Mason takes a look at the state of the Modern format, and asks a tricky question – does Modern need a ban, and if so, what?
Modern is at an interesting point right now. We are one year out from the release of Modern Horizons 2 and the format looks nothing like it did before the release or even after the first few weeks. Some decks like Murktide, Rhino’s and Hammer were quickly found but some decks like Four Color, Living End, and Time Sieve combo have all taken some time to solidify and find their spot in the meta.
As all metagames do Modern has congealed around a few decks. This time that deck is one that traditional sideboard plans just can’t stop: Four Color Control. This deck has been taking up more and more metagame share over the last few months. I won Dreamhack Dallas with it two weeks ago and then we saw my exact list win the NRG the following week. This has led to public outcry: When will the menace be stopped? Can we please get a ban? What is that ban? Well today we are gonna cover all of this and if the four color deck should get a ban or not.
When Will the Menace Be Stopped?
This is a bit of an interesting point. We know as a community decks that absolutely beat the daylight out of Four Color Control. Rapp even went over some of them last week. The decks that stop Four Color don’t play traditional Magic. They avoid the battlefield and try and win in one shot blasts.
The problem is that one not everyone wants to play decks like this, let alone buy them, but also not everyone is maximizing for winning when playing Magic. The idea of what you’re playing for is often forgotten by Spikes. They above all else value winning, but sometimes people just like a deck and love playing it and it’s reasonable enough that it’s still a fine choice. Other times people just love a style of deck like Jund or Humans and they will play those decks regardless. Which is totally fine, but unless large parts of the room all decide to play decks that beat up on Four Color, the deck isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
What Should Be Banned?
When looking at bans in Modern, three cards jump out as over or near over the line.
While not the most absurd looking card on its face, Yorion has proven that the juice is worth the squeeze. When first previewed the 20 extra cards drawback seemed insurmountable. Players have quickly figured out that we can build decks in redundant ways to help with that drawback and also open up a lot of tutor packages. All of this innovation and focus on value has led Yorion to be one of the most played and powerful companions, second only to Lurrus which is a top 10 creature of all time. When considering banning, Yorion is high on the list. Not only is companion a mechanic that’s currently broken in the game, but it provides far too much value, allowing you to take over the event. I think this is high on my list, but not the first pick to go. I will however take this chance to point out that if we don’t ever get more companions I think Yorion has to get banned at some point. So now is as good a time as any.
Not to bury the lead, but this is my pick for a card that MUST get banned. Since her debut in Modern Horizons Wrenn has been a growing part of the metagame. Things like Hogaak, Opal Oko decks, and Uro decks all pushed Wrenn to the fringes of the format. With the release of Modern Horizons 2 we got a burst of new powerful answer spells and cheap threats added to the format. This was great news for Wrenn as the answer spells worked great with her ability to always make a land drop and thus lead to more interactive longer games; but also meant her ultimate now had way more juice to work with as well. All the while the cheap threats like Ragavan and Dragon’s Rage Channeler pressured other decks while being weak to Wrenn. This, combined with the fact that fetch lands are some of the more silently broken cards in Modern, meant we could have better four-color mana bases as a red-green deck than a shard like Esper could have led Wrenn to subsidize the cost of playing four colors and enable all these powerful spells. Yet still even more was added with the Kamigawa channel lands, which gave Wrenn access to spell lands that made her event stronger.
It doesn’t look like it but Wrenn stops most aggressive decks while making your mana perfect. She is the best planeswalker in Modern and makes cards like Omnath and Yorion way easier to play with as some of their drawbacks are answered thanks to her. Most four-color decks actually have too few lands but thanks to Wrenn one fetch land is all it takes to have mana for the rest of the game.
If I could ban any one card in Modern, this is my pick. She does far too much for too little, while still being a win condition on her own.
This card has dominated Standard and has seen Modern play since its release, but only really started to dominate once the powerful answer spells of Modern Horizons 2 were released. Omnath, much like Wrenn, is abusing fetch lands in order to be a power house. Omnath not only solves a lot of match ups and stabilizes the board, but when combined with easily casting the pitch elementals it undoes the inherent drawback of them being so expensive. Omnath is a card that dominates games when it comes down and breaks fetch lands wide open.
While I personally wouldn’t ban Omnath, it’s a way to really hurt the four-color soup decks, as often many games do come down to Omnath plus a few fetch lands gaining you 14 life and a bunch of mana. I think if we ban Omnath the four-color deck still sticks around but is much worse, which is maybe what’s best for everyone.
Can We Please Get a Ban?
We have talked a lot about banning cards and why they are strong. I even told you the card I would ban if I had to ban a card. Yet do we need to really ban anything? That’s a question that if you’re a tournament grinder like me, your gut reaction is “duh of course we need to remove the money-pile deck, it’s far too good and ultimately is shutting down a lot of strategies at the highest tier of play.” But I think for the average Modern player who doesn’t do the big events, Modern is in a great place right now. We still see decks do well and perform; its not all money-pile even at the highest level, and if money-pile goes, maybe something worse for players on the whole rises up and takes over the metagame. Personally I would like to give the format a few more months with the deck and see if people can overtake the deck via metagaming and deck building, but I do think its days are probably numbered. Ultimately I think if MTGO leagues and local store play is fun, then we can let the format go for a while longer.
Because no matter what we do, there will be a best deck. People will complain about it, people will say its too hard to beat, people won’t innovate enough. So if the rest of the format is fun, let the 80-card pile live on.
What do you think? Think we need a banning? Tweet @masoneclark_ and let me know. Maybe I am just drinking the kool-aid of four-color too hard.
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.