Throughout the past few weeks, MTG players have had a lot to look forward to. If anything, with reveals at MagicCon Barcelona, San Diego Comic-Con, and Gen Con, players have been spoilt! Despite all these tantalizing reveals, one recent announcement has reigned supreme: the latest MTG ban update.
Finally being delivered to players yesterday, the speculation and hype for this now yearly ban was utterly immense. So much so that the announcement post was swiftly hugged to death by the flood of traffic. Despite all this attention, however, once players actually saw the announcement, many were left feeling deeply disappointed.
In case you missed it yesterday, Wizards didn’t ban anything in the hugely-anticipated announcement. Instead, only a pair of cards were unbanned. These cards were Preordain in Modern and Mind’s Desire in Legacy. That’s it… Or at least it is until the next potential MTG ban wave on the 16th of October.
Explaining their decision behind unbanning these cards, Wizards identified how the metagames of these formats have changed dramatically. Since these cards were banned literally decades ago, this isn’t a surprise, especially following the release of Modern Horizons sets. Thanks to these sets increasing the intractability of the formats and changing design philosophies, it made little sense that these cards were still banned.
On the surface, from that very brief explanation, it may seem like the recent unbannings are a good thing for Magic overall. While this is true, for some MTG players, this didn’t go nearly far enough. Both in terms of bannings and unabnnings, Wizards had a lot of other options, some of which they even teased players about.
Arguably the strangest choice from the recent ban announcement was the lack of action against The One Ring. Similarly to Orcish Bowmasters this card has seen an immense amount of play recently across all formats. Warping a variety of decks and the competitive landscape, it’s obvious why players and us alike suspected something would be done.
Bizarrely, Wizards only teased players about the possibility of banning these powerhouse cards. Throughout three paragraphs, Wizards discussed the influence and impact of these cards at length. The most they did about them, however, was acknowledge “these cards are on our radar.” Obviously, this could mean bans may happen in the future, however, for the time being, players aren’t happy.
“Hey guys, Wizards of the Coast here. Here’s 3 paragraphs about how Bowmasters and the One Ring are warping the format and showing up in almost every deck. Anyway, Preordain is unbanned.”u/Frost134
“To the shock of nobody, the two most expensive cards in the newest set did not get banned”u/Gilgamesh026
“We were at first worried that 41% of decks at the PT were playing the Ring. But only 50% of the top 8 decks were playing 4 copies each, so it’s not actually a problem.” – WOTC, somehow”u/Zandnork95
Not Far Enough
While many MTG players wanted to see The One Ring or Orcish Bowmasters banned, ultimately, it isn’t too surprising they haven’t been. After all, the set is still pulling in record sales numbers, and is even getting a second release! If two of the set’s best cards from this upcoming release aren’t even playable in one of MTG’s biggest formats, that’s obviously not the best look.
Even if we consider these cards untouchable, however, MTG players still had plenty to complain about, especially within Modern. Frequently requested prior to the announcement, many players had been hoping to see Splinter Twin unbanned. While previously part of a devastating infinite combo with cards like Pestermite the meta has since moved on. It has been seven years, after all.
Thanks to the effectively forced rotation of Modern, many MTG players now expect Splinter Twin decks to be niche and definitely beatable. Subsequently, it seemed like a safe unbanning. Unfortunately, however, players would only be teased with this prospect. During the recent announcement post, Wizards highlighted Splinter Twin as a former powerhouse combo deck, while also explicitly stating how “On average, Modern is a lot more interactive now.”
Similar to the comments about The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters, this seems to be the perfect rationale to unban Splinter Twin. Obviously, however, that didn’t happen, leading to baffled complaints from many players.
“Mention of Splinter Twin and then unbanning another card instead is a cruel, cruel joke. Sorry Twin players.”u/woutva
“Are we really worried about Splinter Twin in a world where decks like Creativity and Breach can’t hang? Would the return of Blazing Shoal even resurrect Infect as an archetype in a post-Fury world? And with the One Ring as an absurd draw engine, shouldn’t I be allowed to equip Skullclamp as many times as I like?”u/djsoren19
Thankfully, while the lack of action is rather disappointing to many players, there is hope for the future. Highlighted by u/blakfishy, it seems Wizards is interested in reducing the size of Modern’s ban list. Thanks to this, it may not be long before we see even more cards being unbanned in the future. As we mentioned before, the earliest this could happen is on the 16th of October, later this year.
No Love for Pioneer
While Modern and Legacy at least saw some action, Pioneer got nothing at all. In fact, according to Wizards, the format is in a healthy place with “a wide spread of play styles and archetype representation from tournament to tournament.” Given the trends of this article, you may expect what’s coming next. Disagreeing with Wizards’ claims, many MTG players were deeply disappointed by the lack of action.
Fuelling the disappointment is the recent state of the Pioneer metagame. As we pointed out in our recent predictions article, Pioneer is currently dominated by Nykthos Ramp decks. So much so, that it’s not unheard of to see only that deck topping tournaments and challenges. Unsurprisingly because of this, many players want something to be done.
“The unbans are a welcome surprise but what do us Pioneer folk have to do to get Karn thrown out the window already?”u/HolographicHeart
“Insufficient for Modern, interesting for Legacy, and secretly alarming for Pioneer–most Pioneer players I know were already wary on the format thanks to the past few months of heavy meta consolidation, and it doesn’t look to be improving any time soon.”u/HalfMoone
“WotC to Pioneer: ‘Get f*cked’. How is anyone supposed to play this format anymore? It’s pathetic the amount of negligence here.”u/Xyldarran
Unfortunately, while Pioneer players have been wanting a ban or two, this may not be enough to fix the metagame. As suggested by Gabriel ‘yellowhat’ Nassif on Twitter, “Pioneer might just be inherently a not very exciting format no matter what.” Without a plethora of bans to really shake things up, Pioneer may just be destined to be somewhat stale.
As a silver lining, there is a non-insignificant chance that Pioneer bans aren’t needed. Sure, they could be useful right now, however, a new set is just a month away from release. Since Pioneer is more malleable than formats like Modern and Legacy, there’s the potential for a shake-up. Whether or not this happens, however, remains to be seen. In the worst-case scenario, Wizards could at least fix things in October with the next optional ban wave.
More Bans Soon… Maybe
While we’ve mentioned it in passing a few times already, Wizards has already announced the next round of bans. Scheduled to take place on the 16th of October, this upcoming ban wave could give players what they want. That is the hope, at least. Unfortunately, it seems Wizards isn’t going to be banning and unbanning cards recklessly.
Within the recent article, Wizards explicitly stated they plan to use these post-set release ban windows “sparingly.” Additionally, these windows “will be more amenable to making changes to non-rotating formats over Standard.” While this may be disappointing news for Standard players, the new sets that release should still provide an enjoyable shake-up.
Ultimately, since it’s only two months until the next ban window, change is already on the horizon. Whether or not anything will change, however, remains to be seen. For better or worse, we’re just going to have to wait and see what the future brings.