Magic: the Gathering
Omnath, Locus of Creation,
Escape to the Wildsand
Lucky Cloverwere banned from the format in a decision that seems to have an extremely positive impact for the metagame, since during the first weeks no deck seemed to be predominant and we still have great diversity among the decks that compose the Top 8 of the Standard events.
Fires of Inventionwould only lead the Reclamation decks to become the best decks in Standard. And with more and more relevant tournaments in a high level happening through this new online platform, all with an inviting look for the spectator, it is now extremely negative when a deck dominates the format because it is exhausting, tiring and even boring to watch several matches in a row between players piloting the most prevalent deck (especially in mirror matches). Something that happened a few days before the ban was both Reclamation decks and Omnath decks dominating more than half of the metagame in the last two big events hosted by Wizards.
Umezawa's Jitteto a player by revealing it with a
Stoneforge Mystic, where I finished explaining it with the phrase "And it also makes a coffee too". He was so excited about the card that he wanted to have one on his deck. [TN: This is an expression in Brazilian Portuguese for a card or something that does a lot of things. "It does this, this, this and maybe it even will make you coffee too!"] "Coffee cards" are cards that may generate a lot of effects. They excite players and are responsible for selling many boosters because people feel they need or will need them to compete or to build that one cool deck they want to play with. And these cards fit perfectly into the F.I.R.E. philosophy adopted by the company because they are fun (at least for their controller), exciting and with a good degree of playability in a variation of decks or formats. A classic Magic argument has always been the famous "Dies to Removal" where, theoretically, we could measure the value of a creature based on the immediate impact it has or the long-term impact the card may have if it is not immediately answered by the opponent, generating a snowball of valuable effects. A great example of an immediate effect cards has always been the Planeswalkers because, even if they died at the end of the turn or on the next turn, they have probably already generated some value for their controller. In today's Magic, it seems that the logic of the Planeswalkers has been brought to other types of permanents. Most of the current staples have an immediate impact and/or may cause a huge snowball effect in a few turns. Compare these two cards, for example:
Nightpack Ambusheris not even the most absurd card that I can name, but it is a tribal lord which, in addition to increasing the power of the creatures of a specific type, it also has Flash and even produces tokens of the creature that it buffs in 4/4 bodies. Ambusher is the engine AND the payoff at the same time and needs little sacrifices during the deckbuilding to be good, whereas
Vampire Nocturnuswas a conditional payoff which led him to play only if you had creatures of the Vampire type in your deck so that the card became relevant. Another common comparison within the community is this:
Siege Rhinohad during Tarkir for having an extremely efficient body at a low mana cost while practically having a
Lightning Helixas its effect. Omnath, in turn, is a Siege Rhino which exchanges 1 toughness and trample for a card draw, being able to essentially be played for free (because of its mana generation ability) and still be a board wipe for the opponent's Planeswalkers. Omnath is the perfect example of a Coffee Card.
Baneslayer Angelcame out in M21 and simply wasn't played in Standard's metagame, where in M10 the card was the best creature in the edition and the best mid or late-game threat that Standard offered during that time, and which had its only weakness in the possibility of being destroyed before it could attack.
Elder Gargaroth, in turn, was taken as a joke for not passing the "Teferi Test". The irony is that, after the Planeswalker's ban, Gargaroth's reign was short-lived, but it was enough to show that
Baneslayer Angeldoesn't even compare to a card that generates a much wider range of value every turn. This new style of card creation is not just limited to creatures or Planeswalkers, as even enchantments like
Confounding Conundrumhave a "draw a card" text for immediate value generation. It is possible to compare the power level of today's Standard with what happened with Titan Cycle, in M11/M12, because many of the creatures generate such a significant amount of value that they demand good responses and/or good prevention effects in order not to become a "power snowball". And it is worth remembering that the Titans were very relevant cards in their existence in Standard along with other predominant forces in the format, as they existed alongside cards that were banned as
Jace, The Mind Sculptorand
Stoneforge Mysticor from equally strong and efficient cards like
Liliana of the Veil. Although they existed alongside such powerful cards, the Titans were present on the lists of Standard's main decks, such as UB Control or Wolf Run Ramp, but were kept in check because they were on par with other threats of the format and the efficiency of the available responses of that time. At the time of the Titans, Standard had access to cards like
Journey to Nowhereand
Preordain. Today, we barely have
Lightning Strikeand our best counterspell is
Neutralize, which is nothing more than a
Cancelwith Cycling. The responses that are created or reprinted today are much worse than the threats, and that remarkable difference between the pendulum of threats and the pendulum of answers has been Standard's biggest chronic problem in recent years and has probably also been the cause that has led Wizards to ban cards on a recurring basis And maybe it's intentional. After all, the 2020 Standard was made up of those who managed to shut down their engine first. Like when players cast
Scorch Spitteron turn 1,
Runaway Steam-Kinon turn 2,
Anax, Hardened by the Forgeon turn 3 and
Embercleaveon turn 4. Or when players ramp during the first turns with
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrathand then cast
Nissa, Who Shakes the Worldon turn 4 and stronger bombs on turn 5. Or by casting
Teferi, Time Raveleron turn 3,
Fires of Inventionon the 4th and Cavaliers or Lukka on turn 5. Or with
Lotus Cobraon 2, then
Omnath, Locus of Creationon 3 and then explode on the opponent's face on turn 4. Current Magic games have been built on building your engine before your opponent's. This is not new, since sequential moves between turns have always existed in the game, or at least have existed since I started playing in 2008. The difference is that there is an acknowledgment on the part of the company and the players that you will try to build your engine, but can be easily broken by a low cost counterspell, a specific hate effect or that you will simply die before being able to play that card you wanted. That brings negative and frustrating feeling to the player and, to avoid this feeling, cards like
Mana Leakare considered "too strong" and are now avoided, while threats and engines are getting stronger.
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath,
Veil of Summer,
Force of Negation,
Lurrus of the Dream-Den,
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove,
Teferi, Time Raveler, among others, are cards that were released in the last two years and that impacted the format significantly. Even well-known archetypes like TitanShift, Humans and Death's Shadow needed to readjust their lists and today they adopt at least four cards from the most recent collections in their maindeck. Legacy has also been impacted by recent releases, being
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath,
Force of Negationand
Oko, Thief of Crownsamong the most played, while brand new archetypes like Hogaak, 4 Color Snow and Ninjas have emerged in the past two years. And Vintage... well...
Lurrus of the Dream-Denis banned on Vintage and I believe that speaks for itself. Oh yes, and here's the image of a 3/3
Black LotusElk closing a game at last year's Eternal Weekend. Of course, this is also a big divider of public opinion: While there are players who approve of the new cards having a greater impact on eternal formats, there are players who feel that their deck has been weakened or even invalidated by the latest additions. But that kind of "rotation" is part of the nature of the game. Legacy, before the release of
Delver of Secrets, was quite different. Modern, before the release of
Fatal Pushor the low-cost Eldrazi, was also quite different. New cards are released all the time, and it is possible to consider a great success on the part of the design team when a card is able to impact in a non-overwhelming way the eternal formats. Another notable point in this increase in Power Creep is how the cards launched in recent years and which were banned in some formats, interacted with or altered the game zones that make up the essence of Magic: Mana, Sideboard, Interactions, Costs and even Variance. For example:
Fires of Inventionand
Wilderness Reclamationare good examples of cards that allow you to have "free mana" and enable the player to make multiple choices and moves in a single turn while breaking the basic rule that lands and mana are power limiters.
Lukka, Coppercoat Outcastand the not yet banned on Standard
Winota, Joiner of Forcesare good examples of cards that allow you to circumvent mana costs and play certain cards without having to pay their mana cost.
Teferi, Time Ravelergreatly reduced the game's interaction possibilities by limiting the moments when the opponent could play his/her spells, reducing the efficiency of instant-speed effects while keeping other strategies in check during his existence in Standard. Companions are a good example of guaranteed access to a specific card without any interaction, since it is part of the Sideboard. It is so absurd and dangerous that they had to change their rules, since the concessions in deckbuilding became irrelevant, mainly in eternal formats.
Once Upon a Timeand, while not necessarily problematic, cards like the Castles of Eldraine or the SpellLands of Zendikar are a way to try to mitigate land flood or lack of mana to ensure more games are fun and interactive between players, reducing the number of games where a player loses because he/she just couldn't play Magic. In fact, it was in order to reduce the variance factor dictating games before they even started what led to a change in Mulligan's rules. It is clear that the Design team is choosing and experimenting with bolder mechanics in order to create an increasingly innovative game with cards capable of impacting all formats, at the same time that they are taking the risks (consciously or not) of creating cards that may be too strong and which may completely unbalance the pendulum of these formats. Because of this, there is another step that has been taken by the company in recent years.
Collected Companynot being banned during their existence in the format. Today, above the security of not having to ban cards, the fun factor that has always been mentioned by the design team as relevant when banning a card seems to be greater than ever and, with even greater feedback that is more recurring and more easily received with the rise of social networks and the expansion that Magic Arena has provided, banning cards has become a solution to solve the problems that has become more and more immediate. So much so that the company abandoned its practice of announcing changes every three months and now makes its update announcements literally when it believes it is necessary. Using the banlist as a regulatory tool may be something new for Magic, but it is far from being something new for the TCG world. The closest example in my knowledge is that of Yu-Gi-Oh!, where cards are banned, unbanned, restricted, etc. every 3 months at a point where there is always speculation of what may be banned or unbanned, and the belief that no strong deck can stay in its "full power" status forever is prevalent. A recent example of absurd cards being released in other TCGs that will be banned at some point is the Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon card Dark Dragoon is not banned in Yu-Gi-Oh! yet. In fact, it has just been released in the west, but it is already banned in OCG (a format that only exists in the eastern regions, where cards are released in advance), so there is awareness that the card is so absurd that eventually it or any part of your engine will be banned. With a banlist update planned only for December, the card will have a few more months of presence before any possibility of direct intervention against it. That is, if there is a direct intervention in December, as Konami is known for occasionally making decisions on what to ban or unban based on commercial factors. And we can say that the same can happen or even already happened in the world of Magic. Bans (or the absence of them) may exist due to commercial actions.
Omnath, Locus of Creationneeded to be banned and that banning
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrathwas just a poor fix for a card from an already "old" edition due to the real problem that was in the new edition. Before that, everyone knew that banning
Bridge from Belowwould do little to slow the monster that was the deck of
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. And of course, people speculated heavily that Wizards chose not to ban Omnath because it was too early, commercially speaking, to ban a card that stores were still receiving and/or pre-ordering. There is also a cruel reality to be accepted that using the banlist as a regulatory tool makes the common player much less secure to invest cash in a deck to compete. As an example, I will use the main platform of the game today: Magic Arena. Regardless of how you acquire Wildcards, let's assume that you have decided to build the best deck of Standard. You will probably spend a significant amount of rare and mythical Wildcards on cards like
Lotus Cobra, dual lands, triomes, ultimatums, etc. And while these cards don't disappear from your collection and you receive a refund on Wildcards for the cards you had that were banned, you spent a lot more of them to build the deck with other cards that may now be of little use or even absolutely useless for your next decks. You now have a stack of rare cards that serve as a base for other decks, but which you will need to spend more Wildcards to build these and that you have no other way to acquire if not buying more packs or playing drafts. In the end, you lost a deck. You have a considerable portion of dead cards in your collection, and Wizards will receive even more resources from you so you can build a new deck. Unlike Paper Magic or even Magic Online, the absence of a trading system (or even a Dust system, like Hearthstone) in the game makes it difficult for you to somehow mitigate the damage from the investment made on the deck that you chose to build and that was banned in order to invest in a new deck. While this does not seem to be a problem for professional players who mostly have the support and sponsorship from major stores and teams, it is a huge problem for players in local stores or the person who plays Magic Arena at the end of their workday or for those who are trying to climb the ladder to Mythic in the Season. And in reality, even a renowned player and commentator for StarCityGames tournaments such as Todd Anderson recently criticized the Magic Arena economy system. It is absolute and imperative that banning cards on a more recurring basis significantly reduces the Magic player's security and confidence in investing their money to set up a specific deck due to the financial uncertainty regarding a possible card ban. This does not necessarily mean that we should be afraid to build a certain deck because of a possible ban, but it may be necessary for players to consider whether the investment in that deck is really worthwhile if it is being too efficient by the standards of other format decks and if you would be getting the expected return before it was possibly banned. Several TCGs also suffer from these effects with recurring bans or even errata texts on cards to correct formats and maintain the health of the game. With Magic, it will be no different. Players adapt, and the game survives. And it is also worth remembering that, at the end of the day, Magic is a product.