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Zendikar Rising Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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They Finally Did It: Another Ban Update

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Guys, I'll be the first to admit that we talk about bans in this column a lot. I'd blame myself, but they're huge news, and they've basically happened multiple times a month for the better part of 2020. But this week, on Monday, August 3rd... we may have had the biggest banning news this entire year.

There was no preparation for it. There was no pre announcement announcement. It wasn't scheduled. We all just woke up Monday morning, and found some of the most shocking news we could receive when it comes to modern Magic: The Gathering. I'm sure you've heard all about it already - I posted about it on social media, Rob and I talked about it on Freshly Brewed - but there's honestly no way I can go without discussing it here with you guys as well. Put simply, these bans make me excited about two formats I have not been excited about for months, and I hope you guys feel the same.

The following are the four cards that were banned in Standard.

Wilderness Reclamation

Wilderness Reclamation

Week after week, ban after ban, I wondered how this kept narrowly dodging the ban hammer. The card was definitely not fair or balanced enough, so that couldn't have been it. Apparently, R&D needed just one more week to really make up their minds: a theory which is pretty comical to me.

For the record, every single time a card doubles your mana, turn after turn, or every card provides you with a free amount of mana greater than two or three, that card is subsequently banned. Every time. Maybe the one exception in recent memory is Irencrag Feat because you can only make Red mana with it, and only use it on one spell. These are good restrictions to have. Make future mana-generating cards in this way. Do not make them enchantments that stay on the board, turn after tun, supplying you with double or triple your mana. It's stupid, it's bad design, and it never works. If you all recall, I recently wrote an article entitled "Stop. Giving. Mana. Away. For. Free." where I talk about this exact thing. Has R&D finally learned its lesson? I guess we can only cross our fingers.

Teferi, Time Raveler

Teferi, Time Raveler

This is a card that has made Standard miserable for months. I remember playing against this card nearly a year ago, and having a terrible time. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever played against Teferi, Time Raveler and had a good time. I've gone over this time and time again, but Teferi invalidated entire card types and deck strategies and just flat out wasn't fun to play against. I'm shocked that they actually ended up banning the card when it only has six or so more weeks in Standard, but you know what, credit where credit is due.

The thing about the Teferi ban is that, by doing it, I'm hoping it says two things: 1) They acknowledge the card is a problem, which is huge. If they did nothing, it tells us that they might not have even seen the card as a problem. And 2) is that it tells us that no matter how soon a card is going to be rotating, if they can take action toward solving a problem, they will. The second fact is a bit less clear based on how long they allowed this card to simply dominate Standard, but I still have my fingers crossed that this is a learning moment.

I'm still having a hard time believing that tomorrow, when I fire up a Magic client, I won't be playing against these cards, but here we are... It's definitely something of a dream come true.

Growth Spiral

Growth Spiral

Unlike Teferi and Reclamation, this card isn't an "exciting" ban; it's just one that kind of needed to happen. When every ug deck starts their list with "4 Growth Spiral," it's a problem. Alternatively, they could have banned Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, but I'll tell you honestly I don't think it's going to be that big of a problem. I'm more than willing to eat my words if I'm wrong, but now that both Teferi and Wilderness Reclamation are out of the picture, removal looks a lot better. You can interact with planeswalkers and creatures again, and while Uro is one amazing creature, we still have tons of tools to prevent ourselves from dying to it, like Eliminate or Eat to Extinction.

Cauldron Familiar

Cauldron Familiar

This card is just horrendous, and I typically love animals! You can't attack through it without trample, it blanks your removal, it makes chipping away at the opponent's life total virtually impossible. Think of how annoying Aristocrat decks can be, then multiply it by a thousand, because you can't deal damage, and the main creatures that drain you can't be effectively removed. If you take away things like Teferi and Growth Spiral and Reclamation, Jund Sacrifice is rising to the top of that heap real quick. Not to say this deck wasn't incredibly popular or successful already, but with the previous bans, the last thing you want is to have to simply ban Cauldron Familiar in another couple months when there's no effective way to deal with it.

Pioneer!

The other format that interests me is Pioneer, and Pioneer also had four bans this week... to the surprise of most people, I would imagine, since just three weeks ago we saw Oath of Nissa unbanned and no other changes. Then this week, out of the blue, we have four cards banned. In what appears to be an attempt (that I wholeheartedly support) to make Pioneer healthier toward midrange decks, four cards that enabled degenerate combo decks were all given the axe: Inverter of Truth, Kethis, the Hidden Hand, Walking Ballista, and Underworld Breach.

Two of these cards had been on everyone's radar for months. I remember playing paper Pioneer back in February and Inverter was everywhere, while Underworld Breach was slowly gaining steam. Why Wizards took no action three weeks ago, when an announcement was made that specifically affected Pioneer, but took action this week, who knows? They mentioned that it seemed like interest in the format was dwindling, and I definitely believe that based on my own deteriorating interest, but I suppose I'm surprised they didn't see it three weeks ago.

If you recall, before it rotated out of Standard, there was a Kethis combo deck that used things like Mox Amber and Emry, Lurker of the Loch. This deck was pretty easily ported over to Pioneer, and in an effort to make sure it doesn't become the next Inverter of Truth, they put a pin in Kethis before things got out of hand. Considering that the deck hadn't gained a tremendous amount of steam just yet, this seems like a good choice; we really don't want to have to revisit these cards again in two months when the deck is everywhere.

The last card they banned was Walking Ballista due to its ability to be a two-card combo with Heliod, Sun-Crowned. I think Heliod has a ton of deck-building space to still explore, but Walking Ballista has always been kind of an unfair, oppressive card, so I think it's fine to remove it from the format before other degenerate things are done with it. If R&D wants more midrange decks to find homes in the format, making sure Ballista isn't keeping them down before they get their feet off the ground is a good decision.

Everything Else

But that's not all! Additionally, Wilderness Reclamation was suspended in Historic, and Teferi, Time Raveler was suspended in Historic and banned in Brawl... because of course they were. Everyone knew Wilderness Reclamation - and Teferi for that matter - was going to do the same thing in Historic as it did in Standard. And sure enough... it did. I don't understand why either Muxus, Goblin Grandee or Krenko, Mob Boss weren't under consideration, but we'll see if Historic can take care of its own problems now that the other two menaces from Standard have been handled. Who knows, maybe I'll even dive into Historic!

Well, this has been an extremely exciting week already (as I'm writing this on Monday), and I'm actually looking forward to playing some Constructed again. The format feels... free. It's like Rob and I discussed, a weight has been lifted off the format. Sure, we still have things like Uro, and Nissa, Who Shakes the World to contend with, but you can't remove every strong card from a format; just the ones that seem to change the game for the worse, I'd say.

Definitely, as always, let me know what you guys think of this most recent round of changes in the comments down below. Thank you so much for reading, stay safe, I love you guys and I'll catch you next week!

Frank Lepore

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