The Legacy Banned Series started on the idea that some of the cards have been banned so long that time has passed them by. Rather than theorycraft the pros and cons of unbanning, we went the extra mile and did some testing, brewing decks in an attempt to fight through current disruption and race modern combo.
In that context, there was less reason to do a Modern series. The cards are all newer, and most players remember playing with them in other formats. While a small percentage of the Magic community were around to experience Worldgorger Dragon in Vintage, many more have played with Jace, the Mind Sculptor because it wasn’t that long ago when it was in Standard.
That said, there were a few great reasons to do a series:
1.) Controversy. People take Modern a bit more seriously because it has PTQs (now PPTQs). The list is also more volatile than other formats, with each change sparking a wave of discussion.
With Legacy, people are mostly satisfied with the list aside from a few old cards that we know Wizards will take off eventually.
2.) Relevance. There were a number of cards banned from the inception of Modern that were never given a fair shake. If unbanning Bitterblossom was correct, it’s possible other cards on the list are also fine, and getting in a few games couldn’t hurt.
3.) Entertainment. Trying to break cards in formats that don’t actually exist is a ton of fun. I’ve noticed a correlation between the amount of fun I’m having and how much people enjoy my videos, and I don’t think that’s an accident.
Note that that’s also a reason to end a series early. It’s better to cut it short than to let it get stale.
4.) I had a good partner in mind. One of the main reasons the Legacy series was a success was because of Bronson, another Legacy enthusiast willing to put in the hours to test some craziness. The first time someone suggested a Modern series, I thought of Larry Swasey, the man I’ve talked more Modern with than anyone. I’ve also watched him stream Modern, read his Modern blog, and watched him help people qualify through Modern PTQs.
If you’re like me, you’ll want to follow him on twitter: @krazykirby4
I started with Top because I felt like playing with it. My job rocks.
The main problem with my list was that I thought Counterbalance + Sensei’s Divining Top would be the main concern, but Counterbalance didn’t feel all that oppressive in a format with maindeck answers like Abrupt Decay and ways to go over the top with cards like Birthing Pod, Cryptic Command, and Karn.
A more interesting synergy was Top + Miracles.
Terminus vs. Pod isn’t as good as it looks at first glance. While better than Supreme Verdict because it doesn’t trigger persist and Voice of Resurgence or fill up the graveyard for Reveillark and Eternal Witness, it’s not an answer to an active Pod and the creatures you’re answering go back into the deck to be tutored up again.
The instant speed is nice against Twin as well, and being able to fight over Entreat on their turn is important.
In the end, I think Top would be an interesting way to shake up Modern. The decks it buffs, like Tron, aren’t doing great at the moment, and it’d create a few new archetypes while revitalizing old ones.
The main reason to keep Top banned is because its stigma for slowing down the game would make it an unpopular unbanning. Even though the card has been mostly fine in Legacy, there are still some calls for banning it, Loam, and Time Spiral to speed up tournaments.
The only people that really want to see this card unbanned are diehard Top enthusiasts (like myself).
While I recorded two different Affinity lists, a Tempered Steel version and an old-school Disciple of the Vault build, I goldfished a slew of other brews to figure out which versions were worth throwing up against an actual opponent. While my final lists had their mistakes, the games taught me a lot about the potential role of artifact lands in Modern.
They wouldn’t make Affinity overpowered, for starters. In Modern, Affinity doesn’t lose to having an Inkmoth Nexus instead of a Vault of Whispers, it loses because it got Stony Silenced or Ancient Grudged or Electrolyzed into oblivion. Artifact lands solve none of the deck’s problems, and in the case of direct hate can actually exacerbate things.
Yet, even if the artifact lands don’t change Affinity significantly, they have the potential to diversify Modern by making cards like KCI and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas playable for people that aren’t named Conley Woods and Shouta Yasooka, respectively.
I remember Hypergenesis from old Extended. Basically, it was a glass cannon deck that mulled a lot. With Chrome Mox in the format, Chalice of the Void saw some regular play, and that card in particular (set to 0) played a large role in keeping Hypergenesis in check. There were a few other hosers, like Canonist, and countermagic was good against the strategy as well.
Still, having it around was annoying. The games didn’t have much play to them, and you generally mulled into an answer or lost. It was that format’s Belcher.
It felt worth testing because it has never actually seen Modern play. Times have changed, after all. Besides, how good could an old Extended port really be?
Very, it turns out.
Going in, I was confident in my list. Some video sets were harder to brew for than others, with complicated cards that were banned so fast they never had a chance to leave a fingerprint. None of that applies to Hypergenesis, which is a very straightforward card with a ton of tournament history to draw from.
But Hypergenesis isn’t the same card it used to be. Like Show and Tell, the card’s power level scales with the cards it’s cheating into play. Back in the day, putting in a few Bogardan Hellkites was beatable, and even Progenitus needed a turn or two. The list we tested had a lot of redundant draws with Urabrask + Eldrazi/Terastodon, meaning the opponent was usually dying on turn two or three. If Living End combos that early, they get a few 3/4s.
The mana is much improved as well. I remember draws where Tendo Ice Bridge would have to be used or Gemstone Mine would lose its counters or you’d draw too many Fungal Reaches. That bit of inconsistency no longer exists.
If Hypergenesis were legal, it’d warp the metagame, forcing everyone to play narrow hate cards. It’d also lead to some very unsatisfying games of Magic. This card is incredibly unsafe.
I remember playing Modern around when Cloudpost was banned, though I wasn’t qualified for Pro Tour Philadelphia and thus didn’t test it seriously. Still, I remember it seemed fine. Kill a Wall of Roots, Molten Rain a land or two, kill them before they stabilize. Cinch.
Then the PT rolled around, and a ton of players showed up with new tech. Some combined Amulet of Vigor (already good with Cloudpost and Primeval Titan) with Scapeshift. Others added red for Through the Breach, a version ChannelFireball’s own Travis Woo helped popularize. A few ran both.
After the PT, Cloudpost was immediately banned because Wizards thought people were getting to fifteen mana a bit too fast and consistent-like. At the time, I thought the decision was hasty. After testing it for myself, I’m on board. This card is way too powerful with the tools available.
For Dark Depths, I ported over the Legacy Junk version since most of the cards are in both formats, but made the mistake of upping the number of combo pieces to see the combo itself more often. This led to a lot of awkward draws. Even when I had the “nut draw” of both Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths, it was often too slow since the Stage needs two mana to activate. By the time you can make a 20/20, your opponent has had plenty of time to find a Path or a Cryptic Command.
If Dark Depths were to do anything in Modern, it’d have to find a faster shell (similar to the old Thopter Depths lists that had access to Chrome Mox) or a control shell that’s better at slowing down the game.
The is a good home for Dark Depths because the cost of including the combo is incredibly small, and it’s just there as a Gifts + Loam package. I like how this deck can consistently make the opponent hellbent, protecting the combo.
I was torn on whether to run Inquisition, Thoughtseize, or Duress in this shell. Duress looks ideal on paper, but there are a lot of potential creatures to hit, some of which are actually spells (like Snapcaster) and others that are actually combo pieces (like Deceiver Exarch). Meanwhile, Thoughtseize looks painful when combined with that mana base, especially when you consider we don’t have a way of mitigating opposing damage aside from outright racing the opponent. Still, there are some important cards that cost four or more, including Cryptic Command and Birthing Pod, and it could be that Inquisition is more of a crappy worst-of-both-worlds card in this deck.
This is basically a Legacy deck. Not a very good Legacy deck, but that’s because it has to fight Force of Will, Wasteland, and Karakas. That’s not the case in Modern. After goldfishing a bunch, the deck is faster and more consistent than I expected, and I could easily see something like this taking over.
Best leave it on the list.
Stoneforge Mystic was a lot of fun to cast, though I’m sure I’d get sick of it with time. The main problem with Stoneforge isn’t that it’d destroy Modern, but that it’d be the automatic best win condition in white, eating up slots in everyone’s lists and decreasing deck diversity. Since that’s the main reason they gave for banning Green Sun’s Zenith, I don’t see Stoneforge coming off anytime soon.
I couldn’t break this card. I tested out a variety of lists, but the main problem was always running smack dab into splash hate for other decks, particularly Ancient Grudge, Rest in Peace, and Stony Silence.
I’ve heard some people say they feel helpless while losing to the combo, but I’m not sure I buy it. You feel helpless to a two-card make some 1/1s, but not infinity Faeries? It’s not like the combo is excruciatingly slow, either, unless the player is stuck on lands.
This card doesn’t lead to degenerately fast kills and has a slew of predators in the format, making it safe to unban, and has the potential to create some interesting decks. It’s good against aggro in the abstract, but not the best against Affinity (kind of slow, doesn’t block Etched Champion), and there isn’t much other aggro to prey on. If someone felt like playing Zoo, they could always maindeck some Pridemages. Sprinkle in some sideboard hate, and that might make the combo more of a liability than a boon.
I thought Chrome Mox would be fine if it didn’t make a dedicated Belcher deck viable.
It does. While we only played a few matches, it was enough to tell that the Belcher deck felt quite reasonable.
Still, it would be a nice tool to have around.
Bloodbraid Elf was banned at the same time as Seething Song, and while I wasn’t for it I wasn’t as sure of myself as I was about Song. I’m still not sure. Bloodbraid didn’t made Jund overpowered, but it did punish fair decks.
Recently, a redditor interviewed Forsythe and compared Bloodbraid Elf to Wild Nacatl, implying that Bloodbraid shouldn’t have been banned in the first place. Forsythe said this was quite possible.
That line of reasoning has its merits, since Deathrite Shaman made the card infinitely better. It’s also possible that, between the two, Deathrite was the card pushing Jund’s power level over the top.
Unbanning Bloodbraid does have a few downsides. While it saw marginal play in other decks, like a Scapeshift variant and my Dark Zoo deck that won a few PTQs, it mostly just fit in Jund. That’s some narrow application. Similar value cards, like Snapcaster, serve as tools for a wide variety of decks.
There’s something frustrating about losing to Bloodbraid Elf. Sometimes, they hit that perfect card, a card they couldn’t have known was ideal without knowing the contents of your hand, and that’s tilting. While Snapcaster is powerful, perhaps too powerful given the spells it’s flashing back, at least it takes some active thought and has some real room for caster error.
Jace has a lot of supporters, and the most common argument they use is that it wouldn’t be that dominant in Modern, especially if they also unbanned Bloodbraid Elf to keep it in check.
That’s why we did a Jace vs. BBE series finale, as it seemed like an interesting way to close off the series. BBE is still strong against Jace, though decks naturally strong against Jund (like Blue Moon) didn’t seem to care about the relationship between the two.
Also, if they pushed everything else out of the format, then it wouldn’t really matter if one “keeps the other in check,” it’s still a two-card format and that’s something Wizards is trying to avoid.
While Jace would make a slew of new archetypes viable, the problem is that those decks would all be blue, a color that, according to that reddit interview, Wizards is already concerned about being too powerful.
There are some practical problems with supply, too. The unbanning would have to be announced alongside a mass reprinting, and even that might not do the trick. Over time, the card would go back to being unobtainable, and Modern would be even pricier.
One nice thing that unbanning Jace might do is buff aggro. Jace on an empty board is game over. Jace against a few threats is a four-mana Brainstorm.
This card is not getting unbanned in Modern as we know it.
I used to cringe every time I cast a Serum Visions. I loved Preordain. The card made me a ton of money, probably more than Delver of Secrets, and it’s an especially useful tool for engine decks where the order of draws matters more, decks that needs to come together just so in order to function. I’ve splashed for Preordain, and I’d snap do it again.
While I’ve grown used to Serum Visions, that hasn’t made me miss Preordain any less. In that interview, Forsythe said he wouldn’t consider unbanning the cantrips because they’re already worried about blue being too powerful.
One solution to that problem would be to ban Snapcaster Mage. Don’t get me wrong, I love the card. Me and Snappy go way back. Heck, I’ve even shoved it into RUG Delver. But right now an unhealthy amount of the format is focused around Snapcasting back Lightning Bolt. It’s the reason to play blue, and it starts as an automatic 3-4 of in every blue list, decreasing deck diversity. Bloodbraid gives us some precedent for banning value cards, too.
Then maybe we could get Preordain back, and decks would be more consistent but less powerful.
I wrote an article about Song when it was banned, which I kept very reserved and professional. It read something like this:
Dear Wizards of the Coast,
You killed Seething Song, my most faveritist card in Modern. I hate you. Also, you smell.
While I’m less heated now, I still think the card is fine. Seething Song isn’t good against Ethersworn Canonist, graveyard hate, or countermagic, all of which are troublesome for Storm. Song is at its best against discard, and the main discard deck has always been Jund, a deck they’ve been trying to nerf.
Song gave Storm a fair level of consistency, and as the only real 2-for-1 in the deck (two Pyretic Rituals, wee), it helped the deck recover from mulligans.
After the banning, Storm did Top 8 PT Born of the Gods, but that was a PT where every person in the room was tuning to beat Zoo, and the deck hasn’t done much since.
Still broken, still dumb.
Still recent, still miserable.
These are all cards we might’ve covered, but didn’t for various reasons. Of the group, Ancestral Vision is the most innocuous, but I’m not sure how I’d build around it aside from throwing it in Faeries.
Blazing Shoal offers a more consistent turn two or three kill than Infect, but it’s vulnerable to a lot of the same cards. I was never quite convinced that it needed to be banned. Still, after having a similar feeling with Cloudpost and seeing how that worked out, I’m willing to bet on the other side this time.
As for Golgari Grave-Troll and Dread Return, it’s probably fine for the Troll to be unbanned, but I wasn’t interested in testing Dredge, similar to why I didn’t test Enchantress in Legacy.
And that’s that. In summary, the artifact lands, Sword of the Meek, and Seething Song are all cards to strongly consider unbanning. I hope you enjoyed the series as much as we enjoyed making it.
Did I miss anything major? What card would you most like to see unbanned? How crazy am I to suggest banning Snapcaster? Let me know in the comments.