Hello reader! What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

Get it? It’s a joke about Wizards making storm combo unplayable in Modern. You know, clear skies ahead because there won’t be any storm? Right? Oh, you get the joke, but you’re really angry about Seething Song being banned. I see. I had no idea you felt so strongly about playing combo in the one format Wizards has sworn to protect from the dreaded Johnny Magic.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. If you like to play degenerate combo decks then Modern isn’t the format for you. I’m not talking about the cute combo decks like Splinter Twin and Pestermite which are fairly interactive. I’m looking at the degenerate combo decks like Valakut, Dredge and Storm. These decks laid waste to a variety of formats long before Modern ever existed and they’ll continue to have a prominent role in Vintage and Legacy and from time to time Standard.

But Modern? No way. Just take a quick look at the Banned and Restricted list for Modern. As of last Friday there are 30 cards banned from decks. By my logic, 20 of them, which is two-thirds, are banned to keep degenerate combo decks in check. The decks that are essentially banned (or severely hindered) in Modern are:

  • Affinity (Ancient Den, Great Furnace, Seat of the Synod, Tree of Tales, Vault of Whispers)
  • Infect Combo (Blazing Shoal)
  • Storm (Chrome Mox, Ponder, Preordain, Rite of Flame, Seething Song)
  • Ramp (Cloudpost, Green Sun’s Zenith)
  • Dark Depths/Hexmage (Dark Depths)
  • Dredge (Dread Return, Golgari Grave-Troll)
  • Elf Combo (Glimpse of Nature, Skullclamp)
  • Hypergenesis (Hypergenesis)
  • Thopter/Sword (Sword of the Meek)

The other ten cards on the list are fairly degenerate on their own and no explanation should be required for why they are on the list. However, these twenty cards are not terribly powerful on their own. Dark Depths is a joke of a card without Vampire Hexmage. Sword of the Meek is similarly useless without Thopter Foundry. Some of these decks, like Affinity, Ramp and Dredge, can still exist, but they’re not nearly as fast as they could be.

This brings us to the most recent announcement in which Seething Song (and Bloodbraid Elf) were banned from the format. The message could not be clearer from Wizards. Degenerate combos that don’t allow for any interaction will not be tolerated in Modern. To me, this message has been loud and clear from day one of the format’s genesis. This list is virtually unchanged from those days.

The reaction to Seething Song’s banning was mixed. What surprised me though was to find some people react so violently and lash out against Wizards. Here is a direct quote from the internet:

I would like to give a big fuck you to Wizards of the Coast today for depriving me of the one fun thing I did in Magic. Despite its ability to win on turn 3, and even turn 2, Storm Combo was one of the worst things you could be doing in modern due to the ease of hating on the deck. By taking away Storm from the format, you have made it clear to the player base that you are allowed to play decks that literally do NOTHING until turn 4.

I don’t particular care what others players do, but as of today I will no longer be playing Modern, the one format that I actually had fun playing

– Person #1

Harsh words for Wizards, but this particular friend isn’t the only one who feels this way. Plenty of people felt that it was unfair of Wizards to cripple the Storm deck any further because it is such an easy deck to hate out of the format:

 Killing on Turn 3 with Storm was pretty easy to do. Of course this required that your opponent not do a single thing to you. A Relic of Progentius with a mana open could change that. Killing the Electromancer. A single discard spell. All you needed was ONE form of disruption and you can speed bump it or worse.

– Person #2

While understandable, this logic is incredibly flawed. But Person #2 wasn’t the only one with this train of thought:

Storm is pretty easy to hate out, and even then I’d rather they just keep printing more hate card to keep it in check if they feel it’s overpowered (like how we keep getting new graveyard hate because WotC also hates Dredge).

– Person #3

For full disclosure I have played Dredge from the moment Time Spiral was printed. Before Bridge from Below saw the light of day, Dread Return was used in conjunction with Nether Shadows and Ichorids to reanimate a lethal Sutured Ghoul. Six months later Bridge and Narcomoeba would give birth to the format warping reanimation deck that has plagued Magic for the better part of the past six years.

The idea that a deck should be free from banning because it can be hated out of a format is laughable. This logic should lead us to just go ahead an un-ban Dread Return and Golgari Grave-Troll since everyone can just run Leyline of the Void and no one would win with Dredge. That’s what everyone in Vintage thought and then time and again they have been proven wrong. Storm is no different. Just because a Relic of Progenitus at the right time can disrupt the combo doesn’t mean Wizards can’t still ban the combo.

At the end of the day the facts are simple. Wizards will not allow degenerate combo decks to run rampant and warp the Modern format. I can’t blame them. If you’ve played Vintage or Legacy or even Extended during any of Dredge’s periods of prominence then you are painfully aware of two things. First, no one likes to test combo match-ups and second, no one likes having to dedicate half their sideboard to the same seven or eight hate cards for one or two decks in the format.

If every Modern deck you made had to start with half your sideboard full of Leyline of the Voids, Tormod’s Crypts, Ravenous Traps, Relic of Progenituses, etc. you would grow to loathe the format. Then, when you lost despite having all those hate cards because you never actually bother to test the match you would loathe the format even more. By keeping these decks out of Modern, Wizards is doing you all  a favor and making sure there are always clear skies ahead.

The Quick Hits

  • According to Channel Fireball, Bloodbraid Elf was only the sixth best card in Modern. I can only assume that Slippery Bogle is next on Wizard’s hit list. [Power Rankings]
  • Caleb Durward thinks that bans only happen when there is public outcry. I guess he forgot every single card that was ever banned before Jace the Mind Sculptor and the original banned list for Modern. [Legacy Weapon]
  • The Gatecrash Fantasy Pro Tour is live on Facebook! [Fantasy Pro Tour]
  • James Arnold is back with another sweet infographic. This time about Gatecrash. [thatguyjames]
  • Want to know who to follow in Twitter to learn all about Magic Finance? Apparently a lot of people because this is only part one… [Gathering Magic]
  • Natasha Lewis looks at the virtues of each of Ravnica’s guilds. Including Dimir. No really. Check it out. [Wisdom of Guilds]
  • Surprise! This week’s Twenty Tweets are all about the Modern bannings! [Legit MTG]
  • Some well known Magic personas had a little fun with the community just before the B&R announcment. [Sweet Tweets]
  • Patrick Sullivan is usually on top of things, but couldn’t be more wrong about un-banning Golgari Grave-Troll. [Star City Games]

Wallpaper of the Week

This week we were treated to Hellkite Tyrant as the wallpaper of the week. This likely would have gotten an A+ if it wasn’t for the weird Gatecrash stuff going on at the bottom of the image. I am thrilled to have a dragon violently tearing apart Big Ben as my wallpaper. It would have been nice if the dragon was breathing fire but I’m not going to be that picky.

Grade: A

The Week Ahead

Gatecrash is out which means we get to hear all about everyone’s amazing new deck full of secret Gatecrash tech until they get destroyed at Friday Night Magic by the decks that are still Tier 1.

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