September 28 Standard Ban Announcement Predictions and What Should Happen
Hello my precious Warriors, Wizards, Clerics and Rogues! It was a bit over a week ago that Zendikar Rising hit MTG Arena, and we already have an exciting announcement of an announcement which was posted by the official Magic: The Gathering Twitter account:
This is a very quick reaction by Wizards of the Coast and it tells us that something is definitely not working out in Standard right now and actions need to happen quickly. The weekly MTGO announcement confirmed that the changes will take place on September 22:
On Monday, September 28, R&D will make an announcement regarding the banned and restricted list. Magic Online will implement the change on the same day at noon, September 28, at 12 p.m. PT.
We can expect MTG Arena to follow suit around the usual time of 1 PM PT on the same day. This will have implications on Wildcard refunds for banned cards, since you can still make use of the cards in other formats.
Before we jump into what might or should get banned or unbanned, I first want to make a point on why I think that Zendikar Rising might be one of the most important sets for Wizards in a while. In that same breath I will explain why I believe it is correct that they are stepping in so quickly. After that, I will explain what I think is realistically going to get banned and what I hope is going to get banned – so it will become a bit speculative as well. Enjoy!
September 28, 2020 Update: Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath has been banned from Standard! Get the full story below:
Zendikar Rising is one of the most important sets in a while
Isn’t every set important? Wizards always needs to sell new product. What’s so special about Zendikar Rising? This question has multiple answers and they are all important to understand.
The last year in recap and why a lot of people got sick of it…
One thing that makes Standard exciting and separates it from other formats is the fact that we have rotation each year – and that means that a lot of cards will never be legal again after they rotate out, unless they get reprinted. In theory, this should mean that Standard stays fresh and the strategies that you get annoyed about will be gone sooner or later. New sets also have the potential to have more impact on Standard than on other formats like Modern on Pioneer, because the card pool is a lot smaller so it only makes sense that the density of playable cards should be higher.
Standard has been absolutely crazy this past year. A lot of cards needed to get banned and almost all of them were obnoxious to play against and they were obviously too strong. To some people it felt like they should ban all sets from War of the Spark upwards because the power level got so much higher afterwards. Think about all these things and how you feel about them:
- Oko, Thief of Crowns removing text on any creature and producing creatures as a 3 mana planeswalker. It was also one of the few decks that could play Gilded Goose at that time, essentially making it the only deck in the format that was allowed to play a better Llanowar Elf.
- Teferi, Time Raveler shutting down all counterspells and punishing everything that doesn’t have an enter the battlefield effect.
- Fires of Invention doubling the mana, sometimes even more than that (with Yorion, Sky Nomad or when you have activated abilities on your creatures).
- Wilderness Reclamation doubling your mana as well, but allowing you to play on the opponent’s turn.
- The Companion mechanic change giving many decks the ability to have start with effectively 8 cards in hand, and essentially punishing all decks that couldn’t play one.
- Veil of Summer punishing people for trying to remove threats.
I don’t know how you feel about this, but I personally don’t want to have these experiences again. That’s not saying that I didn’t enjoy Magic in that time period, but it was always clear that the power level was just way too high for Standard. All of these cards above see play in older formats, with Oko being banned everywhere except Legacy and Vintage.
Usually, Standard is a much weaker format than something like Modern for example, and the sudden addition of overpowered cards meant the following: You build your deck around it and try to make use of it as much as possible, while the rest of your deck stays on the weaker side. The best example for this were the Fires of Invention decks: All the Cavaliers played in this deck almost exclusively saw play in this strategy and the game was just a completely different one when they had Fires of Invention in play on turn 4 opposed to not having it. You basically filled this deck with a lot of cards that were just there to support the one overpowered card. This led to annoying play patterns and you surely thought like this too if you experienced it yourself; and winning felt more like your opponent not having their good draws instead of you playing well. The games were focussed on snowballing a lot with a few exceptions here and there.
While all of this was happening, we had the ongoing theme of Standard: Cheat out mana as much and as fast as possible. Fires of Invention and Wilderness Reclamation were the prime example of this; but Growth Spiral and Nissa, Who Shakes the World all had their fingers in it. Even the Lucky Clover decks do this to some extent, as their dream curve of Lucky Clover into Beanstalk Giant just changes the whole pace of the game.
When Throne of Eldraine came out, the so called “Checklands” like Dragonskull Summit rotated out and we later got the “Temples” like Temple of Malady as replacement. Slower lands that come into play tapped tend to punish fast decks a lot more and the addition of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath made it clear that Standard was much more about big mana and card advantage than anything else. The sets that came out all just contributed to making already existing archetypes better instead of creating new archetypes to compete with them, so Standard never felt like it got anything new.
Zendikar Rising is the newest set post-rotation…
Some people enjoy grinding out their card advantage, but most people are just sick of it in Standard. A lot of overpowered cards were put into Standard this last year and people had to endure what it felt like was a failed experiment by Wizard to push the power level of cards.
As with every set that comes post-rotation, people just want to have a fresh, new Standard. They want new archetypes and strategies, because that is what makes it exciting. Imagine people being sick of that and now having to play against Lotus Cobra, Omnath, Locus of Creation and, again, Uro. Sure, Nissa and Hydroid Krasis rotated out, but they just replaced that form of card advantage with Escape to the Wilds and it felt like playing against the same cards all over again only with some new nameplates. Especially the combination of the Landfall ability and Fabled Passage feels like cheating mana again.
The format is literally a bit over a week old and people are already sick of it. To add insult to injury, people also wanted the overall power level to go down and it certainly doesn’t feel like that’s what’s happening. That is very concerning for Standard when rotation was supposed to be the savior, especially considering that Zendikar Rising will be the set that’s going to have the longest lifetime before rotating out.
During the times when tabletop Magic is at a halt…
At this point it’s impossible to debate the fact that our world has changed and it had a massive impact on Magic. All MagicFests were cancelled and paper events pretty much just stopped existing. The result was that Wizards decided to shift a lot of its competitive power onto MTG Arena, resulting in events such as the Arena Open and even the latest Mythic Invitational was held online. Since a lot of people love Magic as a game and don’t want to stop playing, it’s even more important that Arena works; and it will only do if the formats available on it are fun to play.
Zendikar is one of the fan favorite planes in Magic’s history..
Look, I am not going to pretend like I really feel the nostalgia here, because I only started playing seriously when Amonkhet released. But what I do know is that the part of the community that already plays for a while loves Zendikar a lot. So now we have 2 groups of people that need to get satisfied: We have the newcomers who started playing Magic with the release of Arena, and we have the diehard magic fans that already experienced multiple Zendikar sets before (Zendikar, Worldwake, Rize of the Eldrazi). That is a tough task to accomplish, so it’s even more important for this new iteration of Zendikar to do well.
.. Which is why it was a good thing that Wizards are acting quickly.
All of this leads me to the conclusion that Zendikar Rising is incredibly important for the closer future of Magic. Wizard seems to realize that too, as they choose to act this quickly. I think that intervening is a good decision, which leads us to the part you’re all waiting for: The speculations on what is to come Monday!
What changes I would like to see
One important thing to note is that Wizard only mentioned that they wanted to provide an update to the format. That could technically mean that there are no bans at all, but could also be unbans or even some rule changes similar to what we have seen with Companions. I highly doubt that there won’t be bannings though, so let’s talk.
Since Wizards decided to intervene this early, it means that their focus may not be necessarily trying to balance the format, but rather to make it more fun. We don’t have enough relevant data ourselves to say for sure if the Omnath strategies are the most powerful thing ever, but they do have millions of games recorded on MTG Arena to call for an emergency meeting. A couple of significant tournament results are also trickling in this weekend already and we see some worrying numbers:
If we consider fun to be a primary factor, I truly believe that Wizards should just do a clean sweep. Get rid of all the cards that are obnoxious to play against and have been in Standard for a while now. Don’t even let them have a chance of becoming tier 1 again or else you risk having the same old archetypes again. This, by the way, is the downside of trying to push certain archetypes with only one set, like they did with Adventures and Elementals. Sure, they will be playable immediately, but what if the next set isn’t as strong? Then you’re pretty much set on playing the same archetype all over again. This would require every set to be stronger than the one before; and that’s where power creep starts.
As a result, my “ban wishes” will not only be the overpowered cards, because I will factor in the game play fun a lot here. Sure, losing is always less fun than winning; but there are certain cards that are much less fun to lose against and can lead to frustration much faster. One example from the past might be Nexus of Fate; it wasn’t too strong because a lot of decks could beat it, but getting locked out from the game is typically not a great experience.
In the end, everyone wants to enjoy Standard again and that doesn’t always mean that cards that are overpowered should not be legal. You could also always unban cards if the format turns out to be great, so I would rather go nuts on banning instead of not banning enough and then having to do it again.
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
When I discuss Uro a lot of people still don’t understand why this card is too strong. Let’s talk some arguments:
#1: “My specific deck farms Uro Decks! I have a great matchup into them and therefore Uro is completely fine!”
First of all, the requirement of having very specific decks to beat certain cards only proves the point of these cards being busted. You don’t want to force all players to play either the best deck or the deck that beats it. Second, Uro Decks might not be the absolute best in some formats, but that doesn’t mean that the card isn’t overpowered. Wilderness Reclamation needed a lot of support to work and didn’t see play first, is that card not broken?
#2: “You can just kill or counter Uro or exile him from the graveyard. Cards like Tormod’s Crypt exist!”
In case you didn’t notice, Uro draws you a card and then draws you another one when you escape it. So what happens when you kill it? Congratulations, you just 3-for-1’ed yourself. The same is true with cards like Tormod’s Crypt or even Rest in Peace, where you trade a whole card to make Uro an expensive Growth Spiral for the rest of the game. Countering Uro works but forces you to always have mana open, and they can always get it back later even if you do counter it. People tend to forget the concept of 2-for-1’s when talking Uro, and I don’t understand why. It’s literally on the card.
#3: “Well I can see that the answers aren’t the greatest, but if Uro is your main problem then you should dedicate bad answers to it!”
Well, that is the problem, Uro is never the biggest problem in these decks. Uro just doesn’t have much opportunity cost when you put him into your deck, because it’s good at any stage of the game and it actively progresses your game plan when you bring lands into play. It’s not like cards like Dream Trawler that have a huge cost to build into your deck as you can only play so many expensive threats, for example. There’s just not much cost in playing Uro. At the same time, if you don’t have an answer for it you will probably just lose. That’s what makes this card unbelievable: Super low cost, super high reward.
#4: “Uro is not great against aggro! It’s a 3 mana card that doesn’t impact the board and I want to kill them on turn 4 or 5 anyway!”
This is the argument I hate the most, because it’s the one that seems to be very popular. If every deck in the format played Dream Trawler, would that be good for aggro because you “just kill them earlier”? Maybe these are not the absolute greatest cards against aggro, but they are for sure not bad against them. These kinds of cards force the aggro player to draw well more often, because they will punish them if they stumble even for a turn.
I’ll be honest, I got into a bit of a rant in this one because I have a personal grudge against Uro, but I still think that my arguments are reasonable. Uro is probably the strongest card in the format and there even are strong arguments to be made to ban it from other formats as well. The games mostly also play out the same way when you play against Uro and it’s just completely boring.
Embercleave is the reason why aggro has been remotely playable in Standard despite all the things that spoke against it. But I think if you ban Uro and other cards and bring the power level down a bit, you could get rid of Embercleave too and I think this would be good for the format overall. Playing against Embercleave usually goes: “Well, I guess I am dead if they have it!”
This card just immediately closes so many games and makes blocking, which is one of most skill testing parts of the game, almost irrelevant. Having strong aggro decks that don’t rely on Embercleave is the way to go; and there is a good chance that this is possible when the overall power level drops. If it doesn’t, then you can’t ban Embercleave because aggro will need this card to actually win games.
Lucky Clover / Edgewall Innkeeper
Lucky Clover is also extremely unfun to play against because it’s just such a different game when it hits on turn 2. Again, it’s also some sort of a mana cheating card because, well, that’s what copying spells is technically. The problem with this one is that it’s incredibly cheap, so it goes under a lot of counterspells, and it just enhances the Adventure deck for the rest of the game when it hits the battlefield. It’s also really easy to bury your opponent in infinite card advantage since the Adventure cards themselves have two cards stapled onto one! A card with this effect should cost like 4 or 5 mana at least.
Lucky Clover is really specific though because it only works with Adventures; and because of that reason you could also ban Edgewall Innkeeper instead. This guy is also Adventure specific, but the fact that it’s just a one drop that creates so much card advantage is just absurd. In some ways, this card is better than Llanowar Elf (in this deck specifically, obviously). There’s also the threat of Temur Adventures becoming the best deck again if you ban the other “strongest” cards. I think banning one of those 2 cards is the way to go.
Omnath, Locus of Creation / Lotus Cobra
I think Lotus Cobra might be fine because it’s a 2 mana 2/1 that you can kill, and it’s over. It’s a reprint that existed in Standard many years ago along with Fetchlands and even Birds of Paradise. My issue with both Omnath and Lotus Cobra together is that they got printed into a format with Fabled Passage. I don’t know how that could be overlooked, but playing Omnath together with a Fabled Passage in the same turn gets you a total of 9 mana on turn 5 – that’s a lot like playing with Fires of Invention and that is without having Cobra out.
I know it’s not the same, and I know that neither Omnath or Cobra are overpowered – but I do think that it’s just a mistake having them in a format with Fabled Passage. Players are even putting in cards like Evolving Wilds or Field of Ruin just for the additional Landfall effect! I would also not like banning Fabled Passage because it’s a universal land for all colors and this card is absolutely not overpowered. Either one – or both – have to go in my opinion, with Omnath being the frontrunner, even though they are fresh cards, to not give us the feeling of experiencing ramp hell again.
Cauldron Familiar Unban
My problem with this card is not the cat, but the combination of said cat and Witch’s Oven which blanks the biggest attacking creature on the other side. I personally feel like it should be gone for good, but I also doubt that sacrifice decks will be overwhelming for the format right now, so go ahead and unban it if you want.
What is probably is going change
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath ban: 99%
If Wizards doesn’t ban Uro, I don’t even know why that announcement was made in the first place. This guy has been tearing apart Standard for a while now and is a big reason why so many games feel unpleasant to play. For real, if Uro stays legal, I’ll eat my toenails with cheese.
Cauldron Familiar unban: 20%
Quite honestly, Wizards doesn’t seem to be a fan of unbanning cards; last time they did it, it completely mauled the format again (Field of the Dead in Historic). There is a good chance that the absence of Priest of Forgotten Gods and Mayhem Devil may make them think that this card is alright – and I tend to agree here.
Unfortunately, I think this will be it. I think It’s important to take more steps towards the format, but WOTC has been disappointing me in the past with the lack of intervention. In my opinion, it took them way too long to ban Agent of Treachery, Wilderness Reclamation, Fires of Invention or even re-banning Field of the Dead. For most people and even professional players it was pretty obvious that these cards were too strong, but they still decided to wait a long time to gather more tournament data.
I am not saying that bans should happen very often and very quickly – but this time it seems appropriate. I am also a fan of letting decks do their thing first and let people figure out how to beat them. I don’t hate the approach of gathering data first but lately, I truly believe that it was terribly obvious by how much stronger certain cards or archetypes were, and you didn’t have to be a clairvoyant to see that.
I know that these might be strong opinions and you certainly don’t have to agree with them. I have to admit that I am fairly biased as I play Arena a lot because of my streams, so there is a good chance that I just overplayed it and got the artificial feeling of decks being too strong. At the same time, in this era of online Magic, bans need to happen much faster than in the past, because many more games are played and information is spreading even more quickly now more than ever.
Having said that, Zendikar Rising seems to be a sweet set overall and it’s really important this set continues to hype players up!