Predicting the B&R Announcement: August 2019

Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow there will be an update to the banned and restricted list and all eyes are on Modern. The format has not been so horrifically warped since Eldrazi Winter and it is a sure bet that this will be the end of Hog Summer. Today I will present the state of the format and my prediction on the bans and unbans that will take place tomorrow morning. The fun part is that you only need to wait twenty-four hours to laugh at how wrong I was.

State of the Format
Hogvine is a fundamentally broken deck. Players that argue otherwise are the climate change deniers of the Magic Community. You can look through our events coverage if you are curious. Or you can just look at the most recent Grand Prix from which we have every registered decklist. We saw Hogvine as the most played deck on Day 1 at 10.3% of the meta followed by Jund and Tron at 7.7% and 7.3% respectively. Moving to Day 2 we saw no deck above 7.1% other than Hogvine. Hogvine took 21.9% of the Day 2 metagame share. This is a greater percentage than any other three decks combined. In a format so well known for strategy diversity, this is a dumpster fire. Do not forget that this is a post-ban deck either. The format is being crushed by the weakened Bridge-less version of the deck. In my opinion, we needed an emergency ban after the Mythic Championship results revealed this. Instead we have had multiple events ruined while WotC twiddles their thumbs. As the article goes live we will be waiting on the results of the largest Grand Prix of the year, Las Vegas, and I am confident that it will be dominated by Hogvine. We have suffered enough and tomorrow morning, something has got to give.

Possible Bans

Faithless Looting
Please do not boot the Loot. We have already written a full article on this topic. A Sultai build of Hogvine would be a very slight step behind the current Jund or four-color builds. Hedron Crab is a great card in the deck and it would simply be a staple rather than a consideration. Admittedly, Faithless Looting is too good in the Modern format. The second best deck right now is Mono-Red Phoenix/Prowess; another Looting deck. In fact, Looting is the only spell other than Bolt to breach our 1.00 dominance threshold. This means that the average Modern tournament has more Lootings than participants. However, this ban has a ton of collateral damage and would do little to curb Hogvine’s domination. We will have to ban this someday but now is not the time in my opinion. A side remark: I often see folks say “It is played in too many decks to be banned”. This is a really poor argument. A card being heavily over-played is a direct reason to ban it. I am not sure how people come to the opposite conclusion.

Stitcher’s Supplier
I have seen this idea proposed frequently in recent weeks. Sure this is a key card in the deck. It sets up graveyard shenanigans, it is a zombie for Gravecrawler, and ideal sacrifice fodder for Carrion Feeder. Banning this card would hurt the deck more than a Looting ban and would not inflict collateral damage on other decks. But again, it is not going to get the job done. In recent weeks we have some top-placing Hogvine lists feature Glowspore Shaman. That is surely a downgrade but with Looting, Wayfinder, and Crab backing it up, we would see Hog Summer carry into the Fall. The impact is not significant enough. This is only going to work out if it is banned in tandem with Looting but this just kills the deck and includes the collateral damage.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Now this, this is the card that deserves to eat the hammer. Again, we discussed this heavily in our Looting article. This is such a poorly designed card. This card is Gurmag Angler but is given +3/+3, trample, and can be cast from the graveyard. The drawback? You have to cast it for free; the way you wanted to cast it in the first place and you have convoke on top of delve to make it happen. This design is bogus and will continue to limit the design of graveyard-centric cards as long as it remains legal. It should have been banned when it first broke the format. However, they banned Bridge from Below because Hogaak was fresh on store shelves. It should have been emergency banned after it crashed the Mythic Championship. Well here we are at another opportunity and I hope that WotC goes for the head this time.

Possible Unbans

Bridge From Below
This card was banned for Hogaak’s sins in the way that BBE was banned for DRS‘s sins. It was a decision based on financial rather than gameplay reasoning. Once WotC recognized that DRS was the actual problem they banned it but BBE had to wait four long years to be unbanned. Unfortunately, I do not think they will be rectifying their mistake tomorrow. In fact, I do not think Bridge will see the light of day in Modern any time soon. It is an odd design that functions only in the graveyard and entirely for free. I personally like the card and think it could be safely unbanned. The deck was Tier 3 at beast pre-Horizons. Post-bans they would still have Carrion Feeder and Altar of Dementia, which they rarely play anymore, but will have lost Bridge along the way. The deck will not be good anymore. They should have just banned Hogaak and been done with it but I would not expect them to admit and reverse their mistake tomorrow.

Anything Else
There are cards, like SFM and Twin, that folks will clammer for until they are unbanned and these are somewhat reasonable requests. The power level of the format rises every year while these cards and their interactions remain static. The power level of the archetypes they would inhabit has kept up though so it is a complex issue. Regardless, now really is not the time. Not because of specific power levels or anything; it is just a matter of timing. Between the London mull and Modern Horizons, these have been some seriously turbulent times. After tomorrow’s announcement we have a chance to figure out what Modern actually looks like anymore. I do not believe that WotC wants to pull the shake-up card again so soon. So I would not expect any additional unbans but it is only a matter of time.

My fingers are crossed that they make the right choice tomorrow. In my opinion these are the possibilities:

Best Case- Ban Hogaak, Unban Bridge
Likely Case- Ban Hogaak
Medium Case- Ban Looting, Ban Supplier
Poor Case- Ban Looting
Worst Cast- No Changes

Any of those first three options would be alright in my book. I just hope that when it is said and done we can return to some semblance of balance. So what is your take? Who is going and coming off the bench tomorrow? 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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