A Word On The Bridge from Below Ban

by Michael Bonde on 15 July 2019, Monday

Michael Bonde


Everyone, and perhaps especially people with a plane ticket to Barcelona for MagicFest Barcelona and Mythic Championship IV, have been waiting in excitement for the B&R announcement today. Would there be any changes to the ever-controversial format of Modern?


The reason for this has been the uprising of the Hogaak menace in competitive play, that both warped the format around it, but also, according to Wizards, had a stunning 60%+ against most of the field. It only lost to some narrow strategies that either went faster or had built in some graveyard removal in their main deck.

And for once, Wizards actually listened to the prayers from the players going into the crucial testing weeks before the big MC IV. They banned a card that is one of the namesakes of Bridgevine and one of the key cards to make the Hogaak deck broken: Bridge from Below.


The banhammer struck: Did it hit the right card, though?


A ban for the deck was necessary, but now the question stands if it was the right card.

Let’s take a look at the cards that people have been “concerned” (and complaining) about:

Faitless Looting
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Altar of Dementia

None of the above got the hammer, and the reasoning for Wizards to ban Bridge from Below elaborates a bit on why Bridge from Below got the ban, rather than one of the others.


Faithless Looting has been on people’s radar, and I am sure that people will still hate this card and call for a ban next time it is up. Even though Hogaak gets nerfed (by a lot), Faithless Looting is still in decks like Dredge and Phoenix which are on top of the tier list of the Modern format. By taking away one of the key engines, in Faithless Looting, you would nerf across the spectrum of graveyard decks rather than targeting one specific specimen and killing another along the way (aggro Bridgevine).


The same thing can be said about Altar of Dementia. Having free sacrifice outlets running around, there is always a risk of someone breaking it and making an “unfun” deck for the meta. This time it was a graveyard deck with Hogaak – but next time it might be something completely different. And especially a card like Altar of Dementia is a card that almost has no upside of being in the format, since it only does two things. Either it is a build-around card, where either the milling, or the sacrifice will have a major upside for your deck, and it has no mana cost to activate. Or, if people find a way of exploiting this unique engine, it will most certainly be a piece for some sort of broken loop, that isn’t fun for the opponent sitting across from it or the formst as a whole. An example to this could be the following:

Turn 1 – Noble Hierach
Turn 2 – Renegade Rallier
Turn 3 – Saffi Eriksdotter and Altar of Dementia

Without interaction, this is a sweet “Mill your entire deck” on turn 3 –
You lose, continue?


And lastly, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis has delve, which is a super broken mechanic when put on the wrong cards. So maybe this will teach R&D a lesson about printing cards with these mechanics in the future. Giving the card a ban is possibly a bit over the top since the card itself isn’t exactly banworthy in my opinion. I might eat my words later though if people find a way of exploiting it further down the line, I wouldn’t count on that though (famous last words).


Was it the right ban?


So, do I think that the ban was right? Yes and no – I probably would have taken away Altar of Dementia, but I can definitely see that Bridge is a random card as well, that only goes in strategies that are unfun (however subjective that may be). And Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Altar of Dementia are still being drafted, which makes for an even stronger argument for them to stay and for Bridge from Below to be taken away instead!


What does the future look like?


As I said in the beginning, the Hogaak deck has warped the format in a way where faster decks rose to power and some of the slower strategies, or decks that had otherwise had a hard time dealing with Hogaak, got played less and less.


Given a ban at this point, the format will still need to adapt, and we can’t really look too much at older versions of Modern pre-Bridge-ban, since both Modern Horizons and War of the Spark have given us brand new toys to fight with.

A thing that is almost certain though, is that the popularity of Tron will go up. Hogaak was preying on regular Tron, sliding more players towards the more aggressive version of the Urza land deck featuring Eldrazi. But with the ban and the introduction of the London Mulligan, it would shock me if people wouldn’t start dusting off their Karn Liberated for another go-round. Though it didn’t do that well at the Mythic Championship, with a less than 50% win rate, it isn’t certain if that was due to the London Mulligan rule or the known decklists. But soon there will be a big enough sample size, to show if this deck is here to stay and the crowned king of the bans.


Another deck that has been showing some force, winning the Red Bull Untapped event, is Jund. With Wrenn and Six and Plague Engineer, Jund is one of the decks that have benefited the most from Modern Horizons, and these cards (as well as Reid Duke) have really put Jund back on the map. One of Jund’s bad matchups, however, is Tron. It will be interesting to see how the sideboards will be built to fight this change in the metagame, or if we will see more Assassin’s Trophy in the future.


What remains from before Hogaak


Before any of this Hogaak nonsense, we had one major player that alongside Dredge made people consider playing Surgical Extraction and Rest in Peace in their main deck. Izzet Phoenix has a new toy in Aria of Flame and is still on the top, having Javier Dominguez winning with the trusty birds at the first Red Bull Untapped event in Florence. This deck has lost exactly nothing but comes back even stronger than ever. The player base has been split between Blue-Red and Mono-Red to speed up the games, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if we would see more of the Blue-Red versions going forward.


And just like Phoenix, two of the decks that have been suppressed the last month are Humans and Hardened Scales. These two decks are still extremely potent but haven’t seen the same amount of play in this Hogaak period. But I would imagine that we will see both of them in numbers, and with them a lot of both Chalice of the Void and Damping Sphere, to beat up on their bad matchups. This in turn leaves a new restriction for some decks that can be tapped into. This is in my opinion one of the major upsides of Modern: that with a correct sideboard and tuned deck, you can really triumph in a format that might look a bit random to bystanders.


Doping the format


All of the above is of course speculation, and I find it hard to evaluate an extremely potent shot of roughly 500 cards to the modern pool, plus Core Set 2020 which seems like it’s one of the more interesting Core Sets that has been around. But what I do think, is that some of the decks that are already top-tier decks as well as some decks that have been a bit under the radar will come back in numbers. Then there are a lot of newcomers, or tweaks of old strategies, like our different decks from Team Modern Super League. Trying all the new cards out in older decks takes time, but eventually people will hit a homerun and have a build that is extremely good.


I hope this gave some insight to the recent bannings and some of the upcoming changes. Don’t forget to tune in to see some sweet Modern action on TMSL and the new Pauper League, where none other than endboss Andreas “ecobaronen” aka “And11” Petersen and myself will be fighting for a spot iin the finals.

Until next time!

Michael Bonde


This article was written by Michael Bonde in a media collaboration with magemarket.com.


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