Part 2 of this series was even better received than the first entry so we will continue to make our way through every card on the Modern banned list. We will clarify when/why the card was banned and discuss whether it could be unbanned in the future. We will not flood our readers with the topic though. We will pop in to cover them every once in a while; typically five at a time going by alphabetical order. Today we will look at Eye of Ugin, Gitaxian Probe, Glimpse of Nature, Golgari Grave-Troll, and Green Sun’s Zenith; though we have covered that in a three-part series in the past. Due to recent events, we will be adding Faithless Looting in as well.
Eye of Ugin
The great eye of Ugin. Such an absurdly powerful card. For years it was a one of in Tron to help them power through interaction in long games. Making an eldrazi that costs ten or more cost two less is not a huge deal. Then Oath of the Gatewatch came and busted the format wide open until the April B&R update. We saw powerful eldrazi being printed as cheaply as two mana. Eldrazi Mimic being absolutely free is wildly powerful. It does not tap for this “mana” either so you can just dump multiple into play. With Urborg in play it does produce mana so you will be able to squeeze at least three “mana” out of it. With Eye and Eldrazi Temple, the deck played large threats very early and very consistently. The resulting Eldrazi Winter was the most unhealthy state the Modern format has ever experienced. Even when there was a “no ban list Modern” event, Eldrazi stood above the other broken decks. Since then we have gained Damping Sphere but that does not interact with Eye at all. This destroyed the format once and it will never be given the opportunity to do so again.
It feels like just this weekend we were playing Faithless Looting in Modern. Oh wait, we were. This article was completed before the August 2019 B&R update but we did not mind updating it before posting. We previously published an opinion piece stating that Looting should not be banned. My personal belief was that it would happen eventually but I was certainly caught off guard by the change. That being said, it was pretty fair. In our months of data collection it was the only spell, other than Bolt, to achieve a 1.00 dominance rating. This means that the average Modern tournament had more copies of Looting in it than players. More recently, more than half of the Top 32 decklists at GP Las Vegas featured a playset of Looting. It was the ultimate graveyard enabler; helping you to pitch things and still netting value if pitched by something else. It was the best card advantage spell in the format so I suppose it really did deserve to be banned. Dedicated dredge decks, tempo decks, midrange decks; they all could effectively utilize Looting. I was not prepared for the ban but it honestly does make sense and I do not expect WotC to ever undo it. They will continue to print graveyard-centric cards and Looting will continue to get better. If anything I would expect them to print a “fixed” version or just reprint Careful Study.
Gitaxian Probe was the latest in a long line of one mana blue cantrips that were banned in Modern. For a number of years it was not a particularly popular card. It was powerful but lived in the shadows of Serum Visions; seeing little play outside of Infect. It allowed them to check if it was safe to go for the win without a mana investment and then eventually helped with Become Immense‘s delve. Then we saw Death’s Shadow first break out in a four-color Zoo build. They could pay life to run out Shadow, race out the Become Immense + Temur Battle Rage combo, and check to see if they were safe from interaction. There were even Phoenix-esque Izzet decks featuring Kiln Fiend. It really does it all and is arguably stronger than Ponder/Preordain; it is banned in Legacy after all. Before that though they had to ban it from Modern at the beginning of 2017. It would be even more powerful today. Phoenix decks have been quite powerful and Probe would put them through the roof; though post-Looting their potential is questionable. Shadow decks are not exactly struggling without it either. Free spells are great. Cantrips are great. This free cantrip is never going to be unbanned.
Glimpse of Nature
This one likely seems odd to those who are not familiar with it. Beck//Call is legal and while it costs more, it triggers off of tokens as well yet it is unplayable while Glimpse was on the initial Modern ban list. Well the best use for it is Elf decks and they end up being far, far better than what we see in Modern today. For frame of reference, the far worse Beast Whisperer has seen some play. Glimpse has never been legal in Modern, being on the initial banlist, and for good reason. This turns each of your creatures into an Elvish Visionary. In a deck full of one drops, your chances of running out of cards is very low. The limiting factor is mana. Heritage Druid will allow you to tap summoning sick elves for mana and continue to go off. Eventually you will hit another Glimpse and draw even more cards. You will often be able to draw and play your entire deck and kill the opponent wish a massive Craterhoof Behemoth. This will often happen on Turn 3 and possibly on Turn 2. In current Modern, it would not be as good as Legacy Elves but it does not have to be. Elves needs the help but this is too much help and it will remain banned forever.
Probably the most interesting case on the Modern banned list. This was on the initial Modern banned list so Dredge was just bad in Modern. Then with the early 2015 shakeups, they decided to give it a shot. Guess what? Dredge still sucked for more than a year. Then Prized Amalgam was printed to give the deck another payoff. Then Cathartic Reunion was printed to give the deck another enabler. Reunion with Trolls could mill dredge away eighteen cards for just two mana. Then if the game went long, they could slam down a Grave-Troll that would dwarf even Hogaak. So almost exactly two years after he was unbanned, Grave-Troll had to be banned again. This ban is not really about Troll though. It is about a density of dredge cards. Stinkweed Imp dredges almost as much and the hardcast is much more relevant. Banning Imp would have had much the same effect. Since then, Dredge has gotten even better with Creeping Chill so it really does not need the help. That being said, I think this card could be safely unbanned now that Looting has been banned. WotC is not a fan of the dredge mechanic though so I do not expect them to risk making this mistake ever again.
Green Sun’s Zenith
As stated above, we covered this one in great detail previously but we can summarize it here. GSZ was banned in the round of hammering that immediately followed the first sanctioned Modern event; 2011’s PT Philadelphia. The only deck to feature it in the Top 8 was Breachpost; which featured multiple now-banned cards. Alas, it was gone and has never returned. As long as Dryad Arbor is legal, I would not expect that to change either. I do not believe that GSZ would break Elves as the deck currently stands but it would immediately be one of the format’s best. This is effectively a split card between Llanowar Elves (Arbor) and every other green creature in your deck with +1 to the cost; the versatility is insane. The largest offender in our testing was actually Titanshift. The deck wants to accelerate on Turn 1 but mana dorks do not contribute to their necessary seven lands. GSZ into Arbor gives them exactly what they want, making the deck a full turn faster, while acting as extra Titans if the game goes late. This is one of my favorite cards but there is not a chance that it is ever unbanned.
Now at the halfway point, we are steadily making our way through the Modern banned series. These discussions tend to get heated and the Looting wound is quite fresh 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.