The highly anticipated Banned & Restricted update came on Monday: Bridge from Below is now banned in Modern. The release of Modern Horizons has triggered much debate about the health of the Modern format. Modern Horizons sought to create new Modern archetypes and reinvigorate existing archetypes. It turns out the set did that job too well in the case of Bridgevine, with Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Altar of Dementia powering the deck to the top of the metagame with explosive consistency.

The dominance of Hogaak Bridgevine threatened to distort the metagame for Mythic Championship IV Barcelona, so Wizards banned one of the deck’s key enablers, Bridge from Below. I’ll be honest—I did not expect a ban to happen shortly after Modern Horizons’ release. Even so, I believe the Wizards made the correct choice.

This week I explore why, which decks win as a result, and where the format will go from here.

Let’s begin with why Bridge from Below was banned over other potential contenders. Why not ban Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, Altar of Dementia, or Faithless Looting instead?

Wizards have begun to ban namesake cards from top Modern decks, like when Krark-Clan Ironworks fell to the hammer back in January. Once again, Wizards are adopting the same approach. Bridge from Below is the most significant enabler of Hogaak Bridgevine. The deck uses zombie tokens to convoke Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis for little mana investment in the early turns. Banning Bridge from Below slows down the engine substantially, to the point where interaction will become more common; the graveyard strategies will need to incorporate their own interaction as a result.

Compared to Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Altar of Dementia, both of which entered the format recently in Modern Horizons, Bridge from Below is the safest card to ban from the strategy. Banning a card which is not only from a new set, but a Modern-focused set would promote a poor message, which Wizards wants to avoid. Bridge from Below has existed in Modern since its inception and became the catalyst for the banning of Dread Return, so this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the potential danger from below.

What about?

Once again, Wizards omitted Faithless Looting from their discussion of the decision, which may suggest that the card is not an issue at present. Although fellow writer and editor Brendan McNamara felt strongly about Faithless Looting this week and its role in Modern, I see it a little differently. I believe it’s challenging to talk about a Faithless Looting ban without considering Ancient Stirrings and Mox Opal in the same breath.

Modern over the last year has transpired into a tug of war between Ancient Stirrings and Faithless Looting strategies, to the point where they negated each other in terms of power level. The metagame began to pull in Faithless Looting’s favor when Krark-Clan Ironworks was banned back in January, as Ironworks Combo was the best Ancient Stirring strategy on offer at the time. In addition, we saw the rise of Izzet Phoenix, a deck that benefitted greatly from the Krark-Clan Ironworks ban. Although there was widespread disdain for what Ironworks Combo achieved in Modern, it held the Looting decks in check. This is not me delaring that Ironworks Combo was a perfectly fine strategy in Modern, as I do think it created unhealthy and unengaging matches of Magic. But the banning of the namesake card impacted the format greatly.

The last few sets have provided incidental artifact hate in Karn, the Great Creator and Collector Ouphe. Although Karn fits in plenty of Ancient Stirring strategies at present, the one-sided Null Rod damages artifact archetypes greatly—Hardened Affinity in particular. There is a case that Karn, the Great Creator is more beneficial than Ancient Stirrings currently as it provides a better tutor, whereas Ancient Stirrings can dig through more cards.

Despite Ancient Stirrings falling off the map recently, you have to respect the potential the cantrip offers alongside Mox Opal. With the banning of Bridge from Below, I expect big mana strategies such as Tron and Amulet Titan to make a comeback, incorporating both Karn, the Great Creator and Ancient Stirrings.

The Winners

Like the last time we had a ban in Modern, I expect Izzet Phoenix to become the de facto best strategy in Modern. Not only was Hogaak Bridgevine a less than favorable matchup, Izzet Phoenix has improved with the additions of Magmatic Sinkhole, Finale of Promise, and Fiery Islet. I fully anticipate seeing Izzet Phoenix be the most-played strategy at the Mythic Championships in Barcelona, followed by Grixis Urza. I think Chalice of the Void is well-positioned if Izzet Phoenix looks to dominate once again.

Extending this, Amulet Titan will make a strong return now that it can regain the mantle of having no bad matchups. Amulet Titan was a viable strategy against Hogaak Bridgevine, but Amulet had to alter the list dramatically by incorporating the Devoted Vizier combination, which diluted the strategy greatly. Now with Hogaak Bridgevine out of the picture, Amulet Titan can revert back to more traditional lists using the Karn, the Great Creator and Mycosynth Lattice combination as means to victory featuring Ancient Stirrings.

Although we are only into a month of Modern Horizons’ lifespan, it’s evident the set has changed Modern and invigorated various archetypes. Now with Bridge from Below leaving Modern, the format can readjust to the widened card pool. Although I am surprised to see a ban happening so soon, its a sensible decision with the Mythic Championships coming at the end of the month, which I believe was the catalyst to ban Bridge from Below now instead of later. Now, let’s get back to unbanning Splinter Twin and Stoneforge Mystic . . .

Emma is a writer and Modern enthusiast based in Suffolk, England. She has been involved in Magic since Khans of Tarkir’s release back in 2014, but won’t shy away from Cube and MTG Arena. Follow her on Twitter @emmmzyne to join in on the conversation!

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