Attune with Aether is banned.
Rogue Refiner is banned.
Ramunap Ruins is banned.
Rampaging Ferocidon is banned.
Okay. Breathe. Let's think about this.
Standard has been in a lull for quite a while. This goes back almost to the release of Collected Company in 2015. This is where the bearish trend began on people leaving Standard and becoming more interested in Modern. From there we had such great hits as Emrakul, the Promised End, Aetherworks Marvel, and Felidar Guardian.
There is no arguing. All of these cards were mistakes.
I'm not even mentioning Smuggler's Copter and the energy mechanic (not the mechanic itself, but the raw power the mechanic has). I've seen some people talk about unbannings being a possible solution to Standard, but I strongly disagree with this statement. Smuggler's Copter is not only the best (insert any tribal name) you can play with, it's also a removal check. While not as game winning as an unchecked Pack Rat, I can promise you that you will feel the power of an unchecked Smuggler's Copter over the course of two or three turns.
As for Felidar Guardian, I don't think I need to tell you why two-card combos that win the game are bad for Standard. You could argue the Aetherworks Marvel could come off now that Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner are banned, but I certainly wouldn't risk it. If Aetherworks Marvel is seeing play in Standard, then it's not going to be a fun card, as it will promote gameplay of cheating huge things onto the battlefield for cheap, and that's just not what you want in Standard.
Working inside R&D at Wizards of the Coast is no easy job, and I'm certainly not envious of the decisions they have to make, having been in their spot not too long ago. Magic is a game as old as time when it comes to the gaming industry, and they don't have a lot of added luxuries that new games do.
What happens in Hearthstone or League of Legends if a card or hero is too overpowered? The card or hero has the ability to change after its release. This is a huge advantage that newer games have over Magic. Once a Magic card is sent out into the printers to reach the new world, there are no changes that can be made. You can't change the text of Felidar Guardian to say "target nonplaneswalker permanent" no matter how hard you wish you could.
If a mistake is made, there is essentially one option, and that is to ban the card that is in question. Bannings have a huge cost associated with them, as players lose out on their investments. While Hearthstone has the ability to gift you back your dust, Magic doesn't really have the agency to do something like that. So why ban? Well, I believe that the primary focus on bannings is twofold. The first reason I would consider banning is if a mistake is made. The second reason would be if Standard wasn't in a healthy condition where players actively want to play.
Leading up to Monday, I thought Wizards was going to make a ban. I thought it would consist of either Attune with Aether and Aether Hub, or Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner. So I got half of it right. I certainly wasn't expecting Ramunap Ruins or Rampaging Ferocidon to be banned, let alone both.
I think we can all agree that the most important thing for Magic to be successful is for the format to be fun. Now, you can write a book about what fun is in relation to games for various different people. One of the things that fun is not, however, is playing the same Temur Energy mirror in Standard over and over again, even if the gameplay isn't that bad. That is why I support the ban on both Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner. I believe that this will promote more variety of gameplay into Standard and with that, more fun.
Energy cards weren't the only thing banned, however. Two cards from Ramunap Red were also banned. Often times, when banning cards from the most played deck in Standard, you have to be mindful of what is going to rise after it. Ramunap Red was the second most played deck and I personally like the choices Wizards made. I think it's better to overshoot (within reason) than take a shot and not make an impact.
Ramunap Ruins gave the red deck a lot of inevitability and reach in the late game. Once your life total reaches five or less, it's too easy for Ramunap Ruins to deal the last few points of damage to close out the game. You may not think that Ramunap Ruins was that important, but I assure you that Mono-Red will feel this loss without it.
I think that the card most people are questioning that was banned is Rampaging Ferocidon. I believe the reason for this is to promote the future health of tribal decks like Vampires and Merfolk. Both of these tribes are about playing lots of creatures, and that becomes increasingly hard in a world with a fully powered Ramunap Red deck with Rampaging Ferocidon on the battlefield. Vampires sports a lot of sweet creatures with incremental life gain, something that Rampaging Ferocidon negated entirely.
It's said that in life the only guarantees are death and taxes. Well, I think there's one other guarantee and that's people absolutely love to complain. No matter the decision, no matter the result, someone somewhere is going to complain about something.
So I would like to take a moment and thank the people in R&D at Wizards of the Coast for making a tough decision and trying to improve a game that I care deeply about. Maybe you don't agree with the bannings currently, and maybe there are other problematic cards in Standard, but just recognize the tough decisions that Wizards has to make. They are all human beings and all human beings make mistakes.
Wizards of the Coast does listen, they want the absolute best for their game and the community that plays it. I can make no promises as to the health of Standard in the future, but I think now is the time to get in. I personally haven't been this excited to play Standard in a long time, probably around three years.
So what does this actually mean for Standard?
I expect tribal decks to be the thing to focus on in the early weeks of Standard for SCG Dallas and SCG Philadelphia. Pick up your tribal cards from Rivals of Ixalan as I am bullish on all of the tribes going forward.
I expect decks that previously existed to also continue to be options: U/W Approach, Mono-Red Aggro, B/G Constrictor, U/W Gift, and even perhaps some Grixis Energy midrange deck. Along with these I expect B/W Vampires, U/G Merfolk, B/R Pirates, and R/G/x Dinosaur decks to be a part of the metagame as well. That's at least nine decks that I expect to do well, and I'm sure there will be more, so I'm very excited to get to work playing some Standard.
With bannings in Standard, we can expect a lot of other cards' value in Standard to go up in the near future. Here are my top five winners from the new ban announcement that took place this past Monday.
Now that energy has been severely knocked down a peg, one of the biggest answers to Azor, Harnessed Lightning, may start to see a lot less play. If that does become the case, Azor is going to become an excellent finisher for U/W Control decks. I can definitely imagine U/W Approach running a copy or two of this card in their main deck and sideboard. I think this is one of the biggest winners from the new change to Standard.
Now that Rogue Refiner is gone, there is much less pressure on three-drop creatures, making Jadelight Ranger go from already good to great. I expect Jadelight Ranger to be alongside Winding Constrictor for a while in Standard. Personally, I am fine with B/G Constrictor being a deck because it has been notoriously weak to U/W Approach, a deck that I expect to get better with the weakening of Temur Energy.
No longer will Paladin of Atonement have to worry about not getting a recoup on life loss with Rampaging Ferocidon on the battlefield. I expect to see many B/W Vampire decks in the upcoming weeks at SCG Dallas and SCG Philadelphia. Vampires reminds me of Kithkin in the sense that it has the ability to threaten a fair amount of pressure without dumping everything on the battlefield. With this and Duress as a tool in the format, I expect Vampires to be able to handle control quite well.
Although this card still dies to Abrade, it will likely have to deal with a lot less Thopters in the air. With Whirler Virtuoso taking a hit from the energy pair being banned, this card's stock may go up significantly. This card even plays pretty well against Glorybringer as it trades with opposing Glorybringers and if they exert, you get to attack the next turn and their Glorybringer doesn't untap. Perhaps Vraska's Contempt will become more useful in the upcoming Standard.
Much like Rekindling Phoenix. Warkite Marauder is another flier that gains momentum. Let's face it: In a world with Whirler Virtuoso tokens everywhere, how successful can a one toughness flyer be? This card plays well against a variety of creatures in Standard, especially against cards like Adanto Vanguard and Rekindling Phoenix. I expect this card to be a driving force for Pirates in Standard now that Whirler Virtuoso will likely see less play.
I personally believe that with these new changes, Standard is going to be vibrant and new going forward. I expect a healthy and diverse metagame, and I'm very envious of my teammate playing Standard in SCG Philadelphia. My hope is that this is the final kick Standard needs to finally turn the boat around. I have faith in the new Play Design team and here's to a new year and a new and better Standard format!
What are your thoughts on the new ban changes?