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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Apr 08 2016 12:00pm
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Welcome to another Modern Musings!  The latest Banned & Restricted Update came out on 4th April.  In this article I will be taking a look at the changes to Modern and discuss the implications for the format.


Eye of Ugin
Eye of Ugin
Why is it banned?
Eldrazi has dominated the format since Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch and Wizards openly accepted something needed to be done.  As such this banning should come as no real surprise. Wizards have shown some restraint in simply banning Eye of Ugin. There were some queries over whether Eldrazi Temple would also be banned or banned instead of Eye to help protect Tron decks (discussed further below). For me, banning Eye seems like the most sensible route to take. Eye of Ugin is the more problematic card as it allows for the crazy draws where multiple Eldrazi Mimics are dropped on the board and it has a powerful tutoring effect that makes for a powerful late game.

Obviously the big impact will be on the Eldrazi decks which will be substantially neutered by the banning of Eye of UginEldrazi Temple remains allowing Eldrazi to stay playable but I doubt it will be competitive enough to stay Tier 1 and I imagine will drop out of major competitive play.

The inadvertent impact is on RG Tron which has used Eye of Ugin for a long time to tutor up late game threats.  The ban hurts Tron and the deck isn't as good without Eye but the core of the deck remains intact.  There are other options available such as Sanctum of Ugin so it will be interesting to see how Tron evolves post-ban and whether it can remain competitive.  I hold out hope that it will manage to stay strong but I can't deny it will hurt.


Ancestral Vision
Ancestral Vision
Why is it unbanned?
Ancestral Vision is a card that has been earmarked for unbanning for some time by many players.  It seems it was primarily banned for fears of Cascade shenanigans, as you can set up your deck in such a way that you always cascade into Vision and draw three cards.  However, with Bloodbraid Elf safely on the banned list it seems unlikely that such strategy would prove popular or effective.  As such, due to the time it takes to resolve Ancestral, it is likely that Ancestral Vision will see play primarily in Control decks that are looking to play a longer game.  The hope is this will help promote Control decks in the format.

Control decks have had a hard time of it throughout the history of Modern. As such I think Ancestral Vision is a welcome unban that might increase the power of Control decks. In terms of where it will see play, I'm sure that any Control deck will be interested. Whether it's an instant 4-of I am less sure. I don't have a lot of experience playing with the card but it's clearly very powerful.

Looking to the past for inspiration Ancestral Vision saw considerable play during its time in Extended. Faeries was one of the main archetype that took advantage of the card and also got to use it in Standard. Despite the unbanning of Bitterblossom, Faeries has not really made an impact on Modern. Perhaps this can be a turning point for the deck.

Sword of the Meek
Sword of the Meek
Why is it unbanned?
Sword of the Meek is one half of a combo with Thopter Foundry. The combo is powerful but not broken. Once put together you can sacrifice Sword of the Meek to the Foundry to make a 1/1 flyer and gain 1 life and then Sword returns to the battlefield. This allows you to turn every mana you can generate into a 1/1 flyer and 1 life.  As such the combo is a strong long term game plan but not an instant game winner.

It is difficult to say what impact the introduction of the Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combo will have.  That said I am sure there are tons of people brewing up decks with it already.  Wizards advised that they feel the combo is slow and are hoping it will promote Combo-Control decks.  I am a little concerned about it as the combo is pretty cheap to put together and the combination of life gain and token generation makes it very hard for aggro decks to battle through.  That said there are a number of good answers to the combo in the format - from artifact hate to blow up the Foundry to graveyard hate to exile Sword from the graveyard.  Overall, my hope is that although the combo is strong it can be contained.

The combo is probably best known as being part of the Thopter Depths deck (or 'Thepths') that was a big player in Extended back in 2010. The Vampire Hexmage/Dark Depths combo isn't available as Dark Depths is banned in Modern so Wizards have decided it is safe to unleash the Sword of the Meek side of the combo deck into Modern.


I want to discuss the other cards that have been the topic of banning and unbanning discussions:

Possible bans:

Ensnaring Bridge
Ensnaring Bridge
Ensnaring Bridge is a card that I am increasingly feeling is problematic in Modern. The card punishes decks for trying to win by attacking with creatures (which we are generally encouraged to do) and often stalls the game out as the opponent scrambles for an answer. It isn't a fun card, it's fairly expensive (even online) and also I cannot see Wizards ever really wanting to reprint it as it feels like a nasty limited card for a Modern Masters set.

Banning Bridge would probably hurt Lantern Control the most of any major deck.  Personally although it's a reasonably cool concept I find Lantern Control to be quite an undesirable deck for the format.  It's a very slow and grindy deck that spends its time trying to deny you any meaningful draws.  It's pretty miserable to play against and if it becomes too prominent I think that will be bad for the format.

Mox Opal
Mox Opal
There was some discussion about banning Opal, or maybe another card from Affinity. Affinity was a good performer during Eldrazi Winter though appeared to get hated out of the triple Grand Prix Weekend. As such Affinity remains untouched but I feel like that is a justified stance given the past state of the format where Affinity has proved strong but never truly dominant.  Affinity is in a good place coming into the new format though so perhaps this is a decision that will need to be revised.  I like waiting to see the evidence first though.

Goryo's Vengeance
Goryo's Vengeance
There always seems to be someone complaining about (Goryo's Vengenace) and Turn 2 kills.  Despite the Eldrazi Winter proving favourable to graveyard-based decks the various Goryo's Vengeance decks didn't make a notable appearance.  At the moment there just isn't the justification for a ban to Goryo's Vengeance.

Blood Moon
Blood Moon
A while back Saffron Olive, from mtggoldfish, wrote a very good piece on why Blood Moon is a healthy card in Modern and Choke is an unhealthy card.  I often see people call for Blood Moon to be banned, though perhaps not so much during Eldrazi Winter, basically because it leads to miserable games where you hope to top deck one of the basic lands in your deck.  That said I find Blood Moon to be a necessary evil in a format with powerful non-basic heavy manabases.  It may not be fun to play against but it helps to keep manabases honest and is one of the few good answers to the various dangerous lands in the Modern format.

Possible unbans:

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
There are people who seemingly incessantly want Jace to be unbanned in Modern.  Realistically I think the day that Jace gets unbanned will either be the end of Modern or the mark of a much higher power level in the format in general.  Wizards approach to Modern has been to systematically ban cards that are proving too powerful, too consistent or too prevalent in the format.  As such unbanning Jace is completely inconsistent with their approach to the format so far.  I feel like there are a number of cards that are far safer unbans than Jace and so unless Wizards reverses its approach to the format I can't really see it happening.

Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodbraid Elf is another popular card that has many proponents for it to be unbanned.  It may be safe to unban Bloodbraid Elf but I think it's a dangerous one.  Jund has managed to remain a strong playable deck in Modern despite bans to Deathrite Shaman and Bloodbraid Elf and it would be a huge push for the deck to get back Bloodbraid Elf.  In fairness, if you are choosing a deck to dominate Modern I think Jund is probably one of the fairest options available - with its one-for-one removal and powerful creatures.  That said Bloodbraid Elf is probably the least fair part of Jund decks past so I can't really see an argument for bringing it back to the fold.

Honestly, I think the unban of Ancestral Vision probably makes a BBE unban even less likely than it was previously as WOTC seem to be concerned about it combining with Cascade cards.  However, there is always hope.

Last week I discussed the Shadows over Innistrad spoiler and the cards that stood out for me for Modern.  I asked you to have your say and vote for your favourite card.  The results were as follows:

Thing in the IceAwoken Horror
1st Place: Thing in the Ice/Awoken Horror
19 votes (32% of the vote)
The runaway favourite was Thing in the Ice.  I'm glad I'm not the only one who is high on this card.  I really like the potential for Thing In Ice and can't wait to play with the card in Modern once Shadows over Innistrad comes to MTGO.  Performing an Evacuation on the board and then attacking for 7 with my Kraken is going to be a lot of fun.

Prized AmalgamArlinn KordArlinn, Embraced by the Moon
Joint 2nd Place: Prized Amalgam & Arlinn Kord/Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon
10 votes (17% of the vote)
Prized Amalgam and Arlinn Kord share second place.  Amalgam is another card that I can't wait to brew with and building Dredge Zombies is a challenge I'm quite excited about.  Arlinn Kord also seems very powerful and I am interested to see how she compares to Huntmaster of the Fells.

Anguished Unmaking
4th Place: Anguished Unmaking
8 votes (13% of the vote)
Anguished Unmaking rounds out the Top 4 vote grabbers.  A very powerful removal spell that I am sure will see some play in Modern.  More functional than particularly exciting but definitely a strong card.

You can check back at the original article for a full breakdown of the voting and you can still vote if you are interested.  Thank you to everyone who took part in the vote and I hope to bring you some videos with the new cards once they are released.

I am very much hoping that the Eye of Ugin ban will open things up in Modern. The Eldrazi domination of the format, though interesting, kind of drove me away from the format as I wasn't prepared to just lose to overpowered Eldrazi decks. I would hope this has a balancing effect on the format and a more healthy format arises from the fallout.

The unbans for me are also pretty welcome. It's always a little scary to see things come off the banlist as they have the potential to unbalance things but in this instance I think they made good choices. I cannot see Ancestral Vision being broken in the format as it stands and I hope it will serve as a good boost for Control decks.  If it ends up powering up some degenerate combo then I will have been proven wrong but I like the possibilities for Ancestral Vision

Sword of the Meek is the unban I am less certain of just because I think it's going to be a nuisance to combat once it is put together.  The combination of life gain and creature tokens makes it a nightmare for aggro decks to deal with.  That said there are a lot of tools in the format to combat the combo if it does prove strong and popular.

I am hoping for a better, more diverse format to come out of this B&R update and remain hopeful from this announcement.  I think Wizards has made some good calls here and I look forward to playing in the new Modern environment soon.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)
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I wasn't very high on Thing by MarcosPMA at Fri, 04/08/2016 - 18:21
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I wasn't very high on Thing in the Ice, but with Ancestral Vision being unbanned I'm a little more optimistic about it. In general I think you want Young Pyromancer over Thing in the Ice, but that's just me. Turn 2 Pyromancer is a must kill as opposed to turn 2 Thing in the Ice because you can wait a turn or two before killing it. I'm open to being wrong though (and I probably will be.)

Wizards won't ever unban Jace. If they unban Jace he'll be 200+ and be the most expensive card in Modern. Not to mention they can't ban Jace afterwards since his price will drop and people will lose a lot of money if they buy into Jace at his spike price. Because of power level and monetary value I don't believe it's feasible to unban Jace, unless there's a new Modern format where Jace wouldn't be overtly powerful.

You may well be right. I am a by olaw at Sat, 04/09/2016 - 16:53
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You may well be right. I am a bit concerned about Thing In the Ice being a bit slow, it's certainly not an instant must kill. However it can't be killed by Bolt which makes it harder to deal with in general.

I see it as a very different card to Young Pyromancer. It does want a high spell count in your deck but maybe slightly different to the Tempo style decks that Pyromancer shines in. I see Thing in the Ice being played in a more Control-based deck.

You make some other good points about unbanning Jace. I can't see it ever happening but it doesn't mean people won't keep asking for it.

T2 Thing in the Ice, T3 Fate by Rerepete at Sun, 04/10/2016 - 15:41
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T2 Thing in the Ice, T3 Fate Transfer; Attack for 7

Doesn't work. Thing in the by longtimegone at Sun, 04/10/2016 - 17:36
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Doesn't work.

Thing in the ice triggers when you cast fate transfer, removes a counter, sees that it still has counters.

Fate transfer resolves, moves all remaining counters from thing.

Thing does not transform until the next time you cast an instant or sorcery and it's ability triggers again.

Fate transfer costs 2 so by by Paul Leicht at Sun, 04/10/2016 - 21:38
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Fate transfer costs 2 so by turn 3 you could conceivably cast it and still have enough left over for a cantrip.

So you are going to run at by longtimegone at Mon, 04/11/2016 - 17:04
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So you are going to run at least one do nothing spell in the deck just so that you can sometimes flip Thing by casting 2 spells instead of 4?

I mean, sure, if you are screwing around in the casual room, but that sounds like way too much inefficiency for a competitive deck for minimal gain.

It's 4 ice counters, not 10, and the payoff is good, but not game winning. I won't be the least bit surprised if Thing finds it's way in to a deck, but I don't expect it to be with cards that do nothing but make thing flip a little sooner.

Just theorizing dude. Calm by Paul Leicht at Mon, 04/11/2016 - 17:35
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Just theorizing dude. Calm your tone lol.

No negative tone was meant, by longtimegone at Tue, 04/12/2016 - 19:33
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No negative tone was meant, sorry if it came across that way. Text is a particularly bad medium for subtleties.

It's cool I can be a bit by Paul Leicht at Tue, 04/12/2016 - 20:47
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It's cool I can be a bit over-dramatic at times myself. But what I meant is still pretty much that its in the theory stage, all ideas should be on the table until proven bad and without disdain. Because that's how we come up with new ideas. I do think TTITI is sub par because of its clause but on the other hand it is a potential threat in any format, Vintage maybe even more than any other, with Standard being less so because of the limitations of the pool. But you might not need a huge threat out of something that incrementally wins the game over time. I think TTITI is will be that kind of card and I consider it on par with any titan standard has seen except maybe Prime Time.