Grief
26, Jun, 24

Recent MTG Ban Announcement Leaves Much to Be Desired

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After a ban announcement that banned nothing, some MTG players have unsurprisingly been left wanting...
Article at a Glance

Recently, after much hype and anticipation, Wizards of the Coast announced no bans in any format. In part, this decision made sense, as formats like Modern had the upcoming Pro Tour to worry about. That said, many players have voiced their disapproval of keeping various formats the way that they are.

There were multiple points during the MTG ban announcement where Wizards of the Coast stated their intention to monitor different situations. Decks like Dimir Reanimator in Legacy and Abzan Amalia in Pioneer are clearly on the watchlist moving forward. Unfortunately, many players believe the decision to not take action now simply delays the inevitable. 

This feeling is especially amplified in Legacy, where there seems to be a general consensus that change needs to be made as soon as possible. While it was nice to have detailed descriptions highlighting why no bans were ultimately made to each format, many players were clearly hoping for change.

Consensus Surrounding Grief

Grief

Over the past few months, Dimir shells in Legacy have been consistently putting up results. They have made up an enormous portion of the Legacy metagame for a long time, and this trend does not seem to be fading in any capacity. According to MTGGoldfish, the combination of Dimir Reanimator, Dimir Scam, and Sultai Scam (three decks that are all quite similar in build and function) make up over 30% of the format. 

In the MTG ban announcement itself, Wizards recognizes the surge in play that Dimir Reanimator has shown in recent months. Players have also been stating for a while that the play patterns surrounding Grief are simply not enjoyable. According to the leader of the Play Design Team, the choice to not take action on Grief in Legacy “was the most difficult decision of this BnR.” Additionally, he stated that because players have more time to experiment with MH3 cards before any major tournaments, Legacy can be revisited as a whole in August.

Many players were obviously not happy with this rationale. Some pointed out that making MTG players wait two months for an essentially inevitable ban is not ideal. Others mentioned that choosing to wait to take action due to a lack of large events is a bit disrespectful to tournament organizers. It also may put tournament organizers in a rough spot. Some players have decided to step away from Legacy until Grief gets the axe, as other formats may be more appealing.

The reality is, that it would be quite shocking if Grief doesn’t get banned in August. Not only are players frustrated, but so far, Dimir Reanimator doesn’t appear to be getting any weaker. In fact, the release of MH3 gave Dimir Reanimator decks a huge upgrade in Psychic Frog. Psychic Frog is so strong that it’s even taking the slot of Orcish Bowmasters in many Dimir decks. Orcish Bowmasters was once on the watchlist for potential bans, but, it’s become clearer that the Grief+Reanimate package is the most problematic and unfun aspect of the deck. 

Concerns in Pioneer

Amalia Benavides Aguirre

At the end of the day, Grief is definitely the loudest elephant in the room. Still, that doesn’t mean players aren’t concerned about the health of other formats. After Grief in Legacy, the card that seems to be getting the most attention is Amalia Benavides Aguirre in Pioneer. 

Over the last month, Abzan Amalia Combo has separated itself from other top decks in the field. Its win rate has been absolutely incredible. Across all Magic Online events between May 22 and June 22, Abzan Amalia has a higher win rate than any of the other 15 most-played archetypes by nearly 5%. Not only that, but the deck has a win rate of 50% or higher against all but two of those strategies. Those two are Azorius Spirits and Azorius Control, which are not super popular.

With this in mind, when no changes were made in the ban announcement, many MTG players took issue with the decision. Some players highlighted the fact that, beyond being resilient, the deck is fast enough to get under decks like mono-green Devotion without running much removal. Add in the natural life gain cushion the deck has against aggro decks, and it makes sense why the deck would continue to overperform. 

Other players went as far as to say that the presence of Amalia Combo has discouraged people from attending their local game stores for Pioneer play. On the whole, the deck sees a comparable amount of play as Izzet Phoenix and Rakdos Vampires, but its win rate is alarming, as are some areas related to gameplay (such as games ending in draws). 

On the other hand, some MTG players have stated that they don’t think a ban on only Amalia will solve all necessary internal problems in Pioneer. The fear, of course, is that other elite decks will just take the place of Amalia and there will still be plenty to complain about. This is certainly a valid argument. After all, mono-green Devotion is on the rise, and one of the decks helping to keep mono-green in check is Amalia Combo. It’s unclear if any bans will be made to Pioneer in August, but perhaps banning multiple cards like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Treasure Cruise at the same time would open the door for more innovation.

Awkward Timing Restrictions

Notably, besides individual ban considerations, this announcement sparked a great deal of discussion about the timing of future ban announcements as a whole. See, part of the reason that a few formats in particular weren’t touched stems from the fact Wizards of the Coast doesn’t want to mess with upcoming events. 

In some ways, this makes sense. For example, not seeing any changes made to Modern directly before the Pro Tour is a wise idea. However, Modern wasn’t the only format seemingly affected by other tournaments. The description in the ban announcement stated that the Play Design Team did not want to make changes to Pioneer mid-season during Regional Championship Qualifiers. Similarly, with rotation on the horizon in Standard, the Play Design Team decided to see how the format settles post-Bloomburrow release.

This constant delaying of potential alterations to multiple formats has rubbed many players the wrong way. Some players believe that restricting bans to very specific windows isn’t a great idea. In the case of Pioneer, even if action isn’t taken until late August, this is right before the Regional Championships themselves start. As such, making changes then isn’t perfect, either. 

With regards to Standard, players are confused with Wizards of the Coast’s general intentions. The original goal was to make this specific ban window more Standard-focused. Yet, no bans were made with rotation looming, leaving players wondering why this ban window was left open in the first place.

For anyone hoping for change, the next opportunity appears to be in late August. Seeing bans occur then appears much more likely, especially after this wide range of player commentary. For now, all formats remain unaffected, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the next announcement is different.

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