4/4 Banned & Restricted Announcement

The day of reckoning has finally arrived, but all was not as expected with our April banned and restricted update.

The full contents of the announcement can be found on Wizards’ official site. So there was a vintage change (Lodestone Golem is now restricted), but the real changes (yes, plural!) that I want to discuss deal with modern.

  1. Eye of Ugin is banned
  2. Ancestral Vision is unbanned.
  3. Sword of the Meek is unbanned.

Yeah, so that was two changes more than I expected. While there was certainly an expectation that either Eye or Eldrazi Temple (or maybe both) would be removed, I figured we would need at least 3 months of metagame data before considering any potential unbans. The last 3 months were not a great indication of how strong/weak decks are, as the format was totally warped by the Eldrazi menace.

Eye of Ugin, Eldrazi, and Tron

The loss of Eye of Ugin is a pretty severe blow to the Eldrazi decks and also an inconvenience for Tron. Many of the most obnoxious Eldrazi decks will no longer be a thing, at least not the scary openings that involved multiple copies of Eldrazi Mimic on turn 1. In the end, however, there are a lot of good Eldrazi cards still out there, and Eldrazi Temple will help power them out a bit quicker. Before Oath of the Gatewatch was released we had a number of midrange Eldrazi decks that were viable, and I firmly believe we will continue to see those decks in the future (a sample list can be found in my Hypothetically Modern: Eldrazi post).

Tron also takes a small hit, as Eye was able to give them incredible late game inevitability against the attrition based decks in the format. Now that goes away, which is a good thing in my opinion. One of the problems that those strategies had was that Tron (varying between 2%-7% of the meta) was almost impossible to beat no matter what you did, as you just could not win the game fast enough. Eventually they would be able to use Eye to get Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and then it was soon going to be all over.

Ancestral Vision: A Blue Mages Best Friend?

Ancestral Vision is a great card at keeping your hand full of answers for a reactive deck, so long as you can actually make it to the payoff. It’s not nearly as powerful as Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time, and it is currently very difficult to “cheat” the suspend (Goblin Dark-Dwellers anyone?). A lot of mages are going to be sleeving this card up in the near future, I can guarantee that. The biggest question is: in what kind of deck? Jeskai was the main “go to” deck for control back in the day, utilizing the power of Snapcaster Mage and Cryptic Command to control games, and using burn to finish the opponent. Now, with a means of refilling the hand, the deck will certainly be stronger. Grixis is another control deck that saw a fair amount of play over the past year, and is another prime candidate for good use.

What of Esper and Sultai though? Esper suffers from the same problems it always has: poor answer cards compared to the decks playing . Path to Exile is very good, but against the really aggressive decks you very much will miss access to Lightning Bolt, and sadly the best 2 mana removal spell also requires (Terminate). Sultai falls into a similar boat in that it’s answers are less powerful, but it can leverage the power of Tarmogoyf to possible make up for it. Temur decks are unlikely to be seen, as it’s a poor color combination for control decks. It is possible that Scapeshift will toy around with it, but I find it highly unlikely that it will see much play in the Bring to Light versions that I have been championing recently (at least not as a four of, a 1 of to draw 3 off a Bring to Light may be convenient though….)

Thopters for Days

The biggest issue I have with Sword of the Meek right now is trying to find the best shell to play it in. The go to seems to be jamming it into Lantern Control to give the deck a “real” win condition as well as additional power against aggressive decks. Other options include just including it in control decks (perhaps with Muddle the Mixtures to help snag it when necessary), decks including Tezzeret (either/both versions), or possibly Tron could make good use of it.

One bit of advice that I would have: if you plan to play this combo deck, you should probably look to pick up Ensnaring Bridges sooner rather than later. Bridge synergizes so well with what you are trying to do while also shutting down a number of other decks at the same time that it just makes sense to play it. I think the only place it has to go is up, unless a reprint comes in the near future (MM2017, assuming it’s a thing?).

Todays Big Losers

Todays biggest losers include….

  • Eldrazi! Current iterations of the deck lose out on their super explosive starts, Eye of Ugin will potentially crash in price again (unless Legacy props it up?), and it’s uncertain how the rest of the deck will retain value going forward.
  • Ulamog, the Ceasless Hunger! Even if midrange Eldrazi decks become a big thing again you will likely see less of this guy in them AND possibly in Tron. The big guns for Eldrazi will likely move more towards Endbringer or World Breaker.
  • Affinity! Bet you didn’t see this one coming. With Sword of the Meek being one of the “hot new cards” in the format you can bet that artifact hate will be at an all time high for a few weeks. People will metagame against the probable increased metagame share of decks like Lantern Control / Tezzerator by bringing even more artifact hate.

Today’s Big Winners

  • Jund! Many people think that the format is going to slow down a fair bit with the removal of the current Eldrazi decks. Jund has great answers to decks that will likely see a raise in their metagame shares. Liliana of the Veil still punishes decks really hard, and the combo of Abrupt Decay and Kolaghan’s Command will help shutdown Affinity and Sword of the Meek decks.
  • Blue decks! They finally got new toys after constantly having their toys taken away. There are tons of options right now for blue decks and it will take quite some time to actually figure out what builds are optimal. I actually think that today’s announcement has done more to shake up the meta than the last one, and that’s not even counting the Eldrazi aspect of it.
  • Eldrazi! I bet you really didn’t see this one coming. Many people will count Eldrazi as a deck that is no longer viable, but I firmly believe it will still be a very strong midrange deck. It has favorable matchups against the other “fair” midrange decks, processors can eat a suspended Ancestral Vision, Cavern of Souls is one of the best lands for them now making blue decks cry, and they have plenty of options to build decks that can deal with whatever the popular decks become.

Chris Wendelboe

Chris is a level 2 judge from Ashland, New Hampshire. He enjoys Scapeshift, modern, and putting on the best events possible.