At least we’ll have the memories…

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about it at least a thousand times and you’re getting tired of it. I’m a little late to the party, but I thought I’d chime in on the recent B&R announcement that occurred last week.

On Modern…

I’ll start with the Modern bannings, as even though they’ve been talked about to death, they’re obviously the more important of the two. I wish it wasn’t the case—I love me some Pauper, and I’m not a huge fan of Modern, but the reality is Wizards of the Coast is pushing Modern to be one of the new defacto formats. By making Modern tournaments FNM legal, and by giving it such a huge amount of Grand Prix / Pro Tour support, Modern is behind only Standard in tournament support.

Of course, a format being supported doesn’t necessarily mean it’s supported by the players. Legacy is pretty much completely unsupported by Wizards, yet it lives on, near and dear to many players. This reality has me, a Spike, a competitive player, a grinder, hesitant on whether or not to even try playing Modern in the first place.

A few weeks ago, I realized I was probably going to a Modern PTQ this season. I had no idea what the format was like, other than people grumbling about how powerful Jund was, so I started watching videos from Star City Games and Channel Fireball. In my research, I decided Jund would give me the best chance to win, not only because it was probably the most powerful, but also because it seemed incredibly simple with relatively few decision trees. The other two decks I were considering were Affinity and Storm, but decided those would take too much work to learn in the finite amount of time I had.

I did some preliminary testing, mostly just figuring out the roles of certain cards in the deck, trying to get a feel for what types of draws I would normally get, not even paying attention to the looming B&R announcement. I figured all the formats would be left alone for the most part; with maybe a surprise Legacy or Modern unbanning. Sitting on Facebook, 11:00 PM rolled around (Central Time is sweet!) and my feed exploded with chatter: Bloodbraid Elf and Seething Song had been banned in Modern.

I couldn’t say I was surprised, reading over the reasoning, but I felt a little bit cheated. I had already started trading for the cards I needed, going from 0 Abrupt Decay, 0 Overgrown Tombs, and 0 Deathrite Shamans to playsets of the former and 1 of the latter over two weeks of trading. For a college student on a strict budget, I can’t just order cards whenever I need them, so it takes a few months of foresight to decide on a deck I want to play at a given event and acquire the cards.

Post-banning, I felt a little more nervous of the format. What will happen if I get around to getting my Glimmervoids, Arcbound Ravagers and Inkmoth Nexuses ? It’s pretty unsettling that two of the three decks I was seriously looking had key pieces banned. And I’m a tournament grinder! I’m used to the ebb and flow of formats, fluctuating metagames; I’m prepared to have to jump from deck to deck.  What of the casual FNM-goer?

At Wizard’s current rate, I don’t think the casually competitive players are going to jump to Modern anytime soon. I don’t mean the guys that play only EDH—I mean the guys at your shop who typically just play FNM, but usually have a solid deck or two and always put up a fight. They’re not the best, and they’re not completely up-to-date with the metagame, but they have an idea of what’s going on. These are the players that are necessary to forming a healthy format that the players support. Tournament Spikes will support any format that’s supported by Wizards; but there has to be a balance. Once a certain number of players feel like their investments aren’t safe, they’ll be reluctant to enter a format. It’s the same reason so many players felt cheated by Chronicles and the reprint policy had to be formed in the first place: players were scared their cards could be devalued at any moment.

Such is my fear right now, and such is the reason I’m not going to worry about Modern. I’ll continue to bum cards off friends until I know when Wizards has figured everything out.

On Pauper…

I know most readers won’t care, so I’ll leave this brief, but I personally am not the most excited about the recent Pauper bannings. I’ve been playing Pauper the past few months on Magic Online, and I’ve come to a few conclusions:

1.      Storm and Infect aren’t fair, but

 2.      Storm and Infect are necessary for the format’s long-term health

 Sometimes, unfair decks exist in formats; it happens. It wasn’t so long ago there was a two-card combo in Standard, and combo decks run rampant in Legacy, Modern and Vintage. Part of the reason I’m so uncomfortable with the bannings is because Wizards is effectively removing an entire archetype from the format. There are tactics that could be used to ensure both combo decks survived while limiting their power. With Infect, they could have banned Glistener Elf, making Infect a turn 3 deck at best. Storm I’m not so sure about, but I think it would have been possible to just ban Grapeshot , making it so opposing decks know what they have to deal with, and know what to sideboard to combat that. There are tons of answers to Empty the Warrens in the format.

Without these lightning-fast combo decks, there’s nothing to combat 8 Post and Mono Blue. Many people argue new archetypes will emerge with the bannings, but the reality is Mono Blue and 8 Post are the best fair decks around. Sure, they will continue to fall as they always do to the likes of Affinity, Stompy, and Goblins, but the reality is the format has just become extremely stale. If Wizards wanted to go this way, banning Counterspell and Cloudpost probably would have been a good idea as well.

That said, I don’t like this new direction to Pauper. Part of the reason I liked Pauper so much is because it reminded me of an affordable Legacy. I hope this doesn’t change, but expect it will.


As always, thanks again for reading.


Jon Naskrent

@JonNaskrent on Twitter

Chantertwo on MODO