Top 5 Changes to the Modern Banned List
5 – Ban Blood Moon
This is not likely a popular opinion, but it’s a very hit-or-miss card, and either you draw your basics or fetches early and you can get out of it, or you didn’t and you can’t. I hate having to think about it constantly, not knowing whether they have it or not. It also creates some very unfun game states where both players are locked under it and can’t cast a spell, so the first person to draw their basic land automatically wins.
4 – Unban Ancestral Vision
Ancestral Vision would definitely be a good card, especially against Thoughtseize-based decks. It would see a lot of play, but you’d still be able to play other decks, and the fact that it doesn’t interact with Snapcaster Mage, which is currently the best blue card in the format, is nice. I would like to see Visions unbanned and see where we stand.
3 – Unban Bloodbraid Elf
I think Bloodbraid Elf is a very safe unban—it would power up Jund decks, but it wouldn’t skew the metagame because other cards are just as appealing in other color combinations. Junk, for example, has Siege Rhino if you want a 4-drop. Bloodbraid Elf was banned because it made everyone default to the safe option of Jund, but that’s not necessarily true anymore.
2 – Ban Goryo’s Vengeance
Modern is supposed to be a turn-4 format—rarely turn 3. Goryo’s Vengeance is not broken, but it will kill you on turn 2 a non-zero amount of the time while remaining competitive, and I don’t think that’s acceptable. I don’t think you have to ban every deck that can kill on turn 2, but decks that accomplish this consistently with no counterplay should be banned (it’s much easier to stop Infect’s turn-2 kill than Goryo’s Vengeance’s, though I wouldn’t be sad to see Infect go either).
1 – Ban Amulet of Vigor
Much like Goryo’s Vengeance, Amulet Bloom can kill on turn 2 reliably and I think that’s unacceptable. I don’t think Amulet is necessarily a broken deck either, but the problem is in the 5-10% of games it kills you on turn 2. I played at a GP in which my opening hand was Remand, Blood Moon, Splinter Twin, Dark Confidant, and 3 lands on the draw, and I died without playing my second land. What am I supposed to do there? I don’t want to play Amulet myself because the turn-2 kill is rare, but playing against it feels like Russian Roulette.
I think Amulet is the best ban for this deck because it’s the most likely card to be broken down the road. There are cards Wizards could print if not for Amulet—whereas the same is likely not true for Summer Bloom.
Top 5 Stage Musicals
5 – Matilda
Matilda is one of my favorite movies, and watching it in the theater was very cool—the story was a bit different (I assume it’s based more on the book than on the movie), but I still enjoyed it.
4 – The Lion King
The Lion King is a good musical, and the costumes are the best reason to see it. The only downside for me was that I watched the movie so much when I was younger that the musical didn’t feel different—many of the lines were the exact same and that made it less enjoyable.
3 – Aladdin
I am not a fan of the Aladdin movie (I think the genie is very annoying. Yeah—sue me), but the musical was very well done. The magic carpet during “A Whole New World” was particularly awesome.
2 – Phantom of the Opera
The classics are considered classic for a reason. Phantom of the Opera is the musical that feels the most like what I think a musical should be—it immerses you from the first scene and never lets go.
1 – Wicked
Wicked is the best thing I’ve watched live, and it’s likely to remain so for a long time. The story is interesting and different, the premise is great, and the music is awesome. I definitely recommend it to anyone who has the chance to watch it.
Top 5 Best Players in the World
I’m not going to rank these players in order because it’s already subjective enough—I’d like to think more in terms of tiers than actual set ratings, because this list fluctuates so much. But this is my top 5:
• Eric Froehlich
EFro is a great player who understands the game at a very deep level and rarely makes mistakes.
• Yuuya Watanabe
Some of Yuuya’s ideas are a bit unconventional (like his draft picks from Worlds this year), but he plays exceedingly well. He rarely makes technical mistakes and plays a strong mind game, which is unusual even among top players.
• Owen Turtenwald
Owen might be the best technical player on this list—I think you’d have to watch a lot of Owen games to catch him tapping the wrong land, for example. Other players might be better than he is at the non-technical aspects of the game, such as bluffing or finding different, innovative lines, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good at these things too—he just stands out most for his technical play.
• Shouta Yasooka
Shouta plays ridiculously well and ridiculously quickly. Playing quickly doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good, but playing that well at that speed means you have to understand the game completely. Every time I watch him play, I’m impressed.
• Ben Stark
Probably the most controversial pick on this list. Ben is usually known as a Limited specialist, and that overshadows the fact that he is an insanely good player—people will think “sure, he won because he drafted well”—and I think he contributes to that image a bit himself—but he also has a very deep understanding of the game, which means he deduces a lot just by thinking through it, while others have to experience a given scenario first.
Top 5 Books You Might Not Have Read
I’m not going to discuss famous ones, like Game of Thrones. I read all fantasy, for whatever it’s worth. Last time I did this list, I recommended Daughter of the Blood, Name of the Wind, Mistborn, Poison Study, and Arena, so here are 5 new ones:
Honorable Mention: The Shadow of What Was Lost, by James Islington
The Shadow of What Was Lost is James Islington’s first book, but it doesn’t feel like it—he writes well with good characters and an interesting plot. The only reason this doesn’t crack the top 5 is that it’s quite open-ended, and it’s disappointing that the second book isn’t out yet.
5 – The Immortal Prince, by Jennifer Fallon
The Immortal Prince is a story about immortals whose powers rise and fall with “The Tide,” which usually takes a long enough time that society forgets that they exist and turns them into legends. It was different than most books I’ve read and I thought it elaborated on the concept of immortality very well.
4 – Written in Red, by Anne Bishop
The same author of the previously recommended Daughter of the Blood. This book portrays a world where mythical creatures such as vampires and elementals exist, and they prey on mankind. It’s written from the perspective of a human who ends up in an “Others” village, but the story is really about the Others, which makes it unique.
3 – The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
The Way of Kings is the first in a supposedly very long series. I’m a big fan of Sanderson’s work, and The Way of Kings is no different—he builds a world that is different but real, and everything in it makes sense. He’s also very good with plot twists.
2 – Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass is about an assassin forced to work for the king that she hates. The characters are interesting, and the sequels manage to change the story a lot while at the same time keeping it familiar.
1 – The Black Prism, by Brent Weeks
The Black Prism is very different from other books because the main character is very powerful at the beginning of the story, so his struggles are different than the ones we’re used to—imagine Lord of the Rings from the perspective of Gandalf and not Frodo. I thought the world was great (the magic system reminded me of Magic: the Gathering), the characters real, and the plot very interesting.
Top 5 Misconceptions About Pro Players
5 – It’s impossible to live comfortably as a professional Magic player
Most people look at the payouts for tournaments and conclude that you can’t really play Magic for a living. If we were talking about payouts only, then that would probably be right, but there are many sources of revenue for a Magic player—writing, sponsorships, appearance fees, and so on. It’s not easy, and you’re not going to be a millionaire, but it’s definitely possible to be a professional Magic player.
4 – Pro players will do anything to win
In my experience with Pro players, they don’t typically fit the image of the “rules lawyer” who will do anything it takes to win. I think most people’s “Pro player” experience consists of someone who is a big fish in a small pond, like a good PTQ player. In my experience, those people tend to be more annoying when they lose to someone they consider beneath them, so they go out of their way to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m not promising you take-backs at the PT, but on the whole Pros are a lot more relaxed than people tend to think they are.
3 – It’s impossible to play Magic professionally and have a real life/job
While it is true that some Pro players play a lot of Magic, I think we play a lot less than people think we do. Most Pro players have been playing Magic for a very long time, and they interact with Magic on a daily basis (talking about it, reading), but few players fit the image of a person who plays Magic for 8 hours a day. There are many Pro players who do extremely well and have full-time jobs outside of MTG (many members of Team UltraPRO are good examples).
2 – Pro players write articles to mislead people
When I say I think a card is good, it’s not because I want to hype it and sell it—I genuinely think it can be good. When I say it’s bad, it’s not because I don’t want other people playing it in the next tournament—I think it’s bad. I can be right or I can be wrong, I am human after all, but I will never lie to you in an article. If I write about my opinion, it’s always going to be my real opinion. It might change after I publish the article, but I assure you that’s what I thought when I wrote it. Some writers might purposely deceive people or hide specific information, but the great majority of us are honest (and fallible).
1 – Pro players aren’t much better than PTQ players
Most people seem to think the gap between the good PT players and the good PTQ players is not very big. This is understandable, since the best players are not going to win much more than the average players, but I don’t think it’s correct. When I watch two people play, I can tell the difference. I test with many PT regulars and people who have had a lot of success with MTG, and even among my testing group I think the difference in skill between the top and the bottom is tremendous, and that’s basically all Gold+ pros. Eric Froehlich and Yuuya Watanabe aren’t just “a bit better” than the person who won your last PTQ—they are much, much, much better. They will still make mistakes, of course—Magic is very hard—but they understand the game at a much deeper level, and over the course of many matches they will win consistently more.
Top 5 Non-Blue Favorite Cards
Last time I did this, my top 5 cards were all blue, so here are my top 5 nonblue cards:
5 – Siege Rhino
Real 5 – Dark Confidant
When you play a turn-2 Dark Confidant and your opponent doesn’t kill it, it feels like you can’t lose the game. That’s a pretty powerful effect for a 2-drop.
4 – Cabal Therapy
Cabal Therapy is a very interesting card—powerful and skill-testing. I loved the possibilities it offered, and I played The Rock for many years—because of Cabal Therapy.
3 – Wrath of God
It took me awhile to understand why Wrath of God was good when I started playing Magic, but once I learned, I never stopped appreciating this kind of effect. There are just so many decks that lose to Wrath, so I like to be the one casting it.
2 – Eternal Dragon
Eternal Dragon is such a well designed card—it’s great without being too good, and all the abilities make sense and interact with each other.
1 – Decree of Justice
I love this card and it’s my favorite card in Cube. It feels like a blue card, which is probably why I like it so much.
Top 5 Non-Magic Games
Honorable mention: Volleyball. I don’t like to play or watch many sports,Volleyball is the exception. I have a group who plays Volleyball every now and then and it’s by far my favorite physical game.
5 – Heroes of Might and Magic III
Heroes is a very interesting game that combines tactical battles, resource management, and town building. The only downside is that it sometimes feels grindy to me, especially the underground parts.
4 – Diablo II
I’ve played many hours of Diablo II. It’s still amazing to me that a game that repeats itself doesn’t get boring even the tenth time you play it (ok, some parts got boring—stupid maggot lairs—but the game overall always felt different).
3 – Bridge
Bridge is a super challenging card game that makes me feel dumb sometimes, which not many games can claim. It’s also very social and the tournaments are big events that are great to attend.
2 – League of Legends
League of Legends is just very fun. I like watching League of Legends more than I like watching anything else—even Magic.
1 – Baldur’s Gate 2
Every couple of years I start playing Baldur’s Gate 2 again and I get addicted for months before I realize I have a life to live and stop playing it. The game is Dungeon & Dragons based and extremely well designed. It’s the perfect mix of story and combat and everything in it is good. The fact that you have real choices during the quests that impact everything, as well as the possibility to play tons of different characters means the game’s replayability is through the roof, though I usually stop playing after I leave Athkatla and I make a new party to start over, because I like the beginning more.
Top 5 Worst Decks I’ve Ever Played
5 – RG Scapeshift at PT Valencia (Modern)
Scapeshift was a combo deck that was slower than all the combo decks and had no disruption, which was a recipe for disaster. Almost our entire team played it and no one did well.
4 – 5-Color Control at PT Honolulu (Block)
Our deck was 5-colors with bad mana, and the cards weren’t even better than the ones in Jund. I don’t think we had any good matchups, and some people on our team actually played Progenitus in their deck for the mirror.
3 – White Weenie at PT Yokohama (Block)
White Weenie wasn’t that bad for this PT, but it was on everyone’s radar, partially because of an MTGO tournament that had 8 White Weenie decks in the Top 8 the week before the PT. People really went to great lengths to beat the deck: my round 1 opponent played turn-1 Gemstone Caverns Blood Knight, turn-2 Sulfur Elemental killing my Soltari Priest—in game 1. My round 3 opponent played main deck Fortune Thief.
2 – BUG in Valencia (Extended)
Valencia is not a kind city to me. The first time around (when it flooded), I played a BUG deck that was in theory very good, but in practice did nothing. The whole deck was basically cantrips and air, so you kept drawing into more cantrips and lands until eventually you had only lands. I do not recommend it.
1 – Battle of Wits at GP Curitiba
A picture of me and my deck for context.
Top 5 Disney Songs
5 – “Belle Reprise,” from Beauty and the Beast
This is the best song from Beauty and the Beast to me because we get to see early on who Belle truly is and where she’s stuck. “I want much more than this provincial life” is an inspiring statement!
4 – “I’ll Make a Man out of You,” from Mulan
This song itself isn’t that great, but the scene it’s in is fantastic, which is why I like it a lot.
3 – “Once Upon A December,” from Anastasia
Anastasia is not technically Disney but I think it earns an honorary position. Anastasia is one of my favorite “Disney” movies and this song is a big reason why.
2 – “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman,” from Frozen
“Let It Go” is the most famous Frozen song, and it might be the best from a strictly objective point of view (if such a thing exists in music), but “Do you Wanna Build a Snowman” just evokes so many emotions—it’s such a sad scene and the music is perfect for it. I almost start crying every time I think of Anna knocking on that door.
1 – “Colors of the Wind,” from Pocahontas
I do not like the movie Pocahontas, but I think it has the best song—it’s strong in all the right moments.
Top 5 Magic Writers
I’m not going order these because I like them all a lot and each writer is better at different things. I’ll also refrain from including myself on the list, even though I’m awesome and all that. Also keep in mind this is current writers—I’m a big fan of Zvi and LSV, but they hardly write any more so I don’t think they qualify on a list of active writers.
• Craig Wescoe
I like Craig Wescoe because he is very comprehensive in what he writes—he will choose a topic and mention everything you can possibly think of about it, including past, present, and future ideas. He writes a lot about the same thing (white cards), but not exclusively, and at least that means he’s an authority on the subject and he knows it.
• Reid Duke
I’m not the targeted audience for most of Reid’s recent articles, but I think he did an excellent job explaining many of the game’s important concepts in his WotC column, and I think those types of articles are the hardest to write—deck list articles and tournament reports often write themselves, but to write a strategy article, I feel like you have to understand how your reader thinks, and I think Reid is one of the few people who can do that.
• Sam Black
Sam has a lot of interesting ideas and I like that he is not afraid to talk about them in articles. What I like most about him, though, is that he is always brutally honest in his opinions—if he thinks something but isn’t sure, he will make sure you know that he thinks it but isn’t sure. If he feels strongly on a subject, he will make sure you understand that. Some people tend to be sure of everything and that’s something I greatly dislike in a writer.
• Patrick Chapin
It’s absurd how much effort Chapin puts into his articles—he manages to write 5,000 words on new decks before a new set is even out, and he always has tons of deck lists in his articles, which means they are good to come back to if you need inspiration. He rarely writes raw theory, but when he does, it’s very good.
• Brian Braun-Duin
I like BBD for two reasons. The first is that he always tests a lot before a new set is even out, and he hides almost nothing—all his conclusions are out there for us. The second is that he is just a fantastic writer. He makes me laugh while I’m reading, which is not common for Magic articles. The other people on this list I read mostly for what they write, but BBD I read mostly for how he writes.
Top 5 lists That Didn’t Make the Article
- Top 5 most overrated players
- Top 5 Magic card names you can give to a child
- Top 5 savage cheaters in order of skill
- Top 5 items at Olive Garden
- Top 5 Cheons