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The writing is on the wall, and a ban in Modern is coming during the next announcement on July 8th. Ever since Modern Horizons was released, the format has been in the grip of the Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis-powered Bridgevine deck, which along with other new inclusions Altar of Dementia and Carrion Feeder has become the most busted Modern deck in recent memory. Arguably, it is the most broken deck ever, or at least sits among them. The deck is dominating results, and it’s exerting tremendous pressure on sideboards. To allow the deck to live on would be unconscionable, so a ban is inevitable.
Bans will have a big impact on the metagame, and Modern is a huge driver of prices, so there is the potential for some major shakeups coming in the market. Now is the time to prepare. The shake-up will be amplified further by this week’s official institution of the London Mulligan rule for all formats, which showed during its trial run to have a big impact on Modern. Along with the release of Core Set 2020, it’s a very interesting time and one that presents a lot of opportunity.
There’s a big question of what will be banned, but my money is on Faithless Looting. Banning something like Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis or more to cut down Bridgevine would help stop the deck, but it would just leave the format vulnerable to both Dredge and Arclight Phoenix. Banning Faithless Looting knocks down Bridgevine along with these other graveyard decks, and would do a lot to open up the format to other strategies.
That said, a Faithless Looting ban alone will not be enough to stop Bridgevine, so I expect we’ll see more on the chopping block. The safest bet is Bridge from Below, which makes the deck’s sacrifice outlets so strong, and just doesn’t have any fair use anywhere in the format, so will not be missed. Vengevine is another potential ban target, but I expect it to survive this round.
I am preparing for both Faithless Looting and Bridge from Below being banned, and for the world to come afterward. One way to get an idea of what to expect is to look backward, to before Arclight Phoenix brought the format into upheaval. The top deck at that time was Bant Spirits, which during the months prior had been gaining ground on Humans as the format’s premier tribe. These creature decks suffered extremely against a deck with Thing in the Ice and Gut Shot, and will have much pressure lifted without them as fixtures of the metagame.
A Faithless Looting ban would be a major boon to these tribal decks, which would rise towards the top of the metagame. Both decks are also highly disruptive and should have a reasonably good game against the unfair decks promoted by the London Mulligan. For that reason, I like targeting cards like Aether Vial, an essential part of both decks.
Noble Hierarch is another candidate, especially since its Ultimate Masters reprint cut the price down to half of its previous $80, and given the poor metagame conditions has yet to begin its recovery, so it feels like a true bargain.
These tribal strategies have also gained some very potent new tools from Modern Horizons, which only serve to improve their chances at rising back to the top of the metagame after a ban. Giver of Runes has become common in Humans and is set to appreciate, and although at this point is already pretty expensive, maybe $20 or even higher is realistic down the road once the set is out of print. A more value-oriented play is Unsettled Mariner, which has become a staple of both Humans and Spirits, and has potential in other decks like Merfolk. At $4 it seems to have plenty of upside but little room to fall given that it’s already seeing competitive play.
Of course Urzatron was also a menace to the format, along with another land-based deck Amulet Titan, and they also have a lot to gain from the London Mulligan rule. There’s some argument that if Faithless Looting is to be banned, then Ancient Stirrings ought to go along with it, which is certainly possible. I think it’s more likely that Wizards will move cautiously and take baby steps with the least change possible, and will target Ancient Stirrings in the future if it’s a problem, but it’s something to consider for speculation purposes. In the meantime, Urzatron should be a pretty safe bet, so a staple like Karn Liberated, another UMA reprint with a suppressed price point, looks like a good target.
No preparation for upcoming bans would be complete without considering the implications of Core Set 2020, which will be released July 12th. War of the Spark and of course Modern Horizons have set a precedent for Wizards really paying attention to Modern-playable cards, and it has continued with Core 2020. For example, Lotus Field shows a lot of promise in the Amulet Titan deck and makes its staples, such as namesake Amulet of Vigor, look like good targets. Across the board, the deck’s staples showed strong growth during the spring leading into Modern Horizons, and I see no reason it shouldn’t continue once this Bridgevine period ends.
M20 will finally bring Goblins to the next level with Goblin Ringleader, the card it has always wanted in Modern. With Goblin Matron in Modern Horizons, there is clearly a concerted effort on the part of Wizards to elevate the tribe, and now there’s some real potential. Simply put, Goblins now in Modern is an entirely different animal than Goblins before, which typically were hyper-aggressive all-in decks. Now, it can play a more balanced game similar to how it acts in Legacy, where it was once a top strategy. Aether Vial has long been a staple of the deck, so Goblins is yet another reason why that card has great prospects. A more Goblin-specific spec would be something like Goblin Piledriver, which combined with card advantage from the new goblin reprints should excel.
The Neobrand deck has been performing pretty decently on Magic Online despite the Bridgevine menace and before the London Mulligan rule, so its prospects look good, and speculating on its staples could be a good play. On the other hand, it now has Force of Negation to contend with. I don’t believe Force of Negation is particularly strong in this Bridgevine metagame, but is still good enough to be a maindeck two-of in Azorius Control. It's likely to see even more play as a safety valve to the London Mulligan rule. I’ve picked up a set to play with because I just don’t ever see them being cheaper.
My beloved set of Arclight Phoenix, on the other hand, I sold last week when I realized its glory days are likely behind it.