Mages that you have been wanting for ages.

Let me know your thoughts on the meta and the impact on the budget conscious players

- The Milk Man