On Monday, December 4, there is yet another scheduled ban announcement set to take place. Unlike the ban announcement that took place on October 16, however, there are expectations going in that some specific formats will, in fact, be seeing some changes. Heading into the October 16 announcement, some players did believe that some amount of change was needed, especially with regards to the rise of Rakdos Scam decks in Modern. Ultimately, though, no changes for any major formats were announced. Additionally, there was very little discussion made available regarding why the lack of changes took place. This lack of discussion was not generally well-received, to say the least.
Clearly, Wizards of the Coast has taken this disappointment to heart. Today’s WeeklyMTG video was all about discussing the upcoming ban announcement and how it might affect various formats. This discussion featured Dan Musser, manager of the competitive Play Design Team, and Andrew Brown, the lead of the Play Design Team. Both team members went into significant detail regarding their overall ban philosophies as well as how those philosophies apply to different Constructed formats.
Today, we will be going over the most important takeaways from this discussion and the implications that various statements have on the upcoming ban announcement. Dan and Andrew made it abundantly clear that a couple formats in particular will be seeing some shakeups. With that in mind, let’s start by going over the goals of the Play Design Team when it comes to these bans and how they apply to a variety of different formats.
Fun and Replayability
“We need to make sure that our formats can be replayable and fun”Andrew Brown
When asked about the bigger picture regarding the purpose of the banned and restricted lists for different formats, Andrew’s response gave a pretty good indication as to what the Play Design Team looks for when deciding if cards are banworthy or not. The focus on banning or unbanning cards is to make each format as replayable and fun as possible. Obviously, fun is subjective, but Andrew said the team looks deeply into community discussion in addition to basic play rates and win rates. Ideally, things will be kept as fun as possible “for the most amount of people.”
“If we used the same exact approach for Legacy and Vintage… Brainstorm, Force of Will, Wasteland, these cards would’ve all been gone long ago”Dan Musser
What’s interesting about this is that Andrew and Dan stated that community input has extra importance when it comes to older formats like Legacy and Vintage. This is, in large part, because many players need to invest so heavily into these formats that making massive changes based purely on play rate and win rate may not be the most practical. If players are ultimately enjoying these formats at large, that’s what matters the most. Andrew and Dan believe these Eternal formats showcase at least a decent level of diversity, so it’s unlikely that changes will occur this quickly.
Standard and Pioneer
“In these more frequent windows after set release, we will not be changing Standard for the most part”Andrew Brown
From now on, ban announcements will regularly occur two to five weeks after a set’s release. However, Andrew stated that, outside of ban announcements that correspond with Standard’s rotations, these ban announcements will not include changes to Standard outside of extreme circumstances. Andrew did mention that if a situation arises, such as when Felidar Guardian emerged as a format-warping all-star within the first couple weeks, action could be taken. Given the relatively tame influence The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has had on Standard by comparison, it would be shocking to see any changes to Standard on December 4.
“Losing on turn three all the time when your opponent just casts one card, not that fun”Dan Musser
Pioneer, on the other hand, is extremely likely to see action taken. First of all, the quote above seemed to be in direct reference to the new Discover combo decks that emerged thanks to The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Geological Appraiser produces this exact play pattern, where your opponent is forced to either interact as early as turn three or lose to essentially a one-card combo.
For those who have played against the Discover deck, it may not be super surprising to hear the Play Design Team discussing it as a relatively unfun play experience. What is intriguing, though, is that this wasn’t the only deck mentioned in this manner. Dan also mentioned that it can be unfun to not be able to go over the top of the opponent, including when your opponent “always has the perfect sideboard card.” This likely is in reference to Karn, the Great Creator and its role in mono-green Devotion.
What makes this seem a little strange is that mono-green Devotion has been a top tier deck for multiple years at this point with no action taken. Now, especially in the midst of Discover combo, the deck is much lower of a percentage of the metagame than it’s been in previous months. Still, Dan and Andrew mentioned that they are trying to put an extra level of focus on Pioneer that had been lacking in years prior, so perhaps Karn could get the axe as well. They even talked about the potential for unbans in the midst of the Modern unbanning of Preordain, which they deemed a great decision. With this in mind, definitely expect some changes to Pioneer.
Modern and Beyond
“There will be changes in Modern”Andrew Brown
As much as upcoming changes were hinted at with regards to Pioneer, they were essentially guaranteed for Modern. Andrew and Dan did discuss the rise of Up the Beanstalk in Modern a bit, but the primary focus seemed to be on Rakdos Scam and the forcing of one-toughness Creatures out of the format. They had planned to monitor Rakdos Scam even further since its immense representation at Pro Tour Barcelona, but recognize that more and more players started playing the deck soon after.
Both the presence of Fury and Orcish Bowmasters make it noticeably difficult to play decks with lots of one-toughness Creatures, which Andrew and Dan seemed relatively concerned about. As a lover of aggressive Creature-based strategies, I am hopeful that the Modern bans address this issue in part, and that Aether Vial enjoyers can rejoice once more.
It is nice to see this level of clarity when it comes to ban announcements. This is especially true after the hype surrounding the October 16 announcement, only for there to be an announcement with virtually no statements made to the community about why no changes took place. Players were visibly frustrated, and it seems as though Wizards of the Coast is taking this frustration seriously. It’ll be interesting to see exactly what cards are banned or unbanned, but if you were hoping for change in Pioneer or Modern, you may be in luck.
Read More: The MTG Commander Banlist Needs to Change