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December 15, 2016

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Next Level Analysis – Fixing the Modern Banned List

Hello and welcome to this week’s version of Next Level Analysis. Each week we take a deeper look into the latest decks and the cards performing best in them. Each week the goal is to pick up a new strategy or idea that can help you take your game to the next level either at your local card shop or at a large tournament. The past few days I have seen many people talking about the modern banned list online. Typically, everyone is saying how this should be banned for reason “x”. However, here at Next Level Analysis we are going to consider what could be unbanned and keep the modern format nice and balanced. There are currently 33 cards banned from modern play. Some of these cards deserve to be banned however some could make the format interesting again.

In the past few years we have seen the unbanning of Ancestral Vision, Bitterblossom and Wild Nacatl without any of these onetime format changing cards redefying the modern meta. The last couple banned list updates have left the format with creature heavy decks and with a few combo decks here and there. I will not be predicting or speculating on any unbanning, rather I will just be providing my opinion on how each card would affect the format in its current state. So without further ado let’s look at the cards that currently are banned in modern and see if the ban is still needed.

Let’s start with the artifact lands from Mirrodin. Ravager Affinity still can be seen as one of the most powerful standard decks of all time. Arcbound Ravager is a very powerful card on its own, however if modern affinity had access to lands that could also be sacrificed and make the colour mana they needed it would gain a very unfair advantage. Let’s face it we already hate Cranial Plating enough as it is. Why add more fuel to the fire?

Ancient Den: Final Ruling – Stay Banned
Great Furnace: Final Ruling – Stay Banned
Seat of the Synod: Final Ruling – Stay Banned
Tree of Tales: Final Ruling – Stay Banned
Vault of Whispers: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

Now I may be bias as I played Birthing Pod for over a year. This deck was very powerful and not only could combo off very early in the game but it also had all the answers you needed to deal with whatever your opponent was playing. Many people saw this banning coming and even those who played the deck cannot argue, the deck was overpowered at the time and probably to this day still would be in the current meta. This is just the first of many combo cards that probably should stay banned on this list.

Birthing Pod: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

Can we agree infect is fine just the way it is? Exiling something similar to Ember Shot, any high costing red spell on turn 2, it could be lethal? Modern would not be a fun format at all. With Blazing Shoal unbanned, infect would just take over the modern meta even more than it currently is.

Blazing Shoal: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

One of the most iconic cards when you think of the modern banned list is none other than Bloodbraid Elf. So, the question is raised just how overpowered is this card today? Some Jund players have started to play Grim Flayer to manipulate the top of the library to avoid extra damage from Dark Confidant. This same strategy could be used to determine what card you want to cascade into with Bloodbraid Elf. I just talked myself into wanting to play this exact idea in modern so in my eyes this card needs to be unbanned.

Bloodbraid Elf: Final Ruling – Please Unban

Yes, Chrome Mox is powerful but is it really that overpowered. You gain an additional mana source at the cost of another card from your hand. With the artifact hate that sees play in the current meta I think this card could easily be unbanned. With many decks playing Kolaghan’s Command it almost is a 3 for 1 when you make them discard another card along with the one they exiled earlier upon cast.

Chrome Mox: Final Ruling – Please Unban

The 12 post combo can create massive amounts of mana and this could be devastating in modern. Combined with Vesuva, Cloudpost is just too strong. Eldrazi still aren’t any fun even if they are hard cast in modern. For this reason, I do not believe we will see an unbanning of Cloudpost any time soon.

Cloudpost: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

Legacy Lands is successful due to access to Crop Rotation, however in modern the Dark Depths combo would require more work. I think that we could possibly unban this card if we banned either Thespian’s Stage or Vampire Hexmage. Still we are probably safest leaving things the way they are with neither of the cards that interact with Dark Depths seeing much if any play in the current modern meta.

Dark Depths: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

I think it is safe to say that we probably will never see Deathrite Shaman in modern again. The card was just too powerful as a 1 drop. Being able to cast a turn two Liliana of the Veil is just not fair not to mention the other two abilities that Deathrite Shaman has. As much as we all love him, we will have to keep playing him in Legacy and Vintage and just remember the good ol’ days when he was legal in modern.

Deathrite Shaman: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

These cards were banned very quickly and very rightfully so. Being able to draw three cards for 1 blue mana… what is this Vintage? Delve is a very powerful mechanic and these cards took the power limit to a whole new level. Everyone wanted to play blue at this time and you were rewarded if you did.

Dig Through Time: Final Ruling – Stay banned
Treasure Cruise: Final Ruling – Stay banned

With many people complaining that Goryo’s Vengeance is overpowered, it’s hard to believe that we could unban another card that allows us to cheat creatures such as Griselbrand into play. However, this card may not be as powerful in the current meta with it being a sorcery. Dread Return lets us bring back a creature but at 4 mana. That is a little pricy in modern. I think this is a viable option for unbanning.

Dread Return: Final Ruling – Please Unban

The Eldrazi winter needed to come to an end. The banning of Eye of Ugin was no surprise as the deck was just destroying anything in its path. We went from what dies grows the Tarmogoyf to what dies probably died to the Eldrazi. The deck still puts up some results after the banning but it is much more balanced after the banning.

Eye of Ugin: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

A green draw spell, this must be banned! In decks such as elves this card is just overpowered. I don’t see this card being allowed in modern any time soon. At a 1 drop this card was just too good. Sorry for the spoiler, 1 drop draw spells are too good for modern, sorry Treasure Cruise.

Glimpse of Nature: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

Being able to go get any green creature in your deck that you need seems very powerful. Especially when you can even get a Dryad Arbor on turn one and put it into play. Spells that give you extra mana by turn two are typically overpowered in modern. So based on this example alone Green Sun’s Zenith needs to stay banned in modern.

Green Sun’s Zenith: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

Another way to cheat Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play, I’m fine with this, modern not so much. If this was legal in modern, we could benefit from cascade allowing us to cast Hypergenesis and then put out big threats into play. This card is just too scary to unban.

Hypergenesis: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

There are many people who would argue that this is the best of the best when it comes to planeswalkers. I would agree that he is great, not far ahead of Chandra, Torch of Defiance. If you have been following my articles you know by now that I have some odd relationship with Chandra, Torch of Defiance. So, if Jace, the Mind Sculptor was unbanned it would see play. However, I am unsure if it would change the format. This could be interested to see. Control players would make room by removing other filler spells for the card advantage of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but, I don’t think you automatically lose when it hits the field across from you. Jace, the Mind Sculptor only made the list due to the number of players who included him in deck lists. I think this card could be unbanned to shake up the format.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor: Final Ruling – Please Unban

How can you argue that one of the most played cards in vintage should be legal in modern? Simple, there are a lot less 1 drops in modern. Mental Misstep is powerful however in modern it can be situational. With it in your hand late game you may not ever find a target for it. With this in mind, I think we could unban Mental Misstep to join Spell Snare in modern.

Mental Misstep: Final Ruling – Please Unban

Control and combo have been falling off the map after the banning of Splinter Twin. Without Twin being able to keep fair decks in line, blue has not been as powerful as it once was. These cards are great cantrips that would allow both control and combo a much needed boost to help combat the fast decks of the format such as Junk, Junk and Affinity. I don’t think they will ever unban both options, just one, and my opinion is that the more fair choice is Preordain, which gives us a much better option than Serum Visions. Ponder just might be too powerful for modern at this time with its interactions with fetch lands and letting combo decks get too much value with choosing 1 of 3 cards to draw compared to Sleight of Hand where you only get one and lose the other option to the bottom of the library.

Ponder: Final Ruling – Stay banned
Preordain: Final Ruling – Please Unban

This is another card that I don’t believe win’s games on its own. This could be interesting to watch with modern and its current meta. Jund already has all of its land spots being taken up, so it would be hard to make room for Grove of the Burnwillows to get the most value off Punishing Fire. I think players would try to make this work in multiple decks, but I don’t think it would have a huge impact of the meta in the long run.

Punishing Fire: Final Ruling – Please Unban

Modern storm is kind of a glass cannon and has put up very few results as of late. Unbanning Rite of Flame and Seething Song may be just what the deck needs to get back to its prime. Neither one of these cards single handedly wins the game. I think that these cards could be safe to unban with the current positioning of Storm in modern meta.

Rite of Flame: Final Ruling – Please Unban
Seething Song: Final Ruling – Please Unban

As much as the writer of Budget Brews would like to see this card unbanned we do not need the slowest deck to ever win a Pro Tour, back in modern. A combo should not take 30+ minutes to pull off and still possibly fail. I don’t think we need to say much more about Second Sunrise.

Second Sunrise: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

There has been talks of banning Sensei’s Divining Top in legacy do to the time put in by players by adjusting the order of the library every turn with Sensei’s Divining Top. This causes many games to go to turns and leads to some unfair games as well. I do not think that we would enjoy the modern format with this added issue. It’s bad enough having to deal with it in one format already.

Sensei’s Divining Top: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

Skullclamp was banned because drawing cards for just 1 colourless mana is too powerful. This reason would still be viewed as valid today. Any deck that plays small creatures could take advantage of this draw engine and easily take over the game. For this reason, I do not believe we will ever see Skullclamp in modern.

Skullclamp: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

I did not see the banning of Splinter Twin coming. I loved the deck and to this day still miss playing it. The deck was not overpowered or dominating the format. Without a good explanation for the banning, players still are left wondering when we will be able to combo off again.

Splinter Twin: Final Ruling – Please Unban

These two cards synergise very well together. I don’t think that we will ever see them both in modern together. If we had to pick the lesser of two evils to unban it would be Stoneforge Mystic, as it requires the right deck to be played in. However, Umezawa’s Jitte could be played in almost any creature deck as we see in legacy where even Jund takes advantage of this powerful card. Still I do not see either of these cards becoming unbanned in the near future.

Stoneforge Mystic: Final Ruling – Stay Banned
Umezawa’s Jitte: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

This is another deck that could just auto-win in the right matchups. Many players hated playing against Bloom Titan and the banning was not a Shock. Since the banning, players have tried to increase the number of Azusa, Lost but Seeking, but, have been unable to put up the same results as the Summer Bloom version did.

Summer Bloom: Final Ruling – Stay Banned

When it’s all said and done we could safely unban 9 of the cards on this list and not devastate the modern format as we know it. I am hoping that this next ban announcement brings some change to the modern format as it beginning to become stagnant. My opinion is to unban all cards for one season and we will see what cards become the most powerful and then re-ban what is needed to fix the format. The only way to see what is overpowered now is to let people play it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article and all of the other great ones that can be found on MTG Canada. Until next time, best of luck in taking your game to the next level. I also would love to hear from you whether it be feedback on my article of a list that you would like me to look into. Please leave a comment letting us know which cards you would like to see banned or unbanned this next ban season. You can send any questions or feedback to and I will get back to you as soon as possible.