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By: Procrastination, Christopher Giovannagelo
Feb 06 2014 1:00pm
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Welcome back to The Modern Perspective! As we cruise down the highway of life, it's usually easy enough to spot road signs that warn when certain big "off ramps" are approaching. For me, the most important road sign was this:

Parenthood - 9 Months

That sign began ticking down shortly after I started writing. It ticked slowly at first, but it's alarming how quickly that number is dropping. Destinations that big require a great deal of time and attention. I hesitated to take on any other time consuming roles, such as hosting a Player Run Event, but my time wasn't spoken for yet. I continued to write, refining my ideas and article formatting.

With that important destination in mind, life continued. Further down the road, another sign appeared:

Job Promotion - 1 Month

This sign was nowhere near as special as the original finish line, but it certainly would help to stop here first to pick up supplies and prepare for the finish as much as possible. Once this stop became a definite conclusion, it was time to make some hard decisions.

Writing articles these last few months has been amazing. It's something I always wanted to try and I'm glad I worked up the courage to do it. However, now my time is becoming split by too many important tasks and something had to give. I knew eventually I would take a break from writing and it seemed that, a bit prematurely, that time had come.

So I settled on a final article and began the usual testing and writing. Things were on track. Then this week, Wizards made the following "weather warning":

!* Warning *!
* Hazardous Conditions *

Deathrite Shaman Banned
Wild Nacatl Unbanned
Bitterblossom Unbanned

! TRAVEL WITH CARE !

Unexpected perils are the sign of exciting times, but excitement sure can mess with a carefully laid plan.

Part I. Getting the Banned Back Together
Part II. Hate Now. Hate Later?
Part III. The Modern Land Prices

Part I. Getting the Banned Back Together
Usually, Wizards has been very cautious when it comes to the Modern Banned list. Other than the mass bannings at the creation of the format and the last few months of 2012, the announcements contained no more than 2 cards at a time. Up until the end of 2013, only one card had ever come back from being banned.

Our first announcement of 2014 shows that Wizards is willing to takes some chances.

Banned
- Deathrite Shaman

Unbanned
- Wild Nacatl
- Bitterblossom

This was very unexpected. Some people thought that one card could be unbanned. One unban, nothing else. Some people thought that banning Deathrite was possible. But probably not yet. Nobody expected three things to happen at once.  With two high profile tournaments just weeks away, Modern has become unknown territory.

I once saw a post where somebody compared actively changing the Banned List to the way that companies make patches to Real Time Strategy games. Wizards can't go back and change printed cards the way an RTS can modify a unit or the time it takes for an ability to recharge. Instead, by shifting pieces in and out of the format, they can make changes in much the same way. 

Deathrite_Shaman.jpg

Deathrite Shaman is Banned
I mentioned it in "14 To Watch In '14", but I didn't think the prediction would come true so soon? Here we are though, with a new card on the Banned List. Deathrite Shaman doesn't look like much at first, yet, this one hybrid-mana creature is ridiculously good at defining an entire format. From Jund to Multi-Color Burn (yes, BURN DECKS run it), Deathrite provided damage, life and subtle hate towards multiple cards and strategies.

This ban has upset many and even bewildered some. For most of us, it was obvious that this could happen someday. The card was just too good at what it does. The abilities were all undercosted compared to various cards printed in the past. While it was keeping some strong cards in check, it was also single handedly locking others out of the metagame. Shaman was legal for a little over a year; people have pointed out how powerful it was since Month 1. It didn't do well in one tournament and get banned a week later. 

With the Shaman gone, graveyard strategies become a bit more interesting again. I'm excited that my favorite creature, Knight of the Reliquary, might become the awesome utility-beater that it used to be. Vengevine looks more appealing than it has in ages. Goryo's Vengeance is an even scarier Boogey-Man than it was during the GP. Cards like Gifts Ungiven, Necrotic Ooze and Life from the Loam have new untapped potential. This new enthusiasm for GY strategies is probably enough early justification for the ban. I'd keep a close eye on Snapcaster Mage though, it was already very good and this strengthens it even further.

Wild_Nacatl.jpg

Wild Nacatl Unbanned
I talked about Nacatl a great deal in "Banned Aid - Part 1". I felt it could be cautiously unbanned and monitored over the next few months to see if it needs to go again before the PTQ season starts.

The situation is proceeding as planned?

The big difference between when I wrote that and now is that Deathrite isn't around to also cause problems....or keep the problems in check? It's hard to tell if Shaman's life gain and mana ramp were going to keep Nacatl in check, or if the color fixing and burn abilities were going to compound the damage of WN? Maybe Wizards tested it, maybe not? Regardless, for now, we are going to see what it's like without DS.

With both a Pro Tour and a (presumably) huge GP on the horizon, we are going to get a lot of data concerning Wild Nacatl and current day Modern. Zoo could become the dominant deck, or perhaps the evolved meta of 2014 is prepared for the Cat?

Bitterblossom.jpg

Bitterblossom Unbanned
A lot of people were hoping for this day to come and here we are! We will finally get to see if the mistake of Lorwyn Era Magic is actually harmful to the Modern meta.

I also talked about Bitterblossom in "Banned Aid - Part 1". My verdict was to unban it someday even though it is really annoying. If you haven't played against the BB powered Fae deck before, prepare for some beatings the first few times you do. On paper it looks simple enough, but it quickly escalates into a game of Cat & Mouse as you try to lure out counters or slip in against Flash blockers. Even when you think you can take down Bitterblossom, a well timed Scion of Oona, Mistbind Clique or Spellstutter Sprite will ruin you plan.

What can the colors actually do to interact with Bitterblossom?

Green decks will have lots of options to sweep the flyers from the sky. Arashi, the Sky Asunder and Cloudthresher are nice sized bodies that can usually deal with all Fae + 1 Scion easily enough. Hurricane and Corrosive Gale can clear the sky, but only at Sorcery speed. Green also gets Krosan Grip, which is as close to an "unstoppable" answer to BB as we have in the format.

Red gets Volcanic Fallout, a card hating on what it was designed to hate.

White has Celestial Purge to try and get in there, as well as the efficient enchantment-hating War Priest of Thune. It might have a hard time resolving during a Main Phase after T3, but the D&T builds using Aether Vial can try to time it right.

Black was given Illness in the Ranks for a reason, this is probably part of it. The card isn't totally useless outside of this matchup, so don't be afraid to put some in your sideboard. Echoing Decay and the new Bile Blight could work, but watch out for Scion.

Blue actually has the hardest time dealing with BB. Echoing Truth can clear the tokens, but suffers that same Scion issue as most targeted removal. At the very least, Spell Snare, Annul and Spell Pierce give you a one mana way to deal with it before it resolves.

I'm certain that the first few weeks the card is legal, expect to run into Fae a lot. Until its quality is proven, one way or the other, people are going to want to play with new toys. Judging by the price increase of almost every single card in the deck, people expect big things from Fae. The PT and GP should help shed some light on the issue before long.

These changes are a huge shake up to the format. Many players are upset about the Banning. Others are intimidated by the unbannings. These strong feelings are a good sign; it means people are emotionally invested in the format, good or bad. After many years of playing this game, the prospect of an unexplored meta, within a format that we are already familiar with, is intriguing. Sometimes formats become stale and lose their luster.

It seems we don't have to worry about that with Modern for the next few months. 

Part II. Hate Now. Hate Later?
My original plan this week was to talk about G/W Hatebears. I'd done research into some of the builds that were doing well and found one that I liked:


I liked this list a lot. The Vial-Base mixture of Mono-White Death and Taxes plus the extra Green hate tickled my fancy. While it didn't run staple beaters like Loxodon Smiter, Mirran Crusader or Voice of Resurgence, the Vial and Flicker combos gave it a bit more play than straight forward aggro. Blade Splicer also provided some beat in "card advantage" to help with against grindier match ups such as UWR and Jund.

I made a few tweaks to the list and this into the Tournament Practice Room:


I removed a few Sunlance from the SB to add Dismember and some Finks instead of Red Akroma. I also ran Sword of F&I because I don't own a W&P.

How did it do?

Deck Type Record
KCI Eggs 2-1
4 color gifts rock 2-1
3 color discard 2-0
Monoblack Discard 2-1
Jund-Vine 2-0
Living End 1-2
Bloody Humans splash B 0-2
Melira Pod 2-1
Nykthos Wave 0-2
Total Record 6-3

I almost made Day 2 of my "Grand Prix", but lost my last round to Nykthos Wave. It was the version that runs Fetches and I never saw Thalia or Arbiter, so I'm not sure if the match up is that bad or I got horribly unlucky?

I was going to do my usual discussion of how the deck played and some match up summaries...but why bother? With the format drastically changing in no time at all, my testing results from a week back aren't very useful. Thanks, Wizards!  A tip to other Writers; plan accordingly when B&R Announcements are coming.

Since my testing is "invalidated", instead, I'll talk about some of the core G/W Hatebear cards and talk about their possible role in the possible future meta.

The Anti-Search Hate
Both Arbiter and Mindcensor will still be useful. How useful each winds up being will depend heavily on the meta.

There is a lot of anticipation that Birthing Pod decks will become the new king of the format. If so, then these two cards continue to throw a wrench into that plan. Not only do they help diffuse Pod, they also hit hard on the 3-4 color mana bases. This hasn't changed.

The two new decks entering the format do cause these creatures some problems.

Zoo, while heavily dependent on its Fetch lands, also drops a T1 creature that can easily turn into a 3/3 that swings right past both of these. It also runs Lightning Bolt and some number of Lightning Helix, so if they have already done a little fixing, they can remove the nuisance and keep going. Only a very early Search Hater matters to Zoo and only if they have a poor opening hand.

 

If straight U/B Fae becomes the best version, then it might not even run many Fetchlands, rendering Hate Search useless. Bitterblossom also does a solid job of stone-walling both of these creatures.

Arbiter and Mindcensor may become SB only cards, but it's too soon to tell.

Thalia_Guardian_of_Thraben.jpg

The Tax Creature
Thalia is going to face some challenges in the days ahead. If non-creature based combo stays strong, then she is great, but the two new decks both offer different challenges.

3/3's from Zoo run right over her if she can't be boosted. 2/x First Strike isn't enough to break through or even slow them down. She does slow down their Burn package, but not by much.

Fae will run a variety of spells that Thalia could throw off their curve. 2 Power First Strike also does a number on most of the default 1 Toughness Faeries. On the other hand, Bitterblossom locks her out and she can't block any of the Flying Fae.

Thalia will require a hard look at your meta to see if she will be MD, SB or run at all?

Scavenging_Ooze.jpg The Graveyard Hate Creature
Scavenging Ooze has a lot more pressure on it now that Deathrite is banned. Ooze can rise to the challenge though. It still does a great job of gaining life and disabling GY shenanigans. It needs to grow to about a 4/4 before it threatens most of the early Zoo drops, so that's something to keep in mind.

The Anti-Discard Cards
Both of these cards are already very good in general, but it's their "Hate" function that needs to be discussed. While some have discounted Liliana of the Veil, even though she is a still the best 'Walker in the format, that does mean you should cut these cards just yet.

Now that Raven's Crime won't be picked off by Deathrite, I've been running into a lot more Dredge/Loam/Discard engines that are being tested in preparation. Add in the popularity of 8 Rack in general and these two are still good at what they do.

Smiter can also handle the 3/3's from Zoo, but will also be ran in Zoo. 4/4's with nothing but upsides are pretty good.

Mirran_Crusader.jpg

The Super Protection Guy
I saw some people talking about how now that Jund is gone, they might remove this from the deck.

Have you read those Protections?

Those say Black and Green.

Protection from most creatures in Zoo seems very good.

Protection from Bitterblossom seems very good.

Protection from Abrupt Decay just as useful, maybe even more so!

Yes, Crusader still dies to Red and White based removal. But I wouldn't be removing him completely yet. Swinging right through both new deck types could be the future of G/W Aggressive strategies.

Flickerwisp.jpg

The Flicker Creature
Flickerwisp is in an odd spot. Unlike Restoration Angel, who is awesome thanks to being a 3/4 Flash Flyer, Wisp is mostly useful for the flicker and happens to be an ok flyer. A 3/1 can trade with some Zoo creatures and might flash a Kitchen Finks to turn the tide, so it isn't useless against Zoo. Fae shuts down almost everything about FW. The 1 Toughness dies to Tokens and you will rarely be able to do anything close to sneaky without a Vial.

Who knows, maybe the strong synergy of the Vial builds will keep Flickerwisp at exactly the power level it is now? It might happen, or Wisp might fade into Modern obscurity this year?

Like all decks, G/W Hatebears will have to find a niche to carve out once the dust settles. By its nature, it requires the correct meta to function properly. I'm hoping that the Vial version I tested can stay relevant, because it was fun, but sometime slow to get going and that could be a huge liability in the months ahead. 

Part III. 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.

Fetch Lands SET 28JAN14 04FEB14 Change %
Arid Mesa ZEN 11.28 18.35 7.07 63%
Marsh Flats ZEN 10.66 12.23 1.57 15%
Misty Rainforest ZEN 20.65 22.47 1.82 9%
Scalding Tarn ZEN 19.43 23.93 4.50 23%
Verdant Catacombs ZEN 16.71 15.09 -1.62 -10%

The impact of the BA hits the Fetches in many different ways. Catacombs drops, while Arid Mesa gets a huge leg up. I'd keep an eye on Catacombs; Green is still an important color for the format.

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 28JAN14 04FEB14 Change %
Blood Crypt RTR 3.60 3.67 0.07 2%
Hallowed Fountain RTR 4.39 4.06 -0.33 -8%
Overgrown Tomb RTR 3.61 3.22 -0.39 -11%
Steam Vents RTR 3.50 3.63 0.13 4%
Temple Garden RTR 3.48 3.79 0.31 9%
Breeding Pool GTC 3.84 3.82 -0.02 -1%
Godless Shrine GTC 4.87 5.22 0.35 7%
Sacred Foundry GTC 7.16 6.88 -0.28 -4%
Stomping Ground GTC 4.43 5.00 0.57 13%
Watery Grave GTC 3.73 4.36 0.63 17%

Like many other U/B cards, Watery Grave gets a boost this week. With the paper release of BNG, we should see some change up in prices soon.

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 28JAN14 04FEB14 Change %
Blackcleave Cliffs SOM 2.28 2.58 0.30 13%
Copperline Gorge SOM 0.82 1.49 0.67 82%
Darkslick Shores SOM 1.32 2.32 1.00 76%
Razorverge Thicket SOM 1.09 1.38 0.29 27%
Seachrome Coast SOM 0.41 0.71 0.30 73%

Darkslick Shores gets the Fae bump, while Gorge and Thicket both climb a bit as well. If they do see use in Zoo, it'll only be as 1's or 2's; Zoo wants those Shock lands to pump up the unleashed Nacatl.

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 28JAN14 04FEB14 Change %
Celestial Colonnade WWK 7.19 7.51 0.32 4%
Creeping Tar Pit WWK 3.79 5.17 1.38 36%
Lavaclaw Reaches WWK 0.24 0.30 0.06 25%
Raging Ravine WWK 2.21 2.28 0.07 3%
Stirring Wildwood WWK 0.60 0.65 0.05 8%

I'm so glad I picked up Tar Pits during the Flashback Drafts. They have almost gone right back up to their pre-draft prices. Tar Pit will be useful in controlling builds of Fae.

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 28JAN14 04FEB14 Change %
Clifftop Retreat ISD 0.40 0.50 0.10 25%
Hinterland Harbor ISD 0.42 0.34 -0.08 -19%
Isolated Chapel ISD 0.79 1.11 0.32 41%
Sulfur Falls ISD 1.58 1.39 -0.19 -12%
Woodland Cemetery ISD 0.50 0.43 -0.07 -14%
Dragonskull Summit M12 0.11 0.14 0.03 27%
Drowned Catacomb M12 0.29 0.27 -0.02 -7%
Glacial Fortress M12 0.18 0.15 -0.03 -17%
Rootbound Crag M12 0.08 0.07 -0.01 -13%
Sunpetal Grove M12 0.09 0.11 0.02 22%

Bitterblossom might boost more than Fae; interest in B/W Tokens has increased the price of Isolated Chapel as well. Drowned Catacomb has some stiff competition in Modern, so it probably won't see much of an increase.

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 28JAN14 04FEB14 Change %
Grove of the Burnwillows FUT 31.18 29.95 -1.23 -4%
Horizon Canopy FUT 18.22 18.90 0.68 4%
Tectonic Edge WWK 0.82 0.91 0.09 11%
Ghost Quarter ISD 0.15 0.15 0.00 0%
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 0.75 0.81 0.06 8%
Gavony Township ISD 0.23 0.20 -0.03 -13%
Treetop Village PRM 0.28 0.28 0.00 0%
Blinkmoth Nexus MMA 3.50 3.19 -0.31 -9%
Darksteel Citadel DKS 0.54 0.24 -0.30 -56%
Glimmervoid MMA 1.71 1.80 0.09 5%
Inkmoth Nexus MBS 4.67 4.42 -0.25 -5%
Mutavault M14 25.61 29.35 3.74 15%
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx THS 1.95 2.45 0.50 26%
Eye of Ugin WWK 3.77 3.52 -0.25 -7%

In a way, I'm glad that I'll be taking a break from writing; it means I don't have to figure out how to rearrange the above table in one week. There are probably a few lands that need to be dropped off the table and possibly three new ones. Only time will tell what lands are really defining the format, so everything should be settled by the time I return. As for the current state of prices, Mutavault now has another reason to be the most expensive card in M14. Tectonic Edge is recovering and Horizon Canopy is holding steady.

If I do find time to sneak in an article here or there, they probably won't have the Land Prices section included in them. While I intend to keep an eye on the prices for my own benefit, I can't begin to guess how big the gaps might be. This would make usefulness of the information...questionable? If you do enjoy Modern and want to plan out your budget, I'd highly recommend monitoring the cards you are interested in every 3-4 days. Spotting a down trend in prices can save you some money up the road.

Conclusion
Here we are at the end of my current run! This isn't the end, just a short pause. I'm hoping that sometime around May, that a new routine of everyday life will be in place and I'll be able to find time to write again, even if it will be sporadic at first? Who knows?

In the meantime, there are some great Modern Events on the horizon and I can't wait to see where the format goes next! I encourage anybody that does love Modern that has considered writing about it to give it a try! 

While I don't intend for this to be the last article I ever write, I do want to take the time to thank the following before I vanish:

Joshua Claytor, our faithful site admin who continues to accept open writing submissions here at PureMTGO and who continued to accept every one I submitted after the first.

MTGOtraders for being great and sponsoring this site.

BlippyTheSlug, for holding great PRE's and writing the most unique Modern series on the web. (Bring back WAFFT!!)

ktkenshinx, Modern Forum Moderator over at MTGSalvation, who has gone out of their way to promote the work of community members like Blippy and myself. Working hard to create a great Modern Forum seems like a thankless job, but you lead with your left foot and hold back nothing, so thank you.

Kumagoro, for welcoming a new face and always offering constructive criticism. I know I made a better series thanks to you!

Every Hunters of PSO.

I hope to be back soon, but be good to each other in the meantime.

Child of Alara

See you space cowboy....

- Gio

The Modern Perspective Archive

6 Comments

Thanks, man! Hope to see you by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 02/06/2014 - 17:48
Kumagoro42's picture
5

Thanks, man!
Hope to see you back soon, but considering what your road signs say, you'll be fine. (Or not. That's serious stuff. But good).

Shouldn't that hate deck have some copies of Gaddock Teeg somewhere?
Gaddock Teeg shutting down Cryptic Command can be a factor in the future?

During the time Lorwyn was by Procrastination at Fri, 02/07/2014 - 14:30
Procrastination's picture

During the time Lorwyn was Standard legal, I tested GW Aggro against Fae a lot. Teeg doesn't do much to the deck. Cryptic Command is always great and it's nice if you can turn it off, but it's the only card in the deck that Teeg messes with. All of the other creatures fly, so Teeg can't block. If you want him around to keep CC turned off, you won't dare swinging into untapped mana. He is also quickly held off by Bitterblossom.

I might test Teeg in the board if Nykthos Green or New Eggs keep popping up since he turns off Garruk/G-Wave/Primal Command/T&N/Open the Vaults and Faith's Reward.

I agree about Gaddock.Now by Kumagoro42 at Sun, 02/09/2014 - 18:06
Kumagoro42's picture

I agree about Gaddock.

Now I'm wondering if Great Sable Stag will see play again. It swings past any faerie, token or otherwise, and any zombie (I've seen devotion decks lately), and it's immune to any mode of Cryptic Command. I might add it to my sideboards again.

Hey Sorry to hear you are by Paul Leicht at Thu, 02/06/2014 - 20:40
Paul Leicht's picture
5

Hey Sorry to hear you are cutting down on your article writing. Your perspective is a valuable one for this site. Congrats on the positive life changes though.

On to the decks at hand...I've been wondering why I am not seeing Fleecemane in the D&T +green builds. It is such a beating vs control and sometimes stymes a rdw draw as well (assuming they don't just have bolt in hand.) I realize it may not be as impactful as some of the lesser bodied fellows in the deck if all you face is combo but then again a 3/3 beater that can be a 4/4 is not sneeze-worthy imho.

You hit the nail on the head by Procrastination at Fri, 02/07/2014 - 14:33
Procrastination's picture

You hit the nail on the head with "Bolt" (also Abrupt Decay). If the Monstrosity cost was 4 instead of 5, it might see some use, but the Vial versions of the deck don't always hit 5 mana and the "big mana" versions want to cast Baneslayer or Sigarda.

I'm curious if Fleecemane will start showing up in Zoo? "Big Zoo" might like the 3/3 that gets beefy?

Congratulations for the baby, by romellos at Fri, 02/07/2014 - 14:42
romellos's picture
5

Congratulations for the baby, I hope everything will be as you wished for.

And see you soon here, again...