To bring back the discussion to some facts: According to mtggoldfish, most played cards are:
1) OuaT (34% of decks, 3.7 copies)
2) Lightning Bolt (31%, 3,7 copies)
3) Thoughtseize (28%, 2,9 copies)
4) Path to Exile (25%, 3,3 copies)
5) Fatal Push (25%, 3.0 copies)
6) Veil of Summer (31%, 2,3 copies)
7) Ashiok, Dream Render (36%, 1,9 copies)
8) Arcum's Astrolabe (17%, 3,9 copies)
9) Inquisitiion of Kozilek (21%, 3.0 copies)
10) Dismember (33%, 1,9 copies).
I know that everybody here knows these stats, but just a quick opinion piece on this:
PILLARS OF THE FORMAT:
Lightning Bolt (2), Thoughtseize (3), Path to Exile (4), Fatal Push (5), and Inquisition of Kozilek (8) are cards that are pillars of color identities. Each of them represents what the color is about in a powerful, efficient, yet balanced way. Each is efficient and has some conditions/ drawbacks attatched to deliver its effect. Path donates a land, Thoughtseize loses life, others are restricted by cmc etc.
Ashiok (8) is pushed into this list singlehandedly by the best archetype, Amulet Titan. If this specific archetype wasn't at the top, Ahsiok would be a playable sideboard choice, but nowhere near the most played PW in the format. It's presence here is a symptom.
Dismember (10) is here by virtue of colorless decks needing access to a card type they inherently shouldn't have access to (efficient removal) and Death's Shadow variants potentially profiting off its cost. it's cost in the colorless decks (1cmc+4 life) and DS decks (4 life is a lot and it's often hard to cast otherwise) is arguably enough to balance it's raw power.
OuaT (1) is by far the most played card in the format, it is a strict upgrade to an already much-discussed card (Stirrings), a 0cmc consistency tool in the starting 7, wildly outside what green should be capable of, wildly more powerful than it's blue counterparts. As a result, the format is warped around it.
Veil of Summer (6) would be a very good protection spell if it didn't cantrip. Compared to cards like Apostle's Blessing, Blossoming Defense and others in that strain, its application would be limited by color (to black, blue) but expanded by protection from most forms of interaction other than spot removal (targeted discard, targeted abilities, counterspells, protecting everything for a whole turn, etc). You'd securely be able to protect your combo from discard, shield a threat from removal or force an important play through countermagic and trade 1for1 in the process, which is everything you could ask for in a 1cmc instant. It would be an easily playable card.
But Veil cantrips. And that breaks it.
Arcum's Astrolabe (8) has arguably demolished MGT's most basic principle: color. 3-4-color decks running Blood Moon in side- or mainboard are not unusual these days. This goes in the face of the fact that cards like that were designed with their deck-building restrictions in mind. Remember Blue Moon running 7-9 Islands? Oh, how we laughed. Remember 5color piles being too greedy? Yea, sure.
I think those 3 cards being banned would increase the quality of modern in a huge way. I can genuinely see a healthy, diverse, fun format beyond those 3 cards.
I'm sure I've in part only reiterated things that have already been said in this thread ten-fold, but IMO tying it in with the most-played cards-stats gives the matter some much-needed clarity that this discussion sometimes lacks.
I'll reiterate an earlier point that really resonated with me: When Tarmogoyf and Bolt where the format's most-played cards, (almost) nobody even considered that they might be ban-worthy. They were better than their alternatives, but within a reasonable margin. The same cannot be said for OuaT, Veil or Astrolabe. Those cards are leaps and bounds better than any alternative.
There'll be a B&R announcement come Monday, right?