Why Are We Not Funding This, In Modern?

by Martin Dang on 16 May 2016, Monday

Martin Dang

Why Are We Not Funding This, In Modern?


The first Modern Premier Event since Oath of the Gatewatch will be Grand Prix Los Angeles and Grand Prix Charlotte this weekend. Most of us haven't have the opportunity to prepare for anything other than Standard, which makes the waters in Modern even more foggy. However, after the unbannings, the popularity of Ancestral Vision and Thopter Foundry hasn't been as rampant as we thought.



Today, I'm writing about three decks that have yet to be very popular in Modern so far.


We all expected Eye of Ugin to get banned and gladly the Eldrazi have slowed down. In all honestly, the cards in the deck are still very powerful in their own right. If an evolution of the deck does happen (which doesn't look like it has), it will likely be with the help of Eldrazi Temple and mutate into a more consistent midrange deck that doesn't rely on the “power draw”.


Eye of Ugin Sylvan Scrying


However, the banning of Eye of Ugin also affects the innocent Tron player, but it seems that this effect was well-intended too. Even though they only played a single copy in the deck, it was easily fetched during the late game with Expedition Map or Sylvan Scrying, making it a huge advantage against a control deck.


This might be one of the reasons why Eye of Ugin got the axe, rather than Eldrazi Temple, so as to make control decks more viable. However, judging from the state of things, Tron still survived the banning and several copies were seen on the Magic Online leagues as well as the StarCityGames Opens.


Control has not be a viable strategy in Modern ever since Splinter Twin got banned, coupled with the rise of the Eldrazi. It seems like Wizards of the Coast is trying to change things, and are actively trying to push for control decks to return to the format.


These theories make sense in the face of these two unbannings.




The Return of the Two


Occasional bannings are necessary to balance the format, and shut out what is too unfair. This is something I like.


How about unbannings? I love it even more!


Unbannings also have the potential to shake up the format, and somehow always feels like a small expansion is being introduced into an existing format, because a single card being unbanned can bring back a whole archetype. Cards that were once deemed too powerful are now back in the mix, but how to exploit them is the big question.


Let's take a look at them, one at a time. What caused them to arrive at the ban list in the first place, and why does Wizards of the Coast want them back?


Ancestral Vision


Ancestral Vision is a cheap efficient way for control decks to get card advantage. It is exploited in Legacy via the Cascade mechanic, which made it into a cheap “Draw three cards” spell. Treasure Cruise was no exception to this and quickly found itself gone for the same reason.


However, without efficient Cascade spells such as Bloodbraid Elf or Shardless Agent in Modern, to cast Ancestral Vision without the originally-intended mandatory waiting time makes the card less impactful. For one, I don't foresee it to make a huge impact on the format. It is definitely a good boost for the control decks, and will still see some play, but isn't overly powerful that it becomes oppressive. I see this as a good unban.


Sword of the Meek


The reactions to the unbanning of the sword has been wildly mixed. The reason why it was banned in the first place was because of the synergy it has with Thopter Foundry. One mana creates a 1/1 Thopter and gains you 1 life. That is a pretty good way to stay alive against aggro decks, and doubles up as a win condition.


While this combo was in existence in the past, it was overshadowed and used as an “alternate combo” to help buy time in order to set up the “main combo” of Vampire Hexmage and Dark Depths. Since the latter combination is not legal in Modern, now you'll have to include other win conditions rather than putting all your faith in the two artifacts.


Abrupt Decay Kolaghan's Command


The last time we were able to play with Sword of the Meek was more than five years ago. Nowadays, Abrupt Decay, Scavenging Ooze and Kolaghan's Command have found their way into maindecks of many decks, a situation that was not prevalent five years ago. In addition, Stone Silence, Hurkyl's Recall, Ancient Grudge and assorted kinds of graveyard hate litter the sideboard.


I'm really a fan of this unban, as it opens up many deck choices that were otherwise considered Tier 2 decks, while giving control players additional tools to play with. At the same time, these changes are not too powerful that makes us want to see them gone as much as we wanted the Eldrazi to go.




Bringing Back Grixis Control


Kolaghan's Command Snapcaster Mage


So, how can we effectively utilize these new tools? Before Eldrazi completely invaded Modern, Grixis was one of the most-played decks on Magic Online. With Ancestral Vision as a new card drawing engine, we might see the return of such decks, using Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Snapcaster Mage to fully maximise Ancestral Vision.


Here is a Grixis shell that you'll want to consider.



This deck is a classic control deck, with cheap removal spells and value all over the place. Keep in mind that the build needs constant updating and has to change to adapt to the current metagame. For instance, Michael Majors has taken the liberty to run with three copies of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, possible as a hedge against the Burn decks as well as Abzan Company. Keep an eye on Thing in the Ice as well, because it has also seen some play in the Grixis shell.


Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet




Thopter Tron


As my buddy Joel Larsson has previously discussed, another deck that will benefit from the unban is “Thopter Tron”. If you want to run along with the Thopter/Sword combo, here is my deck suggestion.



This deck was already decent before the unbannings, and I believe that the two-card combo can help make the deck become Tier 1. White-Blue Tron runs a lot of artifacts in the first place, making Thopter Foundry a good card even if you don't get to draw Sword of the Meek.


Gifts Ungiven Muddle the Mixture


Adding to that, the ability to produce a ton of mana from assembling the Urzatron allows you to fully take advantage of the combo as well. The Gifts Ungiven package has been around before, which allowed you to tutor up the Urzatron or Unburial Rites and a reanimation target, but now you can use Gifts Ungiven to assemble Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek as well.


There has been a lot of chatter about Muddle the Mixture as well, not only as protection but also as a tutor for either card. Until Grand Prix Los Angeles and Grand Prix Charlotte, we have no real way to determine if this deck will be a strong contender.




The Forgotten Tezzerator


Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas


Lastly, I've got another Tier “1.5” to Tier 2 deck that has potential to become Tier 1. I present to you Tezzeret Control.



This is where Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek really shines. You're playing a slow control deck with loads of artifacts, and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas can help you to find the pieces you need and slowly grind your opponent out with Thopters, and even possibly make them 5/5 as well.


Those were my three suggestions to be take advantage of the unbannings, and I believe many other pros are on the same route, but the possibilities are endless. I also thought about an Esper Faeries deck with the Thopter/Sword combo built into it, to make up for life loss from Bitterblossom. The deck would run a solid set of counterspells to back up the combo if opponents tried to break it up. The deck could even run Ancestral Visions to good use, digging for the combo as well as more gas.


Time Sieve


A different direction could also be adding Time Sieve to make it a full combo deck. Once you're able to generate 5 Thopters a turn, that will allow you to take infinite turns, even if it is a three-card combo.


Regardless, the trend seems to be welcoming the return of control decks in Modern, yet I also expect a resurgence of hyper-aggressive strategies like our favorite Suicide Zoo, as well as Burn decks to return, since they usually have a good matchup against control.




Summing Up


To sum it all up, banning Eye of Ugin was a given, and a great decision. Unbanning Ancestral Vision is also great, and gives control decks a fighting chance. I was initially very happy with the unbanning of Sword of the Meek because I like to play a deck with the combo but with all the artifact hate will prove too much to handle. It's disappointing we may not see as much of it as we think.


Mox Opal Simian Spirit Guide


Personally, I would also have loved to see Mox Opal and Simian Spirit Guide getting banned. Those two cards in particular make Modern a little to fast at times. Ah well, maybe next time. I hope you've picked up more ideas for the brave new Modern world and good luck with Grand Prix Los Angeles and Grand Prix Charlotte, as well as your World Magic Cup Qualifiers.


Oh yes, before I forget. Here are a list of Processors that can be played against an exile Ancestral Vision.


 Blight Herder Cryptic Cruiser Mind Raker Murk Strider Oracle of Dust Ruin Processor Ulamog's Despoiler Ulamog's Nullifier Ulamog's Reclaimer Void Attendant Wasteland Strangler


Well, what a list of bad cards. Just because they CAN be played doesn't mean all of them SHOULD be. Does this mark the return of the Eldrazi? Just kidding! 'm not going to run Ulamog's Despoiler in Modern, thank you very much!

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