Monday brought the highly anticipated Banned & Restricted update. Wizards of the Coast seem to like giving Modern a soft-reset early in the year, if we take the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf as an example. Whether or not that was a goal for this update, the banning of Krark-Clan Ironworks has immediate impact on Modern.

The anticipation for the announcement built tension amongst players, and the overall consensus was that some action needed to be taken. Plenty of focus fell on Ironworks Combo, which promotes a long, tedious gameplan that is boring to watch. With Magic becoming more popular and focus on Arena, it’s essential to make the game fun and engaging to the audience. Despite Modern not being at the forefront of focus for Wizards currently, it’s essential to keep consistency. Thus, it’s no real surprise to see Krark-Clan Ironworks banned in Modern.

Wizards decided to ban the core engine card of the Ironworks deck rather than enablers like Mox Opal and Scrap Trawler, or powerful support cards like Ancient Stirrings. This is similar to when Second Sunrise was banned from the Modern Eggs deck back in 2013—Wizards chose the narrowest option with the correct intentions. Krark-Clan Ironworks also exploits a wrinkle of the rules of mana generation, so banning it helps simplify tournament play.

The announcement also clarified Wizards’ thoughts about Ancient Stirrings and Mox Opal, cards that continue to be on the “watch list” of problem cards in Modern.

The R&D team did a great job of explaining their reasoning and providing transparency, which is something I’ve taken issue with before. In this statement, we see an insight into R&D’s process and why Krark-Clan Ironworks was banned instead of cards like Ancient Stirrings and Mox Opal. Both of these cards are quite powerful, but they impose specific deck-building restraints to be potent, which Ponder and Preordain do not. You don’t see Ancient Stirrings in Elves or Collected Company decks for this reason.

It’s interesting to note they didn’t mention Faithless Looting, which suggests that card isn’t a problem currently. I’m not saying Faithless Looting is an issue, but it’s one of the linchpins of the format and offers plenty of powerful synergies to rival Ancient Stirrings strategies. It should  be considered for the watch list too. You have to treat Modern as its own ecosystem; if Ancient Stirrings was to leave the format, Faithless Looting decks would rise resulting in unbalanced format. I don’t think you can ban one without banning both as they are so ingrained into Modern currently, and it’s beyond the point of just removing one of these powerful commons. Then you have to consider how good Aether Vial and Control strategies would be if that were the case. The ripple effect can be substantial so Wizard’s have to be careful. I think Faithless Looting and Ancient Stirrings are fine in Modern and hasn’t presented a stagnant format as deck variety remains to be high at present.



What about the community’s proposed unbanning of Stoneforge Mystic? U/W Control has the second most appearances in Grand Prix Top 8s in recent times, with Jeskai Control coming in third. That suggests Stoneforge Mystic would be deemed too powerful in this Modern environment, especially with Jace, the Mind Sculptor already available. Although I don’t think Stoneforge Mystic would fit in a traditional U/W Control shell, we know this from seeing Miracles and Stoneblade in Legacy that Stoneforge Mystic offers so much power in a small package and would create its own archetype. If unbanned, deck versatility would be discouraged, and players would jam a playset with some Battlerskulls. I extend this point to Splinter Twin too. The banning of Splinter Twin allowed Modern to blossom into the diverse and fun format it is today, which in my opinion saved the Modern format. Splinter Twin encouraged uninteresting and poor play experiences in a similar vein to Ironworks Combo and should remain banned for as long as Modern exists.

With Ironworks Combo ceasing to exist, how does the rest of Modern shape up with this announcement? (Ally has some great suggestions.) Modern has become a tug of war between Ancient Stirrings and Faithless Looting, which will continue to be the case after Krark-Clan Ironworks. I believe Hardened Affinity followed by Amulet Titan will to rise to take Ironworks Combo’s spot as the top Ancient Stirrings deck of the format. I’ve always felt Hardened Affinity to be one of the more underrated Modern decks despite its success at events and offers a very stubborn, yet dominant gameplan. Amulet Titan is also rising through the ranks due to its recent success at SCG events and branching off into different variants, and boasting it’s adaptability by having very few bad matchups.

The biggest winner to come from Monday’s announcement was U/R Phoenix, as Ironworks Combo offered a strong gameplan which kept U/R Phoenix in line. I expect U/R Phoenix to become the best deck in the format and perhaps pack more Blood Moons to deal with the rise in Amulet Titan. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Manamorphose join the “watch list” as well. Manamorphose doesn’t impact any other decks except for Storm. Both of these decks can operate their game plan without the card, allowing the deck to slow down enough to become fairer in the long run.

So pack your copies of Blood Moon, Rest In Peace, and Stony Silence as Modern goes through a transitional period before settling into a new groove. As we saw when Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf became legal in Modern last year, there was a time where players precariously tried to find their home in Modern. Although their impact is seen to be minimal in hindsight, I expect Krark-Clan Ironwork‘s omission from Modern to be a healthy decision with a promising transition ahead. Not forgetting the inclusion of Ravnica Allegiance due this week, I expect Modern to have new decks and different takes on old archetypes. Most importantly, we are entering a Modern without stagnant gameplay and allowing a fun, diverse format for all to enjoy.

Emma resides in Suffolk, England and started playing Magic back in 2014 when Khans of Tarkir first hit the shelves. She dabbled in Standard for a while then shifted into Modern, in particular playing Eldrazi Tron and Commander where she has found her home. Follow her on Twitter @emmmzyne to join in on the conversation!

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