As much as they may aggravate some players, bans are a fundamental part of Magic: the Gathering. Employed to sustain a healthy meta across MTG’s formats, bans are a somewhat heavy-handed but nevertheless needed approach toward balancing. Typically, while players may not enjoy their favorite cards getting banned, they understand why it has to happen. Some cards, after all, are too powerful and end up sucking all the fun out of the format. Subsequently, when bans are needed, it’s often easy for Wizards of the Coast to explain the reasoning behind their decisions. However, that isn’t the case for MTG’s most recent bans. Instead of removing a deeply problematic card from a format, Wizards is instead positioning their latest ban in MTG as merely “a little shakeup.” Unsurprisingly, this semantic choice quickly drew the ire of the Magic: the Gathering community.
Poor Choice of Words
Wizards of the Coast announced yesterday that, at long last, The Meathook Massacre has been banned in Standard. While this has aggravated much of the MTG community, this ban isn’t entirely without cause. Thanks to the introduction of Evolved Sleeper and Sheoldred, the Apocalpyse, it’s been no secret that black has been exceptionally strong in Standard recently. Coupled with removal such as Invoke Despair and Infernal Grasp, Standard has slowed to a crawl. Unfortunately for wide or aggressive decks, this midrange soup has been utterly impenetrable. Subsequently, many MTG players have been calling for something to be done about black’s dominance in the format.
While Wizards has finally acted upon this request and banned The Meathook Massacre, not everyone is pleased with this decision. As many MTG players were quick to point out, Wizards’ recent ban of The Meathook Massacre appears to be a ban of convenience rather than necessity. Unlike the ban to Yorion, Sky Nomad, which was made to “make Modern as fun and accessible as it can be for all types of players,” The Meathook Massacre was instead framed as a “little shakeup [that] will help keep Standard enjoyable.” This struck a nerve with many MTG players, as Wizards’ wording appears to suggest the ban wasn’t truly needed.
In their own explanation, Wizards even states that “we’re seeing good diversity among competitive decks and strategies.” Even with black cards proving prolific within the format, Wizards claims that “player engagement with the format has been healthy.” Given that a healthy and engaging metagame is often the goal of games, it’s odd that something is being changed.
An Unnecessary Evil
As if Wizards’ rationalization wasn’t already bad enough, the remainder of their explanation only seemed to make the communities’ interpretation of the ban worse. In their statement, Wizards notes that Standard is already due for a shakeup before too long. “With The Brothers’ War on the horizon, we anticipate the new cards entering the format to provide tools for other decks and color combinations.” With another influx of cards just over a month away, Wizards has the perfect reason not to ban anything in Standard. Yet, despite what appears to be conventional wisdom, Wizards of the Coast decided that The Meathook Massacre needed to go.
“Their wording makes it sound like a ban of convenience ‘why not’ rather than one that’s needed,” Reddit user u/Armoric stated. This sentiment was echoed throughout the MTG community by baffled and aggrieved players. U/BilliamQ stated, for instance, that “their rationale for this ban (especially in a rotating format) is absolutely terrible.” Subsequently, some players decided to poke in with snide remarks about why The Meathook Massacre was specifically chosen. “This could be seen as a way to make money,” u/Kurrgo mused. Meanwhile, u/Arcane_Soul similarly stated, “I guess they sold enough copies of Midnight Hunt.”
With the want to keep Standard fresh and enjoyable as the focus, some MTG players were also fearful about what this ban might imply for the future. To some players, banning a card without due cause is a slippery slope to Alchemy-esque format intervention. “Why not always ban one of the most played cards every mid-format point to artificially ‘keep things fresh’ then,” u/Armoric questioned. Similarly, u/a-polo claimed that in line with their intention with Alchemy, “[Wizards] seem very interested in keeping the format ‘fresh.’”
A Change for the Better
While The Meathook Massacre getting banned likely won’t affect its substantial price, much to the dismay of some, a lot of good has already come from this ban. It’s too early to assess the ramifications of this ban properly. However, the Standard metagame is already looking substantially healthier. According to MTGDeck.net, Standard currently has thirteen tier 1 competitive decks. These myriad decks span all colors, apart from black, which is presumably sulking after the ban announcement. By MTGDeck.net’s count, this makes Standard the second most competitive constructed environment right now, just behind Historic.
Admittedly, while we’re incredibly excited about the diversity that is currently being experimented with, the Standard meta is in a state of flux. Over the coming weeks, the format will once again be slowly solved with new dominant decks emerging. Thankfully, even if The Meathook Massacre’s ban leads to another deck dominating the format, The Brothers’ War isn’t too far from release. This should help to dramatically shake up the Standard landscape once again with awesomely powerful cards. Who knows, maybe The Meathook Massacre will get unbanned once The Brothers’ War releases.