2, Aug, 23

Upcoming MTG Ban Announcement is a Massive Opportunity

Article at a Glance

On August 7, there is going to be an official ban announcement by Wizards of the Coast that could affect a bunch of formats. Pro Tour Lord of the Rings really put some specific issues in Modern on full display. It’s easy to look at data and draw conclusions about the metagame.

For example, it’s clear that Rakdos Scam dominated the event. It’s also clear that the One Ring was absolutely everywhere.

The question is, what is the best way to help solve these problems? Sometimes when specific cards get banned, the format shifts from one arguably toxic archetype or card to another, which doesn’t exactly solve our problems.

The idea behind a ban announcement is to both remove overwhelming cards from the metagame while simultaneously improving the overall health of the format, which can be relatively difficult to accomplish. However, there have been a reasonable number of complaints about the health of different formats, especially Modern, so it is definitely worth starting somewhere.

In this article, we will discuss potential bannings (and unbannings) that may occur, how they would shake up formats, and give an ultimate prediction for how some major formats will be treated. So, let’s start with the elephant in the room: the Modern format after Pro Tour LOTR.

Modern Bans: Rakdos


Ever since Modern Horizons Two came out, there have been talks of potential bans and ways to improve the format. Lord of the Rings seems to have exacerbated the situation, and given the prevalence of Rakdos Scam and decks featuring The One Ring, it’s reasonable to assume that if any format will see major changes, it would be Modern.

Starting with Rakdos Scam, I think it is very reasonable to assume that at least one card from this deck is going to get the axe. Not only is this deck overly abundant, but it also promotes somewhat toxic gameplay.

While the deck has the capability of playing like a Midrange deck thanks to Seasoned Pyromancer and the ability to hard cast Grief and Fury, that’s not what makes the deck so powerful. The combination of either Grief or Fury and Feign Death lets you both get double the triggers from your Evoked Elementals and keep the Elemental around with a counter on it as a bonus. Grief takes your opponent’s two best cards in the process, which can potentially be game-ending by itself, and Fury wrecks your board, leaving behind a Creature that attacks for eight each combat. While this play pattern with Grief is frustrating, Fury’s ability to devastate opposing board states is not only absurdly powerful, but also forces go-wide decks out of the format. Decks like Modern Humans have pretty much been non-existent, and Fury is a huge reason why.

Read More: The Best Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Pro Tour Moments

Beyond Rakdos

The One Ring

Beyond Rakdos, it’s clear that The One Ring has become outrageously homogenous. It’s a colorless source of absurd card advantage that encourages you to play a playset so you can “reset” its burden counters thanks to the card’s legendary status.

Given that the card goes in tons of different decks and forces games to revolve around it and nothing else, it makes sense that it would also get the axe.

Other cards to strongly consider would be Violent Outburst, which allows both Living End and Crashing Footfalls to Cascade at Instant speed, and Wrenn and Six, which has garnered discussion for a while.

Three Temur Rhinos players making top eight at PT LOTR, despite Chalice of the Void being one of the most played cards at the event, is definitely alarming. While Outburst is replaceable with other Cascade cards like Ardent Plea, getting to Cascade at Instant speed with Force of Negation backup, then Cascade again on your own turn forces a lot of specific interaction from the opponent in one turn cycle.

As for Wrenn and Six, I personally think the format would improve with the card gone, given its ability to both force one toughness Creatures out of the format and provide a steady flow of Lands and colors for multi-color decks. Still, the card was not overwhelming at Pro Tour LOTR and has been around a long time, so it’s less likely to be banned in my opinion.

As a result, my final prediction for Modern bans is that Fury, the One Ring, and Violent Outburst will be banned, with cards like Wrenn and Six on the watch list for the future. That said, there is a good chance that they may just ban The One Ring and leave it at that.

Read More: The $2 Million One Ring MTG Card Has Been Sold

Potential Unbans

With every major ban announcement, there is always speculation regarding whether any cards will be removed from the ban list. Back before Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor were unbanned, there were a lot of people who felt that unbanning anything was too risky. As it turns out, Jace has never been much of a threat and Stoneforge was relatively mediocre when not searching for a combo piece like Colossus Hammer.

There are likely more cards on the Modern ban list that could be unbanned and not cause too much damage. Of course, you do have to consider not just the risks of unbanning cards, but also the rewards. What would unbanning certain cards improve if the card does see a decent amount of play?

This is an important question to consider. Technically, Umezawa’s Jitte may not be too powerful for the format anymore. After all, power creep has certainly played a big role in the printing of newer cards. The problem is that if the card does see significant play, it only further pushes out decks with lots of small Creatures or forces them to play Jittes of their own and fight fire with fire. Similarly, Punishing Fire could be too slow to abuse in Modern today but would only make Creature decks worse. Then there are cards like Blazing Shoal where the risks of unbanning the card far outweigh the rewards, regardless of whether the card would be too format-warping or not.

Splinter Twin is an interesting card to consider because it is quite polarizing. Some people love it, some people hate it, and there’s a good chance in a format with Solitude and Unholy Heat that the card is not outrageously strong. Still, considering the hope is to improve the health of the format, unbanning another combo piece may not be the most likely outcome. If any card will be unbanned, it is likely to be something like Green Sun’s Zenith, which may actually improve the format by giving Creature decks more staying power. My guess is that there won’t be any cards unbanned next week as Wizards of the Coast focuses on getting toxic cards out of the format as a priority, but Green Sun’s Zenith is likely the safest of the bunch with the highest upside.

Read More: Pro Tour LOTR Showcases Meta-Warping Adaptations!

Potential Pioneer and Standard Changes

Pioneer is a relatively polarizing format to begin with. No deck is necessarily holds too overwhelming a percentage of the metagame, yet many players still believe the gameplay is uninteresting and the format is a bit stale. Well, the one deck that has stayed constant as a top tier deck at least since the banning of Winota, Joiner of Forces is mono-green devotion. There is very little room for innovation within the deck, and the games generally play out very similarly. If anything gets banned in Pioneer, it will likely be from this archetype.

While I believe Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is the biggest offender in the deck given the insane amounts of mana it can produce, removing the card does largely kill the deck and any other devotion shell. Because of this, it’s likely that Karn, the Great Creator will get the axe if anything. Karn allows this deck to both combo kill thanks to the existence of Pestilent Cauldron and run a toolbox sideboard that is extremely strong with tons of mana. For this reason, along with the fact that the deck has been dominant for so long, I’d expect Karn to join the Modern cards mentioned above in getting banned.

As for Standard, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is definitely the biggest offender. However, there are still enough tier one archetypes like Esper control and four-color ramp that don’t play the card that I’m expecting no changes, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Sheoldred got the axe too as a way to shake up all of the major formats. Modern should definitely be the primary focus for these bans, especially after the results of Pro Tour LOTR. Only time will tell how my predictions hold up, but I am hopeful for some improvements across the board.

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