A Whole New Modern

Seth reacts to today’s Banned and Restricted announcement, and shares the decks he expects to benefit.

I can’t tell you enough how necessary making bans to Modern was. The format has desperately needed a shakeup, and now we finally got it. As of tomorrow, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Mox Opal and Mycosynth Lattice are all banned in Modern.

Let’s look at why.

Oko, Thief of Crowns Is Just Too Good

Oko, Thief of Crowns

Throne Of Eldraine | Mythic

Oko, Thief of Crowns - Throne of Eldraine - magic

Market Price: $15.48

The bottom line is that Oko was a design mistake. In Modern, as in Standard and Pioneer, Oko forced out any decks that couldn’t answer it, and compelled other decks to twist themselves around it. When looking at the top performing decks from recent Modern tournaments, there is one thing that most of them have in common. We’ve even seen Ponza decks splash for Oko. Decks like Infect were committed to playing Oko, simply because they had the mana to cast it.

Good riddance.

Mox Opal

Double Masters | Mythic

Mox Opal - Double Masters - magic

Market Price: $78.21

This is a controversial ban. Let me start by saying I understand why this ban happened, and I don’t fault Wizards. By banning Faithless Looting earlier this year, they established a precedent that they are okay with hitting multiple decks with a single ban, as collateral damage. Unfortunately, this time Affinity, Cheerios, Hardened Scales and other Mox Opal decks are paying for the sins of Urza, Lord High Artificer.

Mox Opal has been around in Modern for a very long time now, and it seems to have gotten better as more high-power artifacts were printed. It used to be that the best way to abuse Mox Opal was in Affinity. However, over time Affinity has actually seemed relatively tame compared to what some of the other Mox Opal decks have been capable of. The printing of Urza, Lord High Artificer in Modern Horizons pushed Mox Opal over the edge.

The various flavors of Urza decks have done extremely well—even more so since Oko has been legal. This is where we get to a bit of personal preference. I completely understand all the reasons to ban Mox Opal, and why players want it gone. However, if the decision had been up to me I might have banned Urza, Lord High Artificer or Arcum’s Astrolabe instead of Opal. Mox Opal has had a long tenure in this format, and that makes me more familiar with what it is capable of from a power level perspective. Arcum’s Astrolabe and Urza are more recently printed.

If you invested in Mox Opal, I’m sorry. This is a situation where the price will plummet, as the primary format Mox Opal has seen play in has been Modern. This was an easy way to lose $400 for a playset. Some players see this as a necessary evil, but it is pretty rough from a buyer’s perspective. This is a card that gets progressively better as more good artifact cards get printed, and ultimately it needed to go if Wizards wants to print more powerful artifact cards, like they have been recently.

Mycosynth Lattice

Battlebond | Mythic

Mycosynth Lattice - Battlebond - magic

Market Price: $19.26

My draw dropped when I saw Mycosynth Lattice got banned. However, just because it is a surprising ban doesn’t make it a bad one. The price spike on Mycosynth Lattice was fairly recent, when players started to tutor it up with Karn, the Great Creator to lock the opponent out of the game. This is an interaction that Wizards simply didn’t want in Modern, and understandably so. The ban makes Tron decks worse, which is a good thing since the other bans didn’t affect big mana strategies.

I expect both big Tron and Eldrazi Tron to be able to adapt. They may simply cut Karn, the Great Creator, as shutting down opposing artifacts may be a bit less relevant without Mox Opal in the format, and the best tutor target is now gone. Remember that these decks were still relevant before the printing of Karn, the Great Creator. I do think the loss of Mycosynth Lattice hurts Eldrazi Tron a bit more though.

What Decks Get Worse?

Urza: One of the biggest questions now is whether there will still be a viable Urza deck. This was the most popular and powerful deck in Modern, but losing two key pieces will really hurt. In my opinion this will be similar to when Faithless Looting got taken away from Dredge. The deck will suffer, but there will be a way to build it in a less powerful way. Arcum’s Astrolabe, Mishra’s Bauble, and Engineered Explosives are just some of the powerful artifacts still around to fuel Urza.

Affinity: Affinity was already having trouble in this metagame, and with the banning of Mox Opal, it seems like this might be it for the archetype. It is sad to see such a storied archetype that has been around for so long die like this. Whenever thinking of Modern, Affinity has always popped into my head as the deck that seems about on par for what I would like the power level of the format to be. Maybe we’ll see a way to replace Mox Opal, but I’m skeptical.

Cheerios: I played Cheerios at the last Modern event I attended, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so. That being said, it was already having some difficulties competing on power level with other Modern decks. I’m going to be putting my copies of Puresteel Paladin, Retract and zero-mana equipment on the shelf in the hopes that a new development could allow the deck to rise again.

Hardened Scales: Another deck that is going to have a lot of trouble bouncing back from today’s bans. I think you could build a version of this deck that isn’t so reliant on Artifacts, similar to the Pioneer version, but it seems like you are losing a lot of power by doing that.

What Decks Are Happy About the Bans?

There might be some other Mox Opal deck I’m overlooking, but I would like to move on to decks that I think will benefit from this shakeup.

Amulet Titan: Primeval Titan is starting to look absolutely amazing right now. There are a few different Primeval Titan decks that I think will be very good in the future Modern format, as they have already been doing very well. Of the Primeval Titan decks Amulet Titan might be the most powerful. You should expect to see Matt Dilks continue to dominate the SCG circuit with his version of the deck, which didn’t play Oko even when it was legal.


Amulet Titan

Market Price:$724.64

Maindeck, 60 cards

Sortsort deckCreature (12)

  • 4Primeval Titan
  • 4Sakura-Tribe Scout
  • 4Azusa, Lost but Seeking

Sorcery (4)

  • 4Explore

Instant (9)

  • 4Once Upon a Time
  • 1Pact of Negation
  • 4Summoner’s Pact

Artifact (5)

  • 4Amulet of Vigor
  • 1Engineered Explosives

Land (30)

  • 4Castle Garenbrig
  • 1Field of the Dead
  • 1Radiant Fountain
  • 2Cavern of Souls
  • 1Slayers’ Stronghold
  • 1Bojuka Bog
  • 2Tolaria West
  • 1Vesuva
  • 1Ghost Quarter
  • 2Breeding Pool
  • 4Simic Growth Chamber
  • 1Gruul Turf
  • 1Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
  • 1Boros Garrison
  • 1Selesnya Sanctuary
  • 1Golgari Rot Farm
  • 1Wooded Foothills
  • 2Forest
  • 1Gemstone Mine
  • 1Snow-Covered Forest

Sideboard (15)

  • 3Mystical Dispute
  • 1Field of the Dead
  • 1Force of Vigor
  • 1Ramunap Excavator
  • 2Tireless Tracker
  • 1Radiant Fountain
  • 3Dismember
  • 1Tectonic Edge
  • 1Engineered Explosives
  • 1Reclamation Sage

This list only plays one Field of the Dead in the maindeck, but I really like seeing another one in the sideboard for those grindier matchups. Castle Garenbrig is a very important tool that all Primeval Titan decks have access to now, and turns Titan into a five-mana play, which is kind of ridiculous. At the moment, a five-mana Primeval Titan might be the scariest thing going on in Modern.

Burn/Red Prowess : Burn had an okay matchup against Oko decks, but the fact you could start cracking Food to gain life was extremely frustrating. My first Pro Tour Top 8 came playing Burn, and I’m happy to see it still doing its thing today. Red Prowess actually might be more popular than traditional Burn right now due to the explosiveness the prowess creatures provide.


Mono-Red Prowess

Market Price:$137.63

Maindeck, 60 cards

Sortsort deckCreature (15)

  • 3Runaway Steam-Kin
  • 4Soul-Scar Mage
  • 4Bedlam Reveler
  • 4Monastery Swiftspear

Sorcery (12)

  • 4Light Up the Stage
  • 4Crash Through
  • 4Lava Spike

Instant (15)

  • 4Burst Lightning
  • 4Manamorphose
  • 3Lava Dart
  • 4Lightning Bolt

Land (18)

  • 2Fiery Islet
  • 3Sunbaked Canyon
  • 13Mountain

Sideboard (15)

  • 4Bonecrusher Giant// 
  • 1Abrade
  • 2Surgical Extraction
  • 2Smash to Smithereens
  • 3Dragon’s Claw
  • 3Blood Moon

I like a lot of what this deck is doing. Blood Moon is going to gain even more stock as a way to beat land-based decks, so having three copies in the sideboard seems great.

Thoughtseize Decks: There should be plenty of black-based decks moving into this new Modern format. The combination of Oko and Urza was often good enough to grind through other midrange strategies like Jund or even Death’s Shadow variants. Now these decks will be back, and will likely play four Fulminator Mage in the sideboard, as the big mana decks look like the biggest predator again.

Yawgmoth: The Yawgmoth deck is more or less a new deck, so it will be very interesting to see how this strategy develops. Tom Ross and Aaron Barich were two of the innovators behind the strategy. This deck abuses undying creatures alongside Yawgmoth, Thran Physician to draw a ton of cards, and drain the opponent out with Blood Artist or Geralf’s Messenger. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of the plays the deck is capable of. Eldritch Evolution is perfect in the deck because of how well it works with undying creatures.


Golgari Yawgmoth

Market Price:$1369.50

Maindeck, 60 cards

Sortsort deckCreature (28)

  • 1Cavalier of Night
  • 4Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
  • 1Blood Artist
  • 4Strangleroot Geist
  • 4Young Wolf
  • 4Geralf’s Messenger
  • 1Noble Hierarch
  • 1Dryad Arbor
  • 4Birds of Paradise
  • 4Wall of Roots

Sorcery (4)

  • 4Eldritch Evolution

Instant (8)

  • 4Once Upon a Time
  • 4Chord of Calling

Land (20)

  • 2Nurturing Peatland
  • 3Blooming Marsh
  • 1Khalni Garden
  • 4Verdant Catacombs
  • 4Twilight Mire
  • 1Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
  • 2Overgrown Tomb
  • 1Swamp
  • 2Forest

Sideboard (13)

  • 1Plague Engineer
  • 1Assassin’s Trophy
  • 2Damping Sphere
  • 1Thrashing Brontodon
  • 1Abrupt Decay
  • 1Phyrexian Revoker
  • 1Obstinate Baloth
  • 1Kitchen Finks
  • 2Thoughtseize
  • 1Yixlid Jailer
  • 1Reclamation Sage

Aaron actually won the Open in Knoxville with this deck, before the bans. While the deck might have had a favorable matchup against some of the Urza decks, it also indicates the power level is quite high. With this being a relatively new strategy, expect it to gain a lot of popularity in the weeks to come. This is as close as we are going to get to Birthing Pod coming back to Modern. Green-based decks with a toolbox full of creatures are looking good, with the other popular one based around Devoted Druid.

There are way too many decks in Modern for me to talk about how the bans affect every single one. The good news is that this should shake the format up, which is ultimately what needed to happen.