Insider: A World Without Treasure Cruise – What Does Modern Look Like After a Banning?

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The writing is on the wall at this point: Treasure Cruise is wearing out it's welcome in Modern and the format as a whole is suffering because of it.

While some people like playing budget Vintage, the proliferation of U/R Delver in Modern has gone to the same precipice that we saw with Jund before the ban of Bloodbraid Elf and Deathrite Shaman.

Wizards really only has two options at this point: ban Treasure Cruise or decide that Modern doesn't really matter as a format. With rumors of Modern Masters 2 coming down the pipeline, it's doubtful they're willing to give up on Modern just yet, even if the new PTQ structure does very little to promote it.

A World Without Boats

So Modern pretty much just snaps right back to the way it was before Khans of Tarkir, right? Well, not exactly. There's a number of elements in play that can drastically effect the format and create opportunities for financial growth.

First of all, there's the obvious:

Each of these lands repositions various decks and strategies simply by existing. Many strategies were put into a position where by being the colors they were, they were basically forced to play with Vanguard cards that said -2 or -4 life with none of the upsides.

Just look at Wooded Foothills. It makes an immediate impact in a number of decks: Scapeshift and the Primeval Titan based Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle decks are both greatly aided by the existence of Wooded Foothills.

They were previously forced to use off color fetches like Misty Rainforest or Scalding Tarn to provide access to the mana they needed to operate. It easily allows you to go beyond 8 fetches in Temur decks without limiting your ability to get basic lands.

Windswept Heath easily slots into Birthing Pod decks, which were previously using the now defunct Marsh Flats--not an ideal situation when your deck consists of 7-8 mana dorks and a strong desire for a basic forest on turn one.

Simply by playing Windswept Heath, all Birthing Pod decks were more or less given +2 life every game. While this doesn't seem seem that dramatic, 2 life is often a mountain of opposition for fast decks. Just look at Burn or Zoo.

The combination of these two cards also creates something that didn't exist before: a mana base that you actually wouldn't mind playing in a Zoo deck.

Before Khans of Tarkir, it was a very painful prospect to be playing any Naya based aggro deck because you couldn't search for the lands you wanted when you wanted them.

By being forced to play with awkward fetch bases like Verdant Catacombs and Arid Mesa, you were often starting at a virtual 14 or 16 life. Wild Nacatl has very particular tastes when it comes to mana, and Verdant Catacombs was just not very accommodating.

And his doesn't take into account Nacatl's friends, Kird Ape and Loam Lion. Managing an opening hand that featured multiple copies of these guys along with a Lightning Helix made for some decisions.

Flooded Strand finally removes the pain of Arid Mesa from the Azorius or Jeskai decks that have been ever present since the format's inception. Searching out islands without paying a penalty makes playing additional copies of Cryptic Command a boon instead of a risk.

Blue/white Tron decks can rejoice in their ability to weather Blood Moon just a little bit better while still employing some form of virtual dual land.

Bloodstained Mire was the card I was most excited about initially, rounding out Jund's mana base with another black-based fetchland made those turn-one plays of Thoughtseize and Inquisition much more powerful because it became less critical to turn your Marsh Flats into a dual land.

Sometimes the necessity of casting a turn one Thoughtseize put your starting life total at 15--a prospect that was often met with horror when your opponent's hand revealed a grip full of burn spells.

Unfortunately, discard spells like Thoughtseize became significantly less powerful when your opponent followed up with a Treasure Cruise a few turns later. If I'm casting Treasure Cruises, I would love for every card in my deck to say "discard this to have opponent discard a card and lose two life."

Ironically, Polluted Delta is the red-headed stepchild in Modern. The premiere blue/black deck, Faeries, basically wants nothing to do with it. And the non-premiere blue/black decks mostly don't exist (sorry, your Grixis control deck is still bad).

Cards on the Peripheral

Picking out which decks are immediately affected by the reprinting of allied fetches is easy: just find any deck playing an off-colored fetch and sub in the desired fix. But when you take a second look at these lands, they also have a tremendous impact on single card strategies.

Knight of the Reliquary is one of those cards that plays great with a friend. A turn one fetchland into a Ignoble Hierarch followed by a turn two fetchland into KotR is an all-star classic play across a number of formats past and present. Guess who just got an upgrade?

By rounding out every three color combination with 4-8 new fetchlands, Knight of the Reliquary based strategies receive a huge shot in the arm. While this strategy might be a bit slow in the world of Delver of Secrets // Delver of Secrets + Ancestral Recall Treasure Cruise, in a world where these decks are less omnipresent, Knight becomes significantly stronger.

Just as much as the fetchlands givith, they taketh away.

Blood Moon has been Modern's Tier 1 "Hhaha got you" cards for a long time now.

Entire decks have thrived on the backbone of this card and his little brother, Magus of the Moon, screwing over greedy mana bases. Why would you want to play fair Magic when you can just cast one card and win the game for free?

Unfortunately, however, Blood Moon got a lot weaker with the release of Khans. Every deck has access to on-color fetchlands and the ability to search up the exact basic lands they need to feed whatever mana appetites their spells bring with them. Access to basics is enough to weaken Blood Moon from an "easy win" to "probably dead card" when your opponent's are savvy enough to play around it by searching up basics.

Heir to a Throne

As much of an oppressive dick Treasure Cruise has been in Modern, its step child Dig Through Time is heir to the throne of format warping cards.

If/when Treasure Cruise gets banned, if Dig isn't given the preemptive axe, we're poised to see a surge in blue-based combo decks, namely Scapeshift and Splinter Twin.

Blue/red Delver decks are the perfect foil for these combo decks as their steady clocks combined with a suite of countermagic and the ability to "reload" after a flurry of spells has been enough to keep this style of decks in check. But with no Treasure Cruise, the incentive to cast Gitaxian Probe and friends becomes much lower.


There's a ton of room for financial shakeout if Treasure Cruise is banned. Given the fact that Wizard's hasn't acted yet gives me the impression that they are perfectly fine with a "wait and see" approach to Modern, delaying Banned List changes until set releases.

This opens up the possibility that Dig Through Time decks will have a couple months to take over before taking the brunt of the banhammer. This means cards like Valakut, Scapeshift, and Splinter Twin have some room to make a small run.

Cards like Blood Moon won't necessarily tank because of fetchlands existence, but they certainly become less exciting over time as their effectiveness diminishes.

I am bullish on Knight of the Reliquary. I really feel she is a great long term pickup, seeing as the price has already recovered from its double reprinting and has multi-format appeal, seeing play in Legacy, Modern and Commander.

There are very few three mana creatures that can hold a candle to Knight of the Reliquary in Modern, and bringing all fetchlands into the fold makes this card much more likely to start seeing significant amounts of play.

Additionally, the ability to search out lands means that with every new set there is a great chance for Knight to "break" the same way Stoneforge Mystic did with the printing of Sword of Feast and Famine and Batterskull.

Beyond that, Modern is an incredibly diverse and deep format that I've only glanced the surface of today. Khans wasn't given much of a chance to saturate the format because its existence has been punctuated with Jeskai Ascendancy and UR Delver, so many of the cards haven't yet had the an opportunity to make themselves contenders in the format.

What other decks or card strategies gained significantly from Khans that I missed? What's taken a hit?

8 thoughts on “Insider: A World Without Treasure Cruise – What Does Modern Look Like After a Banning?

  1. I hope you realize that the KTK Fetches existed before? Terminology like “new” or “by existing” comes across as unintentionally funny for reprints. To me they distract from the article.

    I do agree with your points, I want to pick up more Fetches.

  2. i disagree with the whole premise of this article….modern isn’t broken with TC, its just different. enough of the bannings and banning talk, for modern to have a healthy format doesn’t mean banning more stuff, it means players need to adapt be creative. Since TC has been legal the format has shown a wide variety of decks can win(affinity,pod, scapeshift, delver,burn,twin,rock…yes it pushed delver/burn into tier 1 but thats not the end of the world)…if you don’t believe me, try building a Sideboard that covers all the bases…if it was just TC decks then it would be rather simple to hate out. As a community I think the topic should be about more unbannings (in spite of the fact the archetypes in modern are already incredibly wide).

    1. I’m not saying that Treasure Cruise decks are unbeatable … Wizards has made it very clear that they do not want one deck to be a large portion of the metagame … which is why cards like Bloodbraid and Deathrite Shaman were banned. Jund was just as vulnerable as the Blue / Red Delver decks, but it was represented by greater than 20% of the field and Wizards felt that was excessive. Blue / Red Delver has seen similar representation on MTGO (the only real sample group for Modern).

      Beyond that, Treasure Cruise is more splashable in Modern because mana bases are less vulnerable due to the absence of Wasteland … if it doesn’t get banned, then it will quick become standard practice to just jam a few cruises in any deck that that has a flex spots.

      As far as adapting and creativity, that sadly isn’t a real option. The bulk of the player base follows trends presented to them by big players at big tournaments, with a noticeable lack of real support for Modern from Wizards, we’re not going to see near enough innovation out of necessity as we would if there were entire Modern seasons.

      Unbannings – yes, this is a great idea but the few cards left to unban are ones they’ve banned since Modern’s inception. Bloodbraid and Deathrite were not entirely oppressive, Jace would probably be fine, but beyond that what cards still have a legitimate case to be made for their unbanning?

      1. I gotta agree with Derek on this one…the players who love TC are screaming that it’s perfectly fine, but it’s clearly not. They banned Ancestral Visions from the get-go and that one usually goes off on turn 4 (if you’re lucky). TC can actually go off sooner (I’ve seen turn 3 plenty of times). It has completely warped the format. It’s the Brainstorm of modern (and plenty of players have wished brainstorm would get the axe in legacy), except Brainstorm still nets 0 cards (you trade 1 for 1), while TC actually nets +2..for 1 mana, even legacy banned Ancestral Recall…and TC is just the next iteration of it.

  3. I will happily admit that Dig through Time probably makes RUG Scapeshift the de facto “best deck in modern” due to the raw power, resiliance, disruption, and clock. U/R delver is overrepresented because it is ultimately (outside of tarns and even those are down from the $120 madness they once were) cheap to build.

    That being said, Dig through Time is a necessary card for hand-intensive combo decks like scapeshift with the preponderance of cheap discard available (Loam/Raven’s Crime, Liliana) and is generally a “fair” spell. It does not refuel to the degree that Cruise provides to it’s decks, and due to mana requirements does not permit the same multiple-spell-plays-refuel-multiple-spell-plays turn after turn that makes Cruise bad for the format.

    In fact, the banning of cruise with the preservation of Dig through Time may actually allow for a proper control deck (4c Gifts and UWR, you don’t really count. Sorry. Gifts is a combo deck, as is U Tron, UWR is tempo so only really plays control 50% of the time (or less)) to exist in modern which would improve the overall health of a format defined by more or less aggro, combo, tempo, and combinations of the three.

  4. I hate when people try to say that U/R delver is over represented because it is somehow a budget deck. The Cost of the deck has little bearing on the amount it is played. Using this logic would mean that affinity would have been over 20% prior to Khans release because of it being also budget yet extremely competitive. This was and is not the case. Affinity was only a normal healthy portion of the field. Treasure cruise has pushed UR delver to greater than 20% of the filed because it’s broken. The pros at world’s did not majority play it and dominate with it due to “budget”… cost has no bearing with what pros play. Greater than 20% of the field and dominating tournaments is direct corelation to broken and format warping. People need to face the facts and quite hoping wizards wiIl just turn a blind eye and let Treasure cruise ruin modern.

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