As you may already know, there is a major ban announcement that is going to occur on Monday, December 4. If you’ve kept up with previous ban announcements, this may not seem super important. After all, the ban announcement that occurred in October not only featured no changes to any major format, but also featured almost no discussion whatsoever about why those changes took place.
Players were generally not happy with how this announcement transpired, but it appears as though Wizards of the Coast has taken this negative feedback to heart. In this week’s WeeklyMTG stream, Andrew Brown and Dan Musser, two members of the Play Design Team at Wizards of the Coast, led a lengthy discussion about this upcoming ban announcement and what players should expect. Interestingly, two formats are likely set to receive drastic changes.
While neither member of the Play Design Team made it seem like there were going to be any changes to Standard, Legacy, or Vintage, it sounds like Pioneer and Modern are going to see some bans. Additionally, while discussing the unbanning of Preordain in Modern that took place back in August, they mutually agreed that this decision was great for the format and made it sound like more unbannings could be in store for us. There’s a lot of room for speculation regarding how many cards will end up being banned or unbanned in Pioneer and Modern, but it’s important to start by going over exactly what cards were hinted at being on the chopping block.
Pioneer Ban Hints
“If you can never go over the top of your opponent, or they always have the perfect sideboard card, sort of out of the mono-green deck, not that fun”Dan Musser
With regards to Pioneer, Andrew and Dan geared their ban discussion towards the fact that they were trying to make the format as fun and replayable as possible. They noted that Pioneer had been somewhat neglected to a certain degree over the past couple years and this was a chance to help remedy the situation. Unsurprisingly, the first hint they gave was in regard to the Discover combo deck that has arisen in Pioneer since the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan.
Dan stated that it generally wasn’t fun to die on turn three consistently to one card being cast. This almost certainly references Geological Appraiser, which had a dominant showing at Regional Championship events this weekend. What’s interesting, though, is that Dan also mentioned that the play patterns associated with mono-green Devotion were largely unenjoyable. Mono-green Devotion is significantly less popular than it used to be. Judging solely by win rate and play rate, it’s safe to say that likely nothing would be banned.
However, many could still argue that the play patterns associated with Karn, the Great Creator are unfun. Karn provides a ton of agency while simultaneously removing a lot of decision-making for post-sideboard games, since most of the sideboard cards out of the Devotion deck are simply targets to grab with Karn. It’s unlikely this deck would be referenced in this manner if Karn weren’t at least being considered for a ban. Also, the fact that Dan and Andrew made it clear that they are focusing more on Pioneer than before means they may be trying to address the fact that Pioneer has been a bit stale over the past year, especially before the release of Wilds of Eldraine.
Modern Ban Hints
“But really, more people started playing… BR Evoke deck”Dan Musser
When talking about Modern, most importantly, Andrew and Dan essentially confirmed that there will be changes to Modern. The deck they addressed the most was definitely Rakdos Scam. They were hopeful that players would adapt after Pro Tour Barcelona’s massive Rakdos metagame percentage, but that was ultimately not the case. In conjunction to talking about Rakdos Scam, they made it clear that one-toughness Creatures have been pushed out of the format and they would like this problem addressed at least in some way.
This makes it sound as though Fury is a prime candidate for the ban hammer. Both Grief and Fury create some problematic play patterns alongside effects like Not Dead After All, but Fury’s ability to drive out decks with lots of cheap Creatures is an issue as well.
Andrew and Dan did mention Up the Beanstalk as well as a card that generates a ton of value for the decks that utilize it. They didn’t seem to hint that it would be leaving the format in any way, however, though that means it is at least worth monitoring.
From the WeeklyMTG stream, it seems clear that, at minimum, Geological Appraiser and either Fury or Grief will be getting banned in Pioneer and Modern, respectively.
Geological Appraiser makes a ton of sense to ban. Sure, there are specific strategies and cards that are strong against the deck. Archetypes like Azorius Lotus Field control that play Counterspells and Strict Proctor have decent matchups against the deck. The issue is that Discover combo as a whole greatly restricts what decks are viable.
Part of the reason mono-green Devotion’s metagame percentage fell off a cliff is its inability to race a turn three Geological Appraiser kill. Even Quintorius Kand versions of Discover combo can be a bit format warping, so it wouldn’t shock me if Quintorius got axed as well, but the sheer speed associated with Appraiser makes it the obvious target.
I think there’s a good chance Karn will, in fact, get banned as well. Regardless of mono-green Devotion’s position in the metagame, the card’s play patterns have been complained about for years. It would be weird for Dan to mention Karn in the unfun discussion and not take action and it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if there were multiple other bans to try to shake up the format.
Back when Inverter of Truth, Underworld Breach, and Walking Ballista were banned, there was an emphasis to try to keep Pioneer from becoming too combo centric. Now, the format is full of combo decks, from Lotus Field combo to Abzan Greasefang, Okiba Boss combo. While I ultimately think Appraiser and Karn will be the only cards to get banned in Pioneer, if the goal is to cause a complete shakeup, banning other combo cards that have been prevalent for years like Lotus Field is definitely a route that could be taken.
In Modern, a ban to something in Rakdos Scam seems obvious. Fury seems most logical, since its existence naturally hates out small Creature decks. Kindred decks like Humans that maximize the power of Aether Vial saw a huge dip in popularity with the release of Modern Horizons Two and banning Fury could help give rise to these decks once more. Outside of Fury, nothing seems alarming enough to draw attention. Cards like The One Ring definitely deserve surveillance, but nerfing Rakdos Scam in some regard absolutely takes priority.
Here’s where things get interesting. The reality is, most of the cards on the Pioneer banlist seem way too strong and format warping to bring back. Walking Ballista, on the other hand, seems like a reasonable choice to unban, especially if Karn gets banned. It does add another combo to the format alongside Heliod, Sun-Crowned, so perhaps this is ambitious. The thing is, not only does this combo not seem overly oppressive in a format where interaction is as efficient as ever, but the unbanning of Walking Ballista adds a new area for innovation within the format.
Given how strong cheap interaction is, unbanning Smuggler’s Copter seems like a possibility, too. Fatal Push, Fiery Impulse, Portable Hole and Temporary Lockdown are all solid answers to the card. Ultimately, I think unbanning a homogenous card like Copter that can go in basically any aggro deck is not a great idea. On power level, though, it isn’t outrageous.
Still, the point of unbanning cards, as referenced to with Preordain, is to improve the format as a whole by ideally addressing some issue the format is facing. The lack of one-toughness Creatures and go-wide Creature decks as a whole in Modern is absolutely a problem worth addressing, though. Not only that, but there’s a card on the current Modern banlist that could help address this issue directly: Green Sun’s Zenith.
Outside of Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo, there are almost no decks utilizing mana dorks to their advantage. Decks like Elves that once thrived are nonexistent. The concern is that Green Sun’s Zenith can find Dryad Arbor on turn one while scaling perfectly throughout the game. Still, at this point, it seems as though Creature decks need some help. This seems like a great chance to ban Fury and unban Green Sun’s Zenith to help produce a much-needed shakeup to the format.
It’ll be interesting to see how far this announcement goes. Will it be as simple as Appraiser and Fury getting banned in Pioneer and Modern, respectively? Or could a slew of bans and unbans take place? Only time will tell.
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