Is All This Bridgevine Banning Talk Overblown?

“The Innovator” isn’t having any of the ban-it-now nonsense over Bridgevine in Modern! He’s seeing a weird and awesome metagame once you get past the mandatory playsets of Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void. Let’s go exploring!

The past year, year-and-a-half has been the beginning of a bold new era for Modern, in which it’s pretty clear Wizards of the Coast is designing a boatload of cards specifically to have a major impact on the format. Now, with Modern Horizons on full display, we’re seeing the impact of a Modern-only set, where the normal rules about rate and mechanics don’t apply.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Altar of Dementia have obviously gotten the most spotlight. Bridgevine is so brutally fast and resilient, it seems inevitable that some part of it (perhaps Bridge from Below or Faithless Looting) will be banned, particularly when you take into consideration the amount it benefits from the London mulligan rule.

With Mythic Championship IV just weeks away, a giant question mark looms over the format. Will any action be taken on Bridgevine before it? Despite this uncertainty, there’s actually a ton to look at in Modern, as the depth of impact Modern Horizons and War of the Spark have had is staggering. Even if nothing is banned before the MC, the format is already a new and crazy animal with so much different from last year. If one or more cards in Bridgevine is banned, the impact of these new cards and strategies will only be amplified.

While Bridgevine has been completely dominating the Magic Online scene since the day it was printed, this past weekend featured two major Modern tournaments that quickly revealed, “Yep, Bridgevine is definitely the defining deck of the format. Still, this weekend’s events are hardly a damning case against the deck.”

While Bridgevine was far and away the most popular deck of Grand Prix Dallas, Azorius Control took home the trophy. While Bridgevine was extremely popular and definitely successful at the SCG Modern Team Modern event in Pittsburgh, Izzet Phoenix was even more popular. Remember, this event was run without any team-unified restrictions, so the numbers are actually a lot more real than some team events have been.

Could the format be successfully able to adapt to the Bridgevine menace?

Here’s a look at the Day 2 metagame of those two events:


GP Dallas

SCG Pittsburgh

Day 2 Meta





Izzet Phoenix








Mono-Red Prowess




Grixis Urza




Eldrazi Tron




Azorius Control








Devoted Devastation












Hardened Scales








While Bridgevine set the pace at Grand Prix Dallas, it was certainly not the only strategy to do well. Two copies in the Top 8 is still overperforming, despite how popular the strategy was; however, that still leaves six other decks. Grixis Urza, Taking Turns, Humans, Eldrazi Tron, and two Azorius Control decks (including, as mentioned, the champion) round out the event’s Top 8.

First of all, for reference, here’s the deck to beat:

Despite all those Izzet Phoenix decks, Dominic’s winning team was actually Phoenix-less, with Mardu Death’s Shadow and Humans running alongside his Bridgevine deck.

As discussed in my previous article on Bridgevine, I think a couple of maindeck Leyline of the Voids are a logical move, and one I expect to continue to gain traction as long as everything stays legal.

Shaving a Bloodghast and a Gravecrawler may raise an eyebrow, but you’ve got to make cuts somewhere, and it’s not like we’re short on hits from our self-mill. Besides, everything is kind of whatever besides Faithless Looting, Bridge from Below, Altar of Dementia, and Hogaak anyway.

Cryptbreaker is a pretty sweet new sideboard plan for grindy matchups with powerful graveyard hate. Cryptbreaker is cheap, on-plan, and very capable of taking over games, even in the face of Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace.

Speaking of Rest in Peace, talk about an important card in the format. With Bridgevine so outrageously warping, Rest in Peace was one of the most important sideboard cards of the weekend. GP Dallas champion Austin Bursavich made particularly great use of the card, running the full playset in the sideboard of his Azorius Control deck.

You’ve got to be prepared to sideboard out Snapcaster Mage and Logic Knot, but that’s a small price to pay for largely forcing Bridgevine to fight fair.

Austin’s list isn’t particularly unusual, though I would like to call out a couple of things.

A year ago, good three-cost planeswalkers were few and far between. War of the Spark completely flipped the format upside down with the massive quantity of powerful new ‘walkers, two of the most important of which are Narset and Teferi. It seems pretty unlikely that anything would ever happen to either of these cards, and they are the kinds of cards that are likely to have a major influence on the format for years to come. Given how things have gone historically, that sure makes me interested in picking up extra copies of Teferi (Narset being uncommon is kind of a dealbreaker, at least for nonfoils).

Because why not? Why give them the information about what you’re playing (or not playing) that goes along with not playing Snow-Covered Island?

It makes me sad, but I could believe zero Archmage’s Charm is right. Teferi and Narset have us not short on threes, and besides, Field of Ruin and Snow-Covered Plains are pretty strong. I just can’t help but wonder if Mystic Gate is the answer, though.

So, is Azorius Control the answer to Bridgevine?

Well, it certainly performed great this weekend, putting an above-average number into Day 2, and then converting that 5.5% Day 2 number into two Top 8s (with Anthony Petropoulos running a nearly identical Azorius list).

Still, I think Bridgevine will evolve. Yeah, of course, Rest in Peace is amazing. However, they are just so fast, and besides, when the hate gets too predictable, they can adapt and optimize their sideboard plan for fighting it. What will that look like? I mean, I like the Cryptbreaker approach. What else we can do to support it, besides just load up on Wispmares?

For now, put me down as skeptical that Azorius Control can hold on, but acknowledging, as everything is currently configured, they’re looking pretty good.

And what of the other big deck of the weekend? Although, I suppose you could sort of make a case for Izzet Phoenix being one of the decks of the weekend literally every single weekend it has been legal.

Kind of makes you wonder, when the two most popular decks have almost nothing in common, yet both feature four copies of the most broken card in the format…

Yeah, yeah, nobody Top 8ed with Izzet Phoenix in Dallas. Cool story, brah. If you watched the finals, I think you’d be hard-pressed to say you want the format to look like that…

Here’s the Izzet Phoenix deck Alex Bastecki and James Manges piloted to the finals of SCG Pittsburgh:

The major new piece here is Aria of Flame:

Aria of Flame may set you back ten points of face-damage, but you make it back after four instants and/or sorceries. From there, it doesn’t take many cantrips to end most games, and the flexibility of being able to snipe planeswalkers is such a nice feature against all these planeswalker decks. I mean, just think about how many people are playing four to eight planeswalkers incidentally, and that’s to say nothing of the dedicated planeswalker decks, like Hanpen Nerimono’s 5-0 Magic Online League list:

Now that’s a planeswalker deck.

How you know someone means it.

I still think people should play more of this card. Seems really good against Eldamari’s Call, Scapeshift, Chord of Calling, Neoform, Goblin Matron, and fetchlands in general. It even exiles their graveyard, which is pretty useful these days.

Great card. Makes for a great threat against removal on his own, and the ability to drop him and hit for eight immediately, while threatening twelve next turn, is a much-appreciated fast option for racing, winning planeswalker battles, or just closing out a match where you won’t be able to hold on forever.

I think you’ve probably got to be getting some kind of bonus for planeswalkers to want Teyo rather than Leyline of Sanctity or whatever, but Interplanar Beacon, Deploy the Gatewatch, and Sarkhan are legit.

Obviously, perfectly fixing your colors is big, but the lifegain really does matter in some matchups. Besides, it’s kind of awesome to be able to get five-color fixing from some of your lands, freeing you up to make four of your fetchlands Prismatic Vistas.

Why Prismatic Vista instead of more Flooded Strands? I mean, pretty obviously, the advantage is just being able to find Snow-Covered Mountain without taking two damage. With a playset of Interplanar Beacons and Arcum’s Astrolabes, this list is much more concerned with minimized the damage it takes from its lands, rather than further color-fixing redundancy.

Arcum’s Astrolabe has a relatively low opportunity cost anyway, but the fixing is particularly effective when considered through the lens of Blood Moon. Remember, Blood Moon doesn’t remove Snow-Covered-ness of lands (not that it matters here, since these Snow-Covered lands are all basics). Having access to Arcum’s Astrolabe not only ensures we can still cast our spells, regardless of which basic we have, it also keeps black ‘walkers like Kaya online, despite our lack of Snow-Covered Swamps.

So, is this the answer to Bridgevine?

Even if we convert that Relic of Progenitus into another Rest in Peace, I still think Bridgevine is going to come out too fast, too often, to make me want the Deploy the Gatewatch side.

And Arclight Phoenix?

It’s a good deck, in the abstract. I’m still taking Bridgevine, though. Not close.

You know, there have been a lot of Izzet combo decks over the years.

Daniel Wong’s Top 8 finish with his Taking Turns deck definitely raises one of my eyebrows. I mean, how is he doing it with so little graveyard hate?

Okay, so sure, there are some cheaper “Time Walk” to help you bridge, but it’s not like Bridgevine even necessarily needs to spend their mana anyway.

No jokes, though, I do love a good Commandeer.

A Force of Negation for a mage that knows what they want in life.

Speaking of mages that know what they want in life (and yes, I realize Urza is a Human Artificer, but come on), Urza, Lord High Artificer wasted no time establishing itself as a major archetype. Functioning as a sort of Tolarian Academy and Master of Etherium and Temporal Aperture, Urza requires a lot in deckbuilding, but in return, you get a must-kill threat that leaves behind serious value and might just win on the spot anyway.

Here’s an example of the strategy, which Top 8ed both events:

The Thopter/Sword combo is very strong already; however, with Urza, you actually just go infinite.

Whir of Invention is obviously great for setting the combo up, and Arcum’s Astrolabe is fantastic with basically everything in the deck, including the super-sweet new Goblin Engineer.

Okay, first of all, this is a Stoneforge Mystic for Sword of the Meek. You can just go get your one copy, and it’s right where you want it. And if that wasn’t enough, Goblin Engineer is a very high-impact threat, basically threatening to draw a card every turn (whether looping enters- and leaves-the-battlefield triggers or forcing through your key artifacts).

Oh, you fancy…

But seriously, Dead of Winter seems fine here. It’s easy on the mana and seems perfect for fighting some of these white, Selesnya, and Humans decks.

If something in Bridgevine does happen to get hit with an early banhammer, this is definitely a deck to watch. Anything that reduces the dominance and prevalence of Bridgevine is likely to mean less graveyard hate. This deck is already a major player, despite Leyline of the Void and Rest in Peace everywhere. Just imagine what it’ll be like when it doesn’t have to fight through that much hate.

Goblin Engineer hasn’t been exclusive to Thopter/Sword decks, though. For instance, it’s hardly abused here, but what about just Goblin Engineering for Ensnaring Bridge, ’cause mise?

Meltiin’s 5-0 League deck gives us a glimpse into yet another possible Karn the Great Creator deck, newly made possible by Goblin Engineer as an advantage engine and hate-card tutor.

What do you suppose the morning looks like where you just wake up and decide to sideboard a Snare Thopter?

Sometimes, you just gotta surprise people and shatter their assumptions, you know?

No jokes, though, Shatter Assumptions is a great sideboard card and one we should be looking at more whenever Eldrazi, Tron, Affinity, Hardened Scales, and Whir of Invention decks gain traction.

For instance, should an Orzhov Tokens deck, like Penach010’s 5-0 League deck, be running it in the sideboard?

Golly, there sure were a lot of people saying Serra the Benevolent had no future.

I think you want to be careful not to play too many, but I think she’s a great touch here.

Maindeckable graveyard hate, lifegain, removal, card advantage, and it’s even on-theme with the whole token thing. Nice.

An underrated method of slowing Bridgevine down, Force of Despair can also have applications against Collected Company, Vizier of Remedies, Goryo’s Vengeance, Neoform, and even Humans.

Sure, I guess. I’m just glad people aren’t going to be Vindicating me over and over.

There’s definitely some appeal to this Orzhov list, but I’m not sure how much we really get by staying two colors. I guess the whole Flagstones/Smallpox thing works best that way, but I’m only medium on that part of the list at the moment anyway. What I’m interested in doing is adding red and playing some kind of Ranger-Captain of Eos/Death’s Shadow deck!

If we’re talking about decks to watch if something gets banned, Ranger-Captain of Eos has breathed new life into Death’s Shadow, leading to the rapid rise of a Mardu take on the archetype:

Saving a mana compared to Ranger of Eos is a big deal, and the interaction it affords you against combo decks or sorcery-speed sweepers is meaningful.

I’m not sure I believe in Giver of Runes yet, but it wouldn’t shock me if it turned out to be the right creature to have in the toolbox to be able to get when your life total is too high to get Death’s Shadow. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I’ve definitely got my eye on that Grim Lavamancer.

Of course, the real value red creature of the day is Dreadhorde Arcanist.

Dreadhorde Arcanist is basically just a value engine, letting us replay removal or discard turn after turn.

Oh, you’re a feisty one, are you?

I gotta admit, I’m not as into the Dreadhorde Arcanist engine as I am into Smiting Helix. If you build your deck with stuff like Faithless Looting, Collective Brutality, and Liliana of the Veil or Seasoned Pyromancer, this card seems absolutely amazing.

You’ve got to do some tricks to make Seasoned Pyromancer really shine, but when you do, the card seems dope. Playing a playset of these alongside a playset of Lingering Souls seems like such a beating against anyone silly enough to play fair.

Tiemuuu piloted a really interesting Mardu list to a 5-0 League finish this past week using both the Pyromancer and the Helix:

I don’t think I can get into cutting a Lingering Souls here, but I gotta admit, I’m intrigued by the Yawgmoth direction.

I’m real interested to see how fast Yawgmoth can convert my Lingering Souls, Seasoned Pyromancers, and Young Pyromancers into an overwhelming supply of card advantage. I also think the battlefield control he affords is far from trivial. Those -1/-1 counters are going to really devastate some creature decks, not to mention how effective they are alongside Plague Engineer.

You want to name Humans, do you? What about Goblins?!

And just think, Goblin Ringleader isn’t even legal yet.

Once it is, this deck is going to be a serious threat in the format.

You know, I could also maybe be into naming Sliver with Plague Engineer

I mean, even just naming Spirits seems powerful. Blah, blah, Lingering Souls, sure; but I’m talking Mausoleum Wanderer, Rattlechains, Remorseful Cleric Spirits.

The Spirit tribe started out slow, but they sure have picked up.

It’s just so awesome to see how many crazy new decks are showing up!

Even old decks like Jund have gotten a facelift. Yeah, they need a lot of Leyline of the Void, Scavenging Ooze, and Nihil Spellbomb to have any hope of surviving in Bridgevine’s world, but once you get past that part, it’s really cool to see Seasoned Pyromancer added to the mix, as well as Wrenn and Six.

Wrenn and Six is such a cheap source of card advantage and very on-message for what Jund is trying to do.

There’s no shortage of artifact-based decks these days, particularly given the recent popularity of Urza decks. Notably, however, Collector Ouphe does not stop Urza from tapping artifacts for mana.

When the format is too fast for Bloodbraid Elf, some warning bells should be going off, but on the whole, this is a fresh new take on Jund that I’m happy to see.

My favorite Bloodbraid Elf deck of the week, however, is definitely NHA37’s 5-0 League deck built around Niv-Mizzet Reborn:


Again, it’s too bad that everything has to start with four Leyline of the Void or four Rest in Peace, but hey, if that’s part of what it takes for such a rich and varied landscape, it does raise some interesting questions.

Yeah, we already talked about Ashiok, but great seeing Ashiok here in such a different context. The same League also featured another sweet Ashiok deck, piloted by CalebD, built around milling people all the way out:

Is this really the format?

Notably, if you’re facing Bridgevine, they sure do make milling them a lot easier. You’ve got to be careful, because if you don’t have Ensnaring Bridge or something, you could easily just leave yourself dead on the battlefield. Still, I could imagine this one having the edge against Bridgevine, if well-prepared.

One combo deck I’m kind of surprised to see so little of is Neoform/Griselbrand. Maybe people just haven’t quite cracked the code yet, but it seems like there’s a lot of potential there, and it could be built advantageously against Bridgevine.

What is this format where there are just Chancellors of the Tangle all over the place?!

Maybe you need it in Neobrand, but Vizier of Remedies makes it look like a much-appreciated luxury. Getting the extra mana for the Turn 1 Fauna Shaman, while also having a card to pitch to it, puts a smile on my face. Really, though, I just want to cast a Turn 1 Devoted Druid and then a Turn 2 Vizier of Remedies into Finale of Devastation.

Tangrams managed to fit a full playset of both Chancellor of the Tangle and Simian Spirit Guide into their Vizier combo deck for the consistent Turn 2 kills.

Yeah, once again, four slots to Rest in Peace, but it really is an interesting question. Is the entire format needing to unite against Bridgevine actually providing a throughline that gives the format an identity? While I’m fairly confident they’re going to have to ban something in the deck eventually, I’ve gotta admit, we’re seeing a ton of awesome new stuff.

Okay, the past couple of weeks have made it pretty obvious from watching that this format is on some crazy busted type of time, but it’s busted in so many different ways, there might be a lot to explore in it.

How many months do you think we should give it?

Maybe six?