Going into the latest banned and restricted announcement there were some rumblings of a potential ban, or even multiple bans taking place. The primary offender in Modern over the last few weeks, ever since the release of Modern Horizons, has been the Hogaak Bridgevine deck. Now without the card Bridge from Below that deck isn't going to be the same—or it could be completely dead.

Was This the Right Move?

First, why did this happen? We knew that introducing a new set specifically aimed for Modern was going to change the format, though it wasn't clear exactly how much. While I'm a big fan of Modern Horizons overall, there is a danger to printing so many powerful cards in one set. I think individually the cards in the Hogaak Bridgevine deck are okay from a power level perspective, but it's likely Wizards of the Coast didn't figure out that Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis plus Altar of Dementia (and to a lesser extent Carrion Feeder) would work so well in the Dredgevine deck that had already been a good Modern deck before these additions.

When looking at both recent results and the incredible uptick in graveyard hate, alongside the fact that the deck is not very fun to play against, I certainly agree with banning a card from the Hogaak Bridgevine deck. I like targeting specifically this deck rather than a more universally good card like Faithless Looting. The goal isn't to kill off a bunch of decks here, it is to lessen the strength of Hogaak Bridgevine specifically. I think you can make a good argument for banning either Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis or Altar of Dementia. There might be work-arounds so that a similar deck could still exist, but there aren't too many other decks we are aware of that play either Altar of Dementia or Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis.

What I'm getting at here is that while I think it was clearly the right move to ban something from Hogaak Bridgevine, it becomes much murkier deciding which card to choose. While Wizards will never admit this, I don't think they wanted to ban a card that has just been printed in Modern Horizons. Bridge from Below is very powerful, and since there were good arguments for a number of cards it makes sense that Bridge from Below was banned. Even before the ban this is the card the community thought would most likely get the axe. The only issue is it does kind of destroy the Bridgevine deck instead of just weakening it—you can't really call the deck "Bridgevine" without Bridge from Below.

Even though Hogaak Bridgevine has only existed for a short period of time, action had to be taken. Mistakes happen, and in this case I am happy Wizards of the Coast made this move before the upcoming Mythic Championship which could easily have been warped by Hogaak Bridgevine without the ban.

Should There Have Been More Bans?

While I think the reaction to the Bridge from Below ban has been positive overall, there is also the question of whether other cards should also have been banned. Not so much to target Hogaak Bridgevine, but other offenders in the format. One deck I have heard mentioned in the conversation of decks that may not be that healthy in the format is Neobrand. This is a combo deck that essentially wins the game based on the strength of its opening hand. It can win on turn one a surprising amount of the time, and as you might imagine the London mulligan only makes the deck more consistent.

The argument against this deck isn't necessarily that it's too good on a power level basis, but that the games it creates are extremely noninteractive. This deck almost transcends the boundary that has been created between Legacy and Modern. Legacy is a format with multiple decks that can put together turn-one wins, but at the same time there is a lot more disruption. Decks like this make Force of Negation much more important in Modern. Without something like Force of Negation, it is usually a game based around if the Neoform player has a good draw and can get a Griselbrand into play.

Outside of banning a card from Neoform, there are of course other speculative bans that could be made as well. I have mentioned Faithless Looting already as one of the cards that people have speculated about, but personally I don't think I'm ready for that one yet (though possibly in the future). There is something to be said for banning only a single card at a time to see how the format reacts, rather than massive changes all at once. In the past we have heard rumblings about an Ancient Stirrings ban, but similar to Faithless Looting it would affect a lot of decks if that happened.

If we look at the top decks in the format, Arclight Phoenix, Narset, Parter of Veils, Manamorphose, Devoted Druid, Chalice of the Void and Aether Vial are some of the most offensive cards that come to mind as potential future bans as well. There are so many cards in Modern that can provide effects that at times don't seem particularly fair. We also need to consider the decks this ban improves, and it could be that Dredge will become the biggest offender.

How the Format Will Shift

With the ban of Bridge from Below, the biggest question becomes will there be less graveyard hate? For the past few weeks we have been living in a world where it seems like every deck has had to pack an obscene amount of graveyard hate both in the maindeck and sideboard. Cards like Surgical Extraction, Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void have been rampant. There should be a bit of a downtick in graveyard hate, and that could potentially open the door back up for Dredge to be successful.

There hasn't been much Dredge the past few weeks, because in many ways it was simply a worse version of Hogaak Dredgevine. Now, we could very well see Dredge become the top graveyard deck once more. Graveyard decks are always going to be vulnerable to the incredibly powerful hate cards that are available, but in my opinion the biggest winner from the banning is Dredge.

After Dredge we come to the slower midrange decks of Modern that didn't really want to play tons of graveyard hate. For instance, Jund may not need to maindeck a card like Nihil Spellbomb anymore. Even a deck like Tron that plays relatively little graveyard hate (Relic of Progenitus maindeck and Surgical Extraction in the sideboard) has suffered in recent weeks. Tron doesn't have access to the real graveyard killers like Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace, and also was simply slower that the Hogaak deck, even with turn-three Tron. The way Modern has been moving recently, Tron all of a sudden doesn't look quite as powerful as it used to. The Bridge from Below ban and the London mulligan should help Tron.

The Creation of New Hogaak Decks

Now that Bridgevine is gone, will Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis still be good enough to see play elsewhere? The card is definitely powerful, and we could possibly see it in traditional Dredge. Alternatively, there are other ways to get cards in the graveyard as well. I expect that we will see Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis in one shell or another; the question becomes what the best work-around is without Bridge from Below. I stumbled across this cross between Dredge and Death's Shadow that looks rather interesting:

This list did well in a recent Modern Challenge, even when Bridge from Below was legal. I expect players will brew up a way to make Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis work, whether it be a deck like this or something else. Hedron Crab is a pretty cool way to try and fill up the graveyard, so I will likely try something like this out myself. With the Mythic Championship coming up there is plenty of room for innovation, and I'm excited to see what happens!


Seth Manfield

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