Cook’s Kitchen – B&R Update: January 2013
There it is! A few changes, Bloodbraid Elf and Seething Song are banned in Modern as well as Grapeshot, Empty the Warrens, and Invigorate in Online Pauper. Well, to be perfectly honest, I don’t care that the storm pair or Invigorate are banned in Online Pauper. I can’t play on Modo anyway! But that’s not the point.
I understand the dominance of Jund in Modern raised some concern and that storm was powerful enough to combat Jund in the numbers. Was banning Bloodbraid Elf and Seething Song the best solution? Probably not. I don’t believe that storm combo in any shape or form was a real issue. A better way to answer the Jund problem would’ve been to unban some cards from the list.
- Ancestral Vision
- Ancient Den
- Blazing Shoal
- Bloodbraid Elf
- Chrome Mox
- Dark Depths
- Dread Return
- Glimpse of Nature
- Golgari Grave-Troll
- Great Furnace
- Green Sun’s Zenith
- Jace, the Mind Sculptor
- Mental Misstep
- Punishing Fire
- Rite of Flame
- Seat of the Synod
- Seething Song
- Sensei’s Divining Top
- Stoneforge Mystic
- Sword of the Meek
- Tree of Tales
- Umezawa’s Jitte
- Vault of Whispers
- Wild Nacatl
Now, I’ll admit, I’m no Modern enthusiast and don’t regularly play the format. However, some of the cards on this banned list seem foolish. Ancestral Vision, Bitterblossom, Bloodbraid Elf, Cloudpost, Dread Return, Golgari Grave-Troll, Green Sun’s Zenith, Ponder, Preordain, Punishing Fire, Rite of Flame, Seething Song, Stoneforge Mystic, Sword of the Meek, and Wild Nacatl come to mind as cards that are powerful, yet interesting, and would all be fine in the Modern format. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, a format with these cards would even be healthy.
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As of right now, Modern has zero dedicated control decks. The absolute worst thing that could happen is Faeries becomes a viable strategy. What would happen then? Faeries would be a natural foil to all of the faster decks in the format such as storm, Infect, and Splinter Twin. In a format with Faeries, Jund would have a midrange deck that would be on an equal power level. Faeries would be trumped by cards such as Punishing Fires or a completely new deck to the format – Dredge.
Would Faeries be tier one? Maybe. The deck already has most of the tools to accomplish what it needs to do. Bitterblossom simply provides a card advantage system much like Ancestral Visions that would allow the deck to have the resiliency it needs to compete with decks that “Go larger” like 12 Post or Tron. I’m not convinced that Bitterblossom would even share the same power level it once did in standard. Abrupt Decay exists now! This is a problem for a few reasons, the first being that it sees play in main decks everywhere, meaning that tapping out on the second turn to cast Bitterblossom isn’t going to win the game. It could very easily be destroyed without creating an ounce of card advantage. The second reason Decay would be a problem for Faeries is that Faeries is based around controlling everything the opponent does, Abrupt Decay doesn’t really care what the game plan was, it’s resolving.
I once believed that these cards were required to stay banned in Modern if it wanted to exist in a healthy state. I no longer have this point of view, the most popular card in the format exiles creatures in the graveyard from the game! Yes, I’m talking about Deathrite Shaman. While Dredge would be the enemy of islands everywhere, it wouldn’t fare so well against some of the most popular decks in the format. If my suggested changes were to happen, between Jund, Faeries, and Dredge there would be a triangle of competitiveness.
I don’t believe the difference between Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll are dramatic enough to warrant one being legal while the other is not. Sure, Dread Return can bring back a Golgari Grave-Troll. For the most part, you’d rather be putting something else into play such as Griselbrand, Flame-Kin Zealot, or Iona, Shield of Emeria. Dread Return has a very tough time with Deathrite Shaman and can’t be protected by Cabal Therapy as it can in Legacy.
Urza Tron is legal, but Cloudpost is too good? I understand that “posts” are slightly better as two in play will generate an additional mana. Three posts in play generates more mana or breaks even depending on which posts are on the battlefield. I don’t see Cloudpost as an issue at all. It would be encouraging to some players to pilot decks like 12 Post since they traditionally have good match-ups against decks like Jund and control decks like Faeries. Who knows, if it ran a Bojuka Bog to search for with Expedition Map it would even compete with Dredge!
Does Jund really need help? Probably not. Bloodbraid Elf was good in the previous Modern format because all of the good combo decks had their power levels reduced in previous bannings. With Modern receiving Ponder and Preordain back, it might be entirely possible that Bloodbraid Elf and Punishing Fire’s luster would be diminished as the format wouldn’t be grinding out resources in every match-up.
With faster combo decks back in the format such as UR Storm or Splintertwin, decks like Jund could lose some of their appeal. They could adapt to adequately deal with these problems within their sideboard, at this point, we’d be seeing a resemblance to a healthy format.
I don’t know a single person that enjoys playing with cards like Serum Visions over Preordain or Ponder. Playing watered down versions of playable cards doesn’t interest me when other cards in the format are on a much higher power level. Was I disappointed when Vapor Snag left Standard? Of course, it’s my kind of Magic card! But I was willing to accept Unsummon as a potential replacement because the entire format had slowed down and as a whole was less powerful. This isn’t the case with Modern, playing Serum Visions while opponents play cards like Scapeshift that instantly win the game or Dark Confidant which slowly generates an advantageous position. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for playable cantrips.
The opposition would argue that it makes Splintertwin and UR Storm too consistent. Splintertwin has the option of running sixteen combo pieces between Splintertwin, Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite, and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. While I understand that consistency does not equal finding combo pieces, it does mean playing the game to the plan set. Not even combo decks, decks like UWr tempo should have to worry about finding their third land for Geist of Saint Traft. Serum Visions just isn’t acceptable.
While these cards are good, they’re not exactly the problem. There’s several ways to stop UR Storm from combo-ing out. Faeries would absolutely annihilate the problem between Counterspells and Discard. Between graveyard hate to stop Past in Flames and mass removal to shut down Empty the Warrens it actually isn’t that difficult. Graveyard hate is good against decks like Dredge too! Empty the Warrens can be answered by a number of things such as Jund Charm, Maelstrom Pulse, Pyroclasm, Engineered Explosives amongst other things.
I get it, Modern hates consistency. But no one enjoys playing decks that lose to themselves. Wild Nacatl because “Blue Zoo” was once a thing is ridiculous, it wouldn’t have been so good if the rest of the format was on a similar power level. Are we beginning to see my overall theme?
As I said above in the Faeries section, there’s absolutely zero dedicated control decks in Modern. Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull isn’t the same powerhouse as it once was, the format could just decide to kill you instead. Splintertwin or Storm generally don’t care about a 4/4 with Lifelink and Vigiliance, although Storm might. I’ve been involved with plenty of situations where my Empty the Warrens tokens don’t go the distance due to Batterskull. It happens, Batterskull can negate them, but is this a bad thing? Or is it healthy?
Sword of the Meek, this is almost laughable. Recurring Thopters isn’t exactly what bad dreams are made of, perhaps it would give Affinity some resiliency aside from being played in a control shell. Not to mention, this combo is stopped by Graveyard hate! With Dredge and Storm being candidates, graveyard hate will be active and this “combo” won’t be running rampant.
There’s an overall arching theme to this article, it’s that by unbanning certain things, the format will correct itself – much like Legacy. Granted, like Legacy some things do need to stay banned. Personally, I never want to see the card Flash cast against me ever again. By balancing out the format through unbannings, decks like storm would be powerful, but not dominate. The format would have true control decks in Faeries and Stoneblade that would be kept in check by 12 Post or Dredge, those decks would have to answer to Jund, Zoo, and Storm.
It’s about seeing the big picture. It seems a lot of the cards on the banned list are there from fear of being too dominant at one point or another. If all of the decks were on the same playing level to begin with most of these bannings wouldn’t have needed to happen in the first place. I can’t wait for foil Wild Nacatls in From the Vault: Exiled II! At the current rate, I don’t see Modern succeeding for a few different reasons. The first being a lack of interests from players, most Magic players I know don’t actually like playing the format because the cards they enjoy aren’t legal, aren’t playable, or are banned. Modern took a step in the right direction by unbanning Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, let’s see if it continues in the right direction.
With every new Modern banning I find myself increasingly comfortable in my chair as a Legacy aficionado. It’s a reassurance of Modern being an unstable format that needs “fixing” for a lack of a better term. Players don’t have interest in purchasing entirely new decks every time there’s a change. One of the beautiful things about Legacy is that at any point, you can play whatever your “Pet Deck” is and it will be a viable option or at least produce mediocre results. It’s a wide open format where anything is possible, where Modern has become unstable, unreliable, and uninteresting.
Maybe if some of the suggested changes I made ever come into play, Magic players would see a resurgence in Modern. Until then, I’m looking forward to seeing you at Jupiter Games playing my favorite format – Legacy.
Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep Storming!
Bryant Cook on MTGthesource