6, Jun, 24

Problematic Modern Horizons 3 Common Officially Pre-Banned!

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Article at a Glance

Modern Horizons 3 may be one of the most powerful sets that Magic: the Gathering players have seen in quite some time. Never before in the history of Magic have so many cards seen bans across formats before players even had access to the cards from the set in question. 18 cards were banned in the Arena-only digital format Historic earlier this week. Now, we are getting a ban in a paper format before prerelease weekend even kicks off.

This ban shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It was mentioned by MTG designer and Pauper enthusiast Gavin Verhey that something out of Modern Horizons 3 had to go. Considering that All That Glitters was recently removed from the format, largely thanks to innovating outside of its archetype, this gave players a direction to look towards for Pauper bans. Are there any similar commons coming out in Modern Horizons 3?

The answer to that question is yes.

Cranial Ram Banned in Pauper

Today, on June 6th, 2024, Wizards of the Coast announced that Cranial Ram has been pre-banned in Pauper. This was revealed in an article written by Gavin Verhey. Previously, Verhey has teased that a common from Modern Horizons 3 was going to be pre-banned, so this isn’t a surprise. From the moment it was revealed, many players expected Cranial Ram was the soon-to-be-banned card.

Let’s compare Cranial Ram to All That Glitters, the most recent card to be banned out of Pauper. All That Glitters has the potential to turn any creature into a game-ending threat, buffing any creature by the number of artifacts and enchantments you control. Affinity is one of the best-performing archetypes in the Pauper format, and All That Glitters is an absolutely incredible finisher for the archetype.

All That Glitters was such a powerful swing that it forced players to play scared of it. If this card resolves and gets onto a creature, that is generally game over for the opponent. Getting past a gigantic creature with All That Glitters on it is basically impossible. Even if you manage to, your life total has already taken a massive hit.

The real straw that broke the camel’s back, however, is the fact that this card started innovating archetypes outside of Affinity. Between that and the polarizing nature of the card, Wizards decided to get rid of it.

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Cranial Ram Ban Reasoning

There are some very obvious comparisons to Cranial Ram and All That Glitters. First and foremost, Cranial Ram buffs creatures in a similar way to All That Glitters making it similarly polarizing. Beyond this, Cranial Ram can also be re-equipped by creatures, allowing it to dodge blockers and secure damage. As if this wasn’t enough, Cranial Ram also has Living Weapon, so preemptive removal isn’t even an option.

Moving past All That Glitters, Cranial Ram has even more similarities to another card that is already banned in Pauper: Cranial Plating. This card has been banned for quite some time in the format, and while that card is arguably stronger than Cranial Ram, the similarities are incredibly alarming.

Cranial Ram could still be totally fine, and some players may find its pre-banning to be a bit of an extreme step. Gavin Verhey did discuss their particular reason for pre-banning the card, and it happens to be the competitive schedule for Pauper.

Two large tournaments, an MTGO creator $5K, and an upcoming Paupergeddon event, occur shortly after the release of Modern Horizons 3. If the Pauper Panel decided to wait and see on Cranial Ram and it ended up being too powerful, both of these massive tournaments meant to showcase the Pauper format could be completely dominated by Cranial Ram. The likelihood of this happening is high enough that the decision was made to pre-ban Cranial Ram.

It was also discussed that players could likely adapt to Cranial Ram and beat it, but that is the definition of an unhealthy format. Any MTG format that becomes extremely warped to keep a threat in check is not a healthy format. It’s far from ideal that Cranial Ram would come before the rest of the format.

Is Cranial Ram the Problem?

It has become clear that the Affinity shell is a problematic one in Pauper. The presence of artifact lands have caused a ton of different cards to land on the ban list. Verhey did specifically say that they investigated banning the Bridges instead of Cranial Ram, and the Ram still looked too powerful.

Despite Cranial Ram getting a pre-ban, there are still some powerful tools for Affinity appearing in Modern Horizons 3. Refurbished Familiar, for example, has been specifically cited as a potential tool for Affinity players to employ.

Verhey also noted that there is some concern for Mono Red strategies once again following the release of Modern Horizons 3. Despite this, Cranial Plating’s problematic potential eclipsed anything else coming out of Modern Horizons 3. For all the other stuff that could be running around following the release of Modern Horizons 3, the Pauper panel has decided to wait and see what happens.

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