Your Format Sucks: Modern

Mark Nestico is on his way to #PTOGW and he has to test a lot. That pretty much sucks. That means he can’t make it to #SCGRegionals, and that sucks pretty bad too. However, he’s still a funny writer with a new hilarious entry into his popular series, and that? That’s not too shabby.

The StarCityGames.com Regional Championships, February 6!

Many people are fans of playing Modern. But many, many people are not fans of playing Modern. This article is for the latter group. Special thanks to Drew Magary. I’m including this at the top of the article because the denizens of the comment section refuse to understand that I’ve already acknowledged him and this writing format. Your comment section sucks.

Groceries or a Modern manabase?

Look! A picture that came off of Tumblr and it didn’t trigger anyone! Today is going to be a good day! Thanks, Letskilltheparty or whoever made this whimsical illustration. A format being pushed as heavily as Modern requires people to forgo the pleasures of lunchmeat and juice so they can buy fetchlands! Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

That’s what is so great about Modern.

It’s like distilled Legacy!

You get to play with cards that are good in Standard that are supported by Legacy manabases. Sprinkle in some Tarmogoyfs and a couple of burn spells that have been good over the years and shazam! You have a deck!

So many exclamation points this early in an article. You know it’s going to be good.

With a Modern Pro Tour coming up in Atlanta, I needed to take a step back from all the seriousness and focus of testing for it. This is what you get today. Me taking out my aggression on the format that has consumed my life for weeks. Hooray!

Your Relevance

Wizards of the Coast decided to cancel all further activities for Extended and replaced it Modern. This was wonderful in the abstract, because it meant that a lot of the cards you had that were about of rotate or that had rotated only a few years prior would be the basis for a format based entirely on…the borders of a card.




Modern was met with widespread acclaim. It felt like it made more sense and could be somewhat of a haven for the years and years you spent collecting Magic cards. That is, until people do what they always so selfishly do.

They bought in.

When that happened prices spiked hilariously. Lands needed to make a mana base exploded in price and cost. Tarmogoyf was actually hundreds of dollars. Previously inexpensive cards soared like majestic eagles. Public outcry reached a fever pitch because some Modern decks actually cost more than Legacy ones.

But hey, this is totally the most fun and diverse format out there, right?

Your Format

Modern is defined by a few principles meant to keep the format interesting.

1. Cards that are too powerful and format-warping shall be banned.

2. The format shall remain fresh by banning cards that are too polarizing or popular.

3. Almost nothing that they ban shall ever make sense (see Ancestral Vision).

4. A card shall only be unbanned when it is clear it is either a role-player (Bitterblossom) or terrible (Golgari Grave-Troll).

5. Jace, the Mind Sculptor shall never be unbanned, so you shall stop freaking asking for it to be.

The first two rules are great because they’re complete bull dookie and entirely contradictory.

We saw it a few weeks ago with the banning of Splinter Twin. Now, don’t get me wrong; it should have happened. Splinter Twin was a very constant and reliable strategy in Modern, which means that the only way to stop it was by killing it with fire. Summer Bloom also had to go. Amulet Bloom was a ridiculous deck that could consistently kill on turns 2 and 3 and successfully grind out games against the control decks of the format.

Both decks had the capability of killing by turn 4 if uninterrupted and that’s no fun! That’s why I imagine that this conversation took place:

Wizards: “We have to get rid of Splinter Twin and Amulet Bloom. Those decks are just too powerful.”

The Magic Community: “You could probably keep Splinter Twin. It’s not really that bad…”

Wizards: “You’re right. It’s killing everyone that plays against it on turn 4.”

The Magic Community: “What? No…I mean…it can, but usually it…”

Wizards: “And it’s roughly 41% of the metagame. Amulet Bloom is the other 66%.”

The Magic Community: “That’s not how math works at all.”

Wizards: “The last GP Top 8 had 111 copies of Splinter Bloom and Summer Twin in it.”

The Magic Community: “How do you even tie your shoes?”

Wizards: “We pay someone with all of our Magic Online money to tie our shoes for us. Our shoes are made of gold and our shoelaces are platinum.”

The Magic Community: “If you’re ban-happy, there’s that Griselbrand deck that pops up and kills people on turn 1 or 2 and…”

Wizards: “Shut your mouth! The adults are talking!”

The Magic Community: “We were having a conversation! That deck is ridiculous and when you ban the two decks that it can’t beat, you open things up for…”

Wizards: “…nah….it was the Grand Prix promo card. Can’t ban it. You’ll be okay.”

The Magic Community: “Does that at least mean you’ll unban Stoneforge Mystic, since it’s the current Grand Prix promo?”

Wizards: “Absolutely not, children. Now get out of my office.”

Did I nail it?

We now live in a world where two combo decks have been banned…making the way for another combo deck to thrive. One would argue that Bloom and Twin were removed from Modern because they both had the capabilities of playing long ball and comboing you out, but that can be said for multiple decks. Abzan Chord and Company can gain infinite life and beat you with an aggressive creature plan. Kiki Chord has tons of efficiency and the combo of Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

Griselhordebrandshoal or whatever they’re calling it can just outright kill a player on turn 2. No fuss, no muss. Glad it’s still around!

Heck, even Infect is a combo deck that can end a game as early as turn 3 with the right mix of spells and it can do so very consistently.

What? A deck that wins before the game even started just won the Classic at #SCGCOL? No way!

Modern: we want to promote a format without decks that can kill you on turn 4. Except the ones we left in that can kill you on turn 4.

Don’t even get me started on how cool Blood Moon is, either. Not being able to play Magic is more fun than I can handle.

Your Defining Cards

No matter what changes, these stupid and expensive shuffling mechanisms will always remain the same. Bless their hearts, they’ve added at least fourteen minutes of time to your game spent searching your library.

Other than that, Modern appears to have multiple pillars.

The list goes on.

What do they all have in common? Well, most of them are freakishly expensive, so that sucks.

One of my issues with Modern is that the best cards and best strategies are completely irreplaceable. Don’t want to dish out $200+ for Arcbound Ravagers? No Affinity for you. Can’t afford Karns? Good luck with that Tron deck. They are all so integral to what you’re doing that it’s impossible to play something without them. It’s some cosmic joke that after you spend $1000 on lands, you have to then shell out much, much more. The cheapest Modern decks are, for the most part, several hundred dollars more than the cheapest Standard decks. When I wrote about why Standard sucks, one of the biggest complaints was how costly it has become and that the gateway was nearly impossible for newer players.

Modern is just like that, only some people believe it’s more fun.

I just like playing Burn.

I’m a simple kinda man, kiddies.

What’s New That Sucks

The format.

The banning of Twin and Bloom has shaken things up quite a bit. Todd Anderson won with a Temur Delver deck last week that he implied (on Premium) that he wouldn’t play again, and U/G Infect was victorious in Columbus. It appears that G/R Tron won’t be taking over the world like everyone thought, almost certainly because Tempo decks are beating the hell out of them and ending the game around turn 4 or 5.

Which is ironic. Didn’t we want to avoid that?

Other than that multiple decks are Top 8’ing events in the wake of new Modern. This week alone we saw Infect, Tron, Jund, Burn, Affinity, and a deck I almost won a PTQ with in 2010 take top honors. This is certainly healthier than things were several weeks ago when we had a very stale and boring Top 8 filled with all the same decks, like eventual winner Jund along with Grishoalbrand, Abzan Company, Twin, W/B Tokens, Abzan, Naya Company, and Kiki-Chord. That format and its domination by two decks is dead and gone. Long live a new Modern format with all of the same decks minus the two banned ones!

What Has Always Sucked

Aside from the absurd barricade to getting in to Modern, I would say what has always sucked is the volatility of the format.

One of the sadder aspects of Modern is how long it takes the average player to get their deck together, only to find it exiled from playability. It might sound dramatic, but I knew multiple players who thought Splinter Twin was the best deck so they spent months trading into it and buying whatever pieces they could when they could afford it.

Then the ax was dropped.

I’ve seen the same thing happen with U/R Delver. These damn blue and red decks need to stop being so uppity.

Atlanta will showcase the best and brightest Modern has to offer at #PTOGW, but in doing so it will also set the stage for months to come in regards to what decks the masses will be playing. If something busted comes from the PT, it will wreak havoc on tournaments until another banning comes. If some of the rumblings of decks I’ve heard from friends also participating this weekend are true, that may just happen.

As always, I look forward to seeing how many of you finished this before calling me insane in the comments, but then again that’s my favorite part. I’ll appreciate the distraction while I dedicate the next 96 hours to even more testing.

I’m excited about this weekend.

Even though I know it’s going to suck.

The StarCityGames.com Regional Championships, February 6!