5 Cards That Might Need a Ban in Standard

Skyclave-Apparition-Zendikar-Rising-MtG-Art

Hello planeswalkers from across the globe! The competitive scene in Magic: The Gathering has changed furiously in the last few years. What was supposed to be used as a last resort has become much more present in the development of the standard metagame.

Yes, that’s right. We’re going to talk about Bans.

“What’s changed?” you may ask. “Players desperately call for bannings, Wizards replies with bans, and game moves forward. Isn’t that how it’s always been?” Well, no. Not at all.

You see, there used to be a development team focused on testing future formats and sets that had not been released. Their goal was to fix power balancing issues before it was too late. But, of course, a small team in an office can’t test a format as efficiently as thousands of players who are trying to win tournaments. Sometimes, they get it wrong, and then they have to use the ban hammer. Cards like Smuggler’s Copter ended up being too powerful, while others like Felidar Guardian had synergies that weren’t supposed to exist. A card being banned back then meant that Wizards had made a mistake. Wizards apologized, fixed the mistake, and the metagame shifted.

What’s different now is the intention behind the bans and how those intentions are presented to the world. Wizards realized that bans didn’t need to mean they had made a mistake. On the contrary, they realized that bans could mean that they had done something right.

“You’re crazy,” you might be thinking. You’re right, but not when not when it comes to this topic! Rather than say, “We’ve made a mistake,” Wizards has started framing bans as, “We hear our community, and therefore we’re taking action.” See the difference?

The idea is that we should be proud of bans, because they’re a sign that those in charge are listening to players and taking quick action to fix any potential problems in the format.

How did we end up here? How is it that what used to be a problem has become a celebrated part of the solution? One of the arguments that Wizards uses to justify the current situation is that printing more powerful cards (which require more frequent bannings) means they can essentially release whatever they want. They can always ban a card later if ends up being a problem. But in a game where you can’t modify a card once it has been printed, and people have to buy individual cards to play the game, there’s a higher chance that certain cards will end up being useless.  

Today, I want to discuss five cards that I think have the most chance of being banned from the format at some point. They are powerful enough that they may restrict deck diversity to the point that they would be almost auto-includes in their colors.

If you disagree (and I bet many of you will!) make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments! Let’s begin:

Yorion, Sky Nomad

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When the companions rule was changed, everyone thought companions were done. Spending three mana just to draw a card seemed like a bad deal at the time. Turns out, not only are there are a few companions that are still playable, but one in particular is so efficient at what it does and synergizes so well with other cards that you don’t mind spending a turn to draw it. Enter the battlefield triggers are everywhere, and today’s Standard format is no exception. Yorion, Sky Nomad creates a ridiculous amount of card advantage, develops your board presence, and also acts as removal when paired with cards like Skyclave Apparition or Glass Casket.

Too powerful? I think so. Cards with relevant abilities will continue being printed, and it will become very difficult to go over the top of what Yorion does.

It’s no coincidence that there are a number of different Yorion decks (Orzhov, Selesnya, Azorius, and so on). You can easily find good synergies with it in almost every color. Casting stuff and then following up with Yorion becomes the deck’s strategy, regardless of what else it is trying to do. Countering Yorion is often the best way to stop your opponent getting an enormous card advantage. This makes me believe that at some point the diversity of the metagame could be affected, and one solution could be removing the flying serpent from the equation.

Edgewall Inkeeper

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Yes, Throne of Eldraine was a broken set. Many people still complain about the power level of this set, and for good reason. We are still seeing many cards from the set dominate in Standard. Edgewall Inkeeper is one of those cards.

We used to have an entire deck built around the adventure mechanic. Important cards to the deck, like Lucky Clover, only got banned once Omnath, Locus of Creation joined the team. But we’re still seeing some of the better adventure cards combining with our little 1/1 Innkeeper in decks like Gruul Adventures. Regardless of what will be printed in future sets, it’s hard to beat the efficiency of a one mana creature that draws cards, in conjunction with a Lovestruck Beast (a three mana 5/5) and Bonecrusher Giant (which we will talk about later). One way to beat this would be to kill the Edgewall Inkeeper before he draws any cards, but this doesn’t always happen. Most of the time, you end up down on cards and behind on tempo, since you will usually spend at least two mana to kill it.

Sure, these decks are not unbeatable, and there are decks that don’t use Edgewall Inkeeper, but the problem is deck diversity. We will likely keep playing with the same cards for a year, because they will simply outclass anything we might see in upcoming sets.

Embercleave

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This absolute beast of a card makes combat a total nightmare for the defending player. There comes a point in most games at which you just can’t play around Embercleave. You usually don’t have profitable blocks, and if you lack instant speed interaction, then you’re dead no matter what you do. Even if you have interaction, you might not have time to develop your own game while leaving mana open to react. If you hold back and they don’t have it, then you’ve wasted a turn. Heck, even if you remove the creature and survive the attack, they can just reequip it on something else next turn and smash you!

Even if Embercleave decks never dominate the metagame, that doesn’t mean it’s correct to keep the card legal. The problem is in the play patterns that keep repeating, games that come to that dreaded “if you have it, I’m dead” scenario. This should eventually raise the alarm that something is wrong.

A similar argument can be made for Winota, Joiner of Forces. When deciding which cards to keep and which cards to ban, Wizards looks at metagame diversity and the deck’s win rate. Say Winota decks had a 50% win rate against other decks. That’s okay, right? No! if you go deeper and look at how that win rate is distributed, you’ll find that the games were not fair and balanced. If the Winota player found the card on turn four, then they would win most of the time. If they didn’t, then they would lose! This is why diversity and win rate shouldn’t be the only aspects we consider. They usually don’t tell the whole story.

When players play Embercleave, those players win more often. Again, it’s not that you can’t beat them, but aggressive red decks will always find a reason to cleave. The problem is that diversity in deck building ends up being restricted, and new cards don’t have a chance to shine.

Bonecrusher Giant

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Since Throne of Eldraine, how many red decks do you think don’t play Bonecrusher Giant? If you find one that doesn’t, it’s probably because the builder forgot to include it, or didn’t have enough wildcards. It’s good on offense and defense, and makes two drops with 2 or less toughness extremely vulnerable. If you’re adding mountains to your sixty cards, you might as well start with four copies of the giant. 

This card doesn’t feel wrong. It doesn’t win games. It’s not oppressive. But players (and Wizards) tend to focus too much on cards that steal the spotlight, rather than think of how the metagame could be more diverse in the long run. Bonecrusher Giant is so effective that I think there won’t be anything in future sets that will make you say “I guess my red deck doesn’t need these four copies of Giants anymore”. That’s a problem.

Skyclave Apparition

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Many of the reasons I gave for Bonecrusher Giant apply here as well. We have a three drop that is seeing play in nearly every white deck, whether it’s aggro or control. A 2/2 creature that also functions as removal against anything costing four or less is too efficient. By the time your opponent deals with the creature, the token it creates is often irrelevant. Sure, the double white in its mana cost may make it difficult to cast, but Yorion is still around, so that doesn’t seem like that much of a problem.

Thank you so much for reading! Please make sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section. I will gladly answer them! You can also find me on social media here, and streaming on Twitch almost everyday here. See you in the next one!

AfterOfficeTTV

AfterOfficeTTV

MatΓ­as Arvigo | Twitch Partner | MTG Arena Streamer |

58 Responses

  1. grokking grokking says:

    please don’t ban yorion, I can’t play mtg without 80 cards these days!

  2. ChrisH ChrisH says:

    You should have your ability to write about magic stripped and consider stripping you of your right to play. You and articles like this are 100% what is wrong with magic.

  3. mthkgh mthkgh says:

    How about Ugin? It isn’t oppressively good, but it is oppressively unfun.

  4. Rugoberta Rugoberta says:

    I totally agree with you. Nice article!

  5. Nice article! the deck builder must add 4 copyes automatically when you add a single mountain.

  6. Parabolian Parabolian says:

    I 50 percent agree with you. I think Yorion and EmberCleave could use a ban. But maybe only because the standard block cycle itself is too long. 18 months is a long time to see certain cards. Especially during covid when magic is one of our few outlets. Yorion has already overstayed it’s welcome that is the main issue. We are sick of losing to the same stale things.

  7. ClebersUncle ClebersUncle says:

    It’s because of articles like this I think adblocks are one of the best things on the internet, so to make sure you don’t get any money from revenue from having such ridiculous ideas.

  8. FirstLast FirstLast says:

    None of these should be banned, imo.

    • Amen. Like the way to deal with cards you hate is not ban them LOL . L2P πŸ˜€

      I cant recall single instance when I was telling myself any of those 5 cards should be banned LOL

      Only cards I was mad at were Rogues synergy – at very begining of new standard – but it has been long figured out how to counter Rogues

      None of those 5 cards ever crossed my mind LOL

      Unlike Omnath, Lukka, Agent, Cat, …

  9. Hmmmm I’m inclined to disagree. Holding back Mana and spamming flash/counter cards (Brazen Borrower looking at you) is ruining the game.

  10. Achux Achux says:

    In this days I hate Embercleave and Henge. But I played monored and monogreen in the past, now Im playing esper doom with Yorion. Today I would like to see Embercleave and Henge banned, probably tomorrow I will like to see Yorion banned. I think this standard post Omnath ban is quite fair, but again, ban cleave!

  11. Chrysologus Chrysologus says:

    I prefer the older design and ban philosophy where it’s a last resort and indicates a design error.

  12. CharmToy CharmToy says:

    Standard honestly feels fine right now, I don’t feel like bans are necessary. There are like 5 or 6 good decks right now, that’s plenty of variety.
    That being said, if they just rotated Eldraine out early I would’t complain. For as much as Lovestuck Beast, Bonecrusher Giant, Brazen Borrower, Questing Beast, and Embercleave aren’t utterly ruining the game right now, I’m just tired of seeing them constantly. It feels like Eldraine has been legal forever and it’s still gonna be around for another year. Another year of Every Card Being 2 Cards and everyone having 3 Mana 5/5 Blockers.
    This is coming from someone who played Gruul Adventure up to Mythic this month. I play the cards because I want to win, but I’m not happy about it.
    I can’t believe there are 6 cards from Eldraine banned out of Standard and it’s still the strongest set in rotation.

  13. Rohirel Rohirel says:

    I find the analysis and debate interesting to consider thinking about medium-term solutions. The logic problem I see is that we start from a moment when most agree that the format is in a good moment. That is why pointing to particular cards as a possible focus of future bans is going too far, because perhaps the next time the format is broken, the bans that fix it may be different. It is a matter of analyzing where the specific problem is, because otherwise it is to do tests that perhaps with the best intentions generate new problems that did not exist. (sorry for the google translator)

  14. Zafarion Zafarion says:

    I couldn’t agree. These cards are truly powerful, but if you remove them, another 5 will appear and so on. The real problem is when a certain deck proves to be effective against all the others, so you have to ban some piece to make it worse.

  15. iheke iheke says:

    To think I actually created an account to reply to a single article but it really is necessary.

    Yorion is a card that pushes control players towards value rather than restraint/counterplay. Value more often than not equals interaction (of the fun kind). If Yorion was banned, all the control tools that don’t see play now – mainly spell counters – would suddenly grow in importance as the option of “outvaluing” an opponent is taken away. I’m not sure that the community would agree with you especially when there are really good Azorious fliers and Dimir Rogues and straight up mill in the format. The blue/x monster that would emerge would have the community manning the barricades.

    Edgewall Innkeeper is the engine behind *most* Adventure decks – especially now clover is banned – banning innkeeper doesn’t just kill one deck but all of the adventure cards except our favourite giant (which is also suggested for a ban) and our favourite dwarf (which is a fave for the monored hordes). The other half of the adventure block was balanced around knights but that has been completely underpowered with the departure of clover so this would be a fatal move de facto taking 31 cards out the game.

    Embercleave – this is probably the only justified card on the list. If you are running any kind of aggressive deck in red then this card makes sense. Also, when this card comes down its a de facto concede. I would feel completely differently about this card if it didn’t have flash or had the same cost as Henge. But as it is it must go.

    Bonecrusher Giant – I just think the writer is wrong (I do worry about how he sees the game with this one). Giant provides value but at a high cost (5 mana) Its best use is removing an opponents turn 2 play and then coming down on turn 3 any other play means its making your atypical red deck less efficient (and then even mono red has some great other options on turn 3 – eg. Annax to protect against the board wipe, Bolt Hound to provide a pump and other more situational cards). Cards with a single use aren’t meta breaking or game defining. I also can’t imagine that over the next few sets more options at turn 3 for Red will arrive – with this card occupying the best “value” option.

    Lastly, on Skyclave apparition, you are simply smoking rocks if you think the first Tier 1 card printed in white for 2 years is going to get banned. To understand what a bad spot white is in, the only *two* cards at turn 3 in mythic that are white in standard are Basri Ket and Heliod (yeah, those dominant cards – lol), at rare there are a few more cards but no options – the only relevant card here is Lurrus (and its not a white card). That’s forgetting that when its removed it has the very severe downside of giving the stats back to the opponent. No, No, No and No.

    • Schwinger Schwinger says:

      I just made an Account to thank you for this comment.
      We have the most refreshing, fun and diverse metagame in a long time. nothing is too oppressive, there are many viable archetypes.

      • Exactly. I didnt even bother to read the article – just seeing somebody calling for bans NOW? Seems ridiculous! Game is truly fun – why messing with it?

        And I like Cleave – it keeps greedy decks in check as it always did.

    • SwedishAlan SwedishAlan says:

      I also made an account, just to comment on this article.

      Articles like this, seem to be prevalent with modern magic players. The author uses the justification for the article, as Wizard’s changed philosophy, which is to “listen to the community” and ban cards that way. Not only is this logic flawed, because Wizards have only banned cards from standard recently that have had an oppressively high meta-game %, he has also the agreed that we shouldn’t ban cards, unless its clear that they were a design mistake (see comment section)

      Chrysologus
      November 26, 2020 at 3:52 PM

      I prefer the older design and ban philosophy where it’s a last resort and indicates a design error.
      Reply

      AfterOfficeTTV AfterOfficeTTV
      November 28, 2020 at 9:31 AM

      I’m with you on this one. Thank you for the comment!
      Reply

      So the WHOLE article is pointless as the author has gone against his justification for even having the discussion! Because outside of a changed Wizard ban philosophy, anyone that thinks these 5 cards need banning from Standard, is smoking too much and needs to calm the fuck down.

      Crap article and i was so disappointed with it, i made an account, just to express my displeasure.

      Bad reasoning, bad logic. This article is bad and the author should feel bad for giving these kinds of ideas a space to exist.

      • πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

        I mean I do agree – just the title of the article + the chosen cards made me face palm πŸ˜€

        Hopefully nothing like this is brewing in Wizards LOL …

      • First of all, the article clearly states that we are talking about bans AT SOME POINT, not right now, which you and many people miss. Second, it is not the winrate of a card that makes WotC ban it, its people complaining. If players are fine, they dont touch anything. If buyers are angry, they take action. Thinking otherwise I think its borderline absurd. Third, been in favor of OLDER DESIGN (in which cards werent as pushed as today), and BAN PHILOSOPHY (were bans meant a message from WotC saying “we made a mistake” instead of a tool to create busted cards without a consequence) does not go against the article at all. Older Design meant less oppressive cards (which I liked) and that Ban Philosophy would go along with that design, something that is not happening right now, therefore we get cards like the 5 listed in the article. Thanks for your comment.

    • I completely dissagre on almost every word you say, but I highly appreciate respectful discussion, so thank you for thinking differently and been polite.

  16. Eli.Absinthe Eli.Absinthe says:

    Total rubbish!!
    Can only say previous commentator was right asking the question what the dude of the Article was smoking.
    Maybe it all was a rouse getting people to finally register on this site just so they can comment on the article saying horseshit.
    Like the previous commentator rightly observed even hypothetically bringing up the first good white magic card in what seems like forever for ban discussion is just wrong. I personally would not ban any of the cards mentioned,strong cards all in their own rights but none of em warping the format to an unhealthy degree.

  17. Frystalian Frystalian says:

    Here’s 5 cards that might need a ban:
    1. Plains
    2. Forest
    3. Mountain
    4. Swamp
    5. Island

    Yeah ban those cards then we’ll have a great meta πŸ™‚

  18. The fuck – why would you ban those cards? None of them are OP in any sense …

    Current Standard and Historic is super fun! No need for bans … jesus …

  19. rydeordie164 rydeordie164 says:

    “5 Cards that need a Ban in Standard”..are you joking? Standard is more balanced right now than it has been in a long time. It is articles like this that feed this ban every card philosophy. It makes for a lot of new players who encounter a powerful card synergy they dislike so they say it needs to be banned. Shameful.

    • It is a shame that so many people comment without even bothering to read. The articles clearly states that these cards could need a ban AT SOME POINT in Standard (they will be legal for another full year). Thanks for your time anyways!

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