Tag Archives: Modern

Why Eye of Ugin is the Ban

We are just a few days away now from what will become a major turning point in Modern Magic’s history. For the past three months we’ve been living in “Eldrazi Winter,” and as much as I don’t love naming every period in Magic “winter” — a reference to the “combo winter” of old — it’s hard to argue that the term doesn’t apply to where Modern has existed since the release of Oath of the Gatewatch.

The Eldrazi decks, starting with the colorless and blue-red versions that took the Pro Tour by storm, quickly became dominant in Modern, a format ripe for the picking after the ban of Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom left it without some of its former pillars. No matter how you feel about those bans, there’s no question that Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch was a wide-open affair, and a wide variety of decks showed up for the event.

Unfortunately, none of those decks could stand up to Eldrazi. As our tentacled overlords began to lay waste to the format around them, it became increasingly important to not just have a plan to beat the rest of the format, but to have a plan for the mirror. After all, as deck after deck tried and failed to down the Eldrazi menace, planning for the mirror became the most defining part of any given Eldrazi deck, whether it was colorless, blue-red, red-green or the omnipotent white-blue versions.

As the format tried and failed to push out Eldrazi, the calls for a ban heated up. When the triple-Grand Prix weekend of Melbourne, Bologna and Detroit saw five of the six Finals deck turn out to be White-Blue Eldrazi — and with the deck making up more than 40% of the Top 100 Day 1 decks at all three events and winning on Day 2 at a percentage rate similar to Standard CawBlade pre-ban — the writing was on the wall, and a post-event interview with Aaron Forsythe all but confirmed changes would be coming in the form of a banlist update.

Thus led to the next great debate, and the topic of today’s article: what piece will be banned?

Before I go any further, I want to make a few disclosures. First, I have no inside knowledge of what will be banned, and though I am fairly confident in my ability to read Wizards’ tendencies with bans there is no guarantee of what they will do.

Eye of Ugin

It’s also worth noting that I’ve been on record since the very beginning stating Eye of Ugin should be banned. Long before the Pro Tour or any inkling of the actual decklists to come, I believed Eye of Ugin would become too unhealthy for the format to be allowed to exist, and you can hear my reasoning then during a guest appearance on the podcast Masters of Modern. This earned me the designation of “town crier” during an interview with BDM during GP Detroit coverage, but considering the fallout from Eldrazi it’s a title I’ll wear proudly in this circumstance.

Why Eye will be Banned

It’s Unhealthy

Now the argument about the “health” of a card is something that can go miles deep. After all, “health” and “power level” don’t always go hand in hand, though they often do.

Consider, though, Simian Spirit Guide, another card oft-talked about in regards to bans. It’s not like the card is too “powerful” on its own. While something like Jace, the Mind Sculptor is on the banlist because of how game-impacting it is on its own, Simian Spirit Guide is the opposite. Unless your plan is to beat down with an overcosted 2/2, it actually doesn’t do anything by itself. It’s rarely in “very good” decks, much less oppressive ones, so there’s no argument for it being too powerful as a card.

Simian Spirit Guide

But is Simian Spirit Guide “healthy?” Without derailing the topic of today’s article too much, I consider this the post child of “unhealthy” based on a simple criteria: Does this card further strategies that improve the play experience for a reasonable amount of Magic players? In the case of Spirit Guide, it does nothing but turn a Turn 3 deck into a Turn 2 deck in the vast majority of archetypes it sees play in. In this sense, it’s incredibly binary — it’s either incredibly good, or laughably bad, and I would argue this does not improve the average play experience. While I’m not making an argument today to ban Guide, I do believe it exemplifies many of the qualities that make a card unhealthy in a given metagame.

Eye of Ugin falls too far on the “unhealthy” side for me, though not terribly far from center. The card is very binary in all senses — it either is the best card in your hand or the worst, depending on how many copies you draw. You either play it with Eldrazi or it does nothing. There’s really no in-between with Eye, and feast-or-famine is not a particular healthy way to play games.

It is Ridiculously High Variance

This is a natural progression of the “health” argument, so consider for a moment the following card.

Variance Incarnate



Flip a coin. On heads, you win the game. On tails, you lose the game.

This is a “fair” card, Krark’s Thumb notwithstanding. After all, since you win or lose exactly half of the time on average, it’s the epitome of balanced. But is that amount of variance something you consider enjoyable when you sit down for a match of Magic?

Eye of Ugin cuts too close to that extreme. If it’s in your opening hand and you have the famed Eldrazi Mimic-into-Reality Smasher start, you’re going to win an extremely high percentage of your games. On the other, plenty of people have made the argument that because it’s bad in multiples certain hands and draws become “auto-lose” because you drew too many copies of your Legendary land.

Again, in theory this can be balanced (even if it hasn’t been in practice). If the draws where you have the dream are offset by the draws where you lose to drawing too many copies, you can have a deck that isn’t “too powerful” for Modern.

But, again, I’ll ask: is that how you want to play Magic?

It creates more mana than any other card in Modern

Legacy is a high-power format where there are multiple lands like Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors that exist as “sol” lands to provide more than a single mana a turn. In that context, Eye seems fair.


Modern is not that. This is a format where mana — the thing that hall of famer Zvi Mowshowitz said is always the place to start with a format — has been tightly controlled. Seething Song is banned. Rite of Flame is banned. Chrome Mox is banned. Cloudpost is banned. Summer Bloom is banned.

In a given game in the Eldrazi deck, Eye makes more mana than any of those (with the possible exception of Cloudpost). Any hand containing Eye and multiple Eldrazi Mimics or Endless Ones represents 4-6 mana all in the neat little package of one land drop, not even counting the interaction with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth that allows Eye to actually produce three mana for an Eldrazi. That’s simply playing a different game than the other decks have access to.

I’ll just let PV handle this one

That pretty much nails it. There’s nothing wrong with explosive starts; after all, decks like Goblins can kill as early as Turn 3, but that explosiveness is supposed to come with a tradeoff. Fast starts are often punished by weak lategames — there’s nothing as bad as drawing Llanowar Elves or Frenzied Goblin off the top when you really need a card that does something powerful.

Eye not only dodges this problem; it completely inverts it. Not only do Eldrazi players root for an Eye of Ugin in their opening hand, they root to either draw it on Turn 8 if they don’t have one, or to draw the lands that allow them to activate. It gets the best of both worlds in a way that no other deck in Modern does, and that’s a role that nothing but Eye of Ugin can fill. When a card simultaneously allows access to both the most explosive starts and the most conisistent lategame, we have a problem.

Banning Eye helps Control emerge

This may one of the more contentious points I’ll make in this article, but it’s one I truly believe after playing thousands of matches of Modern over the last few years.

Eye of Ugin is a big part of the reason traditional control decks don’t exist.

I know people like to point to the absence of Force of Will and Counterspell — and the lack of Force especially does have an impact — but it’s one that can be handled. Mana Leak and Remand aren’t Counterspell, but they aren’t bad, either. We have seen, at times, control decks like Jeskai or traditional white-blue pop up and have success, but those times are few and far between.


A major reason? Eye of Ugin takes the traditional domain of the Control deck — the late game — and gives that power to the Eye player. Eldrazi decks can spam out huge amounts of power early in the game thanks to Eye – that’s something Control can plan for. Eye can provide a stream consistent threats late game – that’s something Control can plan for.

But it can’t plan for both. And you can’t build a Control deck that can reliably beat a Turn 3 Karn Liberated while also beating neverending Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or an untouchable Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in the late game.

Yes, I’m talking about Tron. A lot of people have pointed to its use of Eye of Ugin as a reason Eye won’t be banned, but the truth is Tron’s use of Eye of Ugin has been suppressing Control in deckbuilding for a very long time. The fact that the Turn 3 Karn deck will have a worse lategame after an Eye of Ugin banning is a feature, not a bug.

They Always ban the Engine

They banned Birthing Pod, not Kitchen Finks. They banned Second Sunrise, not one of the eggs. They banned Cloudpost, not Emrakul or Vesuva. They banned Hypergenesis, not Violent Outburst. They banned Splinter Twin, not Deceiver Exarch. They banned Stoneforge Mystic, not Batterskull.

I could take the analogy back to other formats, and the trend would continue. They always ban the engine that makes a “broken” deck run, not a cog in that engine. While you could ban Eldrazi Mimic or Thought-Knot Seer, those are simply the beneficiaries of the engine that is Eye of Ugin.

What it Won’t Be

I hope you’ll agree I’ve made the case why Eye of Ugin specifically should be banned, not simply claimed it was the only option. Of course, other people feel that something else should go, name Eldrazi Temple or even something else. I want to touch briefly on these other options.

Eldrazi Temple

This is the big one people have claimed should go before Eye. After all, Eye loses its wielder some games if too many are drawn, and doesn’t help cast big threats as much as multiple Eldrazi Temple do.

While this would certainly power down the deck quite a bit — possibly even moreso than an Eye of Ugin banning — I don’t believe this is the correct answer, and it goes back to the bit on the “health” of a given card. Yes, Temple may be powerful in the Eldrazi decks, but is also more healthy than Eye.


Think about it. Eye of Ugin has this huge variance attached to it; sometimes it creates six mana on Turn 1, and sometimes it loses games when you draw multiples. If Temple is banned — which may or may not be enough to “kill” the deck, which is beside the point anyway — the Eldraiz decks will become even more dependent on that Eye of Ugin variance, just hoping to draw the perfect opening hands all day long and being heavily rewarded when they do so and heavily punished when they don’t.

Contrast this with Eldrazi Temple. It does the exact same thing every time it is cast, and will never make more than two mana the turn it is played. This increases interaction, since things like Ghost Quarter actually can interact with the times where the card would represent more than two mana over the course of the game. Eye of Ugin, on the other hand, can come down on Turn 1 and immediately spew out 4-6 mana worth of creatures before the opponent can interact. Decks can plan around Eldrazi Temple and its one-mana boost to Eldrazi, whereas it’s much more difficult to plan for a deck that sometimes makes 4-6 mana on the first turn. The goal of any healthy format is meaningful interaction, and Eldrazi Temple encourages that interaction over several turns. Eye of Ugin does not.

Anything else

Banning Eldrazi Mimic or Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher to hurt Eldrazi is like banning Boros Garrison to hurt Amulet Bloom: it may work to lower the power level, but it doesn’t address the root problem (For those who don’t realize it, Amulet Bloom can’t have its nut Slayers’ Stronghold combo without Boros Garrison). Why treat the symptoms instead of the disease?

Thought-Knot Seer

From a larger game design standpoint, making decisions like this actually sets a dangerous precedent. What happens when you ban one of the peripheral pieces to lower the power level of a deck (say, Deceiver Exarch), and then the deck finds a way to fill the hole and picks up right back where it left off? While this won’t happen every time if you take this approach, it will happen some of the time, and then Wizards is in the unenviable position of having to go back and try again to fix the problem. Imagine if Exarch had been banned but Twin simply adapted to play Bounding Krasis and kept plugging right along? Given their goals with that banning, Wizards would have had to go back and ban another piece, or possibly Splinter Twin itself. And if Splinter Twin eventually ends up on the banlist, why does Deceiver Exarch belong there? Do they then unban Exarch?

That’s a lot of uncertainty that undermines consumer confidence, and is entirely avoidable simply by peeling the band-aid off at once and getting it over with. It’s also why they banned Dig Through Time alongside Treasure Cruise. Sure, most Modern decks weren’t exactly jamming Dig very much, but what if they just replaced Cruise with Dig after the ban and kept warping the format? Then you have players who thought the bannings were over with get punished a second time around when Wizards makes another run back at the deck.

That’s why you’re not going to see them tip-toe around with this one. The Eldrazi decks needs to be trimmed, and Eye of Ugin and possibly Eldrazi Temple alongside it are going to banned to do that.

And then the Modern world opens wide for us to explore.


Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter/Twitch/Youtube


PROTRADER: Occam’s Razor and the Collectible Renaissance

I have a feeling many MTG finance eyes will be on three unrelated events: Shadows Over Innistrad’s release, banned and restricted updates for Modern specifically, and the gradual spoiling of Eternal Masters.  Each of these separate events will have a very profound impact on card prices, and it’s likely many writers will cover each topic at length.  I will most certainly be chiming in with Modern and Legacy impact once we have more information.

As for Standard – I tried to place a few small bets, picking up a handful of creature lands.  After seeing the new rare land cycle in Shadows Over Innistrad, however, I fear I placed my money on a slower horse.  The Battle Lands have all been rising steadily these last few weeks, and I can only hope the creature lands also find a home in Standard.  Until then I’ll remain comforted by the fact that these remain near their bottom and should not drop lower in price.


But there’s one trend that is gradually unfolding, which I think will have a profound impact on the MTG market.  Most importantly of all, I believe this trend is occurring so slowly and so out of focus that it’s happening under the radar.  People would only notice this trend if they paid extremely close attention to this market, and not many do.

Interested?  Here’s the good news – I do pay attention.  And this week I’ll share my most recent observations along with some future predictions that can help you make some well-placed and timely investments in MTG.

The rest of this content is only visible to ProTrader members.

To learn how ProTrader can benefit YOU, click here to watch our short video.

expensive cards

ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

PROTRADER: Playing Better, Part 2: Tournaments

There is something strange going on right now, and I don’t mean the variable quality episodes of the new X-Files mini-series. Turnout for Magic tournaments in the last few years has gone up tremendously, and opportunities for organized play have grown in response. In this week’s edition of “Playing Better” (Part One can be found here), we are going to approach Magic Finance from the perspective of Tournament Finance, to make sure that you aren’t losing money just by showing up. Oh, and we will be going over the homework later, so leave it out on your desks.

And in the interests of full disclosure- I HAVE written on this subject in the past, but things have since changed significantly enough that I feel it’s worth addressing.

The rest of this content is only visible to ProTrader members.

To learn how ProTrader can benefit YOU, click here to watch our short video.

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ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

It’s Not About the Pro Tour (Okay, I Guess it is)

Okay, it’ll probably contain a lot of stuff that pertains to the Pro Tour. What I mean is I’m not going to try to perform some fancy analysis of the decklists and then tell you to sell Eldrazi Mimics, Eye of Ugin, and Chalice of the Void. That should be fairly easy to figure out, and it’s probably too late to capitalize on the maximum possible value by the time you’re reading this. You should be aiming to sell on Saturday Night and Sunday, after the top 8 lists get posted. I sold Chalices at $50 on Saturday night, but I also sold Simian Spirit Guides at $6 each while I slept. Oh well.  Anyway, today I’ve got sort of a hodge-podge list of things I want to talk about, to bear with me as we skip around a bit throughout the article.

I’d like to start out by thanking those who defended me last week, and those who contributed thoughtful and rational disagreements without resorting to ad hominem. I appreciate all of you for reading my content, and constructive criticism is always welcome.

Let’s revisit Spreading Seas, and see how that card ended up after last week’s article. The minuscule supply of foil copies on TCGplayer and SCG finally ran dry in the couple of days leading up to my article’s release, and the card has been sitting comfortably at $20 for the past few days. Interestingly enough, Seas didn’t have any effect on the Pro Tour; it was far too slow to contest with a swarm of turn 2 kills through combat damage. While I would love to list mine on TCGplayer so I can try to sell before the race to the bottom, I’m putting my inventory on ice for my trip to Georgia this week.

If you own any foils, I suggest selling out now to anyone who is brewing a list to try and wash away the Eldrazi menace. You made your money if you bought in a week ago, so start racing to the bottom and cash out now while the card is still appetizing as a way to hate on Eye of Ugin.


Non-foils managed to stay under the radar, and the TCG mid price has managed to avoid moving by more than a few cents. However, if you dig a little bit deeper into the actual listings, you’ll see that there are very few copies left at the $1 that the TCG price would have you believe; SCG has about 150 at $1.50, and I’m keeping a close eye on that count in preparation to sell mine on Facebook. A large majority of the listings are for at least $2-3 for near mint, and I don’t suggest buying at that price whatsoever. Let me make this clear. I DO NOT SUGGEST BUYING THE MAGIC: THE GATHERING CARD FROM THE ZENDIKAR EXPANSION PACK, FOR OVER $1.00 USD IF YOU ARE ATTEMPTING PURELY TO LATER SELL THE CARD FOR A PROFIT. (Danny: this sentence feels really weird to read to me, not sure how to fix it)

If you’ve been hoarding Seas for the past few years and setting them aside from collection picks, bulk trades, or being your own buylist in the community and picking them up at $.25, this is our chance to shine If the retail on Seas “officially” hits $3, you’re going to want to open the floodgates. A lot of the desire to include this in the current meta comes from Eye of Ugin being a big bad wolf, and any targeted bans at the deck also hurt the financial potential of Seas. Move ’em now, and be happy if you can get $2 retail on local Facebook groups or $1 buylist eventually.

While we’re swimming around in the original Zendikar block, let’s take a look at another couple of enchantments that caught my eye.



Both of these are enchantments from the good old Stonesculptor set, which was released six years ago (You might remember that as the year Inception and Toy Story 3 were released). They both appear to have significant casual appeal at first glance, because players will always want to build Megrim and Kraken decks in kitchen table land. I’m going to predict that one of these cards will probably be $5 in a few years, akin to Sigil of the Empty Throne before it got throat-punched with a double-reprint. The other will continue to stagnate and be mostly forgotten about; even without a multiplayer reprint product. Will it be the discard win condition, or the fish finder?

Screenshot 2016-02-10 at 12.31.36 AM

Here’s my theory; Quest for the Nihil Stone, even though it appears to have a casual appeal, will be ignored by casual players because it doesn’t beat out The Rack, or Liliana’s Caress (by the way; the fact that Caress has gone this long without a reprint is astounding, and I wouldn’t be holding onto these any longer than you have to) in the casual and competitive Rack decks. The deck has enough win conditions without Nihil Stone, and I’ve never actually sold one out of my dollar box even to the people who play discard religiously. While “people I’ve met” isn’t exactly the most statistically relevant sample size, I have never met a single non-competitive player who actually gives a crap about Nihil Stone, and I hang out with a lot of kitchen table players.

On the other hand, Quest for Ula’s Temple makes a great argument for a “why is this card $5” a few years down the line. If you pick up Magic and you want to smack nerds around with giant sea creatures, you need this card. You need four of this card. Nothing else drops free sashimi onto the field like some good old Ula’s Temple. With Kiora still alive and swimming after getting beaten by the Eldrazi harder than a Pro Tour competitor, it’s entirely possible that we see her again later on in the story. With more Kiora comes more big fish, and a few more people itching to make the sea monster deck.

Even with the world-specific name, the casual appeal of this card makes it very easy to jam into a supplemental product. To be honest, I was surprised that it wasn’t in the Commander 2014 mono-blue deck until I actually double-checked my work. While it obviously won’t see a reprint in a standard-legal set due to the time-specific setting of original Zendikar, it could possibly be jammed into a duel deck or Commander product along the way.

“But DJ, doesn’t that mean foils are the easy long term play here? A foil version wouldn’t be printed in a supplemental product, so it would avoid the price drop of a reprint entirely.” 

Not exactly. While Modern and Commander staples are generally strong foil targets, the pure casual crowd wants to stay away from foils almost entirely. These players just want the cheapest version of the card to help make their zombie deck come to (un)life, and the foil multipliers on cards like these with minimal Commander appeal are extremely low. One of my favorite examples is Lich Lord of Unx;

Screenshot 2016-02-10 at 12.07.28 AM

Other prime candidates for low foil multipliers are Captivating Vampire and, that’s right, Quest for Ula’s Temple.  While foil copies are likely to avoid getting hit by the Yu-Gi-Oh! hammer, they’re just as unlikely to be going up in price at the same ratio as the non-foil. They’ll also be just as hard to get rid of; you’ll probably have to sell them off at the same price as non-foil just to get the kitchen table players interested.

End Step

Remember how I mentioned that Laboratory Maniac was suddenly a $4 card, and I didn’t mention why that was? I was scrolling through my Facebook feed last week, and I saw someone in the casual Magic group wanting to build a deck with Lab Maniac and Inverter of Truth. While this isn’t exactly going to go head-to-head with the Pro Tour lists, it’s definitely another Leveler-esque shenanigan that will usually give you a couple of extra turns left to put the Maniac on the board and win. They curve into each other well enough, and the Inverter can bring back a Maniac that you milled earlier while digging with Thought Scour. Both of those sentences are what a kitchen table is going to tell you right before they buy your Lab Maniacs for $4 each.