Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is not banned in Historic All-Access, Basically No Bans event

We are thrilled with the response we have seen to our Historic No Banned List event. Therefore, we are excited to highlight another iteration on this event type with Historic All Access, Basically No Bans coming on November 2–14. This will be another All-Access event, meaning players don't need cards in their collection to play with them in the event.

What's up with this "Basically No Bans" part though? We are going to ban three cards that have proven to be too powerful or not fun for this event.

EVENT DETAILS – Historic All Access, Basically No Bans

  • Dates: November 2, 7 a.m. PT (15:00 UTC), until November 12, 8 a.m. PT (16:00 UTC)
  • Entry: No entry fee
  • Format: Historic All Access, Basically No Bans
  • Structure: Play as much as you want until event ends
  • Banned Cards: Channel, Demonic Tutor, Tibalt's Trickery

Wait, how can there be banned cards in a no-banned-list event? That's an excellent question! I hope to answer that question by giving you a behind-the-scenes look into where this event came from and what we plan to do with it next.

I'm Dave Finseth, the product manager in charge of events and formats on Magic: The Gathering Arena. My team creates all the components that go into events ranging from Midweek Magic, drafts, Premier Play, cube drafts, and preconstructed decks. We also ensure that our digital formats have a diverse and interesting metagame and our gameplay supports our goal to offer fast, fun Magic for everyone, anywhere.

How Did We Get Here?

In addition to making great event content for each new set release, our team is on a mission to find exciting new ways to play with cards on MTG Arena. Historic No Banned List evolved because there are a growing number of cards that are simply too powerful or disruptive for Historic, and that number is only expected to accelerate with the addition of Khans of Tarkir later this year and next year with Modern Horizons 3. Everyone has their favorite cards, so we want to make sure there is a place players can play with them!

Internally, we started a small playtest group where every card on MTG Arena was legal to play. We quickly found deck construction in this space to be exciting and the gameplay was unique enough that we felt like there was something new here. We decided to run a limited-time event for our players (that became Historic No Banned List). Our goals for the event were to gauge player interest, evaluate the historically banned cards, and understand if this event had enough differentiators to justify its continued existence.

What Did We Learn?

During the two-week event, over 3 million games of the Historic No Banned List event were played. The most-engaged players averaged over 100 games a day! This shattered our expectations and proved that there is an audience for this type of event. The event is filled with faster, more powerful cards, resulting in games that end on average about 3–6 turns (a turn being each individual player's turn) faster than Historic.

The top 20 cards showed up in 20% of all games played during the event. As expected, players favored building decks that focused on revisiting Historic banned cards, which made up 10 of the top 20 most-played cards. Here is the ranked order of the top 20 most-played cards in the event:

  1. Channel
  2. Demonic Tutor
  3. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
  4. Thoughtseize
  5. Inquisition of Kozilek
  6. Spell Pierce
  7. Counterspell
  8. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
  9. Emrakul, the Promised End
  10. Lightning Bolt
  11. Duress
  12. Mishra's Bauble
  13. Once Upon a Time
  14. Karn, the Great Creator
  15. Dark Ritual
  16. Brainstorm
  17. Kozilek, the Great Distortion
  18. Memory Lapse
  19. Orcish Bowmasters
  20. Oko, Thief of Crowns

The Unbanned Cards

We also wanted to keep a close eye on the power level of the Historic banned cards. The powerful combo cards Channel and Demonic Tutor found a lot of success enabling game-ending effects like summoning Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Emrakul, the Promised End. This proved to be a winning strategy that defined the metagame of the event.

Low-cost aggressive cards Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Lighting Bolt were powerful additions. Working together, these two cards successfully put a lot of pressure on their opponent's life totals. We will be keeping an eye on Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer specifically to make sure it does not overrun future events.

The blue-green decks are also worth calling out, driven by Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Oko, Thief of Crowns. Both cards have proven to be too much in other formats but seem fair and enjoyable in Historic No Banned List based on their win and play rates. We love that there is a place to cast these powerful cards where they are kept in check.

The Re-Banned Cards

I want to take the opportunity to talk a little more about each of the cards we are banning for the event. Banning cards for a no-bans event goes against the very goals we had for this event. However, we believe that three cards have proven to be too much and re-banning them can lead to more fun in this open field.

Channel card banned in Historic All-Access, Basically No Bans event

Casting a turn-two giant Eldrazi is exciting and powerful. This combination caused Channel to be cast more than any other card in the event and proved to be overpowering. It is clear why the card is restricted in Vintage and banned in every other format. We believe banning Channel in this event will create more space for deck diversity and allow for more experimentation and net fun.

Demonic Tutor card banned in Historic All-Access, Basically No Bans event

Demonic Tutor saw the second highest play during the Historic No Banned List event. Channel and Demonic Tutor were played almost 25% more than the next most popular card. We believe this card has proven to be too much as we saw it reduce game variance and push combo decks over the top.

Tibalt's Trickery card banned in Historic All-Access, Basically No Bans event

Tibalt's Trickery can be used to trigger game-ending combos by enabling the casting of any number of powerful spells like Omniscience, Dragonstorm, and Emergent Ultimatum. In combination with An Offer You Can't Refuse and a zero-cost artifact, the combo can end the game on the first turn. Though inconsistent, having a turn-zero combo is not incredibly fun or interesting to play against, as 90% of games with Tibalt's Trickery ended by conceding. We believe Tibalt's Trickery is doing more harm than good in the event.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoy this next iteration of Historic All Access, Basically No Bans. We expect these few bans will allow for more deck variety and are excited for you all to play it as we continue to evolve this event together.