Hello all and welcome back to my discussion of the banlist. My last post had a lukewarm response with a lot of people telling me that I need to do a lot more research for each card instead of just a paragraph each. I agree with this sentiment and aim to rectify that error in this 2nd article where I am going to spend more time talking about each card and why it should or shouldn’t be unbanned. Some cards will get more attention than others and the cards that I feel are the most egregious won’t get more than a paragraph, but for the cards that are more interesting, I’ll be sure to delve deeper into them. Let’s get started with part 2 involving Eye of Ugin all the way to Preordain.
Disclaimer: These thoughts are just my personal opinion and people are sure to disagree with me. I wanted to make these posts to create an interesting discussion concerning the banlist, as I feel that we should always take the time to look at the banlist especially when Modern has changed as much as it has in the past few months. If you don’t agree with my ideas, please share your own opinions down below.
Eye of Ugin
There’s a reason it was called Eldrazi Winter, and it has nothing to do with Ulamog and Emrakul. Getting to cast a turn 2 Thoughtsieze attached to a 4/4, followed up by a turn 3 Charging Monstrosaur that forced you to discard a card if you dared try to interact with it was just too much for Modern at the time. It was often correct to mulligan until you got either this or Eldrazi Temple in your starting hand. Now that we have the London mulligan, going that deep for an Eye of Ugin would be far less punishing, and it would be significantly easier to poop out Eldrazi ahead of curve. The deck was extremely easy to play, and could consistently overrun opponents by turn 4 and 5, and dominated Modern.
Even after the banning of Eye of Ugin the deck still remains a tier-one choice in Modern, with Eldrazi Tron being the most recent iteration of the deck. If Eye were to come off the banlist right now, it would immediately have a deck ready for it and would be able to revert back to its old deck fairly easily. The Tron version of the deck would probably be too slow when it’s much easier to curve out Eldrazi. The one cool thing Eye of Ugin allowed was a lot of variation between the Eldrazi decks with Colorless Eldrazi, Blue-Red Eldrazi, and even Processor Eldrazi to all be decks. This came at the cost of the rest of the format, however, and shut out most other archetypes. With Eldrazi still at the top of the metagame, Eye of Ugin should remain on the banlist.
Eye of Ugin: BAN
Gitaxian Probe is an unassuming card on the surface, but it has slowly started getting banned in every format it used to be legal in, and those formats have been better off without it. Let’s start by comparing this card to Street Wraith, a very similar effect. Street Wraith pays 2 life to draw a card just like Gitaxian Probe, but it is currently only played in 1-2 decks in Modern whereas Probe was ubiquitous. Analyzing the differences between Probe and Street Wraith can shine a light on why this card was so bad for the format.
First off, Probe is an instant and is a spell that is cast. Street Wraith is simply discarded to draw a card, whereas Probe ups your Storm count, can get Pyromancer tokens, and do the things Street Wraith can also do by filling the graveyard for delve, grow your shadow, and thin the deck. What pushes Probe over the top though is the ability to look at your opponent’s hand and get valuable information. This card was ran in infect simply because you can check their hand and see if they had an answer to your infect creature. If not, give it +10/+10 and start shuffling up for the next game. The free information tacked onto the free spell was simply too much, and it was starting to get to the point where decks could run it without any real reason for needing it. Now, with Pheonix in the format, the deck would get another free spell enabling turn 2 Pheonixes far more consistently.
Gitaxian Probe: BAN
Glimpse of Nature
We all know that if this card would be unbanned it would immediately go into Elves as that was the reason this card got banned in the first place. Elves in its current iteration is more of an aggro deck. It aims to dump its hand on the board, cast a Shaman of the Pack and swing for 20+ damage. If Glimpse were to re-enter the format the deck would start to shift towards more of a combo deck and would have turns where Glimpse of Nature could easily draw 10+ cards and let you dump tons of elves on the board. With Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel you can easily dump a ton of elves on the board and churn through the deck.
The counterpoint to unbanning Glimpse of Nature is that the deck is missing a lot of pieces from the Legacy version of Elves which means that comboing off with Glimpse of Nature would be much more difficult. Without Birchlore Rangers, Wirewood Symbiote, Quirion Ranger, Green Sun’s Zenith, and Gaea’s Cradle the deck would be a lot less consistent and unlikely to play the entire deck in one turn. Does that mean that this card is safe to come off the banlist? Probably not, because even if Elves can’t draw it’s entire deck on turn 2, it can still easily draw 3+ cards off a single casting and put a ton of power into play super early in the game.
Glimpse of Nature: BAN
This is the only card to have ever been taken off of the banlist, only to be put back on. Now, when they did unban this card it was perfectly fine to take off the list and didn’t significantly impact Modern for the next few months. However, the printing of Cathartic Reunion supercharged Dredge and forced Wotc to take action and ban Grave-Troll again. Considering that Dredge is still a tier-one deck and we just banned a card in another degenerate graveyard deck, this can stay on the banlist.
Golgari Grave-Troll: BAN
Green Sun’s Zenith
The problem with Green Sun’s Zenith isn’t so much that tutors aren’t allowed, it’s that mana dorks with upside are considered too good for Modern. With Dryad Arbor GSZ can be cast for X = 0 and find this “forest” on turn 1. Then when you draw this card in the late game it’s not a Dryad Arbor but any other creature in your deck that is appropriate to the situation. Compare that to Deathrite Shaman, a different mana dork that is on the banlist. Affectionately titled the one-mana planeswalker, Deathrite was good at all stages in the game even if what he was doing was only mediocre. Exiling a creature to gain 2 life or making the opponent lose 2 life isn’t much, but as a top deck, Deathrite wasn’t completely dead. Compare that to Green Sun’s which can both be a mana dork on turn 1 and a Primeval Titan on turn 7. With Dryad Arbor in the format, Green Sun’s is simply the best mana dork in Modern.
As Modern currently stands I don’t think there is much to gain from unbanning Green Sun’s Zenith. However, if Dryad Arbor were to come onto the banlist would that make Green Sun’s safe to unban? GSZ would be forced to be cast for 2 mana if it wants a mana dork and 2 mana dorks are rarely played in Modern. Instead of being the best mana dork in Modern it would be the best 2 mana dork which makes it a little more palatable. Despite this, I don’t think that it should be unbanned. Having the power of early game mana acceleration rolled into finding your endgame threats, and functioning as a powerful tutor for decks like Elves probably puts this card over the top. It is a very cool card, but until they re-evaluate what the appropriate power level of mana dorks is for Modern I don’t see this getting unbanned.
Green Sun’s Zenith: BAN
In the past, the only way to cast these 0 mana spells from Time Spiral was to cascade into them and for Extended decks that wasn’t a problem. With Violent Outburst, Ardent Plea, and Demonic Dread the deck could immediately cascade into this card and then dump Progenitus, Sundering Titan, and Bogardan Hellkite. The deck-building restriction of not getting to have anything with converted mana cost 2 or less wasn’t enough of a downside to keep this deck from being too consistent and banning Hypergenesis in Extended. In the current day and age of Modern, we now have cards such as Electrodominance and As Foretold that allow us to play these 0 mana spells without the downside of warping our entire deck to accommodate them. Combine that with the fact that Eldrazi are a thing now, and we can start dumping much scarier cards into play than a Bogardan Hellkite.
KCI was a strange deck that abused timings in the rules to do busted things. It was difficult to understand and wasn’t played by many people, and so it didn’t make up much of the Modern metagame unlike other broken decks such as Eldrazi. However, in the hands of a professional such as Mat Nass, the deck could easily crush most opponent’s and led to a string of many Grand Prix victories for the player. This deck could fight through both artifact and graveyard hate and would lead to turns where the opponent would have to sit back and watch to see if the opponent would combo off because there was always a chance that they couldn’t put it together. KCI was a deck that wasn’t fun to watch, wasn’t fun to play against, was difficult to hate, and even more difficult to understand and play. Combine all of this with how powerful the deck was, and it’s probably for the best that this stays out of the format.
Krark-Clan Ironworks: BAN
Out of all the Phyrexian mana cards ever made, this one is probably the most degenerate card of them all. In constructed formats, playing Mental Misstep is mandatory no matter what deck you play. 7 of the top 10 most played cards in Modern cost 1 mana to cast and being able to counter these cards for 2 life is incredibly powerful. The entire format would warp around this card, and decks would start playing without 1 cmc cards to try to combat Mental Misstep. Mental Misstep would have to be played in order to counter other people’s Mental Misstep’s. Warping the format this much is not worth the cost of getting this off the banlist.
Mental Misstep: BAN
Ponder is one of the most powerful cantrips ever printed, being banned in Modern less than a month after it’s inception and is currently restricted in Vintage. One mana to dig 3 cards deep with no deckbuilding restrictions has proven to be incredibly powerful. In Legacy Ponder is the second most played card in the format with a 48% usage and enables everything from hardcore control to degenerate combo. However, there is the argument that Blue, the color known for its cantrips, doesn’t have a good cantrip in Modern. Serum Visions is the most played Blue cantrip in Modern and is leagues below the other options available. Faithless Looting and Ancient Stirrings are the 2 other cantrips most compared to Serum Visions, and even though they come at a deckbuilding cost, the cards in those decks are so powerful that the deckbuilding restriction doesn’t come up all too often. The best Blue cantrip, on the other hand, doesn’t give you any selection until your next turn, and in a format as fast as Modern, 2 turns to draw the card you need is often too slow. If Blue wants to maintain it’s status as the color known for the best cantrip then it needs a new cantrip. Ponder would certainly become the most powerful cantrip in Modern if it were to be unbanned, but its ubiquitousness in Legacy doesn’t bode well for its appearance in Modern.
There is another cantrip on the banlist that isn’t nearly as powerful as Ponder that has much more potential to come off the banlist. Preordain is simply a reversed Serum Visions which completely changes out how the card is played. Serum Visions is an amazing turn 1 play getting to see 3 cards deep, whereas Preordain is much worse in these early turns. But as the game progresses. Preordain gains a significant advantage over Serum Visions being able to dig for whatever you need the turn you cast it. Another card we can compare this to is Opt, which has become a major player in the format. In exchange for only being able to scry 1 Opt is an instant which matters a lot for any decks that play Snapcaster Mage.
With the competition around the cantrips in the control deck, this means that Preordain may end up replacing Serum Visions in the decks that would want a cantrip. The decks we would have to worry about would be the decks that would play Preordain in addition to Serum Visions rather than replace it. I’m of course talking about combo decks. Izzet Pheonix and Storm would happily play Preordain in the place of Sleight of Hand, as getting to see an additional card in these decks is very powerful. While I do believe that Blue should have the strongest cantrip in Modern, the problem is that the format doesn’t really need this to be unbanned. Pheonix and UW Control are two of the best decks in the format and the upgrade that Preordain would give to these decks isn’t necessary. However, is being able to scry 1 additional card deep that dangerous to the format? Perhaps not, but there is always a chance that this could push these decks over the top. There is no need to increase these decks percentages anymore than they already are at.
As much as I want Blue to have a better cantrip, the risks outweigh the benefits. I think that if we were to ask this question at a different time either in the past when Blue wasn’t doing as well, or in the future when Izzet Pheonix isn’t as strong of a player we could safely unban the card. But in the current state of the format, Preordain just gives too much to the decks that are already doing really well. I want to see a Modern where Preordain is legal, but I feel that in the current format there is no need for it.
Out of all 10 cards I looked at today, I felt that all of them deserved the bans they received. I looked much deeper into the cards histories and analyzed what decks would be able to use them. None of these cards really provide anything for the format that is worth unbanning. Many of these cards, if they were to be unbanned, would be format warping, and would make things worse in the long run. The only card that I would feel safe coming off the banlist would be Preordain, and even then, all it does is provide another powerful tool for some of the best decks in the format, rather than lifting up archetypes that are struggling. Next article will be the final one in the series where I will talk about everything from Punishing Fire to Umezawa’s Jitte. If you disagree with what I’ve presented here, please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!