This week’s Weekly MTG announcement was a doozy for many MTG players. While, once upon a time, this was meant to be a first look for the upcoming Commander Masters set, it was instead restructured to address the changes happening to the Standard format, and holy crap, was there some stuff announced.
For those who did not know, Wizards of the Coast recently announced that Standard’s yearly rotation will be changing. Instead of two years worth of sets being legal at a time, that length is now being increased to three. This is a big part of the overall effort to push Standard as a flagship format.
After covid hit, Standard dropped off the face of the earth in terms of paper play. It has seen a bit of a resurgence thanks to the recent Regional Championship series, but its not where Wizards of the Coast wants it to be. These changes are also a result of player feedback in an attempt to make Standard as popular as it once was.
So, what are the changes? Well, the biggest ones relate to when we can expect ban list changes. It looks like these are going to be a lot less random in the future, but may also not be as frequent as some players would like.
One MTG Ban Per Year?
In today’s WeeklyMTG, Blake Rasmussen, William ‘Huey’ Jensen and Andrew Brown sat down and talked about some upcoming changes that will be coming to Magic as a whole. There will not be an official article from Wizards of the Coast covering this information until the end of the month thanks to the Arena Championship, but the details covered during this show are very real.
The biggest news is in regards to ban list schedule changes. Recently, ban list changes seem completely random, and do not have any overarching schedule. Some ban list changes will get an announcement ahead of time while others simply seem to appear out of nowhere. This randomness can cause issues for players since the deck that they spent hundreds of dollars on can be banned out of nowhere without any notice.
This will be changing. As announced in the Weekly MTG event, ban list changes will now have pretty strict predetermined windows. Mainly, there will only be one major ban list change window per year, likely near the end of Summer. This ban announcement will address all of the formats, but will mainly impact the Standard one:
“The way we’re gonna approach bans in this new three year window is we are only going to have one banning event per year. This is gonna take place before the previews start for every single rotation set or fall set, for example, this year, that will be Wilds of Eldraine. So, we are going to make a majority of all our changes to all our formats in that one window, probably in the late Summer.”Andrew Brown
Mini MTG Ban Windows Every Set
While this is a lot more helpful for players in regards to not having their cards get banned at random intervals, a year is a long time to not have bans. Should something slip through the cracks with a new set release that was not caught in design, we could be stuck with those unbalanced changes for months. Fortunately, Wizards of the Coast expected this.
In addition to the new ‘once per year ban announcement,’ there will be a smaller ban window that occurs three weeks after the release of a new MTG set. These generally won’t always happen, and will rarely affect the Standard format. These, instead, are created with the idea of catching the new cards that accidentally impact older formats in a really negative way. Think Inverter of Truths in Pioneer as an example.
“Also, after every three weeks of every single set release, we are going to open up a mini-ban window for us to potentially make changes if we release something and it has a significant negative effect on a format. So, that will include all formats but, like I said, we will make a majority of our changes in that single window in the late summer before previews start for the fall set.”
“This is definitely the tough part. With the single-year window, obviously, that restricts us a lot more. I will say that we will be slightly less restrictive with the three-week small ban window after a set release with older formats. You can probably expect more changes from older formats from that smaller window, rather than Standard where it will extremely rarely be used.”Andrew Brown
Its also been noted that the small cards that impact older ones are probably going to be the ones that are the hardest to catch with this new ban schedule strategy. Its tough to know whether a new strategy is going to be incredibly problematic, and they don’t always appear in the first few weeks of a new set. Regardless, this failsafe should hopefully prevent an incredibly dominant tier zero strategy from drowning an entire season of competitive MTG. According to Brown, these bans are expected to be exceptionally rare.
The good news is that there will no longer be random ban announcements with notices a few days beforehand. This will instead be replaced with bans from regulated intervals. These aren’t all of the announcements in regards to ban list changes. There are some more at the end of this article. If you’re not as interested about some Standard design changes, feel free to skip to that.
In terms of other Standard adjustments, the new ban list schedule is not the only thing coming to the format. Another point that was repetitively stated by Jensen and Brown was that they were aware of the “five color midrange soup” nature that the format ends up becoming commonly. To try and combat this feeling, there are some real design initiatives to push cards that are intended to work together synergistically and create different archetypes that only have a few necessary colors instead of all the colors:
“One of the things we are gonna try a little bit more in design, is have more decks with a clear identity. I think, for a long time, Standard’s been, color color color Midrange. We definitely want to move away from that. We see from popular formats like Pioneer, Modern and Commander, there’s a strong identity with your deck. We’re moving towards more decks and cards that can work together that feel like they have a cohesive identity – something that we kind of lost when we moved away from the block structure.”
Personally, I do not like the current state of Standard at all because of this exact issue. It was to the point where, even though I had an invite to the Standard Regional Championship, I skipped it completely because I did not like the format. That’s not to say the Standard format is bad; quite the contrary. It simply does not give me the play experience I like, which is, admittedly, not a very vast window. Either way, this should hopefully allow players who enjoy different strategies more options to consider.
Another big idea that was seen from the current format is how fragile creatures are to removal. Another initiative stated in Wizards of the Coast’s briefing is the idea of creating a format where creatures who need to be untapped with to gain enough value to be playable will actually be good enough to play. This may also affect design around utility lands to focus on cards like the Castles from the original Eldraine that have additional abilities that reward stronger mana bases.
The current format, to some extent, has made it apparent that smaller creatures are not powerful in current Standard. This is thanks to Cut Down’s incredible efficiency that punishes many small creature’s playability. This has also been noted by the team.
The Next MTG Ban Announcement
Even though the yearly ‘ban’ announcement is currently scheduled to occur around the release of Wilds of Eldraine, there is an upcoming Standard ban happening on May 29. Considering that the format has just been extended to a three-year rotation, there is a big opportunity here to ban some cards that have been making the format, in the opinion of many from the MTG community, stale.
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker strategies are at a point of being unnaturally dominant in the format, and Reckoner Bankbuster saw an absolutely ludicrous amount of play at the Pro Tour. Many players are complaining how the format feels like, when boiled down, everything revolves around whoever drops their Fables and their Bankbusters first. This is coupled with a quote from Brown that, alongside less frequent bannings for the Standard format, a closer look will be taken in regards to “taking action against cards that have been legal longer in the Standard format” with the ones that do address the format in more detail.
This seems to address the biggest concern that players currently have. Hopefully, this ends up being the change that Standard needs. For now, whether it is or isn’t remains to be seen. Additionally, this is only the start of the Standard discussion. The next big date for Standard players is May 29, where the article following this discussion will be released, alongside any potential bannings to the format. There will be no ban changes to other formats.