7, May, 24

Two Broken MTG Cards Banned in Fan-Favorite Format!

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Article at a Glance

Over the past couple years, there have been a lot of incredibly powerful cards getting implemented on MTG Arena. When MTG Arena originally launched, most sets getting added were premier sets clearly focused around Standard and Limited gameplay. However, the addition of sets like Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth and elite bonus sheets such as the Breaking News cards from Outlaws of Thunder Junction have caused a huge spike in power on the client.

With this in mind, formats that are specific to MTG Arena and its card pool are constantly being monitored. Just recently, two cards were ultimately given the axe in Gladiator. While Gladiator isn’t an official format on MTG Arena, it is a relatively popular one within the MTG community. In the format, two players battle against each other with 100-card, Singleton decks. This isn’t Commander or Brawl, so there is no legend leading your squad. Each player starts at 20 and there are no sideboards. Gladiator plays a bit like Canadian Highlander, just without a points system and only with cards on Arena.

Before this week, only five cards were banned in Gladiator. The banlist is primarily curated by a handful of experienced format overseers. To learn more about the format, take a look here. These players ultimately decided that The One Ring and Reanimate had become too powerful and ubiquitous for Gladiator, so now the banlist lies at seven cards in total. Let’s take a closer look at why these cards were given the banhammer.

The One Ring

The One Ring

First up, we have a card that, despite being on MTG Arena for many months, is just now getting banned in Gladiator moving forward. Considering that the format is Singleton, it does make a bit of sense that The One Ring (notably, Gladiator only features the original version, not the nerfed version) would be a little less powerful than it might otherwise be. Part of what makes The One Ring so scary in most formats is that it works extremely well in multiples.

Once you play your first copy, you can start drawing a ton of cards at will. By the time the life loss starts to become concerning, chances are you’ve found another copy to play. In doing so, you can simply decide to keep the new copy via Legend Rule, gain Protection from everything for another turn, and you won’t be susceptible to the life loss. Here, though, the life loss is more likely to add up.

From the sound of the description given that goes over the reasons for the ban, the decision came more from a gameplay perspective than from a power level perspective. The committee mentions that the play patterns associated with The One Ring are rather repetitive and unenjoyable. At the same time, there isn’t a ton of reliable counterplay for the card.

In formats like Modern, players often come equipped with cards like Pick Your Poison, Bonecrusher Giant, Spell Pierce, and beyond out of the sideboard. Gladiator doesn’t feature a sideboard. Meanwhile, most answers to The One Ring beyond basic Counterspells are quite narrow.

As such, not only are you unlikely to have an answer at the ready in this Singleton format, but even if you do, there’s a chance the card may rot in your hand if your opponent doesn’t draw their one-of copy of The One Ring. The card’s game-warping nature seems to have ultimately led to its demise. All committee members that voted agreed that The One Ring deserved a ban, and I’m here for it.

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Reanimate

Reanimate

Unlike The One Ring, Reanimate was added to the banlist extremely quickly. Outlaws of Thunder Junction hasn’t even been out a month and Reanimate has already been unanimously deemed too strong for the format. The efficiency and power of the card is pretty self-explanatory. Still, the ban description provides some added context, nonetheless.

One important point the committee brought up was that Rakdos Reanimator decks were already quite popular before the printing of Reanimate. Rakdos midrange is a strong archetype with a lot of good cards to offer, and adding in a Reanimator package is not hard. Beyond Reanimate, cards like Victimize, The Cruelty of Gix, and Unburial Rites make it pretty easy to bring back large haymakers like Griselbrand to play.

What really sets Reanimate apart from these other cards, though, is its mana cost and set-up cost. First of all, Reanimate is so much cheaper than every other card similar to it on MTG Arena. You won’t find Animate Dead or Exhume on Arena, for instance.

Second, the fact that it can return any Creature from either player’s graveyard makes it pretty much an automatic inclusion in almost any black deck. The ban description stated that its low cost of inclusion was a problem, and the fact that the card was showing up in black aggro decks with no major Reanimator package showcases how busted the card is. The One Ring similarly appeared in almost every midrange deck in the format, so seeing these homogenous powerhouses get banned isn’t too surprising.

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Cards on the Watchlist

Mana Drain

In addition to highlighting the cards that ultimately got banned, the committee made it clear what cards were still being watched. Of the bunch, Mana Drain is the most recently released. Mana Drain is another Breaking News card that can have an absurd effect on the game. While Reanimate gives you a mana advantage by returning an enormous threat into play for cheap, Mana Drain gives you a delayed mana boost on top of being an efficient Counterspell.

While the information provided regarding why this card isn’t banworthy (for now) is pretty minimal, it sounds like blue as a color isn’t as prominent in the format to begin with. Also, Mana Drain is a reactive card rather than a proactive one, so even though it has extremely high upside, you don’t always get to set up your mana bonus on your own terms. If reactive blue decks continue to grow in popularity, this card would likely be more concerning.

The other cards mentioned were Blood Moon, Thassa’s Oracle, and Tainted Pact. As good as Blood Moon is, it’s a little slow and hasn’t had the same back-breaking effect on greedy manabases in Gladiator as it has in other formats. As for Thassa’s Oracle and Tainted Pact, it looks like these cards have been monitored for quite some time and will continue to be watched over. This combo simply hasn’t represented too big of a metagame share as of yet. If this changes, banning one of these cards seems like a perfectly reasonable decision.

Gladiator is a pretty fun format. Despite being a bit niche, it has still garnered a surprising level of support from the MTG community. All things considered, it’s nice to see the banlist getting updated regularly. midrange and Reanimator strategies have been extremely dominant in recent events, so a shakeup is certainly warranted. With MH3 on the way, I’m sure there will be more banlist considerations in the near future, too.

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