Our readers were overwhelmingly positive when it came to Part 1 so this train will keep rolling. 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 Cloudpost, Dark Depths, Deathrite Shaman, Dig Through Time, and Dread Return.
The first large Modern tournament was Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011 and it uncovered the need for several bans. Among them was the humble Cloudpost. To those unfamiliar it may seem like it is not a problem. Compared to Tron’s A + B + C = 7 it is A + A + A = 9 or A + A + A + A = 16. Due to Magic’s four-of restriction it is much more difficult to assemble than Tron and these pieces enter tapped, so what is the issue? Glimmerpost is what breaks it. Now you have life-gaining part Bs that allow you to go A + A + B = 7. Vesuva can make the deck even more consistent. Amulet of Vigor also negates the ETB drawback. As Amulet Titan players know, multiple Amulets will allow you to generate absurd amounts of mana. This deck may not Turn 3 a Karn Liberated as consistently as Tron but it goes much larger and is difficult to disrupt due to the redundancy. Admittedly, Damping Sphere and land destruction do exist in the 2019 Modern format to fight back against this. However, Tron is able to effectively fight through these and remain a pillar of the format. Cloudpost is a better version of it and every other ramp deck. It absolutely cannot be unbanned.
This one has never seen the light of day in Modern as it was a member of the initial banlist. If you are not familiar with it, it might seem quite weak. It is a land that does nothing, it cannot even produce mana, but if you invest thirty mana you are rewarded with a 20/20 indestructible flyer. However, thanks to Vampire Hexmage you can run out your 20/20 as early as Turn 2. In the years since it has received additional enablers. Thespian’s Stage for two mana, functionally three, can become a Depths with no counters that instantly triggers into Lage. Or Solemnity will cause Depths to come into play without counters and spawn a Lage token. Even Blood Moon’s updated rules make it a combo enabler. The thing is though, she is cleanly answered by Path to Exile and lacks haste so she will need to stick around for a turn. But where there are answers, there is also protection and recursion. There are many ways, such as Thoughtseize, to proactively defend her from Path and you may answer the token but they can always Loam the land back up and try again. It is not a fast combo but is supremely difficult to disrupt; you need to play something fast and linear to beat it. It would be unsafe for this Legacy archetype to enter Modern at this time so it must remain banned.
Oh boy this troublemaker. Deathrite Shaman is extremely broken. This card broke Modern Jund almost immediately when it was printed in late 2012. At its height we even saw four color lists featuring Lingering Souls and Ajani Vengeant as DRS fixed their mana. Unfortunately, we were forced to suffer through this for a full year. WotC decided that Bloodbraid Elf had to be banned for DRS’s sins so they banned it a short few months after DRS was printed. This obviously did not fix the problem but WotC wanted people to buy packs of Return to Ravnica. After it spent 2013 continuing to ruin the format, they finally banned DRS in early 2014; BBE remained banned for another four years. DRS is an unreasonable one drop. It is a one drop with a flexible mana cost, a ½ body, and one of the best creature types in the game. It acts as a Birds of Paradise while providing mainboard graveyard hate, life gain, and life drain. I would argue that this is the best creature ever printed. It even had to be banned in Legacy in 2018. This card will never be unbanned in the Modern format.
Dig Through Time
Dig Through Time was banned in 2015 alongside Treasure Cruise and Birthing Pod. At that time it was not performing at nearly the level of its compatriots. Birthing Pod was covered in the previous installment and Treasure Cruise will be covered in a future article. Both were outperforming Dig. It was being played in combo decks to help them assemble their combos in the mid to lategame. These archetypes in particular were not dominant but the justification was that Treasure Cruise-abusing Delver decks could easily transition to Dig without much trouble. Paying two mana for instant speed choose two out of the top seven is about as good as one mana draw three at sorcery speed. In Modern this is an unparalleled level of card advantage and selection. It would be a remarkable improvement to UW Control, Izzet Phoenix, and Grixis Shadow while reviving Delver, blue Scapeshift, and Jeskai Ascendancy. It is surprisingly similar to Narset, Parter of the Veils but is far more powerful. If it had one additional blue mana in the mana cost I do believe it could have stuck around in Modern. As it was printed though it is stronger than the currently banned cantrips; Ponder and Preordain. I do wish that we could unban Dig to revive some decks but it would break the currently exisiting blue decks. It is less powerful in Modern than it was in Legacy but it is too powerful to remain legal in either format.
Recently on our Facebook page, before the Bridge from Below Ban, I joked that we should ban Bridge and unban Dread Return. It was a member of the original Modern banlist and is popular in eternal formats. These decks mill themselves, spawn free creatures, use them as Dread Return fodder, and reanimate a large creature. It could be Dragonlord Kolaghan to kill you on the spot or a disruptive one like Iona if need be. Luckily, with Bridge From Below banned the free creatures are a bit more difficult to come by and it is harder to go lethal with Kolaghan. However, it would still be extremely powerful as a package in Modern Dredge. As these decks continue to mill themselves they will eventually have enough Narcomoebas, Bloodghasts, etc to sacrifice alongside a Dread Return and a large creature in the graveyard. Ideally, they would want to reanimate Grislebrand. Then draw enough cards to blast you with a lethal Conflagrate. If their life total is too low to outright kill you, they can instead replace their draws with dredges and mill most of their deck; hitting Creeping Chills and gaining more life while draining you. Then it will be quite easy to Conflag you for the win. The combo is not entirely deterministic but is consistent while leaving them way ahead if it fizzles. This adds a speedy win to the already powerful Modern Dredge deck with surprisingly few adjustments to the list. Much more than Bridge From Below would have to be banned in order to make Dread Return a safe unban.
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.