Probe, Troll, & Push: How Modern is Being Shaken Up

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Modern:

Gitaxian Probe is banned.

Golgari Grave-Troll is banned.

These bans, from the most recent announcement, raise two questions regarding two of the biggest archetypes in Modern, Infect and Dredge.

How much worse is Infect without Gitaxian Probe? Become Immense is going to be harder to cast on the early turns, and the information that you gained by looking at your opponent’s hand made decision-making a lot easier. Serum Visions is not a direct replacement, but it does let you see more cards. I predict that Infect loses its status as the top dog in Modern, but it will certainly remain a strong contender. And while the existence of Fatal Push doesn’t help, Infect still has good protection spells and Inkmoth Nexus to force fights to happen on its own terms (and own turns).

How much worse is Dredge once you replace Golgari Grave-Troll with Golgari Thug? Two worse. In all seriousness, this probably isn’t a significant enough hit to make the deck unplayable. Casting large Golgari Grave-Trolls was sometimes an alternate plan to beat Grafdigger’s Cage, so that much will become more difficult.

I think Infect and Dredge are following a similar, but less extreme path as Eldrazi in Modern, post-Eye of Ugin ban. These decks will have to adjust slightly in order to become simply two fine choices in a sea of other powerful Modern decks, much the same way that the Eldrazi decks had to adopt Noble Hierarch and Ancient Stirrings in order to stay viable.

Of course, the Gitaxian Probe ban has far-reaching effects on other archetypes such as Death’s Shadow Zoo, Blue-Red Kiln Fiend, Grixis Delver, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Storm. Between this banning announcement and the printing of Fatal Push, I think that it might be time to set aside the Death’s Shadow and Kiln Fiend decks in Modern. Even though I personally have been playing Blue-Red Kiln Fiend, I approve of this change. I think those two decks in particular were too consistently fast for the format.

How does all of this affect the rest of the Modern format? Maybe archetypes like Tron and Ad Nauseum will benefit from Infect being weakened. Fair decks like Jund and Jeskai are certainly happy that Dredge was hit with a banning. Maybe other graveyard strategies can come out of hiding if there’s going to be less Dredge hate in sideboards.

But what I’m most interested in are the possibilities that Fatal Push opens up. This is such a huge change to the format, much the same way that ally-colored fetchlands enabled Grixis decks. Until now, Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt have been the ubiquitous removal spells of Modern, leaving blue-black, green-black, and Sultai to be largely unexplored. Will Blue-Black Faeries finally break through? Can Tarmogoyf and Snapcaster Mage team up once again?

Going deeper, how does Fatal Push change deckbuilding? Fetchlands are the easiest and most obvious way to enable Revolt, but spells like Engineered Explosives, Seal of Fire, and Deprive have more value now. The same goes for creatures with converted mana costs of five or greater that can’t be Fatal Pushed around. Delve and Emerge creatures even let you cheat on their mana costs.

This is just an early example of something that could be made possible, thanks to Fatal Push:

Sultai Control

The other big announcement that was made was that Banning & Restricted List announcements will be happening twice as often. While this has more to do with Standard bannings, it means that we could see Modern banlist changes happen more often, too since, if things go wrong (as in the case of the Golgari Grave-Troll unbanning), they can be corrected soon after. Personally, I’d like to see Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf let loose in Modern.

2017 Annual Goals

It’s not too late to hop on the yearly reflection bandwagon, is it? I set five goals for myself at the beginning of 2016; let’s see how I did.

Qualify for another PT – Going by the calendar year, I managed to qualify for three Pro Tours in 2016 – two via Silver invites and one via Regional PTQ Top 4.

Reach Silver Level in the Pro Players Club (18 Pro Points) – I reached Silver and became a member of the Pro Players Club after Grand Prix Charlotte in May. I finished the 2015-2016 professional season with 27 total pro points, which far exceeded my expectations.

Make Day Two of a Team GP – I played in two Team Limited Grand Prix in 2016 (DC and Louisville), and our team successfully Day Two’ed both of them! We even spiked a 7th place at Grand Prix Louisville, with a record of 11-3.

Qualify for three of four Regional PTQs – I met this goal exactly, even managing to convert one of those Regional PTQs into a Pro Tour invite. The Silver-level benefit of being qualified for all RPTQs is really what made this happen.

Expand my range in Modern – It’s tough to quantify this one. The greatest example of a wide range last year was made by Modern master Tom Ross, who had success with Dredge, 8-Rack, and Green-White Tron! But I guess we can’t all be Tom Ross. I went slightly outside my comfort zone by picking up the Blue-Red Kiln Fiend deck, but I could have gone out of my way to play some black or green cards once in awhile. I did play Bant Eldrazi in one local tournament, but I missed opportunities to sleeve up Infect, Dredge, or Death’s Shadow Zoo in the last year. I definitely regret not playing the sweet version of Grim Flayer Jund that my friend Ryan took to a Top 16 finish at the SCG Syracuse Open.

I’ll give myself four out of five. By all accounts, I’d call it a successful Magic year. Perhaps I set the bar too low, though, so here is what I’m shooting for in 2017:

Reach Gold Level in the Pro Players Club (35 points) – The natural progression is to shoot for Gold status this year. The point threshold for all levels was raised by two, making things even more difficult. I’m currently sitting at the same spot as I was at this point last year, with eight pro points and one pending Pro Tour appearance. I admit that this is going to be a very lofty goal, but the whole point is that it is a goal I’m really going to have to push myself to reach.

Finish with an 11-5 or better record at a Pro Tour – So far, my best Pro Tour finish has been a record of 10-6. This is a challenging, but attainable goal to aim for, with another Pro Tour invite as a reward.

Help those around me to qualify and stay on the Pro Tour – I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of driven players for the last couple of Pro Tours, but it’s tough to keep a team together when not everyone is qualified for every Pro Tour. This year, I’m going to measure my success in part by the success of my teammates and the local players around me.

Achieve success in a Magic Online PTQ or MOCS event – Magic Online offers a lot of opportunities that I feel I haven’t been fully taking advantage of, especially with the Silver-level benefit of automatically receiving 15 free QPs every month. I’m going to made an effort to play in more online events this year.

Pass my friend, Kai, in lifetime pro points – No, not Kai Budde (that would be a truly impossible goal). My friend Kai has 60 lifetime pro points. I currently have 39. He’s an old man who doesn’t play Magic anymore, so it’s not even like this is much of a moving target, but he’s always a threat to come out of retirement. While meaningless, I just really want these bragging rights. The student will become the master!

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