Thinking Creatively to Improve Modern

Thinking Creatively to Improve Modern

Today I’ll talk about how to improve my favorite format. Now don’t get me wrong, Modern is in a good state at the moment, but I always look to improve even functional things. I’m not settling for a good format. I want the best format!

So far, we’ve known two ways of adjusting the format: bannings and unbannings. While I think we should definitely continue to look into both of these options every three months, I have a third suggestion later on in the article.

Would banning one or more cards improve Modern?

I actually applaud the DCI on each and every change they made in Modern, from the unbannings of Wild Nacatl, Bitterblossom and Ancestral Vision to the bannings of Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, Summer Bloom, Gitaxian Probe and Eye of Ugin. They bring out the ban hammer when a deck is too dominant, kills too fast on a consistent basis and when a card is making similar archetypes irrelevant and just inferior. When they unban cards, they try to breath life into tier 3 archetypes and make even more cards playable. This is why there are 20+ playable archetypes in Modern today, and why it’s the most popular constructed format by far.

Living on the edge

Death’s Shadow, or maybe Street Wraith if you just want to make the archetype worse instead of killing it, has been flirting with the DCI ban hammer for quite some time. At first it made people do some crazy things like playing with Condemn and Engineered Explosives in their main deck, which reminded me of the Affinity times in Standard where artifact removal were present in main decks because Affinity was such a big part of the metagame. However, time has showed that Modern players are smart and started playing archetypes that actually matchup up well with Death’s Shadow instead of playing narrow cards that only really shine vs. said matchup. The result is a super healthy metagame where Death’s Shadow is just a good deck. Big thumbs up to the DCI for letting the players figure it out and being patient. No bannings needed.

Would unbanning one or more cards improve Modern?

Looking at the banned cards for Modern and considering setting one or more free, my criteria is that it should improve or create one or more decks. Therefor unbanning a card like Umezawa’s Jitte or Punishing Fire is not an option, as both of them will kill off creature-based decks and not create any new decks. Splinter Twin got banned because it made non-Splinter Twin blue decks irrelevant in the format, so that’s off the table as well. I want an even bigger format with even more good options. If I want to play a relatively small and defined format with 5-6 decks to metagame for, I will play Standard or Vintage. Modern is the king of diversity!

Time for a comeback?

One of the options is unbanning Bloodbraid Elf. The card is obviously great and would boost Jund Midrange back to tier 1 status, but this is not a bad thing at all. Abzan Midrange, Abzan Delirium and Jund Midrange alongside the various Death’s Shadow variants can easily co-exist in a healthy metagame. If the number of decks with Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize increases, we will most likely see decks like Tron, Eldrazi (Bant or Tron version) and R/G Valakut rise in popularity, all decks which are somewhat weak to combo, and that would make a very interesting rock/paper/scissors metagame with the usual suspects of Burn, Collected Company decks, Affinity and Control on the side. I would be super excited if Bloodbraid Elf gets reintroduced to the format. Please sound off in the comments if you want to make the case for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Green Sun’s Zenith or something else (if you’re a crazy person).

The natural step

Wizards already introduced this method themselves, so this is not super innovative on my part. With the various Commander and Conspiracy releases, they’ve made it possible to inject cards into Legacy and Vintage without those cards having to pass Standard first, and this is the greatest idea ever! From Leovold, Emmisary of Trest to Dack Fayden to True-Name Nemesis, I love the concept and see no reason why they shouldn’t implement it on Modern also. It could be via event decks or a “Masters” set (they need a new name for this obviously) and we could get some new (old) toys to play around with in Modern. Let me list a few favorites of mine off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many more!

I’ve wanted to boost control in Modern for a long time, and Ancestral Vision clearly wasn’t quite enough. Having access to Fact or Fiction with its best buddy Snapcaster Mage (Snapcardster, pun intended) could push control right back into tier 1 status where it belongs. It still costs 4 mana in a world of proactive decks, but being very good against black-based decks will make it relevant.

Good ol’ Counterspell. The answers in Modern are kind of narrow, and this is a huge reason why building a successful control deck is so hard. Having access to Counterspell would definitely make heavy blue decks more viable, but I’m unsure if Counterspell and Fact or Fiction are a bit too much.

This is a bit more controversial, but I decided to include it anyway. The red part of this card will shine vs. mana and utility creatures, while the blue part will buy you time targeting a land in the early game and a big creature in the late game. This might be too flexible for a cantrip card because stealing a turn from Tron while cantripping is a very powerful thing to do.

Cunning Wish would boost Ad Nauseam‘s consistency in a new metagame where you’re being attacked even more by discard spells. Having both combo pieces, Angel’s Grace and Ad Nauseam, plus some generic bullets like a 4th Pact of Negation and Echoing Truth in your sideboard, will make the deck stay relevant in 2018. The card is too slow to play in Control, so this is solely a combo consistency card.

Oh yeah, that’s right! Sylvan Library is a card selection/advantage engine that comes with a serious cost, especially in a format of shocklands instead of painless duals. However, when blue gets buffed with a card like Fact or Fiction, having some green tools to fight on the card advantage axis in a matchup where lifetotals aren’t super important, is very natural. I think Sylvan Library would be a great card in Midrange and Control matchups without being too good.

P. Diddy is also kind of controversial, but I think it’s fine in the end because of its speed or lack there of. It has obvious synergy with ramp cards and planeswalkers in big mana strategies and could potentially spawn a new deck that needed a good universal answer to opposing board state decks that is not embarrasing to maindeck. I don’t think the presence of Pernicious Deed makes people stop playing with non land permanents.

Maybe a two drop that puts you firmly in the driver seat when you untap with it is too good for Modern. Wrong! We already have Dark Confidant and Steel Overseer that do exactly that, and those cards are super well balanced and fair. I would be interested in seeing what role (if any) Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary would play in Modern. The upside of untapping with him will be too huge to pass up for the average green brewer.

That’s it for today, but since this subject is so deep, I only scratched the surface. Which cards do you want to see get injected in Modern? Let me know in the comments below!

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