What Are the Safest Cards to Unban in Modern?

One day, I was contemplating Modern, thinking about once great cards that see very little play now.

All four of those cards were banned in 2011—three of them (Ancestral Vision, Bitterblossom, and Sword of the Meek) were banned when was Modern born, and Wild Nacatl was banned after Hall-of-Famer Josh Utter-Leyton came in second at Pro Tour Philadelphia with a sweet CounterCat deck.

These cards were then released in different times: Bitterblossom and Wild Nacatl in 2014, and Ancestral Vision and Sword of the Meek in 2016.

They are harmless, they didn’t deserve to be banned, and they are now unbanned and see very little play, making Modern an even more varied format.

My tweet ends with: “I wonder how many cards like that are in the banned list still.” What other cards could be released and create an even more interesting format?

I’ll be taking a look at the comments from my tweet and answering them with my thoughts about whether a card should be unbanned or left in the banned list.

Ancient Den, Great Furnace, Seat of Synod, Tree of Tales, Vault of Whispers

These lands look very innocuous, but they never saw the light of Modern since they were banned in 2011 when Modern was born.

Artifact lands are a powerhouse in Pauper Affinity, where you can pair them to deal lots of damage with Atog + Fling. In Modern Affinity you have plenty of cards that reward you for having multiple artifacts on the table: Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, and Mox Opal.

Affinity would definitely be better if your Glimmervoid, Spire of Industry and Darksteel Citadel suddenly become Seat of Synod and Great Furnace as they will make your Mox Opal much better (almost impossible, given how great it is) and makes you more likely to create super fast kills.

In Modern Affinity though, you don’t have much room left for lands. Other than the two I mentioned, you have to play Blinkmoth Nexus and Inkmoth Nexus, because you don’t want to flood and creaturelands are great in this deck.

Also, having a mana base full of artifacts makes you even more vulnerable to sideboard hate cards like Stony Silence and Shatterstorm.

Other than Affinity, those lands can be played elsewhere: Krark-Clan Ironworks is a real deck, and would gain a ton by having a mana base full of artifacts to enable its combo.

Final Thought: Stay banned.

Affinity, despite everything, is a good deck, and when a deck is already good it doesn’t need to be busted with some unbannings.

Green Sun’s Zenith

Green Sun’s Zenith was banned in 2011 after Pro Tour Philadelphia and Utter-Leyton’s performance.

Having a card that was a ramp spell on turn 1 (Dryad Arbor) and a good card later in the game was too much for Wizards.

Is it that broken, though?

Being able to tutor for the missing piece of a combo is great indeed (Devoted Druid, Kitchen Finks) and if it weren’t for Dryad Arbor, the card would be nowhere near broken—I personally still don’t think it is.

You have Collected Company and Chord of Calling that play a similar role.

Being flooded with Green Sun’s Zeniths is definitely better than being flooded with Birds of Paradise or Chord of Callings since it’s cheap and super versatile.

Final Thought: Unban it.

There’s zero chance that this card would end up like the four cards I mentioned in my tweet. Green Sun’s Zenith will be a powerhouse in its archetype (G/x Company) and can create birth some very fast kills.

This will lead to a more complex metagame where you need to have removal spells and interact with your opponent, and not just sit there, play your game, and see who reaches seven lands first to cast Scapeshift or 7 mana to cast Karn Liberated.

Blazing Shoal

Blazing Shoal was banned in 2011 after Sam Black Top 8’d Pro Tour Philadelphia with his crazy Mono-Blue Infect deck. With Blazing Shoal you could kill your opponent on turn 2 by playing an Inkmoth Nexus on turn 1 and pumping it for 9 for free, exiling Dragonstorm, to win the game.

There’s not much to talk about—this is a 3-card combo that’s just too unfair for Modern.

Final Thought: Stay banned.

You can argue that without Ponder and Preordain it is very hard to assemble the combo and therefore your deck is very fragile. But that one time where you kill your opponent on turn 2 will be awful and both of you will wish that you were playing a different format.

Stoneforge Mystic

When Stoneforge Mystic was released as a GP promo (I can’t really recall when it was since I feel like I’ve been receiving Progenitus for my entire life at this point), there was a lot of talk as to whether the card should be unbanned.

Stoneforge Mystic is a fair Magic card that gives life to fair games of Magic that involve attacking and blocking (which is how Magic should be played), and comes paired with some powerful equipment: Batterskull and Sword of Fire and Ice (let’s leave Umezawa’s Jitte on the banned list).

In Legacy, Esper Stoneblade, or more recently Deathblade, was a good deck that fell completely off the radar with Kolaghan’s Command being played. In Legacy you even have True-Name Nemesis and the card still isn’t good enough!

Unbanning Stoneforge Mystic is a risky play, but since I’m not Wizards of the Coast, and this is my Christmas wish list:

Final Thought: Unban it.

Releasing this card would mean that you would need to pack more removal spells, more interactive cards, and more Kolaghan’s Command.

I know that some decks might become obsolete (I can’t imagine Merfolks or Burn dealing with Batterskull on turn 3) and that is probably enough for WotC to let the Stoneforge sleep forever.

Bloodbraid Elf

This was the card that led me into competitive play. I picked up my first winnings in Magic (PTQs, GPs) thanks to Bloodbraid Elf (both in Modern and Legacy). I remember when I won a PTQ playing 4 Bloodbraid Elf and 4 Deathrite Shaman!

Now we are witnessing the death of midrange—the death of Jund and Abzan—and with them the death of the format.

Whenever a format becomes uninteractive and full of strategies that plays solitaire, the format is unhealthy, and the format isn’t fun to play.

Every format needs a fair deck among the top tier, a midrange deck with discard, removals, and counters—right now, Modern doesn’t have it (don’t say Grixis Shadow, please).

Final Thoughts: Unban it.

Bloodbraid Elf will see play in Jund and Naya Zoo, and will give fair Magic what it needs to be at least playable, since currently it isn’t.

4-drops without haste that don’t impact the board too much (yes Huntmaster of the Fells, I’m talking to you) just aren’t good enough for such a fast format.

Unban Bloodbraid Elf, and everyone will be happy!

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Jace, the Mind Sculptor never saw the light of Modern and it’s the card that people want back the most (maybe after Bloodbraid Elf).

Jace, the Mind Sculptor would be another glimmer of hope for fair Magic. It will be played in control decks and it will strengthen them, making them better than what they are (since the Jeskai decks that we see now play Geist of Saint Traft and that can’t be classified as control).

Jace can be too good—a start of Lightning Bolt, Mana Leak, Mana Leak, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is impossible to deal with for almost every deck in Modern.

On top that, Jace may be too expensive for most people. He is now $70 and an unban would mean that he could easily skyrocket up to $200, making Modern a little too expensive.

Final Thought: Stay banned.

Unbanning Jace is too risky. If Jace gets too good, it isn’t easy to just ban it again after people spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get their playset. Money shouldn’t be Wizards of the Coast’s concern when making these choices, but since it’s not 100% that it’ll be a safe inclusion to the format, I’d rather relegate it to Eternal formats.

I’m very curious to hear your opinion. Remember to be polite—I don’t work for WotC or anything, I’m just one writer sharing some controversial ideas!

2 thoughts on “What Are the Safest Cards to Unban in Modern?”

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