The Modern Banned Series: Part 1

Our discussion group has made it clear, they enjoy articles on the Modern banlist but not quite deep dives. We previously took a long look at Green Sun’s Zenith, but that project became quite long-winded for a single card. So starting today we will be taking a look at every card on the Modern banlist. We will take a look at when/why the card was banned and the possibility that it could be unbanned in the future. We will not flood our readers with the topic though. We will pop in to cover them five at a time going by alphabetical order. Today we will look at the artifact lands, Birthing Pod, Blazing Shoal, Bridge From Below, and Chrome Mox.

Artifact Lands
These five lands were members of the initial Modern banlist based on the awful, homogenized Standard format they created with Mirrodin. Mox Opal’s metalcraft clause would be almost arbitrary if these were unbanned. A key factor that keeps classic Affinity decks in line is that they are full of hot air with twelve to fourteen payoff spells. To get Ravager and friends online quickly, the deck needs free artifacts to enable Mox Opal’s metalcraft. This leads to them playing junk cards like Memnite and Ornithopter. If you can answer the payoff cards, you should be able to overpower these cheerios with ease. When the deck has access to artifact lands, this goes right out the window. Much of the hot air will be replaced with “free” beaters such as Frogmite and Myr Enforcer. You will be able to answer the payoffs, but the leftovers will be perfectly capable of closing the game. Stony Silence will hurt more but postboard games often come down to the “Do they have it and do I have an answer?” subgame already. These will be potent in artifact combo and prison decks as well. Do not hold your breath for an unban, these have only gotten better as the years have gone on.

Birthing Pod
Pod was banned in early 2015 alongside Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. This came after a particularly dominant 2014 in which it won five of the twelve Modern Grands Prix. Phyrexian mana is an extremely powerful mechanic and Pod was no exception. It was used to assemble various combos and failing this, would just win the lategame by gaining incremental value. Topdecked dorks do not not feel too bad when you can immediately convert them into Voice of Resurgence. WotC cited Siege Rhino as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Those who have not played against it often do not understand the power. A creature toolbox deck having access to this level of consistency wrapped with a value engine is too powerful. As the years have passed, Pod has only gained greater options. It has better value options such as Knight of Autumn and better combo options such as Devoted Druid. Even if the Druid player can assemble infinite mana without the need for Pod, it still allows them to win the game. They cast the Pod and immediately activate it to turn Vizier into Rhonas, then infinite power swing with Druid. This card is better now than it was in 2015. WotC will give us non-repeating versions such as Neoform but Pod will remain banned.

Blazing Shoal
The first large Modern event was 2011’s Pro Tour Philadelphia and the results of it brought a wave of bans to the fresh-faced format. Among the Top 8 was Mono-Blue Infect featuring Blazing Shoal. While this deck was also helped by various other now-banned cards, it was absurdly good. You get an infect creature into play. Then with Shoal and either Dragonstorm or Progenitus, you are able to jump it to a one-shot kill while leaving up all of your mana to prevent disruption. It was fast, consistent, and very difficult to disrupt. The fast mana and cantrips have been banned but this deck would still be extremely powerful today. This is not like the green Infect decks we now have that must put themselves behind on mana in order to present a threat. By being functionally mono-blue the deck gains access to a free counterspell in Disrupting Shoal and on the winning turn, the deck does not have to invest any mana to kill you. You can try to three-for-one them with removal but they will have just as much mana available to stop you. This card is nowhere near safe to unban. It would enable exactly one deck and that deck would be the best in the format.

Bridge From Below
It feels like it was just this year that we were seeing players milled out on Turn 3 by the combination of Bridge, Hogaak, and Altar of Dementia. Oh wait it was just a few weeks ago. The most recent prisoner of the Modern ban list is the humble Bridge. An oddly designed card that has a casting cost but lacks text when in play. But when in your graveyard, it will quickly spawn an army of zombies. Some decks could easily kill their own creatures (Image choosing nothing anybody?) to stop the nightmare, but this was not enough once Modern Horizons was legal. Some players argued that the ban was premature, but the deck likely would have ruined the upcoming Mythic Championship. Hogvine with Bridge was the best deck in the format and managed to put up results despite the overwhelming sideboard hate. Ultimate Masters had just made the card affordable too. Alas, it is obviously too good right now and I do not see that changing in the future.

Chrome Mox
Then finally we come to Chrome Mox. Like the artifact lands, this has been banned from the format’s inception. This is effectively a mana dork that is free, does not have summoning sickness, and does not die to creature removal. That is pretty busted. However, you are forced to imprint a colored spell onto it for it to actually function which is a legitimate drawback. If the opponent does remove it, you will be mana positive but card negative. We already have fast mana like Simian Spirit Guide and Mox Opal so why not this? Well Simian is single use and can only produce one specific color. Mox Opal has a deckbuilding restriciton that forces you to fear Stony Silence effects. Chrome Mox has neither issue. The other barrier to unban is the redundancy it would provide. Most Mox Opal decks will not want Chrome Mox but Lantern Control would and that deck with eight fast mana cards would be devastating. Also any combo deck that runs fast mana would want Chrome Mox as well. Their nut draws would be much more consistent. It would be a random sharp power boost to random chunks of the format from Lantern to Infect. Reusable, fast mana with the only deck restriction being “play colors” is too powerful for the format as we know it.

These discussions tend to get heated but we welcome it. Every banned card has a player out there with fond memories of it and many of those players want to relive those days. So when you tell them “nope”, they may get upset. In reality, nobody knows for certain what is best for the format. But we all can dream and respectfully share our opinions. So what is yours? Were we off the mark on any of today’s banned cards? Let us know your thoughts in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

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