10, Aug, 23

Wizards of the Coast Suggests Potential for Further MTG Unbannings!

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Article at a Glance

With the recent unbannings of Preordain and Mind’s Desire, many players were surprised that no cards got banned. It appears that Wizards of the Coast generally believes that the major formats are generally healthy at the moment.

Of course, banning cards does not come lightly. Banning cards definitely has major downsides. Beyond simply growing the list of banned cards that some people might find interesting to play with, there’s always potential issues of consumer confidence, especially when expensive cards get banned very quickly.

Notably, Wizards of the Coast has made it clear that they will continue to monitor formats and make changes as necessary, even beyond a once-a-year announcement. This doesn’t just include cards that need to be banned, though. This can include more cards getting unbanned in various formats.

In yesterday’s Weekly MTG, Wizards of the Coast employee Blake described the process of unbanning cards in Modern to be “a step-by-step approach”. However, he did claim that there will likely be more unbannings in the future! While Blake doesn’t directly make ban and unban decisions, he was in the meetings where these topics were discussed. Let’s take a look at some insight we can gain regarding cards potentially coming off the ban lists, especially in Modern.

The Goal of Unbanning Cards

Preordain

One interesting discussion point regarding cards and their potential to be unbanned is what they add to their respective formats. The goal of unbanning cards isn’t entirely to just make the ban list as short as possible. One of the things Wizards of the Coast looks at is what type of impact that specific cards getting removed from a particular banlist would have on the format in question. Blake mentioned specifically that, with regards to the unbanning of Preordain in Modern, part of the reason was to help stimulate blue decks like Izzet Murktide that had begun to fall in their metagame percentages.

In this sense, the cards that will be unbanned are designed to serve a specific purpose. There are likely cards on the banlist that are a bit outdated given how far power creep has pushed the power level of cards to this day. Still, for them to be unbanned, they ideally would solve a current issue in Modern. One particular issue that is sometimes brought up is the lack of strong aggressive decks, especially in a format dominated by the likes of Fury and Wrenn and Six.

Notably, Green Sun’s Zenith was supposedly discussed, which could bring a bonus to Creature-based decks if unbanned in the future. Ironically though, given the fact that one-toughness Creatures have been partially pushed out of the Modern metagame, Wizards of the Coast appears more likely to print two-toughness Creatures in the future, which suggests that cards like Wrenn, Fury, and Orcish Bowmasters may be here to stay. For better or worse, it seems as though Wizards of the Coast is trying to add more cards to Modern to solve specific issues, rather than take them away. Even still, they appear very careful with what cards they are willing to unban.

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Fun and Balance

Bridge from Below

“They always come across way over cautious when you hear things like this. The ban list has loads of cards that wouldn’t even be good today”

ozza512

In addition to the goal of utilizing card unbannings as well as additional printings to solve specific metagame problems, Blake made it clear that, beyond a metagame balance, cards that are banned that are largely considered unfun are less likely to get unbanned. Blake’s discussion of Bridge from Below headlines this argument. He mentioned that Bridge didn’t do fair or fun things. Most importantly, though, he stated that “in an environment where it’s strong, it’s almost universally disliked.”

This brings up a pretty important point regarding Wizards of the Coast’s philosophy of unbanning cards. Even if a card doesn’t completely warp the metagame around it, if the risk of unbanning a card far outweighs the reward, then it’s unlikely to get unbanned. In Bridge’s case, even if the card isn’t necessarily too strong, it doesn’t promote fun gameplay for most people. Additionally, if the card does see a lot of play, it makes a lot of players miserable, showcasing that there is little reward and still a high risk of unbanning a card like Bridge.

Even in the case of Splinter Twin, which has certainly been a controversial card for years, Blake mentioned that, in his opinion, the card doesn’t “add fun” to Modern, and has a relatively poor play pattern it creates by forcing opponent’s to constantly play scared. Many players, me included, believe Splinter Twin wouldn’t have a ton of impact on the format, especially given the prevalence of Solitude and Unholy Heat that could help keep it in check. However, lots of people also find Splinter Twin’s play patterns unpleasant, which is certainly worth consideration.

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Cards That Are Too Strong

Golgari Grave-Troll

While cards like Green Sun’s Zenith, Splinter Twin, and even the Artifact Lands were mentioned, there were some cards that were either not discussed at all or quickly put to rest. One of these cards is Dark Depths. Dark Depths has an enormous risk to unban, potentially warping the format completely, and can create relatively toxic play patterns, at least by Modern power level standards with no Wasteland in sight.

Another card that was quickly dismissed was Golgari Grave-Troll. This makes sense, especially given the fact that it was unbanned in Modern, then re-banned soon after. Blake even stated that this card was “at the bottom of the list” regarding cards to unban. It’s clear that even if Wizards of the Coast loosens their grip a bit on the Modern banlist and starts unbanning more cards, there are some that may never see the light of day.

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More Frequent Unbannings?

Green Sun's Zenith

It will be interesting to see if cards do start getting unbanned with higher frequency, especially given the amount of discussion had regarding cards on the Modern banlist. In the case of Mind’s Desire, for example, this was supposedly talked about previously, adding extra momentum to the decision to ultimately take the card off the Legacy banlist.

Blake did mention that it’s less likely for cards to be unbanned outside the yearly Summer announcements, and that this would likely be considered in tandem with adjacent tournaments. Still, unexpectedly unbanning Preordain and Mind’s Desire which have been banned for many years, while simultaneously banning zero cards across all formats, does set an interesting precedent. It appears there is more focus than ever on shortening banlists, especially regarding Modern, where applicable. Only time will tell, but this trend is certainly worth monitoring.

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