August 26, 2019 Banned and Restricted Announcement

Posted in News on August 26, 2019

By Ian Duke

Ian Duke is a developer in Magic R&D and has been with Wizards of the Coast since 2012. A gift of an Ice Age starter deck in 1995 sparked Ian's lifelong passion for Magic. He also enjoys math, physics, board games, and puzzles. To the surprise of few, his favorite guild is Azorius.

Announcement Date: August 26, 2019

Standard:

Rampaging Ferocidon is unbanned.

Modern:

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis banned.
Faithless Looting is banned.
Stoneforge Mystic is unbanned.

Vintage:

Karn, the Great Creator is restricted.
Mystic Forge is restricted.
Mental Misstep is restricted.
Golgari Grave-Troll is restricted.
Fastbond is unrestricted.

Effective Date: August 30, 2019

Magic OnlineEffective Date: August 26, 2019 at 12 p.m. PT

MTG Arena Effective Date: September 4, 2019

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

Next B&R Announcement: October 7, 2019


Standard

We periodically review the banned and restricted lists for cards we can remove that will positively impact a format. Rampaging Ferocidon was banned during Ixalan-year Standard in order to weaken aggressive red decks and provide more counterplay by blocking with creatures and gaining life. Since that time, aggressive red decks have become weaker in the metagame as stronger and more varied strategies have emerged.

Two popular new Standard decks enabled by Core Set 2020's release are Scapeshift and Orzhov Vampires. Both decks seek to win by putting lots of small creatures onto the battlefield, and the Orzhov Vampires deck has many ways to gain life. Rampaging Ferocidon should give red aggressive strategies and other decks, like Jund Dinosaurs, an additional option to fight Scapeshift and Orzhov Vampires. While we're generally happy with the health of the Standard metagame right now, we believe Rampaging Ferocidon will further improve the metagame's general balance and ability to self-correct for the remaining Core Set 2020 Standard season, until rotation with the release of Throne of Eldraine.

Note that Rampaging Ferocidon will be unbanned in traditional best-of-three Standard on MTG Arena (as of September 4), but will remain banned in best-of-one play. This is due to differences in the metagames between those play modes, with aggressive red strategies already performing well in best-of-one.

Modern

Since the release of Modern Horizons, graveyard decks using Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis have had an enormous impact on the Modern metagame. After early signs of the metagame being unable to self-correct, such as players adopting large amounts of main-deck graveyard hate and the Hogaak deck still boasting high win rates, we restricted Bridge from Below to weaken the deck.

Since then, the results of Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona, several Grands Prix, and other tournaments have shown that Hogaak continues to have a high win rate and oppressive effect on the metagame. In looking at the evolution of the archetype over time and the variety of successful ways to build the deck, it's clear that the card Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is the crux of the problem. Therefore, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is banned.

Coming out of this period of an unhealthy Modern metagame, we want to avoid taking a half step that once again leaves the metagame in a place where it can't self-correct. Over the past year, graveyard-based strategies have been occupying a large portion of the Modern metagame, to the point where deck-building diversity is being suppressed. This is reflected in the rise of heavy-handed main deck anti-graveyard cards like Surgical Extraction, Leyline of the Void, and Rest in Peace. We'd like to shift gameplay a little bit away from the graveyard and back toward the hand and battlefield.

The key card enabling the majority of these graveyard-focused decks is Faithless Looting. By our data gathered from Magic Online and tabletop tournament results, over the past year the winningest Modern deck at any given point in time has usually been a Faithless Looting deck. Examples include Hollow One, Izzet Phoenix, and Dredge and Bridgevine variants (both pre- and post-Hogaak's release). As new card designs are released that deal with the graveyard, discarding cards, and casting cheap spells, the power of Faithless Looting's efficient hand and graveyard manipulation continues to scale upward. Regardless of Hogaak's recent impact, Faithless Looting would be a likely eventual addition to the banned list in the near future. In order to ensure the metagame doesn't again revert to a Faithless Looting graveyard deck being dominant, we believe now is the correct time to make this change. For this same reason, we're choosing not to unban Bridge from Below at this time.

Knowing that these changes will already shake up the metagame, we consider this a good time to review cards currently on the banned list. Just as was our philosophy in unbanning Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf last year, we recognize that over time the power level of Modern increases naturally as the card pool grows. Cards that were added to the banned list on pure power level may now be more appropriate in context of a more powerful metagame. We believe the Modern metagame and power level are in a place where Stoneforge Mystic is now an appropriate inclusion in the card pool.

The danger in reintroducing Stoneforge Mystic, and the reason it's remained on the banned list up until this point, is that it's at its strongest against straightforward decks that play to the battlefield. While we think it's unlikely, there is a scenario where Stoneforge Mystic could come to suppress this type of gameplay, in which case we would re-examine its legality (similar to Golgari Grave-Troll's history in Modern). Instead, our hope is that as gameplay becomes less graveyard focused, Stoneforge Mystic serves as an enticing draw for decks to refocus toward the battlefield, creature combat, and card advantage.

Vintage

War of the Spark, Modern Horizons, and Core Set 2020 have been among the most impactful sets for Vintage in years. We've been watching and listening to the evolution of Vintage over the last several months as the metagame has begun to settle. Now that the London mulligan is official and we've had some time to review data and tournament results, we'd like to take action to resolve some problematic play patterns.

Though our data shows that Vintage is in a good state of balance from an objective standpoint, with nearly all the Top 10 decks having a 47–53% overall win rate, we've heard community concerns about an increase in turn-one/two effective wins and less interactive gameplay. We agree and would like to move the format back to a place the community is happy with, even taking multiple steps over time if needed.

Recently, Karn, the Great Creator and Mystic Forge have turbo-charged Shops decks by giving them more early-game lockout potential (through Karn's static ability), a tutorable win condition (through Karn's -2 loyalty ability fetching Time Vault and Voltaic Key or Manifold Key), and card advantage in prolonged games (especially through Mystic Forge). Relating to Karn's static ability, Vintage is the one format in Magic where players can enjoy playing with super powerful artifact mana like the Moxen, Sol Ring, and Black Lotus. We'd like to reduce the number of games that immediately come down to an early Karn preventing the opponent from casting spells.

Therefore, in order to make Shops decks more interactive in the early game and more attackable in a prolonged game, we are restricting Karn, the Great Creator and Mystic Forge. We considered the further step of restricting Sphere of Resistance, but prefer to take this smaller step first and reevaluate based on data and community feedback.

Dredge decks based around Bazaar of Baghdad have become more powerful with the London mulligan and some recent card additions, such as Force of Vigor as a means of fighting opposing graveyard hate. In order to slow these decks down and provide more time for interaction, we are restricting Golgari Grave-Troll.

Mental Misstep has been a controversial card among the Vintage community for years. While it does provide more opportunity for interaction, it is also at its strongest against the most interactive decks. Moreover, a large part of the reason for including Mental Misstep is to fight an opponent's Mental Missteps. This creates a situation where many decks are "taxed" deck slots they must devote to fighting each other at the expense of weakening themselves against Shops. In addition, Dredge decks often use Mental Misstep to protect their graveyard engine or disrupt opponents. We believe that restricting Mental Misstep will open up more deck-building diversity, strengthen interactive decks' matchups against Shops, and weaken Dredge.

Since our philosophy is that Vintage should be about playing with access to all of Magic, we periodically re-examine the restricted list for cards that can create new decks and play patterns, even if they come with some risk. Recently, many players have suggested Fastbond as a card they would enjoy building with four copies of. Since most Vintage decks rely heavily on artifact mana and play fewer lands, chances are that a deck built around Fastbond would look quite different from anything in the current metagame. Other cards we've discussed unrestricting in the future are Windfall and Necropotence.

We're very interested in what the Vintage community thinks of these changes and whether further steps are needed. There will be one more opportunity to change the B&R list before Eternal Weekend North America, and we are willing to do so, so please continue to make yourselves heard in the same ways you have been.

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