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Modern is Dead?


Hello everyone! I need to bring up something that has really been eating at me since Grand Prix Virginia. I have been on and off the Pro Tour and playing Magic for approximately 20 years, and the game is at the lowest point that I've ever seen — and that includes Mercadian Masques. Let me get this off my chest because this was my favorite format in the game:

There is no other way of saying this: Modern is dead. 

Huh? Everyone looks puzzled. "But I enjoy Modern. It's fun right now! I can play Delver of Secrets ... or a Delver variant, Birthing Pod ... or a Pod variant, or uh, some other brew?!" 

Sorry, but Wizards of the Coast killed the proverbial Golden Goose. 

When an "eternal" format like Modern is less diverse than a Standard format with only five sets, we have a problem. So how did this start, or when did this start? 

The Beginning of the End

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Do you guys remember when Wizards of the Coast made their huge announcement on the banning of Deathrite Shaman, and the lesser announcement of the unbanning of Bitterblossom and Wild Nacatl? That was the start of what would be a downfall for the format. 

But you can also argue it was doomed before it started. Instead of really putting thought into their banned/unbanned list, Wizards took a policy of "Ban it until we get it right". The problem with not thinking out banned cards, (e.g. Cloudpost) is that you need to make sure you are not just banning an archetype/card, but you are also banning the ability for that deck to still frustrate people.

That sounds weird, but I'll give you an example. In Pauper, they banned Cloudpost because only one deck was seeing play. But they completely forgot that the Urza Tron lands still existed. So in Pauper, people replaced Cloudpost with Tron lands. Well what do you think happened in Modern? When they banned Cloudpost, it was turn 3 Karn Liberated for all!

What does this tell me? The people in charge of this don't think about what they are doing. Before I get into the Deathrite Shaman banning, let's talk about the cards that were un-banned. 

1) Bitterblossom - Truly my favorite card to unban. Nothing says smart like unbanning a card that was already expensive without a reprint in a decade. Of course it became $50 when it became unbanned. Don't un-ban a card that people don't have ready access to. Not to mention the fact that was being introduced into a format where life points are extremely valuable, where lands do more damage than Tarmogoyf.

2) Wild Nacatl - If your Tarmogoyf''s weren't already shaking in their boots at Kird Ape's, they now had to deal with Zoo. Wait, what is that? You can't possibly be telling me that the average Zoo deck deals six damage to itself on turn two to play between one and three creatures. And there is no way that there could be a deck that can be faster and more aggressive than Zoo. Oh wait, there is Affinity. Affinity was already better than Zoo, Wild Nacatl or no Wild Nacatl,Etched Champion and Inkmoth Nexus laugh at one-mana 2/2s (or sometimes 3/3s).

At one point I loved Modern. It was fun when it was Jund vs Scapeshift vs Tron vs Twin, vs Pod, vs a host of other decks. Deathrite Shaman didn't even effect the game as much as people think. Back when Jund was the most played deck, it wasn't even the winningest deck. Deathrite Shaman played an important part in the metagame. It kept Birthing Pod and Snapcaster Mage in check. And for those that were saying "Oh, well now I can play Life from the Loam decks or Gifts Ungiven decks," you could before. It was called "Kill the Deathrite Shaman and do your thing," or "wait until end of turn when they are tapped out and play Gift's Ungiven."

Before Deathrite Shaman was banned, I played Gifts. I actually played Esper Gifts and did very well with it. I even threw Blood Baron of Vizkopa into it. I was never worried about my graveyard because if they stopped my Gift's package, I had other ways of winning like lands that became 4/4 flying angels. 

The Current Metagame

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So that brings me to today. I am currently sponsored by a bot chain, so I get free reign to play any deck on Magic Online. So I tried playing Modern. 

Guess what deck I played against? UR Delver Treasure Cruise. This was already a deck prior to the printing of el Cruise, but Ancestral Recall in Modern (a format where Preordain is considered too powerful) is a little too much. 

To combat this, I played Bogles. But guess what? Bogles is too slow for UR Delver. That's scary. Monastary Swiftspear is faster than a suped up Slippery Bogle.

The next deck I tried was Scapeshift. This is a deck I am very familiar with since I have been playing it for years. The basis of Scapeshift is to get to seven lands and then cast Scapeshift with counterspell backup. This deck was once again too slow. The sweepers weren't very good in the matchup, and even if I get to my seven mana, I need to worry about having mana up and a counterspell in hand, while hoping they don't have a Snapcaster Mage/Counterspell, etc. Not to mention they always draw the Blood Moon in their sideboards. 

Put a Fork in It

But I don't want this to just sound like hate speech. I want to show you the reason I can tell you now Modern is a dead format. 

1) It's expensive. Don't talk about Legacy or the price of Standard fluctuating being more expensive. Modern is the most expensive format. It is the only format out of the big three where you can buy cards and then see them banned a few months later. That doesn't occur in Legacy or Standard. I can tell you many stories of people I know that worked hard to finish Jund or Eggs only to have those decks change or banned the NEXT DAY. 

But why is Modern more expensive than Legacy? It's because of the people that are getting into Modern. The people who play Modern are traditionally players that don't like the Standard format. These same people like Legacy, but sometimes can't afford a new deck or a dual land. Modern was most popular when the shock lands were reprinted in Return to Ravnica block and after Modern Masters was released. 

People who got some free Modern Masters cards, or traded for cards that had dropped in value, could make Mono-Red, Zoo, or Affinity on the cheap. Arcbound Ravager, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Glimmervoid, three staples of the deck, dropped dramatically in price. But then those people who were playing Zoo or Mono Red wanted to play Jund or UWR Control needed more expensive cards. They needed to buy the Tarmogoyf's, Dark Confidant's and Fetch Lands. Or they would have to buy Celestial Colonnade's, Cryptic Command's, Vendilion Clique's, and more fetch lands. This all adds up to an absurd sum of money. Why do that when you can buy the Blue Devotion deck from Theros Block where not one single card changed throughout its existence? 

The metagame also changes more than any other format (I'm talking inside a bubble, Standard is the fastest changing format) due to bannings, and set releases like Masters Edition, Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2. And it's not like you can just borrow a competitive Modern deck. People don't have extra tarmogoyf laying around. Modern is "build and hope you like it."

2) Modern Masters did more harm than good. You can't tell me that you weren't excited about the first Modern Masters when they revealed Tarmogoyf was being reprinted. But Wizards, for whatever reason, made Modern Masters a very fun to draft set. Maybe one of the best sets I've drafted since Innistrad. There were so many different archetypes that all eight people at a table could be playing different decks. I was once in a draft where I was playing a really good B/W Rebel's deck and went up against a guy playing Affinity. He then played three spells and cast Dragonstorm putting three of the Legendary Dragons into play out of nowhere. You can't even be angry about that. I even enjoyed being at Grand Prix Vegas.

What you can be angry about was the low print run and cost to draft. If Wizards really did want to promote Modern, they would have flooded the market with Modern Masters. But instead, the Magic Online Modern Masters draft was something like twenty tickets, and in real life it was always very expensive. Boxes were $300 a piece, and let's be honest here, looking back at it, you would have been much better off just buying the "Big Four." (Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Vendilion Clique, and Cryptic Command)

It just didn't make sense. Wizards of the Coast sells the boxes to vendors. Demand was high. It wasn't like vendors wouldn't have made more money if they were sold more boxes and bought those boxes from Wizards for the regular box cost, which is $36 a piece. (That is why vendors sell the boxes for $72 to high level core stores, and those stores generally sell boxes to the public at $100 a piece). Not to mention Wizards could have flooded the online marketplace with Modern Masters. People would have been much happier paying 14 tickets a draft like usual rather than 20 tickets per draft. Those are high stakes, and the cards are printed digitally. 

3) Cards Gone Wild: When Deathrite Shaman was legal and Scavenging Ooze was around, you could keep Snapcaster Mage, persist, Birthing Pod, and other non-tier one decks like Living End in check. But now we can see how powerful Snapcaster Mage really is. Now that it is a 4 of in all blue decks, Snapcaster Mage can make any card an eight-of in your deck. Since Deathrite Shaman was banned, "Snap - Bolt - Snap" is more common than ever before. It's not fun for anyone to sit there and go, oh at the end of my turn, I take six, you get a 2/1, and other stuff happens. It's Just Not Fun. 

Modern Masters 2015

What prompted this rant from me? I saw a few things: I noticed that Modern Daily Event's weren't even firing in favor of Legacy Events. Standard is cheap with a diverse metagame. Legacy is relatively cheap (in terms of what it used to cost when Force of Will was 400 tickets for a playset). 

There is a complete lack of diversity in Modern. I can play in five Daily Events in a row and play against twenty UR Delver decks. That is just stupid. 

Then I saw that Modern Masters II is coming to a theater near you. Well I'm not excited.

Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. I am not going to touch Modern Masters 2015. It's going to be expensive, and the cards won't be worth it. I will also tell you there are cards that should be included, and if they aren't, we will be outraged? Fetch Lands, 0/1 Exalted Birds of Paradise, Bitterblossom, and a few others that should have been in the original Modern Masters (cough cough Damnation). 

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn [MM2] Etched Champion [SOM]

But what are the first two cards I see spoiled from Modern Masters 2015? Etched Champion and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. I get it, Affinity is still a thing, but are they printing Show and Tell in the next core set?  I have tried playing Goryo's Vengeance, I have tried Tron once before wanting to die of boredom, and I even put Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in my sideboard when mill decks were popular. But those are the two cards you want us to get all excited about? Why not just spend the $2 on Etched Champion or buy promo Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for $30? It just seems like a huge mistake on the marketing front.

Conclusion

If you think I am wrong about Modern, there are plenty of statistics out there. I mean look at the amount of people cashing online in DE's. The number is the lowest it has ever been. Can the format be resurrected? Possibly. But I doubt it. Wizards wants Modern to be the "creature/aggro" format, which is fine if you are Brian Kibler, but that doesn't work for the rest of us. 

See you guys after my vacation. You can always check me out on twitch: TERROl2.     


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