Monday’s Banned and Restricted (B&R) announcement will have a huge impact on Modern. The nerfing of the format’s bogeyman, Eldrazi, was inevitable, and the banning of Eye of Ugin expected, but the unbanning of Ancestral Vision and Sword of the Meek caught many off guard.
Rather than simply rewinding Modern back to the pre-Eldrazi days, R&D have created a brave new world where blue decks have two incredibly powerful and efficient tools to fight against the field.
Blue control decks have always have had problems in Modern, and the most successful among them have relied on combos like Splinter Twin. Ancestral Vision provides control decks with a fantastic source of card advantage that makes an attrition strategy viable, and Sword of the Meek completes the Thopter Foundry combo, which gives control decks a kill condition.
This combo is more palatable than Splinter Twin, because rather than ending the game instantly, it ends the game through the crushing inevitability of endless evasive creatures and life gain, and in theory it’s a healthy change to the format.
Profiling the New Meta
The sum of these changes is an environment very favorable to blue decks. Beyond crippling blue’s enemy #1 , Eldrazi, the banning of Eye of Ugin also rids G/r Urzatron decks of the late game tutoring engine that blue decks have an impossible time beating. It’s a great time to be a blue mage, and that’s going to be reflected in the metagame and the market.
It’s also a great time to attack blue deck and cards like Ancestral Vision and Sword of the Meek, so foils to those cards and to blue strategies will also demand a premium. I’ve thought about how the banned list changes impact the metagame, and I’ve studied post-ban price movements of card sales on MTGO, and I’ve identified some cards that I foresee experiencing an increase in demand and price.
Thopter Foundry is an artifact that synergizes with other artifacts, so that card type is on the rise. Players are already hyping cards like Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and Tezzeret the Seeker, and it’s clear that this combo is going to be everywhere in the near future.
Affinity was directly exploited by U/W Eldrazi, but now it’s clear water ahead and smooth sailing for the format’s oldest archetype---except for the heaps of artifact hate that will begin to fill sideboards and creep into maindecks. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the format will react to Thopter Foundry by getting artifact removal however and wherever they can.
My Picks for Gainers
Stony Silence is the card Affinity players fear the most, because it turns their deck into a pile of inefficient, if not completely useless cards. It also stops Thopter Foundry from producing anything. Tron, down but not out, will persist, and will be as reliant on artifacts as ever, and Stony Silence is the one artifact hoser that works against them.
It’s going to be great going forward, but at its relatively high price I don’t see it spiking again. That being said, this might be the single best sideboard card in Modern, and its value can do nothing but rise until it’s reprinted.
Night of Souls' Betrayal
This one is a bit more narrow, but it’s a direct and no-nonsense solution to Thopter Foundry. It neutralizes all thopter tokens, present and future. It also means Sword of the Meek won’t have the opportunity to attach to a thopter and enter play, so it stops the engine completely and thus eliminates the life gain aspect of the combo as well.
I’ve always liked Night of Souls' Betrayal as a spec in general, and now it looks better than ever. Orzhov Pontiff is another card in the same vein that’s going to see a lot more play, but it’s considerably more narrow in the decks that can use it.
Abrupt Decay is an answer to Thopter Foundry that players can maindeck. Rather than being forced to play a narrow answer, BG/x decks can happily play four of a removal spell that will find targets against every other opponent.
Abrupt Decay is even uncounterable, so it’s an ideal answer to a blue combo that can be accompanied by counterspells. Abrupt Decay was the bane of Splinter Twin decks, and it will be the bane of Thopter Foundry decks.
With the banning of Splinter Twin and the rise of the Eldrazi, Abrupt Decay went from sacrosanct format staple to unplayable, a sideboard card at best. The recent change cutting Eldrazi also re-introduces a blue combo card at three mana or less, bringing Abrupt Decay back to where it was before, and perhaps better than ever.
The format change is also a knock against Tron decks, a matchup where Abrupt Decay traditionally fails. The rise of Ancestral Vision also means an increase in cards like Bitterblossom and Vedalken Shackles, where Abrupt Decay also shines.
For years people have talked about $20 Abrupt Decay, and that time is probably finally here.
Scavenging Ooze was released in M14 to great fanfare. It’s always been noted for its tremendous eternal potential, but the demand has never been high enough to bring the price upwards. Now enough time has passed since release, and the popularity of Modern increased enough. As of the new year the price began to increase, and I expect this trend to accelerate.
Now, with Scavenging Ooze as a way to remove Sword of the Meek and end the combo, it has new role to fill. It’s also a solution to Snapcaster Mage, so it’s simply an excellent card against blue strategies going forward. It even disrupts Academy Ruins, Crucible of Worlds, and any Gifts Ungiven graveyard shenanigans.
Speaking of Snapcaster Mage, this staple will ride the currents of the rising blue tide. There’s really not a lot to say about the card in the metagame except that it’s useful in blue decks of all sorts. It’s also the perfect complement to the cheap spells that tend to accompany Ancestral Vision, even though it can’t cast Vision itself.
When Snapcaster Mage broke $80 last June I thought it was well on its way to breaking $100 within the year, but as it turned out that was the peak. It’s been stable around $60 since before Eldrazi, but now with nothing suppressing it the price will grow, and $85 is not the peak this year. Vendilion Clique, Cryptic Command and Remand are other blue staples with demand on the rise.
Academy Ruins has long been a great tool for artifact-wielding blue decks, which are back in full force. It’s useful for recovering any lost Thopter Foundry, so count on it being used in Sword of the Meek combo decks. It’s also very good with Mindslaver in Urzatron decks, which will increasingly become blue.
Engineered Explosives can destroy Thopter Foundry or all thopter tokens alike. It’s flexible, powerful, and potentially very efficient, so it’s simply a great card in general, but historically it has been particularly useful in blue control decks.
It’s a tool new blue decks are going to use regularly, and it’s widely accessible to all sorts of other decks. I like its prospect as a stable growth spec.
Eldrazi loses overall, but both Eye of Ugin’s and Eldrazi Temple’s prices have been suppressed in anticipation of a ban. Now that Eye has been banned, Eldrazi Temple has room to grow. The deck was left intact in some form, and it will slowly establish itself as a bit player in the metagame.
Vesuva has been suggested as a replacement for Eye of Ugin in Eldrazi decks. It requires Eldrazi Temple to work, but it will still be useful in these decks. Even more so if Eldrazi decks start to play Expedition Map or focus on green for Ancient Stirrings.
Master of Waves
As a final note, Merfolk always thrives when blue decks reign. Dodging counterspells with Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls and islandwalking en masse makes them a nightmare for blue decks. The deck will be well positioned going forward.
Therefore any Merfolk staples are likely to be solid buys. Splashing white for artifact hosers might be common, so Wanderwine Hub could be another good target.