For every competitive game out there, I strongly believe natural shifts in metagames are healthy for any respective environment. Meta shifts ensure variety. Otherwise, really popular strategies dominate and discourage a format from being diverse for far too long. In the case of Magic: The Gathering, with it being a card game, meta shifts come in two forms: the rotation of card sets themselves and the manual banning of specific cards.
On April 4th, Wizards of the Coast released a new ban list, and a particular card reached the chopping block – Eye of Ugin for the Modern format.
Eye of Ugin epitomized both a verstaile and significantly powerful card in many ways. In the previous Standard format, the card was decent. But in Modern, it fueled an archetype that would completely warp the whole format. Simply put, the Eldrazi archetype in Modern was beyond good. Either you ran a variant of Eldrazi or some kind of deck that could somehow compete with it. If you didn’t, you probably were out of luck.
To give you an idea how suffocating the archetype was, I have a friend whose favorite format is Modern. He stopped playing Magic: The Gathering for months because so many players kept utilizing an Eldrazi deck in one form or another. It is definitely a bad sign when a deck strategy physically discourages others from wanting to play the game itself for an extended period. But what made the deck so capable of pulling such a feat? The answer lies in Eye of Ugin’s knack for enabling the deck’s various power plays.
For instance, let’s take a strong Eldrazi card like Thought-Knot Seer as an example.
By all means, this standalone card is great. It has expected stats at 4/4 for four mana. Plus, its ability to remove an opponent’s key card from their hand the moment it hits the board is devastating. But being able to play this card a turn or two ahead of the normal curve because of Eye of Ugin’s cost-reducing effect is nuts. And this is just one example.
One also cannot overlook Eye of Ugin’s second effect. The ability to search for any colorless creature, in an archetype packed full of beefy creatures who happen to be colorless, is the icing on the cake. Especially when a match reaches the mid-to-late game point, having the means to toolbox for a win condition makes all of the difference. Cards like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and other behemoths within the archetype always bring value and relevance to multiple in-game situations.
So did Eye of Ugin need the ban? YES! The card needed the ban as soon as possible.
According to Wizards of the Coast: “Since Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, Eldrazi decks have been dominating the Modern tournament environment. At the Pro Tour, Eldrazi were represented in six of the Top 8 decks, including Jiachen Tao’s winning deck. On the weekend of March 6, three Modern Grand Prix were held, in Melbourne, Bologna, and Detroit. There were 24 players who had Top 8 performances, fourteen of whom were playing Eldrazi, including two of the three winning decks.”
Whenever cards get the ban treatment, many players who have been using the dominant deck in question whine, but I think it is better for everyone in the long haul. Obviously, some decks will run their course when Wizards of the Coast deems it necessary to add certain cards to a ban list. I do believe, however, that decks should not be completely crippled or made utterly useless. I think just taking some wind out of the sails is the way to go, and it is not like banning Eye of Ugin will make the Eldrazi deck unplayable by any means.
The deck still has Eldrazi Temple as a decent card to fall back on, so not all is lost for those who want to stick with the Eldrazi archetype.
Especially for card games like Magic: The Gathering, metas must shift and not be permanent. If not, stagnation develops and causes players to lose interest for the game itself. Games evolve by allowing new things to make a name for themselves. With Eldrazi decks being toned down, I hope the Modern format will be able to get back into shape with more deck varieties across the board.Click for more of the Decked Out series
Magic: The Gathering images depicted belong to Wizards of the Coast.