Pondering—A New Modern

So we’ve had some time to let it sink in by now. Farewell, Bloodbraid Elf; farewell, Seething Song. I can’t speak for the entire Modern format when I say that you will be missed, but I certainly hate to see you go.

I’ve played against those cards. I’ve lost to those cards. Hell, I’ve been completely and utterly blown out of the water by those cards (well, Bloodbraid more than Song), and in spite of that, or maybe because of it, I can say that neither card is oppressive enough to warrant a ban.

Sure, slamming a Bloodbraid and Cascading into Liliana on a board that was previously at parity is pretty devastating, but it’s what makes Jund, well, Jund. It’s a bunch of cards in three or four colors that have little to no synergy, yet somehow exist together as a well-oiled machine. It’s the poster child of fair decks, even if there is a fair bit of luck involved.

That luck factor is probably what did it, honestly. I suppose a deck filled with good cards is bound to get a ton of value out of a mechanic like Cascade, but how many times have we heard the complaint that a player “merely” Bloodbraided into a Thoughtseize?

And then there’s Seething Song. I have to admit that Storm is the combo deck I’m least familiar with. That’s not to say I don’t know how the deck works (everyone learns the hard way how Storm works). I respect Storm as a deck because I personally think it requires the most skill of all the combo decks to pilot. I’ve never lost to a bad Storm player, and have never beaten a good one.

Piloting Storm takes intuition. In one of the side events at Atlantic City, I got turn three’d twice (without Electromancer!) by a player whom I can only describe as a very skilled Storm player. I asked him how he was able to go off seemingly out of nowhere (and especially in game three through my countermagic) and make it look effortless. He told me it was all about being familiar with the deck. Just like how I pride myself on being able to do “Delver math,” Storm players have their own algorithm constantly running in their heads, no doubt calculating how many rituals and cantrips they are likely to hit with the cards currently in their grip, and whether or not they can reliably go off.

How much does it hurt to lose Seething Song? Quite a bit, I’d imagine. Being able to resolve Seething Song typically puts the combo beyond the point of no return, out of reach of Mana Leak. Song also usually comes right before a Past in Flames, making it a critical link in the chain.

So, what now? Where do Jund and Storm go from here?

I can’t speak for Storm, again because I don’t know it well enough to comment, but at least as far as Jund is concerned, all eyes naturally fall on one card: Huntmaster of the Fells. And even the mighty Huntmaster will have big shoes to fill. Similar casting cost, completely different functionality. Huntmaster Jund, if it becomes a thing, will be much more grindy than original Jund. Huntmaster is a fantastic card that does a lot of sweet things, but it’s never two cards like Bloodbraid is; no longer can players slingshot from being behind to suddenly find themselves in a winning position. What it does do better than Bloodbraid is win games of attrition. We’ve already seen plenty of that from all the work he’s put in in Standard. In Jund, Huntmaster helps mount pressure against opponents who’ve had their hand already ravaged (no pun intended) by targeted discard spells and Liliana, as it will be much harder to keep that guy from flipping in Modern. Blightning helps as well on that front, though oftentimes, spending three mana to not gain any board position is not where you want to be.

All in all, my money’s on Jund undergoing a few changes, but emerging relatively unscathed and hovering around top tier still. Storm may not be as lucky.

Incidentally, the loss of Bloodbraid also kills Tribal Zoo. Without a hasty beater that often comes with a free burn spell, the deck will have a much harder time pushing through the last five or so points of damage. Plus, with UWR gaining popularity after winning two PTQs and a GP, a deck that starts at 11 life isn’t exactly the best choice.

Other changes to the meta that we can expect includes the advent of BUG tempo decks. Losing Lightning Bolt sucks, especially in a deck that can run Snapcasters, but all the other traditional Jund pieces are there. Until that deck is figured out, other archetypes that were previously held down by Deathrite Shaman might see some play as well. I’m certainly excited about the prospect of playing against more Gifts and Dredgevine variants.

All of this is conjecture at this point. It’ll be interesting to see what the top 32 of upcoming MODO PTQs will look like. I’d like to get a gauge on what the new meta will be like before diving into the PTQ at the store next month.

Meet the new Modern; not quite the old Modern.

16 Responses to “Pondering—A New Modern”
  1. Matt Guido says:

    My favorite part about the bloodbraid banning is that it kills the Boom/Bust deck. That interaction was by far the most unfair, and considering the deck’s popularity on MODO, I’m surprised no one has mentioned it.

  2. zil says:

    as a wannabe delver player, i’m curious to hear your thoughts on delver math.

    • Li Xu says:

      It’s tempo calculations more than anything. If I Snapcaster -> Path at the end of my opponent’s turn, I get to squeeze in X more damage, but my opponent gets to untap with the extra land, which s/he can use to do Y, but how likely are they to have it, etc.

      • zil says:

        so it’s a combo of knowing the meta and calculating out the tempo. i need to get to the point of remembering what’s in my deck, looking at how many cards i’ve played, etc. (aka, be a good player). definitely goign to go for esper delver with the new meta, but we’ll see. i think it might not have the reach that american delver does with the boros charms.

      • Li Xu says:

        American Delver’s not quite a deck in Modern, since it was soft to Jund. But now things might be a bit different. It’s still relatively threat-light though, and BUG (if it becomes a deck) can still play Abrupt Decay which hoses Delvers and Steppe Lynxes.

    • David McCoy says:

      See also: calculating the likelihood of blind-flipping your Delver, after multiple turns of failed attempts.

  3. Tim says:

    Killing storm is a bit puzzling, as the deck was already neutered into a very manageable state when modern first came to be (preordain, ponder, rite of flame, chrome mox all banned). It’s never taken down a major event. It’s very easy to bring enough hate if it ever becomes a threat. Feels like WotC just hates the mechanic so much that they want it to have no part in the format. Which is really a shame because I like when decks really have a focus on a goal they’re trying to accomplish that’s more specific than “win the game,” rather than just have all the decks be “step 1: pick 2-3 colors, step 2: jam all the best cards in those colors that stay within a reasonable curve into your deck, step 3: ???, step 4: profit.”

    • David McCoy says:

      The only things I’ve ever heard/read about Storm from Wizards employees have been negative. Most have been along the line of, “We should never have made that mechanic.”

      • Li Xu says:

        It’s effectively what they’ve done with Cascade. Though Shardless Agent still does a ton of work in Legacy.

      • David McCoy says:

        The second part of my comment was going to be about how overpowering Cascade can be as well. A free cards mechanic can become very unbalanced when you take it out of the context it was designed for and place it in a much larger “best cards” format like Legacy or Modern.

      • Tim says:

        That’s because Wizards employees think that the game should only be about creature combat. I’m convinced that eventually, they will devolve it into some version of Pokemon with the only difference being that when creatures die, you don’t lose all the mana you “attached” to it.

    • thejlina says:

      I wonder if this is the first step to being able to unban Chrome Mox. That card isn’t really broken outside of storm decks, and it was one of the iffier initial bans when they were putting the format together. I can see them wanting to get it back in rotation, but first wanting to test the waters to make sure no deck springs up that would absolutely dominate with Chrome Mox back in the mix.

      • Li Xu says:

        Yeah, I think Chrome Mox would be fine here. No real applications outside of Storm, and even in Storm it doesn’t provide any overwhelming advantage. Getting up to Past in Flames mana AND having enough left over to flash back key spells will still be a struggle. It’s probably time to dust off those Ascensions again.

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  1. […] Monday, we found out that both Bloodbraid Elf and Seething Song had gotten the axe in Modern. Li Xu discussed Jund’s BBE-less future—and a possible evolution into BUG—while Jess Stirba tested a few […]

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