Procrastination's picture
By: Procrastination, Christopher Giovannagelo
Jan 02 2014 9:59am
Login to post comments

Welcome back to The Modern Perspective! When I started writing last week's article, I was uncertain what kind of reception it would receive. There were several weeks in a row where reader views had cracked 1,000 and I really wanted to keep that momentum going. The Modern Banned list is a topic that has been discussed again and again, all over the, well, everywhere. I was really uncertain if there would be enough interest in yet another opinion of the list.

Turns out I was wrong.

The first part of "Banned Aid" blew all of my previous view records right out of the water. It became apparent very quickly that people still care very much about the Banned List. It affects every type of Modern player: Brewers, Grinders, Speculators, Pros, Rookies and every other type you can think of. I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised?

Still, I'd like to take a quick moment to thank everybody who took the time to read the article and especially those that then suggested it to a friend, who may have passed it to another friend and so on. A couple different people told me how they were discussing the article with friends while sitting around the table playing Magic, or in the car heading to a tournament and that was just mind blowing. It was also so very rewarding. So thank you all.

Well then, let's finish talking about the Modern Banned List.

Part I. More Talking About the Banned
Part II. The Modern Land Prices

Part I. More Talking About the Banned
In case you missed Part 1 of this article, here are some important details I had in mind in context to the Banned List:

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 with those thoughts in mind, let's keep it rolling!

Dark Depths

Possibly the most Lovecraftian card in the game, Dark Depths languished in cheap rare bins for years. 30 mana spread across who knows how many turns was a lot, even for a 20/20 Fying, Indestructible creature.

Then Vampire Hexmage was printed.

Suddenly you could summon an Old One to the table as early as Turn 2 or 3. A junk rare turned into one of the strongest combo pieces in Old Extended.

In Modern, the problem is that few colors/cards can interact with the token:

  • White - White has some of the best options with Path to Exile and other such effects
  • Blue - Bounce is great with Repeal being my favorite.
  • Black - Sacrifice abilities are all Black has going for it.
  • Red - Stingscourger, Boom! ....poor Red.
  • Green - Can ramp to Mystifying Maze. At least Red has company.

A two card combo that decks can't really interact with isn't very good for the format. Although, swinging with a 20/20 creature is much more exciting than winning with the Melira Pod combo and that's coming from a Pod player!

As for what Wizards maybe thinking, the printing of Thespian's Stage seems to be a strong sign that they won't be letting DD back into the format anytime soon.

Verdict: Dark Depths will remain in the cold dark void of banned space.



Sword of the Meek

When combined with Thopter Foundry, the Sword lets you gain 1 Life and create a 1/1 Thopter for each mana you have open, at Instant speed no less. This combination leads to another extremely dominating deck in Old Extended. In fact, eventually, players mixed Sword and Dark Depths together in the same decks.

With the large amount of graveyard hate printed in the last few years, the Sword probably wouldn't be as effective as it once was. But "probably" isn't a reality. However, the Sword being back would be useful to Control builds who need to gain life and have blockers until they are ready to stop blocking and start swinging.

Helping one archetype hurts another. If Aggro already has a hard time punching through now, how is it going to get past an "infinite" supply of Thopters? Outside of Scavenging Ooze, most other aggro cards can't interact with the Sword well. What options are open to Aggro with the Sword back?

It's a conundrum.

Verdict: The Sword should stay banned due to a lack of interaction.



Bloodbraid Elf

The Elf was another card that you had to play with/against a lot before you realize how powerful it actually is. Look at it this way:

When you cast Bloodbraid Elf, one of the following happens at random:

Now, sure, sometimes these things do happen in the wrong order. Regardless, when your list of random things is comprised of "Super Good Awesome Things", then does it really matter which one you get? On top of that, BBE is usually generating 2 spells.

Two of them.

If two decks get into a top deck war, the person that draws BBE is now two spells ahead. If they top deck another BBE, then now they have cast 4 spells while the opponent only drew two cards. This is what actually makes the Elf very good. It's easy to underestimate a 3/2 Haste Creature for 4 mana if you never consider that a whole other spell comes along for the ride. The stronger the card pool, the more threatening that spell could randomly be.

Verdict: Wizards will continue to print good 1-3cc cards. BBE should continue to be banned.


Second Sunrise

Sunrise was banned because the combo deck it enabled was non-interactive, could go off consistently on T3 and could take a very long time to execute its plan the turn it went off. Sunrise may have been able to stay off the radar if the infamous on camera "F6" episodes hadn't happened at many high level events. It's hard to hype up your format when the video feed shows one person shuffling a deck and the opponent isn't even at the table.

Concern over the time involved became the main reason for banning. Many inexperienced players were taking much too long to execute the combo, causing time delays across entire events.

Not every player was slow with the combo; my friend Greg had his combo turn down to 6 minutes. Then Wizards banned the deck. How did he cope with the banning? He trades for Tibalt and then rips them in half.

Everybody heals differently.

This is the kind of fall-out Wizards PR Agents have to deal with and they do NOT get paid enough for this madness.

As for the banning, Eggs was neat, but image wise it was hurting the format.

Verdict: Destroy All Tibalts!, I mean, Second Sunrise should stay banned.



Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Speaking of image helping to define a card, it's time to talk about Jace.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor didn't start out as the most expensive Standard legal card ever. At first, it was just the most powerful Blue card in a format full of weak Blue. A lot of people think that Bloodbraid Elf was the key to keeping Jace in check. I think that isn't entirely true. I think that the Perfect Storm of cards didn't exist yet when BBE was legal. Jace needed Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk AND Sword of Feast and Famine before it all came together. Once there was a good shuffle effect, a good tutor and a way to never have to tap out while causing discard, everything else that Jace brought to the table was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

As for "perfect storms", let's take a look at Jace's abilities:

Not only does Jace let you Unsummon creatures at the cheap cost of -1, he can also Brainstorm at the cost of 0 Loyalty.


Who thought that was a good idea? Who took one of the strongest Blue cards and decided to make it cost 0?

What gets overlooked is actually the +2 ability. 'Fateseal' isn't overpowered by itself, but it can be extremely brutal when the opponent is drawing lands and is mana screwed. Actively being able to TRY to keep the opponent in one of the most frustrating game states isn't much fun for the opponent.

The ultimate ability is almost good enough to be a win condition all by itself. It doesn't always "auto win", but trying to dig out of that hole is also not much fun. (Although when you do succeed in winning through the ultimate, it's a great victory tale.)

All of these abilities plus a permanent record that includes a Standard Banning and the most complained about price in the history of the game all adds up to a card that is Notorious with a capital 'N'.

Verdict: Years from now, when the horror stories of Caw-Blade are just legends on the internet and so many other powerful cards have been printed that even the 'Best Planeswalker of All Time' is barely good enough, then we might get the Mind Sculptor. Until then, there are plenty of other flavors of Jace to keep us occupied.


Ancient Den/Tree of Tales/Vault of Whispers/Great Furnace/Seat of the Synod 

The Artifact Lands

These lands caused a lot of problems back in their day. The added benefits from being Artifacts were hardly offset with negatives. Add in the Affinity for Artifacts theme of many of the cards of the time and suddenly these were Sol Ring, with no drawbacks.

They probably weren't tested enough, were overplayed, over utilized and since there were five of them, they gave me a huge headache deciding on a picture layout.

They are trouble all around.

Verdict: Easily abused and hard to contain, they should stay banned.



Sensei's Divining Top

The Top was another card that was banned due to timing issues. When people are spinning in-between every shuffle effect, it starts to add up.

Crack a Fetch, Top.

Eot, Top.

Eot, Top, then crack Fetch, then Top again.

In addition, the Top is extremely synergistic with Counterbalance and Miracle cards. These abilities probably weren't designed with Top in mind, so while it's been decided that letting this interaction run wild in Legacy is ok, the Powers That Be would rather that Modern isn't being taught these lessons.

I do miss its ability to hide cards from Discard effects, but one neat ability isn't enough to offset all of that other power.

Verdict: It should stay banned.


Golgari Greve-Troll/Dread Return 

Golgari Grave-Troll/Dread Return

The fate of these two cards is intertwined like the main characters of the movie "Ladyhawke":

"Always together, eternally apart."

While these cards want to be in decks together, I don't think that the two of them can ever be legal at the same time.

The Troll Dredges deeper than any other card. It fills the yard very quickly, especially if you can get 2 of them in the yard and cast Faithless Looting. If Dread Return and some Narcomoeba are in the mix, you could quickly summon out a huge Grave-Troll.

Or a T2 Iona, Shield of Emeria.

Or a T2 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur.

Or a T2 Griselbrand.

That's a whole lot of horror and misery for T2.

It seems obvious that Dread Return is the problem. Saccing a couple creatures to get out a huge beast, with no other mana cost, leads to some really strong early plays. Of course, without those large Troll dredges, is the Return consistent enough? I'm still leaning towards Return as the problem.

In the face of so much graveyard hate, having Troll back could give non-Living End graveyard strategies a boost without breaking them. The cheapest reanimation spell, Goryo's Vengeance would require a lot of testing, but if it appears safe, then Troll should be allowed back.

Verdict: Unban Troll and lest there be a celestial convergence, leave Dread Return banned.





Both of these cards being banned is often a target for ridicule of the Modern Banned list.

"Are Sorcery speed 1 mana cantrippers that dig 3 deep so good that they break the format? What a joke!"

I have to wonder if constantly trying to replicate a design concept that is still debated as "too good in Legacy" is even more of a joke?

Maybe the idea of a card that costs 1 Blue that goes 3 cards deep and then draws a card is giving Blue a way to manipulate too early and/or too often? After all, those numbers were mostly arbitrary; maybe they kept making "3 for 1's" because that's what Ancestral Recall and Brainstorm were? Ancestral was just 3 because Garfield was creating a cycle and they all did 3's. What if he had picked 2's, or even 4's?

As the game continues to grow, as more people find ways to crunch numbers and grind out test games, terms like "optimal" and "probability" become rigid. Constantly digging 3 cards and manipulating your draws just gets better and better.

Why play anything else when you can set your deck at will?

Maybe, just maybe, the folks at Wizards have come to the conclusion that this type of effect, at so little a cost, is an overpowered relic of the past and should be left to the Eternal Formats where it belongs. Maybe they want to bring it down a few notches for the future?

Verdict: Leave them both banned. The format seems fine without them and it opens up more possibilities for the future.




This card leads to problems for future cards designers and players a like. Constantly having to say "This could be awesome...but Hypergenesis" is very limiting. Also, there is very little hate to bring in versus Hypergenesis. Discard and Oblivion Ring variants are the more common responses, everything else is...narrow?

Over all, Living End seems to be the "fair" version of this deck and that is ok. I've never felt that anything is lacking for not having it in the format and nobody else ever talks about missing it. It wouldn't help Control or Aggro to have this deck around; it would just be yet another early combo deck.

Verdict: It can stay banned.




Back when there was only 1 Locus in the game, people were still finding ways to fetch them out of their deck and cast huge mana threats. Even then, it wasn't hard to do.

Later, Vesuva was printed, so it became even easier to make a Locus Farm and get a bountiful crop of mana.

After many other years, they printed a new Locus, Glimmerpost, and then it was ruined. That's all it took, 2 lands with the actual sub-type Locus and a mimic land. (Primeval Titan wasn't helping either.)

The 12 Post deck could generate tons of mana, gain some extra life and cast all sorts of powerful goodies. The combination of Life and Mana meant that it could lock out both Aggro and Control decks with no problem.

The Urza-Tron has taken on the mantle of Land Set Mana Ramping and while it is easily a top tier deck, it is weaker than 12 Post could ever be.

Verdict: For the health of the format, this should stay banned.



Ancestral Vision

While I feel that Ponder and Preordain should be banned, I'm of the totally opposite opinion for Ancestral Vision.

I strongly feel that they should unban Ancestral Vision.

Yes, it is an homage to a 'Draw 3 for 1 mana' spell of the past. Yes, I said that this concept should be discouraged in the future. Why do I feel differently about Ancestral Vision?

Because it is a very slow top deck.

Very slow.

In Modern, if you Suspend this after the first two turns, there is a very good chance that the game will end before you ever reach the last Suspend counter on this card. There are many other cards in the format that are great early and horrible late.  Most of them are not banned. Some of them, such as Mox Opal or Experiment One can lead to openings that are just as explosive for their respective decks.

Yes, the card has dangerous potential: Are the T1 and T2 suspensions too good in UR Storm? In Splinter Twin? How often can these decks afford dead cards on T4 or T5?

Off the top of my head, the most worrisome interactions remaining are:

EpEx is probably the more troubling one since people were already testing it in UR Storm. It could make the best use of AV to use the newly drawn cards in combination with any Rituals and Manamorphose it reveals. Of course, that doesn't stop some of the new cards from being more AVs that are just dead during the combo turn.

Perhaps it was the (at the time) use that AV started seeing in Modern, or perhaps the thinking that 3 for 1 card draw is outdated like I suggested above, but it always felt like the banning of Ancestral Vision was a knee jerk reaction and deserves to be re-evaluated before many of the other cards on the list.

Verdict: Ancestral Vision deserves a chance to be in the format. If it truly becomes a problem, then a proven ban would put the issue to rest for a long while.

And that wraps up our look at the banned list. Let me know what you thought in the Comments section!

Part II. The Modern Land Prices
All prices are from 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.

Fetch Lands SET 25DEC13 31DEC13 Change %
Arid Mesa ZEN 13.57 13.96 0.39 3%
Marsh Flats ZEN 12.97 13.49 0.52 4%
Misty Rainforest ZEN 19.07 22.28 3.21 17%
Scalding Tarn ZEN 25.32 23.63 -1.69 -7%
Verdant Catacombs ZEN 19.43 17.86 -1.57 -8%

Misty gains some ground and the White Fetches keep rising. The Fetches end the year at a strong spot.

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.

Shock Lands SET 25DEC13 31DEC13 Change %
Blood Crypt RTR 3.07 3.39 0.32 10%
Hallowed Fountain RTR 3.85 4.26 0.41 11%
Overgrown Tomb RTR 3.96 3.35 -0.61 -15%
Steam Vents RTR 3.28 3.12 -0.16 -5%
Temple Garden RTR 3.36 3.50 0.14 4%
Breeding Pool GTC 3.99 4.12 0.13 3%
Godless Shrine GTC 5.40 5.51 0.11 2%
Sacred Foundry GTC 6.55 5.80 -0.75 -11%
Stomping Ground GTC 4.79 3.59 -1.20 -25%
Watery Grave GTC 3.98 3.78 -0.20 -5%

This wasn't the price point I was expecting the Shocks to end the year at, but Standard can be an unexpected devil. We'll have to wait for Born of the Gods spoiler season to kick in to see if any of the Shocks might surge up.

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.

Fast Lands SET 25DEC13 31DEC13 Change %
Blackcleave Cliffs SOM 2.64 2.39 -0.25 -9%
Copperline Gorge SOM 1.39 1.11 -0.28 -20%
Darkslick Shores SOM 1.07 1.20 0.13 12%
Razorverge Thicket SOM 1.18 1.30 0.12 10%
Seachrome Coast SOM 1.03 1.05 0.02 2%

The Fast Lands continue their back and forth price dance. The results of the GP in a few weeks could see some drastic dance steps.

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.

Man Lands SET 25DEC13 31DEC13 Change %
Celestial Colonnade WWK 7.80 8.71 0.91 12%
Creeping Tar Pit WWK 3.58 4.38 0.80 22%
Lavaclaw Reaches WWK 0.39 0.43 0.04 10%
Raging Ravine WWK 3.07 3.40 0.33 11%
Stirring Wildwood WWK 0.78 0.89 0.11 14%

All of the Man Lands start to walk up the price mountain. Some are just taking longer strides than others.

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.

Check Lands SET 25DEC13 31DEC13 Change %
Clifftop Retreat ISD 0.34 0.30 -0.04 -12%
Hinterland Harbor ISD 0.44 0.45 0.01 2%
Isolated Chapel ISD 0.30 0.30 0.00 0%
Sulfur Falls ISD 1.22 1.31 0.09 7%
Woodland Cemetery ISD 0.30 0.34 0.04 13%
Dragonskull Summit M12 0.17 0.13 -0.04 -24%
Drowned Catacomb M12 0.15 0.15 0.00 0%
Glacial Fortress M12 0.10 0.11 0.01 10%
Rootbound Crag M12 0.10 0.11 0.01 10%
Sunpetal Grove M12 0.12 0.12 0.00 0%

Sulfur Falls is never giving up its spot at the top of Check charts. Other than that, budget lands be budget.

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.

Utility & Deck Specific SET 25DEC13 31DEC13 Change %
Grove of the Burnwillows FUT 24.45 24.10 -0.35 -1%
Horizon Canopy FUT 14.87 15.66 0.79 5%
Tectonic Edge WWK 0.86 1.24 0.38 44%
Ghost Quarter ISD 0.14 0.15 0.01 7%
Urza's Mine ME4 0.14 0.14 0.00 0%
Urza's Power Plant ME4 0.08 0.08 0.00 0%
Urza's Tower ME4 0.13 0.13 0.00 0%
Academy Ruins MMA 0.24 0.41 0.17 71%
Gavony Township ISD 0.13 0.10 -0.03 -23%
Treetop Village PRM 0.34 0.34 0.00 0%
Blinkmoth Nexus MMA 2.11 2.27 0.16 8%
Darksteel Citadel DKS 0.81 0.98 0.17 21%
Glimmervoid MMA 1.53 1.53 0.00 0%
Inkmoth Nexus MBS 4.50 4.46 -0.04 -1%
Mutavault M14 26.53 27.16 0.63 2%
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx THS 2.56 2.04 -0.52 -20%
Eye of Ugin WWK 4.63 4.63 0.00 0%

Horizon Canopy is heading back to pre-Theros price levels. As more weeks go by without ZZW drafts, Tec Edge is soaring. This is the snapshot of the other lands of Modern at the end of the year. Plan your 2014 budget well.

Here we are at the end of list! I know I enjoyed a chance to share my thoughts on the Ban List. It's such a crucial part of any format and yet, it only tells us which pieces we won't be using. There are still thousands of other pieces and the puzzle doesn't look like it is any closer to being solved.

2014 has officially entered the draw step, so next week I'm going to polish the ol' crystal ball and make some predictions on Modern cards that could make waves this year. Grand Prix Prague is January 10th-12th so the week after I'll be discussing the results. After that, I should have time to talk about a brew or two before the spoiler season for Born of the Gods kicks into high gear.

Busy, busy, busy.

I hope you all come back for the ride.

Cradle of Vitality

Until next time, have a Happy New Year,

- Gio

The Modern Perspective Archive