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Insider: Predicting Modern Metagame Changes After the Bannings

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Welcome back, readers! So we had a prerelease this past Friday night for Oath of the Gatewatch. Anyone care to guess the card that was most traded on PucaTrade?

twin

That's right, Splinter Twin. Thanks to the latest Modern bannings from WotC, this once proud staple has now plummeted in value and people are desperate to lock in whatever remaining value they can. Buylists have adjusted accordingly and what was once viewed by many as an underpriced speculation opportunity is now headed to the bulk bin.

I myself got hit holding my personal four copies, though I was able to out my four speculation copies in time. I imagine many others were not so fortunate.

Splinter Twin decks have been around since Modern's inception as a format, and to have survived this long only to suddenly get hit by the banhammer does show a change in WotC's philosophy regarding its premier eternal format.

The metagame changes will obviously be significant. It will be interesting to play Modern without fear of the dreaded turn three flash in Deceiver Exarch, tap your land, turn four, untap, Twin you.

While I had hoped for some unbannings to go along with any bannings, the nerfing of Modern's premier combo deck might open up the door for control decks to get a foothold. In light of the likely death of Splinter Twin as an archetype (technically they do still have Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker), let's review which cards are expected to lose value and which will likely gain.

The Losers

The most obvious cards to lose value are the ones that were specific to the Splinter Twin (and Summer Bloom) archetypes. Namely:

Defunct Archetype Staples

These cards were almost exclusively played in the banned decks. They've already lost plenty of value, and are likely to drop further in the near future.

Other cards that may drop a bit:

Some of you may be wondering about that last one. U/R Twin was one of the biggest adopters of Blood Moon. With the death of the Twin archetype we're likely to see a resurgence in non-red decks (or red ones that don't really want to play their own Blood Moon like Jund and/or Grixis) and thus a reduction in Blood Moon.

However, I will leave the caveat that if enough decks lose respect for Blood Moon in the format we may see a resurgence in the Blue Moon-style decks of a few years back.

The Gainers

Now that we've gone through what's likely to drop, let's look at what has potential to gain value.

Chord of Calling


The death of Splinter Twin and Amulet Bloom decks will likely that mean previous top-tier decks will gain some market share. Abzan versions (especially Abzan Company) will likely see a boost in demand. There's also a strong chance we'll see a lot more Tron decks (thanks to some of the cards from Oath, like Warping Wail and Kozilek, the Great Distortion).

These Abzan Company decks rely on Fulminator Mage to help keep Tron in check, and Chord is a good way to tutor for one, in addition to providing an all-inclusive tutor for any missing combo pieces.

Fulminator Mage


As mentioned above, with a likely increase in Tron decks Fulminator Mage becomes much more desirable as one of the premier non-basic land hate cards in the format. Thanks to the hybrid mana cost it can fit in any deck playing either red or black, and there are enough ways to recur creatures in the format to make it more desirable than either Molten Rain or Rain of Tears.

Batterskull


While we didn't get Stoneforge Mystic back, this card's printings are still limited to a mythic in New Phyrexia and a GP Promo (granted it was given out a ton).

I imagine Tron decks will still stick with Wurmcoil Engine as their lifelinking threat of choice. But if we see a Blue Moon type of deck arise again in Modern (thanks to an expected reduction of Blood Moons with Twin gone) then Batterskull will likely remain the win condition of choice as it provides both an aggressor and a solid defender in one.

Shadow of Doubt


We've already seen a huge spike in Scapeshift as many Twin players try to convert to another combo-control deck that utilizes at least some of the same cards (mainly the mana base). Shadow of Doubt is a very good hate card which thanks to the large number of fetches in the format is almost always live, and a cantripping Stifle is going to remain powerful against a lot of decks. Again the hybrid mana cost allows it to fit in more decks than usual.

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle


With Scapeshift having already jumped, it seems highly likely that the actual win condition of the deck will also see a rise in value. It was a promo and was likely printed in larger numbers (being from a newer set released around the time of a large playerbase increase), but it doesn't make a lot of sense that half of the combo is $65 and the other is $5.

Cryptic Command


Cryptic Command was (for a long time) the premier "command" in Modern. With the release of the Dragons of Tarkir command cycle, Kolaghan's Command has become the most played command in Modern. With the death of Twin/Bloom and a rise in Scapeshift (which happens to play Cryptic Command already) we may see the format slow down a bit, in spite of the super aggressive strategies of Burn/Affinity. That opens the door for arguably the best counterspell in the format.

I fully expect to see a resurgence in control-style decks (most likely Esper or Jeskai variants) which found a home for Cryptic. If this does start to go up you can also expect the filter lands that produce double blue to see a bump as well (since Cryptic's biggest hindrance is its extremely specific mana cost).

Griselbrand


I realize this one is a bit of a long shot, but Grishoalbrand is one of the fastest combo decks in the format. Granted it has consistency issues, but if Modern slows down a bit then this is the exact type of deck that could post one or two good showings and see its key components skyrocket.

Goryo's Vengeance is already a $30 card, but the key reanimation target is at an all-time low of $13. Griselbrand also occasionally finds a home in Gifts decks, which again benefit greatly from a slower format.

Gifts Ungiven


Last, but not least we have one of my pet favorites. Gifts Ungiven is one of the most powerful control cards in Modern. I say control because unlike true combo decks, Gifts strategies tend to cut their win condition down to just one "Gifts package" and surround it with a control shell (similar to how many Legacy decks utilize Stoneforge Mystic).

The beauty of this strategy is that the package itself doesn't have to account for a lot of deck space---typically 2-3 Gifts Ungiven, 1-2 Unburial Rites, and then 1-3 reanimation targets (usually Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite; Iona, Shield of Emeria, and Griselbrand).

If durdling with Cryptic Command gets better, expect the same to apply to Gifts Ungiven.

~

It will be interesting to see the Modern meta develop at the upcoming Pro Tour and beyond into this year. While the cards mentioned above are certainly well positioned, we may also see the arrival of one or more entirely new archetypes. The sky's the limit on anything that hits that big, but predicting what will is obviously a challenge.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Modern metagame? Anything obvious I've missed in my analysis? Let me know in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Insider: Predicting Modern Metagame Changes After the Bannings

  1. There’s nothing eternal about Modern. WotC banned Twin for no other reason than it was popular. I personally hate playing combo decks but I can imagine Twin players are feeling about the same way I did when WotC decided to ban Jund. Now all the time and money people spent has been flushed down the toilet. Twin players will be forced to start all over and spend their money on the next wave of $12 Modern Masters lottery tickets.

    1. I can definitely feel your pain on this one and I do think this action will turn away some players; it is hard to argue that they’ve drastically changed the potential metagame with these bannings which has gotten some people excited. Arguing that modern is not an eternal format because WoTC bans/unbans things though seems rather exaggerated…afterall, they ban/unban cards in legacy as well…and few would argue that legacy is not an eternal format.

      1. Legacy isn’t the cash grab Modern is for WotC. Modern doesn’t suffer from the reserved list. If Legacy was treated like Modern, WotC would ban FoW.

        1. I forgot to mention that once a person acquires all cards needed for their Modern deck, they’re no longer Hasbro’s customer. Banning a person’s deck fixes this problem by forcing players to keep buying product. Hasbro can’t reprint half the cards in Legacy and thus have no reason to pay any attention to the format

          1. I don’t really see how exactly was it that the Twin whole deck got banned with the banning of twin. The value lost amounts to like $50 tops, if I would regret anything as a Twin player – it’s the time that I spent getting to know match-ups with other decks and that now I need to start over with another deck, however Magic is the game, that I play in the first place and make profit with in the second, so I just pick up my stuff and move to Grixis or U/R Delver deck, which look like fine choices to me, or just sell my cards and buy into other decks, as my Scalding Tarns haven’t got banned, thank you very much WotC. What I’m getting at – I do regret the time spent learning ins and outs and the timing for the ban was also long overdue, which was part of the reason me picking up this deck, but I was pretty sure Twin would get an axe at some point, so it doesn’t strike me as unexpected that much.

          2. I do agree with this…but WoTC is aware of the true cost of a banning. Sure on the outside it appears that it doesn’t actually cost them anything; but as we’ve seen from numerous players/writers it does erode at the playerbase confidence in the format which DOES have a very real cost. Without confidence the playerbase shrinks and product doesn’t sell as well.

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