Modern Thoughts: Ancestral Vision
I’d like to go over some thoughts on another one of Modern’s banned cards, again one that has sat on the list since the inception of the format.
Once again I’d like to lead off with the reasoning given when Modern was first being announced, which can be found here:
“The last Modern-legal card that has been making a huge splash in Legacy control decks is Ancestral Vision. While not every Jace, the Mind Sculptor deck in Legacy plays Ancestral Vision, a great many of them do. The combination of Ancestral Vision, Spell Snare, and other counterspells lets control decks draw cards very cheaply without getting behind early on, and that’s powerful enough that we feel safer having it banned.”
The first thing to point out is that Legacy then must have been very different than it is now. I did a search over on mtggoldfish.com for decks that used Ancestral Vision and only came up with Shardless BUG. So it seems the only time the spell is worth casting is when you have the chance to cascade into it, which isn’t a concern in modern. The next point that most people would bring up is that we’ve already tried the whole draw 3 cards for thing and it didn’t go over so well, with that card getting banned pretty quickly. I feel that comparing Ancestral Vision to Treasure Cruise straight up is a flat out terrible idea. Cruise, in the decks designed to abuse it, was super good to have at any point in the game. Even in your opening hand you would be dumping cards into your graveyard fast enough to make a turn 2 or 3 draw 3 happen, and drawing one later was still just as amazing. The same can not be said for Vision, where you really want it in your opening hand but it’s a pretty lackluster topdeck once you’re a few turns into the game.
The next point of debate is in regards to what types of decks would even want the card. Unlike the argument for removing Dark Depths from the list, Vision won’t spawn any new decks. It would simply enhance the current archetypes, or it would do nothing at all competitively. Any of the fast, linear combo decks that include blue would likely be happier with card selection tools, rather than card quantity tools. A prime example of this is Amulet Bloom or even Splinter Twin. Some versions of Twin may find the card interesting, but it’s pretty lackluster compared to Serum Visions when talking about the primary objective of the deck. The only case where Vision becomes better is when you expect the game to go very long, which is mostly just against other blue decks and I would imagine it would be a sideboard card for those cases. Tempo decks are possibly interested in the card, but it’s also likely that they would rather abuse the potential one-sided aspect of emptying their hand early and then casting Day’s Undoing. Again, there are some Delver variants that might be interested in Vision, but how poor it is for the deck to draw beyond the first few turns, not to mention they want to be using their mana on the first few turns to play a threat and then protect it. Control decks are the ones that have the most to gain if Vision was allowed into the format, and to be honest most of them could use the shot in the arm. These are decks that, due to their reactive nature, need to have card quantity to really compete with the proactive strategies in the format, and is something they have been lacking.
Having just finished establishing that control decks would gain the most from the addition of Vision, we now need to see if this poses any problems with increasing the meta share of any current decks. At the time of me writing this, as listed on mtggoldfish, Grixis Control is sitting at close to 15% of the meta. The strength of this deck is the ability to power out an early threat and then control the game, or recur the threat with Kolaghan’s Command, and I feel it plays much more like a traditional tempo deck than control. The threats, being all delve creatures, also require quite a bit of work to fuel early, which makes the card quantity and the fact you must wait multiple turns in order to get your payoff makes me think that Vision is not a card that Grixis Control would even use extensively, maybe 2 copies in the 75.
Jeskai Control, however, I feel would make optimal use of Vision. Currently sitting at about 2% of the meta, Jeskai relies on spells like Sphinx’s Revelation, Think Twice, and Anticipate to continue to cycle through the deck and overpower the opponent with card quantity. Nobody would say that any of these card draw spells are particularly fast, so the waiting for 4 turns in order to draw wouldn’t be a huge problem for Jeskai. They also don’t have a ton of turn one plays either, meaning the opportunity cost of suspending Vision on turn 1 is very low compared to Grixis.
The other deck that I would want to try Vision in, at least for testing purposes, is Scapeshift. As a longtime player of the deck I’ve come to realize that you need to draw a lot of cards in order to consistently win. Not only does the quantity matter as far as making sure you hit your lands drops, but also making sure you draw the deck’s signature card. Often I will exhaust most of my hand early ramping and controlling the game, and then a refill would be pretty ideal. I’m not sure that it would be better than just playing Think Twice however, because, unlike Jeskai, the ability to cast Serum Visions or suspend Search for Tomorrow on turn 1 is super important.
I feel that removing Ancestral Vision from the banned list would have little impact on the format. Decks that already have very important early plays would be unlikely to incorporate the card heavily and combo decks would be more interested in card selection than waiting for quantity. While Vision would likely show up more than some of the other unbanned cards, it certainly would not be as format warping as Wizards first feared.