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White Plume Adventurer Art by Joseph Weston

March 6, 2023 Banned and Restricted Announcement

Wizards of the Coast released a Banned and Restricted Announcement, which has no changes relevant for MTG Arena (with the changes to Legacy being significant). However, Standard is briefly discussed as they deem the format to be in a “fun spot” according to players so are happy with no changes. As suspected, “black-red midrange decks are still popular, we’re also seeing success from legend-heavy Esper decks, Azorius Soldiers, and various monocolor decks, among others.” Check out the full announcement below, or click here.


Announcement Date: March 6, 2023

Legacy:

Effective Date: March 6, 2023

The list of all banned and restricted cards, by format, is here.


While we’ve only made changes to Legacy, we closely examined our competitive formats. We quickly discuss the state of each below.

Legacy

Since the last update, the Legacy metagame has evolved such that two major archetypes combine to make up a large portion of the field. These are the perennially popular Izzet Delver and the recently enabled Mono-White Initiative. With their combined presence approaching 30% of the field in some circles of competitive play, we’re choosing to ban one card from each deck to lower their respective win rates and metagame shares.

Izzet Delver has been popular for quite some time in Legacy, and it has picked up some notable recent additions, including Dragon's Rage Channeler, Murktide Regent, and Expressive Iteration. While we acknowledge and agree with the many Legacy players who enjoy the play patterns of Izzet Delver and similar archetypes, our data indicates a need to take the win rate and popularity of the deck down a notch to allow for more metagame diversity and innovation. Our choice is to ban Expressive Iteration, as the card quality and quantity it provides allows Izzet Delver to easily adapt to stay on top of any changes in the metagame.

In addition to removing a generally strong card, our hope is that by removing Expressive Iteration, we reinforce Izzet Delver’s historical strengths (efficient one-for-one exchanges) and weaknesses (lack of sources of card quantity) in a way that leaves the deck more vulnerable in the metagame.

Since the release of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, the initiative mechanic has had a large impact on the Legacy format and continues to rise in popularity. The current second most popular deck uses fast mana to power out an initiative creature, gaining an early advantage that’s difficult to recover from. To reduce the consistency and speed of this gameplay pattern, we’re choosing to ban the efficient three-mana initiative creature White Plume Adventurer.

According to our data, these two decks are holding each other in check, as well as stymieing additional metagame movement. Therefore, we’re choosing to impact both decks together. We’ll continue to monitor if these changes are enough to open up the metagame and evaluate further changes if needed going forward.

Standard

When last we updated the Standard banned list, The Meathook Massacre was banned in order to reduce the power level of black-based decks. Since that time and the release of The Brothers’ War, the Standard metagame has proven healthy and diverse. While black-red midrange decks are still popular, we’re also seeing success from legend-heavy Esper decks, Azorius Soldiers, and various monocolor decks, among others. Most importantly, we’re hearing from many players that the Standard metagame is in a fun spot, and we’re happy moving forward with no changes at this time.

Pioneer

The recent Pro Tour Phyrexia in Philadelphia showcased excellent diversity in deck building and gameplay in the Pioneer format. Among the popular decks were Rakdos Midrange, Mono-Green Devotion, Gruul Vehicles, Lotus Field Combo, Izzet Creativity, and more. Almost 20% of the field chose unique archetypes that didn’t fall into the most popular categories, which indicates a good amount of space for innovation and format growth. With the spotlight having recently returned to the Pioneer format, we expect to see continued evolution of the metagame as time goes on, but for now, things are in a good place.

Modern

As with the last update, Modern continues to be in a healthy spot, with plenty of different viable archetypes and a relatively flat spread among the top decks’ metagame shares. Izzet Murktide is currently the most popular archetype in competitive play, but not by a large margin, and the deck isn’t showing a concerning win rate. As of now, things are looking good, but as always, we’ll keep our eyes on the Modern metagame as more high-level competitive play unfolds in the future.

Vintage

Mono-White Initiative is also making a mark in Vintage, but our data shows this as additive to the usual metagame pillars rather than a win-rate outlier. With all the powerful strategies available in Vintage, a mostly monocolor creature-based deck represents a novel addition to the competitive metagame, and we’re eager to see how things play out. Since last time, we’ve also seen Paradoxical Outcome and Hollow Vine decks come down a little in popularity, which are generally good movements for the metagame.

The Vintage metagame can tend to evolve at a slower rate due to sparser opportunities for competitive play, so we’ll be watchful as things unfold. But we’re hearing mostly positive things from Vintage fans, so we have no changes at this time.

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