June 13, 2017 Banned and Restricted Announcement

Posted in Feature on June 13, 2017

By Aaron Forsythe

Announcement Date: June 13, 2017


Aetherworks Marvel is banned.

All other formats:

No changes

Effective Date: June 19, 2017

Magic Online Effective Date: June 14, 2017

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

Next B&R Announcement: August 28, 2017

When considering the health of a format, there are many factors to take into consideration: Is one strategy so dominant as to be the only correct choice? Does any other deck trump the strategy in question in any meaningful way? Is there likely to be or has there been a recent shift in the metagame? Is the metagame share of the best deck higher than would be expected? Are players engaging with the format, and, when they do, are they having fun?

The Aetherworks Marvel deck that has been the largest part of the competitive Standard metagame since the release of Amonkhet is not a fundamentally broken deck in the traditional sense—its win percentages against other decks in the metagame doesn't paint the picture of true dominance (despite some prevailing opinions). Here, for example, is data compiling the last several weeks of Magic Online Competitive Standard Leagues (which is a sample size many times larger than a weekend of Grand Prix events). The first column is how much a given deck is played, and the third column is each deck's win percentage against Temur Aetherworks.

Percentage of Field Deck Archetype Versus Temur Aetherworks
26.9% Temur Aetherworks 50%
12% Blue-Red Control 45%
8.1% Mono-Black Zombies 38%
6.7% Temur Energy 51%
5.8% Red-Green Pummeler 59%
4.3% Mardu Vehicles 50%
3.5% Esper Vehicles 61%
3% Black-Green Energy 54%
2.5% White-Blue Flash/Midrange 57%
2.5% Jund Gods 51%
2.4% Black-Green Constrictor 50%

As you can see, every popular deck except Blue-Red Control and Mono-Black Zombies has anywhere from an even to a positive matchup against Temur Aetherworks.

We recognize that those numbers shift when play moves to higher levels—Grand Prix, StarCityGames.com Opens, and Pro Tours—and, generally, they shift in favor of Marvel. At Grand Prix Amsterdam, for example, 43% of the Day Two 7-2 decks were Marvel and nearly half of the Top 32. The data painted a poor picture, but not an absolute one. That said, when you shift to in-store play, the numbers almost certainly (but unverifiably) shift away from Marvel, both in metagame share and win rate.

But win rate and metagame share aren't all we consider. We've spoken with a variety of Standard players in recent weeks, from pros to local grinders, on the merits of banning versus not banning, and here, at least, there was a virtual consensus—the card Aetherworks Marvel is not healthy or fun for Standard.

Part of the disconnect between Temur Marvel's place as the most played deck and its win percentage is the way it plays, and its potential for unbeatable draws. A turn-four Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is virtually game over, which, according to Frank Karsten, happens in around just 9.4% of games. Having 10% of your games end that quickly is justifiably unpalatable to most of you. The best games of Magic are ones that involve counterplay on both sides. For those reasons, we believe Aetherworks Marvel needed to go, even though it is not unbeatable.

But we're also sensitive to the fact that Standard has been through turbulent times lately, first with the bannings of Smuggler's Copter; Emrakul, the Promised End; and Reflector Mage, and then Felidar Guardian. We were very concerned with taking another deck out of players' hands when our goal is to let people play with the cards they have.

To that end, we considered several weird or off-the-wall options. We discussed something we called "pair banning," where two cards could not be played in the same deck but could be played separately, a tactic other TCGs have employed. We looked at making other cards legal for Standard that otherwise wouldn't be, like Pithing Needle and Duress. We looked at restricting and even functional errata. Ultimately, these created more problems than they solved for this particular issue, and while we might keep exploring newer options in the future, for now we're sticking with our tried-and-true solution, even though we, like you, would rather it not come to this again.

One reason we typically hesitate when considering banning cards is that we don't like destroying entire deck types. Fortunately, the rise of the Temur Energy deck in the format has mostly mitigated that outcome here. Look at this deck that went 5-0 in a recent Standard Constructed League on Magic Online:

Temur Energy

Download Arena Decklist

Take out Marvel and Ulamog for a few powerful creatures that use energy and swap Chandras, and it's virtually the same deck. Players who spent time building Temur Marvel can relatively easily switch gears to Temur Energy and keep playing many of the same cards.

When you think about it, the existence of this deck is further proof that Aetherworks Marvel is an unhealthy part of the metagame. Like the Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian combo before it, Aetherworks Marvel/Ulamog was a combo essentially shoehorned into a deck that was already a tier 1 deck.

Finally, we're very aware the toll these bannings take on players and the game. We would not have made this move if we didn't believe it wasn't better for the long-term health of the game (Marvel would, after all, not rotate until late in 2018). Furthermore, when we moved to our new B&R schedule to allow us more flexibility, we oversaturated the game with these points where we may or may not ban things, leading to uncertainty in the community. But at some point—and we may have already gotten there—banning fatigue sets in.

As such, we're going to pull back on these announcements. We will not have another banned and restricted announcement until after Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. The next announcement will be on August 28.

So happy gaming, and we're all looking forward to the release of Hour of Devastation and how Standard shakes out from here.

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