Card Spotlight: Don’t Boot the Loot

There can be no debate. Hogvine is the best deck in the format by a significant margin. Players running mainboard Leyline of the Void is a sure sign of any unhealthy format. With Faithless Looting decks on top, the question has bubbled back to the surface: is it time to for Faithless Looting to eat the ban hammer?

Why Should We Ban It?
Faithless Looting is nearing Lightning Bolt levels of dominance. As we noted on Friday, it has reached over a 1.0 dominance rating. This means that there are more copies of Faithless Looting than there are players in the average Modern tournament. This is pretty absurd for any card, let alone a red draw spell. It is no surprise that such a powerful Magic card will have polarizing opinions on it. On one hand, it is inherently negative card advantage. On the other hand, the graveyard is arguably an overpowered zone in Modern so the card disadvantage is fairly irrelevant. Faithless Looting enables a diverse array of decks to exist, but they all have a similar paradigm; have spells that get value out of being in the graveyard. There is a legitimate debate to be had about whether Faithless Looting is adding to the diversity of Modern or strangling it.

Izzet Phoenix has been the top archetype at every Modern Grand Prix since Krark-Clan Ironworks was banned at the end of January; no really take a look. This is a streak that stretches over eight GPs. The banning of Splinter Twin was largely due to how dominant the archetype was. It’s not unreasonable to say that Izzet Phoenix is putting up similar levels of dominance. With that said, the other thing that factored into the banning of Twin is that it restricted diversity. Despite Phoenix’s dominance. I feel like Modern has generally been pretty diverse in it’s time on top. Modern’s current problems are far bigger than Phoenix decks.

Hogaak decks are restricting diversity in a massive way. These decks are able to win through graveyard hate even when faced with a very fast clock. It makes it incredibly difficult to beat the deck. On top of that, Players are running several graveyard hate spells just to beat the deck. Sideboard spells slots are worth their weight in gold in Modern. Devoting half of your sideboard slots to beat one deck severely restricts what decks people are actually able to play. Something obviously needs banned from Hogaak. The question is what? Bridge From Below died for the deck’s sins already, would a Faithless Looting ban be enough to curb the deck’s dominance?

Taming the Hog
Hogaak is still playable in Modern because it is on store shelves. That is it. Wizards of the Coast went with the better financial decision for them over the health of the format when they banned Bridge From Below. I don’t fault them too much for this, they are a business. I mostly fault them for putting Hogaak and some other Modern Horizons cards into the format in the first place. There is a very real chance that Faithless Looting eats a ban instead of Hogaak because Hog-daddy is still on shelves. If this is the case, it will be a horrible decision. I think there is a real argument to be made that Faithless Looting should be banned in Modern. It’s an incredibly polarizing spell, but banning it is not going to fix the broken design of Hogaak. In fact, I feel that it would have the opposite effect in a lot of ways. Some of the best Leyline of the Void decks are also Faithless Looting decks because they can get rid of the extra copies of Leyline that they draw. Hogaak is the correct ban and we’re not going to be free of it until that card is yeeted out of the format.

I thought Wizards added a play design team specifically to catch issues like this before they enter the format. I know that they’re mostly focused on Standard, but to have a room full of former pros and have none of them say this is a terrible idea is pretty absurd to me. Take Gurmag Angler for example. Gurmag Angler costs seven mana for a vanilla 5/5. Hogaak is seven mana for an 8/8 with trample. This is a massive difference in power. It doesn’t die to Dismember. It outsizes Tarmogoyf unless there is every single card type in the graveyard. Sure, Hogaak can’t be cast with mana but convoking it is fairly irrelevant for the decks that would play it. There are plenty of “free” or very cheap creatures that the graveyard strategies want in their deck anyway. On top of that, it’s a recurring threat.

The most egregious clause is that it can be cast from the graveyard. I understand that this is flavorful but it should not be able to recur itself multiple times. I understand there is a lot of text on the card already, but it should have been exiled if it left the battlefield. Path to Exile is one of the only real ways to actually deal with a Hogaak. This is again polarizing the format in a massive way. Banning Faithless Looting is going to make the Hogaak deck worse, that is definitely true. With that said, it doesn’t fix the absurd power level of Hogaak. They very may well just become Sultai decks with a full set of Hedron Crab and perhaps Prized Amalgam. Or they may slow down slightly with Cathartic Reunion. Whichever path they take, the deck would still be overpowered without Looting. Hogaak would still limit design space for graveyard-centric spells forever.

Collateral Damage
The biggest problem with banning Faithless Looting is that a lot of bystander decks get killed in the process. Traditional Dredge, Mardu Pyromancer, Hollow One, and several other decks likely would be unplayable without Looting. None of these decks are anywhere near causing an issue in the format. Many of them have had periods of being Tier 1 decks, but they have never approached anywhere near the level of dominance of Phoenix or Hogaak. I know there are a lot of players that love these decks and are invested in them. While this can’t be the sole factor for making a ban decision, I think it really needs to be taken into consideration here. Faithless Looting enables a ton of decks to exist. We need to weigh that as a whole and decide whether Looting belongs in the format. A busted card like Hogaak is still going to cause issues whether we have Faithless Looting in the format or not.

Hogaak and Izzet Phoenix will be able to survive a looting ban. Hogaak is so incredibly powerful and resilient that it is able to win through multiple pieces of graveyard hate. In the past, landing a turn zero Leyline of the Void bought you at least a turn. With the printing of Force of Vigor, the deck is able to beat graveyard hate without needing to invest a turn into getting it off the board. Insolent Neonate and Stitcher’s Supplier are very powerful ways to fuel their graveyard. As explained above, I am not sure exactly what would replace Looting in the deck, but it would likely still dominate. Izzet Phoenix is able to transition to using Izzet Charm. While it is a downgrade in speed, it provides more versatility. The deck would lose it’s nut draw, but that is such a small portion of what the deck does. Hogaak and Phoenix are the most egregious offenders and a Looting Ban does not do all that much to curb them. I don’t see how killing a handful of archetypes to slightly nerf two others makes much sense. We need to ban Hogaak first and foremost. Afterwards, we can deal with any arisen problems.

With all of this in mind, we do not believe that Faithless Looting should be banned. Bridge from Below was banned for Hogaak’s sins. WotC should not repeat this mistake by banning Looting. What do you believe is the correct ban this time? Will Vengevine decks even be playable with both Bridge and Hogaak gone? Please share your thoughts with us 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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