The History of Modern

Some new players may not realize this, but Modern is the youngest official format in Magic the Gathering. Modern was officially released August 2011, with Pro Tour Philadelphia being the first major testing grounds a month later. The focus in this article will be on the ban list in history of Modern in its entirety.

The Modern format opened up with a massive twenty three card ban. Most of these cards still remain banned nearly five years later. We will break down why these specific cards were preemptively banned and never saw the light of Modern.

To cover some of the cards in the ban list, you have to understand why some were feared as much as they were. If you as a new magic player have never heard of Combo Winter during the original Mirrodin block, you may not understand the horror that was endured during this block. This is where a good portion of the ban list comes from.

The Ban List

August 2011

Fairly straight forward card, why ban it? The card is powerful yes, but this specific Wizards of the Coast article to help explain. The card is almost equal to Brainstorm in Legacy. You either play it or you run a deck that goes against it. It is a card that is so good you can run it in any weenie deck imaginable. If you wish to blame anyone for this, blame Paul Sottosanti for breaking it with Arcbound Ravager and Disciple of the Vault.

The artifact lands;

As long as Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Ravager are legal in Modern, I do not expect the artifact lands to make an appearance in the format. The interaction in Standard was play your lands until you were able to go in for the kill and sacrifice your lands to the Ravager to make your opponent lose life because of the Disciple.

Chrome Mox
To put it simply, this effectively helps almost every single deck in the format. Every combo deck speeds up an entire turn, and breaks Wizard’s sacred turn four rule. With the Eldrazi menace putting down a turn one Chalice of the Void on one using Simian Spirit Guide, this card can effectively put out any one or two drop threat on the first turn that can be game breaking like the Chalice.

Dark Depths
This doesn’t seem too bad of a land card, what is the worst that could happen? Turn three attacking for 20 is the worst that could happen. Turn one mana dork and land, turn two play Dark Depths pass turn, Atarka’s Command. At the end of opponents turn put down a Thespian Stage. Have a 20/20 flying indestructible ready to swing for your upcoming turn. No more explanation needed, I don’t think.

Dread Return
With one of my least favorite mechanics, Dredge, being fresh on Wizard’s mind with Ravnica, this card would help take Dredge to a strong standing in the format, or at least that is Wizard’s opinion. With a reprint of this card coming in Shadows Over Innistrad , and Dredge sinking ever further as a reliable archetype in Modern, I expect to see an unbanning of this card. Dredge and Loam decks are extremely weak and fragile in Modern with the graveyard hate, and my opinion is that like several cards on this list, the card was simply feared and was panic banned. Without it’s Legacy toolkit, Dredge will find a hard time becoming even a Tier 2 deck in Modern.

Sword of the Meek
Like Dread Return, I feel like this card was a fear ban. If you are lucky, by turn three you can have this combo set up with Thopter Foundry. A deck whose combo is not ready to even go off till turn four seems like an excellent example of any Modern deck. Even then the combo is not infinite, unless you have a Time Sieve which requires an extra turn to go off for. With the hate that is within the format, I put this in the list of Dread Return as a possible entrance to Modern.

Essentially this is Living End on steroids mixed with a little something stronger. When researching this card, I was told to go to Caleb Durwad’s Modern ban series to explain why this card should remained banned. Basically what this card allows is cheating powerful creatures like Emrakul into play similar to the Grishoalbrand deck of today does, but I think they dropped Emrakul, the Aeons Torn from the list. The card gives you the option of countering it on T1 or T2 or you lose. Seems a good healthy format.

Glimpse of Nature
All you really need to know about this card is Pro Tour Berlin. Pro Tour Berlin top 8 was entirely dominated by Elves, a feat that would not occur again until Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch (Atlanta), with Eldrazi. Glimpse allowed Elves to become a non-stop engine, that gave Elves a consistent turn three kill.

Mental Misstep[/mtg_card
Only two reasons this is banned: the first is because it warped Legacy upon it’s release and killed combo decks off from the format for a time. The other reason it is banned and probably should stay banned is because this card allows every deck of every color access to a counter spell for the early game.

[mtg_card]Ancestral Visions
Thanks to Faeries along with Bitterblossom, this card saw the axe before it ever saw glory within Modern. This card represents one of several fear bans that appear on this list, but could be one of the most deserving. I personally believe this card should be unbanned. After the Treasure Cruise experiment completely blew up in Wizard’s face, I think they should concede and give Modern a card it needs. Control has been a weak strategy for a while, only downside to this card being released is for the combo decks that would use it. Aggro would take a hit on being the most popular, but I don’t believe would be surpassed.

Sensei’s Divining Top
This card is not over powered. It simply slows the game down too much. Legacy is much faster than Modern, and with Miracles threatening to go to time a good percentage of the time. If this card was legal it would go to time every game.

Umezawa’s Jitte
Another to the list of fear bans. This card has a great potential, but the card pool of equipment cards in Modern is impressive. The problem with this plethora of equipment: none of it is used except for a few swords and even then there is only a single copy in a deck. The amount of hate in the format would push this card to the very fringe. It is a powerful card, but in Modern I don’t see this card surviving even if it was unbanned.

Stoneforge Mystic
This card is one of my favorite cards of all time. In the early days of Modern, this card was deservedly banned and should have remained banned. For once Wizard’s fear bannings allowed the format to flourish into a great one. Today that truth no longer holds. My example of Umezawa’s Jitte lines the base of why this card no longer needs to be banned. Beyond Batterskull, and two of the swords, no other equipment is even played. Plus the pure artifact hate makes this strategy almost pointless, but I believe this would be a fringe strategy and a decent boost for control only. The rumor mill does put this at the top of the list for seeing an unbanning.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Hands down my favorite card of all time, and while it is very cliché, it is the truth. As much as I love this card, it does fall into the category of the fear ban. I understand with the destruction of CAW BLADE reeling in everyone’s mind along with a few other combos and decks, this list was comprised purely on past performance. In the early days this card was rightfully banned, much like Stoneforge Mystic, however today there are so many answers, even with Modern being an average of five turns before a game ends. No control deck can truly afford to tap out on turn four for this big fella, no matter his power. With the few control decks around still relying on Cryptic Command to stay alive, I would take Command over this guy unless he was a one off in a deck. Not much of an impact. Luckily rumor mills places him alongside Sword of the Meek and Stoneforge Mystic for unbannings.

Bitterblossom, Golgari Grave-Troll, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle are the only cards from the original banlist to have been removed from it and Valakut is the one who has made the largest impact into the format, but has also been unbanned the longest of any banned card in Modern. None have broken the format as was feared when they were preemptively banned.

September of 2011

Blazing Shoal
If any of you actually liked this card, blame Sam Black for breaking it during the first Pro Tour with his Mono Blue Infect. Discard any high cost red card, pump Blighted Agent on turn three for lethal infect, that’s game.

Just like the original makings of Grishoalbrand, this deck focused on using Through the Breach to cheat Emrakul onto the field as early as turn 3. The difference then and now is due to the bannings following the first Pro Tour of Modern it removed many of the broken cards making this combo a lot less reliable.

Green Sun’s Zenith
This card was a staple in the Cloudpost deck that cheated Emrakul into play. If it couldn’t do this quickly it grabbed Dryad Arbor or another mana dork to speed the deck up to where it should be. Basically this card allowed the deck to come back after falling behind.

Another Sam Black victim if you need someone to blame. Though the real reason it was banned is because it was allowing combo decks such as the mono-blue infect, early variant of splinter twin, and storm to be reliable so this had to get the axe.

Exactly the same as Ponder.

Rite of Flame
Rite of Flame is a one mana spell for the minimum of two being given in return. Once you cast a second one it now becomes infinitely better than Desperate Ritual & Pyretic Ritual. Storm becomes easier to be explosive and reliable. Of course by doing this it drops Storm below the turn 4 kill rule which got this card the axe.

December 2011

Punishing Fire
The interaction with Grove of the Burnwillows is what makes this card feared. Mostly aggro players would be grinded out of the game by this card in today’s meta. I really do not feel this card would be much of an issue in today’s meta.

Wild Nacatl
The only reason this card was banned was to bust up the monopoly Zoo decks was placing onto the format. An example is Pro Tour Austin where half the decks were Nacatl Zoo decks. This card has since been unbanned and is a must in Naya Burn and has been in Zoo variants (i.e. Suicide Zoo, Naya Zoo).

January 2013

Bloodbraid Elf
This card helped drive Jund to become a powerhouse within the Modern format and with Deathrite Shaman at it’s side, there was not much hope for players who didn’t play either within the format. Though without Deathrite Shaman this card is an advantageous card that gets a potential two for your one cost. Always a great benefit but not broken and the rumor mill places it above Sword of the Meek and right between Jace, the Mind Scultpor & Stoneforge Mystic for an unbanning soon.

Seething Song
When Wizards has nothing better to do ban something from Storm seems to be the go to here. Best way to keep the format fresh.

May 2013

Second Sunrise
This card was not overpowered, neither was the Eggs combo that it was in. The reason for the ban, and I actually don’t even blame them, was this deck was so boring to play, play against, and watch.

Febuary 2014

Deathrite Shaman
Without Bloodbraid Elf, Jund slowly began to slip, but still remained dominant until this banning. Wizard’s has put down various bannings with the simple reason being for diversity. Jund is just now recovering from the loss of it’s great utilities and is now posting results again.

January 2015

Dig Through Time
I feel the delve cards were hated on in Modern & Legacy. I can understand the hate in Legacy simply cause of the speed allowed for easier access to these cards. Modern however is slower and with enough graveyard hate it posed a strong force against such cards. Those who didn’t oppose the delve mechanic basked in the glory of control decks receiving Dig Through Time while aggro typically stuff with Treasure Cruise.

Treasure Cruise
Same as Dig Through Time, seen above.

Birthing Pod
The main card I fully support and understand why it was banned. During the beginning stages it was a decent deck. Unfortunately the problem with a deck like this is with every new block, new release, new mechanics. The deck progressively gets better allowing for some of the most ridiculous and destructive decks possible.

January 2016

Splinter Twin
This was probably the most shocking ban to the Modern format. As much as people say they hated Twin, it was the perfect example of a Modern deck. It could kill out of nowhere, but it was not oppressive in any means. At the time of its banning it was sitting at fourth in popularity, behind Affinity, Junk, and Bloom Titan. This deck could kill out of nowhere but it was susceptible to cheap removal. It could not kill before turn 4 in any way. Besides this being my main Modern deck for a solid year, I am looking at this biased when I say this deck probably should have been banned earlier. I fully expect Splinter Twin to reemerge within a few years. Forscythe even admits banning it was a mistake. For diversity sakes it was banned just in time for the diverse meta we have currently with questions as to if this deck could even keep up with the meta at its current state.

Summer Bloom
I understand this ban. I was surprised in 2015 when this was not yet banned then, simply because it allowed a consistent turn 3 kill. The statistics presented during various decktechs allowed this deck to go off between turn 2 and 3, allowing a kill on turn 3 in both scenarios. Turn 2 Primeval Titan was a low percentage, but turn 3 was projected as high as 33%.

This concludes the history of the Modern ban list. As of now rumor mills only has a handful of cards being discussed for unbans. In the mills, the following is the list of probability of a unban:

I expect Dread Return to see a unbanning too, even though the rumors have not surfaced yet, simply because of the lack luster entrance of Golgari Grave-Troll. Wizards of the Coast wants diversity. No better way than to reprint a card a week after the newest Modern ban announcement that pushes an archetype that is nonexistent now.

Anyways that is all folks. Give me feedback on your opinion of the article; the good, the bad and the great.

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