Splinter Twin: The Ban, the Reaction, and the Fallout

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I first heard the rumors driving from Friday Night Magic, where I had just defeated Splinter Twin with Abzan Company to finish undefeated. I was headed to another store for the Oath of the Gatewatch prerelease. A scattering of Twitter posts, a deleted Reddit post, all saying the same thing: Summer Bloom and Splinter Twin were showing up as banned on the Magic Online beta.

Splinter Twin

Rumors like this fly around every three months when a banlist update comes around, and at first I didn’t want to believe it. Everyone seemed happy enough to see Bloom go, but Twin had long been looked at as the defining deck of the format. It couldn’t kill before turn four—exemplifying the “turn four rule” of Modern—and never felt “oppressive” in the same way that Treasure Cruise or Deathrite Shaman did.

But it didn’t take long for my fears to be confirmed, and it became official that Twin was getting the axe.

That was just the start of the fallout.

Initial Reactions

While I was pretty upset about the ban, and was far from alone in that sentiment, it was not a universal reaction. To be honest, things seemed pretty evenly split between people upset about the ban—many of whom were upset about the monetary value they lost (an understandable frustration but a known risk of playing competitive Magic) or because their favorite deck was no longer playable, or like me, simply liked the format the way it was and didn’t want a change—and those who were happy to see Splinter Twin and the ever-present fear it brought with it gone forever.

A divisive argument, and one that largely comes down to emotions and opinions. Unfortunately for those who thought Splinter Twin improved Modern, it’s ultimately Wizards of the Coast and the DCI’s opinion that matters here.

That opinion, for reference:

“We also look for decks that hold a large enough percentage of the competitive field to reduce the diversity of the format.

Antonio Del Moral León won Pro Tour Fate Reforged playing Splinter Twin, and Jelger Wiegersma finished third; Splinter Twin has won two of the four Modern Pro Tours. Splinter Twin reached the Top 8 of the last six Modern Grand Prix. The last Modern Grand Prix in Pittsburgh had three Splinter Twin decks in the Top 8, including Alex Bianchi’s winning deck.

Decks that are this strong can hurt diversity by pushing the decks that it defeats out of competition. They can also reduce diversity by supplanting similar decks. For instance, Shaun McLaren won Pro Tour Born of the Gods playing this Jeskai control deck. Alex Bianchi won our most recent Modern Grand Prix playing a similar deck but adding the Splinter Twin combination. Similarly, Temur Tempo used to see play at high-level events but has been supplanted by Temur Twin.

We considered what one would do with the cards from a Splinter Twin deck with Splinter Twinbanned. In the case of some Jeskai or Temur, there are very similar decks to build. In other cases, there is Kiki-Jiki as a replacement.

In the interest of competitive diversity, Splinter Twin is banned from Modern.”

You and I may not like it, but it’s possible to understand the reasoning. Splinter Twin, after all, was less of a deck and more of a one-size-fits-all package. You throw four Deceiver Exarchs, four Splinter Twins, and two Pestermites into your dec,k and all of a sudden you have access to an extraordinarily consistent combo that will always be potent no matter what shell you surround it with. Sure, the pieces around it may change, but you will always have access to what may be the most powerful combo in the format (or at least “powerful enough”) but is certainly the most consistent.

We may dispute the fact that Twin was too good for Modern, but the fact remains it was the best thing to be doing at nearly every point of the format’s existence. Remember this?

That was five years ago. Since then, a few more powerful decks have come and gone via the banlist, but Splinter Twin has been a constant. Even when Jund and Pod were at the height of their powers, Twin was a top-tier deck that put up a bunch of numbers every year, because it was just so damn consistent.

Personally, I was surprised by the banning. But in retrospect, and after taking a few days to process it rather than push out an angry article with my kneejerk reaction, maybe I shouldn’t have been.

A Brief History of Modern’s banlist

birthing-pool

“Over the past year, Birthing Pod decks have won significantly more Grand Prix than any other Modern decks and compose the largest percentage of the field. Each year, new powerful options are printed, most recently Siege Rhino. Over time, this creates a growing gap between the strength of the Pod deck and other creature decks. Pod won five of the twelve Grand Prix over the past year, including winning the last two. The high percentage of the field playing Pod suppresses decks, especially other creature decks, that have an unfavorable matchup. In the interest of supporting a diverse format, Birthing Pod is banned.”

The key phrase there? “In the interest of a diverse format, Birthing Pod is banned.”

It doesn’t end there.

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Bloodbraid Elf

“While the rest of the format is quite diverse, the dominance of Jund is making it less so overall. The DCI looked to ban a card. We wanted a card that top players consistently played four copies of in Jund, but ideally was less played in other top Modern decks. That would give the best chance of creating a more balanced metagame. The card that best fits our criteria is Bloodbraid Elf.”

There’s that sentiment again. “Best chance of creating a more diverse metagame.

Let’s go back even further.

Wild Nacatal

“We looked for cards to unban, but not only could you play the Amsterdam deck as is, other powerful cards are already available in Modern. For example, Æther Vial was unavailable to Marijn, but is legal in Modern. The Vial is considered one of the stronger cards in Legacy Merfolk decks. The problem is that other decks try to use synergy to get rewards, but those rewards aren’t any better than the Wild Nacatl. For example, the Doran decks use Treefolk Harbinger to find Doran. When it all works, the Harbinger is effectively a 3/3 for . With shock lands, Wild Nacatl is a 3/3, and doesn’t let you down when your opponent kills your Doran. With some effort, Student of Warfare becomes a 3/3 First Strike creature, but that isn’t a sufficient reward for the effort compared with Wild Nacatl. This creature is so efficient it is keeping too many other creature decks from being competitive. So, in the interest of diversity, the DCI is banning Wild Nacatl.”

In the interest of diversity, the DCI is banning Wild Nacatl.”

Every single one of those bans was questionable at the time. People claimed that, much like Splinter Twin, Broodbraid Elf went into a variety of decks, not just one or even a completely dominant one. People argued—and still do—over whether it would be good for the format. Some people fall on one side, some on the other. We can, and will continue to, have that same argument over Twin. I feel like it was good for the format, but others who don’t like the way it forces you to play the third and fourth turns disagree.

And that’s perfectly fine.

The problem? Somewhere over the craziness of the past six days, we stopped having that discussion.

The Tweets

You can find the full series of tweets here, but I’ve summed up the most relevant threads.

Forysthe Tweets 1

This is the one that people ultimately ran with, but there was plenty more to be found.

Forsythe Tweets 2

Forsythe Tweets 3

Forsythe tweets 4

Forsythe tweets 5

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There is a lot of information to digest there, and before we go any further, I want to both give props to and criticize this approach. I love that Aaron Forsythe—a high-ranking member of Wizards who has been very forthcoming with us in the past, including talking to us about coming fetch land reprints on a 2014 Brainstorm Brewery episode—is communicating with us on this issue. A more complete understanding of the thought process  behind the bans is a Good Thing™.

But Twitter is not a very good vehicle for that. Not only does it reach precious few people, but it forces people to condense their thoughts into tiny paragraphs that don’t fully show context. This context should have been included in the announcement, not trickled out from Twitter in the days following. It’s this phenomenon that I believe has led us to problems.

“Splinter Twin Was Banned for Ratings.”

This is essentially how people have chosen to read Aaron’s tweets, and it sparked an outrage at Wizards we haven’t seen in, well, at least a week since the last time we brought out the pitchforks. And it’s pervasive—I’ve seen it repeated in articles, comics, and social media circles aplenty. When I asked Twitter what we learned from the ban, more than 80 percent of the responses were along the lines of “the Pro Tour needs to ban cards to be exciting.”

No longer are we talking about whether or not Splinter Twin deserved to go, the conversation has become about whether Wizards is even being honest about the reasons for the ban. All because of a few short sentences one member of the deciding committee communicated.

The only problem with this? It’s not painting the complete picture. Like so many things on the internet that are able to be reduced to social media soundbites, it lacks context.

The problem I have with the response goes a step further. Not only are people suggesting the reason for the ban was improved ratings, they’re out-and-out presenting it as the gospel truth, all based on what Aaron Forsythe described as “a pretty imaginative interpretation of [his] response.”

This is a problem. It’s one thing to debate the merits of a Splinter Twin ban—spirited discourse isn’t a bad thing—but it’s fully another to create a narrative that the man you quoted to create said narrative disputes it.

Forsythe tweets 4

I completely understand the frustration over the ban; after all, I share in it. But if the response to a disagreement with the DCI over the merits of the ban is to completely discredit the organization based on a narrative created from an “imaginary interpretation” of Forsythe’s remarks, it crosses a line. To present something to readers as fact without any confirmation—or in this case, against an outright denial from the source—is, simply put, bad journalism, but more than that, it’s something we can do better than as a community.

How About That Context, Then?

If Forysthe’s tweets aren’t meant to mean “cards are banned to make Pro Tours exciting,” then how are we to interpret them?

I won’t pretend to tell you I have any special knowledge of how or why this decision was made. I wasn’t in that room when it was decided, but I do think I can help shed some context on Aaron’s tweets, and offer my opinion on this series of events from there.

There are a few indisputable facts we can start with.

  • Splinter Twin has been the defining deck of Modern since its inception. Its many variants lead to it almost always being good but not unbeatable.
  • Evidence of this is abundant, as Wizards etched out in its announcement and we covered above.
  • Nothing puts pressure on a format like a Pro Tour. Hundreds of the best players in the world huddle together for a week doing nothing but playing Magic. The tens of thousands of man hours put into this endeavor by the best players in the world solves things very well.
  • Wizards of the Coast made clear in the ban announcement that it sees Splinter Twin as the de facto best deck, and the tournaments cited are used as evidence of Twin stifling the ever-important goal of diversity.

I want to share a conversation I had with Magic Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl at Grand Prix Oklahoma City earlier this year, when he made the top eight with Merfolk. Being a huge fish fan myself, I was excited to talk to him about the deck, and I asked him if he had finally come around to it being the best deck in Modern.

masterofwave

His response? “It’s the best deck for this tournament.”

That’s how most of the players on the Pro Tour operate. They aren’t in it to play their pet deck or experiment for guts and glory; they’re there to play the game they love and take down a big check at the end of the weekend.

Keeping that in mind, let’s circle back to Splinter Twin. At some point over the last 12 months, Wizards decided that the deck was too powerful for Modern based on the evidence we’ve already cited. Wizards decided that for the long-term health of the format, the deck needed to go. Decision made, end of discussion.

Having already decided to ban it, the next logical question is: when? There’s only a handful of Modern events a year, from SCG Opens to Grand Prix. Unlike the Pro Tour, what players battle with in these events is hugely influenced by factors other than “the best deck.” Pet decks, card availability, regional trends: all of these things equate to putting much less pressure on the format at a Grand Prix than a Pro Tour. Outside of a Skullclamp or Eggs-style emergency, does it make more sense to ban cards before a low-pressure event like a Grand Prix in Oklahoma, or a high-pressure event like the Pro Tour? Furthermore, because there’s only one high-pressure event a year, why wouldn’t it make sense to address the health of Modern once a year?

Since 2013, four of the five Modern banlist updates have come in late January or early February, and this marks the third year in a row we’ve had the banlist update before the Pro Tour. That’s as consistent as it gets, and outside of the emergency ban I alluded to in May 2013 (due to Eggs making tournaments nearly unplayable), Wizards has updated the format once a year like clockwork. Since the Modern Pro Tour was moved to the first part of the year in 2014, this update has coincided with the Pro Tour.

Correlation Is Not Causation

A chronological order of the Modern bannings after the initial Pro Tour.

  • 2011: late December
  • 2013: late January
  • 2014: early February
  • 2015: late January
  • 2016: late January

Looks pretty darn consistent to me.

Now, a chronological order of Modern Pro Tours.

  • 2011: September
  • 2012: October
  • 2013: No event due to schedule change to winter set
  • 2014: February
  • 2015: February
  • 2016: February

 Wizards of the Coast has been extremely consistent with the timing of its Modern bans. What has not been consistent until recently is the timing of the Modern Pro Tour. Given that WOTC made the change to bring back the Modern Pro Tour in 2014 after an outcry from the player base, it seems extremely unlikely that it’s a coincidence the company lined the Modern Pro Tour up with its already-existing banning schedule. After all, if your plan is to update the banlist once a year, why not time it right before the Pro Tour?

The Pro Tour is not the reason for the banlist updates. The banlist schedule came first, and in my opinion, there’s a high likelihood it’s the reason the Pro Tour takes place when it does. Claiming that the already-decided bans are a consequence of the existence of a Pro Tour is conflating causation with correlation, and I’ve seen a lot of people jumping on that bandwagon because, frankly, it’s a lot easier to blame an outside influence like the Pro Tour (and by extension Wizards) than to have an honest debate about the merits of the ban on its own.

Again, I’ll stress that all of this could have been avoided with a more detailed explanation of the ban. Not only are Aaron’s thoughts on the matter hidden in tweet replies, but much of the context was lost in the translation to 140 characters. Had this more detailed explanation been included in the original announcement, it could have gone a long way to preventing a misunderstanding of the reasoning behind the bans. Of course, the alternative is radio silence from Wizards on the matter, and I don’t want the company to stop communicating with us through social media—I just want the additional context that can be provided to be addressed more fully in the official announcement, which is presumably seen by multiple people, unlike tweets.

41b8+aQAK8L

Losing Confidence in the Format?

Now that I’ve addressed the controversy of the banning announcement, let’s talk for a moment about the banning itself. While I disagree that Twin was suppressing the format, I can’t disagree that it stifled diversity. After all, when the ten-card package you can jam into a handful of otherwise-different decks is simply better than any other option, there’s no reason not to do so.

Take another look at those banning announcements from Wild Nacatl, Bloodbraid Elf, and Birthing Pod. Every single one of them points to “diversity” as the reason for the banning. Birthing Pod wasn’t oppressing the format either, but there’s no question that playing the usual Pod package was unquestionably the right thing to do. Since then, we’ve seen several flavors of Abzan decks find a home in the format, from the combo version to the midrange version to the aggressive Collected Company builds. None of that would have been possible with Pod in the format, and there would be even less possible if Bloodbraid Elf was still running around.

Which leads us back to the question of confidence in the format. Should we live in fear that Wizards is going to ban out our deck every year simply because it’s good? I would say no—but Wizards will ban something if it’s reducing deck diversity. In both cases we’ve referenced, they haven’t outright killed the decks, they’ve simply neutered them, and that holds true this time around, as well. The “combo” element of Birthing Pod is still its own deck. Jund is still playable—and depending on the meta is very good. Nacatl was pulled off the list when it was deemed to not be so strong as to warp decks around it (thanks, creature power creep!).

Forsythe Tweets 6

Likewise, your Pestermite deck is not dead. It will almost certainly have to change to either work with Kiki-Jiki or shift toward the tempo version, but outside of your singular playset of Splinter Twin, the rest of your cards are not only likely still playable in a competitive-if-slightly-worse deck, just like Amulet of Vigor is playable but worse with a replacement like Azusa, Lost but Seeking.

Moreover, our own actions as a playerbase speak extremely strongly against the “lost confidence” argument. Modern Masters sets have been enormously popular, and Aaron Forsythe shared with us that despite the bans, Modern is the fastest growing format in terms of attendance, events, and viewership (dwarfing Legacy). From WOTC’s perspective, the bans aren’t reducing consumer confidence, they’re creating a format more and more people want to play. And while I may disagree with this particular decision, it seems to me that Wizards has earned the benefit of the doubt. Remember: Modern was created to replace Extended, a format tried in multiple iterations to no success amongst the player base. Modern is a mainstay now, but it was never guaranteed to be, and it’s as popular as it is today under the guidance of Wizards of the Coast. I was wrong about the merits of Bitterblossom’s unbanning, and I can accept the possibility that I’m wrong about the merits of the Splinter Twin banning as well.

Bitterblossom

There will almost certainly be more bannings in the format, because compared to the other Eternal formats in Magic Modern is still relatively new. Sure, the banning of Birthing Pod didn’t lead to a hugely diverse metagame at Pro Tour Fate Reforged, but I don’t think there’s any question the metagame of 2015 was more diverse than that of 2014. And while Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch may similarly be crowded by a few particular decks (I consider Eye of Ugin decks to be far scarier than Affinity in our new Modern world), if and when things do settle down, players will have to look to more diverse options than Splinter Twin as a game plan. Will this lead to a better format than the one we had? We’ll see.

Conclusion

If you’ve stuck with me through all 3,000 words of this, thank you. I have a very high opinion of the Magic community in regards to how we handle disagreements inside our chosen hobby, and it truly bothers me when I see people default to the “blame Wizards because it’s a corporation” stance rather than accept that maybe, just maybe, there are real people on the other side of the discussion who may happen to disagree with you. Wizards of the Coast has made plenty of communication blunders, and those errors have in no small part led to this fiasco, but I encourage everyone out there to remember that we all have the same goal here: make Magic the best it can be.

For me, at least, that means accepting that I don’t know everything. I can write about my opinion, but I can’t tell you why something was banned. I can’t tell you that Modern is a better format with Splinter Twin than without. I can’t tell you that Wizards will or won’t ban another strong deck next year. I can’t tell you the right way to respond to such an emotionally charged situation like this.

But I can listen.

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter/Twitch/YouTube

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77 thoughts on “Splinter Twin: The Ban, the Reaction, and the Fallout”

  1. As someone who hated twin for years, and finally said “Ok, i have to own this, it will never be banned, I’m tired to play fair decks and get fucked, scapeshift is not good enough in my meta” then a week later (literally) the card is banned. I want to cry, “Yeah but you still have the rest of the deck” BULLSHIT! UR Tempo is shit and we all know this, 13 dollars a piece might not be expensive to North americans but i got fucked and now can’t even use the card because it’s shit in Legacy and i don’t need 4 copies to play EDH.

    I’m really upset because they banned Nacatl when i played Zoo, and the card was proven to not be so strong, and now Twin is banned a fucking week later that i get the cards. NO ONE expected a Twin ban, the PT might more harmful, if pros don’t give a fuck about modern (which most of them don’t) then retire the PT and at least let the format alone if there’s no abusive deck.

    I don’t agree with “if it was not banned 3 months ago, i could be banned now” because Twin was BETTER years ago, it was printed on MM2 and they never gave a fuck about it.

    The ONLY reason that i’ll stay in modern is because i own too much and Legacy is kinda shitty at my town, not worth the investment. But WotC better print some good shit for control or unban something this year because this is fucking retarded.

    Sorry about the rant but i’m fucking mad at they poor management of a format that was diverse as fuck and a new deck was just rising with BFZ and OGW cards.

    Blue cannot compete with the sheer amount of agressiveness, modern was already a bad place for reactive strategies, now it’s even worse. Modern has too many bad points, from unpredictability, to lack of skill/matchup roullete, and now WotC will fuck us every year they want to “spice things up”.

    Fuck.

    1. This is so fucking true! I started to foil out my pet deck twin and completed about 80% when the announcement came. Further I own several playsets of twin and Deceiver in preparation for modern season. This really sucks! I also own Twin on MTGO. Deck lost about 25% value.

    2. The “it was in MM2” logic doesn’t hold water – even supplemental sets are designed nearly 2 years ahead and printed months in advance. A set that same out in May 15 has probably been in the works since late 13 and printed in late 14. The banning decision was made well after it was printed and while unfortunate, wotc can’t hold themselves hostage to “we decided to reprint this 18 months ago, so even though it should be banned, we can’t because we released the reprint the best part of a year ago.”

      And this is from someone who bought the cards for extended hypergenesis AND hexdepths 2 weeks before extended became 4-years with hypergenesis banned AND was buying into pod just before it got banned. I lost my MtG budget for half a year on extended and a good amount in pod. The fact is that you take that risk playing MtG, and buying into a deck like twin (the degree of surprise over its banning was what surprised me, I’ve been expecting it since pod got banned) 2 weeks before a ban update isn’t the wisest plan. I refuse to buy into decks/cards like that until after the update. It’s why I haven’t picked up blood moons yet – I wait, I lose nothing, I buy and they get banned, I’ve paid through the nose for a card I can’t use.

      Hate to say it, but all you can do is count it as a lesson and move on from it.

      1. I think it is your arguements that don’t hold water.
        Twin got nothing since 2013 that made it better. Reprinting it was a dick move that mislead people.
        Furthermore: “wotc can’t hild themselves hostage” is downright and obviously untrue. Ever heard of the reserved list? Ever wondered why fetchlands didn’t get banned in all magic formats?
        That’s right: Because Wotc knows that there are red lines which they should not overstep. And the fact that the banned twin was mostly a misjudgement of the reaction.

        As the article points out: Bannimg pod did nothing for deckdiversity. Mentioning CoCo is laughable, since the card wasn’t even printed when pod got the hammer. Nobody knows if CoCo could have been a concurrence to pod.

        But whatever. Let’s hope for the best and that the PT won’t be a big mana-decks only bonanza.

        1. “As the article points out: Bannimg pod did nothing for deckdiversity.”

          I…what? This is the absolute opposite of what Corbin said. When Pod was legal, nearly all creature based strategies were Pod. After Pod was banned, it splintered into several different shells.

          1. Travis, I think Alexander is talking about this statement: ” Sure, the banning of Birthing Pod didn’t lead to a hugely diverse metagame at Pro Tour Fate Reforged,”

          2. I have no option to reply to Alasdair, so I’m doing so here.

            Yes, but the implication of the statement (when he goes on to say diversity increased the next year) is that it takes some time for the dust to settle and for the diversity to sprawl out.

            Thus, diversity does go up, it just doesn’t happen immediately after a ban. I would venture a guess that it’s because players haven’t experimented enough by then to confidently take a new concept onto the tournament floor.

          3. I have no option to reply to m.biernacinski, so I’m doing so here.

            “Thus, diversity does go up, it just doesn’t happen immediately after a ban.”

            That’s because the ban didn’t do anything. The magic happened because they released a new set called “Fate Reforged”. Then they released “Dragons of Tarkir”.
            So the new decks, all those Grixis Kolaghans Command decks, those CoCo tribal decks or combo decks, those Tasigur decks – they all have absolutly nothing to do with Pod being banned.
            It will be just the same, if the Eldrazideck takes off – it certainly didn’t need a Splinter Twin ban.

      2. “wotc can’t hold themselves hostage to “we decided to reprint this 18 months ago, so even though it should be banned, we can’t because we released the reprint the best part of a year ago.”

        This. Printing something within the last year has no bearing on its banning. Re: Deathrite Shamana, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time. There is plenty of precedence for banning something after it was printed 8 months ago just within the last two years.

        I also bought into pod just before the announcement. That’s the price one pays for trying to be competitive in the mtg world. A competitive deck IS an investment. If you want to play at your kitchen table, nothing gets banned. If you want to try to make money or win packs, you risk losing an investment. Every investment comes with an amount of risk.

    3. Perhaps one should not buy into a deck 1 week before bans are announced. Perhaps you should accept some of your own responsibility for being to impatient to wait a week.

      I waited to make sure Eye of Ugin was not banned before going in on the Eldrazi style deck to play around with this year.

      You play a format where you know things may get banned or unbanned, it is the risk you take when buying into a deck. We all know it, and have known it since the beginning, so stop crying about it when it happens.

      1. Oh but i definetily got a lesson from this. I won’t die, modern won’t die, but WotC throw some bullshit excuse to ban twin “just because” and we have to hold that to the chest.

        I Knew bloom was gonna get axed. so i never bought anything from that deck, but twin was there all the time, i didn’t cross any line. It was just the same strategy that has been since 2011 and it was never ban worthy. But suddenly it is.

        My problem is more with the disrespect the upcoming years might come to the modern playerbase, and i guaranfuckingtee you neither Tron, Affinity and Grishoalbrand are safe for the next year. and that might not have nothing to do with warping the format or too much presence in the meta.

        I’m really expecting a Ancestral Vision unban or some sort of action to boost blue into competitive playability since there’s no more Twin to boost from unbannings. But as it is now i’m pretty sure the best we’ll have is Jeskai that could possibily survive either burn/agro and Tron.

        Either way i’m really unpreased with the DECISION not being strong enough, not really the financial lost. and until blue has any proof it can stay alive i’ll be riding Zoo again.

        Thx for you response anyway. We only learn the hard way.

      2. Blaming the consumer for an unpredictable policy is plain wrong. I dont know how you can be so self righteous about your opinion, but the fact is people lost money and time and i believe they deserve our sympathy. Class action lawsuits have been started for less.

        1. WotC has made only one promise to those who invest in their game. It’s called The Reserve List. Outside of that, any investment made rests solely on the one who invested his or her own time and money.

          But to claim banning of a card, when the banning dates are well known in advance, is unpredictable is simply laughable. However unlikely the ban may have seemed, it was far from unpredictable.

    4. If you are going to get this angry every time there is a downward swing in MTG card prices, I would recommend considering another pastime for the sake of your wellbeing.

        1. Try commander. Though I’m not much into commander, I hear many players who have taken up the format mention price stability as a factor. It has very little rotation, and cards that hold value due to primarily commander demand are pretty steady. And, though the tournament scene isn’t large right now, I hear it’s growing. In 5 years time, there may be a large tournament scene for it, too.

          1. Commander is a really bad format. It’s a format that tries to make a consistent constructed deck with nothing really “fair” in the format.

            Multiplayer formats are bad for tournaments. French commander isn’t worth investing into generally since the scene is so small. It’s never going to be a PT or GP format, you can mark those words. As such, the prices (though they may be stable) are overly inflated since it’s a casual format meant to be played amongst playgroups with like-minded individuals.

            I don’t have to tell anyone who has played commander what happens to a playgroup when person X decides to drop some real money into a deck that wins on T3 consistently or even takes the “spike” deck to another playgroup with vastly different understandings of power levels.

    5. Diversity translates into putting currently available cards into the Modern meta which equals getting people to spend money directly to WOTC. There. I translated Aaron Forsythe for ya all.

    6. You’re pissed about $40 loss in value? Seriously? Go deliver some freaking Pizzas or something on Friday night instead of FNM and get your money back, damn…

      1. I couldn’t agree more.

        Also, if you invested in other Modern staples like Karn, Liberated, Fulminator Mage, Glimmervoid, Kikki-Jiki, Voice of Resurgence (and the list goes on) then you’ve actually made way more money than you’ve lost from the ban.

    7. And I’ll note… anyone who is 100% surprised by Twin’s banning has never tried to brew a deck in Modern. Travis’ article explains this well… EVERY single deck I ever tried to brew in Modern, the very first thing I ever thought was “can this go off turn 3 in the face of counterspells and/or disruption? Or, can this reliably disrupt twin any time after turn 3/4 in the face of counterspells, while still being able to win while the ever-present threat of exarch/twin at EOT is looming… and, can I not slowly die to their instant-speed board state building?”

      Twin combo was a broken freaking combo in this format. If they couldn’t flash in their combo pieces (or had to rely on something like aether vial to flash them in), it wouldn’t have been as bad. But seriously guys, it’s not that difficult for them still… Kiki only costs 5, and in the instance that you actually have Kiki on the board first, you can still drop him, block with him, attack, or copy snapcasters, all the while you’re waiting for your “other combo piece” to show up.

        1. At least you can lifegain or chump block your way to turn 5/6, and if you’re combo, you can probably blast your way out of the hole. Tron, not so much, but at least there’s a “general rule” when dealing with agro.

          Tron, man that deck just folds to crumble to dust if you can put any semblance of pressure on. Screw blood moon, I’ll just take away all your towers (or mines, or power plants).

    8. > NO ONE expected a Twin ban,

      Maybe it’s the players you’re competing against. I came back to playing Magic last fall after a few years away, and since September the resounding commentary by the players I’ve been at events were “Don’t bother investing in a set of Twin., and let those who have a set enjoy it for now, It’ll be banned come January.”

      Virtually every “serious” player in my area has been repeating it, and working out other decks – knowing this ban was coming, for the exact reasons Wizards stated.

      i will say, those same players were wrong about Amulet Bloom – most of them thought the Amulet would be the banned card – but even they were convinced, something from that deck was getting banned.

      Your knickers in a twist because a single card getting banned is not because of “poor management of a format”, it’s because you just bought the card. At least be honest with yourself.

    9. My heart goes out to the people who invested into splinter twin. It’s great for newer players who want to see more diversity I know, but it would be nicer if they would ease into the banning list to give people some time to shift around their resources. I felt the same way when they were adamant about killing pod.

  2. Hi Corbin,

    As someone who have enjoyed your writing since the QS days, I wholeheartedly disagree with you on WOTC’s motivation to ban Splinter Twin. I think your corporate affiliation with WOTC is having an effect on your ability to muddle through their koolaid they are trying to pass to you and the rest of mtg community.

    1. I’ve yet to notice Corbin’s journalistic integrity affected by his affiliation. Do you have other instances you can point out?

    2. I’m sorry to hear that it came across that way. I actually think I was somewhat critical of WOTC in this piece.

  3. I have looked all over the net the past few days for a logical discussion on this. This was a great article, I especially like the fact you presented the whole banning post from WoTC, and went back to previous ban posts.

    My thoughts are this and I believe that we as a community of players should push for this change. I am also surprised I haven’t seen any articles that have covered what I am about to say.

    Play Testing can’t possibly catch every interaction with every modern card for a card in a new set, everyone thinks differently and there are just to many cards now avalible in modern.

    The issue with Twin and Pod and Bloom is “consistency” all were very reliable, but I don’t think they are ban worthy. I see decks like twin as a reason to push harder to be a good player. I play RDW. It’s simple but not at the same time.

    I think that if a card reaches the level of Twin/Pod that it shouldn’t be banned out right because unlike say treasure cruse or ponder non rare cards that function on there own, Twin and Pod all need at least one or more cards to function.

    So why not creat a “MODERN RESTRICTED LIST” a twin deck with only one twin is still lethal, still can go off big, and is still very playable. But it keeps the diversity open, the value of the card decently close, and doesn’t just kill a deck with “off with his head” type attatude. If Jund/Junk had a single Deathright It would greatly help its power level, Pod would side board out all but one or two post board and still work fine.

    Also, only needing one and not a play set of the hardest hitting cards in a format means deck shells will be more affordable to more people, this in the long run means more sales.

    Modern has reached a point of critical mass, like vintage. Modern NEEDS a restricted list.

    My 2c

    -Cody

    1. Wizard have said that they don’t use restricted in other formats because it makes things too swingy and random. People feel s lot worse loosing to “I had an out but because I’m only allowed 1, I had no chance of drawing it” or “I can’t believe that I lost to that 1-of, what a luck sack”. They have it in vintage because it’s all about the craziest cards and the tutors mitigate it somewhat.

      1. ^Don’t forget about the absurd card draw in Vintage, too. Between Ancestral Recall, Dack Fayden, Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, and unrestricted Gush, you find one-ofs surprisingly often. All of those things don’t exist in Modern, which would make one-ofs a lot more swingy.

  4. Great article, and I completely agree with what you are saying. Sure a bunch of twin players are butthut over the ban, but for the good of diversity in modern it was a good call. Now decks that were non existent can flourish and new decks can show up becaise of the ban. You are the first writer to write up a solid response to this topic and I thank you for that.

    Also, I for one also love when cards are banned from formats, makes then new and fresh again.

      1. Aw, gotcha, Ya I really enjoy his articles. I enjoy Corbin and you as well (Travis) but ever since his “ripple” effect on card prices I’ve enjoyed his reads. Thanks for responding Travis.

  5. The issue I have with the banning is that I don’t believe it will actually increase deck diversity. The only fair comparison of past bannings is Nacatal (because DRS, Birthing Pod, etc. really were warping the format). What happened when they banned Nacatal? We didn’t see more Zoo/aggro decks, people just stopped playing them. No one played their Doran treefolk tribal, Student of Warfare still wasn’t a thing.

    We aren’t going to see a new Ux tempo or control deck on Twin’s power level, people are just going to stop playing them. I’m currently brewing with Kiki to see if it is worthwhile -but years of evidence shows that it probably isn’t. I’m also going to see if any Jesaki deck can get there, but most likely not.

    I think we’ll have to surrender to our Tron overlords for the next little while (and possibly our Eldrazi overlords if Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer are the real deal). Something will rise to combat those decks and this will be the key pivoting point: will new decks emerge or will the existing aggro decks in the format just become better than they were. I bought into infect immediately after hearing they banned Twin, I’ll let you determine which way I feel.

    As usual, thanks for the well written article and being willing to voice a dissenting opinion.

    1. RG Tron already has a favorable matchup against Splintertwin. Listen to Ali Aintrazi talk about his matchups with RG Tron.

      1. False, RG Tron has a losing match win percentage vs Splinter Twin. Though that could possibly have changed after Oath of the Gatewatch came out.

    2. Maybe they banned Splinter Twin to weaken blue in Modern prior to a reprint of Force of Will in Shadows over Innistrad?

      One can dream, right?

      1. Would you believe I actually thought about that scenario? With all the combo all over the place, and virtually zero control in place to keep it in check, it sure would be nice to have a Force of Will enter Modern.

        Then again, playing control into twin was a pretty losing scenario, so maybe this opens the door for more control (UW Titan maybe)?

    3. This. Unless WotC is planning on actually (re)printing some decent counterspells or card draw or unbanning some combo of Ponder, Preordain, JtMS, AV, DTT, and/or Sword of the Meek (Treasure Cruise is essentially Ancestral Recall so I doubt it ever comes off).

  6. If they want to ban shit to make a PT more interesting, why not just ban a card or two for the PT ONLY, rather than completely fucking up a delicate metagame which the community has worked so hard on.

    1. Wizards has made it perfectly clear that the purpose of the B&R update is not to make the Modern Pro Tour more interesting. The only relation to the Pro Tour is the *timing* of the update. So, can we stop the hype, drama, and conspiracy theories?

      1. Agreed. It’s a little disconcerting to write an article about exactly that and then see the comments on that article ignore that point.

  7. It’s a shame when large articles are written to analyze a single Tweet. Anyways, Aaron’s Tweet wasn’t an affirmation that Modern bannings are ‘random’ at all. The belief that someone like Aaron Forsythe would affirm that WOTC makes sweeping format altering decisions at ‘random’ is absurd on it’s face to begin with, but it’s very easy for anyone who has followed Magic to understand what Aaron was communicating within the confines of his 140 character limit. The original Tweeter ended with ‘the public would rather not have modern PTs.’

    This is all that Aaron was responding to. He’s essentially saying “Well, the public was extremely passionate about having a Modern Pro Tour when we tried to make them all Standard… so I doubt banning cards using the same criteria we have in the past is going to cause the public to abandon the fastest growing format.”

    Since I have no axe to grind in all of this, It was rather clear to me what Aaron was trying to say, but people are eager to see what they want to see when they have a dog in the fight.

  8. I would like someone to explain why Twin, with about 10 % of the meta, is worse than a deck like miracles in legacy, that takes more than 20%, not to mention additional problems with library manipulation etc.

    In terms of comparisson, I don’t get why twin is banned and top is not…

    1. Flidals, in my opinion Top isn’t banned in Legacy because it’s the only card that allows for control in Legacy (or it’s by far the best). I play Legacy and love to beat Miracles players, I have no problem telling my opponent to hurry up or call a judge…u should as well. Miracles also likely doesn’t make up 20% of a Legacy field, doubtfully even 10%. But I’m sure Top wasn’t (yet) banned as Miracles is the only real control deck in Legacy and Dig Through Time just got banned out of Legacy and that hurt Miracles some. I will be upset but not surprised when Top gets banned.

  9. Your statement about narratives is very true, though it extends far beyond the world of magic (*sigh*). Anyway, there’s a lot of crap being spewed, so I figured I’d say a few things about perceptions:

    1) “Twin was keeping Tron in check” – FALSE: Burn, Affinity, Infect, and literally every other linear combo deck keep Tron in check; the Twin matchup, according to mtgpulse was up to 3% OVER, meaning it was slightly favored.

    2) “Twin was keeping Affinity in Check” – PARTLY TRUE: Affinity loses one of its worst matchups, but it still has to fight hard against Abzan and Company, not to mention random T2 decks like elves. “But those decks die to Tron, therefore affinity will rule the day” – maybe, or maybe all the all the fast decks are out in force to counter eldrazi/Tron and then BGx wins the pro tour. You never can know.

    3) “Modern is a rotating format” – FALSE: Modern is a BUSTED format and we’ll continue to see cards banned in the name of format diversity. At the pro level, you don’t always win matches by playing your favorite deck, you win matches by playing the best decks. Twin was at the top of the heap for a LONG time. The only reasons not to jam the twin combo in your blue deck were because (a) you’re playing merfolk, (b) you’re playing grixis and want a better matchup against fair decks, or (c) you’re playing a different combo deck like scapeshift, ad nauseum, infect, etc.

    4) “I’m angry about the banning and, through maladaptive coping mechanisms, I will join internet-fueled mob justice in hopes of forcing my way on an organization instead of dealing with my negative feelings like a mature adult” – TRUE.

  10. I am going to have to respectfully disagree with the conclusions drawn here. Indeed one of the only things I agree with in this article is that WotC should communicate in a clear and direct fashion. They have failed to do this.

    I disagree that this ban will not hurt player confidence because it crosses a line that even Pod didn’t cross. Notably that Pod was legitimately explained in how it hurt format diversity. However, Twin has not been justified in such a capacity. Furthermore, Twin was almost equally as consistent as any other tier 1 deck in Modern and only took up 9-11% of the meta, which is hardly significant. Furthermore, I feel that “format diversity” is such a nebulous term that it will be the justification for most bans moving forward. If WotC cannot explain what this term actually means in a practical sense, then it is only right that the consumers are critical of their decision making process.

    The problem with the Twin ban is that it may actually do more harm than good for format diversity. Without Twin as a deck anymore (Kiki is simply too slow and fragile for competitive play) Modern has now shifted into a metagame filled with nothing but Aggro and Midrange decks. By removing combo decks from the current metagame WotC has in fact decreased diversity.

    Arguably, draw-go control has more breathing space now, however, given that WotC is driving Modern to be a creature focused format Control decks do not have the necessary tools to be competitively viable. If we examine recent sets we notice a trend of better creature and either worse, or underpowered, noncreature spells. Those noncreature spells that break into Modern and are powerful for Control decks (ie Treasure Cruise) have since been banned.

    I would argue that if WotC is going to use “format diversity” as a measuring stick for bans, then they should also adopt a more liberal policy to unban cards, since there are several cards on the ban list which have never seen play in Modern. Unbanning can have just as viable an effect as banning. But, that requires them to take risks and to trust their playerbase, which quite frankly, it feels like they do not.

    1. Here’s my little victory: we’re discussing the merits of the ban and not whether or not it was banned solely to spice up the Pro Tour. That’s what I hoped to accomplish with the article.

      1. Well, it’s all good and well that you accomplished your goal, but what do you say to your critics?

  11. Hi guys,

    I started to play modern last year and my impression was that the format was defined by combo decks, half of the decks I saw in tournaments were combos, most of the time twin.

    When I wanted to design a deck to play for the whole year my main concern was, will it stop twin?, do I have a chance after the 4th round? can I take 8 lightning bolts?

    I am sorry for everyone but I am glad twin is gone, it was very unfair to compete against a deck that can make an infinite combo by combining 2 cards and having 8 + 8 as much possible pieces in a library.

    Twin was not unbeatable, but was a pain.

    I think there are many reasons for the ban beside power level, thinking that modern will not rotate somehow is lying, I will not rotate from the starting edition to pick up cards nonetheless it has to keep moving and have new things. it is logic that once the most powerful cards and decks are identified, the games and tournaments will be always be the same. would you like a format where the top 8 is every year tron vs twin?
    boring .. (Legacy is a cool format but is stagnated like this.)

    do you think Wizards has to change the format by creating more powerful cards every time until the game collapses?
    noooo … (pokemon perfect example)

    I think it is good for the format to receive new decks and ideas from time to time, twin had its time to win, now is over.

    Another reason for banning twin is it was limiting the design of blue/red cards, because anything could go into twin an make it better and more unbeatable.

    Maybe the printing of ‘Stormchaser Mage’ was not a coincidence, maybe it is the way how Wizard tells twin audience to move to a more fair deck.

    Who knows, maybe the ban is also because they will print a new snapcaster in next innistrad block. (we dream)

  12. Splinter Twin ban = GREAT for Brewers and innovators…(stifled innovation because you “had to be able to deal with twin” in any kind of new deck)

    Splinter Twin ban = TERRIBLE for netdeckers…(was an easy and consistently powerful and competitive deck)

    I think when WoTC says they want to foster diversity, you may want to consider that they are trying to make Modern more accessible and fun to a different TYPE of player. They know the netdeckers will jump into the next big thing that performs consistently well…but maybe they want to open up Modern to a much larger audience and saw Twin as a barrier to that.

    1. By this logic we should continue to ban anything and everything that becomes popular within the format.

    2. I think I am that “different TYPE of player” you mean. I have recently tried to jump back into modern with a tribal fay deck. I ran 8x 1cmc discard main deck just for twin. I gave up on the deck quickly. Local meta is really strong vs discard/counter. Now maybe a revisit. I love brewing decks and I am happy to see twin go for now (I own 4 copies, and I don’t care). Also don’t care about/watch pro tours.

      Now I am excited to figure out what I should run next Monday 🙂 so many options, YAY!

  13. Everyone was playing twin. The 2016 SCG Opens all had twin running amok. Best safe deck to play with in any meta.

  14. Corbin, how do you reconcile your statements here with Aaron’s “I do think that a Pro Tour is not what’s best for the format.” tweet.

    Surely that implies that the ban was done for the sake of the Pro Tour, and they even realise that it’s not in the best interest of the format.

    I’ve loved a lot of the stuff you’ve done previously, but am finding you increasingly an apologist for WOTC and their inept communication lately.

    1. I’ll address the last point first: how am I an apologist for their bad communication when I talked in this very article about how bad that communication was, criticizing their approach?

      To the first: a Pro Tour puts more stress on a format because the best minds in the world get together in a week to solve it. That sort of brainpower doesn’t get applied with just GPs, so the format isn’t “solved” so quickly. Amulet Bloom, for instance, would almost certainly have not existed and then needed banning if not for the pressure of the PT exposing how good it is.

  15. Corbin is this a record setting comments section??

    I haven’t seen this said enough…Twin was just reprinted in MM2015!!! I think this is what has players the most upset. Opening a Splinter Twin during a MM2015 sealed event was a complete waste, it was only in there to add copies to the total card pool. Pod wasn’t reprinted and banned 6 months later, HUGE DIFFERENCE too. I still think banning Deceiver Exarch would have been a more interesting ban but that doesn’t matter now. I truly feel badly for anyone who took the time to invest and build Twin over the past year.

    Modern PT predictions: Eldrazi ramp, and Tron, and maybe Storm/Pyromancer’s Ascension will crush and dominate the field due to the Twin banning. I think there will be more outrage after a few months of Modern events as I believe there will be LESS diversity long term. Wouldn’t be shocked if there was a banning of one of the Eldrazi ramp lands in a few months. Then how long until something from Tron is banned?

    Lastly, I’ve seen some players report they are now transitioning into Legacy from Modern. I hope that is the case and I hope Wizards leaves the format alone. This “banning card X to improve diversity” is getting super annoying, at least we know it will occur in Modern and can hope to avoid it in Legacy.

    1. If anyone’s reply to my comment about Twin being in MM 2015 and how long sets are planned ahead of time… rumor had it LotV was going to be in Core Set 2015 but mono black was too good in standard. That is just a rumor. But since Twin was not part of any theme draft or sealed deck in MM 2015 I don’t see why it couldn’t just be replaced if Wizards KNEW it was going to ban it. As everyone has noted, Twin has been a prominent deck in Modern since the beginning, nothing really changed.

  16. Be a man and take the L.

    I lost $200 speculating on Twin on MTGO before this Pro Tour.

    Take the L. Move on.

  17. As a Legacy player that recently got into playing Modern casually, i would say that investing/pimping a Modern deck just isn’t worth it anymore.

    I’ve played through the Birthing pod banning and saw fellow players breaking up and selling off their foils cheap after the bannings. I was cautious enough to avoid getting into the Bloom deck as i predicted the ban coming. But never would i have expected Twin that was reprinted in MM2015 would get the axe so soon. Now my Jap Foil ROE Splinter Twins, Foil Exarchs and Pestermites are worth close to nothing, and trading Foil Splinter Twins into Foil Kiki Jikki’s aren’t even enough.

    Moral of the story, if Wotc feels that banning cards in Modern is the only way to shake up the format, just get SP cards to play with. Hah!

  18. Maybe replace your quote:

    “When it all works, the Harbinger is effectively a 3/3 for .”

    with

    “When it all works, the Harbinger is effectively a 3/3 for {G}.”

    as it seems you’ve copypasta’d an image in text.

  19. I think the list of comments is longer than the article itself (which is quite a feat since this article is pretty long).

    I think its not very nice of forsythe to declare that legacy viewership numbers are the worst. Its kinda like flogging a dead horse no? Viewership is obviously bad when legacy events are being cut left right and center. In 2016 we have 3 legacy GPs and 2 are on the same day so the self-fulfiling prophecy of “dwindling numbers” will continue to hold true.

  20. Lynn Wright – Val,These pictures are soooo buiftauel!!! You are the prettiest bride I have seen since your mom! You look so elegant! I wish you and Cal all the happiness and love a couple could have.You make a Beautiful couple!!LOveGrandma Lyn

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