I was going to take a look at previews this week, but I’m going to push that back a week so I can talk about the recent ban announcement, or rather, the unbans and lack of bans.
The return of the scheduled ban announcement is refreshing. People are hyped up and speculating on what exactly will happen. We see people buying Splinter Twins in bulk only to be disappointed again.
This time we saw two unbannings and no bannings. People, myself included, have been asking for unbans in both Pioneer and Modern for years. I had one card I thought had been safe to unban for years, and they finally did it, Preordain.
Preordain is unbanned in Modern, but a lot has changed since it was banned. The format is more resilient to fast combo, and in fact, fast combo is nowhere to be seen. With Scam shredding your hand then putting a 4/3 Menace in play on turn 1 and Force of Negation being omnipresent, it’s never felt safer to unban a card like Preordain that would only be a small piece of the puzzle to an otherwise broken combo deck.
Preordain will see some fringe play, but mostly it’s worse than a newer card, Consider. Consider looks at one less card, but it’s an instant, so it allows you to leave up interaction. It also puts an extra card in your graveyard, so it can even act as a ritual to power out a Murktide Regent in some situations with Delve.
Preordain remaining banned for this long was mind-boggling to me, and while I’m glad they finally unbanned it, it has virtually no impact on the Modern format. It will not enable any new decks but may fill some existing decks that want to play cantrips. There was no combo deck eagerly awaiting a slightly upgraded Serum Visions. It’s just another option in the playable format but not in any of the current top-tier decks.
The TLDR on Preordain is its unbanning is too little too late.
In Legacy, a format I don’t follow closely because of its lack of involvement in organized play, the unbanning of Mind’s Desire is more dangerous than Preordain but not realistically. Mind’s Desire was a previously broken payoff that went way over the top of existing decks in its time, but that time was so long ago it can barely be remembered.
There have been broken Storm decks in Legacy that have been in and out of the format for years, and Mind’s Desire isn't much of an upgrade or even playable in these decks. Maybe there’s a cool new way to abuse it and that’s actually awesome. Unbanning Mind’s Desire gives people a new toy to play with that will be fun to explore, but likely it'll end up not mattering and be a fringe card.
Since Legacy is always evolving and rarely used at high-level competitive events where thousands of people travel, it’s fine to experiment with a powerful card like Mind’s Desire. I’m fairly sure it’s completely safe and will not be a problem given how good the interactive tools have gotten for decks like Grixis Delver.
What didn’t happen is what has me the most concerned. Pioneer being untouched is not my personal favorite choice, but I understand the decision. We’re getting to the point with Pioneer where people have found their pet decks, bought the cards for their decks, and even foiled out their favorite deck. Banning a deck like that or making it worse in any way has financial ramifications for lots of players. While the format looks healthy with its win rate numbers and diversity, looking at a format with only these tools goes against my personal interest.
I personally hate Pioneer. I was never huge on hating Modern in the past when it wasn’t the most competitive format. It did some unique and broken stuff that was fun. However, the games and decks in Pioneer aren’t fun for me.
Pioneer is just stale. Much like any constructed format, I enjoyed exploring Pioneer the first few weeks, but it gets boring when things don’t change for so long and when every new card creates a new deck that's 3% of the metagame but worse than the top-tier decks.
In fact, Pioneer would be a much better format, at least more fun, if they just unbanned everything.
That’s not going to happen though, and while Nykthos is a cool card to have in the format, Mono Green has to go. It’s a miserable check on the format and is one of the strongest Magic decks in the format. If I had to make a change to the format personally, I’d ban one card and one card only:
Karn the Great Creator.
Karn is a miserable card to play against, is too strong, and has the added benefit of shutting off artifacts in a format where Boseiju is already played in high numbers.
On top of already being the best card in arguably the best deck, Karn’s existence makes it nearly impossible to play any artifact with an activated ability.
Mono Green would be a much different and worse deck without the ability to combo off in a turn and put a bunch of big stuff in play, which would be much better for the format.
If Green were to disappear, Lotus Field would probably have a field day on the remaining decks. Without Mono Green, we’d see less aggressive decks capable of goldfishing fast enough to beat Lotus Field, and we’d likely need to see another ban to a Lotus Field combo deck. I’d probably ban something like Sylvan Scrying that will have no impact elsewhere but will make Lotus Field less consistent.
Regardless, if Mono Green were to change or get removed from the format, it would have a big impact and make more decks playable that otherwise weren’t as good and create a nice shift in the format.
That said, WotC knows far better than I do what’s actually coming out in the next few sets, and it's enough for me if new cards freshen up the format. However, if we continue to power down like we have been in Pioneer's last few sets, then I’d want to see WotC take some action.
All in all, the banned and restricted announcement was a whole lot of words when it could have been summed up as basically “No changes in any format.”