Recently, we discussed the potential for change during the October 16 MTG ban announcement. Back when the last ban announcement occurred on August 7, or should I say “unban” announcement, Wizards of the Coast made it clear that the plan was to leave a window for potentially problematic cards in various non-rotating formats to be addressed. This window would occur after each major set release, with the next ban announcement occurring October 16. Well, we have arrived at this date, and it appears that there will be no changes to any major formats.
Regarding this announcement, no changes again in Modern definitely feels like the biggest question mark from this announcement. While some players believed that no changes were needed to improve the format’s health, plenty of other players recognized that both the Rakdos Scam deck and The One Ring put a bit too much strain on the format. The unbanning of Preordain didn’t do much to change this, either.
Wizards of the Coast pointed out with the August 7 announcement that, while no changes to Modern were made at the time, The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters were under surveillance moving forward. Obviously, Wizards of the Coast determined that neither card was worthy of the banhammer, but how will this affect things moving forward? The biggest question mark in terms of this particular ban announcement, however, is not so much the lack of changes, but instead the lack of reasoning for why no changes was decided.
Analyzing No Changes
In order to help answer the first question, it’s important to look at each format, how it was addressed back in August, and how the formats have developed since. In the case of Standard, no changes being made was pretty expected. Not only is this from a metagame perspective, but Wizards of the Coast was keener on addressing non-rotating formats with the subsequent ban announcements. Instead, Standard would be addressed once a year to, in part, maintain consumer confidence.
Regarding Pioneer, the only decks that were really worth keeping an eye on were mono-green Devotion and Rakdos Midrange. With the release of cards like Sleight of Hand and Monstrous Rage in Wilds of Eldraine, the metagame has actually shifted a bit away from these decks while decks like Izzet Phoenix and Boros Heroic saw a rise in popularity. Given the level of diversity and the ebb and flow nature of the format, seeing no changes is not too surprising.
Where things get controversial is with the fact that no changes were made to Modern. Rakdos Scam has been putting up pretty absurd numbers with regards to metagame representation. To put things into perspective, Rakdos Scam made up over 19% of Modern decks at Pro Tour Lord of the Rings. Similarly, at Mythic Championship IV, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis decks made up just over 21% of the field. Over the past couple months, little has changed with regards to Scam’s representation within the Modern format. This has led to many players calling for, at minimum, bans to one of the Evoke Elementals that this deck continues to abuse.
Can Players Adapt Accordingly?
The awkward thing with no changes being made to the format is that there’s no guarantee things will change, at least in the near future. Rakdos Scam is extremely efficient and has access to “nut draws” involving Not Dead After All and either Grief or Fury that generate a ton of power and disruption as early as turn one. The problem is that the deck is fully capable of playing grindier games with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, so simply preparing for these nut draws isn’t always good enough.
Beyond just the fact that Rakdos is an extremely strong deck, as Ari Lax pointed out, the existence of The One Ring as an absurd mid-game play for decks like four-color control makes it difficult to play traditional midrange decks with lots of removal. Decks featuring lots of efficient interaction alongside basic built-in card advantage get buried by The One Ring. This forces decks to stay lower to the ground.
The problem is, the existence of Fury and Orcish Bowmasters also makes it difficult for Creature-based aggressive decks to exist. Aether Vial decks have been relatively nonexistent in this metagame, and these are the types of decks that could help keep combo decks as well as decks featuring The One Ring in check, Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much this can possibly change at this point.
The metagame does have some diversity between Cascade combo, Golgari Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo, four-color, Izzet Murktide, Rakdos Scam, and more, which is likely why no changes were made. That being said, the overall health of the format is definitely controversial, especially with regards to the miserable play patterns associated with turn one Griefs and Furies.
No Discussion at All?
Perhaps the biggest gripe players seem to have with this announcement isn’t with the changes themselves, however. At least in the instance of the August 7 announcement, Wizards of the Coast thoroughly outlined why the specific unbans were made, as well as why no changes were made to Modern and Pioneer. Additionally, it was made clear what cards and decks were continuing to be looked at closely over the coming weeks.
This announcement featured almost nothing in the way of explanation for the decisions made. The only blurb about the decision stated that consistency was key throughout Constructed formats. No mention of Rakdos Scam or The One Ring whatsoever feels disingenuous, especially given the supposed monitoring since August 7.
Woven into the ban announcement was a news announcement regarding upcoming Play boosters. This slightly alters how drafting works, as well as cards from The List that regularly showed up in Set boosters. This is a massive change coming to Magic: the Gathering, but it doesn’t lighten the absence of reasoning as to why no changes are being made in light of players’ questions.
With no bans occurring August 7 and October 16, it seems unlikely for things to be different in the near future, barring any major metagame shifts. It’s definitely worth seeing how the ban announcement will be handled after the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. I am hopeful for Modern to adapt accordingly and for more transparency moving forward.