July 8, 2019 Banned and Restricted Announcement

Posted in News on July 8, 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: July 8, 2019


Bridge from Below is banned.

Effective Date: July 12, 2019

Magic Online Effective Date: July 8, 2019 at 12 p.m. PT

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

Next B&R Announcement: August 26, 2019

Over the past month, a new Modern deck has emerged—"Hogaak Bridgevine," centered around the combination of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis; Altar Of Dementia; and Bridge from Below. From our data gathered through Magic Online, this deck has shown to have a high overall win rate, fast wins, and few unfavorable matches. It's warped the metagame around itself, forcing other decks to adopt especially high numbers of anti-graveyard cards to keep pace.

When a new deck posts a high win rate in the early period of its emergence, we monitor the environment to see if the metagame can adapt. Often, as opponents come to better understand how the new deck works and adapt their own decks and sideboards to beat it, we see the overall win rate of the new deck come down to normal levels.

In the case of the Hogaak Bridgevine deck, its initial overall win rate on Magic Online was over 60%. Despite the metagame's best efforts to adapt, the deck's win rate remains higher than is healthy for long-term metagame diversity. In recent weeks, Hogaak Bridgevine has been the most played Modern deck on Magic Online and has earned over three times as many 5-0 League trophies as the deck with the next most. It has only two unfavorable matchups among the other ten most played decks and a high win rate against lesser played "rogue" decks. Especially telling is its Game 1 win rate of roughly 66%, requiring most decks to sideboard heavily against it.

With several high-profile Modern events coming soon and Hogaak Bridgevine continuing to be problematic for the health of the metagame, we've determined now is the right time to take action in order to allow players enough advance notice to prepare for those events.

We discussed several possible bans that would weaken this deck while having minimal impact on the rest of the metagame: Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis; Altar Of Dementia; and Bridge from Below. While cases can be made for each, we identified Bridge from Below as the card most likely to cause metagame imbalance again in the future. Because Bridge from Below doesn't cost mana or other resources to use and isn't reliant on being drawn naturally from the library, its power level is highly sensitive to the cards that synergize with it. As new card designs that have synergy with the graveyard are released over time, Bridge from Below is the most likely key card in the deck to become problematic again.

Without Bridge from Below to continually produce Zombie tokens with which to convoke, the interaction between Hogaak and Altar Of Dementia should become more about stocking the graveyard for value over multiple turns rather than completing a one-turn win combo. This should open additional avenues for other decks to interact via creature combat, creature removal, or graveyard removal, and may also force graveyard decks to include more interactive cards, further slowing themselves down.

Our goal is not to eliminate graveyard strategies from the Modern metagame, but rather to weaken this version of the graveyard combo archetype that has proven too powerful for other decks to reasonably adapt to. In fact, we believe that targeting Bridge from Below specifically will still allow for other strategies in this style to continue to be a part of the metagame, like the Bridge-less Dredge decks that did well earlier this year at Mythic Championship II in London.

While we don't intend on setting a precedent for quickly taking B&R action whenever a successful new deck breaks out, in this case, the situation clearly needed to be addressed. We're looking forward to watching the metagame continue to evolve as we approach Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona on July 26–28, and we hope you'll join us for full coverage of that event.

As always, we'll continue to listen to community feedback on the state of our play environments. The next B&R announcement will be August 26, 2019.

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