Magic: The Gathering will have a new Banned and Restricted Announcement on July 8. This is an important event for the Modern format, as we may finally see cards from the most absurd strategies (looking at you Hogaak!) in the game banned. Let’s look at the potential candidates and discuss them a little bit.
The HogaakVine deck that sprung up around Hogaak has terrorized the Modern format for weeks now. Similar to Dredge or Arclight Phoenix decks, HogaakVine uses its graveyard as a way to accelerate its gameplan. It’s fast, consistent, and incredibly potent. Perhaps the most egregious thing about this deck is that it’s also immensely successful at winning through graveyard hate.
Hogaak is a big part of this deck and enables its combo-mill win when paired with Altar of Dementia. At his best, Hogaak enables the mill win. At his worst, he’s an 8/8 with Trample on turn 2 or 3. No matter how you cut it, he’s absolutely busted in this deck! Banning him would for sure bring down the power level of this format terror.
Another piece of the HogaakVine deck, Altar of Dementia is arguably more important than Hogaak himself. It allows the player to mill themselves so that there are more creatures in the graveyard to cheat into play, and it allows the mill win condition. It can also be activated at instant speed. That makes it very hard to meaningfully interact with, as it can be activated in response to your removal.
Altar of Dementia makes the deck immune to board wipes, allowing the player to sacrifice their creatures to fuel their graveyard before the boardwipe can resolve. Removing Altar of Dementia almost certainly kills HogaakVine as a deck. But is that a bad thing?
The discussion around Faithless Looting is now joining the ranks of those around Stoneforge Mystic, Splinter Twin, and Birthing Pod. Looting is a strong, strong enabler of the graveyard aggro strategies that have run rampant in Modern for months now. Phoenix, Mono R Phoenix, Dredge, and now HogaakVine all use it to stock their graveyard with creatures they can cheat out for free or little cost.
Many people dislike this, claiming that paying mana costs is an important part of Magic. Others say that it’s fine, that people need to adapt and stop whining about the nonstop drag racing these decks tend to do. The biggest argument, however, is that a ban on Looting kills Mardu Pyromancer. This deck is a very fair midrange deck and has done nothing deserving of losing its prime set-up piece.
There’s not a lot we can do to know the future. That’s a problem mankind as a whole has always had. But these are definitely the most debated cards in Magic right now. A few honorary mentions would probably be Bridge from Below, as another piece of HogaakVine, and Cathartic Reunion, due to how strong it is in Dredge.
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I’m Brent, working in association with Daily Esports to cover Magic the Gathering and gaming news.