Modern’s Last Hurrah

Brennan DeCandio might not have enjoyed playing this Modern format, but as a viewer he’ll be sad to see it go! And that’s what has him puzzled about the timing of the effective date of the recent unbannings as he considers the old Modern’s last hurrah!

You know the news by now…

I think I would have safely bet a reasonable amount of my money in saying that Bloodbraid Elf was going to come off the Modern banned list, since it had largely been punished for Deathrite Shaman’s sins. The occasional value gained from Bloodbraid Elf was annoying from one side of the table and felt good on the other, but it’s no worse than some of the other things that happen in Modern these days, with Tron still being a thing and Affinity still having Mox Opal draws. Sure, the Reid Duke B/G decks in Modern would likely get a third color added and go back to the Jund we all used to know from Standard in years past, but nothing too drastic would change. However, Bloodbraid Elf decided to bring a friend with her…

Jace, the Mind Sculptor coming off the Modern banned list will be the end of Modern as a whole.

There I said it.

It’s the single most egregious card on the banned list for more reasons than power level, which is, of course, very much through the roof. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jace, the Mind Sculptor will not only show up in the majority of decks that we see do well in Modern, but it will spread its dominance so far that it will find itself back on the banned list out of necessity, which is also a terrible outcome.

It’s terrible because of the secondary market, which has already doubled the price of Jace, and I’m not even sure the card is at its limit. What happens to all those people who invest in the format and buy Jace, just to have it gone again by the end of the year? This whole unban will be seen as little more than a cash grab from Wizards to sell the Masters 25 set, since Jace is literally on the cover of the boxes.

Personally, as someone who has to play Modern a lot on the SCG Tour this year, I’m excited to be able to play some powerful cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf in Modern now. Both give some decks a bit of a power boost as well as breathe life into some decks that can be built around those two. Who knows? There could be some decks that play both and just do all the broken things, such as this:

This is a basic smattering of great cards to cascade into, with Ancestral Vision and Blood Moon chief among them, as well as having Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Tarmogoyf as powerful threats to pressure an opponent with.

Of all the homes for a card like this, Blood Moon might be the worst of the worst when paired with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. There aren’t many harder things in the format to get out from under than a Blood Moon, but when there’s a Jace, the Mind Sculptor breathing down your neck as well, keeping you from drawing anything of relevance to get you out of it, things will feel impossible. This deck also punishes people not all aboard the value train with the ability to use the Brainstorm ability on Jace to set up Bloodbraid Elf into Ancestral Vision, something seen previously only in Legacy Shardless Sultai decks.

This is just the first stage of what a deck with both of our new overlords in it might look like. There are also similar decks, like what Todd Stevens, Ross Merriam and the rest of our Team BCW have been tuning the past few days with their Turbo Lands deck. That deck looks a lot like a devotion deck from years past but is simply abusing Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Tireless Tracker to win.

I’ve been a huge fan of Temporal Mastery in this kind of deck as a way to just catapult yourself ahead, getting more and more Jace activations. I wouldn’t be surprised to see various Temporal Mastery decks with Jace, the Mind Sculptor have a huge impact on the format, since Time Walk is a hell of a Magic card. Every turn in a game when you have a Tireless Tracker on the battlefield or an active Jace is incredibly valuable, and what better way to abuse all that than taking more turns than your opponent?

While we’re all excited for the newly unbanned Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, this weekend is SCG Indianapolis, which, due to what I see as poor planning by Wizards of the Coast, will not feature those changes in effect.

So what does that mean?

It means we’re bound to see Todd Stevens playing G/W Value Town, since it’s the last time a deck like that can truly exist in a world soon to be overtaken by Jace.

It means that it’ll be one last hurrah for the format we just saw take place at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, where there was no clear answer to what the best deck was. Sure, Lantern Control ended up taking down the title, but we saw G/W Hexproof take down a trophy at Grand Prix Toronto, which seemingly makes no sense because of how weak it is to Lantern. It just goes to show you that you can truly play anything in Modern and it almost doesn’t matter. If it’s your weekend, then it’s your weekend, and not even logic will prevail!

I’ve been loud in my distaste of Modern and I would have much preferred to play with the new cards being legal in the format, but that’s not the case. I’m going to suck it up one last time and try something I’ve not been given the opportunity to try, with a deck I’m sure many of you are familiar with:

I’ve stopped caring. I’m done brewing. This is the last time this deck will exist in its current iteration and I’m okay with giving it at least one try. I’ve watched Andrew and Dan Jessup have success with Grixis Death’s Shadow, leveraging their skill as players. I’ll give it my best shot.

My investment in this weekend’s deck choice is low. It’s strange that Wizards of the Coast would sabotage two major events in one weekend by changing the format during the week and not letting tournament organizers run them as sanctioned events. I understand people must prepare for events and changing the format on the Monday before might make some of them unhappy, but is this really better? When viewers turn off the tournament streams, they’ll do so knowing they won’t get the chance to play the format they just watched. Isn’t that the entire point of a broadcast? To generate excitement for a format and get people wanting to play what they just watched? It makes no sense to me.

So what is there to be excited about this weekend? First off, it’s in the wonderful city of Indianapolis, which is one of my favorite stops on the SCG Tour no matter what time of year it is. There are endless great places to eat, with Noodles & Co. being right next to the convention center, a mall attached to the site via sky walkways, and other food favorites like The Old Spaghetti Factory, Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, and the one place most Magic players will be visiting: Starbucks! Got to have my coffee before an event!

While I’m not as fired up as I would like to be, there’s no doubt in my mind that, despite the difficult situation we find ourselves in, we’re going to have an amazing time play and just enjoying the city itself. Ross Merriam, Todd Stevens, Jim Davis, and I will be representing Team BCW, along with our team manager Rick Kivett. You’ll be able to find all of us hanging out Friday night at Game Time, slinging some spells in any format you’d like. It’s a great experience and tons of fun, so don’t let the Modern banned list blues get you down.

I fully expect to see all the usual suspects this weekend, from Affinity to U/R Gifts Storm to Humans and all the other nonsense we saw at the Pro Tour. While this will be the end of (for me, at least) a fantastic format to watch and a miserable one to play, I’ll be sad to see it go. It was kind of nice for people to have a rallying point against me with all the diversity there was in Modern, how tightly people clung to the format, how perfect it was in their minds. It’s my personal goal to ruin it for everyone by winning the first Modern Open where Jace, the Mind Sculptor is legal. I’ve got mine sleeved up and ready for action already, so come at me, world.

Here’s to #SCGINDY and all the wackiness that was this format! Enjoy your last hurrah!