23, Jun, 24

Upcoming MTG Ban Announcement is a Bit Odd

Article at a Glance

Back on May 13, the last MTG ban announcement took place. This brought major changes in a rather unusual way. In Legacy, Vintage, and Pauper, all cards that involve the utilization of stickers or attractions ended up getting the axe. While the vast majority of these cards weren’t competitive, those that were (looking at you, _____ Goblin) gave rise to a variety of tournament issues. On top of sticker and attraction cards, All that Glitters also received the banhammer in Pauper.

When this announcement was made, Wizards of the Coast mentioned that the next window for banning cards would be June 24. Well, June 24 is right around the corner, and there are a lot of different avenues Wizards of the Coast could take in addressing various formats. Today, we’re going to look into what this particular MTG ban announcement entails, and what potential changes players should be on the lookout for. As we will see, this MTG ban announcement should be a bit unique in its focus.

An Emphasis on Standard

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Over the past year, Wizards of the Coast has made it clear that the goal is to make necessary changes to the Standard format in specific windows. According to the May 13 announcement, the intention is to only ban cards once a year in the summer. Obviously, major issues can still be addressed at other points during the year, but this is reserved for extreme instances. Considering that Standard is a rotating format prone to quick metagame shifts, it makes sense to keep ban windows as predictable as possible. Otherwise, players may be more hesitant to buy a deck at the risk of cards becoming obsolete.

With this being the case, the announcement tomorrow is Wizards of the Coast’s main chance to ban any cards in Standard to help improve the format. Standard has become rather stale, so in theory, some bans could help solve this problem. However, there are a few reasons why it would be quite surprising to see any cards banned in Standard tomorrow.

With the release of Bloomburrow in just over a month, Standard is due for rotation. Midnight Hunt, Crimson Vow, Neon Dynasty, and Streets of New Capenna cards will no longer be legal in Standard moving forward. This should bring some change to the format organically, especially because these sets happen to contain some of Standard’s more problematic cards.

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Rotation Station

Raffine's Tower

When Pro Tour Thunder Junction took place, many players were concerned over the immense representation of Esper midrange in the field. Not only has Esper midrange died down a significant amount since the event, but the rotation of Raffine, Scheming Seer should also force players to look elsewhere.

Domain ramp, an archetype that dominated Standard for roughly a whole year and ultimately won Pro Tour Thunder Junction, will likely cease to exist in its current form. The deck relies on New Capenna Tri-lands like the one shone above to enable Leyline Binding, and these lands are rotating out. Similarly, the common New Capenna lands that naturally go to the graveyard, such as Brokers Hideout, will be gone. As such, Temur Aftermath Analyst shells should be biting the dust.

The decks that seem to be the least affected by rotation are the two-color midrange decks. Orzhov, Golgari, and Dimir midrange are all quite strong currently, and this trend may continue. Given how long black-based midrange decks have been elite in Standard, there’s a chance that Wizards of the Coast could ban something to help shake things up. The issue is that no one card is causing issues.

Outside of basic removal spells like Go for the Throat, these decks don’t overlap as much as you might expect. Some decklists utilize Caustic Bronco as the premier black two-drop of choice. Others use Deep-Cavern Bat. Playing white opens the door for players to use Wedding Announcement, which is definitely strong. However, Dimir and Golgari decks have no issues running Preacher of the Schism in that slot. In this sense, most of these midrange cards are replaceable. None of them are individually too oppressive, either. Therefore, we expect no changes in Standard, but keep your eyes peeled for any surprises.

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MH3 Brings Huge Changes

Nadu, Winged Wisdom

It’s worth noting that, beyond making it clear that addressing Standard would be the primary focus of tomorrow’s announcement, Wizards of the Coast also dismissed the idea of making changes to Modern. This isn’t too shocking, as MH3 cards are still relatively new to the format. More importantly, the upcoming Pro Tour is this weekend. With decklist submission due less than two days after the announcement, it would be rather frustrating for players to have to scramble for cards last minute after a massive ban.

Ultimately, it does seem a bit unlikely that we’ll see an MH3 card banned in any major format given how recently the set released. That being said, there are absolutely some elite combo cards that should continue to be monitored. Nadu, Winged Wisdom combo, for example, has become excessively popular. The card is dominating Modern in dedicated combo shells and in Amulet Titan.

Further, the card has already sparked debates among cEDH players about its legality. Going beyond power level, many players have voiced their frustration with the fact that turns involving non-deterministic kills with Nadu can take up a ton of time.

Necrodominance has also raised some concerns in Legacy. Its synergy with Dark Ritual cannot be denied, and Necrodominance decks are fully capable of winning turn one. Even mono-red Storm featuring Ruby Medallion and Ral, Monsoon Mage is an archetype worth watching, too. Assuming no MH3 cards get banned tomorrow, expect a future announcement to address any problems that persist.

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Other Potential Angles

Finally, this brings us to a couple decks that are a bit format warping. These strategies have been on the watchlist long before MH3, and seemingly have only gotten stronger. The first deck is Pioneer Amalia combo. According to Magic Online event data over the last month, Amalia combo has by far the highest win rate of any Pioneer deck. Of the top 16 archetypes in the format, this deck only has a sub-50% win rate against 2. These 2 decks, Azorius Spirits and Azorius control, are not in the top echelon of Pioneer decks.

Despite Amalia combo’s dominance, the deck’s representation is still less than that of Izzet Phoenix or Rakdos Vampires. Perhaps a ban of multiple Pioneer cards like Amalia, Treasure Cruise, and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is in order, but seeing no changes to the format once again seems most likely.

Another deck that has been putting up incredible results for a while now is Dimir Reanimator in Legacy. This deck continues to overperform, and unlike Amalia combo in Pioneer, it makes up a huge percentage of the Legacy metagame week in and week out. The deck appears to only have gotten more powerful with the addition of Psychic Frog as an amazing two-drop threat. Many Legacy players have been clamoring for a Grief ban for a long time, so maybe a ban is on the horizon.

Finally, Affinity in Pauper has garnered a lot of discussion recently. The deck was strengthened by the printing of Refurbished Familiar. Otherwise, some players believe that the Indestructible artifact lands have overstayed their welcome.

Our Prediction

Overall, if we had to give our prediction for the upcoming announcement, we’d guess no changes are coming to any format. Seeing a change to Standard would be a bit weird with rotation on the way. We know Modern should be unaffected. Other formats where MH3 cards have caused metagame shifts, like Legacy and Pauper, may not see bans until these metagames have more time to settle.

Personally, a ban to Amalia, Treasure Cruise, and/or Fable in Pioneer would be a pleasant surprise, but there are no expectations. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for when the announcement goes live tomorrow!

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