Last Monday was the quarterly Banned and Restricted update and this one was a bombshell for the Modern format. Rumors have it that you could hear the blood-curdling screams of Birthing Pod players across the globe. While there were several players who managed to survive the crushing annihilation of their souls, the overall health of the community has become a concern. Stories are spreading of players tearing up their Birthing Pods, throwing out their decks, and even quitting Magic entirely…

Birthing Pod and the Five Stages of Grief

Stage 1 – Denial and Isolation

This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening…

The Modern community actually entered the first stage of grief before the official announcement came out. On January 13th, Alexander West suggested unbanning Punishing Fire on the basis of “rather than banning key Jund and Birthing Pod cards, it makes sense to return a card that preys on them to the format.” Alex was already in denial that Birthing Pod could be banned. On the same day, less than a week before the announcement, Corbin Hosler wrote about the health of the Modern metagame. In his article he said,

I actually believe Modern is at its best when Pod is the best deck. It’s an extremely good, consistent deck, but it’s ultimately beatable. And because it’s so adaptable, it will never really fall off the map.

Corbin firmly believed that the health of the format hinged on Birthing Pod and that it could never fall off the map. Six days later the glue that held his Modern metagame together was dissolved by Wizards of the Coast. Stories like this can be found all over the community. Everyone expected Treasure Cruise to be banned. Everyone expected Dig Through Time to be banned. No one thought their precious Birthing Pod would suffer the same fate.

Stage 2 – Anger

Fuck Wizards. Fuck them and their banned list. Why do they even print cards if they’re just going to ban them?!

Then came the announcement. The community was immediately filled with hatred and rage over the announcement. It’s entirely possible that several Pod players spontaneously combusted, though the reports can’t be corroborated at this time. Many people remained in denial, unable to move on to anger. Jason Alt wrote, “I could see Pod being unbanned soon.” Danny Brown, also of Quiet Speculation, had a lot more to say on the topic:

So Birthing Pod is gone from Modern. In many ways, this means that it’s gone from Magic completely.

In effect, this banning basically wipes Birthing Pod from the Magic map. Sure, it will still see a little casual play, and maybe Pod enthusiasts will turn their sights to Legacy and see what can be done there, but for the most part, we’re looking at a brave new world the likes of which we haven’t really imagined since May of 2011. Banning Pod is a huge shakeup.

What this does for the Modern metagame is only half the story. The other half is the fact that many players have had significant investments of time and money that are no longer relevant in the competitive Modern scene.

It’s the consumer confidence in Modern that concerns me the most. I’ve been toying with the idea of building a Modern deck on Magic Online, but that seems much less attractive in the face of such major changes. Many players undoubtedly feel the same.

Yikes. You ban one card and the entire format and consumer confidence is now on the brink of falling apart.

Stage 3 – Bargaining

What if I pay four life to cast it? What if I promise not to tutor up Siege Rhino? What if I let you sideboard before game one?

Bargaining is a tricky proposition when there isn’t a whole lot of leverage for the Modern community. What could the community possibly offer Wizards to entice them to bring back Birthing Pod in the future? Maybe next time the community will think twice before bombarding Wizards on social media about holding a Modern Pro Tour? Maybe they’ll promise to quit whining about the price of Tarmogoyf? Maybe they’ll buy more packs of Modern Masters?

None of these things are likely to cause so much as a dent in Wizards’ sympathy.

So the Modern community is basically left to bargain with itself. Literally, by bargaining with store owners and eBay buyers over the price of their now worthless Birthing Pods. Pod had already fallen from its peak value of $20 and was hovering around $10 until the end of 2014. Then, early in January it began to drop. Probably because some people weren’t in denial anymore. You can now get them for as low as $6 on TCGPlayer and most other outlets. Star City Games will buy them from you for $1.00. That’s the equivalent of a few chicken nuggets at Wendy’s. How the mighty have fallen.

Stage 4 – Depression

No it’s okay. You guys go ahead to the Modern tournament. I’m gonna just sit here and play Magic Online in my basement.

The saddest result of this announcement will be the people who go to their local shop, sell their Pod decks, and take up a new hobby like Hearthstone or collecting insects. These players are the ones the community needs to support the most in this time of tragedy. Is your buddy looking at fishing poles instead of reading LSV’s set reviews? Is your roommate planning a vacation with their family the same weekend of GP Vegas? These are serious signs of depression and its your responsibility to lend them a burn deck, or a ‘Tron deck, or convince them to buy the Modern Event Deck (shameless plug). Whatever you do, don’t let anyone make the bone-headed decision to quit Magic over a card being banned.

Stage 5 – Acceptance

Wait, where did I put my Jund deck…

Welcome to the new Modern. It’s a wide-open field with almost two-thirds of the format being crushed by the banning of Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Birthing Pod. Many of the game’s top players have come to accept that Birthing Pod is gone, and likely should have been gone a long time ago.

The reality is that Birthing Pod was Modern’s version of Survival of the Fittest which was a problem for Legacy many years ago. These cards are problematic on their own, but what’s worse is that every new creature that gets printed causes the card to potentially get better and better. Keeping these cards around causes havoc for Wizards’ design teams. For Birthing Pod, the back-breaker was Siege Rhino. For Survival of the Fittest it was Vengevine. Wizards wants to make more cards like Rhino and Vengevine and that means getting rid of cards like Birthing Pod and Survival.

Besides, the best thing to do is accept that Birthing Pod is gone and enjoy Jeskai Ascendancy while you still can…

If you don’t already read Cardboard Crack you should really fix that.

The Quick Hits

  • Wizards announced that the rounds at Pro Tours will be shortened from 55 minutes to 50 minutes in an early candidate for “Most Boring Announcement of 2015” [Daily MTG]
  • Magic Online won’t update their Banned and Restricted lists until five days after the paper change which has a lot of people upset [Quiet Speculation]
  • MTG Price is Kickstarting a new iOS and Android app and it’s already been fully funded so give it a look [MTG Price]
  • Mike Linnemann is looking for nominees for the Top 8 community members and you should totally nominate me (or someone more important) [Gathering Magic]
  • It’s been a few years since the change to store-driven pre-releases but people still find reasons to whine about missing the old regional events [Quiet Speculation]
  • John Dale Beety reviews the flavor of Fate Reforged [Star City Games]
  • Vintage Super League returns THIS WEEK which is super awkward because Treasure Cruise won’t be restricted and Gifts Ungiven won’t be unrestricted online until the next day [Daily MTG]

Wallpaper of the Week

Meh. No seriously. The more I look at this artwork the less impressed I am by Ugin. When this first came out I liked it, and Matt Jones did not. I didn’t understand because, well, dragons are awesome. But then we got to see more of the dragon artwork from Fate Reforged and in comparison Ugin is just not impressive. I don’t think the ethereal feel really comes across that well. He just seems like he’s made from some kind of crystal or something. Also I wish he wasn’t just a foil for Nicol Bolas. This actually reminds me a bit of Chromium, but Chromium was awesome.

Grade: C

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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