"The two decks with the highest win rate in the tournament are built around abusing Faithless Looting, the card I have been saying is the most egregious offender in Modern. It's as if the data is supporting my claim…" - Craig Wescoe, April 2, 2018
"I used to be with it, but then they changed what 'it' was! Now what I'm with isn't 'it' . And what's 'it' seems weird and scary to me." -Abraham Simpson
"It," in this case, is traditional evaluation of the meaning and significance of card advantage in the context of current Modern. I, like many players, have some long-ingrained habits and heuristics surrounding what it means to gain an advantage in a game of Magic that are simply less true in Modern today than they've been in any historical format during my tenure with the game. This is unsettling, to say the least, but it offers the consolation of yet another example that demonstrates that within the infinite game of Magic: the Gathering, there are very, very few universal rules for gaining an edge. There is always more to learn, and the case study of Faithless Looting provides an excellent object lesson.
Part One: In Modern, mulliganning is less harmful now than it's ever been
Nut draws are the name of the game in this day and age. Whether it's Mox Opal, Tron, multiple Hollow Ones, Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, G/W Hexproof, the dredge mechanic, or a host of other unfair or one-sided effects, Modern is a lot less about squeezing every drop of value out of your cards nowadays. Instead, we see decks trying to overwhelm opponents with incredible synergies or invalidate whole swaths of opponents' decks with unique, game-ending effects. It doesn't matter how many Fatal Pushes you have if your opponent leads with a Slippery Bogle. Thoughtseize looks silly against an army of Hollow Ones. Path to Exile is useless against turn-3 Karn Liberated.
What this means is, if your deck is even remotely capable of doing something broken, you probably should mulligan most marginal seven-card hands in the dark in an attempt to find a more broken six-card hand. Humans hands without a one-drop are generally mulligans (against an unknown opponent, mind you). Most Affinity hands with no Mox Opal, Springleaf Drum + zero-mana creature, or Cranial Plating are also generally mulligans in the dark. G/W Hexproof is the extreme example, where any seven-card hand without a hexproof creature is a certain mulligan, barring prior knowledge that the opponent has very little removal in their deck. You need to hit the battlefield hard and fast to succeed, and if the goal of your deck is to play less Magic (in the traditional sense), it's often worth it to cash in a card for a new chance to do something crazy. The full seven cards just aren't as important as they used to be.
Of course, decks like Blue Moon, U/W Control, Jund, Mardu Pyromancer, and Death's Shadow exist to break up synergies, and hefty components of removal, discard, and/or countermagic can turn powerful opening hands into a random assortment of underpowered cardboard. In that case, a Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Death's Shadow, Gurmag Angler, Bedlam Reveler, or Blood Moon can bat cleanup and close off the game for a hapless opponent. When opponents mulligan more proactively in an attempt to find the busted hands, Thoughtseize gets even better. Part of the reason I'm generally so enamored of Grixis Death's Shadow is that it's one of the only decks that can both execute a broken gameplan in its own right and disrupt an opponent into oblivion while winning with a random undercosted threat. When you pilot a mashup of Infect and Grixis Control, it means that it's a lot harder for an opponent to plan for whatever half of the deck decides to show up in a given game. But does that mean that, as a Shadow player, I should be mulliganning aggressively to find hands that provide broken starts? Is a quality opening hand of…
…a mulligan now? There's a decent chance that the Fatal Push ends up being a dead card anyway. How does that factor into our decision?
Part Two: The reason Brainstorm is so good is that it offers a free midgame mulligan
For as long as Legacy has existed, a vocal minority has consistently reminded us that Brainstorm is overpowered, and that if there were any sort of impartial criteria for banning a card, Brainstorm would fit those criteria. Occasionally, the clamor shifts to focus on fetchlands as a culprit, especially with recent attention on Deathrite Shaman. Fetchlands, Brainstorm, and Deathrite Shaman form an unholy triumvirate that pushes Grixis Delver and Four-Color Leovold to the top of the format, but Brainstorm and fetchlands have been ubiquitous even before Deathrite Shaman came along to boost those decks specifically. Miracles. Stoneblade. Sneak and Show. U/B Reanimator. Temur Delver. Storm. The history of Legacy is littered with Brainstorm decks specifically because it allows the unfair decks to mulligan away their excess lands when they need combo pieces or combo pieces when they need mana, and it lets the fair decks mulligan away their removal spells when they need countermagic, their countermagic when they need removal, or both when they instead need threats. It also lets many decks keep a wider range of opening hands, because any hand with a Brainstorm and two lands (one being a fetchland) essentially comes with a free mulligan anyway.
This is before we even get into the fact that the Brainstorm mulligan comes after the opponent has exposed what deck they're playing, thereby telling the Brainstormer what cards they need to be looking for. This boost to fair, interactive decks cannot be overstated. It increases the impact of sideboard cards by letting a player draw them more frequently. It means that Delver players can quickly shift gears and turn their hands from Dazes and excess lands into Lightning Bolts to finish the game. For one mana, there's no better investment in your deck's consistency than Brainstorm. Hell, I even insist on extra Snapcaster Mages in most of my fair blue brews in Legacy specifically because a three mana 2/1 + Brainstorm is still a good deal!
Brainstorm is simply too good in concert with fetchlands. A no-card-disadvantage midgame mulligan is just bananas. With that context, I've spent some time thinking about if the following card would be too strong for Modern:
Draw two cards, then put one card from your hand on top of your library.
"You get what you get and you don't get upset!"
This is the weakest Brainstorm variant I could possibly come up with, and it's right on the line of "too good." Allowing a midrange blue deck to turn a dead Path to Exile or Thoughtseize into two new cards would be incredibly strong. Even this incredibly weak version of a midgame mulligan would be a huge shot in the arm for blue in Modern, and it would swiftly replace all the Opts and Serum Visions that currently occupy the velocity slots in a number of powerful decks.
Part Three: Faithless Looting, in the context of current Modern, is a better Lamestorm
We live in a Modern world where the marginal value of an extra card in a starting hand is not quite as high as it would ordinarily be. We live in a Modern world where the salient factor for success is lining up your interactive spells properly to pick apart opposing synergies, opposing synergies that differ wildly in what cards work against them. We live in a Modern world where getting mana flooded is a death sentence, where games are compressed such that it's hard to ride out mana flood before your opponent wins the game. In short, we live in a Modern world where Faithless Looting's natural drawbacks are minimized and its strengths are maximized. Faithless Looting is the midgame mulligan engine that will turbocharge any deck that can utilize it. The only reason we haven't seen it yet is because many of the best players and brewers have a (quite reasonable and generally useful) natural aversion to card disadvantage, one that keeps Faithless Looting squarely in the realm of "niche card for those decks that can abuse it" in their minds.
Mardu Pyromancer takes advantage of Looting by leveraging Lingering Souls and Bedlam Reveler to make up some of the natural card disadvantage in the spell while using it to ditch unwanted Lightning Bolts against combo or excess Thoughtseizes against aggro. Hollow One takes advantage of Looting through its synergy with all the deck's threats. It can provide three cards in the graveyard for delve, uses the two discarded cards to turn any drawn Hollow Ones into one-mana 4/4s, and ditches Flamewake Phoenix and Bloodghast to turn those into free creatures. It even conveniently boosts Flameblade Adept with a quick +2/+0. Additionally, the card makes it nearly impossible for Hollow One to flood out, as the flashback can turn midgame fourth and fifth lands into more Gurmag Anglers. This is all very powerful stuff, but it's not the end of the power of this midgame mulligan engine.
The point is, it's not necessary to sculpt one's deck around abusing all parts of Faithless Looting. Any deck that fears flooding out, that has answers that only work against portions of the Modern metagame, and that often finds itself digging for specific cards to end the game before an opponent can wriggle out of early disruption is a candidate for Looting. This means Grixis Death's Shadow. This means Blue Moon. These decks are in line for major upgrades with a few minor tweaks.
On the other hand, the natural tension between Looting as an antidote for flooding out and creature-lands or Liliana of the Veil as an antidote for flooding out means that Jund can't make quite as much use out of Faithless Looting as other midrange decks, and therein lies part of Jund's weakness right now. The tension between Faithless Looting and cards like Celestial Colonnade, Cryptic Command, and the expensive spells that comprise Jeskai Control mean that it's not the right candidate for jamming in a few Lootings. No, we need a deck that has little use for lands beyond the third or fourth one, a deck that often finds itself stuck with extra cards in hand that have no utility in a given matchup with no way to get rid of them, a deck that often needs to shift gears quickly from disruption to door-slamming. Grixis Death's Shadow (and, to a lesser extent, Blue Moon) are those decks.
Welcome to a bold new Grixis Death's Shadow:
This much-redder version of Grixis Shadow is well-equipped to fight Humans and Affinity with Abrade, Kolaghan's Command, and Grim Lavamancer (which comes in over two Gurmag Anglers, which are weak in those matchups). The two Liliana, the Last Hope are stellar against Mardu Pyromancer and various control decks. Three Engineered Explosives are a concession to G/W Hexproof, but one could be cut to fit another Lightning Bolt, Abrade, Disdainful Stroke, or Collective Brutality into the 75. And yes, the two Faithless Lootings are excellent as ways to quickly turn dead removal into discard or countermagic, or vice versa. They provide additional avenues to turn-2 Gurmag Angler, and the flashback side often comes up when digging for a Temur Battle Rage to end the game. These are significant upgrades from Opt or Serum Visions.
If I end up looking foolish down the road for only having two Faithless Looting in my Grixis Death's Shadow deck, I apologize in advance. A third Looting could easily come in over the Stubborn Denial, which would then move to the sideboard over an Engineered Explosives. There's also the option now of bringing Faithless Looting technology into the Traverse Shadow shell, as well as a hybridization with Mardu Pyromancer and subsequent innovation of Mardu Shadow. If you squint, Bedlam Reveler is sort of like a Gurmag Angler stapled onto a Treasure Cruise!