Last week I tossed around the idea of whether Stoneforge Mystic is being geared up for a return to the Modern format. With a B&R announcement, followed by a Modern pro tour, coming in just about one month, fellow Hipster Shawn and I thought it would be fun exploring which cards have outworn their welcome on the bench, and which need to stay. Shawn wanted to talk about unbanning Sword of the Meek. Today I want to talk about why it’s time to unban Bloodbraid Elf.
Craig Wescoe wrote an excellent article recently on TCG that brings up the cascading menace. He touches on the fact that, while a powerful card, without Deathrite Shaman — which ended up being the real problem — the metagame can handle another value creature.
Modern is a format where four mana spells are capable of ending the game.
Additionally, we have four mana spells that generate big advantages.
In a format where we acknowledge this pacing and power level at the four-slot, why then should Bloodbraid Elf still see the bench? Sure, cascade is a powerful and somewhat unpredictable mechanic, and maybe that was something to fear several years ago. But today, Modern looks different. We have a field surging with proactive, linear, aggro decks and resilient combo. Naya Burn with Wild Nacatl can ignore a 3/2 haste creature that casts a removal spell. Amulet Bloom and Grishoalbrand simply ignore the midrange, sorcery speed spell. Hell, Twin can simply combo you out while you’re busying yourself generating value.
The easiest shell, Jund, would take full advantage from Bloodbraids stream of free spells.
Jund, by Yuuya Watanabe, 2012 Players Championship
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Dark Confidant
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Liliana of the Veil
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Jund Charm
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Blood Crypt
1 Marsh Flats
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Raging Ravine
4 Treetop Village
2 Twilight Mire
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Jund Charm
1 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Obstinate Baloth
1 Olivia Voldaren
2 Seal of Primordium
After this, Deathrite Shaman, Abrupt Decay, Fetch Lands, and Kolaghan’s Command were the big additions to this deck. Of these, Deathrite Shaman is still, by far, the worst offender and deserves its place on the bench. I still believe the elf got robbed of its longevity as a necessary evil. When DRS was finaly banned, because everyone now recognized its all-star quality, we lost one of the greatest creatures ever printed. We have to look back and wonder if the current metagame can now handle the lesser of Jund’s two evils.
If we were to add Bloodbraid Elf to Jund it would boost the deck’s presence in the field. Because, as of now, I won’t sleeve the deck up for its poor matchups against burn decks and RG Tron. The necessity of Dark Confidant to glue the deck together is at odds with its defensive, midrange strategy when staring down a Goblin Guide.
The scariest, most powerful interaction with Bloodbraid Elf is probably Kolaghan’s Command. It’s better than cascading into Blightning and may be the single greatest data point thay casts a solid argument for keeping the elf banned. But I like to think that while it is a powerful interaction, it’s not so overblown as to be oppressive like Treasure Cruise or Skullclamp. There is an ocean of difference in power here, and the potential impact on the format each would have, or already has had.
With Modern casting a wider net over Magic every year, both in player interest and the size of the card pool, it’s time to rethink cards like Bloodbraid Elf. We unbanned Bitterblossom, and everything was fine. I think the format can handle Jund with another powerful value card. What do you think?
Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.