Predicting the B&R Update: January 2019

We typically do not write weekend articles here at GGG but many of our readers have been asking me what I think about the rampant banned and restricted update discussion. The two biggest changes being rumored are a ban on Krark-Clan Ironworks and an unban of Stoneforge Mystic. I will be giving a statement on these possibilities and more in today’s article. The following points of discussion were chosen based on the results of public polls and do not reflect the writer’s opinion of likelihood. Before you dive in remember that tonight will be the end of this week’s giveaway.

Possible Bans
#1 Krark-Clan Ironworks

Many players want to see the KCI deck nerfed after the great success it has had recently. When choosing a card to ban many people instantly point the finger at the namesake card. I personally believe that Scrap Trawler may be the better option as a different build of the deck could eventually spring up without it. I prefer to see decks nerfed rather entirely invalidated and it appears that WotC feels the same. However, KCI is a repeat offender and I would expect to see the hammer come down on it once and for all. I would not call it a slam dunk but it is quite likely.
#2 Ancient Stirrings
I will start by saying that I do not support this ban. I will admit that it is possible that the KCI deck survives this ban and falls in line with the format. It would effectively kill Hardened Affinity but traditional Affinity builds have started popping up again as is. The reason I cannot support this ban is that it would kill Tron. While I do not enjoy playing with or against Tron, I do recognize that it is a necessary evil to the format and has been brought in line by recent printings. It is possible that other ramp decks, Primeval Titan decks, could fill that metagame hole but I feel that we should leave well enough alone.
#3 Faithless Looting
This suggestion pops up every time a graveyard deck begins to do well in Modern. Recent memory calls up Bridgevine and Dredge. Currently the offender is Izzet Phoenix, which has shot to the top of the format in no time at all. While the deck is undeniably powerful we have to see how the format adjusts to it. Humans this past year and Shadow the year before that had ban talk follow them for quite some time. In time though the format adjusted and they fell in line. This is entirely possible for Phoenix decks as well. I will call this a “wait and see” as there is considerable collateral damage in banning one of the most played cards in the format.

Possible Unbans
#1 Stoneforge Mystic
This has been a persistent request from the community from the inception of the format. As time has gone on it has gained credibility due to the format’s power creep. While an uncounterable Batterskull is impressive on the third turn of the game we sees ruthlessly efficient threats such as Hollow One come down earlier and cheaper. Furthermore, Kolaghan’s Command exists to answer the combo at card parity and mana advantage. I will concede that it does not seem like it would break the format. However, I am not sure that UW Control decks need a buff considering their performance in 2018. This unban is only a matter of time and while I do not support it at this time, it could easily happen tomorrow.
#2 Splinter Twin
I am sorry to the many Twin fans but I have tested this one and I cannot get behind it. Many players felt that it should have not been banned when it happened. However, the various builds comprised more than 10% of the metagame at the time so it should not have been surprising. I do believe that UR Twin could be of an acceptable power level. Grixis Twin on the other hand is too powerful. In testing it plays much like Grixis Shadow except it can consistently combo out the ramp decks on Turn 4. While the deck is too powerful, I have said for years that Splinter Twin was not the correct ban but that is a topic for another day. I would not hold your breath on this one but perhaps some day.
#3 Green Sun’s Zenith
This is one of my favorite cards but I cannot in good conscience call this a good unban. When players make this recommendation I assume that they are unaware of the Dryad Arbor interaction or have not played against it. GSZ is functionally a split card between Llanowar Elves and any green creature with the caveat that they cost one additional mana. Green decks having acceleration on the first turn of almost every game and near limitless options as the game continues is too much. I am unaware of any combo decks that this would enable but it would be a massive boon to value creature decks, Elves, Infect, and Bogles. On a personal level I want this but the card has only become more overpowered as new green creatures have been printed and this will continue into the future. I do not believe that this card will ever be Modern legal.

Wrap-up
Ban discussion is always a divisive issue but I wholeheartedly welcome respectful discussion. None of us actually know what the effect of a ban/unban will be and we each have different visions of what the Modern format should be. An extremely large sample size is required to actually test these things and such tests cannot accurately represent how the player base will adapt to the unban in question. So when discussing these things it is best to not speak in absolutes. Let us all try to remain objective as all will be revealed tomorrow morning. I will see you this week for our regularly scheduled articles but before then make sure to participate in our giveaway as it ends tonight.

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