Hey everyone! Welcome to another Modern Musings! Last week was a rather important one in the magic world as KCI was put on the Modern ban list. What does this mean for Modern now that its most powerful and resilient combo deck is gone? Let’s dig into it!
The Banning of KCI
This past Monday Krark-Clan Ironworks was banned in Modern, along with a very well-written article by Ian Duke. I agree with many of his points, like the rules for KCI being far too cumbersome and arcane, leading to players feel like they’d been cheated. On this level I think that for the health of the competitive game that KCI needed to be banned. However, this being said, I do think that there are more problematic cards from a pure balance perspective. For example, I think that the success of KCI was mostly due to the existence of Ancient Stirrings driving the consistency of the deck to unfair levels. It still baffles me that this card is legal, yet cards like Ponder and Preordain are banned. The excuse is that one has to build around Ancient Stirrings. However, given that there are roughly 5 or so other competitive decks that utilize this powerful engine card, I would posit it’s not that big of a restriction.
The other big offender that I think just got a stay of execution is Faithless Looting. This card has been seeing more and more play as of late, an extreme example being the Star City Open in Worcester where there were a staggering 16 copies in the top 8. I think the prevalence of Faithless Looting reached unhealthy levels with the printing of Arclight Phoenix. It’s gotten to the point where running mainboard graveyard hate is effective against a surprisingly large portion of the metagame. Unless something strange happens, this card is going to need a ban at some point or another.
The next little tidbit that I wanted to mention was the lack of unbannings. Every ban/unban cycle now, we see the hype around Stoneforge Mystic being unbanned, but alas, it appears Wizards has decreed that there will be no sword fetching maidens for Modern. I think the actual problem with banning Stoneforge Mystic is not its power level, but the fact that it would probably appear in almost every white deck.
This basically just means that if I want Looting and Stirrings banned, I just need to make broken decks with them in it. Oh wait.
The Future of Modern
So alternate bannings and unbannings aside, where does this one leave the Modern metagame? I find that one of the things to look at whenever a deck gets banned out is looking at what it was holding down. So what were KCI’s best matchups?
Hardened Scales Affinity
The next step is to see if the sudden disappearance of KCI allows any of the “easy prey” decks to potentially take over. Let’s examine from the bottom up:
Jund: Jund honestly doesn’t seem to be in a great spot right now with how fast the meta is. I honestly have trouble seeing how this deck ever beats a Collected Company deck, especially Spirits. I don’t think Jund will improve that much with the banning of KCI.
Tron: Similarly to Jund, Tron struggles with fast metagames. However, Tron is quite strong against Spirits and Humans, both prominent decks. Whether this is enough of an advantage to overcome weaknesses to Storm, Burn, and Pheonix is unclear.
Affinity: If it weren’t for the existence of Bant Spirits I would absolutely be behind a version of Affinity gaining the most from this banning. Unfortunately, because of that and the prevalence of Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror, Affinity is difficult to endorse.
So then if these decks didn’t really get any better, what did?
Izzet Pheonix: Izzet Pheonix is great against most creature decks, and while it is fast enough to crush Tron and compete with Storm and Burn, it was difficult for Pheonix to interact with KCI since it didn’t really care if you bounced its Scrap Trawler or Sai, Master Thopterist. From where I sit, there really isn’t much to stand in the way of Pheonix anymore, and it looks to be the best deck in the format.
Anyway, that’s all for this week! Tune in next week when we take an early look to see how Ravnica Allegiance is impacting Modern. Until next time!