The Bans I Lived Through

The new year is a time of great change, and a lot of players think the scheduled ban announcement will be a huge shift in Modern and/or Standard. CVM has played a long time and thinks its worth looking at the historical precedent!

Happy New Year, everyone!

2016 has come to an end (finally), and it is typical to reflect on the year and how things went. Looking over the good and the bad can help shape your mindset for the next year. Here are the bullet points of my year:

  • Got married!
  • Joined Team Cardhoarder
  • Won a Standard Open
  • Played a lot of MTG, Magic Online, and other digital games (like Hex and Eternal)
  • Got a new job
  • Wrote a bunch of articles
  • Witnessed my friend Brian Braun-Duin win the World Championship
  • Visited my grandparents for the first time in years

On top of all that, I am now writing on the Premium side here at StarCityGames.com! For those of you who have been following me on the Select side for the last few years, I just want to thank you for always being there for me and enjoying my content. I love you all and appreciate your support!

All in all, I wouldn’t say that it was that bad of a year for Magic formats. As the New Year is here and we are on the precipice of Aether Revolt and a new Banned and Trestricted announcement, there is a lot of talk about Modern and how players would rework the ban list if they could. All of this talk has had me thinking about all the different bans and unbans that I have lived through and just how they affected the format (and me) at the time, and remember, I’m quite the old man.

Treasure Cruise in Legacy

This one was a no-brainer. Anyone who played Legacy during the Treasure Cruise time and didn’t play Treasure Cruise only did so because they wanted to make a point about not playing Treasure Cruise. It was the best card, and any deck that wasn’t using Treasure Cruise was worse than decks with it.

That is the definition of a busted card.

What exactly happened when they banned Treasure Cruise? Oh, right.

Dig Through Time in Legacy

We just switched to the other busted card, Dig Through Time.

While Dig Through Time may have been used in Delver decks and in Miracles, make no mistake, this is the deck that broke that card. I have never felt so invincible with any deck as I did when I sat down to play with Omni-Tell.

I wrote quite a few articles on the deck and how I felt that my perspective on the deck and how to pilot it always felt a little different from others. It wasn’t as much a Show and Tell deck with Dig Through Time as it was a Dig Through Time deck with Show and Tell in it.

The amount of redundancy was astounding, and the raw power of Dig Through Time would allow you to win even through the most brutal disruption. I had many games where I would draw a Dig Through Time while hellbent and just flat win the game.

Hopefully we’ve all learned our lesson with both Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise. Delve in general is an extremely powerful mechanic, as are most cost reduction mechanics. Delve, however, rewards you for just simply playing the game and interacting with your opponent.

Let’s keep all of this in mind as we are evaluating the Aether Revolt previews. Improvise isn’t nearly as busted as Delve as a cost reduction mechanic, but there will be ways to exploit it. Servos, Clues, and Vehicles are all primed to be tapped to provide mana for these spells with Improvise.

Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise in Modern

Even though Modern and Legacy are wildly different formats, they both have one-mana cantrips, one-mana burn spells, fetchlands, and Phyrexian mana spells. This combination of cards makes the cost reduction on card advantage spells like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise a non-issue and allows them to be used to their advantage.

In general, if you one-for-one your opponent over and over or spin your wheels with the filtering cantrips in Modern, you really aren’t going to gain any ground. With Treasure Cruise, you could just Ancestral Recall back all the resources you expended interacting with the opponent and then take over the game.

The reason for banning Dig Through Time? Wizards properly identified that if Treasure Cruise went, then Dig Through Time would just replace it. Sometimes we do learn.

Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Standard

I played a lot of Magic during these times. I also played a lot of Jace and Stoneforge Mystic. Jace was a hundred dollars and we were having Top 8s with 32 copies of Jace in it and almost that many copies of Stoneforge Mystic. The card that put them on the map was Sword of Feast and Famine, but the card that broke everything was Batterskull. Tutoring for an unkillable Baneslayer Angel was just too much.

The format started to warp around the cards. You had to play them to be competitive, and you had to play cards to interact in the mirror. Let’s go bigger. Play Spell Pierce to have efficient counters to Jace and Gideon. Mortarpod was even used as a way to handle opposing Lotus Cobra, but also as a way to trade your Squadron Hawks for theirs.

What happened when they got the axe?

Everyone still played Caw-Blade. Yes, Jace and Stoneforge Mystic were absurd and overpowered, but the real meat and potatoes of the deck were Preordain and Squadron Hawk. Now we just played more copies of Sword of Feast and Famine. We used Jace Beleren for card advantage.

I understand not wanting to pull the trigger on so many cards all at once, but I think that Standard format would have been much more enjoyable with Perordain and Squadron Hawk also gone, and that’s coming from someone who played the heck out of those cards.

Summer Bloom and Splinter Twin in Modern

I was a huge proponent of a Summer Bloom ban in Modern while I was playing the Amulet Bloom deck. It was too consistent at putting Primeval Titans on the battlefield on turn 2 and generally created poor play experiences for people, but I loved the intricacy of the deck.

I believe that it wasn’t banned sooner because the deck was difficult to play, misunderstood, and not widely considered good. Just as it started to pick up steam, someone was banned for palming the perfect seven over and over while running the tables with the deck. “It couldn’t be that good,” some thought, “because people aren’t playing it and those that are have to cheat to win.”

Well, let me say you didn’t have to cheat to win, and I’m glad I got to take it all the way to an Invitational final.

The banning of these cards, though, was quite entertaining. Before the actual announcement happened, the MTGO Beta client was released with both banned in Modern. This was brought to light online and shortly thereafter confirmed, even before the official announcement was slated to go up.

I still held onto my Korean Visions Summer Blooms, though. Never going to let them go.

Splinter Twin being banned was a concession to the monopoly over the U/x Tempo archetype that the card had. The hopes were that, with Splinter Twin gone, different tempo decks would start to see play.

Spoiler alert: Delver still isn’t very good and there are still decks that can kill you on turn 2.

I think that the Phyrexian mana spells should have gone away in Modern a long time ago. Seems awkward to ban Peek, but between Delve and Prowess, Gitaxian Probe is much more than Peek.

Mental Misstep in Legacy

If any of you played during the time Mental Misstep was legal in Legacy and didn’t play Goblins, Elves, or Merfolk, then you probably loved the card. It was very skill-testing in matchups where it wasn’t a huge blowout, but there were enough of those that it was obviously unhealthy.

Goblins was playing Mental Misstep to counter opposing Missteps. As a purely free spell with very little opportunity cost, there was little reason to not have access to the card.

This is the deck that I won the first Legacy Open that Misstep was legal in.

It was a revolution for Dark Confidant as a card advantage spell that wasn’t weak to Mental Misstep, and since you had Missteps to counter Spell Snare, Bob was able to reign supreme for a bit in terms of generating card advantage.

Admittedly, I was still very new to the Legacy format at this time. Thankfully I had Lewis Laskin to help talk me into running two Tombstalkers along with my Dark Confidant. It’s not like we have four, and with only two, there is much less a chance that we reveal one and get domed.

Sound logic, let’s go!

Now, it wasn’t all Sultai decks. The format at this time was largely being dominated by “NO RUG,” a Temur-colors Natural Order deck that aimed to put Progenitus onto the battlefield. This format also introduced me to my Legacy love for Show and Tell via this glorious Hive Mind deck. I lost in the Top 4 of the Seattle Open that same year, but Ben Swartz took the whole thing down with my list. The only difference was that he had no Angel’s Grace for the mirror because everywhere was sold out.

Mental Misstep was banned on October 1st, and I placed first in a Legacy Open the following weekend with this beautiful StoneBlade deck.

I’ve talked about this deck before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of anything that I’ve had a hand in designing. Along with AJ Sacher, we cooked this exact list up the night before the event in our hotel room.

So I could win the release weekend of Mental Misstep in Legacy and then win the ban weekend for Misstep that just happened to be the Innistrad release weekend for Snapcaster Mage in Legacy?

Hmm, it seems that I do very well with busted cards!

Birthing Pod in Modern

Before the Splinter Twin ban, Birthing Pod got the axe in Modern because it was too oppressive on other midrange creature strategies. There really wasn’t a reason to play anything other than Pod if you wanted to play a creature-based midrange game.

That was true, but unfortunately with Chord of Calling and Collected Company still around, now you just must play those cards instead of Pod. At least with Birthing Pod you had some flexibility on what bullets you had in your deck and could be creative. Jeff Hoogland is still fighting the good fight, being different with his Kiki Chord deck, but they all still feel close in theme.

This type of banning is just another instance of having the feeling of using your fingers to plug leaking holes in a sinking ship.

Modern in 2017

What will happen with Modern this year? I don’t know. I think that it needs some changes. Phyrexian mana spells should likely be on the banned list, as should Become Immense. Things to need to come off, but again, who knows what isn’t busted if they shake things up? For me, I wouldn’t mind seeing just what happens with Stoneforge Mystic legal and Batterskull banned.

Wizards might not think that Modern needs any changes because it’s immensely popular as is. There are also new cards and mechanics seeing print in Aether Revolt that may shake things up. Revolt as a mechanic is easily activated with fetchlands, and Fatal Push seems like it can fit into a lot of decks and might make playing five-mana creatures a thing once again.

Did someone say Stormbreath Dragon?

My Future

I hope that everyone had a happy holiday, and I am looking forward to what 2017 brings. I’ve already had some great news with moving over to the Premium side here at StarCityGames.com, and hopefully the good hits just keep coming. Fingers crossed that awesome people stop dying, though, because 2016 was a nightmare in that department.

One of the things I want to work on for this year in a more personal sense is to try to focus more on positivity and remove as much negativity as I can from my life. One small part of this is to limit the usage of “I’m sorry.”

Rather than saying “I’m sorry for being late,” I want to phrase it as “Thank you for being patient with me.”

Rather than highlight my shortcomings, I want to lift others up and praise them for their graciousness.

You can also expect a rededication to producing content, here and on my own stream and YouTube channels. I have decided to not re-sign with Team Cardhoarder for 2017, as the travel just wasn’t going to fit well with some new responsibilities at my day-to-day job and with Nicole in grad school, but it does mean that I have more time (and are freely able to) spend time producing more content and sharing my learning processes.

I just wanted to give one final heartfelt “thank you” to all of my fans who have continued to enjoy my content over the years, and I hope to up the beard game here on the Premium side of the website.