B&R Announcement: Major Modern Shakeups and the Return of Rampaging Ferocidon

Hopefully none of my readers were surprised to learn that Hogaak, Risen Necropolis is banned. But this announcement went way beyond that. Read the announcement here alongside WotC’s explanation of the changes.

Major Banlist Changes

Standard: Rampaging Ferocidon is unbanned

Rampaging Ferocidon

I did not expect them to tinker with a Standard format that is this diverse and by most accounts fun to play. However, given that Field of the Dead strategies and Vampire tribal are so popular, WotC decided to let Rampaging Ferocidon back into the format for a short while before its scheduled fall rotation (October 4th, to be precise). That’s a little more than a month of play, so I guess the downside is pretty limited (arguably, so is the upside, but shaking things up slightly could be fine).

Red decks were sort of struggling to keep up, but I still played against them with some regularity in my testing for the most recent MOCS. And I didn’t fare all that well against it. With Rampaging Ferocidon added back to the best-of-3 Standard format (it’s still banned in best-of-1), I expect to see red a little bit more frequently for sure, and the tools I relied on to beat the deck might not work as well anymore.

Lastly, Dinosaurs is a deck I liked quite a bit in my testing, and I shared my list at the end of my last article. Ferocidon is a nice addition to Dinosaurs in that it makes losing to Field of the Dead and other token strategies that much less likely. It plays well alongside stuff like Rotting Regisaur, since making token chump blockers is a natural foil to a 7/6 vanilla, and the Ferocidon will cost your opponent life each time they try it. What do we cut from the deck? Well, if Ferocidon is our plan against tokens, we don’t need the Legion’s End I had added for that purpose. I am excited to try this out, although if I don’t have ferocidos sitting my account, crafting them seems like a tough pill to swallow, so I might not actually do it. This is something Wizards could have foreseen, in which case they might have done some kind of special event with giveaway digital copies for this month of play. Maybe next time.

Modern: Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis banned. Faithless Looting is banned. Stoneforge Mystic is unbanned.

Hogaak, Arisen NecropolisFaithless LootingStoneforge Mystic


Hogaak is gone, and that’s a no-brainer. The deck was winning more than 50% of the time despite players of all skill levels playing it a lot and everyone packing a ton of hate. It had to go.

Faithless Looting is a card I’ve advocated for banning ever since Arclight Phoenix made it so that the blue cantrip decks and the burn decks and the graveyard decks all fed on it, and those strategies were extremely tough to compete with, so I like getting rid of Looting. Too many decks were allowed a bunch of tempo, card selection, and moving cards from zone to zone for a single red mana (and flashback at the ready).

Is Arclight Phoenix still playable? Never say never when a card is this powerful, but I don’t know if the other ways of getting it into the graveyard will leave you with something consistent enough to spend your time doing that instead of just using Aria of Flame or Grapeshot or something. So I predict that for now, Phoenix is gone.

A surprising omission here is Ancient Stirrings. For me, this was like Looting–flexible, powerful, too often the obvious choice for multiple strategies including the menacing Tron deck and that would still be good without it. I would have liked to see Ancient Stirrings banned. As things stand now, colorless strategies are a big winner with Hogaak and Looting gone.

Mox Opal also could have been banned if they had aimed for a longer banned list, as this card allows decks like Affinity and more recently Urza decks to jump ahead in tempo and sometimes get draws the other deck can’t compete with. It must be at least on the watch list given the number of artifact decks now possible and how little it would take for one of those decks, or a new one, to be broken (as KCI recently was).

Stoneforge Mystic getting unbanned surprised me. It didn’t seem like the reasons they had given for banning it and keeping it banned had changed that much. Or, perhaps more precisely, how do we know that now is the time? With Hogaak still coloring everything, U/W Control has declined in popularity… well, of course it did-it had a bad Hogaak matchup. Stuff like Hogaak was also making it hard for decks like Goblins or Merfolk to show up since Hogaak was so fast and consistent. Now, those decks might remain squeezed out because so many U/W decks (control, Urza, tempo) are throwing Batterskulls onto the Battlefield. So I would have let the dust settle post-Hogaak and then reevaluated.

Yes, Modern has a lot of strategies that aren’t particularly scared of a 4/4 lifelink, but so what? It costs two mana. It’s still a fast clock. The rest of your deck can be Spell Pierces and Thoughtseizes if you want it to be. So I don’t believe this will improve the Modern format. But I’ve been wrong before, and I like playing Stoneforge in Legacy, so maybe I’ll like it here too.

I’ll note that artifact and colorless permanent removal is now more valuable for multiple reasons: 1) the white decks you play against, whether controlling, aggro, or midrange, might be putting equipment out, and 2) those colorless decks I mentioned earlier like Tron and Eldrazi and decks like Urza Thopter Sword (Stoneforge can find the Sword and that could easily be a deck), will be the format’s top dogs, at least at first. So cards like Goblin Cratermaker and Ancient Grudge are better now than they were last week.

Broken Cards Freed from Hogaak’s Shadow

One of my longer-term predictions for Modern is that recent undercosted planeswalkers, specifically Karn, the Great Creator; Narset, Parter of Veils; Teferi, Time Raveler; and especially Wrenn and Six will eventually dominate. In the face of free 8/8s, everything else looks kind of meh, but now that the apex predator has been removed from the ecosystem, don’t be surprised if some other major mistakes can now spread their wings. Wrenn and Six is not a fair card. Between Wrenn and Six, Stoneforge Mystic, and Plague Engineer, aggressive creature strategies are under a lot of pressure.

I worry that U/W, Jund, and Tron/Eldrazi will locate configurations that really squeeze out the brews, much like Hogaak did. We’ll have to wait and see, and I think there will be some fun to solving these puzzles, I just wish some of the recent cards weren’t pushed to such an extreme that we might look back and consider Faithless Looting one of the good guys.

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