January 18, 2016

Image Credit:

What happens after the Twin and Bloom bans?

Modern players were given an unexpected surprise after it was revealed 2 days early that Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom were banned.

To summarize the rationale from Wizards of the Coast:

  • Bloom Titan was winning too consistently, too early.
  • Twin was stifling diversity and putting up tournament results that were too consistent.

Whether we like the ban or not, it’s here to stay, at least until the next announcement. So what happens with the meta and the players now? These are my predictions.

Meta

Twin and Bloom Titan together accounted for about 15% of the meta. That is hugely significant because not only is that a lot, it is half of all combo players (according to mtgtop8.com). You can expect rippling effects to happen as a result:

Already-good decks get better

Without having to worry about Twin and Bloom Titan, top decks will now see a bump up in meta share. This includes decks with removal-light mainboards like Affinity, Burn, and Tron. After all, Twin and Bloom Titan decks accounted for 15% of the meta and that share needs to be redistributed somewhere, either to other decks or new decks. I suspect it’ll be the former. With that, I also suspect Tier 1 decks will also be commanding higher prices. (Voice of Resurgence seems like the first to skyrocket after the ban.)

  • Winners: Non-interactive and unfair decks
  • Losers: Fair interactive decks (ex.: Jund, Junk), the wallets of those that want a top tier deck but don’t already have one

More hate versus top tier decks

With sideboards (and some mainboards) shedding their Bloom- and Twin-specific hate, decks will find themselves with extra slots in their 75. Suddenly, there’s a lot less need for Rending Volley, Slaughter Pact, Torpor Orb, Choke, etc. so there’s more room for other goodies. Those goodies will probably mean extra hate versus top tier decks.

However, if players take out some of their hate, it may have positive effects on other decks. One example: several decks (Tron, Affinity and Infect to name a few) run Spellskite in their mainboard for numerous purposes, and one of those was to prevent Splinter Twin from enchanting enemy Deceiver Exarchs. Spellskite happens to also catch other decks in its cross-fire (ex.: Infect and Boggles). Since I think we’ll be seeing less Spellskites, those decks will have easier pre-board games.

  • Winners: Infect, Boggles, Tier 2+ decks
  • Losers: The new top tier decks (likely Tron, Affinity and Burn)

Playing into open mana

Players will no longer need to hold up mana versus an enemy Amulet of Vigor starting Turn 1. And unless Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker becomes the de facto replacement for Splinter Twin (Alex Wolf will have something to say about that tomorrow), most players can breathe a little easier tapping out on their turn against a URx player with three open mana. Unfortunately, that means URx decks can no longer threaten the combo, whether they have it or not.

UREven decks without the combo With the potential that a few control shells will make their way to T1, there’s no need to worry whether they’re a Twin deck or a control deck.

The sound you hear is the squeal of thousands of members of #teamgeist.

  • Winners: 3+CMC spells, sorcery-speed decks, aggro decks that don’t normally hold up removal
  • Losers: URx (control or combo) trying to bluff the combo

Less Blood Moon

Those praying for a Blood Moon ban, your wish was (almost fully) granted. URx Twin was the primary Blood Moon carrier and with its fate almost sealed, you’ll definitely see less of it.

There are talks of Blue/Temur/Jeskai/etc. Moon control variants, but I will believe it when I see it. For now, enjoy your Urza’s Tower, Eldrazi Temple and hilariously greedy mana bases.

  • Winners: Tron, Eldrazi, greedy mana bases, budget decks with off-colour fetches
  • Losers: Decks already getting crushed by big mana decks

Having a lot of life is better

Not the most noteworthy difference, but players focusing on a lot of (or infinite) life will be happy to know two of the few “outs” are leaving the format:

While there still are some outs (ex.: infect, mill, game reset), you’ll be seeing them a lot less overall.

  • Winners: Collected Chord, Soul Sisters
  • Losers: “Fair” decks

Innovation in deckbuilding

One of the messages Wizards of the Coast communicated in their announcement was that Splinter Twin hurt deck diversity. I do not think this is the case.

Innovations in control/snapcaster-esque decks were not stifled because Twin is better. The decks I suspect they’re referring to (URx Delver or classic Control) actually just aren’t that good right now. No amount of bans will make them better against a non-Twin field. Saying Twin was holding back Delver or classic Control is a lot like saying Tron is holding back Eldrazi. They can co-exist as they’re entirely different decks with entirely different match-ups.

  • Winners: Those already owning a Tier 1 deck who will see their portfolio rise in value
  • Losers: Brewers

Moving on

Splinter Twin and Bloom Titan players are not the first to have their decks banned from underneath them. Though wounds of Birthing Pod and Treasure Cruise players are still healing, they have managed to move onto different, but likely similar, decks. Here’s what I think will happen with Bloom Titan and Twin players:

Former Bloom Titan players

Some Bloom Titan players may try bumping the Azusa, Lost but Seeking count and potentially trying substitutes like Explore but I suspect those efforts will be in vain. Unfortunately, they will have to move on.

Though no one could argue Bloom Titan wasn’t unique, it does share similarities with other decks. My best guess on where they go next will depend on what the player enjoyed most about the deck.

  • In a different approach to ramping, Titanshift or RG Breach have a linear approach to beating down opponents with Primeval Titan and bolting them to death with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.
  • Ad Nauseam shares a few expensive cards with Bloom Titan and has a similar feeling of trying to assemble a puzzle.
  • If the player enjoyed playing a deck known for its explosiveness and uniqueness, Instant Reanimator may be the next choice, though the decks share few cards.

Former Twin players

Between Twin and Bloom players, Twin players are the luckiest. Apart from the now defunct Splinter Twin, the rest of the cards in their deck are fairly versatile and fit into several shells.

We saw UR Delver players (featuring Treasure Cruise) migrate to Twin and now it’s time for Twin players to find a new deck. There are several options. In the higher tiers, we have:

  • Grixis Control
  • Scapeshift

In the lower tiers:

  • URx Delver
  • UWx Control
  • Kiki Control-Combo

Of those, I think Scapeshift or Kiki Control-Combo are the closest to the current iteration of Twin. Both feature a Plan A and Plan B where one plan is combo and the other is beatdown.

Summary

Something really, really big is happening. While I’m trying my best to predict the deeper repercussions of it, I’ve only scratched the surface. I suspect the meta will change several times before we reach the Modern Pro Tour and we’ll have to see what we can do to keep up in the meantime.