Recently Gamer’s Gauntlet began hosting Modern “No Banned List” tournaments. I placed 5th in the first one they held, and took 1st their second time hosting it. My favorite formats are Modern and Legacy, so you can imagine my interest in being able to play in this interesting new “no ban list” format.
At first glance the format seems like it would simply be overrun by degenerate combo; storm, affinity, and infect seem like they’d be uncontested in their dominance of the format with access to degenerate cards like Rite of Flame, Skullclamp, and Blazing Shoal. However, the format is actually wide open to midrange and control decks. UB Tezzerator, Stoneblade, and Jund are all viable options to control the degenerate early game and run away with powerful finishers in Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Stoneforge Mystic, and Bloodbraid Elf.
I chose to play Jeskai Stoneblade for these two “no ban list” tournaments. I felt this deck was a strong choice based on my experience in Modern and Legacy. In modern, USA control style decks can often control the game well, but end up losing anyway because of a lack of efficient threats to close the game out once they establish control. In Legacy however, we don’t see that as Stoneforge Mystic offers a cheap, consistent threat in Batterskull to end the game in a few turns. With all of this in mind, I felt that continuing the Lightning Bolt, Mana Leak, Snapcaster Mage plan in the “no ban list” format could be strong with the inclusion of Stoneforge Mystic to stabilize.
Obvious ban list inclusions for the deck were Stoneforge Mystic, Umezawa’s Jitte, Ponder, and Mental Misstep. Other cards I thought could be powerful included Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Preordain, and Dig Through Time. The rest of the list ended up being fairly stock for a modern control shell, with the standard Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Mana Leak, and Snapcaster Mage. Some important cards I elected to not include were Cryptic Command, Electrolyze, and Restoration Angel, due to the speed of the format. Also, per the advice of a friend, I added a one-of Pyroclasm to the mainboard, which ended up being quite strong against Elves and Affinity.
To quickly run over sideboard choices and their justification:
Ensnaring Bridge – Also for Hypergenesis… or so I thought, because I looked real silly when my opponent resolves Hypergenesis and played Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, I put down Bridge and smiled, and then he played Terrastodon. Would advise against playing this card.
Meddling Mage – A good catch-all of a sideboard card (so good I moved it to the main board for the next tournament)
Spell Pierce – Helpful against Storm, Infect, and Hypergenesis
Spellskite – Primarily for Infect, good to stop Modular shenanigans from Affinity as well.
Deck for event two:
The major changes I made for the second tournament were to drop Dig Through Time and Jace, which were slow and not impactful. I replaced them with a playset of Preordain. With the added cantrips I cut my lands back from 23 to 21, dropped the Colonnades and added a one-of Academy Ruins to recur equipment and the Engineered Explosives I added. As mentioned before, the Meddling Mages moves to the mainboard, and the Spell Snares were cut for Negate and the Explosives. The major changes to the sideboard were to add 2 Stony Silence in addition to the Wear // Tear, as I felt Affinity was a popular enough deck to justify dedicating such a large portion of the sideboard to it. The Meddling Mages in the sideboard became Ethersworn Canonist, to give me extra game against Storm. And the 2 Ensnaring Bridge became a Mindbreak Trap and Manriki-Gusari, for Storm and Skullclamp decks respectively. Overall I was very happy with this list, and I think I’d bring this 75 back for the next “no ban list” tournament I can attend.
First and foremost, this format is FUN! There is a lot of play with these decks, and with the exception of Hypergenesis, none of the games feel like it’s a coin toss for the winner. One other afterthought of this format is that I feel people were too quick to just accept Affinity as the ‘best’ deck in the format. The deck is strong and consistent, but it is far from unbeatable. In fact I don’t really see a declarative “best deck” at all yet. Some decks I hope to see at future “no ban list” tournaments include Punishing Jund, Hatebears, UR Delver with Young Pyromancer and Skullclamp, Dredge, Cloudpost, and maybe a Dark Depths deck. There’s a lot of potential for this format in itself, and I also think it could be a nice way to see if some cards really deserve to be on that list.