Hello and welcome back. We just had a weekend full of Modern with Magic Fest Bilbao, Magic Fest Tampa Bay and the Star City Games Open in Philadelphia. Besides the format they all have one more thing in common, as all three events have been won by a deck featuring the card 《Faithless Looting》.
No worries my friends, this is not another article bashing on this card and how it should be banned, rather I will try to explain why it should not be banned for at least a few more months.
What Makes 《Faithless Looting》 too Strong?
Let’s start our journey to find out why 《Faithless Looting》 has become the most feared card nowadays, wrongly in my opinion:
Dredge existed for quite a while, but was never able to constantly kill before or around turn 5, although 《Faithless Looting》 was already one of its best spells.
《Creeping Chill》 gets printed. This is the card, that made Dredge more consistent and killing people before or around turn 5.
The reason for that is not that 《Faithless Looting》 draws you 2 cards and then discards 2, the reason lies withing the number of free spells Dredge has available and the number of cards this deck gets to see each turn. I will shortly name them all for you so that you have a number in mind: 2 《Conflagrate》, 4 《Prized Amalgam》, 4 《Bloodghast》, 4 《Narcomoeba》, 4 《Creeping Chill》.
That is a total of 18 free spells, which is close to every 3rd card in a deck, although I excluded 《Faithless Looting》 here. 《Looting》 might allow you to see up to 10 cards (Dredging 2 《Stinkweed Imp》s) in a single turn, which means you will hit approximately 2-3 of those free spells.
Let’s just shortly assume 《Faithless Looting》 got banned and we decided to play blue in Dredge. We decided to put 《Thought Scour》 in our deck, which is able to see up to 7 cards (milling 2 cards and Dredging 1 《Stinkweed Imp》). With 7 cards, we still would hit 2 free spells on average.
I am not one of those great math guys (I studied technical physics only), but if, for example, 《Creeping Chill》 got banned instead of 《Faithless Looting》 we would be left with 14 free spells. Now if we look back at those 10 cards per turn, we would “only” get 2 free spells on average, instead of 3.
Sort of true, but again I believe the problem to be a different card. People complain about 1-2 《Phoenixes》 attacking on turn 2, which I have to confess, is very strong indeed.
This time I will not go into numbers, as I do not want to show of how lucky I have been in all those games I attacked with 2 《Arclight Phoenix》 on turn 2 (the truth is it only happened once in 10 leagues) and because it is not really necessary. The card that makes this deck so consistent is 《Manamorphose》.
Turn 2 《Manamorphose》 into 《Thought Scour》 myself into 《Faithless Looting》-attack. This turn 2 is not happening without 《Manamorphose》, unless you consider having 《Faithless Looting》, any random Phyrexian Mana spell and a 1 mana spell your average hand. Another angle of attack from most 《Arclight Phoenix》 decks is 《Thing in the Ice》, which can flip on turn 3. This happens all thanks to 《Manamorphose》, not 《Faithless Looting》.
Let’s shortly assume one would ban 《Manamorphose》: is a 3/2 flying haste creature (or maybe 2) on turn 3 really going to win you the game? By turn 3 most decks have had their chance to properly deploy whatever they are trying to do, so I believe this one turn to make a big difference.
There are more decks playing 《Faithless Looting》, like Mardu Pyromancer, Mono Red Phoenix or Hollow One. Mardu and Mono Red Phoenix are not as popular though, because they do not have those great free spells with such a high consistency as Dredge and UR Phoenix. Hollow One has those free spells, but it does not feel great providing your opponent with those, while playing your deck, which might be one of the reasons, we do not see it being played lately.
A problem I could see coming up with the banning of 《Faithless Looting》 is that UR Phoenix would disappear maybe. I dislike banning cards and making one or more decks completely unplayable, while the real problem is still around: free spells. For example, Dredge would still be around as its hole engine is still intact, it just would need to adapt a bit.
This journey went longer than expected, but I really wanted to show how the free spells make the difference in Dredge and UR Phoenix and not 《Faithless Looting》. Those free spells make both decks probably one or two turns faster than they should be.
How to Beat Them?
In fact, people already started adapting to those decks as the data provided by Frank Karsten‘s article shows. If you look at the numbers, Whir Prison had the highest win-rate in day 2 and this is not some sort of variance. This deck was built to fight decks containing 《Faithless Looting》, by having many great tools at its disposal. 《Chalice of the Void》 on X=1 denies UR Phoenix to draw many cards, 《Ensnaring Bridge》 shuts down any attacks from Dredge and UR Phoenix, 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 says no to those free spells out of the graveyard and this list just continues for a very long time.
Let’s work some more on this great list of Frank’s and look at UW Control. This deck can potentially play 《Rest in Peace》 main-board, which means Dredge has to hard-cast all their spells as does Phoenix. Then there is also Tron as an example. How is Dredge beating a turn 3 《Wurmcoil Engine》, except for shooting his opponent down very fast? How is Phoenix winning against any of those big spells? Oh and let’s not forget that most Tron lists nowadays also have up to 4 《Relic of Progenitus》 in their main, just to deny all the free spells, while it cycles.
All those aforementioned decks try to attack your free spells in a way or to go over the top of those. I think if we give Modern players just some more time, they will adapt and find out how to properly fight those free spells, while also be able to win against other decks, as Modern not only consists of decks playing 《Faithless Looting》. In June, Modern Horizons will release and with that a chance to get more hate against those free spells. (oh yes, I am looking at you 《Containment Priest》!)
Conclusion and Modern Horizons
If Wizards of the Coast wants to ban any cards, I would prefer them to ban free spells like 《Manamorphose》 and 《Creeping Chill》 rather than 《Faithless Looting》. This lets people still play with their decks, they just would be about a turn or two slower, which means we do not just play solitaire to the best of our abilities.
Oh and how could I possibly let you go without giving you my top 5 cards I would like to see in Modern Horizons and those 5 I hope never get printed in there?
Cards I Would Like to See:
Cards I Would Hate to See:
Thanks for reading,
Immanuel Gerschenson @IGerschenson on Twitter