At long last, Murders at Karlov Manor is launching on MTG Arena and Magic Online today. Unleashing a plethora of new soon-to-be staples, Brawl gems, and even a few Pioneer treats, this set has it all. Thanks to Play Boosters, it seems MTG Arena’s expansion is being kicked into high gear!
Unfortunately, while Play Boosters have been a fantastic innovation on MTG Arena, they do come with a catch or two. For starters, since The List is now being found in Draftable packs, not every paper card is coming to Arena. Alongside this, since Special Guests are part of The List, not every card is going to be legal on Arena.
Setting this precedent right out of the gate, the first set with Play Boosters includes a pre-banned card on MTG Arena. Previously, this would have been an incredibly annoying occurrence, especially since the banned card looks so fun. Nowadays, however, this banning is barely an inconvenience.
Show and Tell Has Been Banned!
During the latest MTG Arena announcements post, Wizards of the Coast confirmed the latest banning. Once Murders at Karlov Manor is released, Show and Tell will automatically be banned in Historic on MTG Arena. This means Show and Tell will only be playable in Limited, Timeless, and Brawl.
As one of the ten Special Guests cards arriving in Murders at Karlov Manor, this banning is a little disappointing. After all, Show and Tell is an exciting card with great competitive potential. Thanks to the new art, it also looks absolutely gorgeous. Despite its potential and good looks, there’s no dyeing that Show and Tell is an incredibly powerful card.
Only legal in Eternal formats on paper, Show and Tell sees decent play within both Legacy and Vintage. Here, the card is used to cheat out massive bombs like Omniscience for just three mana. Thanks to fast mana like Lotus Petal and Ancient Tomb this effectively game-ending play can happen on turn one.
While Historic doesn’t have nearly as much fast mana as Legacy, the power of Show and Tell is undeniable. Typically ending games from turn three, this single card doesn’t need any other setup beyond a bomb in your hand. Sure, it’s somewhat risky since it’s a symmetrical effect, but outside of the mirror match, your bomb is likely bigger.
Beyond this game-ending potential, Show and Tell can also make games just plain weird. With both players potentially getting bombs like Atraxa, Grand Unifier traditional gameplans go out of the window. While this is hardly the end of the world, it’s nonetheless a point against Show and Tell’s playability.
Looking at the current power level of Historic on MTG Arena, it’s definitely for the better that Show and Tell is banned. While Historic may have some combos and lightning-fast kills, Show and Tell is on another level. Facilitating an unrecoverable game state from just turn three, this card’s lack of interaction would undoubtedly warp the format.
While Show and Tell might be too good for Historic, its power level is on point for Timeless. Thanks to this, Show and Tell is almost assuredly going to see play very shortly after release. Since the card is currently unrestricted, it could very well carve out its own archetype within the current metagame.
On its own, the existence of the Timeless format makes this pre-ban a lot less devastating. After all, unlike in the before times, the card is still playable in a competitive constructed format. To soften the blow even further, it now seems that people really don’t care that much about Historic anymore.
Following the release of Timeless, the player numbers for Historic appear to have dropped sharply. While we don’t have official data from Wizards to confirm this, websites such as Aetherhub show a steep decline in matches played. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it appears that a huge number of Historic players have eagerly migrated to Timeless.
Considering Timeless players on MTG Arena had to come from somewhere, this migration isn’t a major surprise. Unfortunately for fans of Historic looking for more opponents, it’s unclear if these players will ever return.
An Identity Problem
Ultimately, with Timeless moving in on its turf, Historic is having a bit of an identity crisis. The once-beloved format may have an incredibly diverse metagame, but it’s missing the bombs that players craved. This demand was first proved by the no-banlist events and now again by current player numbers.
For better or worse, while Timeless is arguably just a better Historic right now, the formats should diverge in 2024. This is thanks to the release of Modern Horizons 3, which is coming to MTG Arena. Legal in both Historic and Timeless, it’s expected this set will feature a plethora of pre-bans.
Depending on how many bans happen, Timeless may evolve further away from Historic, allowing it to carve out its own niche. Ideally, this will give players more options for what to play, which is always a good thing. Beyond being good news for players, additional options are also good for Wizards, as it allows for more target bans.
As the first ban post Timeless’ release, Show and Tell is the first evidence of this diversity proving its worth. Hopefully, this positive trend will continue in the future, with both MTG Arena formats benefiting from each ban. Ideally refining balance and keeping things interesting, Show and Tell’s ban is a welcome step in the right direction.