The time has finally come! Players have been waiting with bated breath for Magic’s next huge MTG ban announcement! It was confirmed on Tuesday via WeeklyMTG that changes were coming to the Pioneer and Modern formats. Considering how poorly the previous ban announcement was received, this was a rather exciting change.
Perhaps even more shocking is an additional ban out of the Pauper format.
Many of the leading statements made during the Weekly MTG event ended up nailing the actual ban announcement, so players shouldn’t be too surprised with what is being seen here.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Geological Appraiser Ban (Pioneer, Explorer)
Geological Appraiser’s ban should have been a pretty obvious one for anyone who was tuned into the ban discussion that occurred the previous week. One card combos that end the game on turn three create rather toxic and polarizing play patterns. The deck also had some startling success at Regional Championship events that occurred the previous weekend. As such, Geological Appraiser has been banned in Pioneer and Explorer.
If you’re interested in how the Geological Appraiser combo works, you can read about it here.
Interestingly, Geological Appraiser was not the only Discover combo deck that popped up as a result of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. A slower, but more flexible Discover combo build featuring Quintorius Kand also broke out over the past few weeks, but ended up falling short of the faster Geological Appraiser build. This deck, as of this Pioneer ban, is still very legal for players who want to try and make Discover work.
That said, Wizards of the Coast is aware of the Quintorius Kand combo deck, and will continue to monitor the deck’s performance after this ban. It is, after all, a one-card combo that can win the game as early as turn four:
“We’ll keep an eye on Quintorius decks in Pioneer. It can win as early as turn four after resolving solely its namesake card. But that extra turn allows opponents to set up their own game plan and prepare for the pivotal turn more successfully.”
Karn, the Great Creator Ban (Pioneer, Explorer)
Interestingly, both cards getting banned in Pioneer today did not have great results in terms of win percentage. These decks, instead, are being banned due to unfun play patterns. Despite Geological Appraiser combo knocking it out of the park at recent Regional Championship events, it had only two placings in the top 32 of the past weekend’s Pioneer challenges.
Mono Green has seen weaker levels of performance for quite some time. Despite this, The deck’s play patterns were still largely complained about.
Karn, the Great Creator was a lynchpin in the Mono Green Devotion strategy. Able to fetch the perfect sideboard card for many situations, and otherwise able to create infinite combos alongside Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, this card was a big reason why the Mono Green Devotion strategy remained dominant for quite some time.
While Mono Green Devotion hasn’t been doing too hot lately, Wizards of the Coast acknowledges that Karn, the Great Creator in the deck creates a very polarizing strategy that pushes a lot of potential archetypes out of the format (something we have stated for quite some time). For the sake of diversity, Karn the Great Creator has been banned in Pioneer and Explorer.
“While it has recently been on the decline in terms of metagame share, it is clear that the deck has had a warping effect on the metagame for too long, and for these reasons Karn, the Great Creator is banned.”Wizards of the Coast
Smuggler’s Copter Unban (Pioneer)
Players who speculated that the Fortnite Battle Bus would soon become a competitive staple are experiencing some serious windfall today. As we expected somewhat, Smuggler’s Copter has been unbanned in Pioneer.
Sadly, unlike the other Pioneer changes, this unban will not be reflected in Explorer because MTG Arena does not have Smuggler’s Copter on it.
To repeat our words on the previous topic from a past article, while Smuggler’s Copter undeniably seems like a boon for aggressive and midrange decks alike, the format has grown quite a bit and become a lot faster. Lotus Field Combo, Boros Convoke, Boros Heroic and Rona Combo strategies are all capable of ending the game as early as turn three, which gives the Copter a lot less time to make a big impact.
Otherwise, a ton of answers currently exist in the Pioneer format that can deal with the Copter, like Fiery Impulse, Fatal Push, Abrade, Get Lost and more.
All in all, Smuggler’s Copter will definitely have an impact on the Pioneer format. It’s a homogenizing colorless card good across many different aggressive strategies. Like Wizards of the Coast’s statement regarding the vehicle, we agree that the format should be in a place where it can play along with Smuggler’s Copter without the Copter becoming an issue. Rakdos Midrange fans may have a new toy to play with.
“We banned Smuggler’s Copter back in December 2019. Since then, many new sets have entered the format, and as such the format has naturally grown in power over time. While unbanning is not something we do very often, we believe the format can absorb it successfully. Reintroducing it will create new deck-building puzzles (or revive old ones) and provide additional diversity. Smuggler’s Copter is unbanned.”Wizards of the Coast
Fury Ban (Modern)
Modern has been dominated by Rakdos Scam for some time now. After Rakdos Scam’s massive metagame percentage back at Pro Tour Barcelona, a lot of players expected a ban to happen sooner rather than later. Back when Wizards of the Coast announced that there would be no changes to the banlist back in October, the general sentiment was that Rakdos Scam was being monitored.
According to the ban discussion on Tuesday by Andrew Brown and Dan Musser, two members of the Play Design Team at Wizards of the Coast, the hope was that players would find ways to adapt. Unfortunately, they mentioned that more and more people simply started playing the deck instead. In this sense, it was fairly obvious that something from the deck would get banned. Given the fact that they also talked about the lack of one-drop Creatures in the format, it made the most sense to us that Fury would ultimately get the axe over Grief.
Fury getting banned nerfs Rakdos Scam pretty hard, but it also opens the door for decks with lots of small Creatures to possibly see an increase in play over time. Aether Vial decks like Humans and Merfolk have been severely minimalized in Fury’s presence. Beyond Rakdos Scam, Fury was an excellent tool for multi-color Omnath, Locus of Creation and Up the Beanstalk decks. The ability to Evoke it and bring it back with Not Dead After All proved to be too much for the format as a whole, meaning Fury is banned in the Modern format.
Up the Beanstalk Ban (Modern)
In perhaps a more surprising move, Up the Beanstalk is also getting banned in Modern. Up the Beanstalk is an incredible value engine in Modern. Even with Fury gone, both Solitude and Leyline Binding are cheap, easy ways to trigger Up the Beanstalk.
In reality, Up the Beanstalk isn’t exactly an absurd card at first glance. When compared to The One Ring, another insane source of card advantage that will remain legal in the format, it may seem crazy that Up the Beanstalk is the preferred source of card advantage for many players.
This generally has less to do with the overall power of Up the Beanstalk and more to do with its supporting cast. At only two mana, Up the Beanstalk is much more efficient than The One Ring. Because of spells with high mana value that can still be played for cheap, like Solitude and Leyline Binding, Up the Beanstalk is incredibly reliable. As a non-legendary Enchantment, things start to get out of hand when you have multiple copies on play. Thanks to three-mana Cascade cards like Shardless Agent, actually getting Up the Beanstalk into play is surprisingly easy with this level of redundancy.
With both Fury and Up the Beanstalk gone, there is plenty of room for shifts in the Modern metagame. Decks like Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo that relied on Creatures likely get even better. With Up the Beanstalk out of the picture, other Cascade variants utilizing Crashing Footfalls or Living End almost certainly become more prevalent. The One Ring may be the prominent source of card advantage once again for slower decks. It’ll be interesting to see how these changes play out, but for fans of decks with lots of small Creatures, you may have your opportunity once more.
Monastery Swiftspear Ban (Pauper)
Anyone who has been keeping an eye on the Pauper format knows that fast mono-red burn decks have become a big problem. This deck was absurdly dominant in the current metagame, leading many to state that Mono Red needs to be addressed. We even suggested this exact hit in our recent article discussing the state of the Pauper metagame.
Because Pauper has its own panel that takes care of bans and unbans, the reasoning given for Monastery Swiftspear’s ban was much more detailed. As such, it warrants its own article. Expect that here later today.
For now, the recent Pioneer, Modern and Pauper bans look fantastic, but we do wonder if more will be needed in the near future. Pioneer seems pretty healthy overall, but none of the best performing decks saw hits today. The Modern changes are a step in the right direction, but we wonder if more changes will be needed in the future.
For now, these MTG formats are refreshed for those interested in diving into them. You can find the official Wizards of the Coast ban announcement here.
Read More: The MTG Best Format Choices – December 2023