I toss and turn in my sleep.
Something ominous is coming. There is a disturbance in the Force. A ripple in the fabric of the Multiverse.
I wake up early and check my phone to see that there would an early Banned and Restricted Announcement in a few hours. Surely they wouldn't be announcing a change unless something drastic had happened, and happened within the last few days.
They decided to ban Felidar Guardian, I thought.
If it was something else, we would've heard about them shifting the date for the Banned and Restricted Announcement to be sooner instead of on such late notice. That made sense.
They had an emergency meeting over the weekend and realized their mistake. They hadn't even realized a combo existed.
The announcement would go like this:
“Listen, real talk time, Magic Players. We done goofed. We didn't even realize there was a Saheeli Rai plus Felidar Guardian infinite combo. We don't even know if it's good, and it might not even be that oppressive or it might be. Schrodinger's Cat Combo, I suppose. But we're just gonna ban the combo now before it even has a chance to emerge from cracked boosters and see the light of day. We don't even want to risk another Splinter Twin. We made a mistake. Thanks for understanding, appreciate you dogs.”
Placated and relieved, I decide to try to get a little more sleep and slowly drift off.
I was wrong. Dead wrong. Well, not dead wrong, but still wrong.
I woke up again to pure chaos:
This is a big deal for both Standard and Modern. (Duh.)
Here's what I thought back then:
I'm a fan of banning cards. Bans have to happen. Things are almost guaranteed to go wrong and break. Bans are a sad event that means something went wrong, but they are also acknowledging and fixing a problem.
I think most people can agree banning Stoneforge Mystic from Standard was a good idea. Imagine if Caw-Blade had been dealt with earlier than it was? Pulling that trigger could have saved a bunch of months of stale Standard.
So why don't I feel this way about these bans?
What will happen to Standard and Modern?
What are the positives and negatives of these bans?
Obviously time and results will be the ultimate arbiter to help decide if these were wise decisions, but it is certainly a unique and interesting circumstance, so here's my perspective on things.
First I have three main issues with the bannings. Then I'll go over the cards and how I think the bans will affect Standard and Modern, and close with some looking on the bright side.
Here's what I don't like about this announcement in general:
1. The timing for these bans seems strange!
It seems to me like you really don't want to be banning cards right before a new set and a Pro Tour if you can at all help it.
That is the worst time to do so because the Pro Tour may completely change things, and what you think about the format now may not be relevant to how it is after a bunch of new cards get added
Standard procedure is to see what happens first before making a move on banning anything.
Smuggler's Copter being in over 50% of the decks right now isn't good, but it seemed like there wasn't a focus on the future of the format instead of the way it is now.
It seems like there was an obvious targeting towards W/U Flash, but there might just be a new top dog… err cat in town.
Did they know about the CopyCat combo when they finalized the set?
At this point we have to assume the answer is no.
When were these ban decisions finalized? They were probably made before Felidar Guardian was a known entity, considering that happened four days ago.
Felidar Guardian was revealed to the public on Friday.
The Banned List was announced on Monday.
There has to be some lag and discussion over such a huge banning decision. The finalization of Smuggler's Copter and friends being banned may have happened weeks ago.
They may have missed the actual threat that deserves a ban and we might be having this whole conversation again sooner rather than later. At this point I'm just speculating, including about the viability of CopyCat Combo, but if they don't tell us their process that's the only option there is.
3. Strange Precedent.
These are the first Standard bans since the days of good ol' Caw-Blade.
Let's take a look at what things were like back then and the explanation to warrant the banning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic in Standard way back when in June, 2011 by Aaron Forsythe.
Main point for comparison:
For reference, 88% of the decks in Day 2 of Grand Prix Singapore contained multiple copies of Jace, and almost 70% of the Day 2 decks contained Stoneforge Mystic. The numbers from Pro Tour Qualifiers and independent large events like the StarCityGames.com® Open Series look very similar.
Back in the good old days, when Magic Players weren't so coddled, we grinded out Caw-Blade mirrors for twelve hours a day to get good without breaking a sweat! Then they printed Batterskull just to mess with our heads and see if we'd crack.
That Banned and Restricted Announcement from 2011 was 3153 words explaining why they were banning two of the most powerful and oppressive cards to ever grace cardboard that had been warping and dominating the Standard format for months and months.
Now I see why crotchety old men reminisce about the good ol' days. It's because the past is objectively always better no matter what.
This seems like an incredibly arbitrary time to pop some bans and might just be the least-warranted ban since… Splinter Twin. Which happened to be the last set of bans. Maybe we're complaining too much....
Or perhaps they're loosening the threshold for what constitutes a banning.
The cards from this round of bannings don't seem particularly oppressive to me compared to powerful format-defining cards of past formats.
Smuggler's Copter and Golgari Grave-Troll are certainly right on the border of unreasonable and oppressive. Emrakul, the Promised End and Gitaxian Probe are powerful and prevalent, but they don't stick out to me as anything especially targeted for banning. Reflector Mage is mostly just baffling and just got stomped out of nowhere, a good card, but not even in the realm of what you'd consider banning.
Was Collected Company a more worthy Standard ban? What about Siege Rhino? Thoughtseize? Why were Pack Rat or Sphinx's Revelation or Mutavault not banned at some point during their stay in Standard? What makes this situation different from those?
What makes this situation different from other formats that seemed more oppressive and less diverse? Formats without a Pro Tour right around the corner to shake things up?
If competitive diversity is what we're going for, 20% W/U Flash does not seem like a big deal, especially when new cards are about to be injected into the metagame.
Can we expect this sort of banning every Standard season? It's hard to imagine that there aren't going to be format-defining cards in every metagame going forward.
Maybe we're at the point where Standard needs bannings to keep it interesting, but it feels like we're going to reach a similar point again in the future. We've reached similar points in the past.
Consistency is important, and this feels inconsistent to how things have operated in the past.
I had been swapping out copies of Emrakul, the Promised End for Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in Temur Aetherworks for some time now. Emrakul also seems worse against CopyCat Combo.
I suppose a Promise is a Promise and the end was promised. But do the ends justify the memes?
My kingdom for a Fatal Push!
What's that? Smuggler's Copter is banned?
Making a decision based on current data when those data can change seems premature. There was no truly efficient answer to Smuggler's Copter before, and now that there is, we won't even have the chance to see if it was enough.
This is the most interesting and seemingly unwarranted ban.
“Don't take up to much of the metagame if you know what's good for you, see? Let's keep things nice and diverse and nobody else gets hurt.”
Reflector Mage is a non-crucial card played in one major deck and a couple of fringe decks like U/W Panharmonicon.
This is very much not a typical type of ban. It is a warning-shot ban.
It's almost emotionally distressing that Reflector Mage survived the Rally the Ancestors and Collected Company days, only to be killed off now while serving out the rest of its days peacefully in the relaxed and underpowered deck of W/U Flash when it was just months away from retirement.
Reflector Mage would've been good with Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian. Is it possible we're being tricked a little and the real reason Reflector Mage got banned was because of them? I don't think so, but it would make more sense to me this was all a case of CopyCat Combo Conspiracy.
People are happy with this one, but I don't really “see” it.
Sure, sure, Phyrexian mana and all that, but seriously.
Golgari Grave-Troll keeps getting Dredged in and out of the banned list.
Dredge seems like such a small share of the metagame that this can't be defended as a diversity decision.
Beating Dredge in Modern has certainly become a game of how much graveyard hate you pack in your sideboard, which isn't fun. This ban is also fine, but I don't see it as being more worthwhile than banning Become Immense, Ensnaring Bridge, or Mox Opal.
Maybe these bans will increase the health of both formats.
I can buy that all this might be calculated format tuning that makes Standard and Modern gameplay and deckbuilding more enjoyable for everyone.
I will admit I care more about a format being fresh, skill-testing, and fun, whereas I don't worry so much about what cards and decks I own just lost value because they got banned.
Maybe they know something we don't and this is all for the good. Maybe this style of banning is necessary right now.
I'm glad this Banned and Restricted Announcement was made ahead of schedule (they should all be made this early) and that they will also now be made five weeks after a Pro Tour as well, which seems great.
I can only imagine how hard it must be, juggling and balancing all the cards being created, to make sure things don't slip through the cracks while trying to satisfy hordes of ravenous players desperate to break the cards as soon as they're released. Sometimes mistakes happen.
Overall I'm not a fan of these bans, but they are happening and complaining won't change or help things. It's time to look to the future. What do you think about these bans?