Hi everyone! I know I have been away for a while and it was end of this past semester is what kept me away. Suffice it to say that I made it through unscathed and learned a lot about many things. Now I am back and ready to post regularly again. There has been a lot happening in the MTG world since my last post! Rules changes, bannings (both cards and people), big tournaments, metagame changes…that’s a lot to talk about! I will likely tackle most of these topics in one way or another in the coming weeks.
As for today, I would like to start with the newest bannings in Modern. Now I believe that 1/2 of these bannings were correct. Putting a fork in Punishing Fire was the right call. That combo seriously was stifling the format. Infinite 2 damage removal makes decks like Merfolk mostly unplayable. I support the banning of Punishing Fire, though I wish they had banned Grove of the Burnwillows instead…Punishing Fires is a nice weapon for mono-red decks against something like Batterskull.
Now, as far as the other card banned on Dec. 20th… What a sad strange world we have fallen into where a green creature that does nothing but turn sideways gets banned. Banning Wild Nacatl was completely pointless. Every other banning I have seen has been to ban the problem cards of a deck. This usually means banning cards which are part of a combo or ones which warp a format. In the past I have been understanding, and mostly happy, about the decisions that WotC makes when banning cards.
When they banned Survival of the Fittest, I understood, as Gerry Thompson once wrote: “The best aggro deck in legacy is G/W Survival, the best combo deck is G/B Survival, and the best control deck is G/U survival…” When they banned Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic, I understood. Those cards WERE that standard format, there was no point in playing anything else. When they banned the first set of cards in Modern, I understood. WotC have a set vision for what Modern should be and they intent to actively shape the format until it is the best version of what they want.
Now, the argument that most made when calling for Nacatls head was that it was “oppressive” and was in fact warping the format. I have a few issues with that, five to be exact. So, now, I give you the Top 5 Reasons Banning Wild Nacatl was Pointless:
1) “Young format” is an understatement.
This format has exactly TWO high profile tournaments under it’s belt. This isn’t even close to enough time for us to know what this format really is. Zoo is straightforward to pilot and relatively easy to build. These facts are going to make it a solid fallback and an easy starting point for anyone getting into the format. We need a few weeks of PTQ season at least before we what is and is not warping a format. Not only does the deck have to be present as large percentages of the field, but it needs to have enough success to make people build their decks differently to combat it. It’s pretty easy to hate on creature decks, and there are enough elitist blue mages out there to make a deck that can’t lose to Zoo but retain a good matchup against the rest of the field.
2) Removal makes the deck.
If you know how Zoo operates, then you know that Nacatl is just a cog in the efficiency machine that is a 4-6 turn clock. What makes that deck so consistent is the best removal package in the format. The deck has answers to your blockers to keep pushing through creature damage and those answers double as instant speed finishers. So, now the deck changes Nacatl out for a near-identical creature with one less power and keeps the rest of the deck in tact. Changing one power on one 4 of in the deck doesn’t seem like a change with enough impact to fix this “problem.”
3) It dies to removal (all of it!)
Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix are dead as removal spells against most of the potential decks in the field. But, as it turns out Nacatl will ALWAYS die to either of these spells. You don’t even have to blow a Path to Exile or a Dismember…
4) The deck’s other threats dodge all but the best removal.
To follow that point, the other threats in the deck require that premium removal (mostly just Path) to deal with. Dismember even becomes dead against this deck in the late game. So, without touching the harder to deal with threats, what kind of impact is this banning really going to have on Zoo?
5) Shorter clock against combo
Finally, when you remove an early game piece from one of the most consistent decks in the format, all you are doing is opening up the field to more combo. The combo decks in this format can and will go off on turns 3 or 4 (depending on the deck) with the right hand. Without the early pressure you get from something like Nacatl these decks can take their sweet time setting their hand up. This is the one matchup where that one power difference between Nacatl and Loam Lion can make a big difference. This is especially true against a deck like Splinter Twin, where you can make them waste resources to try and go off as quickly as possible.
These are the biggest reasons why the banning of Wild Nacatl was completely pointless. I don’t think this banning helped the format in the very least. The banning of Punishing Fire helped, especially since Zoo could run that combo easily. I believe we should have let the format play out without Punishing Fire before bringing on any other bans.
I am interested to see what WotC bans next. I like the idea of actively shaping the format, but this most recent duo feels like they were pandering to the complaining blue mages a bit too much. Am I a bit biased? Green and white are where my loyalties lie, so yea, probably. But should we be banning cards in a relatively untested format just because a bunch of pros complain about them? Probably not. If I had to guess the next 2 cards to get the axe, I would say Bloodbraid Elf and Splinter Twin. These will be the 2 most complained about cards in the format this season. And if this banning is any indication, complaining gets cards banned in this format.
Until next time, Dear Readers, you can find me on twitter (@CapnTopDeck) or just reply here. I appreciate any and all constructive feedback! Make sure to let me know what I can do better or what you would like to see. Also, be sure to check our our local podcast for all your MTG pop-culture needs! We are Planeswalker Asylum over on Couch Pirate Radio.