This morning, Wizards of the Coast took the MTG community by surprise by announcing a new set of Banned and Restricted changes, mostly focused on a card that players who’ve been around in the Arena for a while will be intimately familiar with:
A Controversial Mechanic
From the day they were first revealed, the companion cards from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths were controversial in the community. The mechanic ended up being so strong that it had to receive errata just over a month after the set was printed, requiring the companion’s controller to pay three mana to take the card to their hand before it can be cast.
The downside of the companions was meant to be the deckbuilding restrictions they require to function in the companion role. However, one of the companions in particular has always been notorious for having a relatively small deckbuilding cost: Lurrus of the Dream-Den. In order to be your deck’s companion, Lurrus only requires that permanents in your deck cost 2 mana or less – something that many decks in “older” eternal formats are already doing purely for efficiency reasons.
The issue with Lurrus was so significant at the time that Wizards of the Coast took the highly unusual step of banning the card outright in Magic’s oldest, most powerful formats: Vintage and Legacy. Although Lurrus was eventually unbanned in Vintage after the companion mechanic was nerfed, the card has remained banned in Legacy, and now, Wizards has banned the card in both Modern and Pioneer.
Lurrus Removed from Modern and Pioneer
According to Wizards’ announcement post, the company has decided to remove Lurrus from Modern because it was “contributing to the homogenization of the Modern play experience.” The card was appearing in 31% of MTGO league decks that started with four wins, and even with the two mana “buy” cost for companions, the deckbuilding cost for including Lurrus in Modern was just too low. Cards that are already powerful format staples like Mishra's Bauble become absurdly free with Lurrus able to play them from the graveyard every turn.
In the Pioneer format, Wizards states that Lurrus-centered decks are “considerably less dominant.” However, they believe that as more cards are added to the format over time, the incentive to run Lurrus only grows. As a card that simply encourages a player to include other highly efficient cards, the theory is that Lurrus would only grow in metagame share as more efficient cards are made available in the format. Wizards has decided to preempt the issue entirely by banning Lurrus in Pioneer before it becomes a larger issue hurting format diversity.
The Future of Lurrus in Historic
With today’s bannings, Historic and Vintage become the only formats where Lurrus of the Dream-Den is still legal – other than EDH that is, where the card is hardly relevant and certainly not a game-breaking powerhouse. With Wizards stepping in to ban Lurrus in Pioneer before it’s a problem, it makes one wonder about whether Lurrus could eventually be targeted in Historic.
Lurrus is an important card for the Historic Auras archetype, which is a very strong player in the format but is not overly dominant. It’s also true that many of the other top decks in the format, such as Izzet Phoenix, have nothing to do with Lurrus. Clearly, Wizards doesn’t think that the card is too strong in Historic for now, but it’s possible that the card could be revisited in time as more cards are added to the format.
With the creation of Alchemy and the introduction of card rebalancing on MTG Arena, it’s also possible that Wizards could look to nerf Lurrus in the future – or other cards that interact with it too strongly – rather than ban the card outright. It seems like Wizards may be striving to get Historic as close to a “no-banlist format” (like Alchemy) as possible, with two cards being rebalanced and reintroduced into the format in recent months.
Either way, Lurrus of the Dream-Den remains untouched on Historic for now, and it’s one of the last places fans of the card can still play it in a competitive setting.
Finally, Wizards also announced the banning of Galvanic Relay and Disciple of the Vault from the common cards-only format Pauper, and the unbanning of Expedition Map. You can read a detailed breakdown of why these changes have been made in the explainer post written by Gavin Verhey, but we’ll give you the quick-and-dirty explanation here.
Verhey says that Storm cards have often been banned in Pauper, and Modern Horizons 2 recently added two notable commons with the mechanic. Chatterstorm was already banned last September, and now Galvanic Relay has now been removed as well due in part to the recent printing of Experimental Synthesizer from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
Similarly, the card Atog was also banned from Pioneer in January of this year in an attempt to lessen the power of artifact-based Affinity decks in the format. Verhey said there was already discussion of whether Disciple of the Vault should be banned at the same time, but Wizards decided to wait and see. Now, Disciple has also been banned as Affinity decks were still too strong.
Lastly, the unbanning of Expedition Map is another reactive change based on other changes to the format. At the same time that Atog was banned from Pauper, Wizards also banned Bonder's Ornament and Prophetic Prism in the interest of slowing down “Tron” decks based around the lands Urza's Mine, Urza's Tower, and Urza's Power Plant. Because that ban had a stronger effect on Tron decks than Wizards would like, they have unbanned Expedition Map to give the archetype a boost.
A full summary of format changes from today’s announcement can be found here:
|Pioneer||Lurrus of the Dream-Den||Banned|
|Modern||Lurrus of the Dream-Den||Banned|
|Pauper||Disciple of the Vault||Banned|
You can also read the original text of Wizards’ Banned and Restricted Announcement embedded below.
March 7, 2022 Banned and Restricted Announcement
Announcement Date: March 7, 2022
Lurrus of the Dream-Den is banned.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den is banned.
Tabletop Effective Date: March 7, 2022
Magic Online effective date: March 7, 2022
View the list of all banned and restricted cards by format.
Explanation of Modern and Pioneer bans provided by Michael Majors.
Since the release of Modern Horizons 2, Modern has enjoyed a period of experimentation and exploration. Despite that, Lurrus of the Dream-Den has remained a ubiquitous presence in the format across multiple archetypes.
Lurrus’s play rate (31% in Magic Online League decks that started with four wins) points to a card that is contributing to the homogenization of the Modern play experience. There is not a significant enough deck-building cost to incorporate it into a wide variety of strategies.
As is often the case in larger non-rotating formats, there are already strong incentives to include as many cheap and efficient cards as possible in your deck due to format speed and a variety of other pressures. Lurrus compounds those incentives by providing a powerful additional resource that helps to alleviate the weakness of filling your deck with cheaper and often less impactful cards as games go on. For too many archetypes, Lurrus isn’t a trade-off but purely additive.
Due to play data, community feedback, and a desire to keep as diverse a range of card options as possible available to players in Modern, Lurrus of the Dream-Den is banned in Modern.
While considerably less dominant in Pioneer today (20% in Magic Online League decks that started with four wins), we expect that Lurrus’s metagame share will only grow as Pioneer’s card pool expands.
Our philosophy for Pioneer is to create the most compelling sandbox built from recent Standard formats. As Pioneer continues to grow over time, that incentive of non-rotating formats to pick and choose the most efficient cards from each release will become more pronounced and Lurrus will only serve to accelerate that process. In the interest of preserving the diversity that Pioneer is enjoying rather than waiting for the critical mass in which Lurrus of the Dream-Den is problematic, it is banned in Pioneer.
While Lurrus’s presence in Modern and Pioneer are large enough for us to act today, the rest of the Companions are seeing a play rate that is in line with a diverse and healthy metagame. Like other components of their environments, we’ll continue to monitor them for undesirable and repetitive gameplay and make individual changes as necessary.
For more information regarding Pauper bans, please see Gavin Verhey’s explanation article.