This past Monday, October 21st, the latest ban and restricted announcement was dropped by Wizards of the Coast. By all accounts, it wasn't exactly a normal update either. Our last update before this one was just two weeks ago on October 7th and the article - which gave no changes to any format - stated that the next update would be on November 18th. Only two days later, Wizards tweeted out that they would be changing the date of the next announcement to the 21st.
The close proximity of the new announced date to the update that just happened sent players into a frenzy. The answer to what happened was almost universal: the state of Standard was a mess. The early week's had rapidly devolved into Field of the Dead decks overtaking the meta and other cards and decks warping around it. The matches also became tremendously longer, both in paper and online with pictures of clocks at the first post-rotation Standard events reading 30-40 minutes past time in the round. A lot of people were upset and wanted things gone - namely Field of the Dead.
When Wizards suddenly made the decision to switch the date of the next B&R update, a lot of players saw this as an emergency ban coming in hot. The theory was that Wizards saw that it was a mess but wanted to see how things shaped up instead of banning cards in Standard a week after the release of their brand new set. As the data continued pouring in, though, they realized it was time for a change and thus on the 21st, Field of the Dead was rightfully banned in Standard.
In addition to Field, however, another surprise came with it: the banning of Arcum's Astrolabe in Pauper. If you've been reading my content at all in the last couple months, you've probably guessed that I'm quite stoked for this. I've felt Arcum's Astrolabe was a problem for the health and diversity of the format, given that it homogenized decks by allowing anything to run the best good stuff possible because, well, why not?
So what changed? It's hard to say. The Challenge events were still putting up roughly the same numbers so it's a bit hard to say what the determining factor was. I have two guesses, however. The first was that they listened to the sizeable outcry at the lack of changes to the format. I actually did a write up on Twitter explaining that, yes, Wizards does in fact listen to player feedback and this may have been a factor. Some had concerns about this possibly being the case and the precedent it sets, but given how they've said in the past that they consult pros to get an idea of how to better formats - including bannings - this shouldn't come as a huge surprise.
The other factor that I believe could've played a part in the decision not to ban anything just then was the fresh release of Throne of Eldraine. In the B&R update, Ian Duke lays out that Wizards was watching to see how the metagame for the format would shift and settle following the unification of the Pauper format. It's possible that they wanted to wait just a little longer to see how things would shake out with a whole new set filled with sweet cards like Mantle of Tides, Witch's Cottage, Mystic Sanctuary, and more. These cards are in fact playing roles in the format but weren't breaking the mold of big Jeskai (or more colors) numbers.
Because of all this, Astrolabe is now gone from the format and the hope from Wizards is that the format settles properly once more. I personally am disappointed, however, that Ephemerate didn't go with - or even in place of - Astrolabe. I feel this card is still going to cause problems and has problematic interactions with the likes of Mulldrifter and Stonehorn Dignitary, just to name a few. While I think Jeskai lists will still show up, they'll be in a slower and much less consistent form, so these interactions will largely be limited much more to Tron.
That said, I do feel that even with Ephemerate still lingering, the format is going to be in an interesting spot. A lot of the same decks we've been seeing will still be solid and good, just without Astrolabe allowing literally any deck to play good stuff of any color into their lists because, well, why not? We're going to see plenty of Tron and the return to glory of Boros Monarch but I also feel that Stompy is going to rise to the occasion of fighting both decks.
As I talked about in my article last week, Stompy has been making a comeback lately and it has been sweet to see. Now with the Jeskai deck largely out of the way, it will more likely have to contend with the likes of Prismatic Strands once more. However, we have two new tools we didn't have prior to Modern Horizons. The first of these is, as discussed last week, Savage Swipe. This card will be a powerhouse in taking out blockers and getting in for big damage. Suddenly Palace Sentinels, Mnemonic Wall, and Augur of Bolas don't feel so scary anymore!
The other big card that I think will have a breakout appearance if not this week than at least early on in Stompy will be Gingerbrute. This innocuous card has already been getting tested by players due to strong evasion, but now it gets even better as Prismatic Strands enters the meta once again. Why? Because it's colorless, so no matter what, it will always connect, making it a great way to push damage through and also to steal crowns from opponents.
We'll also see plenty of the other standbys like Elves, Bogles, Burn (which gets better as less decks can splash Weather the Storm), Pestilence, Mono-Black Control, Mono-Blue Zoo/Mantle of Tides and more. I wouldn't be surprised if we even saw something like Slivers pop up to shine since the printing of Winding Way or even an all new brew.
There's tons of options to be playing right now and I think this a bright new future for the format. What decks are you all excited to play now that Arcum's Astrolabe has left the format?