I don't even know where to begin.
Of course I was prepared for a ban on energy cards. It just made too much sense. Early on it seemed as if energy was merely a symptom of an entirely different disease, but with each new banning it became abundantly clear that a misdiagnosis had happened. It wasn't just Emrakul, the Promised End, the Felidar Guardian/Saheeli Rai combo, or Aetherworks Marvel that were the problem. It wasn't even any specific card at all, but an entire mechanic that was simply too good in its current form. A mechanic that was the perfect vessel to take something good and turn it into something great. Or worse, take something great and make it into something broken.
We now know exactly why the energy mechanic is too good, but it was difficult to articulate in the early days. On the surface, energy is a resource that is impossible for the opposition to interact with yet fluidly does so with other energy cards, but this is only part of what makes the mechanic so good. The true strength lies in what happens when you attempt to interact with the cards that produce the resource. A removal spell here, a block there, and all of a sudden you've went card-for-card with an opponent that has an advantage for no particular reason besides they are playing with the mechanic.
Magic is all about interaction, which is what makes energy so powerful, and it's also why trying to interact with a deck like Temur Energy feels so bad. Late in a highly interactive game a freshly drawn non-energy card still reads the same as they would in the early turns, yet energy cards do not. A Whirler Virtuoso played on turn 3 generally can only produce one Thopter token, but one drawn on turn 8 can produce five or six. This level of scalability is historically unheard of, and a mistake Wizards assuredly wishes they could take back.
The final and potentially most detrimental issue to come from energy was the fact that practically anything could function as the deck's top-end. Aetherworks Marvel into Emrakul, the Promised End / Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, the Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian combo, and then eventually just Dragons or Gods. After sideboard, fringe cards could easily take over games-stuff like River's Rebuke, Confiscation Coup, or dense Vizier of the Many Faces strategies. The Energy shell was simply too flexible. If there was a problem, whatever it was, Temur Energy could solve it. This forced decks like Esper/Abzan Tokens out of the metagame. These decks could beat Ramunap Red, and even control variants, but just couldn't beat Longtusk Cub, Negate, and River's Rebuke out of Temur Energy's sideboard. Even though they would most likely win game 1 against Temur Energy, they would often lose the match.
The decision to ban exactly Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner does make sense. I thought they may attack the mana by removing Attune with Aether and Aether Hub, or hit the three-drops in Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso. The decision they made hits green midrange-based energy decks, and still lets others exist which I do think would have been better than if I made the decision. This way, decks that want to play energy spells can exist like Jeskai Control, or artifact-based energy decks.
The problem never really was energy on its own, but when it was in the green-midrange form. Even Jeskai Saheeli wasn't too good completely on its own, but only became degenerately powerful when the Four-Color Saheeli formula was finally cracked.
What blows my mind is that Wizards didn't stop at Temur Energy, and took a swing at the format's second best deck: Ramunap Red. Their reasoning was mostly due to the deck's high win percentage on Magic Online. Ramunap Ruins gave the strategy incredible reach while Rampaging Ferocidon allowed the deck to get around two strategic ways to fend off red: blocking and gaining life. I don't know if I agree with this. Clearly I haven't had as much time to think about this as they have, but I'll do my best to plead my case as to why I think this was a very narrow-minded decision.
Temur Energy invalidates so many cards, many of which are good against decks like Ramunap Red. For instance, I'm under the impression that Ixalan's Binding is one of the best cards in Standard yet doesn't see any play thanks to Bristling Hydra, Glorybringer, and Whirler Virtuoso. You know, all those energy-based threats. Temur Energy was such a nuisance that it completely shifted what was playable and what wasn't. Even if a deck wanted to play a card like Ixalan's Binding, it couldn't set up its deck to support it thanks to Energy's stranglehold. Everything was controlled by the ever-warping Temur Energy, and now the metagame could finally be relieved from that.
Personally, I'd like to believe that Rampaging Ferocidon got the axe due to its enter-the-battlefield ability and how it interacts with competitive rules. The card's just annoying as every single miss-trigger that benefits the controller ends in a warning. Obviously it's the owner's responsibility to remember every trigger to take a damage, but Standard is extremely complex right now, causing small things to be forgotten. We've seen mistakes be made at the highest levels in this format due to how technical the format's gotten, and this adds to the problem. Who knows, maybe this card was just as much of a headache for judges as it was for the players. Maybe that alone deserves a ban in a format that's already had so many of them. You could say it's a Sunscorched Land policy.
In the end though, I'm not happy about this decision. Maybe Ramunap Ruins was too good, and just maybe I'm being too hard on the decision about Rampaging Ferocidon, but that's Magic. We shouldn't just be banning cards because they win the most. They should get taken out of the format when we know for fact they are detrimental to our enjoyment, and it's difficult for me to believe that both Rampunap Red and Temur Energy were both diseases worth eradicating. I'm under the impression that Ramunap Red was simply a symptom of the Temur Energy disease. It feels to me that this format has already experienced much scrutiny over all of the other bans that they might as well try to salvage as much as they can out of the other cards that got printed, but that goes against what made me love this game in the first place. I love finding solutions to problems, not just wishing them away. I looked forward to a red aggressive deck being enemy number one and finding the best way to defeat it. I never want the powers above intervening unless absolutely necessary, and there's no way this was absolutely necessary.
Now things are about to change with Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner getting banned. Temur Energy - the way we know it - is no more and with it dies green midrange, a strategy that has dominated Standard for long enough. Courser of Kruphix, Collected Company, Deathmist Raptor/Den Protector, Tireless Tracker, and the now gone Rogue Refiner. All that's left standing is the impressive Jadelight Ranger, but it doesn't seem like the card will have a supporting cast to make a midrange deck compete with the other powerful cards in the format. This is a good thing, though! Green midrange has been at the forefront of Standard for so many years that I'm even sick of playing with these decks. Me, the green midrange master! I'd love it if green actually becomes the worst color for a while, and I'm confident that's going to be the case.
Especially now that Ramunap Red has taken a hit, I feel a shift in power is about to happen. White no longer has a busted planeswalker to hold dominance, and green doesn't have the ability to grind even the most controlling decks into mulch. We may see blue-based control decks take over since they are the only decks that seem to have dodged any bannings, but it will most likely be a more balanced metagame than we've seen in some time. We should start to see interesting cards see play, like Anointed Procession, The Immortal Sun, and maybe even Dinosaurs like Tetzimoc, Primal Death.
It's been a tough year for Standard. There's been a lot of frustration as we've seen complete debacles like the printing of Felidar Guardian alongside Saheeli Rai, Emrakul, the Promised End, and now this. I can't argue with those of you who have decided to take a step away from Standard during these times, but I can assure you that this is probably a perfect time to get back into it. Standard should be very exciting for the foreseeable future, and Wizards has recently hired some of the best minds to make sure this never happens again. On top of that, these new employees should most likely bring exciting changes to the sets that come forth in the following years.
No matter if you like these changes or hate them, this is still Magic. A game of strong opinions, in-depth strategies, and constantly shifting metagames. Of course we normally like change to be more organic, but things happen. I may not like half of today's decisions, but that doesn't mean it can't be better for us in the long run.
Hey, at least content's about to get exciting again! Bring on the brews!