9/26 Updates

I’m sure we’ve all seen the standard “no changes” update from this past Monday. This news was unsurprising yet saddening. Plus some minor MTR and IPG changes.

Banned and Restricted Update

Once again we have a month of no changes. I’m not terribly surprised by this, as I figured it highly unlikely they would change something in the middle of modern PPTQ season. Not to mention that the format is very healthy right now, though some would argue that it is a bit too linear. None of the decks break any of the rules of the format to the point that they would need to be taken under consideration for a ban, either. I find it much more likely that we will see some form of change come January, and it’s really just a question of what could potentially come off the ban list at that point (plus any changes to the format from the inclusion of Kaladesh, though I expect that to be fairly minimal).

The most popular options for an unban, based on discussions I’ve had, are also likely the most logical. If something comes out, it needs to not be a tool for linear decks to do their thing faster or more consistently. The most sensible thing would be to take something off that would help the “fair” decks: which basically boils down to Punishing Fire, Stoneforge Mystic, Bloodbraid Elf, or Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

  • Punishing Fire is the least likely option here. It adds a ton of board control to give fair decks a chance against small creature decks (Affinity, Infect, maybe Fish) as well as giving them inevitability. However, this card was banned because it basically made creature decks irrelevant. And that’s only if you include it in fair decks only, there were also Pyromancer Ascenion decks that abused this card to great effect.
  • Stoneforge Mystic is the card I’m hoping for out of this list. The truth is that a turn 3 Batterskull isn’t that impressive in this format. Most of the linear decks won’t care all that much, and you will need to worry about stopping them early on before you get to play your Mystic and turn the corner. What it does do is allow you to turn that corner much more quickly than many /x decks have been able to in the past (with the exception of Abzan).
  • Bloodbraid Elf is fine. Yes, the card is very good at four mana, but it wasn’t the ban that Jund needed at the time (looking at you Deathrite Shaman). It also seems crazy that this card is banned when Collected Company seems to similar in concept. Yes, Company puts some pretty hefty deck building limitations on you, but BBE has the possibility of cascading into a “miss” much more frequently than Company does. BBE into Thoughtseize is often no good, and at times cascading into removal is irrelevant.
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a great tool for fair decks to compete with other fair decks. The biggest problem is that if you can land Jace and protect it for the one turn, chances are you can leverage him into such a huge advantage against those fair decks that it will be hard to lose. Against the unfair decks it’s really just some card selection, or tapping out at 4 mana and then just dying. Plus there’s the very real possibility that they want to keep Brainstorm style effects out of the format entirely.

While all four of these options help out the fair decks in the format, the big issue is that none of them really seem to help those fair decks against the unfair decks (with the exception of Punishing Fire). None of these interact with a super fast Primeval Titan, or Goryo’s Vengeance, or any of the spell based “combo” decks like Scapeshift or Ad Nauseam. I certainly don’t think that’s a reason to not unban something from this list, but I’m not sure it will do a whole lot to shake up the complaint that there are too many linear deck options.

That’s not even counting any of the other “safe” unbans that would primarily find their way into linear decks. I’ve always been a fan of the idea of unbanning Dark Depths, but it would almost exclusively fit into a turbo-Depths deck that tries to get Marit Lage on turn 2 or 3 for a turn 3 or 4 kill. The artifact lands likewise would mostly show up in Robots, despite potentially making Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas playable.

I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what happens come January.

Policy Changes

Not a whole lot on the policy change front. The biggest thing that people have been talking about is the addition of text concerning pile shuffling. The MTR (Magic Tournament Rules) now states that you may pile shuffle at most once per randomization. Many people do not actually like the words used in this, however, as the intent behind a “pile shuffle” is to actually count your cards. It is not intended as a shuffle, even though it does a small bit to randomize the deck. The truth of the matter is that if you intend to pile count (yes, that is the correct term for it) then you should do that once prior to each game, but there’s (almost) no reason to do it later than that. This lets you start randomizing after sideboarding and lets you count to make sure your deck is legal in an efficient manner. There is some argument that at times, while shuffling, it makes sense to pile count as well if you are concerned about the number of cards left in your library. Outside of this, and potentially some rare instances that I haven’t considered, please please do not pile count in the middle of the game as it’s an inefficient method of randomizing compared to riffle shuffling or mash shuffling.

On to some relevant things in the IPG (Infraction Procedure Guide):

  • Triggers are now explicitly the responsibility of the controller of a turn. This means that if I take control of my opponent’s turn, I’m expected to remember their triggers. This hadn’t been spelled out in policy until now.
  • Also in regards to triggers: when a trigger with a default choice is missed, we no longer just take the default action. We ask the opponent if they would like the default action to happen, or to skip it entirely. The reason for this change is Fabricate is worded in such a way that the default choice is to make 1/1s, and in the case of a missed trigger it had no consequence to just “well, make some servos as that’s the default”. Yes, this means that most of the time your Slaughter Pact trigger that you forgot about will result in you losing the game. Though now your opponent does have the option to let you keep playing (though, ironically, it doesn’t force you to tap the mana).
  • Last but not least, there was a change to HCE (Hidden Card Error, the replacement to Drawing Extra Cards). As many may know, the fix for HCE was to get rid of excess cards that would be shuffled back into the library. Now, if the offender knew the identity of those cards, they would be returned to where they were prior. For example: I activate a Sensei’s Diving Top, put the 3 cards back on top, and then activate it and draw 2 cards. Before my opponent would pick a card that would be shuffled into the library. Now, however, they would pick one card that would be put on top of the library (as I knew the identity of the top 3 cards prior to the draw that caused the error). This probably won’t come up all that often, but who knows.

Is Post-Modern a thing?

In news from across the Pacifica: Hareruya and BigMagic have started running events in a new format that they are calling “Frontier” (though I have hard it called “Post Modern”). The basic idea is that it’s a non-rotating format like Modern, with a starting point of M15 (the set where the new, holostamp card frame started). The idea is that this solves some of the issues with Modern (price to enter, hoser cards being too good, sideboard cards being too important, super degenerate decks) while also better handling some of the reasons Modern was created as a format (mostly the idea of porting Standard decks into the format, which you just cannot do with Modern). This is a format that I’ve been excited to try for a while now, mostly because it sounds like it could be fun and it seems much more accessible for the masses.

The downside? The mana bases are too awkward without the full cycle of fetchlands and fetchable dual lands. There’s potentially not enough incentive to not just run 3-4 color good stuff decks all the time. The real question is: can aggressive decks punish the good stuff decks effectively for durdling to assemble the mana base to play Mantis Rider, Siege Rhino, and Crackling Doom all in the same deck?

I think the best way to answer these questions is to try the format out some time. Perhaps I’ll build a deck soon that I can play with people between rounds when I’m at Double Midnight….

Chris Wendelboe

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