They didn't get banned... They just got left behind.
So that was an eventful Banned and Restricted announcement! Lots of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath bannings (as expected), but also a neutering of the "Oops, All Spells" deck in Pioneer... Which makes sense. Pioneer is supposed to bring back the classic Standard strategies but that isn't really what happened with Oops, All Spells. Weirdly the official ban hammers came down for Teferi, Time Raveler and Wilderness Reclamation (which were in fact cornerstones of their Standard or Standards).
The Modern movement was really interesting and a bit surprising to me (outside of the change in Cascade rules). So, the new Cascade rule, as I understand it, lets you make Valki, God of Lies but not immediately put it into play as Tibalt, Cosmic Deceiver... Or in other words you can Cascade into the two mana version only. Which means the mechanic works essentially the way it is supposed to. Philosophically, I think this is a good thing even outside of format health considerations. But more specifically I predict we're likely to see a regression to the mean in terms of Demonic Dread, Violent Outburst, and (lol) Ardent Plea decks. Of course, the rules change did not actually address the "other" Kaldheim breaker - Tibalt's Trickery - so they went after that the old fashioned way.
But if you're reading this, I assume you read the whole shebang so I'm not going to talk about those individual cards much anymore. Rather, let's focus on the cards that didn't get banned, but took a body blow or three via the bannings. It's clear that whenever something like this happens there will be immediate format winners! Aggro decks? The odd grinder? But we're actually going to look at the Top 8 losers, starting with a surprising one...
8. Primeval Titan
Primeval Titan got its backside absolutely walloped with the February 15 Banned and Restricted announcement. Of the five cards banned in Modern, two were in fact non-basic lands. Both of which were frequently paired with Primeval Titan. Primeval Titan is the quintessential Ramp payoff (that kind of keeps the Ramp going), and was basically what you were often trying to get to with your Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Even oddballs like Simian Spirit Guide and Tibalt's Trickery are meaningful to good old Prime Time. It was, after all, central to the transformative sideboard plan of Tibalt's Trickery decks (which, by the by, were generally good buddies with both Field of the Dead and Mystic Sanctuary).
Primeval Titan lost five - count 'em five - friends this ban.
Arguably, it fell the farthest.
That is, from Tier One to... Tier One.
If you look at the Forbes 2020 listing of American billionaires, Jeff Bezos - even after his divorce - sits at the precipice at $179 billion dollars. No, this is not updated for the recent meteoric rise of Tesla stock, but go with me here. Jeff is a Number One despite ex-wife MacKenzie Scott taking fifty-seven of those Amazon billions independently to Number Thirteen.
Scott is only the second-richest woman on the 2020 Forbes list, with Alice Walton of Walmart rounding out the Top 10.
If you took the astronomical net worth of Alice Walton - richest woman in these United States (2020) - and subtracted them from the net worth of Jeff Bezos...
He would still be richer by about five billion dollars than Microsoft's ex-Number One (but Number Two billionaire) Bill Gates.
Tier One. Ban five co-stars. Tier One.
Still makes the Top 8.
7. Rest in Peace
A recurring theme you will hear in this article is that - especially for larger formats like Modern - players can really pick and choose how they want to hate opposing graveyards. The last time Modern was played at the highest level, Leyline of the Void was the most popular card in the format. Today it is not uncommon to see Leyline of the Void in decks that have no way to cast it. Some of those will run Ravenous Traps.
But Rest in Peace was kind of special. It was the specific choice of a subset of decks... Because while not as cheap as Tormod's Crypt (another option) or the aforementioned Leyline... It was (wow, check out that language - is) wildly more consistent for decks that can produce ... Plus still pretty cheap.
Leyline was often used in both fair and unfair Omnath decks, specifically against the Balustrade Spy crowd... And I guess Boros players who don't read my articles I guess.
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is a big hit on Rest in Peace's utility in all the formats where people chose or choose it; but the bigger one has to be in Pioneer. Return to Ravnica is the cutoff for that format, and Oops, All Spells was an important consideration for sideboard composition in that format.
I think it did not lose more ground for two reasons:
- If for some reason you wanted to Helm someone out... It still does that.
- Whether or not you were trying to Helm someone out, there are a lot of formats where people still like Tarmogoyf. Fair Tarmogoyf decks are among the biggest winners to this round of bannings, and Rest in Peace does good work against that mighty 2-drop.
6. Deflecting Palm
I was actually really happy to see Deflecting Palm make a brief comeback with the release of Kaldheim.
Back the first time I finished strong with a Modern Red Deck, I was a triple Deflecting Palm guy (there were more Infect decks back then), and when I locked Top 8 of Modern Regionals, it was by Deflecting the three damage of a Mantis Rider while simultaneously putting a card in my graveyard to fuel my Grim Lavamancer... Just to stay alive.
Deflecting Palm won young Roman Fusco his trophy, kicking Griselbrand in the teeth, and has been a high consideration for every mage to sleeve an Inspiring Vantage in Modern. The rise of 1-drop based Red Decks has not extinct Boros by any means, but it has certainly reduced the popularity of Deflecting Palm.
The Palm returned for one big fifteen-fifteen reason. You got it:
The Cascade-into-Tibalt's Trickery folks typically made Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and... Attacked with it. The Tibalt's Trickery team were more explosive than their cousins, the Valki, God of Lies lounge lizards. They made big and splashy moves, ending the game quickly. The Valki folks took (comparatively) forever to close, even if they got the ball rolling just as fast.
If you're on Team Tibalt's Trickery, you get a giant payoff - and you get that payoff RIGHT NOW. The problem is that your deck-building cost is... Everything else. So when you're attacking with your Emrakul, the Aeons Torn it's not like you can hide behind Teferi, Time Raveler, clear the path with Thoughtseize, or hold back Force of Negation against opposing shenanigans.
You're literally hoping that doing fifteen damage in the air with a creature that is impossible to counter and almost impossible to target while annihilating - literally annihilating (they made up a new keyword!) - all of your opponents permanents is "good enough".
Only, against Deflecting Palm, it might not be.
The Red Decks in Modern could plausibly do five damage... Especially if you helped them out with a fetch. They could float for Defelcting Palm even if they were about to lose their lands, and, you know, that might be it.
Though I made room for a triple in multiple sideboards, I never sleeved a main deck Deflecting Palm up in my life. Thanks to Tibalt's Trickery, some performing Burn builds were packing as many as three main deck!
5. Kor Firewalker
What do these three cards have in common?
If you said "they so fear the Red Deck they were siding in three if not four copies if Kor Firewalker last week" ding Ding DING! Terrible people.
The Ardent Plea folks, in particular could ease up on their mulligan algorithms, smile at an opener, and 2-drop Kor Firewalker and then Ardent Plea into the next Kor Firewalker. I mean, they would even get Ardent Plea in-play text in that case!
Well, with the rest of their regalia disassembled, I think this little package is going to drop precipitously from ubiquitous sideboard ace to... Its previous station of relatively frequent sideboard ace. Played in fewer numbers, even when played, though.
4. Timely Reinforcements
And I will in fact hold up before rudely interrupting you.
Kor Firewalker was a flash in the pan, Stan. A bright flash, sure; and wholly appropriate to the available tools... But on one level is weird to me this technology developed at all. Kor Firewalker - Cascade into Kor Firewalker - had to be some good to be developed given how established just playing Mystic Sanctuary was in Modern.
Mystic Sanctuary - Azorius decks playing as many as four copies - was already so good at doubling up, tripling up, whatever-ing up Timely Reinforcements. This wasn't just Ardent Plea Cascade tech (though it was adopted by some of those descendents). Anybody who was interested in cracking a Flooded Strand was already on board.
Timely Reinforcements - like Cryptic Command, I suppose - will go on going on in Modern. It will be nearly as good as it was a few years back. But it is difficult to describe just how much fair defensive decks lost because unfair ones were using Mystic Sanctuary to recurse combo pieces.
3. Soul-Guide Lantern
In formats various... You have your choice in ways to hate graveyards. If you want to go freebies, you can opt for Ravenous Trap or Leyline of the Void. Or if you're a Lurrus of the Dream-Den kind of mage, you can freebie Tormod's Crypt. Some Red Decks liked Rest in Peace (even when they were Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks).
For me? And across multiple formats?
I was a Soul-Guide Lantern kind of guy.
Soul-Guide Lantern was so great. A little more expensive than Tormod's Crypt, but world smashing in its way, at one. A great way to buff your Soul-Scar Mage or Monastery Swiftspear, my absolute favorite thing about it was that you could hit the Uro they already had in the graveyard, but kind of leave it in reserve for any future Uros (or whatever). More than once, I used the cantrip clause to finish the opponent off; often on the back of Prowess in play.
Like a lot of the cads on this list, Soul-Guide Lantern will retain some utility post-bans. But I don't see how it's so much better than, say, a Relic of Progenitus. This card's unique position in the mini-metagame of card selection was that it hit an Uro before you had to fully commit.
2. Archon of Emeria
You have to admit, the kind of format where this card is officially emblematic of The Resistance is kind of specific. You want the third toughness over Ethersworn Canonist due to Bonecrusher Giant. But you want the Arcane Laboratory effect mostly against people Cascading into some kind of Tibalt.
Remove "cause" and "effect" isn't long for the world.
You know, for when you really need another set of "free" permission spells that won't get flipped by Ardent Plea (but where you might really, really, want to target something they cast. Mighty. Fallen. Etc.
The difference between an incendiary superstar like Commandeer versus the lost incentives for Kor Firewalker are that Kor Firewalker is going to live to fight another day (and probably pretty popular-ly)... Commandeer? We hardly knew ya.