Wizards of the Coast (and the Commander Rules Committee) just released a new banned and restricted announcement affecting multiple formats.
Modern - Bridge From Below
Let's start with the news that will not necessarily shock you, but will rock the format quite a bit. With the advent of Modern Horizons, only a single deck has really grown in prominence. Hogaak Bridgevine has been a dominating force in the format, taking over a large portion of the metagame, while also boasting a 60% win record, a 66% first game win rate, and amassing 3 times the amount of 5/0s over the next best deck over the past month. Needless to say, this deck is powerful. It could combo kill your opponent as early as turn 2.
The basic idea is to use Altar of Dementia to sacrifice your creatures to mill your self until you hit a few Bridge From Below, exiling your graveyard to cast your Hogaak, and then sacrifice your Hogaak to continue to mill yourself, gaining multiple zombies from the Bridges in your graveyard. Eventually, you turn the milling toward your opponent and mill them our of the game by sacrificing your giant army of zombies and Hogaaks. With a potential turn 2 combo win, Wizards of the Coast wanted to enact an emergency ban to weaken the deck. Thus, Bridge From Below is now the next card to be banned in the format.
What does this mean for Modern?
Bridge is actually an interesting pick. It really doesn't see much play outside other Bridgevine decks, and only really was made to shine once Altar of Dementia and Carrion Feeder were added into the format. WOTC explained their reasoning in their announcement:
Bridge from Below doesn't cost mana or other resources to use and isn't reliant on being drawn naturally from the library, its power level is highly sensitive to the cards that synergize with it. As new card designs that have synergy with the graveyard are released over time, Bridge from Below is the most likely key card in the deck to become problematic again.
That said, Bridge from Below wasn't their only option to choose from.
Cards that are currently safe from the ban hammer.
Wizards of the Coast analyzed cards such as Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis himself and Altar of Dementia. Personally, I feel Altar is probably the main culprit, but I've had the strong belief since Modern Horizon's release that WOTC plans to remove Legacy and Vintage as supported formats and turn Modern into the next Legacy like format. Especially with the announcement of the new Historic format on Arena, I've become more and move convinced that WOTC will slowly add more and more cards that aren't on the Reserve List, only to eventually announce that Legacy and Vintage will no longer be supported as a sanctioned format and instead will move it to a casual format for players. They understand they can't reprint these cards, and will likely phase out their supported formats as a means of 1) making more money from master sets and 2) makes a legacy-like format more accessible to the player base.
I am still leery of Hogaak in Modern too. The card is exceedingly hard to deal with outside of white exile effects like Path to Exile and probably the eventual Swords to Plowshares, and causes decks to have a sideboard heavily devoted to defeating it. And with cards like Faithless Looting in the format, it can be pretty easy to get him our quickly and efficiently. Speaking of Looting, while that card has seen many calls for banning, it survives another BnR announcement. WOTC had another statement about this:
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 proven too powerful for other decks to reasonably adapt to.
I guess time will tell.
In other huge news, the Commander format has seen a round of bannings, removing 2 extremely powerful cards. Iona, Shield of Emeria is arguably one of the best examples of "that feels bad, bro" in Commander. If you are playing a monocolored deck and Iona comes into play, you either scoop on the spot or see if an opponent will be kind enough to get rid of her. What's worse, there are a plethora of ways to cheat her into play. To this end, Iona is now banned in Commander.
But not only was Iona banned, but also arguably the best combo piece in the entire format.
What, haven't figured it out yet?
Paradox Engine is the latest victim of the ban hammer. But honestly, who can blame them? Basically, if Paradox Engine resolves you lose the game. By being able to untap every nonland permanent when ever you cast a spell, you are able to have combos allowing you to draw your entire library and have infinite mana to cast everything. it truly is a brutal experience.
I am of the opinion that less bannings are better than more bannings, and I'd rather see these cards still exist in the format, and who knows, maybe they'll eventually come back. But as it stands, these cards are currently banned, with little hope of seeing a return. So, I guess go buy your Paradox Engines now when prices plummet, because who knows, maybe they'll come back eventually like Protean Hulk.
Or like Painter's Servant... that's right. Painter's Servant has now been unbanned in the format. A powerful combo pieces in its own right, Painter's Servant has been absent in the format for an incredibly long time. We've have more and more ways to deal with it enter the format, which likely allowed the Rules Committee to feel a little more relaxed about it, allowing for the unban. I'm happy to see it return, and can't wait to see how you can break it.
All in all, a fairly impactful BnR announcement this time around. What do you guys think? Should Bridge met the ban hammer? Or should Altar of Dementia instead? What are your thoughts on the Iona and Paradox Engine bans? Let us know in the comment section below!