Hello everyone, and welcome back to Strictly Average. I hope you have been enjoying all of the content on this page. Last week I talked about a sweet Modern Tezzerator deck, and most of my articles have been about Magic’s most popular format: Modern.
Since its launch seven years ago the format has grown worldwide to be one of the most played either at FNM or at larger tournaments. Players suddenly had the ability to play their cards that were formerly in Standard, but maybe not good enough for Legacy play, and have that in a non-rotating format. When the format was created there were a lot of cards on the initial banned list, and over time some of them have been removed. This has helped the format grow, and provide more diversity either with new decks or put a focus on playing certain archetypes to keep the format diverse. Let’s take a look at the cards that have been removed from the banned list over the years.
- Ancestral Vision: A card that was feared for it’s ability to draw 3 for zero mana investment (outside of the one U you spent to suspend it) this card was removed in April of 2016 with little impact to the format.
- Bitterblossom: A card that was on the initial banned list due to its strength during its legality in Standard. This card has shown up periodically in sideboards, and has allowed player to play Faeries in Modern however it is not the powerhouse it once was.
- Bloodbraid Elf: Banned less than 18 months after the creation of format for the crimes that Deathrite Shaman caused. The Elf came off the shelf after a 5 year sentence due to a Christmas card being sent, and a lot of Twitter hashtags. Jund players have rejoiced since, but no dominance has appeared.
- Jace, the Mind Sculptor: The card that was feared to be too powerful has turned out to be the opposite. When he was removed from the banned this year my thought was that he would lead to more aggressive decks being played to avoid him taking over the format, and currently we have Humans, Hollow One, and Mardu Pyromancer at the top of most tables. It’s a shame though as he is powerful, but honestly us Control players should look for help elsewhere. He’s a nice card to have, but is not the focus of a winning strategy currently. I still think people should be playing a Temur Valakut deck with him just like they did during his time in Standard.
- Sword of the Meek: A card where they were worried about infinite combos putting creatures into play as well as infinite life when coupled with Thopter Foundry this card has done little since it was removed from the banned list along with Ancestral Vision. Honestly it’s probably THE card (along with The Foundry) that has made Tezzerator a deck in Modern.
- Valakut, The Molten Pinnacle: A card that was on the initial banned list (and should have stayed in my opinion), but honestly has not done much lately. Titan Shift decks will prop up to the top of the Modern decks lists every so often, and then back off as hate is brought in to face these decks. They’re still good decks, and the card is probably fine in Modern currently.
- Wild Nacatl: This card was banned 4 months after the format started. FOUR. MONTHS. Why?? I guess a 3/3 for one G on turn 2 was too much at the time? It, along with Bitterblossom, was rightfully removed from the banned list in February 2014.
The point of reviewing this is to understand that the banned list was made with a fear of what cards had done in other formats (primarily Standard), and that data alone is honestly not enough to warrant a ban sometimes. People also ask for a “test unban” to see if a card would truly be broken, and while some may point to Golgari Grave-Troll‘s removal, and subsequent addition back to the banned list we need to keep in mind other cards were printed that pushed Dredge to the top of Modern for awhile.
The format itself was made before Innistrad was even released (which was a long damn time ago), and a lot has changed. Let’s take a look at cards currently on the list to see if perhaps they could be removed from the banned list.
Artifacts have always been a strong card type in Modern Magic design. They can either be too powerful, or not powerful enough. Each time there has been an artifact based set there are either artifacts that are too good (see Urza’s block, Mirrodin block, and Kaladesh block respectfully), or there were cards in other sets that made some of the artifacts too good (see the deck Caw Blade during its time in Standard). With that said let’s take a look at these 5 cards.
- Birthing Pod: The fear with keeping this card around is that it prevented Wizards of the Coast from printing good creatures without them being abused. Siege Rhino was the one that was the final straw for this card, and it was eventually banned. I can see this being removed from the banned list, because creatures such as Renegade Rallier, Felidar Guardian, and Ravenous Chupacabra (just to name a few) have been printed long after the Pod collected dust. Wizards of the Coast will never stop printing good creatures. Plus if they say they don’t test for Modern at all, then how can they say they were limited in printing good creatures when they print primarily for Drafting? There are enough answers for Top, and it would be too slow to develop in the current metagame. This can be looked at for removal from the banned list.
- Chrome Mox: While it would be neat I will have to say “No”. It would allow players to play Chalice of the Void (where X equals 1) on turn 1. Leave that in Legacy where it belongs, or ban both Simian Spirit Guide, and Chalice of the Void. I see neither happening.
- Sensei’s Divining Top: Oh Top how I miss thee. I even played a song at your time of passing from Legacy into the unknown. Personally I would like to see it back as it would give Azorius Miracles the legs it needs to be a strong control deck in Modern, but there would be more negative reaction to that than there would be at those who hated Sphinx’s Revelation in Standard (and remember we were THE GOOD GUYS then, dammit!). They could ban Counterbalance, but there would be plenty of people who spin the top too slow, and we would be back to the same reasons Wizards of the Coast banned it in Legacy. Farewell Top.
- Skullclamp: In a word..No. There are too many 1 drops that would power this card, and Affinity decks would go crazy. Just no.
- Umezawa’s Jitte: As much as it might be fun to play with this it would require making Stoneforge Mystic legal. Granted one could pay 4 mana to play, and equip this card to an existing creature. However with the amount of removal currently in Modern that player could have their creature removed in response to being equipped, and thus not be able to play a whole turn. This also hoses many aggro strategies so it stays banned.
These 5 lands were made infamous during Affinity’s arrival in Standard. During that time a lot of people quit playing Magic. While cards like Hyrukl’s Recall, and Shatterstorm can be deadly for those who play these lands as long as cards like Arcbound Ravager, and to a greater extent Krark-Clan Ironworks exist in Modern these lands HAVE to stay banned.
Yes. At the moment only 3 creatures are banned in Modern. Amazing how a format focused heavily on creature combat has only 3 creatures banned. That’s actually a good thing for the format, and something the design team can hang their hat on.
- Deathrite Shaman: This card was (finally) banned in February 2014 allowed for turn 2 Liliana of the Veil, Birthing Pod, and turn 3 Siege Rhino. That alone is enough to wave goodbye to this card. True story: The ability to target any graveyard was given to it for Commander. Wizards of the Coast wanted to give this card a chance to find a home in formats beyond the normal constructed formats we have. Thanks everyone. This is why we can’t have nice things. This stays banned.
- Golgari Grave-Troll: Thanks to the printings of both Cathartic Reunion, and Prized Amalgam this card will remained buried in the banned list. Sorry buddy.
- Stoneforge Mystic: Now we get to the card everyone wants to talk about. This was THE key piece in the Caw Blade decks in Standard that took over the format for a year. Nahiri proved herself to be quite powerful, and eventually got banned to allow the format to develop before Innistrad came into Standard. Many want her back, but I don’t see it honestly. First you would have to pay 1W to play her, and search for an Equipment card. Then she has to survive a whole turn without being destroyed, and pay another 1W to put the Equipment into play (that’s 2WW, and 2 turns where you’ve not done much of anything). Then you have to pay whatever the equipment cost is (usually 3 for a Sword), and THEN attack. So that’s 2 turns of doing nothing to your opponent, 5WW spent, and an attack, AND you have to hope your creature survived. If you want to be Time Walk’ed then go ahead, but honestly should not be good for Modern. This can stay banned.
No. Splinter Twin can stay banned. When it was legal if you played any other non-Storm blue deck then you were not going to do well (even at FNM). Stay banned. Forever.
Now we get to some cards that have been truly exposed as broken, and others that aren’t overpowered however lead to some non-fun at times for what Wizards of the Coast is wanting to promote.
- Blazing Shoal: Was banned a month after the format started. The ability to give an Infect creature a giant power boost at Instant speed was broken. Stay banned.
- Dig Through Time: I personally feel this card would have been fine if Treasure Cruise was not Legal with it. A lot of the Delve cards are egregious in design (in my opinion) especially Become Immense. However with that said due to the printing of Search For Azcanta I don’t see this card being released ever again.
- Punishing Fire : I would really love to have this card, but it’s not coming back. Not only would it be too good in Jund, but Hollow One decks would go crazy with this. Sorry buddy. It was fun though.
- Second Sunrise: 20 minute turns? No thank you. Good riddance.
- Seething Song: I know Storm players would be happy, but no this can stay away.
Did you know more sorceries were on the banned list than any other card type? Me neither! This was a little surprising to say the least. Let’s take a look.
- Dread Return: While we do have Dredge in the format we don’t have a good Reanimator deck in Modern. I feel this card would be ok in the format, and if it becomes too powerful put it back. Let’s remove it from the banned list.
- Gitaxian Probe: You just left. Go away. You are too powerful for your own good. Nope.
- Glimpse of Nature: This card may be sweet to play, however there are too many cheap (or even 0 mana) creatures to play causing this to be too good. Sorry but it has to stay away.
- Green Sun’s Zenith: On the other hand this card can come off the list in my opinion, but only if Dryad Arbor is banned. Giving green decks the ability to find a utility creature would be good to see again, and perhaps be able to check some other decks. This only searches for green creatures so it’s fine. Let’s give it a try.
- Hypergenesis: Nope. Too powerful. This can stay away.
- Mental Misstep: Absolutely not. Stay in Vintage.
- Ponder: The closest to Brainstorm we would ever get. If Grapeshot was ever banned I could see it. This card would do a lot of good for Control decks, however I doubt it comes back.
- Preordain: However with that said about Ponder I believe this card can come back. It’s a reverse Serum Visions, however one of the things Control needs is the ability to find specific answers. This would help those decks, and promote more of them in the format. This should be removed from the banned list. Yes it also helps Storm, but if Strom becomes “too good” then that can be addressed.
- Rite of Flame: Simply put too good for Modern. This causes turn 1 Chalice of the Void (where X equals 1), or along with Simian Spirit Guide a turn 1 Blood Moon. No. Stay gone.
- Summer Bloom: If it only put 2 lands into play maybe. 3 lands is too much. Goodbye.
- Treasure Cruise: “Hey guys is ‘draw 3 cards’ too good?”. Yes. Yes it is. When every deck splashes blue to use their graveyard it is way too good.
I’m going to make this short and sweet. All of these lands can stay banned. Here’s why:
- Cloudpost: If you think Tron is bad the Cloudpost decks were A LOT worse. They generated more mana faster than Tron ever has.
- Dark Depths: As long as Vampire Hexmage, and Thespian’s Stage are in the format this stays gone. Those two cards are not the problem. This card being too powerful is.
- Eye of Ugin: Did you NOT see the No Ban List results at SCG Con this year? Did you not play in Eldrazi Winter? Yeah this is too damn good, and honestly Eldrazi Temple should have went with it.
Whew! Are you still with me? Good. Thanks for hanging in there through each card. After reviewing these there are 4 cards that I think can be removed from the banned list in Modern:
Many thought Jace, the Mind Sculptor was never coming back yet here he is. Wizards wants this format to be quite diverse, and the more decks that are good are better for the format overall. What card will be the next one they remove from the banned list? I don’t know. Only time will tell what happens next.
Thank you all for reading today’s article. What cards do you think should be removed from the current banned list? Please share your thoughts below, and make sure to follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter.
Until next week when we talk casually about another former Standard deck…
TAP MORE MANA!!!
Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.