If you look at most of the formats that are currently (except draft, but draft’s special), one thing you might notice is a sizable list of cards that are restricted associated with them. Today, I want to start off with talking about a couple of the cards that are currently banned. Then, we’ll take a look at why Wizards bans cards. Finally, we’ll wrap up withby talking about current events relating to bannings (namely talk of soon to be banned cards and cards that players have been calling for a banning of for a long time).
It’s interesting to go through and look at the various card restriction lists for the various formats, because of how much they change from format to format. There are cards that are eternally restricted in every format such as Black Lotus, some that are restricted in lower formats but open to play in higher formats such as Ancestral Vision, and some that are restricted in higher formats but open in lower formats such as Trinisphere. Let’s just look at some of these cards and try to understand why they were restricted when they were. First, let’s talk about the first restricted cards in Magic’s history, the cards that have stayed in this spot since 1994 are Shahrazad and the Ante cards. The reason for the banning of these cards was that Shahrazad often times made tournaments run way too long causing a series of games within a game. Ante cards made you ante or gamble cards against your opponent meaning that the game could no longer be played by kids and also allowed you to skirt the 60 card minimum to your deck if you ran 1 in your deck without playing ante. The other two cards on the original ban list were Time Vault, a card that has had its rules text changed more times than any other card in the game, and Divine Intervention simply due to it not seeming like a fun card for players (Tying games doesn’t really feel good). I’m sure there are some readers out there pointing out at this point that Standard doesn’t have a banned list, but that’s why I said that all formats, except for draft and sealed, have card restrictions, and this does hold true for Standard. Its card restriction list is all of the cards not currently in Standard. Let’s talk about some of the more modern card restriction lists. In modern, a couple of the cards that you have are Brainstorm and Ponder, Second Sunrise, Jace, the Mind sculptor, Skullclamp, and Mental Misstep. The first cards that we’re going to talk about are Brainstorm and Ponder. The banning for these two cards came after a modern season with a showing of Storm that was just too strong and fast for other decks to compete with. The field became almost untenable for other decks in the format and it wasn’t too long before Brainstorm and Ponder were on their way to being banned. The next card on my list is Second Sunrise, and as a player who’s played against the Eggs decklist in tournament, it’s a good fit for the modern banned list. The Eggs deck was just way too oppressive when it had its time in the sun. It was a deck that would take up an entire round worth of time to go off and was very hard for other players to respond to. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a strong card that finds itself a home in many Legacy, while Skullclamp is a card that was deemed too strong for even Legacy and found itself a banning in the format. These cards are banned for power level reasons; they just make certain decks far too powerful for other decks to compete with them. Understandably, the power level of the two is different, but both have the ability to completely warp the format. Jace, the Mind Sculptor has the ability to maintain a game state extremely efficiently, being able to both control your opponent’s draw, having the ability to remove creatures from the field, a draw engine and even having the ability to act as your win condition if you can maintain the board state well enough. It’s pretty obvious that this card is a great addition to control, but Skullclamp acts as the foil to this card making aggro decks completely warped. The idea behind why it breaks decks is that all deck archetypes are supposed to have some fundamental weakness built into the deck, and for agro decks, the weakness is that they run out of cards pretty frequently. Skullclamp is just too much of a fixer for this problem and breaks Modern aggro too much. It’s in the mindset of Wizards of the Coast that every deck archetype should have a weakness, and for aggro that weakness comes in the form of a very limited draw base, with decks running out of cards a lot to keep the deck balanced against other deck builds. This is exactly the problem Skullclamp fixes for those decks. Finally, there’s Mental Misstep, a card that is almost a hex against faster decks in the format and can be run in any deck for its phyrexian mana allowing decks to do things that they shouldn’t be able to do.
Now that we’ve talked about some of the more restricted cards in the game and why they’re restricted, we begin to see a few trends emerging from the whys of the various cards that are restricted. Magic is a game and the first reason that cards tend to get banned is for making the game un-fun for players, an excellent example of this is the card Second Sunrise. We mentioned the Eggs deck before, but just mentioning it doesn’t do just to the shear amount of pain that opponents would feel while playing against the deck. It was a combo that would take almost a whole round of time to go off and had your opponent just sitting there for a long period of time. The second reason that cards get banned is for the health of a particular format. Wizards of the Coast has long maintained that to keep the game fun there should be a variety of decks in a format, so that players may while still being competitive be able to use various decks. This can be seen through the cards Brainstorm and Ponder, cards that made one deck archetype far too powerful in the format, or through Jace, the Mind Sculptor, a card that made playlists that weren’t Blue control a hard deck to succeed with. The third major reason that cards get banned is if a card is so good that it can be run in any deck and does something that the deck shouldn’t be able to do. This principle can be seen though Mental Misstep, a card that found a home in almost the entire format before its banning. There is one more suspected principle, but we’ll examine its validity in the next section.
The last principle and one that I want to talk about before we talk about our first suspected future banned card. The principle of price is one that people always hint at when people guess at what are going to be banned next. The justification for this believed principle is that high price is something that bars individuals from entry into a format and this may in some way be hurting the health of a format. I personally disagree with this idea, because there will always be replacements for the “most expensive” cards, and banning these cards could cause general mistrust from the secondary market in Wizards of the Coast’s ability to maintain the prices of their products. Additionally, Wizards of the Coast (or more importantly in this case, Hasbro) is still a business and the ability to pump up their sales exponentially is to include 1 or 2 of these expensive cards in their set. Nonetheless, the first cards that everyone always tries to shove onto this list are the fetch lands. I doubt that this will happen as Wizards just released a set chock full of these cards, and players have the ability to pick up any number of them at less than $20 a card, and I feel that this is the best way to deal with cards that are “too expensive”. As a player, I feel that banning these cards would be inherently bad for the game and hurt it in ways that many of us may never understand. The cards changed the game forever when they were printed, allowing 3 to 5 color decks to be run in multiple formats (even if they’re still rarer), and allowing 2 color decks to become far more consistent than they would be otherwise. On top of the various consistent decks that these cards bring to the table, they also bring advantages to mono-colored decks and have hidden cards that they combo with that just add to the complexities of the card. All of this basically means is that while these cards are very powerful cards that have far-reaching effects on the game, and a price tag to match, they also contribute much to the health of the game and as such I hope that they do not earn themselves a banning or restriction at any point in the near future. It looks like Wizards of the Coast is going to answer my hopes with exactly what I want also, as a reboot of Zendikar is right around the corner (supposedly with a reprint of the enemy fetches) and with the ally fetch lands just being printed in Khans of Tarkir. Tarmogoyf is a card that falls perfectly in line with the fetch lands; it works well in combination with them and falls into an even higher price gap than the fetch lands. Same as the fetches though, it looks like Wizards Is more than happy to reprint this card and I’m even looking forward to seeing another iteration of it in Modern Masters II that is supposed to be happening at some point in the near future. The other 3 cards that are supposedly on the chopping block are Jeskai Ascendancy, Treasure Cruise, and Dig Through Time. Dig Through Time has been making a powerful showing and has made appearances in decks throughout the Modern format. It does help control and combo decks quite a bit, but having played against it, I like the fact that its ability can’t be played too early and acts as a foil to cards like Snapcaster Mage, and Past in Flames that typically want to keep cards in the yard. The card is a strong contender for sure, but I feel that it hasn’t quite earned itself a banning even with it being so good. Treasure Cruise is in a different boat, while Dig Through Time has made a strong showing in Modern, Treasure Cruise has made a strong showing in all formats. If we look at history, Wizards doesn’t like players drawing 3 cards off of 1 card and for good reason, just look at Brainstorm. The card is powerful, and while like its counterpart Dig Through Time, I’m not sure letting this card run free is such a good idea. Still, whether it gets banned or not a year or two from now, I don’t see it getting banned in the immediate future. The last card we have to talk about is Jeskai Ascendancy, this is a card that I absolutely loved when I first saw it, thought that if someone figured it out it would be broken and it is.
This deck has been boasting an impressive, consistent turn 2 or 3 win rate. The basic idea of the deck is to get Jeskai Ascendancy and a mana producer such as Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, or Sylvan Carytid online, and then just win. The mana producers not only play well into the combo, but can also act as an accelerant for your deck. The land-base needs to be straight-forward for the deck, either being fetches, lands that tap for any colors, lands that count as green (for the mana-producers) and one of the colors for Jeskai Ascendancy. Most of the sorceries and instants in the deck are just draw for your deck, with the instants pulling double duties for cool creature effects like haste or untap and also mana acceleration with the Ascendancy and some creatures. The Ascendancy also acts as a filtering engine on top of its untap ability, allowing you more filtering power. The biggest piece of secret tech for this deck is the Glittering Wish, it can count as an answer to a question you didn’t even know you had to answer, counts as 4 extra Jeskai Ascendancy’s in your deck, and in this decklist is also your only way to access your win condition. In the board are mostly targets for Glittering Wish, the only other 2 cards in the board besides these solutions are Leyline of Sanctity, a solution to a lot of decks including the deck I currently use in Modern, and Swan Song, because it’s a pretty good solution to control. The question is, is this deck too good for Modern? My answer is yes, probably. Combos like this are of the speed and consistency of Affinity, and unless we are about to enjoy a season that will see a ton of unbannings, we are about to see a Modern season that will see at least a banning. So that brings the next question, will Jeskai Ascendancy see banning? My answer to this question is almost an affirmative no. We can look at the history of the ban list for proof. When Wizards thought Jund was too powerful for Modern did they ban Tarmogoyf? No, they banned Bloodbraid Elf. What about when they thought Affinity too powerful, a banning of Cranial Plating or even Arcbound Ravager? Nope, let’s ban artifact lands and Disciple of the Vault… to be fair banning Disciple of the Vault is probably more relevant to the deck than the rest of the cards, but still. It can be shown that pretty consistently if Wizards thinks that a deck is too powerful, they will ban a card that is typically used as a major piece of the deck without getting rid of the engine that allows the deck to function. Another quality that these cards should possess is the fact that the card is run almost exclusively in the deck and a banning won’t affect other decks too much. There is a card in the deck that fits the bill on all of these and that is Glittering Wish. Through the banning of this card the consistency of win for the deck would drop and even the deck’s ability to find its combo would be hampered. Additionally, this card is one that doesn’t see that much play in the format besides this deck.
In today’s article, we took a look at the modern banned list. What it takes to get on it, some of the cards that are on it and why they’re there, and some potential future additions to the list. In our next article we’ll aim to look at what makes a good card store, a good card store.
By Daniel Clayton – the Will of the Floral Spuzzem
@DC4VP on Twitter
1st at Grand Prix New Jersey Legacy on Nov. 16th 2014
It was a daily double last weekend with Treasure Cruise decks winning both this and the Modern GP in Madrid. Despite that though there was not an abundance of Treasure Cruise swarming the top 8 with a total of 10 copies between 4 decks, and they were each a distinct archetype. It wasn’t even the bogeyman UR Delver which won which was the other deck running the full 4 copies and there was an amazing diversity between all 8 decks.
The Legacy format is filled with cheap and efficient cards as it has access to the best ever printed over the entire history of the game. This deck is one of those that takes full advantage of that fact to pull together a cast of the top choices creating a highly disruptive killing machine. It pulls together permission, removal and draw to quickly dispatch all enemies that stand in its way. It’s no surprise whenever a deck of this style takes down a tournament.
Quite possibly the best Blue one drop ever printed, and quite aggressively out of Blue flavor, we have Delver of Secrets supported by an almost 50/50 split on spells which will be able to blind flip it turn two so you’re able to commence with the beatdown plan. Follow that up with True-Name Nemesis which demands the opponent to find an answer to it or they will definitely die to that unchecked clock. Both of them are supported by Stoneforge Mystic who is able to either search up an Umezawa’s Jitte to equip one of your attackers or find you a Batterskull to commit further to your beatdown plan. Next we speed up the deck with an abundance of card draw starting with the perennial Brainstorm, coupled with Ponder and Phyrexian freebie Gitaxian Probe which also provides you a sneak peek at the opponents plans. The deck also packs a very robust permission package centering around another format staple and free spell Force of Will, backed up by also free Daze and cheap but disruptive Spell Pierce. Then we round out the deck with top quality removal with the main reason this deck dips into Red with Lightning Bolt and also the classic Swords to Plowshares which will convienently exile most any creatures which are presenting you with certain doom.
We start off with the namesake of the deck or what I like to call The Flying Lightning Bolt in Delver of Secrets which is supported by 28 ways to flip, and should always be close to 50/50 on a blind flip if deployed on turn one to really lay down the beats. That is coupled with beatdown king Goblin Guide as a second option for a great first turn play to start laying down the beats. Given the plethora of instants and sorceries in the deck we also have Snapcaster Mage to rebuy a key spell that you’ve already used and then work on laying down the beats. As you can see this deck is truly a weapon of mass destruction. Support player Grim Lavamancer can either help clear the way for your army or throw additional fire in their face and will often find the graveyard stocked with any of the many spells or fetchlands. The deck has a stockade of burn with full sets both of Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning which at one Red mana for three damage are amazing, and easily reused by a Snapcaster. There is also a one of Forked Bolt which can clear two defenders or a dude and to the dome, and a pair of Price of Progress which in Legacy will mostly net either six or eight damage quite often sealing the deal. The counter suite is modest but necessary including format staple Force of Will to keep combo decks in check and Spell Pierce. We round it out with some draw power from Brainstorm, Ponder and Gitaxian Probe to ensure a steady stream of low cost threats continue flowing to your hand.
Another old favorite once again proves it’s dominance by taking the top spot over the weekend. RUG Delver also known as Canadian Thresh is a Tempo-Control build that is packed with some of the most efficient spells from the history of Magic. Putting together a complete package of threats, disruption, draw and removal this deck can do it all. And the curve of the deck lies in a gentle slope between one and two mana, with only one at three and the five mana spell almost exclusively cast for free.
Starting with the threats the decks ideal first turn play is a Delver of Secrets with the hopes of a blind flip or an upkeep Brainstorm to start the 3 power beatdown. Alternately there is a second one drop from Nimble Mongoose which will also turn into a 3 power beater with just a few turns of casting spells or cracking fetches. What was once called the best Blue creature of all time is next with Tarmogoyf, so called because it is so efficient Blue decks would splash Green solely to cast this big bad green dude. We round out the package with a True-Name Nemesis which is a fantastic creature, but in my opinion is almost wasted outside of a Stoneforge Mystic deck. For our permission suite there is a well rounded bunch headed by Legacy staple Force of Will and Daze, both of which will often be cast free for their alternate costs, backed up by Spell Pierce and the situationaly good Spell Snare. The draw power starts with another format staple Brainstorm and Ponder with a pair of Gitaxian Probe which double to also reveal your opponents gameplan. Finally for removal there is Ponder and Chain Lightning to either remove pesky creatures or dome the opponent, and a set of Wasteland in the manabase to disrupt their mana in such a dual land dependent format.
In my never ending quest to dig up some fun cards that I can use to spice up my next casual card game I turned my attention to my box of Return to Ravnica and rooted through to see if there was anything else that I could dig out. Return to Ravnica was a terrific set that will be known for a few things.
Return to Ravnica brought back the 10 guilds of the original Ravnica set which is immediately a fan favorite. This interesting new twist made the set rich and very flavourful as each of the guilds got their own mechanic to make them interesting. It also brought back the shocklands, which in my estimation, are the 2nd best set of dual lands printed. Obviously, the best set of dual lands is the original set with no drawbacks at all, but the shocklands are intriguing in their own right. The shocklands present the option of coming into play untapped at a cost and are quite skill intensive in order to balance the need for untapped land with taking damage from shocking yourself. The shocklands also have the two different land types in the description (island/ mountain etc.), just like the original dual lands, making them very appealing in other formats where having untapped land is paramount regardless of the cost. As a casual player I can fully appreciate why these lands are highly coveted and extremely useful and pick them up whenever I can. Return to Ravnica also introduced a whole swath of terrific cards like Jace, Architect of Thought, Sphinx’s Revelation, Supreme Verdict, and Loxodon Smiter. These cards have seen extensive play in Standard since their release and with good reason.
Now, I’d like to take a moment and dispel a notion. I’ve played at my fair share of drafts, sealed events, and the occasional constructed event at the local gaming shop. The usual players consistently talk to me like I haven’t got a clue what is going on and like I have no idea how to play. Just because I usually play casually doesn’t mean I don’t understand what is happening, or that I can’t identify what is the difference between a powerful card and a weaker card. I actually have a very good idea what the difference is and it isn’t that I choose not to run the powerful card…it’s that I can’t play with them because I don’t have them. Many casual players operate on a budget and picking up the high end, pricey cards isn’t feasible. In my case, I crack a relatively small number of packs each month…that’s it…and I have to play with whatever I find. So, while I would like to play with all the best cards, I am forced, out of necessity, to get the job done with other things.
So, while Return to Ravnica yielded some terrific cards that are run extensively in Standard, it had some quieter gems that I would encourage you to dig up and give them a try, if only to diversify your next casual encounter.
The first card s exactly what the player of a White “weenie” or a control/tempo deck wants to run. It is cheap, suitably aggressive, and plays into the strategy to tempo your opponent to slow them down. Who is this guy? Why it’s Azorius Arrester. This guy is a staple in White. He is clutch in the late game to remove the opponents’ best creature for a turn. He is key in the early game to get out in front of the race by clearing the road for early damage. He trades up to take out “Bears” quite favorably. He is just a useful and versatile 2 drop and a nice addition to the deck. My friends often choose to ignore this little guy, but I’ll run a full playset every time. He’s just a meat and potatoes type of creature that doesn’t get much love and is often passed over for flashier cards.
Another favorite of mine is in a very different colour. I rarely choose to play Black, but this common has helped me to feel more comfortable because it allows me to play a little more aggressively. Sewer Shambler is a 3 drop (1 black, 2 colourless) for a 2/1. This is hardly earth shattering and is in fact a little overpriced for what you get. However, the real beauty of this guy is the Scavenge ability on this card. When I saw the Scavenge ability I was intrigued. It made creatures in your graveyard very useful and potentially explosive sources of damage. Some of the Scavenge costs on some of the creatures in Return to Ravnica are really steep and provide very little benefit (i.e Drudge Beetle). However, the Sewer Shambler has a very reasonable cost of…exactly what you paid to bring it into play. So, for 3 you get to give another creature in play +2/+2 (Sewer Shambler’s power)…wait…isn’t Sewer Shambler a 2/1…so by scavenging this creature I get MORE than I would if I had the creature in play? Wow…um…ok! Thanks. So, this inexpensive common can do double duty in a deck as a) a creature to apply pressure, but more accurately to block and die and b) a reasonable costed pump spell to boost another creature you control once it is in your graveyard. This is very applicable and sometimes the difference between finishing off your opponent or giving him an extra turn to dig up an answer.
At the uncommon slot there are a lot of choices, but the one that I always like seeing turn up is Thoughtflare. This 5 mana draw spell (1 Blue, 1 red, and 3 colourless) makes my opponents chuckle because it seems so ridiculous, but every time I see it I’m always thankful it comes up. It’s a massive hit. Let me explain why. Invariably I get stuck where I’ve got 1 or 2 dead cards in my hand. They just aren’t helpful at this point of the game and are sitting there and I need answers! Divination is ok…but it’s a sorcery and can be slow and clunky. Opportunity draws me 4 cards, but that may put me into the situation where I’m at 8 or more cards and need to discard anyway…plus it’s 6 to cast instead of 5. Thoughtflare acts like Opportunity and the discard ability is not unlike that of Faithless Looting. So, Opportunity AND Faithless looting…for 5…at instant speed. Sounds good to me! It is even better if the cards you discard have flashback or can be recurred by some means (Archaeomancer, Auramancer) so that you still have access to them, making this a very valuable way to draw cards. So, all in all, drawing 4 cards off Thoughtflare and then discarding two is just fine by me most times. It digs me far enough that I can usually find something useful. It slims my hand down by making me discard a pair of cards I don’t need that I can usually get back if I’ve planned for this. It can be cast on my opponents turn at instant speed. It also makes me laugh because no one else ever thinks to run it. Try it out yourself and you’ll see what I mean.
There were some bomb cards at the Rare slot in Return to Ravnica, but one of them that never saw Standard play just screams Casual Card. Perhaps it speaks to a little bit of my personality, but nothing makes me happier than taking my opponents creatures and then beating my opponent with them. Grave Betrayal is a hefty 7 mana Black enchantment that whenever a creature your opponents control dies, the creature returns to the battlefield under your control AND gets a +1/+1 counter at the next end step. If I’m running Black I’m packing as much removal as I can find slots in my deck and this card is great. It is even better in a multiplayer game, because the wording on Grave Betrayal stipulates when a creature of ANY opponent dies I get control of it. That includes board wipes, spot removal, combat or another form of removal, and they come back bigger thanks to the +1/+1 counter. It basically means you have a pile of creatures from your opponents’ graveyards in front of you and get to smack your opponents with them. Priceless! This is a perfect casual card and can take a multiplayer game from boring to ridiculously funny!
By the time you get to the Mythic rare spot it is hard to actually pick something that is “underappreciated”. Most Mythics find a home somewhere, but the one that lends itself to the most silliness and fun combat choices is Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. He’s hardly overlooked by players who know their stuff, but he never really found a deck in Standard and still hasn’t, which makes him a candidate to slide into some sort of casual build. His casting cost of 6 (2 blue, 2 Red, 2 colourless) can be a bit steep, but hey, I’m the guy playing 7 mana enchantments and 5 mana card draw instants…so 6 is totally in my wheel house. You get a 5/5 flying dragon, which is always cool. These stats are largely on par with the classic dragon, Shivan Dragon. However, the ability to draw cards and deal damage without combat that accompany Niv-Mizzet make him an awesome addition to a deck and a real menace. Evasion, range, good stats, card draw…this guy does it all and sadly makes Shivan Dragon look like a powder puff. So, really the only drawback is the 6 to cast him, but I an a world of 5 mana draw spells and 7 mana enchantments, this can work and make your game all the more enjoyable.
No article would be complete without a deck list highlighting how some of these pieces can go together into a casual deck. The one I’m showing here is for what my friends and I called “Hobo night” where we couldn’t play any rare cards. Common and uncommons were allowed from any set, but no rares at all. Yes, this is usually called “Peasant”, but we preferred “Hobo”.
U/B “Hobo deck”
This deck is premised on building your own hexproof, unblockable creature and then dropping your opponents to the floor as quick as possible. Many of the creature can’t be blocked already (Keymaster Rogue, Deathcult Rogue) and Elgaud Shieldmate soulbonded provides the hexproof. The other option is the Mask of Avacyn which is surprisingly useful. To speed up the clock on your unblockable creatures, the scavenge ability of the Sewer Shambler and Zanikev Locust can be used to boost the crunching power of your attackers. The other cards are mostly removal (murder, ultimate price, devour flesh etc) or cards that allow for deck manipulation. Brainstorm is an all-star, but Sage Aven is extremely useful, Diabolic Vision is extremely powerful for a mere 2 mana and Pilfered Plans is an improved Divination thanks to milling of your opponents’ deck. All in all, a fun, very inexpensive deck to put together that has lots of interesting lines of play and provides for lots of options.
So, next time you go to sit down and play a game with your friends at your next casual encounter, take a moment and look for a few little treats that you can do to liven up your playgroup, bring some fresh cards to the table, and take the evening from the usual, to the unusual. Once again, thanks for reading and enjoy your next Casual Encounter.
1st place Grand Prix Paris 2014 Legacy
Here we have what is one of my favorite decks in Legacy. BUG Delver is a powerful and complete control package of threats, permission, discard and removal. A similar deck piloted by Laurence Moo Young at SCG Orlando last month was also able to win that tournament.
Your beatdown strategy revolves around Delver of Secrets and Tarmogoyf, two creature which can pop out early and then backed by countermagic be ridden all the way to victory. There is also the versatile Deathrite Shaman which can either control the grave against reanimate strategies or be your source of mana acceleration, and can double as a Shock every turn when it has instant/sorcery targets in the grave. As we are playing blue the deck run the standard Brainstorm and Ponder draw package which also double as ways to get your Delver flips, but we also see two Dark Confidant to ensure a constant flow of cards and a target to pull removal away from your beaters. For countermagic we see Force of Will and Daze which help to establish control over the opponent for whatever spells he’s allowed to keep. Speaking of which there is a heavy discard package starting with Thoughtseize into Hymn to Tourach and there is also Liliana of the Veil to suppress them from holding too many cards in hand. And finally we get to the removal which Liliana is also great at destroying opposing creatures and Abrupt Decay is amazing at obliterating the plethora of cheap permanents in Legacy.
1st Place at StarCityGames Legacy Open on 2/9/2014