May 18, 2020 Banned and Restricted Announcement

Posted in News on May 18, 2020

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: May 18, 2020

Brawl

Drannith Magistrate is banned.

Winota, Joiner of Forces is banned.

Legacy

Lurrus of the Dream-Den is banned.

Zirda, the Dawnwaker is banned.

Vintage

Lurrus of the Dream-Den is banned.

Tabletop Effective Date: May 18, 2020

Magic Online Effective Date: May 18, 2020

MTG Arena Effective Date: May 21, 2020

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


Vintage

In the weeks following the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths on Magic Online, we've observed a rise in the popularity and win rate of Vintage decks using Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion. Because of the nature of Vintage's wide card pool and powerful restricted cards, the deck-building cost imposed by Lurrus is less restrictive relative to the payoff of having Lurrus as a companion. As a result, the win rates of several archetypes using Lurrus have surpassed 55% in Magic Online league play, and collectively decks using Lurrus are representing too large of a portion of the metagame with no indication of a shift away from this trend. Therefore, Lurrus of the Dream-Den is banned in Vintage.

We recognize that it's a rare occurrence to ban a card for balance reasons in Vintage rather than restricting it, but this is a unique case where restricting Lurrus wouldn't affect its usage as a companion, which is the primary motivation for making this change.

Legacy

As in Vintage, the wide card pool of powerful, low-mana-cost permanents in Legacy makes the power level of using Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion not commensurate to the deck-building cost. Several archetypes that were already strong, including Delver variants, have incorporated the use of Lurrus as a companion while necessitating relatively few deck-building changes. Collectively, Lurrus decks represent an increasingly large portion of the metagame, with several variants maintaining win rates above 55% in Magic Online league play. Matchup data indicates that metagame forces alone aren't sufficient to keep these decks in check, so we are also choosing to ban Lurrus of the Dream-Den in Legacy.

In addition, we're seeing very high win rates among decks using Zirda, the Dawnwaker as a companion in combination with Grim Monolith. While not yet widely played, Magic Online metagame data indicates that these decks would become problematic in both win rate and metagame share. Therefore, we're taking the additional step of banning Zirda, the Dawnwaker in Legacy.

Brawl

Part of our philosophy for Brawl is that it shouldn't be easy for a single card to completely shut down a wide class of commanders. An example of us acting on this philosophy in the past was banning Sorcerous Spyglass. We feel Drannith Magistrate falls into this category and generally takes away from the fun and self-expression that come from building around a commander in Brawl, so we are banning it.

On the balance side of things, we're seeing that high win rates of decks using Winota, Joiner of Forces as a commander are leading to increased play rates and reduced diversity of play experiences for Brawl players. While we're generally more tolerant of win rate outliers in Brawl than in formats with a more competitive spirit behind them, we're choosing to make a change here in order to open up more viable choices for self-expression in the Brawl metagame.

Other Formats

While this set of changes has focused on Legacy, Vintage, and Brawl, we're continuing to watch the evolution of the metagame in each other format, including Standard, Pioneer, and Modern. If changes become needed in other formats, we'll provide those separately in a future announcement. As of now, we're seeing a diverse and dynamic metagame that changes from week to week in each Standard, Pioneer, and Modern. Before determining whether any changes are necessary, and what the right changes would be, we need to see the metagame come closer to an equilibrium state. Currently, these formats are shifting too quickly for data to indicate what, if any, card or archetype poses a problem.

We are aware of some players' concerns about the frequency at which they encounter decks using companions across several formats. While we're not currently seeing problematic win rates in Standard, Pioneer, or Modern from decks using companions, we are looking at overall metagame share and potential for repetitive gameplay. If we see signs of long-term health issues resulting from high metagame share of companion decks, we're willing to take steps up to or including changing how the companion mechanic works. For now, metagames need more time to evolve before we can determine whether changes are necessary.

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