Announcement Date: October 21, 2019
Field of the Dead is banned.
Arcum's Astrolabe is banned.
Tabletop Effective Date: Oct 25, 2019
MTG Arena Effective Date: Oct 24, 2019
Magic Online Effective Date: Oct 21, 2019
The list of all banned and restricted cards, by format, is here.
Next B&R Announcement: November 18, 2019
Since the Standard rotation, one of the strongest and most metagame-defining decks has been a ramp deck that uses Golos, Tireless Pilgrim to find Field of the Dead. The deck has not only maintained a high win rate and metagame share, but has also restricted the space of viable competitive strategies in Standard.
Field of the Dead's ability to produce a constant stream of Zombie tokens for little resource investment gives the strategy an often-inevitable win condition in long games, making it difficult for traditional control decks or other ramp decks to go "over the top" with a more powerful late game. On the other end of the spectrum, ample anti-aggro tools and fast ramp enable the deck to defend itself against traditional attack decks before shoring up the ground with defensive Zombie tokens. This has forced the metagame into extreme positions, with hyper-aggressive red decks and planeswalker-heavy decks being among the only archetypes to consistently put up favorable results against Field of the Dead decks.
Beyond just the strength of the strategy, Field of the Dead presents a number of other problems for the metagame. The repetitive, on-board nature of its effect can cause games to frequently play out in a similar, deterministic way. Since Field of the Dead is a land, it can be difficult for many archetypes to interact with, further limiting the metagame's ability to adapt. Finally, the long-term advantage Field of the Dead provides often leads to prolonged games. We've observed a marked increase in matches going to time in tabletop tournaments and in average game length in digital play.
Field of the Dead ramp decks represented 42% of the field at Mythic Championship V and maintain both a high play rate and win rate on MTG Arena and Magic Online. Due to the strength and prevalence of the archetype, its warping effect on the metagame, and the undesirable play patterns it creates, Field of the Dead is banned in Standard. (This includes both Best-of-One and Best-of-Three Standard on MTG Arena.)
In this case, I want to be clear that the outcome of Mythic Championship V did not affect this B&R decision. In order to collect and analyze a large sample of data, discuss a decision, and communicate that decision to our partners in rules, digital, and organized play, B&R changes require a certain amount of lead time. Therefore, while the metagame leading up to and including Mythic Championship V was a factor in our decision making, this change is not a direct reaction to the results of that event. In general, a single tournament is only ever a part of the bigger picture when we consider B&R changes.
Finally, we're aware of a few other community concerns regarding the Standard environment, including that early acceleration into planeswalkers can be frustrating and that the color green is strong across a variety of Standard archetypes. We'll continue to monitor the health of the environment, but feel it's important to allow the metagame to adjust to the absence of Field of the Dead before further evaluation. As a philosophy, we prefer that players' deck-building and metagaming choices drive the evolution of the environment whenever possible, rather than B&R intervention.
With the unification of tabletop and Magic Online Pauper card pools earlier this year, we've allowed the metagame some time to adjust. In that time, we've seen Arcum's Astrolabe rise to become one of the most ubiquitous cards across Pauper archetypes.
Because of the nature of the Pauper card pool, reliable multicolor mana bases have historically been a challenge for many decks. Arcum's Astrolabe greatly changed this dynamic, as the clear, easiest, and strongest choice for color fixing. As many decks would adopt Arcum's Astrolabe purely for color fixing anyway, it becomes "free" to gain additional value from it being a cheap artifact and card-advantage engine. To some degree, the metagame has shifted toward selecting for the best Arcum's Astrolabe deck.
In particular, we've seen three-plus-color Skred decks pick up substantial metagame share, at times representing 15–20% of the field with a win rate greater than 55%. Arcum's Astrolabe not only gives these decks a smoother multicolor mana base, but also combines with Kor Skyfisher, Trinket Mage, Ephemerate, and other enters-the-battlefield effects to grind out opponents with card advantage and efficient one-for-one removal. Red-white–based Glint Hawk decks have also maintained a strong win rate, generating card advantage in a similar way but with a more aggressive game plan.
Due to the metagame share and win rate of Arcum's Astrolabe decks across the board, Arcum's Astrolabe is banned in Pauper. Underneath this top layer of Arcum's Astrolabe decks, we've seen healthy diversity within the Pauper metagame, and we're looking forward to continued support for the format as it evolves.