Banned: Mox Opal, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Mycosynth Lattice
Earlier today Wizards announced a large, but not-too-unexpected, modern banning. This announcement is the first banning we have been given, post the December 16th B&R update, which ended regularly-scheduled bannings. But I'm not hear to discuss minutia. Let’s get to the point.
Effective January 14th, 2020 the following cards are banned in modern:
The banning of Oko, Thief of Crowns in yet another format is likely a surprise to no one. This past weekend, 7 of the top 8 decks at Magicfest Austin included Oko in their lists. 4 of these decks were unsurprisingly Urza, Lord High Artificer based decks, with the other three including a Kethis Combo deck, Sultai Field, and Temur Ponza. That's right, RG Ponzo even found room for the busted 3-mana walker. I for one am glad to see Oko go, and I'm sure that I am not alone in this sentiment after weeks of watching Urza decks, stuffed with Oko's, clutter the top 8s of many modern tournaments.
All together it's hard to overstate the impact that Oko has had in modern. Wizard's stated that between tabletop and online play, Oko's inclusion rate has been nearing 40% of decks. Sultai Field of the Dead, Bant Snowblade, and many flavors of Urza-centric decks have risen to the top in Throne of Eldraine's wake and it's hard to deny the oppressive nature of this walker. So overall, I think that Oko leaving Modern will give the format some much needed breathing room.
Mox Opal has had a target on its back for a while, and the idea that the artifact may be too good for Modern has gained a lot of backing following the days of KCIs dominance. As was stated in the official ban announcement, Opal has been a potent contributor in aggressive, combo, and prison decks throughout modern's lifetime. If I know one thing, it's that free mana often gets out of hand and this is a prime example of that fact coming to light.
Lastly, Mycosynth Lattice got the axe. To be honest, this caught me by surprise. That said, without the lightning speed of the Urza decks, with the combination of Opal and Oko, to keep Eldrazi Tron and turbo-Karn, the Great Creator deck's at bay, it’s logical to assume these lock strategies would rise to the top soon enough. Tabletop tournaments may show a smattering of E-tron here or there, but if you take a look at MTGO results over the past few months it is very apparent that the Eldrazi were simply waiting for something in the Urza decks to get banned in order to take their revenge on the modern format. Especially considering that Karn, the Great Creator plus Mycosynth Lattice had become a cornerstone of the archetype.
These bannings have their losers, but what decks will take advantage of the way the fresh format looks?
Death's Shadow is the deck I predict to be the number one benefactor to these bannings. Oko, Thief of Crowns was an enormous problem for the Shadow deck. Shadow had to interact with Oko before it hit the battlefield or he would turn one of the threat-light deck's creatures into a 3/3 Elk. The pressure put on by the engine of the Urza decks, or the removal suite, especially alongside Ice-Fang Coatl, out of the Bant Snowblade decks asked these Death's Shadow decks to answer more questions than they could handle. With those opposing strategies maybe not completely out for the count, but at the very least taking a huge hit, I think Shadow could be on the rise.
Burn is a deck that will always stick around. I think it is fairly obvious that Oko’s combination of high loyalty and incidental life-gain led to a downshift in the number of Burn played in recent Modern tournaments. I also believe that the power of Mox Opal and Gilded Goose accelerating out an early Urza, Lord High Artificer with it's accompanying construct token left the creature package of burn in the dust behind blockers, and closed the door for Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear to make a significant impact on the game.
Finally, I think Infect could see a (small) resurgence. Infect had been playing Oko itself, nonetheless the deck gained a lot with the printing of Scale Up and Once Upon a Time in 2019. It should be noted that the two decks I mentioned prior, whom I expect to gain from the banning are bad matchups for Infect. Should they become the leading archetypes I'll sadly have to put down my Glistener Elf yet again.
I'm excited about this new landscape for Modern. With eyes towards the Players Tour in a few weeks I will be focusing on Pioneer in the short term, but soon enough it will be time for SCG Regionals, and I can’t wait to see what competitors bring to the table! What do you think will rise to the top by then? Is Urza gone or are these bannings just a road block? Let me know @jeremy_langevin. And as always, thank you for reading!
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