R Koster's picture
By: R Koster, Rob Koster
Jul 28 2020 11:00am

So people have been complaining about the Modern Banlist a lot. For years, and it has even sprouted a few banlists made by the community. The biggest one of them being Project Modern, where a council decided on the banlist instead of Wizards. Which is something I see as a definite problem. WotC should be keeping their formats in order, and this threatens to splinter support to all formats.

Don't get me wrong. I do think the Project Modern people are doing a good job with their banlist. I just wish it was a job that they wouldn't need to do. But in a recent conversation I had, I realized that I have no trust in Wizards managing their formats, just like them. I described their management of the format as very alienated. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to look at the Modern banlist from my perspective to see what I would do with it.


The current list of banned cards in Modern can be found here.


That list brings us a total of 40 cards banned in the format. Which I think overall is not a bad score over a decade. There are things I would do differently.


To start it off, I would never unban these cards. Some are too powerful. Some are too boring. There are a few that are either do nothing or ruin the format. We don't need those either. I would never take these off:

Arcum's Astrolabe
Blazing Shoal

Bridge from Below

Chrome Mox


Deathrite Shaman

Dread Return

Eye of Ugin

Faithless Looting

Gitaxian Probe

Glimpse of Nature

Golgari Grave-Troll

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Krark-Clan Ironworks

Mental Misstep

Mox Opal

Mycosynth Lattice

Oko, Thief of Crowns

Once Upon a Time

Rite of Flame

Second Sunrise

Seething Song

Sensei's Divining Top


Summer Bloom

Treasure Cruise


I wouldn't let these cards touch Modern with a 10-foot pole. Most of them are good riddance as far as I'm concerned.


Some people want Mox Opal and Faithless Looting back. I'm not one of them. If all Faithless Looting did was power Mardu Pyromancer I would let it back in a heartbeat, but let's be real. That's not happening. Graveyard based decks will be plenty if it ever comes back.


To people saying Mox Opal died for the sins of some other cards. It didn't. Every single game your opponent had an active Mox Opal on turn 1 or 2 just felt like they were playing a different format than you were, and Wotc has warned multiple times that it was on the watchlist. It kept breaking and breaking again. It even made Signal Pest and Memnite Modern playable cards. If that's not showing how much it carried the deck, I don't know what is. I do find it sad though that there is no longer an artifact-based Aggro deck, I liked it's presence, despite Mox Opal being too powerful.


And now, to look at what we have left after those.

Ancient Den

Birthing Pod

Dark Depths

Dig Through Time

Great Furnace

Green Sun's Zenith



Punishing Fire

Seat of the Synod

Splinter Twin

Tree of Tales

Umezawa's Jitte

Vault of Whispers


I want to insert the same caveat on all of these. Whatever I would do, I would do as a trial with an unambiguous warning that they can get banned again like Golgari Grave-Troll.

I'll go through these one by one. Well, mostly.


Ancient DenGreat Furnace - Seat of the SynodTree of TalesVault of Whispers


The artifact lands are something that I see people asking about all the time. And for a good reason. Remember how I just said that I would like to see an artifact-based aggro deck back in the format? I think an excellent way to do it would be unbanning the artifact lands. These used to be Arcbound Ravager feeding material back in the day, and I can see Modern being able to handle that these days. I feel like they should have been on the banlist until the Mox Opal ban. But with that gone, I think they are fine to come off.


Birthing Pod


I would unban this card in a heartbeat. It's a ton of fun, and all of the weird tries to repeat it have all disappeared from playability. I mean, if I see someone casting Prime Speaker Vannifar, I just assume I have a bye. Fiend Artisan has done stone-cold nothing in the format, just as Vivien's Arkbow and who knows how many other attempts. Just give us the real deal back. It'll be fun.


Dark Depths


I don't see specifically Dark Depths coming off the banlist. I would love to see a version without the indestructible get into the format, though. And no, don't just give it Hexproof instead. That way, there are a ton more ways to deal with it like Fatal Push. It also could be a good buff to Tempo decks that would love to play something like a Vapor Snag but really can't justify it right now. I also think it would be fun to have a reason to play more Pithing Needle or Nimble Obstructionist in the format. It would also boost Spell Snare for countering Vampire Hexmage. Vampire Hexmage also, being an excellent maindeckable answer to Planeswalkers can't be a bad thing either. It would also make a Lands deck besides Amulet Titan something, which would be sweet.


Dig Through Time


I would love to try it because I love casting Dig Through Time so much. I would expect it to end back up on the banlist though, but that way, we can at least call it quits on the whole Dig died for Cruise's sins stuff.


Green Sun's Zenith


I would unban this. I would love to see more Dryad Arbor decks in the format. I know it scales in power level the longer the game goes. But let's be real, even getting a fifth turn is a big ask in this format. So I'm not too worried about it scaling. Even with the scaling in the late game, I don't think it does anything that other decks can't keep up with.




The Project Modern guys have Preordain unbanned, and from what I've seen, it's fine there. I do think Ponder is a bit much. And no, those cards are not the same thing. Preordain sees three cards at most. Ponder looks at three and even gives a shuffle if you don't like what you see for a random 4th card. So I think Ponder is too much. But even after a decade Serum Visions just feels kind of underwhelming.


Punishing Fire


I don't think the power level of this card is a problem. I think the control deck that will end up pinging you for one every turn with this and Grove of the Burnwillows will be the most annoying thing on the planet. I'd keep it out of the format just for that. I already hate that people have found a way to make Miracles work. I want games of Magic to end at some point, not look at how my life total slowly dwindles for 20 turns. And I know I can just concede, but why would we introduce it. Also, I think there are too few small creature decks as is; I am convinced that something like Infect should be tier 1 or close to it for a healthy format. I definitely wouldn't want to punish those more.


Splinter Twin


And now we get to the most controversial ban in the format. And personally, I am definitely on the unban Twin side of things. But from a format health perspective, I'm not sure. The rest of the format has powered up significantly since it left. The power level of the format is definitely in a place where it can deal with Splinter Twin. However, the win conditions for the Izzet decks now are a lot more varied. You have Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, you have Through the Breach, you have Delver of Secrets, you have a Wizards deck. There is an Izzet Prowess deck that very recently sprouted up with M21 thanks to Stormwing Entity. And while some of these decks would not adapt Splinter Twin, most of them would, and a lot of cool stuff would disappear.

On the other hand, a lot of decks like Grixis Control would make a comeback to prey on the Splinter Twin players, and I would love for Grixis Control to be a thing again, it got me my first meaningful Open finish, so I'll always have a soft spot for it. And I do miss it, I have tried out some 5-0 lists, but every time they felt like underpowered feel smart decks. Getting Splinter Twin back in the format would spin well for those.


So my final verdict on Splinter Twin. I would hesitantly unban it but would reban it quickly if it homogenizes the format too much again.


Umezawa's Jitte


I don't want to punish small creature decks, so I don't want this back. I think the Stoneforge Mystic decks are in a perfect place as well, which makes me really not want to unban it. I could see it coming off in the future. The card is fun.


There are some cards that I would ban that aren't on the current banlist, these are:

Allosaurus Rider

Creeping Chill

Teferi, Time Raveler


This article is getting long, so I'll keep it short.


Allosaurus Rider


The (Neoform) combo deck is just a horrible net negative to the format; it kills on turn 1 or 2 too often. I have been killed and killed through countermagic with it on turn 1. Just get rid of this garbage already. I don't understand how this wasn't banned months ago at this point.


Creeping Chill


Dredge didn't need to get a free Lightning Helix. As much as I hate Dredge as a deck, I think it should be in the format. However, I don't think they should have Creeping Chill to make them start at 32 and their opponent at 8.


Teferi, Time Raveler


I have never heard anyone say they enjoy this card. Power level isn't a problem at all with this one. It just makes the games so miserable, and it's not even fun to cast and have in play.


So that's what I should do. Would you do anything differently? Let me know.