Last week, we speculated as to what cards will or will not be banned in Modern.

…Wizards could ban Pod, both Delve draw spells, and Jeskai Ascendancy, but then we’d just be back to an older Modern we’d already seen before: Robots, Splinter Twin, and Snapcaster Mage/Lightning Bolt decks (with only Burn substantially benefiting from new cards). We’ve been there before and we don’t need to retread old ground. I’d like to see how the Pro Tour changes things. Hell, perhaps we could see another unbanning and examine the impact it has both on Modern’s metagame and popularity. Only (Dig Through) time will tell.

Well, the verdict is in, and Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Birthing Pod are all banned. Jeskai Ascendancy remains legal (though much weaker, having lost all of its card advantage) and Golgari Grave-Troll is now legal to dredge. Treasure Cruise has also proven too strong from Legacy and Vintage—it’s banned in the former and restricted in the latter. How does this change Modern? What will the field at the Pro Tour look like?

Wheel of Fortune

I expect that many of last year’s big decks will return (as stated last week), mostly unchanged. URW Geist/Flash/Control and BGx Rock/Jund/Spirit Jund/Junk are viable again. ThoughtseizeInquisition of Kozilek, and Liliana of the Veil are good once more, now that Treasure Cruise isn’t around to make them look silly. Dark Confidant and Path to Exile are likely to return in force, as well—Bob doesn’t fear flipping a high CMC delve spell and Path can target creatures more expensive than Delver of Secrets.

This won’t be a return to the Modern of GP Richmond, however; First and foremost, Birthing Pod is gone. Plus, many well-performing decks, many of which we saw little of last year, didn’t lose any cards to the bans. Let’s look at the top 8 of the most recent Modern GP, GP Omaha.

GP Omaha top 8 (7 archetypes)

Five of the top eight decks remain legal. Most of them dedicated sideboard or main deck slots to Chalice of the Void to fight Treasure Cruise decks. Those slots are now free for whatever the new expected meta is. Let’s expand our search to the top 16 and top 32.

GP Omaha top 16 (6 archetypes)

  • 2x UR Delver
  • 2x Birthing Pod
  • 1x Jeskai Burn
  • 1x Scapeshift
  • 1x Infect
  • 1x Zoo

Well, the top 16’s looking a lot worse than the top 8.

Burn definitely still exists, but isn’t likely to be splashing blue for card draw (and wasn’t often splashing blue for Snapcaster Mage before Khans). I wouldn’t be surprised to be seeing more Grim Lavamancers eating graveyards in burn, though Burn definitely is good enough ignoring its graveyard and just jamming burn alongside Monastery Swiftspear and Eidolon of the Great Revel.

Scapeshift and Delver were also decks before Khans, but both enjoyed an enormous power boost from its powerful draw spells. It’s worth noting that the version of Scapeshift in the top 8 eschewed Dig Through Time in favor of a Through the Breach/Summoning Trap package that remains legal. Still, we’re seeing a lot of decks no longer viable as they were.

GP Omaha top 32 (9 archetypes)

  • 7x Birthing Pod
  • 1x RUG Twin
  • 1x Jeskai Burn
  • 1x UR Delver
  • 1x Jeskai Delver
  • 1x Scapeshift
  • 2x Robots
  • 1x Fish
  • 1x Boggles

The bans have clearly hit hard—and why wouldn’t they? They’ve banned the three most powerful cards in Modern. While there were many archetypes represented at Omaha, the majority are no longer legal. Almost a third of the top decks were Birthing Pod-based decks. While there are many decks that remain viable, there’s an enormous power vacuum left behind. What will fill the void?


Robots and Burn are easy options for those deprived of Delver. They have blisteringly fast starts and can win a game 1 against almost any deck in Modern.

The problem is that Burn’s best matchup, the UR Delver shell, is nowhere near as powerful and likely won’t be seeing much play. In fact, Burn’s likely worst matchup, UWR Snapcaster Mage/Lightning Helix is likely to return in force. Electrolyze and Stony Silence are also highly likely to be played to counter robots. These aggressive decks just aren’t as powerful without Treasure Cruise to allow low-quality, low-cost cards to remain relevant into the mid-game.

Snapcaster Mage

Many players will return to the UWR shell. Snapcaster Mage and Lightning Bolt are still legal and still excellent at stymieing creature-based strategies and burning out combo strategies. Geist of Saint Traft is excellent against combo and other blue decks, while Keranos, God of Storms, Sphinx’s Revelation, and Batterskull can grind out a win against any deck. Of course, as we already know, UWR’s natural enemy is also poised to return.


Discard is good again, and what players discard, grows the Tarmogoyf. If players play blue to counter aggressive or combo strategies, BG decks may run rampant over the Pro Tour. Suddenly, we’re (unsurprisingly) looking a lot like Modern last year, where Aggro > UWR >BG > well, it’s more complicated than that, but you get the gist. There will still be combo, aggro, control, tempo, and attrition decks, just like last year. Tron can still play a turn 3 Karn Liberated to beat almost any deck, Storm can still go off on turn 3 (alongside newcomer Jeskai Ascendancy), and Boggles can still ignore interaction to cheese out wins.

Modern still has many viable archetypes; it just has more of last year’s best decks and none of this year’s… right?


Several decks were very successful at Omaha without relying on any banned cards. They were competitive in a more powerful Modern, one with Birthing Pod and Treasure Cruise. Sure, some decks were likely good metagame calls (how good is Delver at answering Fish or Pod at reacting to Bloom combo?), but I doubt that all of these decks will fail to compete in a weaker, slower Modern.

Siege Rhino is an insane card and might be just what Zoo’s doctor ordered. Eidolon of the Great Revel and Monastery Swiftspear can produce truly disgusting amounts of damage in no time at all for Burn. Become Immense provides more power for less mana than anything we’ve ever seen before (well, except for the “free” Invigorate and Mutagenic Growth… and Berserk). Ensoul Artifact laughs at removal not named Path to Exile while turning Darksteel Citadel into an unstoppable Juggernaut.

I wouldn’t be surprised and would be delighted to see a revitalized pre-ban archetype upend the decks of Modern past. Here’s looking forward to testing the new Modern and seeing it in DC. And as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and improviser, creating entire musicals from scratch every week. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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