August 24, 2020 Banned and Restricted Announcement: Historic Changes + Commentary

Wizards of the Coast has released their Banned and Restricted Announcement today, making changes to only one format this time! There will be an Arena update today, with the ban going live then.

FormatCard NameLegality
HistoricField of the DeadBanned

Cards are ordinarily suspended in Historic, but Wizards has skipped the step of re-suspending Field of the Dead – it is banned permanently.

Note that if you’ve previously been refunded wildcards for Field (such as when it was banned in Standard), you won’t be refunded again. However, anyone who doesn’t already have 4 Fields should get out there and craft them right now, as the patch could be very soon and you won’t have the chance to do so after it’s already out!

Read below for our commentary and the official explanation for the ban. You can also check out the official list of all banned and restricted cards, by format, here.

Historic

m20-247-field-of-dead

Field of the Dead proved a problem early in Historic’s lifespan, being part of its very first suspension announcement. This was no surprise, since Field had already dominated a Standard environment and earned itself a ban there by then. There, it’s even credited with having kept in check one of the most infamous cards in recent memory, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and that should really demonstrate its power since Oko was one of the best cards ever printed into a Standard environment and had previously unseen levels of format dominance and representation! The Oko decks, for all their absurd power, actually had a bad matchup against Field, so the floodgates opened and let loose all manner of horrors when Field was banned. While its companions in the first suspension announcement moved from suspension to being outright banned, Field surprised everyone by being allowed back into the format. Since then it has been part of many of the top decks, of every good ramp deck and many that aren’t quite so competitive!

Simply put, Field is one of the most powerful lands ever printed, providing gamewinning late game for the simple cost of including some colourless taplands and constructing your deck to have plenty of lands with different names in it, a small investment for many decks – especially ramp decks, but Field has featured in all sorts. Lands are the hardest permanent type in the entire game to destroy, they’re still useful early game since they can tap for mana and beef up your land count, while utility lands like Field simultaneously prevent flood, and Field helps mitigate its own stipulation since Field will always satisfy one of the seven you need. Once active, the incidental value provided by Field for no mana or upkeep cost at all makes those decks ludicrously powerful against Control and creature decks alike – no deck fighting a slow game can keep up, because Field requires no mana or card investment: the decks it’s in can simply use their mana on other things while always having a board and blockers available.

The subject of whether Field should be banned has previously polarised the Magic community and been the subject of great controversy. The central arguments against Field have been the polarising matchups against slower decks, but plenty of people argue that the ramp decks built around it are too slow for Historic anyway, and are routinely crushed by all the fast decks. Before Amonkhet Remastered brought Hour of Promise into the fray, this argument had some merit and Field decks overall weren’t doing that well. However, it’s worth noting that Field comprised a useful part of the last banned deck, Temur Reclamation (check out the last ban announcement here for more info!), being essentially free to include (which really is a major part of the problem with Field, that it doesn’t restrict your deck all that much…) and buying it a lot of time to set up/soften them up for that gamewinning Expansion/Explosion.

Unfortunately Hour, in its ability to search up two copies of Field of the Dead and immediately assemble a huge board, has revitalised the deck and made it much faster and more consistent. Before its ban today, the Field decks were easily keeping up with the faster decks, while having the same effect on the format – the Control and midrange strategies that would ordinarily spring up to counter the aggro meta were wounded by its presence and popularity, to a degree where they still weren’t worth playing even if they were able to beat the faster decks. This is compounded by the boring playstyle of the Field decks – as it turns out, the strategy of incorporating a lot of ramp and casting that ramp in the early turns of every single game, and then winning every late game simply by attacking with your horde of zombies over and over, doesn’t lead to the most interesting or dynamic gameplay, either to play with or against. This has been a problem with ramp decks before, so the position Field gave those over the format, being by far the most played strategy in best-of-three, has left games feeling unfun and unsatisfying for a lot of people.

As such, it looks like Wizards has finally felt ready to act, as evidenced by the fact that they skipped the step of re-suspending Field and moved straight to banning. That could signal a trend where they won’t suspend cards twice, or more likely simply will move straight to banning cards when they are certain that those particular cards are problems and don’t need to gather more data first. Don’t expect ramp decks to go anywhere though, as Historic still has plenty of fantastic enablers and ludicrous payoffs for that strategy running around!

Personally, I think the Field ban is a major positive, greatly improving the format’s long-term health while inspiring a resurgence in short-term brewing and innovation. Even if as people claim, control, midrange, and other slower decks still won’t be good enough to keep up with aggro, ramp, and combo decks even without Field, I’m certainly willing to give them a shot – after all, they put up decent results in more powerful formats like Pioneer, where Field is already banned! I would argue that if those decks aren’t allowed to thrive, the format will be worse for it, and that steps need to continue being taken to ensure format diversity.

HISTORIC

Field of the Dead has been a powerful force in Historic for much of the format’s life. While its overall win rate is rarely at the top, its matchups are extremely polarized. In particular, its high win rate against slower decks has made the format as a whole lean more toward aggressive strategies. This effect scales with the ubiquity of Field of the Dead decks, and recent sets have given the deck several powerful additions, including CultivateExplore, and, most recently, Hour of Promise. As a result of this we have seen both the popularity and win rate of Field of the Dead decks steadily climb, and it is currently one of the most played Best-of-One decks and, by far, the most popular Best-of-Three deck.

Having watched the progress of this deck closely, we feel that this trend is unlikely to change. We also feel that Field of the Dead is unlikely to be a healthy part of the format anytime soon, so suspension is the wrong approach. In order to bring a greater diversity to the Historic meta, Field of the Dead is banned.

Discussion:

  • Do you agree with the Field ban? Why or why not?
  • Are there any other bans you were hoping for/would like to see?
  • Are you excited for the Historic format going forward?

Drifter

Drifter is our site’s content manager and main editor! Follow him on Twitter and check out his content at https://mtgazone.com/drifter. A draft and strategy specialist, of special mention are his limited reviews and draft coaching service.

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KneeDeepInTheNorthSea
KneeDeepInTheNorthSea
1 month ago

Seeing what folks play for the next several days will be a welcome break from the zombie horde. I won’t cry for field.