Ban announcement days are so exciting, aren’t they? With two bannings coming today, it’s interesting as one is from a power level concern where one is a tournament concern.
It’s no secret that Black has been the best color in Standard thus far. With many of the best cards in Standard being Black, it was no surprise that the vast majority of the top decks (or even exclusively) were strategies leaning heavily on the color. Both Wizards and I agree that the metagame was relatively diverse none the less, but I like the move to ban Meathook. The card is a bit too good against aggressive strategies for my liking, and while Mono White Aggro has shown some promise, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Even with a lot of decks performing well, both Aggro and Control have been almost absent from the metagame, and hopefully this will help. With Meathook being banned, I think many of the same decks will still be great options, but now new strategies can try to break in as well. Furthermore, Wizards notes that there will be tools coming to other colors with The Brothers War, which I’ll be excited to see when the time comes!
For a ban I wasn’t expecting, Yorion, Sky Nomad got hit today as well. While Wizards does note some power level concerns surrounding Yorion, it’s actually much more due to tabletop play. They cite that the physical dexterity to manipulate 80 cards did factor into their decision, but wasn’t the major focal point of the ban. More so, they were concerned with the time it takes for Yorion decks to complete matches, a similar rationale to the banning of Sensei's Divining Top in Legacy. While Yorion is generally not as slow as Top was (trust me), I have definitely heard of many 4C Omnath matches going well over time in paper play, doubly so in mirrors. This is a rare reason to ban a card, but with in person play starting to come back, having a banning that makes a tournament experience better for everyone is a very reasonable move.
You’ll find the comprehensive list of today’s changes to the formats below, along with the full text of Wizards of the Coast’s original announcement. The changes will go into effect today for MTGO and October 13th for Magic Arena.
Players will be receiving Mythic Rare Wildcard compensation for them when the update goes live on October 13, 2022 at around 8 AM PST, so if you don’t have it already, craft them now! The rebalanced version of the card can still be played in Alchemy and Historic, and can still be played in other formats such as Brawl and Explorer.
Announcement date: October 10, 2022
The Meathook Massacre is banned.
Yorion, Sky Nomad is banned.
MTG Online effective date: October10, 2022
MTG Arena effective date: October 13, 2022
As is often the case, the Standard card pool rotation with the release of Dominaria United caused quite a shakeup, with cards from the new set finding their places into decks, and many of last year’s cards shifting context within the new metagame. As the format has settled into place, the color black has proven powerful and prolific, and makes up the foundation of many of the top decks. Despite that commonly shared color, we’re seeing good diversity among competitive decks and strategies, and player engagement with the format has been healthy.
To provide a small push against the color black’s play rate among competitive decks, we’re choosing to ban one black card. We discussed several different options, as no single black card stood out as a major power outlier played by all decks containing black. Ultimately, we decided that banning The Meathook Massacre was the best choice, as it’s one of the most powerful black cards in the format, is especially powerful against specific archetypes (decks relying on a lot of small creatures), and has had its time to shine in Standard for over a year.
With The Brothers’ War on the horizon, we anticipate the new cards entering the format to provide tools for other decks and color combinations. In the meantime, we expect this little shakeup will help keep Standard enjoyable and trending toward an even healthier spot going forward as the card pool expands.
Modern has been in a healthy place since the last banned and restricted update, with good diversity among archetypes and even the most popular competitive decks occupying a relatively small slice of the metagame (about 5–6% each, on Magic Online). However, as tabletop Modern play continues to rebound since the height of the pandemic, we’ve decided to enact a change that we’ve been considering for some time by banning Yorion, Sky Nomad.
Yorion most commonly appears as a companion in Four-Color Omnath decks, which show a strong win rate and, according to our matchup data, are likely to continue to rise in popularity. In addition to game-balance concerns with the deck, we’re also factoring in the physical dexterity requirements of playing with a large deck for tabletop. We’re wary of the metagame reaching a point where players are playing the deck because of its perceived strength and win rate despite not enjoying how cumbersome it can be to operate.
While these physical dexterity issues exist to a lesser degree in other formats (like Pioneer), Modern specifically entails more shuffling and other physical card manipulation because of the deep card pool of card-selection spells, fetch lands, and so on. Cards encouraging large decks, like Battle of Wits, have existed in the past, but usually on the fringes of competitive play rather than as one of the strongest decks.
Finally, we’ve also heard from many players that the repeated triggers caused by Yorion and many of the cards surrounding it can lead to repetitive gameplay patterns and long games with lots of downtime between the other player’s actions. It’s important that the net player experience playing with the top decks is a fun one, and while we’re okay with such decks existing, it can make the format less enjoyable when these patterns are associated with one of the strongest decks over a long period of time.
Therefore, to make Modern as fun and accessible as it can be for all types of players, Yorion, Sky Nomad is banned in Modern.
Overall, Pioneer looks to be in a good place as we head into the Regional Championship Qualifier season throughout November and December. We’re seeing a wide variety of strategies employed by the most popular decks. The most played deck on Magic Online is Rakdos Midrange, with about 13% metagame share. None of the top 20 most played decks have a non-mirror match win rate of more than about 53%. In general, we’ve heard a lot of positivity from players about the state of the format.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on the health of the format, especially as it undergoes more competitive pressure with the Regional Championship Qualifiers. As things currently stand, we don’t anticipate any changes before or during that season.
The Legacy metagame is looking healthy, with top decks all having strengths and weaknesses against each other. Since the ban of Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer in January, the most popular deck, Izzet Delver, has had its win rate trend downward. According to Magic Online data, it represents about 9% of the field and has an overall non-mirror match win rate of 52%, with both positive and negative matchups against the next ten most played decks.
The past year has brought several new, impactful cards to competitive Legacy, including Unlicensed Hearse, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Ledger Shredder, Leyline Binding, and more. We’re excited to see the format continue to grow as new cards lead to new strategies. As always, we’ll continue to monitor how the metagame develops, but right now, things seem to be in a good spot.
Likewise, we think Vintage is in a relatively good spot. Magic Online data shows greater archetype diversity recently than we’ve had in some past cycles, in part because of new card additions to the format. Displacer Kitten and Vodalian Hexcatcher are examples that feature prominently in their respective decks. Other new cards like Boseiju, Who Endures are finding a home in a variety of decks.
We’re aware that many of the current top decks make powerful use of Tinker and are often categorized together. But within that category, there’s a good amount of diversity in terms of how those decks can be built and the play patterns they follow. We’re also seeing healthy amounts of “good stuff” decks, Vengevine variants, and Workshop variants in the metagame. Overall, we think Vintage is in a good place right now and don’t anticipate the need for changes soon.