Spoiler season for Shadows over Innistrad is in full swing, and with it comes a lot of new things for Magic. Our second interaction with the plane of Innistrad looks like it will be a fun one, full of cards that tell tall tales all on their own, as well as plenty of powerful creatures and spells to make tournament play interesting. But with this new set also comes some news that may be sad for some, but will be rejoiced by the majority of players that like Modern.
While I'm not sure exactly what card(s) will get the hammer, I can make a pretty solid deduction. And in the case that I'm right, I feel like it would be a good idea to help you get out ahead of rest of the pack before your next Modern tournament.
Let's start with my predictions for what will happen to the face of Modern, namely the Eldrazi.
I think that the scant few Tron players will take a few weeks to get over this loss, but this is the card I most expect to get banned. But while we're on the topic, I've long since hated Eye of Ugin in Tron decks. A ramp deck should be punished for having a deck full of mana sources but only a handful of spells that actually matter. But with Eye of Ugin, control decks have no shot at winning an attrition battle. A single copy of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn was all the Tron decks needed to make sure they couldn't lose to a deck with Cryptic Command.
But back to the topic at hand.
While the Eldrazi deck won't function on the same wavelength as it once did, leaving Eye of Ugin around just seems dangerous. It was able to generate much mana with the cheap Eldrazi from Oath of the Gatewatch, but it was also bad in multiples. For whatever it's worth, this card was the high-variance factor for Eldrazi, giving the deck draws that were staggeringly unfair. Without it, even with Eldrazi Temple, the deck could continue to exist without being too inherently powerful.
I don't want Eldrazi wiped off the map because a lot of people invested in this deck after Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Thought-Knot Seer is a card I wouldn't mind sticking around, but I don't want it cast on turn 2 all that often.
Unban: Nothing, at the moment.
We haven't exactly had a chance to see what Modern looks like with Oath of the Gatewatch, but without Splinter Twin, Summer Bloom, and Eye of Ugin. Let it breathe a little bit, and we can reassess the situation once Eldritch Moon is released.
Every time a new set comes out, I hear people crying for unbans all the time without really understanding what those cards might end up doing to the format. I get it. You like your toys, and you really wish you could still play with them. But most of them are banned for a very good reason. The problem is that people see degenerate stuff like Eldrazi and feel like their cards should come off the list to help compete with this new monstrosity, when in actuality, the Eye of Ugin or Treasure Cruise or whatever should just be banned, and we should move on.
We didn't get too much time to see what Modern would look like without Summer Bloom and Splinter Twin. It could be interesting. It could be wonderful. And I'm willing to concede that it might just be a hellscape of Infect, Burn, and Affinity. If that ends up being the case, then we can take another look in a few months.
Potential Bans: 8th and 9th Edition
A lot of the cards in 8th and 9th Edition are not exactly...friendly, and many of them feel like relics of a bygone era. You don't know how miserable life can be until you're locked out of the combat step by Ensnaring Bridge while your draw step is controlled by Lantern of Insight.
You also don't know how miserable your life can be until you see all your lands turn into Mountains. Thanks, Blood Moon. And the list goes on: Boil, Choke, Urza lands, Summer Bloom (I know it's already banned, but banning 8th and 9th Edition could have solved this problem).
Prison-style cards are some of the least fun and interactive spells that can be played in Magic, and there is a reason why they try not to make them anymore. I have had so many games just end on the spot because of Blood Moon. And I don't mean I conceded. I mean we stopped playing Magic. And that is what I want to stop.
Find Your Deck
In the wake of the bannings, we need to take a fresh look at the format and try to parse out the important information. At the moment, there are a lot of playable archetypes, but you need to be prepared to beat the Big Three.
This deck is centered around small creatures and uses pump spells to deal you ten points of poison damage in a small amount of time. In a lot of scenarios, this deck looks and acts like a tempo deck, forcing your hand in a lot of ways. You need to kill their creatures, but often you can stall them out by attacking their mana. Killing Noble Hierarch or Inkmoth Nexus can buy you a lot of time, but your removal spells are precious.
The easiest way to defeat a deck like Infect is with some overwhelming permanent that continually picks away their gameplan or invalidates it completely.
Cards like these can put pressure on them or end the game outright unless they come up with a quick solution. While Infect is a bit more vulnerable than most Modern decks, it can also be fairly explosive. Many of its goldfish draws can kill you on the third turn, and some of its best draws can kill you on the third turn through multiple pieces of disruption (discard, removal, etc).
I've had some experience with Infect in the past, and I know what makes it an attractive deck to play, but I will tell you that it isn't very fun to play with when there is a big target on your head. Problematic permanents like the ones listed above are a nightmare, and it usually isn't worth playing the deck if these come stock. You can still win, sure, but at what cost?
While it may look like an aggro deck on paper, I generally like to think of Burn as a combo deck. Instead of trying to assemble all of the combo pieces on the same turn, the Burn player is looking to assemble the combo over the course of four or five turns. You generally give your opponent more time, but you are more consistent overall, because most of your cards do the same thing. Like Infect, the appeal of playing this style of deck is that many of your pieces are redundant, and if your opponent is able to deal with one or two of them, you can always draw out of it.
Modern is rife with powerful burn spells, and this is why the deck is so good. Efficient creatures often deal the first five to ten points of damage, and it isn't that hard to find ten points of burn before you fall to zero life. But like Infect, there are certain cards that are pretty difficult to beat.
While Modern offers some of the most efficient spell selection in the game, it also offers many solutions to potential problems. If your opponent is trying to bust your head open with Rift Bolt, you can find a way to interact with them, regardless of what color combination you choose to play.
But, as many Burn players understand, these types of cards are not as consistent as your entire deck. You can, and often will, beat people who bring hate cards to the table, because they will not always draw them. If you are able to assemble twenty points of damage before they find their specific hate card, or you have something to deal with it, you can still win pretty easily.
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 3 Etched Champion
- 1 Hangarback Walker
- 1 Master of Etherium
- 2 Memnite
- 4 Ornithopter
- 4 Signal Pest
- 2 Spellskite
- 3 Steel Overseer
- 4 Vault Skirge
Affinity has been around in Modern since the beginning. If you don't know how your deck is going to beat Affinity by now, then I'm not sure I can help you all that much. But here goes nothing.
The deck is centered around explosive draws featuring a ton of artifacts. This deck has a lot of synergy, so the first way to attack it would be breaking up that synergy. Cards that can eliminate multiple cards from their side of the battlefield is a great start, even if you're just killing a Memnite and a Vault Skirge. Forked Bolt, Electrolyze, Izzet Staticaster, and Grim Lavamancer are all great in this matchup, much like against Infect. The difference here is that many draws featuring these cards will not be enough.
This deck can be resilient due to eight creature-lands. Inkmoth Nexus and Blinkmoth Nexus provide the Affinity deck with multiple bodies that can survive sweeper effects and give them a bit of longevity alongside Cranial Plating. Traditional artifact removal is also an obvious way to attack Affinity, but you need to be careful and precise on what threats from the Affinity deck you want to attack.
There are draws featuring Ancient Grudge and other big hosers that allow you to brute-force your way to victory, but even that can be thwarted on occasion thanks to Etched Champion. While Etched Champion didn't see a lot of play during the Eldrazi era, expect it to come back in a big way.
If you want to pick up one of the big three decks and start learning it now, I wouldn't blame you. They're the most popular decks for very good reasons. They are either powerful, tricky, or a combination of both. And above all, even through all the hate that could be thrown at them, they are resilient. I should know, as I lose to Burn about twice per tournament, regardless of how many hate cards I bring to the table.
But if you're looking for something a bit different, perhaps a bit more...Snapcastery, then look no further.
Your Wish Is My Command
With Eldrazi out of the way, we can look forward to the majority of control decks in the format relying on Snapcaster Mage.
There are a lot of ways you can build around this card, but the main focus should be finding a way to make the body relevant. A redundant copy of the best spell in your graveyard at any given time is pretty awesome, but it isn't all that efficient unless you can turn the body of Snapcaster Mage into a real threat. Even if it is just in conjunction with one or two other creatures, you need to make sure that your Snapcaster Mage can either trade for something of theirs, or put pressure on the opponent. Otherwise, you're just spinning your wheels.
The best card to pair with Snapcaster Mage in the coming months will be this gem.
While Kolaghan's Command can't kill too many creatures all by itself, it does give you an absurd amount of recursion. Snapcaster Mage targeting Kolaghan's Command, or vice versa, can make sure you won't run out of steam for quite some time. This duo is a nightmare for anyone trying to play an attrition game, and it's particularly hilarious when the opponent sees them both in your hand with Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek.
The downside to playing Kolaghan's Command is very little. Many creatures in Modern are pretty small, meaning the two damage will be relevant more often than not, but the other modes are relevant in a high number of other situations.
I don't know if pure Grixis a la Gerry Thompson will be the best control deck in the format, but it is a good start.
Personally, I'm a fan of cutting Jace, Vryn's Prodigy from this deck. I get that it can act as additional Snapcaster Mages, but I'd rather be a bit more aggressive. I want Vapor Snag. I want Remand. I want Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler for days. But regardless of what avenue you choose when building this deck, I wouldn't recommend playing fewer than four copies of both Snapcaster Mage and Kolaghan's Command. You can thank me later.
If you're looking for a different take on a Snapcaster Mage deck, I know a guy.
With Splinter Twin exiting the format, I found it difficult to put down the cards for Temur Twin. So instead of packing them into my closet, I decided to take them for one more ride. The result was promising, though I wouldn't recommend this list moving forward. It is going to be quite difficult to balance Delver of Secrets with enough instants and sorceries in the coming months, since the heavy amount of removal necessary to beat Affinity, Infect, and even Burn is going to make you want to be a bit more threat-dense.
I think this deck does a great job at attacking Affinity and Infect, but it falls a bit short against Burn. You could fix that by overloading on sideboard slots for the matchup, but the truth of the matter is that the strength of this deck lies in its flexibility. You can sideboard out a lot of threats and move towards a control strategy, much like the Splinter Twin decks of old. The upside is that this deck can be much more aggressive, thanks to early flip starts from Delver of Secrets, which in turn makes cards like Vapor Snag that much better.
This Modern format is going to be a bit different from what we're used to, but I'm looking forward to it. It would be hard not to with what we just went through. I don't know if they're going to ban Eye of Ugin, or anything else, and I don't know if they're going to unban anything. This article could end up being worthless.
But I'm just trying to get ahead of the game.