With last week’s Pauper B&R update, the Magic community was set ablaze with ban talks as it was announced that they would be addressing changes in other formats on January 25th.
Between Standard being stale, Alchemy needing updates, and eternal formats apparently hitting a brick wall, there was plenty to speculate about. Well, the bans are finally here and they are going to be huge.
Standard Gets Turned On Its Head
It’s no big secret that Standard has been languishing for awhile. A stale metagame reinforced by a only a few viable options is definitely not a great place to be for what’s supposed to be Magic’s premiere format. Alrund's Epiphany was heavily impacting metagame diversity as it was pretty much excellent in every matchup and required only the most refined decks to tackle it. With it gone, the metagame can have some breathing room again.
Where I expected the only ban to be Alrund's Epiphany, Wizards also axed Faceless Haven. This ban makes sense from their explanation that the monocolored decks were out competing everything else besides Epiphany that led them to this decision. Furthermore, it was pretty clear that Wizard’s already had their eye on it as it was one of the first changes made with the inception of Alchemy.
Finally, Wizards even decided to go after Divide by Zero as the final change for Standard. This move was a bit more surprising as it didn’t seem like Divide was in their cross-hairs, but their explanation easily puts it into perspective. Divide was simply too good against the more expensive cards in the format and could create game states that are impossible to climb out of when combined with Lier, Disciple of the Drowned or Hullbreaker Horror. These play patterns were rather endemic in Standard so having them nixed before they can proliferate again seems like a wise move.
Sweeping Changes to Alchemy
With Alchemy’s release, there was a promise from Wizards to keep up with the format and make more aggressive changes than they would with a paper format. While some figured this would mean more rapid changes, we finally have the first round of fixes.
To start off with, the Venture package as a whole got a buff. The announcement noted that a lot of the Venture cards were both too under powered and too cluttered around the same mana costs (particularly 3.) With changing a large swath of them, the archetype may be viable in Alchemy. These changes include: Acererak the Archlich, Cloister Gargoyle, Dungeon Descent, Ellywick Tumblestrum, Fates' Reversal, Find the Path, Precipitous Drop, and Triumphant Adventurer. You can find their exact changes at the end of the article.
For the next round of buffs, Wizards targeted 3 Alchemy cards. Assemble from Parts was supposed to be a new take on a Reanimation spell, but proved it bit too clunky to be viable. With changing the activated ability from 3B to 1BB, Wizards is hoping it can be a stronger option. Bloodrage Alpha gets a very small buff from 3 toughness to 4 which will help increase it’s resilience. Finally, Puppet Raiser also got a 4th point of toughness for the same reason. It’s hard to say how much this will impact their viability, but any buffs will obviously inch it closer towards that goal.
Next up we have all the nerfs to many of the currents front runners in Alchemy. For the Blue decks, Divide by Zero, Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, and Hullbreaker Horror were all hit to make the deck a little easier to interact with in general. The Lier nerf in particular is quite harsh as it turns off its ability on the opponent’s turn which was generally where it was the most valuable. This definitely hurts the viability of it moving forward.
Two Dragons received small nerfs as well: Fearsome Whelp having it’s trigger moved to the upkeep and Town-Razer Tyrant now only targeting nonbasic lands. A lot of Whelp’s power came from almost always getting the trigger to go off so giving the opponent a window to interact makes it much fairer, but could end up making the card too weak to be viable. Town-Razer on the other hand gives a little more leeway to play around as it can be completely ineffective against mono colored strategies, but seems just as strong against any deck playing more than one color.
Sanguine Brushstroke received a small hit where activating Blood tokens no longer drains the opponent, but just hits them for 1. Wizard’s wanted to nerf the Black midrange decks slightly against aggressive strategies as they have a lot of ways to gain life and while this is the most minor way to accomplish that, it could be enough to make the matchup a bit less lopsided.
Finally the change most have been waiting for, Inquisitor Captain’s trigger has been changed that it only does it’s ability if it was cast. This stops two powerful interactions with it in Alchemy between Pyre of Heroes tutoring for it and Glasspool Mimic copying it, but also has a major impact in Historic where Charming Prince and Ephemerate were added to the mix. This won’t stop Captain being played in aggressive strategies, but finally stops it from having extremely explosive turns.
Teferi, Time Raveler is Back
Alchemy and Standard cards weren’t the only ones getting changed. Teferi, Time Raveler is also coming back to Historic as a less ubiquitously powerful card. Now it’s a 4 mana planeswalker where the passive stops opponents from playing spells on your turn rather than can only play sorcery speed. With this change and explanation, it seems that they angled Teferi to the point they were trying to hit before: an interesting anti-control planeswalker with additional utility.
Memory Lapse Finally Axed
What almost seems like a minor addendum to an earth shaking announcement, Memory Lapse is finally moving from the suspended list to the banned list and giving players back their wildcards. Their reasoning for this change was simple and concise, Blue still seems to be good, they clearly don’t need Memory Lapse to survive.
No Modern Bans?
With the talk of a banned announcement, a lot of the community assumed Modern was going to get hit with changes. Despite many regarding that the format is in a good place, Lurrus of the Dream-Den in particular is listed as a main offender as the benefit it provides to play it has next to no drawback for doing so, but Yorion, Sky Nomad and Jegantha, the Wellspring aren’t too far behind. Companions in general have been a cornerstone of Modern since their release and this could have been an opportunity to address them. However, it seemed that they currently aren’t concerned with Modern’s place and Aaron Forsythe even personally weighed in on this decision.
With this, it seems changes to Modern in the immediate future are extremely unlikely.
No More Monkeying Around
Ragavan has easily been one of the strongest cards to come out of Modern Horizons 2 and quickly made it’s way into a variety of Modern and Legacy decks alike. In Legacy in particular, there’s been a reasonable amount of outcry about the state of the format from many of it’s major players. Although not ubiquitously believed, Izzet Delver was the most popular deck by a far margin and was considered relatively problematic.
By Wizard’s data, it seems these concerns were far from unfounded. Izzet Delver posted an extremely strong 56% win rate in non-mirrors and earned twice as many trophies (5-0ing a league) than the next top performing deck.
Lastly, they left off on saying that they’ll continue to monitor Legacy but they believe this will be enough to shake things up for now which begs the question what other cards they may have their eyes on.
Interestingly enough, noted played Dom Harvey weighed in on this decision implying that this ban is missing the problem entirely.
It seems that functionally many previous Ban announcements revolved around a Delver archetype being too strong in Legacy and overshadowing the rest of the format. This definitely could mean that Wizards has yet to address the actual root of the issue or it just so happens that Delver is really good at using cheap, powerful cards, but with Wizard’s verbiage, they may be ready to strike again if they feel Legacy needs it..
You’ll find the comprehensive list of today’s changes to the each format below, along with the full text of Wizards of the Coast’s original announcement. The changes will go into effect immediately for tabletop play and on January 27th, 2022 for online play.
|Standard||Divide by Zero||Banned|
|Historic||Teferi, Time Raveler||Unbanned (with changes)|
|Legacy||Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer||Banned|
Rebalanced Digital Cards:
- Acererak the Archlich no longer gives the opponent the ability to sacrifice a creature to avoid making a 2/2
- Assemble from Parts’ activated ability reduced from 3B to 1BB.
- Bloodrage Alpha is now a 4/4 (from 4/3)
- Cloister Gargoyle is a 1W 0/3 (from a 3 mana 0/4)
- Dungeon Descent no longer enters the battlefield tapped and the activated ability costs 1 (from 4)
- Ellywick Tumblestrum’s ultimate ability reduced to 6 loyalty (from 7)
- Fate’s Reversal now costs B (from 1B)
- Find the Path adds two mana of any color (from GG)
- Puppet Raiser is a 3/4 (from 3/3)
- Precipitous Drop costs 1B (from 2B)
- Triumphant Adventurer a 2/1 (from 1/1)
- Divide by Zero only learns if targeting something with a CMV of 4 or less
- Fearsome Whelp’s trigger moved to the upkeep, has Hate (from the end step trigger)
- Hullbreaker Horror is no longer uncounterable
- Inquisitor Captain triggers upon entering the battlefield if cast (versus just entering the battlefield)
- Lier, Disciple of the Drowned only gives instants and sorceries Flashback on your turn (rather than always giving instants and sorceries flashback)
- Sanguine Brushstroke now only deals 1 damage when a Blood is sacrificed (rather than draining 1)
Current Historic Banned Card List
Announcement Date: January 25, 2022
Alrund’s Epiphany is banned.
Divide by Zero is banned.
Faceless Haven is banned.
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is banned.
Memory Lapse is banned (from suspended).
Tabletop Effective Date: January 25, 2022
Magic Online and MTG Arena effective date: January 27, 2022
The list of all banned and restricted cards, by format, is here.
In the October 2021 banned and restricted update, we announced no changes to Standard in anticipation of Innistrad: Crimson Vow‘s release soon following. Since then, we’ve heard community feedback that there hasn’t been enough change in the metagame over time. While a good number of decks are seeing success on the MTG Arena ladders and each has strengths and weakness against the others, the most played archetypes have remained largely the same over the past months.
As such, we have a set of changes targeted at some of the top decks, including Blue-Red Epiphany and other blue control decks, Mono-White Aggro, and Mono-Green Aggro. Our goal is to create some churn among the current top decks, open up additional angles from which to attack the metagame, and leave room for more experimentation and innovation with the release of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
Alrund’s Epiphany is a card we highlighted in the October announcement as having potential for negative impact on metagame diversity. While blue decks with powerful late-game spells can sometimes do good work as natural predators of midrange decks, a deck that chains together extra turns can be particularly difficult to stop and frustrating to play against when it represents too large a portion of the metagame. The foretell ability of Alrund’s Epiphany makes it even harder interact with, as one of the traditional answers to big spells is hand disruption.
While not entirely dominant throughout the MTG Arena ladders (especially in Best-of-One), Alrund’s Epiphany decks have been particularly popular and successful at the highest levels of competition and in tournament play. To create space in the metagame for more mid-speed and slow archetypes, and to address the often-frustrating play pattern of chaining extra turns, Alrund’s Epiphany is banned in Standard.
Even without access to Alrund’s Epiphany, our data gives us concern that other blue control decks are poised to reduce metagame diversity by shutting out certain types of strategies. In particular, Divide by Zero gives those decks flexible, early interaction that is especially effective against slower, more powerful spells and permanents. The ability of Divide by Zero to cover a variety of angles of attack frequently gives these decks enough time to enact and protect a powerful endgame soft-lock state, often using Lier, Disciple of the Drowned or Hullbreaker Horror. Therefore, we’re choosing to ban Divide by Zero to make blue control decks less effective against other mid-speed and slow decks and force them to be more intentional about which threats they choose to prepare for.
The most winning decks on the MTG Arena ladder, and among the most popular, have been Mono-White Aggro and Mono-Green Aggro. While each owes part of its success to preying upon Blue-Red Epiphany decks, both decks also have high win rates against the field, especially against many of the less popular decks on the fringes. Faceless Haven represents a lot of the power of these monocolor aggro decks by virtue of being efficient on its own and by providing resilience against creature sweepers and targeted removal. To weaken these two aggressive archetypes without fundamentally changing their core game plan, Faceless Haven is banned.
Last summer’s Modern Horizons 2 release introduced several high-impact cards to the Legacy card pool, and since then, we’ve been watching the metagame develop and listening to community feedback. While players’ feedback was not unanimous, many have expressed concerns about Blue-Red Delver decks, which picked up some powerful new options from recent sets.
Although recent tournaments (including Eternal Weekend in November) haven’t been conclusive in terms of Blue-Red Delver’s overall win rate alone, the deck has represented a very large portion of the metagame and posted many top finishes. Magic Online league data shows Blue-Red Delver at over a 56% non-mirror match win rate and more than twice as many trophies earned as the next highest archetype over the past weeks.
In addition to the high league win rates and large tournament metagame population, we’ve heard much discussion of the tendency of games to snowball from an early Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer backed up by protective spells like Daze and Force of Will. Because of the high power level and efficiency of Legacy’s card pool, early mana and card advantage can take over a game even more so than in other formats. To weaken Blue-Red Delver decks and encourage more back and forth exchange before a game is effectively decided, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is banned in Legacy.
We’ll be keeping an eye on how the Legacy format continues to evolve in the coming weeks and are willing to make further adjustments soon, if needed. However, we feel this is a large change and would like to see how the metagame adapts before considering if other changes are necessary.
Blue decks in Historic continue to remain strong, so Memory Lapse is officially moving from the suspended list to banned in Historic.
Additionally, as we have rebalanced Teferi, Time Raveler into a form we believe is safe for Historic, and it will be removed from the banned list. Read more about the rebalances and the rebalanced Teferi, Time Raveler.
Since Alchemy’s launch, we have been happy with the overall deck diversity in the format. Our intent with this round of changes is to better balance the play rates between the top decks while ensuring they all remain viable. We also hope that the minor adjustment to some of the top decks alongside buffs to other cards will allow more decks to compete at the highest level of play.
After closely monitoring our first round of Alchemy rebalances, we’re happy to report that they had minimal impact on Historic win rates among existing decks, but we also understand players’ concern over future unknowns. Based on that feedback, we will be weighing the potential Historic impact more heavily in our rebalance decisions, starting with the adjustments we’re announcing today.
As with all balance and card pool changes, we will be carefully watching the way the metagame evolves as a result. If we see signs in Alchemy or Historic that these changes have had an unintended impact, we will move to correct that. If we see that these changes have not done enough, we will correct that as well, and continue doing so as often as necessary. As we’ve stated before, our goal for Alchemy and Alchemy rebalances is to keep the format interesting and engaging every time players sit down to play.
In addition to the 18 rebalanced cards, we rebalanced Teferi, Time Raveler, and the updated Alchemy version will be legal in Historic play. In the future, we’ll be looking for similar opportunities to rebalance and unban cards currently on the Historic banned list, with the understanding that we have no intention of rebalancing iconic cards with significant Magic history (e.g., Brainstorm). And before you ask, you get to keep your Wildcards from the original banning.
January 27, 2022, Alchemy Rebalance Changes
The two primary goals with this set of changes are to make decks centered around the venture keyword action less clunky and more reliable at winning games. For example, too many venture cards were clustered at three mana, and we hope that decreasing the mana value of various cards will open up more options to build around cards like Acererak; Nadaar, Selfless Paladin; and Varis, Silverymoon Ranger. Similarly, by making Triumphant Adventurer hit harder, turning Cloister Gargoyle into a two-mana threat, letting Ellywick Tumblestrum ultimate one turn quicker, and having Acererak always create a zombie token, we are aiming for decks built around venture to win more consistently after completing a dungeon.
Acererak the Archlich – Rules adjustment
Removed opponent’s option to sacrifice a creature on the attack trigger.
Assemble from Parts – Lowered overall cost, now requires two black mana
Ability costs 1BB (from 3B)
We felt the dream of reanimating a creature on turn four with Assemble from Parts was too difficult to achieve. Changing the ability’s mana cost will make a turn-four reanimation much more consistent but will require a heavier commitment to black to support the adjusted cost.
Bloodrage Alpha – Increased toughness
Is 4/4 (from 4/3)
As cards with a high deck-building cost, we felt this card alongside Puppet Raiser should be more resilient to make them more competitive when compared to some of the more universal four-mana options.
Cloister Gargoyle – Lowered cost, increased toughness
Costs 1W (from 2W), is 0/3 (from 0/4)
Dungeon Descent – Rules adjustment, decreased cost
Removed “enters the battlefield tapped,” costs 1 mana to activate (from 4 mana)
Ellywick Tumblestrum – Decreased activated ability cost
Third Planeswalker ability is now -6 (from -7)
Fate’s Reversal – Lowered cost
Costs B (from 1B)
Find the Path – Rules adjustment
Now adds two mana of any one color (from adding GG)
Puppet Raiser – Increased toughness
Is 3/4 (from 3/3)
Costs 1B (from 2B)
Is 2/1 (from 1/1)
Divide By Zero – Rules adjustment
Only Learns if it targets a spell or permanent with mana value 4 or less
We are aiming to promote higher mana value cards in Alchemy. Divide by Zero was stronger as it targeted more expensive cards, and this change will more evenly distribute its power.
Fearsome Whelp – Rules adjustment
Now triggers on upkeep (from end step), gains haste
We are looking to make the explosive starts with Fearsome Whelp easier to interact with. Changing the trigger from end step to upkeep will give decks an additional turn to profitably interact with Fearsome Whelp. Giving Fearsome Whelp haste is a small way to compensate and make it more relevant in combat.
Hullbreaker Horror – Rules adjustment
Removed “This spell can’t be countered”
Removing “This spell can’t be countered” will make Hullbreaker Horror easier to interact with in both control mirrors and other blue decks. Since blue control decks also have access to Malevolent Hermit and Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, we felt removing the third instance of “can’t be countered” will make the mirror more fun. This change will also make aggro-control more viable as cards like Disdainful Stroke can more reliably interact with threats in the pure control decks.
Inquisitor Captain – Rules adjustment
Added “if you cast it and” to the enters-the-battlefield ability
We are making it more difficult to overwhelm the board with Inquisitor Captain. The interactions with cards such as Glasspool Mimic in Alchemy and Soulherder in Historic made it too difficult for creature-based decks to attack advantageously without relying on flying or forcing them to ignore combat altogether.
Lier, Disciple of the Drowned
Added “during your turn” to the flashback ability
We are aiming to make Lier, Disciple of the Drowned less effective when combined with Fading Hope and Divide by Zero. The two bounce spells are very effective at protecting Lier and controlling creatures. This change will help players remove Lier, favorably attack, and interact with the opponent’s graveyard on their turn.
Removed life gain from sacrificing Blood token trigger
We are specifically targeting how Sanguine Brushstroke matches up against aggressive strategies. We opted to change Sanguine Brushstroke instead of The Meathook Massacre to minimize the impact to Historic and to have less of the deck’s power concentrated in a single card. Removing the life gain from the enchantment will allow aggressive decks to focus their answers on the conjured Blood Artist and overall increase their chances of pushing through lethal damage.
Added “nonbasic” as a targeting restriction
We are aiming to promote more monocolor decks in Alchemy and provide a few opportunities to play around the Dragon’s ability. Multicolor decks can include more basic lands to reduce their chances of being denied a specific color of mana and play around turn-three Town-Razer Tyrants.
Teferi, Time Raveler – Balance adjustments, now legal in Historic
Costs 2WU (from 1WU), now has 5 starting loyalty (from 4), static ability becomes “Your opponents can’t cast spells during your turn.”
We are aiming to move Teferi, Time Raveler away from a generically strong card to a specialized anti-control tool. Increasing the mana cost will make Teferi less effective at controlling the board, and the new static won’t incidentally stop cards like Finale of Promise and Dreadhorde Arcanist from working.