I think about Modern and I imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi screaming, “YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!” in complete despair at Anakin Skywalker in Episode III. Modern was supposed to be the format to make Magic great again, but degenerated into the poster child for everything that constitutes a broken format.
Yes, there are Eldrazi and “Ancient Tomb” lands that greatly distort what is good or possible in the format. That the Eldrazi Menace will be dealt with via bannings feels like a foregone conclusion with the release of Shadows over Innistrad. Yet, I’m not sure that attacking the Eldrazi by way of a banning comes close to solving the problems that plague Modern as a format.
My biggest issue with Modern was made crystal clear after my experience at Grand Prix Detroit—the matches I played were decidedly not fun. It is a problem that I hear echoed back to me in the criticisms and observations of many other players who attended the event.
My assessment of “not fun” is a symptom of the format being highly non-interactive. The vast majority of the best decks in the format are linear, non-interactive, and explosive.
Modern suffers from the lack of a safety valve like Force of Will to keep linear strategies in check. Force of Will plays a key role in Legacy, which is another “big and broken” format like Modern. It allows a lot of decks in the format to have a cheap answer to broken, linear combo strategies.
Modern doesn’t have a flexible enough answer card that can play fun police in the format and keep the broken stuff in check. The end result is that the best deck choices all revolve around playing narrow, busted decks and banking on the fact that people won’t be able to interact with you enough of the time to punish you.
Unfortunately, everybody else has also figured out this “joke” and so round after round, players find themselves in various linear combo mirrors. Post-sideboard, the interaction all comes in the form of narrow sideboard cards that utterly obliterate linear strategies and from whether one player can resolve one of these spells.
The difference between having these sideboard cards and not drawing them is the difference between can’t lose and can’t win. Yet, there are so many busted decks in the format that a player can only afford to play a couple of sideboard cards for each matchup, which makes drawing the sideboard cards unlikely but extremely high impact.
How to Fix Modern
The biggest problem that I see with the format (aside from the obvious Eldrazi one) is that players are in no way incentivised to play interactive or fair decks.
#5) Ban Eye of Ugin
Ultimately, I don’t think it matters too much which one they take away, as long as they take away something to weaken the Eldrazi deck. Personally, I’m rooting for Eye of Ugin to get banned, and here’s why:
First, it will be difficult for any Eldrazi deck to exist with access to only Eye of Ugin. The fact that the deck can never have two Eyes in play at the same time (and can’t even use one and then play the second for mana) makes me believe that it is highly unlikely that any Eldrazi Aggro deck could or would exist post-banning in any form.
You may think, “Good riddance! I never want to see another Eldrazi ever again!” But with only 4 copies of Temple, I’m inclined to believe that the deck will be fine. The Eye is also the one that leads to the truly busted draws, like casting 3 Eldrazi Mimics on the first turn.
The other upside that I see of banning Eye instead of Temple is the collateral damage it also deals to Urza Tron decks. I strongly dislike the effect that Tron decks have on Modern because the deck preys upon the “fair” decks that are necessary to keep the unfair decks in check.
Forcing Tron to to change would be a good thing. Many forget that Tron was a major format defining force before the Eldrazi Menace and has only taken a back seat because it has a difficult Eldrazi matchup. If Eldrazi get knocked down from their place as king of the hill, I would expect Tron to be very good again. On top of all that, Tron would still be a very strong deck even with Eye of Ugin out of the equation.
I like this banning because it leaves Eldrazi as a playable-but-severely-weakened deck and it takes something away from Tron, a deck that hurts the stability of the “fair” decks that balance out the combo decks.
#4) Unban Umezawa’s Jitte
The creatures are bigger and more powerful now and Jitte is a narrow card. The format also has tons of 1cc targeted removal to make the cost of trying to play and equip a Jittie risky. The card would be a great answer against narrow decks like Affinity or Elves while also being a reasonable card for creature decks to play.
Keep in mind that the Sword cycle is certainly on a comparable power level to Jitte and is completely unplayable.
As long as Stoneforge Mystic stays banned, I have absolutely zero concerns about Jitte coming back to Modern.
#3) Unban Ancestral Vision
It’s silly that this card was ever banned in the first place. Most of the games of Modern I play are over by the time one of these suspended on the first turn would ever resolve. In a world where that is the case, I have no idea why this card needs to be banned.
In truth, the card is great and would see play but feels very safe to come off the list. Also, cards with the Processor mechanic are a natural foil to suspend cards.
#2) Ban Goryo’s Vengeance or Simian Spirit Guide
I got turn-2’d by this deck twice at Grand Prix Detroit and I don’t know how that is remotely acceptable. The deck is way too fast. Essentially, it wins as soon as it has a Vengeance and a discard spell.
I don’t see anything positive or interesting about people paying 2 mana to draw 40+ cards and win on the spot.
I would also settle for Simian Spirit Guide getting the axe since it would essentially break up the ability of the deck to win on turn 2.
#1) Unban Bloodbraid Elf
Let’s make fair decks great again.
Given how broken the rest of the competition is, I have no problem with Bloodbraid Elf coming off the list to give the Jund-ish decks a shot at competing.
I’d like to have more decks that play an interactive game be viable rather than the format be infested with non-interactive decks. If you think about it—the times when Modern was traditionally been the most fun and most popular was when Jund or Twin decks were considered the best and most popular.
It isn’t a coincidence. The fact that the best deck is highly interactive creates metagames where the matches are competitive and fun. I’d like to see the DCI make a few moves that take things away from the narrow and non-interactive decks and give a few pieces back to decks that are more controlling, midrange-y, and/or “fair.”
Modern has the potential to be great. It just needs a little help finding a middle ground where there can be combo decks and fair decks that exist in a state of balance with one another. In order for the format to be as dynamic as possible, there needs to be opportunity for many strategies to be viable and not just broken ones.