Back in August, there was a major ban (or in this case, unban) announcement which ultimately removed Preordain from the Modern banlist and Mind’s Desire from the Legacy banlist. In reality, the unbanning of Mind’s Desire didn’t seem to change Legacy too much moving forward. The unbanning of Preordain, while helpful for decks that previously featured blue cantrips like Izzet Murktide, didn’t overly affect the Modern metagame in much of a significant way.
The real story associated with this ban announcement was that no cards from Pioneer or Modern were added to the banlist. This decision certainly left some players befuddled, especially after the dominance of both The One Ring and Rakdos Scam at Pro Tour Lord of the Rings. This is, in part, because there was a ton of hype leading up to the announcement, only for no cards to get banned whatsoever.
Well, players hoping to see some changes in different formats may be in luck. On October 16, there will be yet another ban announcement. The previous ban announcement made it clear that, while Wizards of the Coast strives to not make dramatic changes to Standard more than once a year, other non-rotating formats would be monitored after every major set release. This begs the question: is anything more likely to get banned now that wasn’t addressed in August? This is a difficult question to answer, but it seems like if any major format is going to see significant changes, that format will be Modern. Grief, Fury and The One Ring have caught a lot of players attention and, even if they don’t get banned and are just talked about in the announcement notes, they will definitely need to be addressed by Wizards of the Coast.
Arguments for Rakdos Bans
Since Pro Tour Lord of the Rings, the percentage of players registering Rakdos Scam at major events hasn’t changed a whole lot. Over 19% of players registered Rakdos Scam at the Pro Tour, which is an extremely large percentage in the Modern format. Similarly, MTGGoldfish showcases Rakdos at roughly 21% of the metagame over the last 30 days. To put things into comparison, Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona, the infamous Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis Pro Tour, saw Hogaak piloted by just over 21% of players. This difference is surprisingly minimal considering just how broken Hogaak was.
Beyond Hogaak’s metagame share, the play patterns with the deck were relatively problematic. After all, players were packing Leyline of the Void and other hate cards left and right, but Hogaak was strong enough to fight through hate in a pretty effective manner. Some Hogaak players would go as far as to use Leyline of the Void in the maindeck, despite being a dead card in a handful of matchups, just to help fight the mirror in game one. While Rakdos Scam doesn’t necessarily receive the same treatment, it is a very difficult deck to hate out.
The deck is capable of using Grief and effects like Not Dead After All to make the opponent discard multiple cards from their hand on turn one, all while presenting a very meaningful clock. This is obviously quite strong, but the deck is also capable of playing a traditional game with cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and simply casting Grief like normal. The combination of a miserable turn one play experience and an inability to be easily hated out means that the deck is likely not going anywhere for the foreseeable future unless action is taken.
As Ari Lax points out, there’s an argument that issues with Modern go beyond Rakdos Scam, though. Part of the reason Rakdos is so strong is that it forces players to have to topdeck out of a turn one Grief. Well, one of the best ways to do this is to build a midrange deck with lots of removal that can out-grind Rakdos. The problem is that out-grinding The One Ring is extremely difficult. This forces players to try to go under decks featuring The One Ring.
Of course, this problem is exacerbated because Creature-based aggro decks are largely a thing of the past, thanks to cards like Fury, Orcish Bowmasters, and Wrenn and Six punishing small Creatures. In this sense, the Modern metagame may look relatively diverse, but the unfun play patterns of Rakdos Scam and The One Ring coupled with their ability to force certain strategies out of the format help present a strong case for banning some combination of Fury, Grief, and The One Ring.
Looking at Pioneer
While there is also an argument that the Pioneer format would be improved with certain pillars of the format being weakened, such as mono-green devotion with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, the format overall is not dominated by any one strategy. Furthermore, unlike Modern, the top decks continue to wax and wane in popularity. Izzet Phoenix has gotten a lot stronger since the addition of Sleight of Hand in Wilds of Eldraine, as has Boros Heroic with the addition of Monstrous Rage.
Not only has this shifted the metagame in favor of these decks, but both mono-green Devotion and Rakdos Midrange have become noticeably less popular. This showcases the continuous shifts in the metagame, something Modern has been lacking for a while by comparison.
Potential Unbans and Predictions
Since the unbannings of Preordain and Mind’s Desire came as surprises to much of the MTG community, it may be assumed that Wizards of the Coast is more likely to consider unbanning cards moving forward. There are some cards, such as Earthcraft in Legacy, that have the potential to be relatively harmless. Still, unbanning combo pieces can certainly be risky.
Additionally, unbannings sometimes come with a specific purpose in mind. For example, Preordain was unbanned in part to help blue decks that were losing ground in Modern. I’d be surprised if any more unbannings occur this close to the last announcement, but stranger things have happened.
What seems most likely to happen is honestly that no format receives any changes. Even Modern, which is most likely to see changes out of any format, hasn’t been severely impacted negatively since the last announcement. I personally was hopeful for The One Ring alongside Fury and/or Grief to get banned in August, though. Given that Wizards of the Coast mentioned that they would continue to monitor the long-term play pattern of cards like The One Ring, it’s quite possible they feel a change is warranted at this point.
Whether or not Wizards decides to ban something or not, Fury, Grief, The One Ring and possibly Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx will probably need to be addressed in the notes for players to be happy.