As those of you who follow the Modern format will know, there has been a certain deck that has been the subject of a lot of debate in recent months. Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo (or KCI) is a deck that has been gaining a lot of popularity among the professional Magic playing community. The deck consistenly posts good results, and can be very difficult to interact with. It has been dominating the top tables of many Modern tournaments over the last year or so, kicking up a rather large fuss around the wider magic community.
Now, at first this might not be seen as much of a big deal at first glance. After all, there has to be a best deck in any given format, so why can’t KCI be that deck? The general consensus was that the deck proved to be fairly dull to watch and play against, as well as being incredibly hard to interact with as the ability of Krark-Clan Ironworks is a mana ability and thus does not use the stack. Many more well-versed players of this fine game could go into the many reasons the deck was an issue for tournament Magic, and I would check out the following article for more info on the subject.
This past Monday Wizards of the Coast decided to take action and add Krark-Clan Ironworks to the mdoern banlist. Most players were very happy to hear this news, seeing it as a positive move towards making the format healthier. While I generally agree with this view point, I think its important to look at what this means for the future of the Modern format as a whole, as while players believe a banning is the magic pill to cure an issue, it can bring with it a whole heap of other issues.
Why should a card be Banned?
It’s first important to understand why a card gets banned. While it would be easy to just say its because its “too good” or “oppressive”, it is far more complex than that. After all, there has been many times a deck has been seen as extremely successful but has avoided any kind of sanction. Instead, decks generally only get banned when they are so successful that they prevent other decks being played or result in dull/non-interactive matches.
Bannings also need to make sure that other decks are not caught in the crossfire. For example, many people talked about targeting Ancient Stirrings as one of the cards that made KCI so effective. However, many other decks like Tron rely on Stirrings and banning it to restrict KCI would affect those other builds. Therefore, the right card(s) must be targeted, and only when it is for the betterment of the format as a whole.
What happens next?
So, KCI is banned and it appears to be the right call. But what happens to the Modern format now. At first, the majority of players will be excited to play some decks that were held down by KCI in recent months, eager to dust off old favourites for this brave new world. However, not every player will feel the same way. There will be those in the competitive scene that either played Ironworks Combo, or a deck that targeted it in order to improve their chances at reaching the top tables, who may be upset by the recent news, but the overall reception of the banning appears to be positive.
I’ve touched on this before, but a lot of competitive players don’t like a diverse format. This is because when you have cash prizes on the line (like you do when you are playing in a Grand Prix) you would want to take the deck that has the best chance of winning. This is a lot harder when there are a variety of viable decks with their own strengths and weaknesses. So, when a deck like KCI gets banned, it creates “best deck” vacuum that players will want to fill.
It a bit funny, but magic formats are very similar to an ecosystem. The decks represent the local fauna, with the top deck in the format taking the role of the apex predator. When everything is in balance, the format is healthy and enjoyable. Yes, there is a top deck, but its not holding the other decks down. However, when the apex predator becomes too dominate it pushes the other decks out of contention. So you remove it to give the other decks a chance to shine.
There’s always a bigger fish.
At first this might seem a good thing, since those decks being held down now have a chance to flourish. This can be a double-edged sword. What if one of those decks being held down rises to become a bigger threat than the previous threat? By trying to fix one problem you might inadvertently create another one.
Does this mean that Wizards should not interfere and not ban cards? Absolutely not. Bans are a rare but necessary part of keeping any format healthy. But we shouldn’t believe that the issue is done and dusted with this or any other banning. Decks will rise to fill the gap that KCI has left, that is the simple fact of the matter. Izzet Phoenix is already gaining a lot of attention as the next big thing in the format, and we might find ourselves in the same position in a years’ time debating what, if anything, should be banned next.
All we can hope is that bannings stay relatively rare, and the format stays fluid to the multitudes of changes that affect it. I know it might seem like I’ve been on a bit of a downer, but I’m actually very excited for the future of the Modern format. With KCI gone I do believe the health of the format will improve, at least for the foreseeable future. But we have been here before. Eldrazi Winter. Cathartic Dredge. These were also times we believed the format to be fixed.
I guess my main take away from todays article is that players will always try to bust any format. They will always look for the most efficient and effective way to win games. But that shouldn’t distract us from what is, in my opinion, one of the best eternal formats for Magic the Gathering. Formats wax and wane as new sets come out and the playstyles of decks evolve. The important thing is to enjoy the game you love and give constructive feedback when you feel the format needs it. In the end, Magic is a great game that has its downs, but also has so many ups. Its an exciting time for Modern, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Well that was a bit of a different article for me. I hope you all enjoyed my ramblings on the current and future state of the Modern format. I’m curious to know your opinions on the banning of KCI. Was it the right call? Will we be back here again in a year or so’s time? Let us now your thoughts in the comments below and remember to like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics. And remember, until next time, Good Luck and Have Fun!