Wizards of the Coast dropped a bombshell announcement on Magic: The Gathering's Modern format today when it revealed that Bridge from Below would be banned effective July 12, 2019, just weeks before a Mythic Championship will be played using the Modern format as its central focus. Magic's Modern format was under siege after the release of the Modern Horizons expansion, the first-ever set that only targeted Modern and sought to provide cards for a variety of different decks to help them compete at the top of the metagame.
In practice, though, Modern Horizons simply served to establish the two best decks of the format, with nothing else feeling particularly close in power level. Izzet Phoenix got a new toy in Aria of Flame that let it completely duck the graveyard hate that it had previously been susceptible to, which was good, because the best deck in the format became known as Hogaak Bridgevine, and it operated nearly entirely out of the graveyard. Unfortunately, attempts to shore up matchups against the Hogaak deck proved nearly impossible, and although several Modern tournaments have come and gone since its release without the deck winning them outright, its representation numbers were reaching unheard-of levels.
Despite all of this, many players had braced themselves for an announcement that simply showed Wizards of the Coast was keeping an eye on the deck - the company rarely moves quickly on bans, especially when a deck is only a month or two old. In this case, however, players were shocked when Wizards of the Coast announced this morning that Bridge from Below was banned. According to Ian Duke, Senior Game Designer at Wizards of the Coast, the team kept an eye on three cards: Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis; Altar of Dementia; and Bridge from Below. When the Hogaak deck's winrates simply became too high to be feasible for the format, the team decided on Bridge from Below as the card to be banned, and it's a choice that is being made to try to neuter the deck without outright removing it from the meta. Here's the team's rationale:
"Our goal is not to eliminate graveyard strategies from the Modern metagame, but rather to weaken this version of the graveyard combo archetype that has prove too powerful for other decks to reasonably adapt to. In fact, we believe that targeting Bridge from Below specifically will still allow for other strategies in this style to continue to be a part of the metagame."
Realistically, Bridge from Below is the most logical choice of the three cards Wizards of the Coast was monitoring - the other two are either brand new or new to Modern over the last few months, and it would feel bad for players to open them in packs of Modern Horizons and be unable to play them. Bridge from Below is also the card that was the weirdest of the three, interacting with the graveyard in strange ways for "free" and enabling the deck's most broken draws.
Unfortunately, though, it still feels as though Wizards of the Coast is ignoring a major problem in the Modern format - Faithless Looting. In fact, the post didn't even mention that the card was on the team's radar. It's the most played card in Modern's top decks by far and enables the format's most consistently-threatening strategies. It would at least be a good idea on Wizards' part to address the card - either it is on their watchlist or it is embedded as part of the format, but it would be nice to know where the thinking is on a card that is clearly so much more powerful than most of the spells in Modern. With the new London Mulligan rule, decks that abuse Faithless Looting have even more looks at the card, so it will be interesting to see how things shake out, although we're skeptical it'll be good.
As it stands, at least the upcoming Mythic Championship IV later this month won't have the shadow of the Hogaak Bridgevine deck looming over it. We wouldn't be surprised if, by the time the dust settles, there's another card that players are clamoring to have removed from the format, an innocuous one-mana red spell that seems harmless until an entire format is revolving around it. Until then, will Izzet Phoenix reclaim its position as the de facto best Magic: The Gathering deck in Modern, or will Modern Horizons have more room to breathe and all our concerns will become unfounded in the face of a flourishing, ever-evolving meta?
Source: Wizards of the Coast