On March 7th, Wizards surprisingly announced Lurrus of the Dream-Den banning in Modern and Pioneer out of the blue. Since that moment, thousands of Magic players and content creators have discussed the reasons and implications of this action across the Internet.
As for Invasion Games, we choose to wait until the dust is settled to look at the present moment, two weeks after the Nightmare Cat is already gone to summarize the actual impact in both formats. Let’s get to work:
Dream Big or Go Home
Since the moment Companions were revealed in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, the Magic community were very reluctant towards the new mechanic. It only took over a month after the set was released until Wizards had to errata the whole new rule, adding the three generic mana pay to put the card in hand to compensate for the inherent design mistake being made.
Needless to say, this episode happened during the global pandemic's early beginning, hence competitive play was completely shutted off (not much than present time, at least for Wizards) and the measures taken weren’t so impactful as would have been under normal circumstances.
Even before the errata, Lurrus and Zirda, the Dawnbringer were already preventively banned in Legacy so we could establish a pattern from that moment moving forward: Lurrus was by far the most powerful among the ten companions.
Unlike its other folks, the two mana value restriction is by far the most achievable for aggressive and midrange strategies in Pioneer and even more easily in Modern. That combined with cheap cards like Mishra’s Bauble or Engineered Explosives, provided great recurring synergies to a point that players were forced to play Lurrus in specific strategies, otherwise their version was strictly worse.
Indeed, in the words of Reid Duke and I quote: “A crucial point is that your companion is an option, not an obligation. If you have your nut draw, or if the game is otherwise fast and explosive, you need never reach for it. But when you draw is awkward or the game is dragging on, having that extra card to refill your gas tank can be the difference between losing and winning”.
So even if there were games when Lurrus wasn’t needed at all, having the Cat sitting there as an extra resource for tough matchups made it the dream scenario for grind situations.
On top of that, relevant Magic personalities like Saffron Olive or Aspringspike have been asking for the Lurrus banning in the past few months, which move people’s opinion towards the same demand.
Personally, I wouldn’t have banned Lurrus since overall, the players community was already adapted to play against it while both Pioneer and Modern metagames were diverse enough. If Wizards would have waited enough until they printed another busted mechanic, the percentage of Lurrus decks would have decreased as other new strategies emerged.
This sensation is very well depicted in Michael Rapp’s article from last week: “While Lurrus rewards playing low-to-the-ground, efficient Magic, banning the card won’t suddenly change which cards are the best. Cheap and free spells reign in Modern, and the same eventually becomes true in any non-rotating format. Modern may have become too efficient for cards that players enjoy, but I don’t believe banning Lurrus will fix that”.
That’s also my first conclusion from the banning, it’s not going to drastically change Modern, since the format is still full of busted cards that will continue to see play whether or Lurrus is in the format.
To wrap up this section, There is yet another possibility Wizards didn’t mention in their article, they could have banned Lurrus companion rule, so it will still be legal in Pioneer and Modern and a fine choice in some strategies, but I guessed it’s hard to double errata a card for tabletop Magic while new players might get confused but I sincerely think it would have been the best outcome.
Expectation Vs. Reality
Looking at the aftermath of this decision, let’s look at the bright side first, banning Lurrus doesn’t invalidate any strategy unlike some other recent examples (Field of the Dead, Mox Opal, Faithless Looting), if anything denies them an extra resource. So much has been written and prophesied about the future of Lurrus shells in Modern, but what happened in reality? Let’s find out:
Tier One Decks:
Holds the Ground. It shifts black to blue as the splash color for Spell Pierce and Reality Chip, while having access to cards like Meddling Mage, Lavinia, Azorius Renegade and Teferi, Time Raveler in the sideboard.
Now that Lurrus restriction is gone, Nettlecyst goes into the maindeck, while other Equipments like Swords from different flavors (Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of War and Peace) plus Kaldra Compleat are viable choices against grondy matchups.
Hammer Time by RNGspecialist, Modern Super Qualifier, 3rd Place, 9-1, 13/03/2022
|4 Esper Sentinel||1 Portable Hole||2 Blacksmith's Skill|
|1 Gingerbrute||1 Shadowspear||1 Kaldra Compleat|
|4 Memnite||3 Springleaf Drum||2 March of Otherworldly Light|
|2 Ornithopter||4 Sigarda's Aid||2 Meddling Mage|
|4 Puresteel Paladin||1 Hallowed Fountain||2 Path to Exile|
|1 The Reality Chip||3 Inkmoth Nexus||1 Relic of Progenitus|
|1 Steelshaper's Gift||2 Marsh Flats||1 Sword of War and Peace|
|4 Colossus Hammer||4 Plains||3 Teferi, Time Raveler|
Grixis Death’s Shadow
Renew or Die. The deck is still playable, it can divert into two variants, adding Street Wraith to speed up Shadows or go heavier on blue with Murktide Regent and Consider to fill up the graveyard like the Modern Super Qualifier winner.
Three mana value cards we haven’t seen in a while like Liliana of the Veil and Seasoned Pyromancer are now in the sideboard, while the comeback from an old friend of the strategy: Stubborn Denial, whereas Gurmag Angler seems to be not good enough for 2022.
|Grixis Death’s Shadow by azax, Modern Super Qualifier, 1st Place, 8-2, 13/03/2022|
Couldn't Care Less. Probably the deck less affected by the banning, numerous Burn players didn’t consider Lurrus when it was legal, so the deck’s plan remains intact. Ensnaring Bridge is the only three mana value spell joining the sideboard ranks against bigger creatures.
Goes Back to Boomer Jund. Probably the most affected shell among the tier decks; it really suffers not having Lurrus. Forget about Urza’s Saga and say
hello again to Liliana, Pyromancer and Grist, the Hunger Tide, another underplayed card under Lurrus reign that now has the chance to shine. No representative lists in the Challenge events might indicate this is not the right time to support the strategy.
Personally, I think players will leave the Saga shell and focus to tune in the classic configuration, trying to fit in new additions like Hidetsugu Consumes All or Elemental Incarnations like Fury or Endurance.
|Jund by Jeppebc, Modern League 2022-03-22, 5-0, 22/03/2022.|
|4 Grist, the Hunger Tide||1 Nihil Spellbomb||3 Boseiju, Who Endures|
|4 Wrenn and Six||1 Shadowspear||1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger|
|2 Fury||3 Blackcleave Cliffs||2 Terminate|
|1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger||2 Blood Crypt||1 Thoughtseize|
|4 Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer||4 Bloodstained Mire||1 Alpine Moon|
|3 Seasoned Pyromancer||1 Boseiju, Who Endures||1 Blast Zone|
|4 Tarmogoyf||1 Forest||2 Endurance|
|3 Thoughtseize||1 Mountain||1 Pithing Needle|
|3 Inquisition of Kozilek||1 Overgrown Tomb||1 Soul-Guide Lantern|
|3 Fatal Push||1 Stomping Ground||2 Veil of Summer|
|3 Lightning Bolt||1 Swamp|
|1 Terminate||4 Urza's Saga|
|4 Verdant Catacombs|
Consumed by the Loss. Without the Cat it’s simply not strong enough against the current field. Cutting down Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Unholy Heat for Pyromancer and Liliana seems the only way to survive. The utility lands alongside the newly printed Hidetsugu Consumes All could revitalize this deck, otherwise it will suffer the fate as Jund.
|Rakdos Midrange by Asmodean1990, Modern Challenge, 15th Place, 6-2, 12/03/2022.|
|3 Liliana of the Veil||2 Terminate||1 Kolaghan's Command|
|1 Bonecrusher Giant||3 Blackcleave Cliffs||1 Terminate|
|3 Dauthi Voidwalker||4 Bloodstained Mire||1 Thoughtseize|
|3 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger||2 Den of the Bugbear||2 Alpine Moon|
|4 Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer||2 Graven Cairns||2 Ashiok, Dream Render|
|3 Seasoned Pyromancer||2 Marsh Flats||1 Chalice of the Void|
|3 Tourach, Dread Cantor||1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep||1 Collective Brutality|
|4 Inquisition of Kozilek||1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse||1 Fury|
|3 Thoughtseize||1 Snow-Covered Mountain||2 Hidetsugu Consumes All|
|2 Fatal Push||2 Snow-Covered Swamp||1 Kozilek's Return|
|2 Kolaghan's Command||1 Takenuma, Abandoned Mire||1 Nihil Spellbomb|
|4 Lightning Bolt||1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth||1 Unearth|
Tier Two Decks:
Hardened Scales, Mill and Boros Prowess
Despite being robust archetypes in the vast Modern metagame, these are the real losers from the Cat disappearance. Sure, they will continue to exist, but remain as Tier 2 choices that show from time to time. Fun fact, Selesnya Scales ended up first and second place from the Modern Challenge the day before Lurrus became banned.
Regarding Mill, now it can go back to Leyline of the Void in the sideboard and last but not least Boros Prowess will see even less play than before.
Bogles, Jeskai Stoneblade, Dimir Control:
Wrapping up with the remaining strategies supported by Lurrus, there's not much to say aside it’s hard to see them since they are far away from the current Modern power level, but the could come up alongside the next Modern Horizons set, powering up its game plan.
Seizing the Cat-astrophe
After only two big Online events, we can crunch some numbers to see how the metagame is changing after the Lurrus banning, which will give us an actual idea where the format is heading towards.
|Modern Challenge, 2022-03-12||Modern Super Qualifier, 2022-03-13:|
|Top 8:||Top 8:|
1st Crashing Footfalls
|1st Grixis Death’s Shadow|
|2nd Elementals||2nd 4C Blink|
|3rd Grixis Death’s Shadow||3rd Hammer Time|
|4th Murktide Regent||4th Amulet Titan|
|5th 4C Blink||5th Murktide Regent|
|6th Crashing Footfalls||6th Mono Green Tron|
|7th 4C Omnath||7th Storm|
|8th Yawgmoth||8th Burn|
1. Murktide Regent
The new king of the hill, it was already one of the best contenders toe to toe with Lurrus shells and now that the Nightmare is over, becomes the de facto best deck in Modern. Although it doesn’t get much from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty aside from a singleton Otawara, Soaring City in the maindeck, the combination of early threats plus
Modern is a vast place and you can still find some choices; starting with Amulet Titan, is a strong option as long as you don’t run into a lot of maindeck Boseijus wrecking your Karoo lands. Personally, I have played the deck recently and felt too much indirect hate even if I was packing my own Boseiju to blow up Blood Moon and such. Still, is a decent choice, able to win games out of nowhere.
Moving on, Golgari Yawgmoth is another winner from the Lurrus banning aftermath. The good thing about creature-based combo strategies is they can win games just by going wide and your opponent always has to play around putting your key pieces together. Indeed, having eight tutor effects to look for specific creatures favors the deck in a wide metagame, where you get to find your silver bullets against specific matchups:
|Yawgmoth by AwesomPossum, Modern Challenge, 8th Place, 6-2, 12/03/2022|
|2 Grist, the Hunger Tide||3 Eldritch Evolution||1 Scavenging Ooze|
|2 Endurance||4 Chord of Calling||1 Grist, the Hunger Tide|
|4 Gilded Goose||2 Blooming Marsh||1 Crime // Punishment|
|1 Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons||2 Boseiju, Who Endures||2 Force of Vigor|
|4 Ignoble Hierarch||1 Dryad Arbor||2 Necromentia|
|1 Prosperous Innkeeper||2 Forest||1 Obstinate Baloth|
|1 Scavenging Ooze||2 Misty Rainforest||1 Outland Liberator|
|4 Strangleroot Geist||2 Nurturing Peatland||4 Thoughtseize|
|4 Wall of Roots||2 Overgrown Tomb|
|4 Yawgmoth, Thran Physician||1 Swamp|
|4 Young Wolf||2 Twilight Mire|
|1 Zulaport Cutthroat||1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth|
|4 Verdant Catacombs|
Azorius Control will be my last mention for the underdog trying to regain some metagame percentage. Although it hasn’t been present in the aforementioned tournaments, it’s a matter of time until the deck adapts to the metagame, even going back to Snapcaster Mage now that March of Otherworldly Light has found its spot inside the strategy.
Another interesting additions from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty are Otawara and Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire in the land count and last but not least The Wandering Emperor, which is gaining more adepts since its flash ability makes her a surprising removal effect to protect the Teferi duo, plus creating some Samurai tokens for extra value.
|Azorius Control by Zach Allen, NRG Series $5,000 Trial - Chicagoland (Modern), 22nd Place, 6-2|
|4 Solitude||1 Breeding Pool||2 Force of Negation|
|2 Memory Deluge||1 Plains||1 Dovin's Veto|
|2 Supreme Verdict||1 Hall of Storm Giants||3 Dress Down|
|4 Archmage's Charm||1 Otawara, Soaring City||2 Mystical Dispute|
|4 Teferi, Time Raveler||2 Castle Vantress||2 Aether Gust|
|3 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria||1 Celestial Colonnade||1 Subtlety|
|3 Chalice of the Void||1 The Wandering Emperor||1 Shark Typhoon|
|4 March of Otherworldly Light||2 Hallowed Fountain||
|4 Prismatic Ending||4 Island|
|4 Counterspell||3 Mystic Gate|
|4 Flooded Strand|
|4 Scalding Tarn|
|1 Raugrin Triome|
Meanwhile in Pioneer
Unlike Modern, which had 30% of the Lurrus decks 5-0’d in Magic Online events, Pioneer stayed at a comfortable rate of 20% in leagues that started with four wins, according to Wizards data. That being said, it felt more like a preventive ban so they don’t need to address the same problem in a short period of time.
Looking at the latest results before the banning, there were plenty of strategies which didn’t care about the Nightmare Cat, in fact it’s hard to go so low to the ground in a format dominated by permanents with mana value four or more (Narset, Parter of Veils, Skyclave Apparition, Yasharn, Implacable Earth among many others).
Actually, the current top five decks could easily play around Lurrus: Azorius Control, Izzet Phoenix, Hidden Strings Combo, Naya Winota and Niv to Light. So, who are the real losers? Well, starting with Burn or White Red Aggro, it was one of the few strategies that could play low to the ground while having decent results and now will be significantly worse.
|Boros Aggro by billster47, Pioneer Challenge, 8th Place, 6-2, 06/03/2022.|
|3 Dreadhorde Arcanist||4 Reckless Rage||2 Adanto Vanguard|
|4 Favored Hoplite||1 Titan's Strength||1 Apostle of Purifying Light|
|4 Monastery Swiftspear||4 Battlefield Forge||2 Light of Hope|
|4 Soul-Scar Mage||2 Den of the Bugbear||2 Deafening Clarion|
|3 Tenth District Legionnaire||4 Inspiring Vantage||1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den|
|4 Ancestral Anger||4 Needleverge Pathway||3 Redcap Melee|
|3 Gird for Battle||1 Plains||2 Rending Volley|
|3 Boros Charm||4 Sacred Foundry||2 Rending Volley|
|4 Defiant Strike|
|4 Gods Willing|
The second offender was Rakdos Sacrifice, an interesting choice directly imported from the actual Standard version, showcasing no creatures aside from a couple of Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger that now will shift into a higher curve, planeswalker based shell:
|BR Sacrifice by Logarythme, Pioneer Challenge, 9th Place, 5-1, 06/03/2022.|
|1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger||4 Terrarion||2 Go Blank|
|2 Dreadbore||2 The Meathook Massacre||2 Battle at the Bridge|
|1 Go Blank||4 Blightstep Pathway||2 By Force|
|4 Thoughtseize||4 Blood Crypt||2 Feed the Swarm|
|4 Deadly Dispute||1 Castle Locthwain||3 Legion's End|
|4 Fatal Push||2 Den of the Bugbear||1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den|
|2 Kolaghan's Command||4 Haunted Ridge||3 Necromentia|
|2 Voltage Surge||2 Hive of the Eye Tyrant||2 Rending Volley|
|4 Experimental Synthesizer||1 Mountain||2 Roiling Vortex|
|2 Implement of Combustion||Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance|
|1 Takenuma, Abandoned Mire|
Which Companion Will Be Next?
Discuss with Us!
Wrapping up the Lurrus banning, there's a question in the air, was it all about the feline sins or rather the problem lies underneath the Companion mechanic?
While Lurrus's presence in Modern and Pioneer are large enough for us to act today, the rest of the Companions are seeing a play rate that is in line with a diverse and healthy metagame. Like other components of their environments, we'll continue to monitor them for undesirable and repetitive gameplay and make individual changes as necessary.
Wizards clearly states that if diversity becomes compromised again, they will act against future offenders in any format. Personally as I mentioned earlier, Lurrus could have gotten an errata and still be a playable card in both formats, as a maindeck choice without being oppressive.
Now that is gone, I think it is a matter of time until Yorion decks start being over represented in Modern, or maybe it’s time for Jegantha to shine, since it is one of the easiest requirements among the remaining companions. In any case, from Invasion games, we want to know what your opinion is about which Companion will be banned next. This humble writer of yours is voting for the Bird Serpent to leave competitive Magic next, maybe not in the present future, but at some point in time, it will fly away…
Which Companion will be banned next?Yorion, Sky Nomad
Jegantha, the Wellspring
Kaheera, the Orphanguard
Obosh, the Preypiercer
None, Companion is a fine mechanic aside from Lurrus
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Hasta la vista, baby.
Rodrigo Martín a.k.a. Rone.