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Strixhaven Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Thoughts on the Latest B&R Announcement

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This week, as scheduled, was the most recent Banned and Restricted announcement, and boy did it deliver. For the past few weeks, or maybe even months, people have been clamoring to see some action taken against Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, as even despite the banning of Bridge from Below about a month and a half ago, the deck based around the sizable graveyard monster has still shown no signs of slowing down.

Well, thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on who you ask), this week our prayers were answered!

There were quite a few notable changes that came along with this week's B&R announcement, and today we're going to go over the changes in question for the non-Eternal formats!

Rampaging Ferocidon is Unbanned in Standard

Rampaging Ferocidon

Holy smokes. Rampaging Ferocidon is like your long lost uncle that went to prison ages ago, that you had no hope of ever seeing again, and then, out of nowhere, his parole gets approved. The card is basically Red from Shawshank Redemption. Heck, it's even...Red.

This is a weird choice for a couple reasons. While I will be the first person to admit my frustration with how good the Red deck has been in Standard recently, I will also admit that I think the deck has slowed down a good deal, or rather, it isn't a huge part of the top tier anymore. This is nice because the most recent Red deck seems to have had more Lightning Bolts and more sources of card advantage than any I can think of in recent memory. And don't even get me started on Goblin Chainwhirler.

But here we are. Now the Red deck has one more tool in its arsenal that actually ends up competing with the Goblin Chainwhirler for the three-mana spot, which is super interesting.

The weirdest thing for me about this unbanning is that, if I'm not mistaken, there are fewer than 45 days left before Standard has its huge rotation, losing both Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan. It seems odd to me to unban a card so that people can play with it for the next month and a half in Standard, then never again. I mean, I guess there's something to being able to say that the fall rotation happened without any cards being banned in Standard, but that seems a little silly. I know, personally, I don't see myself picking up any copies of the dinosaur, or crafting them on MTG Arena, just to play with them for the next few weeks. I have to assume that there are more people out there who share my sentiment, meaning that the primary people that you'll see playing the card are the ones that held onto theirs this entire time. Good on you guys, faithful hoarders!

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Faithless Looting Banned in Modern

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Faithless Looting

Wow, this is what we were waiting for. Let's talk about the former card first (although I guess they're both the former card now, zing!). Hogaak had to be an extremely awkward card to have to ban in Modern, especially while stores are still selling packs of Modern Horizons. What happens now when you open a pack of Modern Horizons and hit a Hogaak? Do you get a refund since you opened a rare in a Modern-centric format that isn't even legal in Modern? In my estimation, this is one of the biggest reasons Wizards held off on pulling the trigger here.

Other than that, there's really no reason to keep the card around in the format. Modern is an extremely powerful format, but it wants to be closer to a turn four format (if not later), and a card like Hogaak skews things more toward a turn two format. This isn't to say that once Hogaak is gone, the format will automatically slow down, but it's a great start; Hogaak was capable of ridiculous board states that had upwards of 16 power on them on turn two. Board states containing something like two Gravecrawlers, two Bloodghasts, and a Hogaak were not super uncommon, and when the format requires non-Black decks to runs cards like Leyline of the Void, that they could never cast, it's really high time to do something.

In my opinion, this card had to go, and I understand Wizards trying to avoid it if they were able to. Like I said, it's super awkward having a really popular set like Modern Horizons, the first set of its kind to bypass Standard and go straight into Modern, with packs that have a higher-than-average price, and having to ban a card in it that people are still going to open. Opening a $10 pack with a banned card in it...not great, Bob.

via GIPHY

The other card to get the axe is another I have no sympathy for. Ironically, Faithless Looting is a card that I discussed last week in my "Modern Cards that Do Nothing" article. I guess it definitely does enough nothing to get the banhammer! I'm completely okay with this, specifically because I can't remember the last time I was playing against a fair deck that was playing the card. The only purposes for Faithless Looting are to get cards into your graveyard or to efficiently dig you into combo pieces. Often times both! Whether we're talking about Arclight Phoenix, Hollow One, Vengevine, Hogaak himself, cards with dredge, Griselbrand, or some other degenerate card that I can't think of, nothing Faithless Looting has ever done was in the interest of fairness.

Ultimately, I think both of these bannings are correct and I think they will open up the format quite a bit when we don't have to obsessively worry about how easy it is to get things into the graveyard, and more appropriately, what's going to come out of the graveyard.

Stoneforge Mystic is Unbanned in Modern

Stoneforge Mystic

Wow. Now this is one I was not expecting, but also one I have been in support of for ages. Stoneforge Mystic, in my humble opinion, is not a card that is too broken for Modern. I'm sorry, it just isn't. It's a 1/2 for 2 mana that grabs an equipment. Is Batterskull scary on turn three, if you absolutely have zero way to deal with a 1/2 by that time? Yeah, kind of, but it's still only a 4/4 (you know, like Loxodon Smiter), that not only dies to creature removal, but also artifact removal. A card like Kolaghan's Command takes care of both parts of the Mystic. If you kill it before it can activate, cool, they drew a card that was an expensive equipment. I don't know. Is the card great? Oh, for sure. Is it too powerful for Modern, where Hogaak previously reigned? No, I don't think so.

One argument people made was that searching out a Sword of the Meek in Thopter Combo decks would be really good, but we just had Goblin Engineer printed in Modern Horizons (one of many cards that are meant to be corollaries to existing powerful cards), and it accomplishes the same task, only you don't have to spend mana to get the Sword into play or into the graveyard. That's a big deal, because the only thing you want is for the Sword of the Meek to be in the graveyard so you can combo off. Honestly, I think the worst part about Stoneforge Mystic being legal in Modern is the price spike before I was able to get my playset.

But these are some huge changes to the format, and I'd love to hear what you all think. Definitely let me know in the comments, and be sure to use promo code FRANK5 to get 5% off your purchases! I love you guys a ton and I'll catch you next week. Thanks so much for reading!

Frank Lepore

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