Many Modern players will immediately say that the current modern metagame is at its healthiest point since before Eldrazi Winter of 2015. A diverse and fun format is essential to any competitive game. I believe it safe to say that Modern’s current metagame is not dominated by any degenerate or oppressive decks. This doesn’t mean that the modern format is at its best. Let’s talk about what factors are currently contributing to a stale modern format.
Currently, according to MTGGoldfish.com, the top decks are Grixis Death’s Shadow, Affinity, and Eldrazi Tron. Eldrazi Tron, at third place, has a metagame percentage of 7.84%. Affinity sits at 8.74%, and Grixis Death’s Shadow holds a whopping 11.95% of the metagame in its suicidal hands. This means that almost 30% of the winning decks are one of these three. These three titans have held the top places since Jund Death’s Shadow’s fall in popularity, showing a lack in metagame change in over a month. Now that I’ve displayed the stale metagame of modern, let’s talk about what would change that in a healthy way.
On January 9th of 2017, Gitaxian Probe was banned in modern, due to its popularity in many decks, including Infect and Storm. Street Wraith has some striking similarities to Probe. For 2 life, both cards can be “cycled”, effectively reducing the size of any deck by 4 cards at the cost of a little life. Gitaxian Probe has some serious upside that Street Wraith lacks, which is the added bonus of looking at your opponent’s hand. On the flipside, Street Wraith can be cycled at instant speed and counts as a creature. This means that the Wraith can be brought back with cards like Living End or returned to hand by Kolaghan’s Command. Street Wraith also has the fringe upside of being castable as a somewhat relevant threat in the later stages of the game. I’m not arguing that Street Wraith is better than Gitaxian Probe, but it is certainly comparable.
Aggressive strategies, like Naya Burn or Affinity, are extremely powerful in modern due to the fact that the majority of players effectively begin the game at a life total less than 20. Most players usually manage to deal themselves 2-5 damage in the early game from Fetchlands and Shocklands. Street Wraith is a card that belongs to so many strategies, causing a loss of 2 to maybe even 6 or 8 life in each game. This consistent loss of life is another reason for degenerate aggressive decks to exist. Street Wraith being in Modern promotes decks like Naya Burn, which pushes out Control decks from the format. Those players who would usually prefer interactive decks like Control are forced to play uninteractive decks like Ad Nauseam, Storm, or Living End.
Being able to do anything that regularly costs mana without the use of mana is something that Modern isn’t too welcoming of. Cards like Blazing Shoal, Chrome Mox, Dread Return, Mental Misstep, and even Gitaxian Probe are all banned cards that allow players to use small or large abilities without the use of any mana. Why bother spending mana to draw cards when you can just slot 4 Street Wraith into any color of deck? Street Wraith is another card in this category and fundamentally breaks unwritten rules of modern. To put it simply, Street Wraith’s power level and capabilities aren’t what Modern needs to be a better format. Street Wraith can be subjectively pointed out as a powerhouse in Modern, but let’s look at the facts to see if they back this up.
When looking at MTGGoldfish’s winning decks, Street Wraith is the 8th most played card in Modern and the 2nd most played creature. The Wraith finds itself in 17.35% of decks, and is played as a full playset in all 135 decks recorded that play it. Street Wraith fits in decks playing Death’s Shadow, Delirium strategies, Living End, or even just unfair Combo decks looking to eliminate 4 cards from the decklist. This automatic addition of Street Wraith to decks that don’t always necessarily use it in unique ways hinders deckbuilding creativity and destroys diversity in the format. Does all this mean that Street Wraith needs to be banned?
I truly believe that Street Wraith is a card that does not belong in Modern. Though the current metagame doesn’t need Street Wraith to be banned, it is safe to say that the Wraith does not belong in Modern. This banning would lead to a new and exciting format that would hopefully promote more deckbuilding and would hinder the more aggressive decks in the format, therefore leading to a decrease in combo decks and in increase in fun, interactive games.
Do you agree?
What cards do you want to see banned or unbanned in Modern?