Wizards just released the January 19, 2015 Banned and Restricted Announcement, and there were a few changes to the Modern format, which will be the format of Pro Tour Fate Reforged in three weeks in Washington, D.C. With one fall of the gavel, three cards are gone, and one makes its return.
Ever since Treasure Cruise was released in Khans of Tarkir, it has made an enormous change to the landscape of Modern. Blue/Red Delver has become the most popular deck, thanks to Treasure Cruise. The Modern format features a lot of cheap cantrips, like Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand, Gitaxian Probe, and most importantly Thought Scour, which is not only a cantrip but puts two additional cards into the graveyard. Fetchlands are also a staple of Modern, which are a natural companion to Treasure Cruise.
Aside from the U/R Delver deck, Treasure Cruise has found a home in various combo decks. Storm, Jeskai Ascendancy, and even some Splinter Twin decks, like the one Owen and I played last weekend at Grand Prix Omaha.
With Treasure Cruise no longer legal in Modern, how will the landscape change?
Decks like Jund and Junk, which try to play grindy games using 1-for-1s and cards like Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek for hand disruption, have been rendered non-competitive with the Treasure Cruise menace running around.
Now that it’s gone, these archetypes could make a comeback. There was a period of time when Jund was the defining deck of Modern. Could it return to its place at the top of the mountain? Nobody knows for sure, but it has a chance, now.
Combo decks have also been relying on Treasure Cruise for card draw. In the Jeskai Ascendancy combo decks, Treasure Cruise was the most important card, other than Jeskai Ascendancy itself. On the other side of the coin, however, the banning of Treasure Cruise could reduce the overall number of blue decks, and in turn, reduce the amount of countermagic that the combo decks have to deal with.
But even though the number of blue players in the large fields may decrease, traditional blue control decks like U/W/R Control could make a bit of a resurgence since they are no longer worried about their opponent’s gaining massive card advantage via Treasure Cruise. Maybe this interesting balance will keep the combo decks in check.
Dig Through Time
While Dig Through Time wasn’t as big of an offender as Treasure Cruise, I’m sure there was a worry that with Treasure Cruise gone, everyone would just move on to play Dig Through Time in its place. Dig Through Time requires two blue mana to cast, which makes it a bit more reasonable, as you can’t just throw it into literally any deck like you could with Treasure Cruise.
Almost surely, all the combo decks that lost Treasure Cruise would have moved towards Dig Through Time. Only a few decks in Modern regularly played Dig while Treasure Cruise was legal: Splinter Twin, Scapeshift, Jeskai Ascendancy Combo, and U/W/R Control.
Splinter Twin and U/W/R have been tier 1 modern decks for a very long time, and the loss of Dig Through Time won’t change that. Jeskai Ascendancy based combo decks are pretty good, but also not the most interactive or the most fun to play against, so I don’t think anyone minds that deck being weakened.
I was happy to read that Birthing Pod was gone from Modern. It was the card that everyone seemed to be most on the fence about. Birthing Pod has been winning everything, more or less, for a very long time now, and frankly, the card is just too good. Recently, Birthing Pod decks had even begun to move away from combo-centric versions of the deck like Kiki-Pod and Melira Pod to more of a midrange value deck, featuring multiple copies of Siege Rhino.
One problem with Birthing Pod, is that it made it very difficult to play any other creature decks. If you’re trying to play something like Zoo, it’s not very easy to win or fun to play against an opponent who can effectively find two copies of Kitchen Finks and three copies of Siege Rhino every single game.
Another problem with Birthing Pod is that there aren’t many very good ways to fight the card itself. Once it gets into play, it’s usually activated on the same turn, and even if we’re able to remove it the card has already generated value. I expect the biggest gainers from the banning of Birthing Pod to be creature-based aggressive strategies and midrange strategies.
This was a surprising unban to me as I don’t think people were clamoring to play with Golgari Grave-Trolls. I’d be fairly surprised if there is any kind of broken Dredge deck akin to Legacy Dredge decks or even the Dredge decks that were legal in old Extended. However, there might be more interesting decks that show up based around the Golgari Grave-Troll and delve interaction, now that the most broken delve cards have been banned. I don’t expect the legalization of Golgari Grave-Troll to have much of an impact at all.
With Pro Tour Fate Reforged only three weeks away, we really have a lot to think about when it comes to Modern.
Naturally, I’m really looking forward to the Pro Tour, but I’m especially looking forward to finding out which decks survive each team’s gauntlet and make it to the top of the new, and hopefully improved, Modern format.
Legacy: Treasure Cruise is banned. Worldgorger Dragon is unbanned.
Vintage: Treasure Cruise is restricted. Gifts Ungiven is no longer restricted.