The Modern Ban List: What Should Change

With the next Banned and Restricted announcement on the horizon, people are in a frenzy over potential changes. Over the next few days I’ll address a few of the more common suggestions made for both Modern and Legacy, while also going into some of my more, ahem, radical ideas for each format. Today, I’ll start with Modern, then I’ll dive into Legacy, and conclude with a crazy idea that could make Modern a truly great format (or at least a lot of fun).

First: Modern.

Stoneforge Mystic

There’s a lot of hype around a Stoneforge Mystic unbanning, so much so that a few people have actually asked about revisiting The Banned Series for it.

Well, we actually did a banned series for Stoneforge Mystic. Going in, I figured it was probably fine to unban. Afterwards, I had the impression that it would be the dominant white win condition, finding its way into every deck in much the same way that Snapcaster fits into every blue deck. At the time, I assumed that deck diversity (the cited reasoning for banning Green Sun’s Zenith) would be enough to keep it on the banned list.

As a pure value card, Stoneforge Mystic is acceptable. The 1/2 body isn’t impressive in and of itself, and it’s not like the format doesn’t have plenty of answers to random equipment.

Batterskull puts it over the top. Not only is it still a recursive threat if Stoneforge dies, it makes the Stoneforge itself better by giving you a way to refresh the token at instant speed. Some have suggested unbanning Stoneforge and banning Batterskull, which would be fine.

Amulet of Vigor

Personally, I think Amulet has a reasonably high skill ceiling, which means that most people aren’t playing it to its full potential, which limits the impact it can have on the metagame. The fact that its worst matchup is Twin (one of the best performing decks in the format) and that it’s weak to Blood Moon (one of the more common hosers in the format), makes me think that it’s actually fine, even if it is above the curve power-wise.

If you are going to ban a card from the deck, Amulet of Vigor is the one that has been abused before (with Cloudpost) and so long as Amulet is legal it’ll have the potential to break any enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands that Wizards decides to print. Summer Blooming in bouncelands isn’t ban-worthy without it.

Bloodbraid Elf

Some, including Wrapter, think that Bloodbraid would be a boring default choice, and would make everyone want to play Jund.

There’s definitely a bit of residual fear over what Bloodbraid did to its respective Standard format, but I think that pales in comparison to the Pack Rat or Affinity metagames, and as a community we seem to have gotten over those.

A lot of what made the Bloodbraid ban reasonable was Deathrite Shaman, which accelerated without being a dead cascade in the late game. Without Deathrite, Bloodbraid isn’t that much better than Pia and Kiran Nalaar, though we have a new spicy cascade hit in Kolaghan’s Command. I can already imagine the late-game cascades, where you hit Kolaghan’s and get back another Bloodbraid Elf. It sounds sickening, but it’s not actually better than what Grixis mages are doing with Snapcaster.

I’m not convinced that Bloodbraid would make Jund the best deck, and even if it did I don’t think that’s necessarily worse than Twin. Currently, Jund is a popular enough strategy, though it was less successful than Junk in 2015. Is losing to Bloodbraid Elf that much worse than losing to Siege Rhino? By giving Jund a power 4-drop, it’ll help the deck compete with other grindy midrange strategies, which might be healthy for the format.

Artifact Lands

I’m certain that the artifact lands wouldn’t make Affinity too good. In fact, replacing Affinity’s manlands would actually make the deck weaker to problems hosers like Stony Silence.

Disciple of the Vault isn’t a concern. If Disciple were any good, current Affinity lists would be playing it. It’s not like the manlands can’t also be sacrificed to Arcbound Ravager.

The real danger is the buff to Krark-Clan Ironworks. Currently, it’s right on the edge of playability, but having all artifact lands would lead to a consistent turn-3 kill. In a deck with that much redundancy, that’s a real problem. It also has the usual Eggs issue of slowing down rounds and being bad for coverage, and KCI would end up having to get the ax. Maybe that’s fine.

The interesting artifact lands are Great Furnace for Shrapnel Blast, and Seat of the Synod to turn Thirst for Knowledge into a real draw spell.

Join me next time as I give Legacy the same treatment.

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