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Modern Times

August 22, 2011

Recently Wizards announced that the Modern format that they showcased during the Community Cup this year is now a “real thing”. And not only is it a real thing now but they also announced that they have changed the Constructed format of the upcoming Pro Tour Philadelphia to Modern (the format was previously announced as Extended). While about everyone as far as I can tell have been nothing but joyous and excited about the birth of Modern as a format, there has been plenty of “activity” regarding the banlist the format starts of with:

The current banlist for the Modern format:

Ancestral Vision
Ancient Den
Bitterblossom
Chrome Mox
Dark Depths
Dread Return
Glimpse of Nature
Golgari Grave-Troll
Great Furnace
Hypergenesis
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Mental Misstep
Seat of the Synod
Sensei’s Divining Top
Skullclamp
Stoneforge Mystic
Sword of the Meek
Tree of Tales
Umezawa’s Jitte
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Vault of Whispers

(As of 22th of August, 2011)

I have read and heard a lot of complains about the banlist being weird and too extensive. And yes, everyone has the right of their own taste and there is always going to be haters etc. but I personally think the banlist is quite plausible, at least as a start point. I’m not going to deny that I was surprised to see some of the card that are on the list actually being on the list but after giving it some time I actually can get behind of the current banlist. Let’s break it down in order to back up why I think the list is plausible:

First of we have the cards that you would at least expect to be on the list; the colored artifact lands, Skullclamp and Sensei’s Divining Top. They have been banned in old Extended for years and there aren’t much speaking for actually letting them be. I guess one could make a case for Seat of the Synod and his buddies but keep in mind that neither Darksteel Citadel or Disciple of the Vault is on the list… Seems like a good idea to me to not get too overboard with allowing shenanigans with artifacts.

Next there is a series of cards that really stood out during the Community Cup and/or just are poorly designed (at least considering today’s card pool). Neither Valakut, Sword of the Meek, Hypergenesis or Dark Depth doesn’t really do what they were once designed to do. In Extended the decks with Valakut (primerly Scapeshift) doesn’t actually play real Mountains which was kinda the point, Sword of the Meek might as well say “2 mana artifact, when a 1/1 enters the battlefield, if CARDNAME is in your graveyard, return in to the battlefield”, Hypergenesis wasn’t exactly meant to be casted on turn 2-3 and Marit Lage wasn’t supposed to show her ugly head on turn 2 with Thoughtseize back up. They have also got rid of some of the cards for Dredge which I like. I personally would rather see Bridge from Below go instead of Dread Return simply because Bridge from Below is just so poorly designed in my mind. While I don’t think Glimpse of Nature is a poorly designed card it’s has shown that for the sake of a healthier format constraining the Elf combo deck might be something you want to do.

Next on are some of the greatest hits of Standard of the last few years; Stoneforge Mystic, Bitterblossom, Jace the Mindsculptor and Umezawa’s Jitte. While I personally don’t feel like they are overpowered in a format as big as Modern, I like that Wizards has opted to cut some of the “no-brainers” of the format. It’s nice that people can’t just reside to old molds when building decks for the new format.

The last couple of cards on the list are the most “sketchy” ones in my book; Ancestral Vision, Chrome Mox and Mental Misstep. When I look at these cards I think why Wizards opted to cut these cards wasn’t because they are “too good”. They did this because they wanted a clean break from Legacy. These bannings can very much so be interpret as Wizards really trying to make Modern a true format of it’s own. By the looks of it, Wizards doesn’t want Modern to be “Standard hits of the last few years” and in the same time not being “Leagcy-lite”. They want Modern to be Modern and nothing else. And I can’t do nothing but respect that because I believe that it’s a major aspect you need to nourish if you want the format to flourish. The format needs to be unique in some ways.

Take for example Mental Misstep which I believe was primarily cut in order to help making Wild Nacatl decks actually competative. I’m sure several people will disagree with me here but I don’t put myself on winning tournaments if my deck list has 4 Wild Nactals in them in today’s Legacy environmental. So, by cutting Mental Misstep from the format they have giving Zoo decks and their relatives the privilege of being real decks in Modern which you really can’t say about the deck in Legacy.

I guess Chrome Mox doesn’t see that much play in Legacy but I think that is primarily because there are more powerful options, like Mox Diamond. By saying no to Chrome Mox, you reduce the speed and explosiveness of the format by a great margin. It’s off course very hard to say for sure at this point but I think that’s a good thing.

Finally there is one thing left worth mentioning and that is the cards that aren’t on the list. The card that has getting the most buzz in this department is Aether Vial. I don’t think it’s horrible that the card is legal by any means. The tribal decks that are the biggest gamers of the cards in Legacy doesn’t look like to be major players in Modern and it’s just too slow for the Zoo decks to run. That said, if you are looking for ways to severe the chord to Legacy, cutting Aether Vial seems like something you might want to do…

An important thing also to remember that Tom Lapille stressed in his article that the banlist is by no means a definite list and will very likely be changed and cards might be removed from the list when more data about the format comes along. It’s sort of a shot in the dark, but I reckon that we might very well at least see Umezawa’s Jitte, Ancestral Visions and Mental Misstep being legal when the PTQ season rolls around (granted that Modern completely doesn’t roll over and crash as a format, which seems very unlikely). There seems like there is still going to be plenty of combo decks in Modern which means that Umezawa’s Jitte is not going to be format defining as it was when it was legal in Standard. And Ancestral Visions and Mental Misstep just doesn’t seem that powerful in my book. Ancestral Vision might be a little shaky partly due to it’s interaction with Bloodbraid Elf (also known as the best Mulldrifter ever) but I think it’s alright.

And for the haters out there I leave you with this; Right now, the Wizards crew has played several times more hours of Modern then you have. I guarantee it. So with that in mind, do you really think it’s a good idea to just bad mouth the banlist right of the bat? Do you really have actual experience with the format to support your criticism? I’d say we let PT Philadelphia happen first and see where to go from there.

Until next time…

PS Remember to check out my column on Blackborder.com!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 28, 2011 18:16

    Now that is some cool writing.

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