In March of 2013, it was easy to find copies of Bitterblossom for less than $15 each. Banned in Modern and underpowered in Legacy, this former Standard flagship had been reduced to guest appearances in casual formats like Commander and Cube.
When speculation started to mount regarding which cards might come off the Modern banned list in January, Bitterblossom jumped to $30. When the announcement came down, the card surged as high as $85 overnight before stabilizing at its current retail price of $60.
I don’t have pricing data on foil promo copies of Wild Nacatl going back to this time last year, but I remember picking up a few in the $1-$3 range without much of a problem. You could still find them for under $5 the month before unbanning if you looked hard enough. Today the card books for a solid $10 retail.
Only one other card has come off the Modern banned list in the history of the format: Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. While that card didn’t spike much after being unbanned, those of us who were able to get in on Scapeshift and Prismatic Omen early on made a huge profit selling into initial hype that the Valakut combo deck was back for good.
There is money to be made each time a card comes off the Modern banned list. In the past you could wait until the ten- or fifteen-minute window right after the announcement and snipe copies from the websites of lesser known retailers with little to no risk, as I did during the Valakut unbanning in 2012. This doesn’t work anymore. The speculator community has grown so large that the most likely unbanning targets now start to spike weeks before the announcement. Retailers are getting savvier too, either taking down their stock during the announcement or refusing to honor immediately post-unban sales.
If you want to make money on an unbanning, you now need to be ahead of the curve—way ahead. This week I’m going to take a look at every card on the Modern banned list and discuss how likely it is to come off in the future. After all, the best time to speculate on these cards is months before everyone else.
Should you buy in on any of these though? Well, the good news is that buying cards that are already banned is a relatively low-risk investment, provided their value isn’t already tied to playability in a different format. In addition, you have a nice window to recoup your money every couple of months when people start to make their banned list spec purchases and demand goes up. Even if you thought Bitterblossom had no chance to actually be unbanned, buying at $15 and selling to speculators at $30 is a nice little profit.
That said, if you go this route, you should know that most banned cards are very long-term holds. Seriously, Modern is four years old, and only three cards have ever come off the banned list. It may be years before another card is unbanned, and countless legal cards will spike and drop and spike again during that timeframe. There are probably better uses of your money than buying cards that cannot currently be played in the most popular Eternal format.
People love banned list speculation, though, so I wanted to take a look and see if there are any obvious targets for future unbanning. At the very least, it should help generate an interesting discussion on what WotC has in mind for the format and what we can expect for Modern in the future.
The Artifact Lands
Why They’re Banned: Anyone who played Standard during the dark days of Ravager Affinity knows exactly why these cards are on the list. Right now Affinity has to play a few subpar cards like Memnite simply to reach a critical mass of artifacts. If the artifact lands came off the banned list, powerful cards like Cranial Plating, Mox Opal, Etched Champion, and Arcbound Ravager would become absolutely absurd. Oh, and Affinity without these lands is still a tier 1 deck right now.
Why They Could Be Unbanned: An unban here would necessitate a ban of both Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating, nerfing Affinity beyond reason. Otherwise, Modern would have to turn into a format where the current version of Affinity would have to be twice as good to compete. We’re many broken cards away from that reality. Either that or Wizards would have to reprint Tarmogoyf with the ability “0: destroy an artifact.”
Cost and Reward: The artifact lands were commons, so they’re still just $1 or so each. I suppose they could hit $3 or even $4 if they were unbanned, but that seems like a stretch to me. The cost to buy in is low, but the reward is low too. If these did come off the list, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas would likely go up along with the rest of the affinity staples.
Verdict: These will come off the list only if Wizards has to ban several other Affinity pieces in the future, rendering the deck inert.
Why It’s Banned: From the start Wizards wanted to avoid turning Modern into a draw-go format where control players could have card draw and counterspell battles without doing anything for hours at a time. Even though that is a style of Magic that I and many older players enjoy, the development team made a conscious effort to promote a more creature-heavy environment in Modern than existed in Legacy at the time. In a long enough game, Ancestral Vision is basically just Ancestral Recall. At the time this card was seeing a ton of play in Legacy too. It’s also arguably something a storm enabler, though it’s generally too slow.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Classic control doesn’t exist in Modern right now, and there’s a solid argument to be made that it should. This card is likely not good enough to make any current tier 1 deck overly oppressive, nor would it likely create a brand new deck problematic enough to warp the format. This is one of the safest unbanning targets out there.
Cost and Reward: This card sees some play in Legacy, and it went up a couple of dollars due to Modern unbanning speculation in January. Currently, it’s sitting at $10. If Vision were to be unbanned in Modern, hype would likely drive it to $30 overnight. If it became a staple, it would probably hover in the $20-$30 range.
Verdict: This is one of the most likely cards to come off the banned list and is a solid spec target.
Why It’s Banned: Wizards has said that Modern should not have any decks that can win consistently on turn 3. One of the initially dominant combo decks included Blazing Shoal on a Glistener Elf or Inkmoth Nexus, dealing ten poison damage on turn 2 or 3. With transmute and counterspell backup, the deck was both excellent and consistent.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: WotC would have to want to introduce a blisteringly fast combo deck into the format. Either that or the two one-drop poison creatures would have to be banned for different reasons, which would make Blazing Shoal useless anyway.
Cost and Reward: This card has no applications other than this deck, and it was a bulk rare before this combo deck was created. It retails for $2 and is easily available. If the card were unbanned, Blazing Shoal could go as high as $15 or $20 since it is a rare from Betrayers of Kamigawa that would suddenly find itself in the middle of one of the best decks in the format.
Verdict: Not going to happen unless WotC changes their stance on fast combo in Modern.
Why It’s Banned: When it was legal, Bloodbraid Elf was the best card in Jund. At the time Jund was the dominant deck in Modern, and the format had become stagnant—Jund was almost 50% of the field at some events. Bloodbraid Elf gives Jund a crippling amount of tempo and card advantage, especially off the back of a Deathrite Shaman.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Bloodbraid Elf never “broke” Modern—it was the Jund deck at large that was too oppressive. There is a chance with the banning of Deathrite Shaman that Wizards might want to give Jund a shot in the arm at some point in the future. Of course, a Jund deck went undefeated on day 1 of Grand Prix Richmond without either Bloodbraid Elf or Deathrite Shaman, so it doesn’t seem to need any help right now.
Cost and Reward: You can pick these up easily for $2.50 retail, but they were never much more than $5 or $6. If this were unbanned without an additional printing, it might briefly surge over $10.
Verdict: This card may come off the list eventually, but if that day comes it will be years from now when Modern looks very different than it does now. There are better long-term specs out there.
Why It’s Banned: Chrome Mox only exists to break things. Every combo deck in the format would try this card out, and it could allow some of them to get off unstoppable turn 1 or 2 kills. That’s exactly the sort of stuff Wizards of the Coast wants to curtail.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Chrome Mox has never actually broken a format, though it was very good in the old Extended. It was mostly banned due to unsubstantiated fear, and it is unclear what it would actually do to Modern if it were to come off this list.
Cost and Reward: Chrome Mox is out of stock at $20 right now, so your buy in would be close to that. If it were to become unbanned, you would be looking at a $60-$70 card easily during the initial spike.
Verdict: Chrome Mox could probably come off the banned list without destroying Modern, but I cannot see Wizards unbanning a card that mostly exists to speed up the format and has a small chance of warping the metagame around it entirely. That’s the opposite of what they’re trying to do, and the risk present in an unban is probably too high.
Why It’s Banned: 12 Post was Modern’s first boogeyman. With enough ramp and mana manipulation, you ended up with the old Mirrodin-era Tooth and Nail deck on steroids and the ability to generate Emrakul, the Aeons Torn mana on turn 4 without much of a problem.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Now that the format has grown and evolved, there’s a chance that 12 Post wouldn’t be as punishing and dominating a deck as it was back in 2011.
Cost and Reward: Cloudpost is a common, so the correct spec target would be Vesuva, a rare four-of in this deck. They currently retail for $12 and would easily hit $30-$40 if this deck came back. Tooth and Nail, Scapeshift, Amulet of Vigor, and Primeval Titan could also spike.
Verdict: 12 Post was thoroughly dominant in Modern, and I’m not sure any of the current decks could successfully hate it down to small enough numbers to justify an unban. I don’t see Wizards reintroducing a problematic card to a format that has become healthier since it left.
Why It’s Banned: The Dark Depths + Vampire Hexmage combo dominated Legacy for a long period of time. Modern, a format without Force of Will, would be even weaker to what usually ends up as a turn 3 kill.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Maybe they have to ban Vampire Hexmage for some other reason? Or something having to do with tokens is errataed in the rules to prevent that combo from existing?
Cost and Reward: Dark Depths recently jumped to $60 and continues to do very well for itself in Legacy. If this card were to somehow become legal in Modern, it would break $100 instantly because it is so format warping.
Verdict: This card has a better chance to get banned in Legacy than unbanned in Modern. Look elsewhere.
Why It’s Banned: Wizards of the Coast just told us why they banned this card—Jund and other G/B decks had continued to dominate, and R&D felt that a card that gave these decks early game mana acceleration along with late game power made Jund and other “good stuff” decks too oppressive against synergistic builds.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: There was some worry that Deathrite Shaman leaving the format would herald a new era of graveyard/reanimation dominance, but that hasn’t happened. The biggest knock against this ban then is that Deathrite Shaman is a good card but not a broken one. Is it really that much better than Noble Hierarch, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, or Restoration Angel? It seems more likely that the format needed a temporary break from Deathrite Shaman than a permanent one.
Cost and Reward: Deathrite Shaman retails for $12 despite being banned in Modern and seeing only a small amount of play in Standard. Most people are holding these because of Legacy demand and the hope that it will be unbanned in Modern. I suspect that the price will come down a bit as we creep closer to rotation and more Standard players realize that they have no short term use for the card. If it does get unbanned in Modern—likely two years from now at the earliest—it could spike very high.
Verdict: I hope to pick these up in the $5-$6 range in a couple of months. There’s a chance that it won’t drop at all, but with no Standard or Modern application I suspect that it will. This will be a popular spec target for unbanning starting in January 2015 and will start to climb again then.
Why It’s Banned: With Dread Return in the format, Modern Dredge decks are capable of a turn 3 kill. At least that was the determination made by WotC during their initial crafting of the Modern banned list. Also, Wizards doesn’t like dredge because it’s non-intuitive and non-interactive.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: It is unclear whether there are enough tools for Modern Dredge to actually kill on turn 3. It is possible that today’s Modern Dredge deck with Dread Return would simply be very good instead of dominant, which could be tested in WotC’s FFL.
Cost and Reward: Dredge is a fairly cheap deck that already exists in Legacy. I’d expect the key cards to double or triple if the deck suddenly became Modern legal, but there are no obvious breakout specs.
Verdict: It is very unlikely that this card will be unbanned. It enables a new broken combo deck for the format, one that WotC isn’t particularly fond of at that.
Why It’s Banned: At the time of the initial banning, Modern Elves was a consistent turn 3 combo deck in WotC internal testing. They believed that the deck would continue to exist in a slower form without this card, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. With Glimpse, it is still a very good Legacy deck.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Green Sun’s Zenith has been banned in Modern since the initial testing. Is Elves still a turn 3 deck with Glimpse but without Green Sun’s Zenith? Probably, but if not perhaps they’d consider allowing it to exist. Without Gaea’s Cradle, it wouldn’t be as good as the Legacy version.
Cost and Reward: Legacy demand has the card at $25 right now. Modern legality would double it at least along with the rest of the Legacy Elves staples.
Verdict: WotC has said that they don’t want Modern to simply have overpowered ports of Legacy decks or turn 3 combos. Even if Elves without Green Sun’s Zenith isn’t a turn 3 deck, it isn’t that far off either. Unless their philosophy changes radically, this is a safe bet to stay banned.
Why It’s Banned: Wizards of the Coast did not want Dredge to be a dominant deck, so they banned Golgari Grave-Troll, one of its best enablers. Then they decided that they didn’t want Dredge to be a deck at all, so they banned Dread Return.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Golgari Grave-Troll is not incredibly scary without Dread Return in the format. It’s likely that some form of Grave-Troll Dredge could exist in Modern without dominating, opening up the format a little.
Cost and Reward: Grave-Troll retails for $1.50. If it were unbanned, it would probably spike to $7-$8. It might not see much play, though, and if so it would start falling back off toward the $3-$4 range.
Verdict: Golgari Grave-Troll would probably not have been banned if WotC had decided to put Dread Return on their initial banned list. As such, it seems like a reasonable target for unbanning. However, that would require Wizards to admit that they are okay with Dredge existing as a potentially viable deck in Modern, which is a slight stretch.
Why It’s Banned: WotC gave similar justification for this ban as they did for Deathrite Shaman—Green Sun’s Zenith was deemed too efficient at all stages of the game. It can get a Dryad Arbor on turn 1 for acceleration or a Primeval Titan later in the game. They felt it was too efficient and caused too many green decks to look the same.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Green Sun’s Zenith is not one of the most powerful ten or twenty cards in Modern, is it? It’s efficient, but it isn’t broken. A time may come when Green Sun’s Zenith will help enable decks that don’t exist right now, allowing WotC to spin the unban as adding more deck choices to the format.
Cost and Reward: The retail cost on this card is $5. An unban would probably shoot it up into the $15-$20 range. Dryad Arbor would probably spike a little as well.
Verdict: I cannot see WotC even coming close to unbanning this card while Birthing Pod is a dominant deck without it. In a future where Birthing Pod is either banned or neutered, Green Sun’s Zenith becomes one of the more intriguing choices for an unbanning.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Perhaps in a world where Force of Will gets a Modern legal printing and Modern basically becomes Legacy. Even then I doubt it.
Cost and Reward: It’s a $1 bulk rare because you can’t play it in anything. If you could, the price would start at $20 and go up from there.
Verdict: This card is too good as is, and things that make it better and easier to cheat out continue to be printed. Hypergenesis has no shot of coming off the banned list.
Why It’s Banned: After banning most of the flagship cards from the other powerful Legacy decks, WotC realized that they needed to ban some blue cards too or else blue control would dominate Modern. Jace was first on the chopping block because it is consistently one of the most powerful cards in both Vintage and Legacy. It’s also really expensive and at the time had just finished crushing dreams in Standard to the point where it needed to be banned there.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: The argument over whether or not Jace could safely be unbanned rages on in the comment thread of every article discussing this subject. The pro-Jace camp argues that the planeswalker would be a solid addition to Modern, giving control decks an identity that they don’t have right now and opening up the format. They believe that Jace might actually be worse in Modern than he is in Legacy thanks to all the creatures running around and point to cards like Hero’s Downfall and Dreadbore as answers to planeswalkers that didn’t exist a few years ago. The anti-Jace camp likes to remind them that Jace tends to warp formats around him—plus have you even played against the guy? He’s like ten thousand kinds of slow and frustrating. Also copies of Jace would cost roughly a million dollars each.
Cost and Reward: You can pick up From the Vault copies on sale at StarCityGames.com right now for $85. If Jace were unbanned in Modern without being reprinted, the sky would be the limit on his price tag. $400 overnight wouldn’t shock me.
Verdict: From a pure playability perspective, I can see the arguments for introducing Jace to Modern. Jace decks might end up being too good, but it would be really interesting to see what would happen to control in the format if he were to become legal.
Financially, however, it would be a disaster. Jace would instantly become the most valuable card in the format by a factor of three or four. With people already up in arms about $100+ fetch lands, I can’t see WotC being tone deaf enough to unban Jace unless they mail everyone in the world a free one as part of the announcement. If WotC does want blue control to be a larger part of the format—something I’ve seen no indication of by the way—I’d expect Ancestral Vision to come off the banned list first.
Why It’s Banned: Mental Misstep warped the Legacy format around it for the several months it was legal, quashing decks based around one-drops like Goblins and Merfolk while severely restricting many other strategies. Because the best answer to Mental Misstep is Mental Misstep, most decks had to run four, causing the early game to revolve around who had the correct number of Missteps. Oh, and because the card uses Phyrexian mana, blue’s section of the color pie was completely subverted.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Legacy is a format built around powerful one-drops, making Mental Misstep the ultimate trump card. Modern is a format built around powerful two-drops, so there’s a good chance that Mental Misstep wouldn’t do as much damage here.
Cost and Reward: Mental Misstep is easy to pick up at $1.50 retail. If it were to be unbanned in Modern, it would be at $10 uncommon at least.
Verdict: I don’t see what Wizards of the Coast has to gain by unbanning this card. It is supremely unfun, it restricts strategies, and it warps the color pie. There’s a good chance that it wouldn’t be as good here as it was in Legacy, but it would certainly see a lot of play regardless. Not worth the risk.
Why They’re Banned: Efficient one-drop library manipulation was deemed too good for Modern. Izzet-based storm decks were dominating the format, and these cards made combo decks much faster across the board. Banning them slowed down the format and made it more creature intensive.
Why They Could Be Unbanned: Ponder is too good and likely cannot be unbanned unless WotC prints something that can stop it or slow it down. Mental Misstep was supposed to be that card I think, but it only made things worse. It is arguable however that Preordain is underpowered enough to come off the banned list and that it was axed prematurely. If U/R Storm or combo disappears from the metagame entirely, this is the card people would look to as an unbanning to bring those strategies back.
Cost and Reward: Both of these cards are $1.50 commons. There isn’t much to speculate on right now since U/R Storm is still good without these.
Why It’s Banned: The Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows engine sounds underpowered until you actually play with it. Against decks that rely on utility creatures or cheap aggression, the combo is backbreaking. The card was banned in order to allow those decks to exist. It’s kind of crazy that Jund is still a good deck with Punishing Fire, Bloodbraid Elf, and Deathrite Shaman all banned, isn’t it?
Why It Could Be Unbanned: If aggro decks and utility creatures start to overwhelm the format, this combo could help keep those decks in check. Punishing Grove is also fairly slow and narrow, so it’s possible the format will become powerful enough in future years that this combo wouldn’t be that big a deal.
Cost and Reward: Punishing Fire sees play in Legacy and is still just $1.50. It could possibly grow to $5-$8 if it were unbanned. Grove of the Burnwillows is still a great card in Modern and Legacy, so it’s a $50 card even without the combo being legal here.
Verdict: Gruul-based decks are powerful enough without this combo, and I don’t see WotC wanting to hurt the decks that Punishing Grove stops any time soon.
Why It’s Banned: This card was axed at the same time as Preordain and Ponder because Wizards did not want to mess around with Storm. Jeremy Neeman’s Storm deck dominated Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011, winning nine out of ten matches and delivering brutally quick kills. Wizards wanted to slow the deck down by at least two turns, and they did.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: See the Ponder and Preordain section. It’s possible that one of these three cards could come off the banned list without destroying the world, but Storm is doing just fine without them. It’s more likely Wizards will continue to ban Storm cards than start to unban them at this point.
Cost and Reward: Rite of Flame is still a $3 common despite being banned in Modern. An unban would cause it to hit $10-$15.
Verdict: Not going to happen unless Wizards wants to truly turn Modern into mini-Legacy, complete with dominant blue control decks, Force of Will, and other strong answers to Storm. In other words, not gonna happen.
Why They’re Banned: These cards were banned at different times for slowing down the game and making tournaments much less fun to play. The Eggs deck often took an entire round to go off and could take ten or fifteen minutes to take an additional turn after time, causing an entire GP or PTQ to grind to a halt while the Eggs player looped their artifacts. Sensei’s Divining Top created game states in the old Extended where one player durdled around with the top of their library for a minute or two every single turn.
Why They Could Be Unbanned: Second Sunrise will not be unbanned—players and judges alike hated this deck, and it made tournaments less fun to play in. Sensei’s Divining Top has a better chance of coming back, and people still play this in Legacy without the time issues being oppressive. Of course, Legacy is powerful enough to keep Top out of every deck. In Modern, it would be even better. Oh, and Counterbalance would instantly become a dominant strategy.
Verdict: Wizards of the Coast hates these two cards and the decks they enable. I cannot see either coming off the list.
Why It’s Banned: Have you learned from this article that Wizards hates Storm? Seriously, they really hate Storm. Seething Song was banned because there were some Storm decks doing reasonably well in Magic Online Daily Events that could sometimes put up a turn 3 kill. The deck was good but not dominant. Even still, WotC wanted it gone before it could do any damage.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: I mean, it probably didn’t need to be banned in the first place, but the fact that they did speaks volumes about how they feel about Storm. An unban would require WotC wanting to help Storm out, which would mean a sea of change in the entire philosophy of R&D.
Cost and Reward: Seething Song is a cheap common, and Storm is still a real deck. There’s no financial play here.
Verdict: Seething Song is more likely to come off the banned list than Rite of Flame and Ponder but less likely than Preordain, which could theoretically help out non-Storm decks. It’s a long shot, but not impossible.
Why It’s Banned: Stoneforge Mystic dominated Standard and continues to be a top performer in Legacy, providing control decks with a cheap and effective toolbox full of threats. Unlike other Legacy cards that might perform slightly worse in Modern, Stoneforge Mystic would likely become the cornerstone of the best deck overnight.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Something about the Modern metagame would have to change in way that would make Equipment much worse than it is in every other format. Other than that I can’t see it happening.
Cost and Reward: Legacy made this a $30 card, so the price to buy in is already very steep. Obviously, Modern legality would cause it to double in price or even more. Also, did you know this foil retails for $200 now? I traded several away for $35 each a few years back—whoops.
Verdict: They’re not unbanning this card, and as more Equipment is printed, it’s only going to get less reasonable to run.
Why It’s Banned: All decks need weaknesses. With Skullclamp, though, aggressive decks are all upside. When you run out of gas, just Clamp up some dudes and soak in the card advantage. This card was so powerful it destroyed an entire season of Standard and caused people to quit the game. It’s so good that it’s banned in Legacy.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: A rogue designer would have to take Aaron Forsythe hostage and force him to write the unban announcement at Jitte-point.
Cost and Reward: Skullclamp is sold out at $6 due to casual demand despite seeing print in several different casual products.
Verdict: The sun will explode before this comes off the Modern banned list.
Why It’s Banned: The Sword of the Meek + Thopter Foundry combo was dominating in Legacy at the time of this banning and had proven to be too much for Extended as well. The combo is non-interactive and hard to disrupt.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: Sword of the Meek + Thopter Foundry would immediately become a popular Modern win condition, but it is unclear whether they would warp the format around them. Most likely it would cause the rise of a new Azorius-based control deck that would be annoying but not oppressive.
Cost and Reward: Sword of the Meek is $2 retail. Thopter Foundry is just $0.50. Both cards would see a significant price increase following an unbanning, probably to something like $10 and $4 respectively.
Verdict: If WotC wants to help control, I don’t think this is the first place they’ll look—unbanning a powerful combo piece feels too risky to me. That said, it could probably come off the banned list without destroying the format.
Why It’s Banned: WotC’s initial justification was that the Umezawa’s Jitte + Stoneforge Mystic interaction was too oppressive and they wanted to keep Mystic around because it was the “more fun” card. Then Stoneforge Mystic began to dominate Standard and show up in Legacy, so they banned that too.
Why It Could Be Unbanned: With Stoneforge Mystic gone, is Umezawa’s Jitte a safe unban? Possibly. It was a format warping card in Standard, sure, but so was Bitterblossom. Jitte mostly allows midrange decks to compete against aggro decks, similar in many ways to the Punishing Grove combo. Unlike those two cards, Jitte requires you to equip it to a creature and swing, which certainly requires the sort of deck that WotC likes to encourage. Once active, though, a Jitte becomes one of the scariest things to face down in the entire game of Magic.
Cost and Reward: Legacy caused the price of this card to hit $40 recently. A Modern unban would cause the price to spike harder than Bitterblossom, though, and I’d expect it to hit $120 overnight. This is a possible reason why WotC may not to pull the trigger. If anything, we could possibly see an unban coupled with a reprint at mythic rare in Modern Masters II. Of course, the price would still stay way too high even if that happened.
Verdict: I think Jitte could exist in Modern, but I’m not convinced it would make the format better. It’s certainly one of the cards I’m keeping a close eye on though.
A Few Final Thoughts
Earlier this year Brian Kibler wrote about this topic on his blog. One line of his in particular bears repeating here: “Remember, the banned list is not a prison sentence—we don’t need to prove that this card is dangerous beyond a reasonable doubt. We just need to make a case that it could cause the format to be net less fun.”
This advice is worth keeping in mind when debating cards that could come off the banned list. Sure, Seething Song could probably come off the list without causing much of a problem, but the issue isn’t going to go to trial. No unbiased arbitrator is going to be making a ruling. WotC doesn’t like Storm, so the card isn’t coming back any time soon.
With that said, I cannot see any of the combo pieces or overtly broken things coming off the banned list. If something else comes off the list soon, it’ll be one of the control cards banned in at the format’s outset (Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Ancestral Vision) or Umezawa’s Jitte, though neither move seems likely to me. At some point in the far future, Deathrite Shaman and Green Sun’s Zenith may make their way off the list as well.
As for cards that might join the banned list next time, there are three strong candidates: Mox Opal (slow down Affinity and allow other aggro decks to exist), Birthing Pod (seriously, how is this card legal while Green Sun’s Zenith is banned?), and Splinter Twin (WotC hates overpowering combo decks). I expect at least one of these cards to be banned at some point this year, and all three are in danger so plan your spec boxes accordingly.
Overall, I cannot recommend using the Modern banned list as a tool for speculation, but if you’re going to do it, be smart. Identify the cards you think can safely reenter the format and start trying to get them now. If you wait until the next B&R announcement, it will be too late.