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Thoughts on the Latest B&R

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Ello, guv'na! It's been nearly two months since the last Banned and Restricted Announcement from Wizards of the Coast, way back in January, and this time the announcement was spontaneous...yet scheduled. I don't get it either.

A week ago, on March 2nd, the following Tweet was posted.

So I'm really not sure if this would be considered an emergency announcement, or a scheduled one. I didn't think any particular format was in such dire straits that an emergency ban was needed, but then again, there were a lot of changes this go around, and this week we're going to go over them!

Brawl

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim

Golos, Tireless PIlgrim is banned. Honestly, I don't play a lot of Brawl. I don't really play any Brawl, but I've heard Golos was very good, so I guess...cool? You're always going to have people from two camps chiming in: the "Golos was awesome, and I played him. Boo!" camp, and the "Golos was overpowered and I'm glad he's gone. Hooray!" camp. That being the case, accept that Solemn Simulacrum 2.0 was given the axe and move on.

Historic

Oko, Thief of Crowns
Once Upon a Time
Veil of Summer

Historic is the MTG Arena exclusive format that includes all the sets on MTG Arena, but some really weird, niche cards that were added to Arena specifically for the Historic format. I don't follow it too closely, because they created Pioneer shortly after Historic (to the confusion of many players), and many people felt like it was a slap in the face to this new Arena-specific format they seemed to be trying to cultivate: these were both formats that included recent Standard cards, but also went just a little further back. They felt quite similar.

Another strange decision was the introduction of "Suspension." Back in December, Wizards "suspended" cards in the Historic format, including Once Upon a Time, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Veil of Summer, and Field of the Dead. Suspending was like banning, but less permanent and seemingly more flexible considering the digital format. Well, to the surprise of no one, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time, and Veil of Summer were all moved from suspended to banned. Really? Not gonna let those three back in, huh?

The only card they didn't move to ban was Field of the Dead, which was instead moved from suspended back to legal. This is interesting. Apparently, they felt this card was no longer (or rather will no longer be) a problem in Historic? This was based on their explanation of adding both Ghost Quarter and Goblin Ruinblaster to Historic, which further emphasizes how weird - but also potentially interesting - Historic is. You can simply suspend cards, find correct answers for them, and once released into the format, legalize the suspended cards. That being said, the format already had Field of Ruin, and I don't foresee people playing six to eight Ghost Quarter effects in their decks.

I admittedly haven't played much Historic myself, primarily because there are too many other, more relevant formats, that are also available in paper, but if people are enjoying it and its existence isn't cannibalizing other formats - specifically Pioneer - then I hope it flourishes! Whether Field of the Dead is a safe card to legalize...well, I guess we'll see.

Legacy

Underworld Breach

Underworld Breach is banned in Legacy. I'm not a Legacy expert by any means, but adding Yawgmoth's Will to the format seemed like a recipe for disaster.

Modern

Once Upon a Time

While it took them a little bit longer, Once Upon a Time is now banned in Modern. This now joins its partner in crime, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and other free or reduced spells such as Gitaxian Probe, Mox Opal, Dig Through Time, Dread Return, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, and Treasure Cruise. It's almost as if printing cards that you can cast for free...is still a huge mistake. I'm not actually sure when Wizards will stop doing this, but I have my fingers crossed that it will happen eventually. I think the rare amount of times it ends up working out well is far outweighed by the amount of times things become an utter mess. I just counted, and 18 out of the 40 cards on the banned list either reduce costs, are free, or generate multiple mana.

I think Once Upon a Time deserved to go, simply because it's not doing anything particularly fair. It also makes me wonder if Ancient Stirrings happened to be free on your first turn, if it would also be banned. While it's only a one-mana difference in value rather than a two-mana difference, the cards aren't that dissimilar.

If you were one of the numerous people foolishly thinking that Splinter Twin was going to be unbanned, seriously, just stop. The card is not reasonable and there's zero incentive to make the combo legal. Put aside whatever Splinter Twin love you might be harboring that clouds your judgment here and be realistic. If you weigh the pros and the cons of unbanning Splinter Twin, you will not come out ahead.

Pioneer

Inverter of Truth
Pioneer was actually the format with the most surprising change: absolutely nothing. Which seems pretty shocking to me. Everyone was going into this announcement expecting either Underworld Breach, or Inverter of Truth, or both. Instead we saw neither. The reason Wizards cites is that, according to their data, the Inverter deck had only a 49% win rate among non-mirror matches, and has unfavorable matchups against five of the other ten most played decks. This is good information to know, but it's also a bit harder to verify since Wizards has somewhat restricted the amount of metagame data that gets released.

I was actually under the impression, personally, that the Inverter combo was a little worse - or rather harder to combat, that is - than Splinter Twin. Now, hear me out. Outside of having more redundant pieces, Splinter Twin is actually a more interactable combo. When they cast Splinter Twin on their 1/4 or your 2/1, you have the time and opportunity to either kill the enchantment or kill the creature at any point in response. The only restriction is often the amount of mana you have available.

Thassa's Oracle
The Inverter combo, on the other hand, doesn't care about the combo pieces remaining in play. In fact both cards, Thassa's Oracle and Inverter of Truth, might as well be spells. As long as you cast one, followed by the other, you should likely win the game. The only way to prevent this is by countering the creatures themselves, countering the triggered abilities, or making the opponent discard the cards before they are cast. Speaking of discard, the Inverter combo happens to pair Blue with Black (rather than Red), which gives you a much heavier disruption element, often in the form of six to eight copies of discard spells; something that the Red-based Splinter Twin decks don't have.

Ultimately only time will tell if Inverter is a healthy part of the metagame, or if it needs to be squashed. One logical conclusion I've heard is that the win percentage is so low because inexperienced players are picking up the deck and making it look bad. This would mean that the deck could in fact be too powerful, but the bad players are skewing the data. I'm fine with giving things more time to flesh out, so long as when (if) the time comes, Wizards doesn't hesitate with adding another Eldrazi to the banned list. (To be fair, the only banned Eldrazi-related card was Eye of Ugin. And maybe Emrakul, the Promised End in that Standard format. But I digress.)

Additionally, I'll clarify that the reason I think Inverter of Truth should get the ban, and not Thassa's Oracle, is because:

  1. There's another redundant combo piece in Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.
  2. Thassa's Oracle is a fine addition to the Mono-Blue Devotion deck that already exists in Pioneer.

There's no reason to neuter that deck as well, when Inverter of Truth sees literal zero play outside of Dimir Inverter.

This was a weird Banned and Restricted announcement and I'm super curious to see what you guys thought. Did they get it right? Did they get it wrong? Are free spells ever okay? Be sure to let me know down below in the comments! As always, I love you guys, thanks for reading, use promo code FRANK5 to get 5% off, and I'll catch you all next week!

Frank Lepore

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