As of the writing of this, Hogaak Vine has between a 56 and 60 percent win rate across the entire Modern field. And this is in a hostile meta that is built to stop pretty much just that deck. Earlier last month, I wrote about how is a seriously problematic card. Seeing get banned made me question Wizards of the Coast’s desire to have a healthy Modern format.
is no saint, for sure. It was used in almost entirely degenerate decks. However, I never really had a hate for it. I thought that it made at least some interesting play patterns, as opposed to most unfair graveyard strats that are entirely gold fished. I mean I’m not going to defend the card, but I felt the ban was unjustified.Meanwhile, the travesty that is Hogaak has been able to run amok. I want to just go through some cards that people know are busted, so that we can compare and see if Hogaak is worthy of a decisive ban.
Some Comparisons to Draw
If you didn’t know, is Banned in Modern. It was deemed too much of a combo enabler for decks like Dredge or other graveyard strategies. Getting something out of the graveyard that’s too big for too little (sacrificing a few dumb creatures) was deemed inappropriate for Modern. Hogaak can return itself, for much cheaper, since you don’t even have to sacrifice your creatures, just tap them. Sure you need to Delve away some crap but... well we’ll get to why that’s not a problem.
Delve is the most busted keyword of all time. I said it. More than dredge. More than Storm. More than Phyrexian mana. There are way more problems with Delve than the other cards mentioned because Wizards didn’t (and apparently still don’t) understand how easy it is. Phyrexian mana is obviously a crazy mechanic. But the cards printed with Phyrexian Mana, while amazing, are only really downgraded mana cost. So for example, costs 0 mana, rather than 1. That’s a crazy upside for sure, but in slower formats (i.e. not Vintage and Legacy), it is a much bigger gap to have a card that probably should be somewhere between 4 and 6 mana be zero. With Dredge, Wizards didn’t understand the combo utility of the keyword. That made it crazy. With Storm, Wizards didn’t realize how easy chaining spells was. But with Delve cards, they’re busted because of the nature of magic. The card in pretty much any deck is good.
Time and are the pinnacles of this mistake of not understanding how low an impediment Delve is. So when Modern Horizons was released and we got Hogaak, you’d think that Wizards would have learned the appropriate barriers to keep Delve cards in check. Okay, so we can’t use mana to pay for it. That’s at least an interesting downside. For pre ban BridgeVine it wasn’t really, since it just spat out creatures like it was nothing. And for the barrier of not being able to use mana we get... Convoke which is a way to cheat on mana, Delve which is probably the best way ever to cheat on mana, and we get the flexibility of being able to cast it from our graveyard. That last point is ridiculous. We know that Delve creatures like can be insane. There was a time when some wanted it banned in Legacy, and when Grixis Death's Shadow was the top dog of Modern people rightfully feared the fish. So for a bit more Delve, we're getting a bigger body with Trample. I don't care what the downside is, Wizards should never print cards with Delve that also have upside flexibility. The reason being that Delve on its own is insanely good, and Wizards doesn't seem to know how to balance it. And when they try to put in a roadblock, it either is too restrictive and the card is a dud anyway, or isn't restrictive enough and the card is suddenly insane. That's the problem with cards like Hogaak. They're either terrible or broken.
This card was a mistake. I'm happy that Wizards is willing to try out new designs for cards that are fun an interesting, but months of that fun and interesting-ness get stale. And if they're not willing to go and remove mistakes that they've made (and let's be real, Hogaak was a huge mistake), then they shouldn't be taking those risks. We'll see at the end of the month if they've learned to rectify their mistake.