The Modern Banned Series: Part 4

You folks seem to really love this series. Recent B&R shifts had our focus elsewhere but we are excited to get back to it. Each installment is better received than the last and we are happy to keep the train rolling. We will clarify when/why the card was banned and discuss whether it could be unbanned in the future. 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 Hogaak, Hypergenesis, Krark-Clan Ironworks, Mental Misstep, and Ponder.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
What a stupid card. I loved Modern Horizons but I still have to question whether it was worth pain of Hog Summer. It was only two months but it felt like much longer. This card ruined a Mythic Championship and the largest Grand Prix of the year. This card is most comparable to Gurmag Angler. At the same cmc, Hogaak has a relative +3/+3, trample, and a further cost reducer in convoke. It can even be cast from the graveyard so you can just mill into it and recur it multiple times. The drawback? You cannot pay mana for it. Yeah because players really wanted to pay actual mana toward the creature that has two cost-reducing keywords. This was a terribly designed card and was the direct cause for the ban of Bridge From Below, Faithless Looting, and itself. Looting was inevitable though. The only time the format was less balanced was during Eldrazi Winter. It is powerful enough to Top 8 a Legacy Grand Prix. There is no chance that this card will be unbanned in Modern.

This was always a fun cycle of cards. At the time of this writing, there are no Tier 2 or better archetypes that play any cards from this cycle. Ancestral Vision was once banned and despite being legal sees no play at all today. Hypergenesis was on the original ban list and five of those cards are legal today. So it would seem possible. The point of this particular one is to cheat in something huge; preferably Emrakul. The decks that play these cards are often looking to cheat them into play and historically this was done via cascade spells. For these to consistently work, the deckbuilder cannot run cheap spells and that is the name of the game in Modern. Over the years though, they have printed much better ways to do this. At just two mana, Electrodominance will let you slam this into play. Run As Foretold for redundancy or stay in red with Kari Zev’s Expertise. There are many ways to slam your Emrakul early and consistently now. In Modern Horizons they even gave us a new green suspend spell to fill the void. Take that as a sign that this one is never coming back.

Krark-Clan Ironworks
This was such an interesting one to follow when it was still legal. Soon after Aether Revolt gave us Scrap Trawler, these decks began to show up but never garner much attention. They seemed great to me but artifact combo was out of my wheelhouse. I would venture to say that this strategy birthed the most mechanically difficult to pilot decks in the history of Modern. It took more than a year for them to gain steam and they were legal for two years before KCI was banned. This was not the first time this card had forced a ban so they went for the head and killed the deck outright. It was a combo deck that required artifact activation, the graveyard, and multiple spell per turn to win. So it appears to be quite easy to hate out but that was not the case. Engineered Explosives was a mainboard combo piece that happened to crush permanent based hate cards. Then for Stony Silence they had a set of Nature’s Claim. The deck was too redundant and value-centric to be stopped by one-for-one trades. This came together for an extremely resilient, consistent, and fast combo deck. With other great artifact combo decks available in the format I cannot see WotC giving us this one back; even if the format could bare it in the future.

Mental Misstep
Yuck. Another awful design. Modern is built around inexpensive spells. Looking at our most recent dataset, this counters seven of the ten most played spells in the format. As a phyrexian mana spell it can be played in any deck and happens to be free. That seems great. Better yet, it is the most effective answer to itself. Now games can come down to who has more copies in there hand for the 0 mana stack war. This led to it being a member of the original Modern banned list. I wish I could write a longer entry on it but there is just not much to say. It is a counterspell that can be run in any deck and counters most of the format; including itself. It creates a very inbred and centralized format so it is banned/restricted in every format in which it could be legal. It is really bad game design and will never be Modern legal again.

Ponder is an interesting one to say the least. One mana cantrips are always something to keep an eye on and this is one of the most powerful. For a single mana you are putting the best card out of your top three into your hand and ordering your next two draw steps. If you do not want any of the top three cards, you can just shuffle them away before drawing. This deck manipulation has led to it being Legacy’s second most played spell, behind Brainstorm, at the time of this writing. It is far, far better than Serum Visions and Opt. This strength caused it to be  banned in the aftermath of the first Modern Grand Prix. It was said to grant too much consistency to blue combo decks. However, in 2019 they are all Tier 3 or worse. Furthermore, Ancient Stirrings is legal and arguably better; though it does come with a deckbuilding restriction. That being said, blue control does not need the help as new printings have been quite kind to it through 2019. I will say that this one actually deserves a thought but not much more than that. It provides a level of deck manipulation that is too powerful for the Modern format but perhaps someday? I would bet against it.

Five more in the book and only eleven more to go in the Modern banned series. 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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