Five Modern Cards to Unban in 2017

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
12/29/2016 11:01:00 AM
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I'm excited for the new year, but the last thing we want to happen is a format getting stale. Modern is in a spot where it is fairly balanced right now, yet that doesn't mean there can't be cards reintroduced, at a similar power level to cards already in the format. Another important point to consider is if a card were to come off the banned list, which decks would it help or hurt. For instance, I was a big fan of unbanning Golgari Grave-Troll at the time it was unbanned, because there were no competitive Dredge decks doing well then.

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Even after Golgari Grave-Troll was unbanned, Dredge saw virtually no play. It wasn't until recent printings of Prized Amalgam and Cathartic Reunion that made me wish that Golgari Grave-Troll stayed on the banned list. The point is that from Wizards' perspective we must consider not only the cards in existence, but also the ones which may be printed in the future when making an unbanning. Not knowing exactly what Wizards will print in the future myself, I will be making the case only taking into consideration the cards which are currently part of the Modern format.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

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This is one of the most individually powerful cards on the banned list, that is true. Perhaps the most influential and controversial planeswalker ever printed, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is hell of a card. It sees play in Legacy, and the Brainstorm effect is even better when placed in a deck with fetch lands. While the ability to draw cards is the most important aspect of the card, the other two modes are also used a fair bit as well. From this perspective, I am not making a very good case for unbanning Jace, the Mind Sculptor, so let me go over why it would be a good idea.

Blue control decks in Modern have been wanting help for some time. The unbanning of Ancestral Vision was supposed to unlock blue control and make them more threatening, but I would argue that still hasn't happened.

We are talking about a four-mana planeswalker here, and that mana cost means the card is a slow to get going. Right now, Modern is so fast that there are many decks that will laugh in the face of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Decks like Dredge, Burn and Infect will be very happy if the opponent spends their fourth turn casting Jace, since more often than not the player casting the planeswalker will not get a chance to untap with it. What Jace, the Mind Sculptor would do is provide control decks more inevitability if they get to the late game, and I think that is fine.

If Jace, the Mind Sculptor were to be taken off the banned list there is another card that I think many players would like to see taken off at the same time.

Bloodbraid Elf

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Jace, the Mind Sculptor is less impactful if the turn after you Brainstorm with it your opponent casts Bloodbraid Elf and immediately kills it. I actually think Bloodbraid Elf is more dangerous for Modern than Jace, the Mind Sculptor, because it immediately fits into a tier one deck, specifically Jund. However, if Jace the Mind Sculptor were to be unbanned it is the exact type of card that is good against grindy decks like Jund, so without Bloodbraid Elf Jund would have a much tougher time combatting the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I believe unbanning both at the same time would be wise.

Like Jace, Bloodbraid Elf suffers from being a four-mana card. Currently, most Jund lists play a maximum of two four-mana plays, so Bloodbraid Elf would definitely up the mana curve. It would also make current versions of Jund more creatures dense, which would mean less early interaction for the aggro and combo decks. The other piece to Bloodbraid Elf is being able to manage cascade; there will be times when you cascade into an irrelevant card, and it just so happens that a vanilla creature, discard, or removal are only sometimes going to be good on boards late in Modern games.

Overall it is unclear just how much Bloodbraid Elf would actually improve Jund, though it would likely end up being played especially if Jace, the Mind Sculptor were also seeing play. Beyond Jund, Bloodbraid Elf could see play in other places as well, but in order to maximize the power level of Bloodbraid Elf having good cascade hits is very important. Perhaps we could see a Temur deck featuring Ancestral Vision and Bloodbraid Elf together?

Chrome Mox

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I have never understood why Chrome Mox is banned. Sure, it saw play in the Dark Depths decks when that combo was legal, but Chrome Mox in general didn't see that much play in Extended. I think just having the word “Mox” in its name is scary, and that it is a zero-mana ramp spell, but that ramp comes at a steep cost. Since Chrome Mox was banned I haven't heard many players call for it to be unbanned, and I think that is because many players forget it is banned in the first place!

Chrome Mox isn't the type of card that fits into the super-fast decks of Modern. Those decks need all their cards, so they can't afford to imprint one since they're often centered around a series of pump spells or getting cards into the graveyard. Chrome Mox essentially eats up two cards, both of which are technically spells, though playing Chrome Mox should cause a lower land count. The best way to utilize Chrome Mox is to play a two or three mana card a turn earlier, so it would go into combo decks that have trouble keeping up with the super-fast decks of the format

If Chrome Mox does get unbanned, I will say that there is one card I do believe should be banned in turn. Cathartic Reunion on turn one would potentially be way too good, and Dredge likely needs to have a card taken away from it anyway. Part of the reason why Chrome Mox could fit into a deck like Dredge is that the deck doesn't care about many of the cards are in its hand, and most of them are spells. However, without Cathartic Reunion there wouldn't be enough explosiveness provided by Chrome Mox to warrant playing it.

Chrome Mox could help enable certain cards that don't see much play right now, like Thirst for Knowledge. Chrome Mox is a terrible late-game draw, so having a way to get rid of it for some value later in the game makes it more playable. This could be a way to help accelerate out planeswalkers a turn earlier, but not only will it cost two cards to produce one mana, Chrome Mox is vulnerable to artifact destruction. Chrome Mox sees very little play in Legacy, which should help signal that it could be time to allow it into Modern. The power level of the card simply isn't high enough to warrant it being banned.

Mental Misstep

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I would like to make a case for unbanning Mental Misstep, but first I'm going to say I wouldn't necessarily take all five cards I'm mentioning here off the banned list at the exact same time, and Wizards would never do that anyway. I would advocate taking a card or two off every four months, and seeing how it affects the format. What I would not advocate doing is unbanning cards that could fit in the same types of decks at the same moment, like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Mental Misstep.

With that said, similar to Jace, Mental Misstep could be a valuable tool for control decks.

It feels like right now the aggressive decks in Modern are warping the format. In order for another deck to perform well it needs to load up on removal or cards like Chalice of the Void and Ensnaring Bridge to stop the early onslaught. Mental Misstep has never gotten its chance in Modern, so it seems Wizards is scared of trying the card out in Modern. It is unconventional to have a card legal in Modern and not Legacy, but the formats are quite different.

When Mental Misstep was Standard-legal it actually didn't impact that format too much, even though cards like Delver of Secrets were legal at the same time. The card is completely busted in Legacy because there are so many one-cost cards. There are also other factors to consider in terms of Legacy though, since there are already a ton of blue control decks. Perhaps without Force of Will and Brainstorm, Misstep is an acceptable card to have available.

Mental Misstep could help slow down the Modern format a little bit. It could potentially be very good in decks that would want to play it, but that list of decks is short. Mental Misstep shares many similarities to Spell Snare. The fact that you can play Mental Misstep without paying mana does set it apart from Spell Snare, but countering an early play is very important for decks that are trying to survive past the first few turns. Mental Misstep is simply an efficient way of trading with the opponents first play on turn one, and that would really help stop the onslaught of one drop creatures some of these Modern decks have put together.

Umezawa's Jitte

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Bring back Umezawa's Jitte! If we were talking Kamigawa Limited, then sure the card is way too good, but we aren't. This is a legendary equipment that would probably end up as a two-of in some midrange decks. It could also fit into Jund or possible Bogles, but does that mean it deserves a spot on the banlist? When Umezawa's Jitte was legal in Extended, it was essentially a role player. The card is a good way to Break Open creature mirrors late in the game, and that isn't a bad thing.

Out of all the cards I have mentioned here, this is the one that should definitely not be banned. The best justification Wizards had when initially banning it was its interaction with Stoneforge Mystic, but with Stoneforge Mystic banned there is no good reason Umezawa's Jitte should be banned as well. This isn't Skullclamp we are talking about. In fact, equipment in general see very little play in Modern right now, outside of Cranial Plating in Affinity, and Umezawa'a Jitte could help offset that.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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