September's Minor Tweaks

Posted in Latest Developments on September 2, 2005

By Aaron Forsythe

Fall is in the air. As the seasons change, so do the Magic Banned and Restricted lists.

There wasn't quite as much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth around the office this time around (only a few things got broken in the resulting scuffles… if anyone has a collection of Precious Moments figurines for sale, please contact Mark Gottlieb ASAP).

Anyway, as these are my absolute favorite kinds of articles to write, lets get down to business.

How 2HG Works

The newest addition to the whole procedure is a section for Two-Headed Giant Constructed. Two-Headed Giant is a variant of play that can use any existing format, including sealed deck, Standard, Extended, and so on. Because of the quirky nature of this format, some cards prove overpowered in it when they wouldn't be in a duel (two-player game). Such cards will be banned as appropriate.

Instead of trying to manage specific banned lists for each of the individual formats (like 2HG Standard, 2HG Kamigawa Block Constructed, etc.), we decided to have one banned list that would be applied to all Two-Headed Giant constructed formats in addition to the B&R lists for those particular formats. So if you are playing 2HG Standard, all the cards that are banned in Standard are illegal, as are all the cards banned in Two-Headed Giant constructed. Both lists apply.

The first card to be honored with the distinction of being banned in 2HG is Erayo, Soratami Ascendant. This little sucker is quite easy to flip when two players are casting enough cheap spells to make it happen, and once it has “ascended,” it does double-duty by countering the first spell played on each turn by each player on the opposing team. Teams can essentially get “locked out” of the game on turn two or so with startling regularity. As 2HG is mainly a format for fun, we don't want to encourage turn-two locks.

We will continue to monitor this format closely as it lends itself to degeneracy a lot more that one-on-one play does. As a reminder, should you receive Erayo in a card pool for Two-Headed Giant limited play, it is legal. The banned list only applies to 2HG Constructed.

Standard and Block

No news is good news. Umezawa's Jitte is a monster in block, but players adapted well and the season is all but over at this point. How badly it warps Standard post-Ravnica is yet to be seen, but we'll certainly be watching. Current lame-duck Standard looks amusing, with Hypnotic Specters rising up to beat on the myriad blue control decks that dominated US Nationals. I'm looking forward to what the Japanese concoct at their Nationals this weekend.

Extended

Last season's Extended metagame was pretty amazing. There were lots and lots of decks—all of them very powerful and very fast. Of course, with the format rotating in October, we lose a lot of that diversity.

The fact that nothing approximating a normal control deck was viable in the format was not a huge problem considering the wide range of options. But with half the decks rotating out, we had to take a serious look at starting the “new” format off in a place more conducive to a traditional “rock-paper-scissors” metagame.

What we didn't want to do was take good decks and blow them to smithereens like we did with Affinity in Standard three months ago. Instead we opted for the “surgical strike” option on some of the more resilient aggressive decks.

Aether Vial is a pretty ridiculous card. It costs but one mana, and it makes all of your creatures essentially uncounterable free instants. It messes up permission, combat, you name it. Basically it's like a super Dark Ritual that gives you 17 free mana over the course of a game. Somehow it has survived getting the axe in other formats, but knowing how much of a head start it gives Goblins and Affinity in this format—and how much it cripples control—we can't justify leaving it around.

Disciple of the Vault was a less obvious candidate, but in general we really dislike the “Oops, I win” draws that Ravager Affinity is capable of, especially since there isn't much anyone can do to stop them once they start going for the Disciple combo-kill. We certainly don't have a policy of banning cards preemptively—Disciple has proven itself again and again. Affinity took the crown at the last Extended Pro Tour using a card pool that was significantly bigger than what will be available in LA this fall; it probably won't even need Disciple to remain competitive.

Will there still be a good Goblin deck? Absolutely. Affinity deck? Yes, hopefully with some new twists. Pro Tour LA should be very interesting—and it needs to be. It has large shoes to fill based on the popularity of the last Extended season.

Vintage and Legacy

Very little has changed, even with all the new data we received from the Champs events at GenCon. Both formats appear vibrant and healthy. We're OK with Gifts Ungiven in Vintage, and we're still OK with Mishra's Workshop and Mana Drain. Goblins looks like the powerhouse deck to beat in Legacy, but we're confident that with the thousands and thousands of cards at their disposal in that format that players will find a way to stop the little red menace, Aether Vial and all.

Portal and Starter cards become legal as advertised back in March, and the same cards we promised to ban and restrict from those sets are the ones to actually end up on the lists.

We pulled Mind over Matter off the restricted list after several players pointed out that its power has been eclipsed in recent years. In general, we'll try to clean up the restricted list a card at a time as we see fit. With MoM, Portal cards, and the upcoming Ravnica sets, Vintage players should be able to keep busy for the next few months.

As for Legacy, I can imagine the two upcoming Grand Prix events shaking things up quite a bit.

Online Formats

After we made the last batch of bannings in Prismatic, I was bombarded online about two cards—Rude Awakening and Upheaval. “Why didn't we ban those?” players asked. So I did my own brand of “research” and started playing the heck out of the format and talking to other players.

They were right. Those two cards were game-wreckers along the lines of Sundering Titan. You could do nothing but draw cards and fix your mana for the first few turns, and then—POW!—cast either of these spells for an almost guaranteed win. The cards were way more offensive than most of the stuff that is already banned, and if they were keeping people from playing the format, they certainly needed to go.

As a note, the Vanguard metagame looks quite healthy, with multiple avatars showing up in every Top 8.

Wrap Up

That's it for this quarter's episode of doom-and-gloom. Now we get to move on to the fun stuff! That's right, next week begins the previews for the amazing new Ravnica: City of Guilds set! If you haven't checked out the Ravnica mini-site—complete with guild backstory, animated trailer, and the Orb of Insight—do so now! I'm absolutely stoked about this set, and you all should be too! See you in seven with some of the new hotness.

Last Week's Poll

What best describes your personal experience playing with or against Equipment so far?
It is a lot of fun and very interesting. 4689 38.7%
I'm generally okay with Equipment. 2860 23.6%
It has its ups and downs. 2736 22.6%
It is kind of annoying to deal with. 940 7.8%
I don't like what it does to games at all. 574 4.7%
I don't really play with or against it very often. 306 2.5%
Total 12105 100.0%

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