Magic: The Gathering's newest banned list updates have completely changed the dynamic of the Modern format, thanks to a new announcement from Wizards of the Coast that saw major changes made to both Magic's most popular eternal format and the long-ailing Vintage. Magic: The Gathering has been going through a period known as "Hogaak Summer" in Modern, thanks to the over-powered Hogaak, the Arisen Necropolis decks that have been completely dominating tournaments since Modern Horizons released earlier this year.
Hogaak was previously known as a graveyard combo deck in its first iteration before Wizards of the Coast attempted to address the deck by banning Bridge from Below in the last banned list update. Unfortunately, all that did was force players to re-examine the way they built the deck, incidentally improving its design and creating a bigger problem than before. With Modern suffering and tournament top 8s becoming littered with Hogaak decks - the most recent Grand Prix, for example, had five of the top eight strategies using Hogaak as the centerpiece of their deck design - many players began checking out of Modern tournaments until the problem was inevitably addressed.
Wizards of the Coast certainly did that today, announcing in an update on the company's website that Hogaak would be banned from Modern play. That wasn't the only change, though, as two even bigger announcements came for the format. Faithless Looting - a card we previously outlined as the real problem facing Modern - has also been banned, as the card was heavily incentivizing players to play graveyard-based strategies and punishing those who weren't including it in their decks. Here's what Wizards of the Coast Senior Game Designer Ian Duke had to say about the decision to ban Faithless Looting:
"Regardless of Hogaak's recent impact, Faithless Looting would be a likely eventual addition to the banned list in the near future. In order to ensure the metagame doesn't again revert to a Faithless Looting graveyard deck being dominant, we believe now is the correct time to make this change. For this same reason, we're choosing not to unban Bridge from Below at this time."
Wizards of the Coast wasn't done, however. The company also announced that a card that has long been requested by players to come off the banned list will finally be doing so. Stoneforge Mystic, the centerpiece of one of the most dominant Standard decks in the history of Magic: The Gathering and a Legacy format staple, will now be free to wreak havoc on Modern as well. How much of an impact it will have remains to be seen, of course, as the card has been advocated by many pros as something that will only benefit fair decks in the format and thus never be too oppressive. It will certainly streamline the way people approach building white decks in Modern, though, a risk that may eventually see the card re-banned if it homogenizes Modern too much. Here's the reasoning behind Stoneforge Mystic's unbanning:
"We believe the Modern metagame and power level are in a place where Stoneforge Mystic is now an appropriate inclusion in the card pool.
The danger in reintroducing Stoneforge Mystic, and the reason it's remained on the banned list up until this point, is that it's at its strongest against straightforward decks that play to the battlefield. While we think it's unlikely, there is a scenario where Stoneforge Mystic could come to suppress this type of gameplay, in which case we would re-examine its legality (similar to Golgari Grave-Troll's history in Modern). Instead, our hope is that as gameplay becomes less graveyard focused, Stoneforge Mystic serves as an enticing draw for decks to refocus toward the battlefield, creature combat, and card advantage."
With a pretty Modern-heavy rotation coming from Magic: The Gathering tournament organizer and superstore Star City Games (SCG) and an increased focus on the format in paper Magic as a whole, now was certainly the time to shake up the format. The response from players so far has been largely positive, and there's a major Modern tournament this weekend in the form of SCG Dallas, so it won't be long before fans have their first look at what competitive Modern might look like for the foreseeable future.
Source: Wizards of the Coast