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Can we save the Companions?

We might see changes adressing the Companion mechanic on the next Monday. In this article, I do a brief review of when something similar have happened and suggest possible changes for Companion mechanics.

Once again, Companions are making history. We already had the first ban on a “normal” card in Vintage in over 20 years. A so rare occurrence that most players [link]('t even know that was a possibility).Myself included, since in the first draft of this article I've written that there were only bans in Vintage when it was created, and I had to [link]( go back to 1996), in which [[Mind Twist]] was banned, to see that I was wrong. After that, we only had bannings of "not so normal" cards like [[Shahrazad]] in 2007 and the Conspiracy-type cards in 2014. Now we will possibly have another unprecedented moment: a change in the mechanic's text that directly affects how it is executed during the game. <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">On Monday 6/1 there will be an update to the Banned &amp; Restricted list impacting the Standard and Historic formats that will also address the Companion mechanic.</p>&mdash; Magic: The Gathering (@wizards_magic) <a href="">May 26, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script> The only time a similar change happened was when the Madness mechanic was revisited in Shadows over Innistrad (SOI). Previously, a player discarding a card with madness could choose to discard the card into exile rather than the graveyard and then choose to cast the spell immediately for its madness cost, or to let the card continue to the graveyard as usual. Now, the first part of this process is obligatory and a card with madness is always discarded into exile ([link]( here for reference)). [image]( [image]( The fact that this change was not very significant and happened on an existing mechanics that was revisited makes me consider the case of the Companion as a new one. I haven't found any other moment in MTG's history when something similar happened and I invite you to leave in the comments if you are aware of any. But I would like to point out that, in this analysis, I am not taking into account mechanics that have gotten better or worse because of a change in the rules. I am also not considering mechanics which texts were updated but the process of executing it remains the same (example below). [image]( [image]( To better analyze the possible changes in the Companion mechanic, I listed the main reasons why it is causing so many problems in the Constructed formats: * A) Consistency:* The cards inside your deck are not 100% accessible. In order to use them, the player has to draw or tutor them through the effect of other spells. On the other hand, Companions are 100% guaranteed to be played, with the mana cost being the only limitation. Always having access to synergies or a possible combo piece brings an exaggerated consistency to the game; * B) Card Advantage:* Playing a Companion means starting the game with access to 8 cards. A player without a Companion already starts the game at a 1-card disadvantage; * C) Evasion:* The Companion is not in your hand, nor on your deck, nor in your graveyard. It is "protected" inside your sideboard. This greatly limits your opponent's ways of interacting with it; * D) Repeatability:* Always having access to a card causes it to be cast much more often than others and certain play-patterns (example: [[Lurrus of the Dream-Den]] followed by [[Mishra's Bauble]]) are executed more frequently. Now let's see some possible changes for the mechanic: * 1) Ban all Companions* Although this is neither a way to fix the mechanic nor a reasonable measure to solve the problem, I saw many comments on the internet asking for this. So, I decided to start here. Not even the worst mechanics in MTG's history have caused all cards that used them to be banned in all Constructed formats. I leave here the lists made by [link]( Olive, from MTGGoldfish,) and [link]( DeMars, from Channel Fireball,) for those who want to check it out. In addition, banning 10 rare cards from an expansion that has not been released for 2 months affects the trust buyers have on the product. This would further affect the sales of an expansion that was released in the midst of a global financial crisis. I know that many people do not like to hear arguments that have more to do with money than with the gameplay itself, but that does not stop them from being true and to affect WotC's decisions. * 2) Ban the Companion mechanic* This was the suggestion that I most read through the Whatsapp groups and subreddits related to Modern and Legacy. It is understandable, since the Companions homogenized both formats and we already had 2 Companions banned from Legacy. However, I still don't consider it a reasonable option. Banning the mechanic would leave the vast majority of Companions to be unplayable in competitive MTG. It also breaks the trust between buyers and WotC in a similar way that the one mentioned in the topic above. And this article is about saving the Companions. I cannot say that the only way to save the Companions is to remove “the Companion inside them”, because from then on, they would no longer be Companions. That would be a huge [[Paradoxical Outcome]]. * 3) The player has to choose between a 15-card sideboard or a 1-card sideboard that is the Companion* This eliminates an important aspect of competitive MTG: sideboard strategies. It also aggravates the problem of *repeatability*, since the deck will be the same in every single match. Long story short, this change only hides the problem by making the decks worse, but it doesn't actually solve it. * 4) Once the Companion is revealed, the player can no longer use the rest of the sideboard* For the same reasons mentioned in topic 3, I do not consider this a good solution. Also, in my opinion this change makes the mechanic complicated in a way that might lead to logistics problems during tournaments with a large number of players, such as GPs. * 5) A player who uses a Companion already starts the game in a mulligan for 6* So, the player has already to put 1 card at the bottom of their deck, and this number increases for subsequent mulligans. This solution is interesting because it solves the *card advantage* problem. However, there is still the problem of always having access to the same card. And the Companion remains protected from interaction by the opponent. * 6) A player who reveals a Companion has to exchange a card from their hand for it* So, as soon as the player finishes the mulligans and puts the X cards at the bottom of their deck, they will have to choose a card from their hand to go to the sideboard and put the Companion in their hand. This change solves the *card advantage* and *evasion* problems, and also mitigates the deck's *consistency*, since now the card is no longer “protected” in the sideboard. The issue with *repeatability* remains present, however it is slightly reduced because as the card is no longer shielded from the opponent's interactions, the number of times it will be cast slightly decreases . *Conclusion* The problems of *repeatability* and *consistency* are intrinsic to Companion's mechanic. None of the proposed changes managed to fully address these issues. However, the proposed change in option 6 was able to improve the mechanic in its fairness, reducing these two mentioned problems and also eliminating the *card advantage* and *evasion* ones. If I were to bet on what change we will see next Monday, I would go on that. With that, I end my discussion. I would like to especially thank the Alpha Legacy RJ community, for helping me during the search for mechanics with texts that were altered. I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave your feedback below. I want to know where you agree or disagree with me and what other changes you would propose. And, as always, stay awesome eternal players!!




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