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Silvestri Says – Modern Madness

All right, time to write an article this week. I guess I could do one on even more Gatecrash brews, though honestly I’m not sure what else I could say about those without hard data. Could do a prerelease review article about the guilds, but a lot of that stuff has been covered by a few dozen preview articles.

Wait… There were bans today? Who cares, nothing’s going to get banned.

Modern: [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] and [card]Seething Song[/card] are banned.
Online Pauper: [card]Empty the Warrens[/card], [card]Grapeshot[/card], and [card]Invigorate[/card] are banned.”

…Well then.

Thoughts on Banning Bloodbraid Elf

If they really wanted to cripple Jund, they would have just banned [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] and that would have been that as far as Jund (and any non-[card]Birthing Pod[/card] green deck) was concerned. All they did was make it a little fairer for attrition decks to try to grind Jund out.

While some players may swap colors, saying red is an easy cut without [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] is just silly. [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] remains the top removal spell, along with a host of good secondary options and sideboard cards. Once people discovered the [card lingering souls]Souls[/card] tech they could have easily moved in on white and dumped red for [card path to exile]Path[/card] and other cards. That didn’t happen, because white doesn’t have outright superior tools by any stretch of the imagination.

If anyone needed a final reminder that Modern is the DCI and Magic’s baby, here it is. I can’t believe that anyone is surprised by this banning, after such a high profile string of successes combined with its history.

[card]Seething Song[/card] seemingly came out of nowhere, if you were looking purely at the balance of the format. Storm wasn’t viable outside of Magic Online, and was far from a tier one strategy. However it broke one of the cardinal rules with consistent wins before turn four, which, in Modern, is a big no-no and grounds for the ax.

Damage to Jund

So what happens to Jund? Not a hell of a lot, to be frank. [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] is not a very fair Magic card, and it gave the Jund deck a strong way to beat decks aiming to 1-for-1 them out of the game. It was also the strongest answer to planeswalkers in Modern, and one of the only reasons people could suggest a [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card] unbanning with a straight face.

Take it away, and the Jund deck doesn’t lose anything truly important. It certainly has nowhere near the impact of the ban on [card]Seething Song[/card] to a Storm deck. Owen said it well, “Just add [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] and you’re done.”

BBE was the 4th best card in the deck. It was a swiss army knife at the 4-drop slot. Now you have to pick what you want. Value guy? [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] or [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card]. Midrange weapon? [card olivia voldaren]Olivia[/card]. Haste threat? [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card]. Need more options? [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card], [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card], [card]Batterskull[/card], and [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] all come to mind.

If you feel like you can’t replace BBE, then you aren’t looking hard enough. It was a sweet one, but you can adapt the deck to function well without it. A lot of its power was psychological, considering for how many times Bloodbraid has put someone on tilt.

You know what actually just beats everything in Modern? Turn 2 [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] off [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]. To get a clearer picture, I asked Modern guru Sam Pardee, who has plenty of experience dealing with Jund thanks to battling Jacob Wilson on a constant basis.

“Jund doesn’t really take much of a hit at all. The cheap spells are what make Jund good; not the expensive ones. Even something as simplistic as jamming 2 Huntmaster and 2 Olivia in the BBE slot will likely be reasonable.”

As to what decks gain, Doran or other GWB decks gain the most from Jund losing BBE, because they have more of a reason to exist. Even though they’re still probably just bad Jund overall.”

Jacob Wilson’s take?

“Jund is still very viable without BBE. It wasn’t the best card, or the second. Huntmaster or more Finks will be fine I think. The cheap spells are why Jund is so good anyway.”

Thoughts on Seething Song

The banning of [card]Seething Song[/card] is overshadowed, simply because Storm wasn’t a great deck in the first place. Now, it’s just totally dead, and there’s nothing else to do with the archetype until new cards come out. What’s the point of playing a crippled Storm deck when you could simply play Infect and get another turn 3/4 ‘combo’ deck that has a bit of resilience?

Combo decks do not need to be tier one strategies to eat a banning in the future. We’ve made a whole lot of progress from the wild west of the first Modern Pro Tour, where everyone was just killing each other on turn two/three or ‘playing fair’ by throwing out some disruption and killing on turn four instead.

People still view Modern as one continuous format, but realistically it looks like it’ll have plenty of ‘eras’ in the same way Extended and Legacy had them. Throwing out bans to shake up formats and keep people trying to play fair Magic is one of the driving principles behind all these bannings, and I could definitely see more bans coming down the pipe later this year.

Future Bans

Would it shock anyone if Deathrite Shaman got banned? Green Sun’s Zenith got banned, and that added deckbuilding restrictions. Deathrite Shaman is just as ubiquitous, and possibly a better card. I suspect one of the primary reasons it didn’t get hammered this time around was mere reluctance to ban a recently-printed card. The other is that without the sheer power of [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], green is sent running back to [card]Birthing Pod[/card], and will be unable to escape tutoring’s loving embrace.

Then you have to worry about Birthing Pod getting the axe as the most powerful engine left in the format, and at the same time killing the best tutor. It tells players that if decks get too high of a profile then it has a realistic chance of getting banned. Before buying into Modern, be sure to understand that.

Wizards and the DCI have shown that they’ll be aggressively banning and policing this format according to their own criteria. This is the first format where they’ve done this according to solid guidelines, and not just by feel. Anyone playing this format should expect bans to be the norm in the near-future.

Online Pauper

While I don’t play much online pauper, that was largely because I was bored of seeing the same stuff over and over again. While I’ve been told Post decks and Fissure Storm will still exist, I really don’t mind Wizards shaking up the format every now and then. I don’t claim to be an authority on it, but I definitely want to take another look at online pauper now the bans have happened.

Quick Look at Standard

There’s one deck I haven’t talked about much, though I think once the proper shell is found, it could easily be a top tier strategy.

Esper Control

[deck]Main Deck
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Restoration Angel
3 Azorius Charm
2 Devour Flesh
3 Dimir Charm
3 Supreme Verdict
2 Dissipate
4 Thought Scour
3 Jace, Memory Adept
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Hallowed Fountain
3 Watery Grave
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Isolated Chapel
2 Plains
4 Island
2 Vault of the Archangel
Sideboard
3 Geist of Saint Traft
3 Rhox Faithmender
2 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
2 Negate
2 Detention Sphere
1 Supreme Verdict[/deck]

Moving on from UW Control, we actually get a handful of removal spells that kill creatures instead of just stalling them out. We also get the bonus of a better sideboard, and getting some use out of [card]Vault of the Archangel[/card] if you want to use the Augur/Snapcaster/Resto Angel base.

[deck]4 Arbor Elf
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Elvish Visionary
2 Gyre Sage
4 Zameck Guildmage
4 Somberwald Sage
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Master Biomancer
4 Thragtusk
3 Prime Speaker Zegana
4 Breeding Pool
4 Hinterland Harbor
4 Cavern of Souls
2 Island
9 Forest[/deck]

This is just a brew—an example of reinvigorating older cards ([card]Somberwald Sage[/card]) to work together with newer cards ([card master biomancer]Biomancer[/card] and [card prime speaker zegana]Zegana[/card]). [card]Gyre Sage[/card] is not an incredibly consistent mana accelerator and is mostly just here to be an Elf body. If there is a better way to find Zegana or Biomancer I’m all ears, this deck really lacks some tutor card to make it a good choice. When it does get off to a quick start with [card]Elvish Archdruid[/card] though, it absolutely dominates.

Limited Breakdown

My general opinion of guilds in Limited after watching Sealed all weekend and birding two drafts:

1-4: Not Dimir
5. Mono Walls + Extort
6. Dimir
7. Dimir Mill

Friends don’t let friends play Dimir. At least not until they figure out what the most important cards for the archetype are, because right now I have no idea if Dimir can be any better than AVR-black-level unplayability. All the other guilds seemed very reasonable, and while Orzhov is stuck on the back foot in a very aggressive format, having access to so many X/3 and X/4 butts and removal really helps these decks stabilize until extort takes over.

That’s all for this week. I’d like to thank everyone that came out to our prerelease at ChannelFireball Game Center this weekend. While I don’t know the exact numbers, I know we had at least 1,000 signups for our events, and at least 500 unique players. I’m looking forward to getting some Gatecrash drafts in and seeing how things play out compared to RTR. Good luck to everyone battling this weekend!

Josh Silvestri
E-mail me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

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