So now that we’ve covered the format warping powerhouses and the single powerful cards its time for the meat and potatoes of the Modern banned list: the Combo Enablers. I’ll go over the list of cards banned for being part of a broken combo.

Ancient Den
Chrome Mox
Dark Depths
Great Furnace
Tree of Tales
Vault of Whispers
Glimpse of Nature
Golgari Grave-Troll
Green Sun’s Zenith
Great Furnace
Blazing Shoal
Rite of Flame
Seething Song
Second Sunrise
Dread Return
Sword of the Meek
Seat of the Synod
Cloud Post

Twenty-one sure seems like a lot of cards. Ten years worth of mistakes can add up. During this exercise lets remember our Modern Credo:

1. No Dominating or Formerly Dominating Archetypes and Strategies.

2. No Consistent Turn Three Combo Decks.

For the most part these are the cards that fall under the second rule. Wizards has printed a lot of cards players want to use and having a consistent turn 3 combo deck has the effect of limiting the players’ deck building choices to much lower mana curves. Look at Legacy’s reliance on Delver of Secrets and It’s abundance of 2 mana cost threats in a world where turn 3 combos can feel slow and going off on the first turn is not wholly unheard of. I’m going to keep this in mind as I pass my judgements on weather these cards should continue to be excluded from the format.

Ancient Den, Seat of the Synod, Vault of Whispers, Tree of Tales, Great Furnace

Ravager Affinity was one of the most powerful Standard decks of all time. Although Arcbound Ravager and Disciple of the Vault were the stars of the deck, it could not have existed without the artifact lands, which gave them tons of free fuel. While Scars of Mirrodin does not use the affinity mechanic, artifact lands combine just as powerfully with metalcraft, and we would prefer to ban the piece of the puzzle that breaks in both contexts.

Let’s be real these are not the turn 3 combo deck cards we fear. This is a flat out breaker of rule number 1. Ravager Affinity was one of the first, “Holy Crap! What have we done?”moments in Wizard’s history after a long era of formats without the need for bannings or restrictions in standard for quite some time. I fully agree with and understand why making it that much easier to enable metalcraft along with affinty would be pretty scary.

Chrome Mox

Chrome Mox is an extremely powerful fast-mana card. Some of the most powerful starts in the Extended format that began with Mirrodin involved a first-turn Chrome Mox into Dark Confidant or Bitterblossom, and these starts could be extremely difficult to come back from. Furthermore, Chrome Mox would likely be an important piece of acceleration for any degenerate combination decks. We felt that Chrome Mox would add too much speed to the format, as well as make opening hands matter too much.

I don’t hear an argument for either the first or the second part of the credo. What I read is there’s a chance this card would be a real problem, let’s clip it before we have to clip it. That’s a shame I think. The card is balanced for combo decks and aggro decks alike. I played RDWs during this card’s stint in Standard. I was happy to see it and it lead to some fast starts but nothing that wasn’t easy enough for my opponent to stop. Turn one Slith Firewalkers are neato, but not insane. Losing a card means combo decks really need to think about if they want 2 mana on the first turn or they want to keep all their cards. It think that it’s possible this card could be broken in Modern, but I think it’s no more powerful than a turn 1 Deathrite Shaman. Which allows for 3 mana on turn 2 as well. I’d say this card is suspect but based on Wizard’s reasoning for its ban, it comes out to play.

Dark Depths

Dark Depths and Vampire Hexmage combine to give you a 20/20 creature for only two mana. In the Mirrodin-forward Extended format, those two cards were the core of one of the most dominant combination decks in recent memory.

Sure, I understand that this combo becomes insane once its implemented. Their logic holds up. But there are a few easy ways around this combo in Modern. Path to Exile, Vapor Snag. Countering the Vampire Hexmage. The list goes on. It would be a problem deck for a bit then the metagame would adapt for it. That said it violates both the credos for Modern. As a 20/20 flyer on turn three does mean turn four doesn’t really need any work for win. I’m ok with keeping this banned in the interest of more clever combos. Fail


Skullclamp is banned in Legacy for being too powerful. Modern is a subset of the Legacy card pool, so it is only logical that we would ban Skullclamp here as well.

I should have included this card in the last installment. This card has never really had a chance to be a dominant archetype or a turn 3 combo. It’s an insane card there’s very little room to argue for a card like this with Affinity being a deck full of x/1 creatures that basically are free to cast. Keep it in the box. Fail

Glimpse of Nature

The Glimpse of Nature-fueled Elf combination deck was another consistent turn-three deck we found at the Community Cup. By using Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, and Glimpse of Nature together with tons of low-cost Elves, these decks can produce enormous amounts of mana while drawing unbounded amounts of cards. Green Sun’s Zenith and Summoner’s Pact give the deck extra consistency as well as a strong backup card-drawing engine with Regal Force. Glimpse of Nature is the engine that gives the deck its deadly explosiveness, and it is now gone. I expect that the deck is still playable without it, but that it will no longer be a turn-three deck.

It’s a turn three combo deck. That’s a pretty easy one to pick out. If you want to play elves in Modern Beck//Call is there as a less good version of this card. No one’s really trying it but its there nonetheless. A format with both options … Is Legacy. Fail

Golgari Grave-Troll and Dread Return

Dredge is a very powerful combination deck, and we wanted to ban something from it. The problem came when we were exploring potential cards to ban. If we banned Bridge From Below, players could still use Narcomoeba and Bloodghast to Dread Return enormous creatures. If we banned Narcomoeba, Bloodghast would be a bit slower, but Dread Return would still bring back enormous creatures and Bridge From Below would still make Zombies, and any future creature that comes back from the graveyard cheaply would have the potential to re-break the deck. We aren’t going to stop printing cards that care about the graveyard, so attacking the deck after it has begun to dredge felt counterproductive.

The real power of Dredge is that every card draw that is replaced by dredging five or six cards effectively allows the Dredge player to draw two or three cards. By that metric, Golgari Grave-Troll is the strongest “card-drawing spell” in the Dredge deck, and it doubles as a win condition. Therefore, it seemed like the best place to attack the deck. You can still play Dredge, but you’ll be dredging a little bit slower, and you’ll have to play real targets to reanimate instead of getting Golgari Grave-Troll for free.

The last turn-three deck that remained was Dredge. While Golgari Grave-Troll was banned, we found that Dredge was still very capable of turn-three kills. On top of this, Dredge is not known for being fun to have around. Although games against it are often interesting, the larger game of deciding whether to dedicate enough sideboard slots to defeat it or ignore it completely and hope not to play against it is one that is not very satisfying for most tournament players. We chose to ban the most explosive graveyard card rather than leave that subgame present.

It’s obvious GCT came down before they decided to just ban Dread Return as well. Both cards are part of a combo that can end the game as early as turn three. Of the two cards Golgari Grave-Troll is merely an enabler without Dread Return to bring back Griselbrand and really get the engine going. I endorse that either one of these cards should be banned but both seems redundant. Of the two Dread Return still has cards like Golgari Thug, Shambling Shell, and Stinkweed Imp to still allow it to be a deck, this deck could go off on turn three but its much less consistent. That’s the idea right, inconsistent turn 3 decks are fine. Golgari Cave-Troll: Fail Dread Return: Pass (I could see letting the opposite happen as well. Dredge would have to become a much slower deck with Unburial Rites fueling the engine.)

Green Sun’s Zenith

On turn one, this can give the acceleration of a Llanowar Elves by getting a Dryad Arbor. On later turns, it can get a large creature or a one-of “toolbox” creature such as Gaddock Teeg. While this is interesting, it is also too efficient. If one intends to build a deck that has turn-one accelerants, Green Sun’s Zenith is a great choice. If one wants to more access to utility green creatures, Green Sun’s Zenith is a great choice. If one wants to more reliably get a large green creature, such as a Primeval Titan, onto the battlefield, Green Sun’s Zenith is a great choice. However, this ends up with fewer different decks being played in practice, as Green Sun’s Zenith is such a good choice that there are fewer green decks that do anything else. The DCI hopes that banning Green Sun’s Zenith increases diversity among Modern green decks.

I fully endorse this banning… Unfortunately none of these reasons are within the credo of Modern. This is a “cuz we feel like it doesn’t belong in the format” ban. Is this card fair? I think it is. Is this card amazing? I have to say heck yes it’s insanely amazing. Can it be countered? Yup! Can the creatures be wrathed? For the most part yes. This is a card that doesn’t end the game on turn three nor is it part of a much maligned format boogeyman. Set it free. Pass


With Simian Spirit Guide and Gemstone Caverns, Hypergenesis can be accessed via a three-mana cascade spell often on turn two, and rarely on turn one. Such a Hypergenesis usually produces enormous creatures like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Progenitus, as well as hamstringing the opponent’s ability to cast spells with cards like Terastodon, Angel of Despair, and Chancellor of the Annex. Alternatively, Urabrask the Hidden allows all these fresh creatures to attack immediately if Hypergenesis is cast on turn three. This clearly breaks the “turn-three kill” rule, so it had to go.

There you have it. It breaks a credo. So we banned it. Nothing to argue about here. Save the turn 2 Emrakuls for Legacy. Fail

Blazing Shoal

Blazing Shoal decks exile cards with converted mana cost of at least 9 to deliver turn-two and turn-three kills using the infect mechanic (usually with Inkmoth Nexus or Blighted Agent). While this is exciting the first time, Blazing Shoal delivers that same quick kill too consistently.

See above. Fail

Ponder and Preordain

A large number of blue-red combination decks kept the field less diverse. One thing that made them so efficient was the cards that would find their combinations. Ponder and Preordain were the most widely used of those cards. Banning these should make those combination decks somewhat less efficient without removing the possibility of playing them.

Ponder I totally agree and understand. It digs really deep and can lead to consistent turn three decks. Preordain is to Ponder as Serum Visions is to Preordain. Vastly more powerful. The thing is of the two if they banned Serum Visions instead of Preordain third turn kills might pop up a little more but not to the point of format warping. But who am I kidding? You really can’t ban a less powerful card to let the more powerful one run free, that’s just insanity. These cards promote the sort of deck Wizards doesn’t want to see taking over the format. They have to stay out in order to preserve the integrity of the format as much as I’d like to have both. Fail

Rite of Flame

This was primarily used in combination decks to deliver very quick wins. While Jeremy Neeman did not make the Top 8 of the tournament, his Modern deck won nine out of ten matches, and did so with some extremely quick kills.

Those were the days, huh? Yea that’s not gonna fly in Modern though. Fail

Seething Song

Looking at the results of games, turn-three wins are frequent for Storm, contrary to the DCI’s stated goals for the format. The DCI looked for a card that was very important to the turn-three wins but not one of the cards that make this deck unique. We decided Seething Song is the best choice. Even with no other mana acceleration, one can cast Seething Song on turn three and it gives a net acceleration of +2 mana. While there are other options for fast mana, none appear as efficient and reliable on turn three as Seething Song.

I have to agree with this one as a turn two Goblin Electromancer and at turn three Seething Song gave us (Storm Players) a critical amount of mana to cash in on Past in Flames with a couple extra mana and a flashed back Song. Things quickly got out of hand. Fail

Second Sunrise

The deck uses Second Sunrise and Faith’s Reward to get back cards that generate mana, such as Lotus Bloom, and various artifacts that draw a card. A common choice to win the game is Pyrite Spellbomb. However, the way the player gets to the point of forcing a win might involve casting Second Sunrise so many times that the entire library is drawn, and only cards put back with Conjurer’s Bauble are left. A single turn might take fifteen minutes or more.

In a large tournament, such as a Grand Prix, when time for the round expires, players are given five additional turns to complete their game. Usually, this takes a few minutes to conclude the rest of the games. However, a player playing Eggs might have a fifteen-minute turn during the additional turns, delaying the start of the next round by ten minutes or more (beyond the next-longest match). Over the course of a day, this can mean an extra hour of waiting for everyone else in the tournament.

The DCI considered which card to ban to deal with this issue. We decided to try and do the narrowest possible ban: one that would reduce the chance of such long turns without banning a card used in other decks. That is why Second Sunrise is banned in Modern.

This particular banning really burned my buns. Personally, this was, in my opinion one of the best decks in the format. I believed that enough to purchase the deck to learn it. After playing with it I was convinced that it was a solid deck, capable of winning through hate, but still fair under the Modern Credo. Turn 3 wins were possible but not consistent, and this really wasn’t a former boogeyman of season’s past. This was a logistical banning. Time at GP’s has become a pretty big issue. Too many people without the proper practice with the deck were playing it and going to time (or slow playing) then taking forever to win after turns. It’s not a good look and in the interest of keeping things moving at larger events. The DCI made a move.

Do I agree with it. Yes. Is it supremely annoying to buy a deck only to have it banned a week after its purchase. You’re damned right it is. Is it supremely annoying to watch your opponent take 20 minutes to kill you after time has been called in the round. Yes. As much as this banning doesn’t follow the parameters set forth in the credo I agree with it, for the health of the game. Fail.

Sword of the Meek

Remember the Dark Depths / Vampire Hexmage deck from above? The other half of the deck is Sword of the Meek / Thopter Foundry, which was strong enough on its own to show up in more controlling decks that had white-blue shells. It has also seen plenty of Legacy play in Enlightened Tutor–based decks. Once again, if it was strong enough for Extended formats that looked similar to Modern and then made the transition into Legacy, we thought it would be too powerful for a healthy Modern format.

That’s a pretty strong argument. Former boogeyman of two formats let’s steer clear of those in order to keep a flourishing and diverse meta. It stays in Legacy but let’s be honest you aren’t playing this card unless your playing it with Thopter Foundry. Foundry is fine alone and could even see play in Modern, but decks like this are too powerful for the rest of the format to keep up. Why? Well simply paying mana to gain life while dodging all one for one removal is sort of powerful in Modern don’t you think? Fail


The threat of facing decks which could generate fifteen or more mana each turn starting on turn four kept a lot of different decks out of the tournament, greatly reducing the diversity. There are alternatives for people who wish to play mana-ramp decks, but they do not appear to be as crushing.

Again this banning doesn’t really fit in with the credo of Modern. Frankly, I had to think for a minute. There’s already a deck like this in Modern: Tron. It’s really not a dominating deck. It does win thru a series of insanely high costed cards but its certainly beatable. I’m on the fence here. Generating insane amounts of mana has always been a scary prospect in Magic but without cards like Crop Rotation and Candelabra of Tawnos this card might be fine in Modern offering a different kind of Tron deck. That said allowing this in would make the Urza Lands laughable so maybe leave it out. Like I said I’m not positive here. Undecided

So lets look at what I think could change.

Umezama’s Jitte, Jace the Mind Sculptor,Ancestral Vision, Wild Nacatl, Chrome Mox, Dread Return, Green Sun’s Zenith, Cloudpost (Maybe)

Eight cards free. Twenty-three still locked up.

That’s a progressive look. I’m sure life with Jace and Vision in Modern would be a delight for some and a nightmare for others. Jitte seems like the least likely to happen. But based on the reasoning for its ban I think it has the strongest case to be included. Chrome Mox, and Cloudpost could be unbanned and rebanned in the span of a couple weeks, but could just fit in. I think the weakest of these cards is Dread Return. Without Golgari Grave-Troll this card is a little less potent. I’d be willing to live in this meta for a bit.

I’ve heard a few of my peers offer up the idea of a rotating banned list. While this sounds kinda nutty it’s a really neat idea. The question is what rotates? And when?

For now I realize Im living in Magical Christmasland and the DCI is likely to stand firm on these cards, but I think it’s totally feasible that before Modern PTQ Season arrives we might see one or two cards fall from the Banned Tree.

What do you think? Am I way off? Did you see any cards I should have let go? Is Jace still too powerful for Modern? Let me know or find me on twitter and pants me @durdlemagus.

Til next week.

Zac Clark, Durdle Magus

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.