In this article, we tackle the bans that happened throughout 2022, how the formats have been developing with each new release, and we'll speculate a bit about what can come from now on.
January 20th, 2022
This ban is accompanied by something unique that started this year, which were the following wonderful news for Pauper players: Wizards of the Coast created a committee of players tasked with watching the Pauper metagame and taking care of the format's health. Speaking briefly about Pauper and why it is loved, this format only accepts cards which were once released as common cards in any set, which makes it very accessible, but still powerful, as it counts with many powerful cards released throughout the years.
The bans in this date were exclusive to Pauper, and they were on the cards Atog, Prophetic Prism and Bonder's Ornament. The first two ones were intended to diminish Affinity's efficiency, as it dominated the format, and the other ban ended up weakening Tron, which was also well-positioned in the meta.
Bonder's Ornament was already getting quite strong in midrange decks, becoming an almost mandatory addition in many different lists. This was even more emphasized when we consider the fact that this card is part of a Commander set, which made Magic Online's prices skyrocket, and this way, it was mutually agreed that it was best if it were removed.
January 25th, 2022
The difference between these dates being so narrow is more due to the fact that the Pauper Committee could already act more independently of other formats, and this makes it possible to have more ban dates with more exclusive bans. This date's bans altered Standard quite aggressively, hitting cards that were already up for bans, and this way, with these bans, they were already trying to freshen up the metagame before rotation came around.
Alrund's Epiphany, Faceless Haven and Divide by Zero were removed from Standard due to their dominance in certain decks, such as in Alrund's and Faceless Haven's combos, which were efficient in keeping their aggression levels high even after taking board wipes. Divide by Zero is the more interesting one out of the list, even though it is not particularly powerful. This card, however, made matches more tedious, and WotC, worrying about the players' interests in Arena, had already created a nerf for players regarding the Bo1's sideboard access, limiting it to seven cards instead of fifteen. As Divide by Zero had this bonus, being able to hit win conditions even outside the main deck, they also removed it.
In Legacy, we had the ban hammer hitting Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, as UR Delve was quite dominating, and they removed this card from MH2, even though everyone wished it was also removed from Modern.
Memory Lapse was removed from Historic for similar reasons as Divide by Zero was, even though it wasn't exactly a Counterspell. In some senses, it was even more annoying than this card, as it puts the countered card on the top of the deck. Even though you don't lose this resource in a more permanent way, this card delayed the opponent's game plan significantly by preventing new cards from being drawn. A-Teferi, Time Raveler was rebalanced and made its return to this format, albeit not as oppressive as before.
March 7th, 2022
Jumping forward a bit, a card that ever since Ikoria had been problematic and meta-defining, even after getting nerfed by WotC (something very uncommon to happen outside Historic), ended up leaving both formats.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den was completely dominating Modern, as with the simple addition of Mishra's Bauble, it became a card advantage engine, and with a format composed of efficient cards at a low cost, the deck building cost of this list was almost non-existent, pushing this card to see play in many types of decks. Therefore, the ban hammer hit the ground and this issue was solved.
This Ban Hammer hit was so strong, that it removed it even from Pioneer. Its dominance in this format was also considerable, though not as much as in Modern, however, it was easy to predict that within some time this problem would also appear in Pioneer, so they removed it as a way to not have this future headache.
As for Pauper, the cards hit this time were Galvanic Relay and Disciple of the Vault. One of the usual suspects, Affinity, was still dominating even after two bans had hit it, and so they took out another key card that composed the deck's own engine: getting advantage with the sacrificed artifact lands to create card advantage, as a win condition.
As for Galvanic Relay, with the addition of Crimson Vow's Kessig Flamebreather, it became an effective storm deck, which safely drew a lot of cards, created a lot of mana, and won by doing this resiliently. It was so dominating that it had to be banned.
For Tron, who had been slowly fading out of the format, as Prophetic Prism left, the Pauper Committee decided to unban Expedition Map to try reviving the deck.
May 11th, 2022
Here we have an interesting ban: a card that, when Kaldheim was released, created a problem in Modern due to "cheese decks". For those who don't understand what is a "cheese deck", it is a deck with a fast win proposal, usually does something absurd, is hard to interact with, and can ruin games.
Tibalt's Trickery has an excellent design, except for one mistake: it annuls any spell. If it only annulled enemy spells, it would be a good idea as a side card for red decks that don't use blue, fulfilling the role of protecting the meta from degenerate decks in other formats. In Modern, thanks to cascade spells, this card consistently could annul itself, and, with a bit of luck, place an Emrakul on board.
In Explorer and Pioneer, there aren't Cascade spells, so you just need to have any card that's self castable for 0 mana and at turn two counter it and cross your fingers. This deck lots of times loses to itself, but it is a game experience that is almost always one-sided, which removes the fun factor for the other side of the board, winning or losing, and this way it was banned.
Winota, Joiner of Forces was a menace ever since its release in Standard, and followed suit in Explorer and Pioneer. In this date, it was also removed from Arena.
June 7th, 2022
We've just talked about Winota in Explorer, and look at her here again. Their reason for not doing it all at once for both formats was because Pioner had (and still has) more answer options for cards than Explorer, and this way could "deal" with Winota. However, it was still dominating Pioneer even with these options, specially since the Midrange plan was still consistent enough to win even when this card that names this deck was removed, as there would still be creatures enough to defeat their opponent.
And another card that was already causing a lot of controversy when it comes to its power was taken out of both formats (Pioneer and Explorer): Expressive Iteration. It might seem silly, but the power and consistency of a card that looks at your top three cards and gets two, creating card advantage by just two mana, was so relevant that they decided it was best to take out this card from both formats, and many consider the possibility of taking it out of other formats, such as Modern and Legacy.
September 19th, 2022
Quick, what do Aarakocra Sneak, Stirring Bard, Underdark Explorer and Vicious Battlerager have in common? They are experts at breaking any game that isn't Commander. When Baldur's Gate was released, some archetypes started to form, and I highlight among them the Gate archetype, thanks to the addition of Basilisk Gate, which makes creatures which are hard to block become real threats, and the Initiative archetype.
To give you all a bit of context, when the Adventures of the Forgotten Realms set was released in Standard, the "Adventure" mechanic was created, in which it was possible to unlock "Dungeons", which create advantages, and it was also possible to delve deeper into them, even though when it started, there were only three. With the Commander set, "Baldur's Gate", they created the "Initiative" mechanic, which is similar to "Monarch", in which once activated, at each turn you naturally gain an advantage, and Initiative comes in a new Dungeon created for Commander, in which four opponents and 40 health points for each wouldn't be as punitive.
Pauper, Vintage and Legacy are formats that accept cards from any set, be it a "normal" one released in Standard, or a "complementary" one, which doesn't go in the other ones, and with just one opponent and 20 health points to be hit, this new Dungeon became too strong.
In the old sets, there are plenty of ways to get mana fast, such as, for instance, putting these threats early on and starting collecting advantage points quicker.
Under these conditions, and using cards only released as common, Pauper had a "cheese" deck that pressured opponents quickly, and this way the Pauper Committee, as they evaluated the health of the metagame, thought it was best to take out four out of the six cards with "Initiative".
October 10th, 2022
The bans from this date were the last of the year and the winners were The Meathook Massacre and Yorion, Sky Nomad in Modern. The current Standard, even with the release of Brothers' War, remains mainly black, the strongest color of the format.
The Meathook Massacre made miserable any other deck that focused on creatures as their main game plan, even though it wasn't as mana efficient to remove creatures, being obligated to spend mana for each -1/-1 that you distribute on board with the addition of two black manas.
What made it so powerful was the fact it gained life with each enemy creature slain, which is wonderful when you play against Aagro, as this increases the distance that your opponent has to run to defeat you, and this doesn't happen only when there is casting, but also remains as long as this enchantment remains on board, This card went away for the greater good of Standard.
Yorion, Sky Nomad is another matter, alongside Wrenn and Six and the fetchlands. In Modern, this card shuffles your deck more than anything else, and with a deck with 80 cards it becomes more complicated. There is a lot of debate about this card for many reasons, with people claiming WotC has to end the Companion mechanic altogether, that it was a bad idea, and others complain that the true villain here is Wrenn and Six. The boldest players say Modern would be a better place without fetchlands and their absurd power.
In this Ban race, the first place goes to Pauper, with nine cards banned and only one unban, thanks to the Pauper Committee. Today it finds itself with a good variation of decks, which crowns a great decision by WotC.
Second place goes to Standard, with four bans. It can be argued that it should only be one, as the first three were pre-rotation and would soon leave anyway, but it is important to stress how strong cards were created that affected the formats in a way that shakes balance, and how that has been a trend recently.
The next spots are Pioneer with three bans, Modern with two and Legacy with just one. Except for Legacy, Pioneer's and Modern's bans are all cards that passed through Standard. Many complain that Modern deserved more cuts, but that doesn't change the fact that this is an important sign that points to the thought that buying "booster packs" has become a riskier investment, considering that these cards can get hit by bans, which lower the price of a card you bought.
Speaking exclusively of Legacy alongside Pauper, the creative liberty, more or less, regarding collections that aren't usual, has affected both these formats a lot, some positively and some negatively. Could this be something for WotC to think of with extra care when considering what comes into them or not?
With all of that, all that's left for us is to wait for what's to come in 2023. I'm optimistic about Pauper, specially considering the group that is leading the format, but some things worry me, specially Pioneer, as it is new and "staples" are coming in stronger and stronger as well.
But what about you? What did you think of the bans? Do you think some cards were left out, or that some cards were unjustly banned? Leave your comments down below!
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