The Modern format.
No single phrase evokes a more emotional and visceral reaction out of Magic Players than talking about “The Modern Format.” Well, except for maybe “Return to Avacyn Restored,” “Collected Company mirror match,” “Rest in Peace trigger,” “Borborygmos Enraged,” “Underground Dojo Keyboard Cage Fighters,” “Stephen Speck killing Pascal Maynard on turn 1 in a win-and-in match by stacking his deck,” “GoyfGate,” “concessions,” or “Pay the Pros.”
But you know what I mean. The Modern format is clearly in the Top 9 of things Magic players get heated about.
Thankfully, bringing the heat is what I’m all about, and I’m writing this article from the kitchen, which means that I can also stand the heat. I have all angles covered here. Boom, roasted, slowly, for 4 hours in a crock pot.
I’d like to preface this article by saying that I personally have no qualms with Modern. I actually think Modern right now is really good—maybe the best that it has been in a long time.
It’s high variance. Sure. I’ll give you that. But what isn’t high variance? Every action we take in life has variance. Every time I get into a car, I’m taking the risk that I get in an accident. Every time I look in the mirror, I’m taking the risk that I don’t recoil in disgust at what I’ve let myself become. Variance. Learn to embrace it, live it, and love it. Only then can Modern mastery reveal itself to you.
Right now, Modern spouts diversity in deck selection. Any given deck can win any given Saturday. It’s really hard to make Day 2, so don’t worry about Sunday, but anything can happen on Saturday. Also, playing Modern doesn’t get stale nearly as fast as other formats do, because one round you might be playing against Tezzeret, the next round against Jeskai Ascendancy, the following round against Gifts Rock, and then lastly against Jund. You always play against Jund at least once. But those other 3 rounds could be anything.
Modern is also really popular right now. Modern tournaments are booming, while Standard seems to be losing its luster a bit as players are frustrated with either playing the B/G Delirium mirror or the alternative option—losing a lot. Modern is also a format where no one deck seems particularly dominant. People were worried that maybe Dredge was getting too strong, but if my recent streak of never doing better than 2-3 in Modern Leagues on MTGO with the deck is any indicator, cards like Ravenous Trap are enough to curb this beast.
So if Modern is a diverse format with many viable decks, any of which are capable of winning a tournament, then why does it need a fix? Good question. The common complaint against Modern seems to be that good players don’t win enough because variance is high. A lot of matches come down to drawing the right mix of hate cards, but truth be told, a lot of matches in other formats are exactly like that as well—the games just take longer. Modern is what I call a high skill and high variance format. The swings are huge, but there is also a lot of skill in navigating around cards and a lot of ways to throw away games. It’s the kind of format where chance favors the prepared mind. A prepared player can set themselves up to play around, play through, or wear enough agility gear to dodge the hate. Personally, I like to bring my cargo cloak of shifting wind to every Modern event I play in. It’s +5 to agility, and also gives a 3% dodge bonus. It also nets me +6 cool points, but that’s a hidden stat.
To make a long story short, the real answer is that Modern doesn’t need a fix, but in the spirit of solidarity, I’m going to propose a bunch of fixes to Modern anyway. I’m going to address common concerns that people have, and then apply fixes to alleviate those concerns, so that when it’s all said and done, we have remade Modern into our own image of what a perfect format should be.
Concern: You need too many hate cards to survive, and hate cards are too oppressive when they resolve.
Solution: Ban Rest in Peace, Ravenous Trap, Yixlid Jailer, Grafdigger’s Cage, Tormod’s Crypt, Nihil Spellbomb, Surgical Extraction, Relic of Progenitus, Scavenging Ooze, Anafenza, the Foremost, Leyline of the Void, and Bojuka Bog. Also ban Stony Silence, Ancient Grudge, Shatterstorm, Creeping Corrosion, Fracturing Gust, Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void, Night of Soul’s Betrayal, Kor Firewalker, Leyline of Sanctity, Crumble to Dust, and Sowing Salt.
Now you will have extra sideboard space and you will no longer have the issue of having to deal with pesky hate cards being oppressive. I want to be clear that this is not an exhaustive list. I come writing this article with only love in my heart, and if there are any hate cards that need pruning, let them be pruned. Let’s replace hate cards with love cards. Just remember. It’s H.P. Lovecraft, not H.P. Hatecraft. Think about that the next time a giant spaghetti monster connects with your face.
Concern: Games are over too fast.
Solution: In the interest of competitive diversity, Splinter Twin is banned in Modern.
I know exactly how you feel. I also really do not enjoy having time to use the restroom, socialize, and get food and water in between rounds. Nothing makes me more unhappy than grabbing a healthy and delicious bite to eat to curb my intense hunger after I have been slain on turn 3 in back-to-back games.
Concern: Tron is stupid.
Solution: Spreading the good news of Blighted Agent to Tron players.
Tron players aren’t the enemy. They are just misguided. If you sit down a Tron player and tell them how much it hurt you when they led on Urza’s Mine into Expedition Map, and how much better you’d feel if instead they cast a Blighted Agent on turn 2 and then killed you on turn 3 through 2 removal spells, I think they’d understand. I get it. Nobody likes playing against Tron. I certainly don’t. But let’s not overreact by banning one of their key engine cards, like Eye of Ugin.
Concern: All of my favorite decks get banned.
Solution: Do not play good decks.
Modern is a format where any deck can win a tournament. Don’t play the good ones. You can still win a tournament this way, but you don’t have to worry about foiling out your Birthing Pod deck, having it banned, sell the cards for far less than what they used to be worth, then foil out Splinter Twin, have that also get banned, then start playing Eldrazi and begin the process of foiling it out, only to find it also get banned, causing you to lose everything. If instead you foiled out Jeskai Control, you’d still have Jeskai Control, and still be capable of going 1-2-1 in every Thursday night Modern event at your shop.
Concern: Jace has never been legal in Modern. I’d like to play with Jace at least once, especially because he doesn’t seem like he would be too strong in a turn-3 format, especially now that Splinter Twin is no longer legal.
Solution: Unban Bloodbraid Elf.
Seriously, why is Bloodbraid still banned? I think that card can safely be unbanned. It would breathe new life into Jund and it certainly isn’t too powerful for Modern. It would be interesting to see what results from a legal Bloodbraid Elf.
Jace? Oh, wow. I didn’t realize that’s where you were going with this. That will never happen. I’m really sorry. It’s a good try, it really is, but the sooner we accept it, the easier it will be to move on.
I hope every Hasbro shareholder reads this article so that they may trickle down their influence upon those at Wizards of the Coast who make these decisions. One day, Modern will be a good format. That day is today, but another day it could be a perfect format, and that day could be the next Banned and Restricted announcement day, or it could also be never. We can only hold our breath and hope. I know that’s what I’ll be doing, only I plan on cheating by breathing through my nose. I have the lungs of a chain-smoking asthmatic—just one more problem I blame on Modern.