July 13th Banned and Restricted Announcement
Wizards of the Coast just put out the long awaited Banned and Restricted announcement for July 13th. This B&R was said to impact Historic, Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper. After looking it over, We’ll take a look at the cards and the potential impact of the B&R on those formats moving forward.
Winota, Joiner of Forces is Banned (from Suspended)
Agent of Treachery is Banned (from Suspended)
Fires of Invention is Banned (from Suspended)
Nexus of Fate is Banned
Burning-Tree Emissary is Suspended
There is a bit to unpack here. We are already used to Winota, Fires and Agent being not in the format, as suspension is effectively banned for the most part. Not much to cover there. But Nexus of Fate being banned outright is a break from their outlined game plan of “suspend, then ban if the meta makes a drastic improvement”. Since Winota had been suspended, Nexus / Wilderness Reclamation decks have gained a huge share of the meta. With multiple ways of ramping, stalling the game out, and eventually taking the rest of the turns of the game with Nexus and the deck’s many ways to find the card, the deck was a powerhouse and generally was an abysmal experience to play against. The deck did require a fair amount of skill to play, but it was a simple enough game plan to be able to pilot with a fairly consistent outcome. This hopefully will be a great move to make the format a much more diverse place. In this case, I worry that Reclamation will still be a very strong strategy going forward and will continue to hold a fair amount of metashare, but just with the Expansion / Explosion line as its win condition, as it is in Standard. I think that the reasoning for not banning Reclamation (that it allows avenues for different lines of play), while may be true, I think is fairly weak, as there’s really only a few top tier strategies that are being used with the card, and have been since the card was introduced. I hope that Wizards does keep an eye on Wilderness Reclamation over the coming months and aren’t afraid to act on it.
The second change in the format that is pretty impactful is that Burning-Tree Emissary is suspended. Gruul aggro has been the other deck of major metashare over the past many months, but BTE was the edge that the deck needed to push past a lot of the field. With this gone, it will definitely slow the deck down, though I do expect it to be a contender in the format. It is currently suspended because Wizards envisions a world where BTE can be reintroduced to the format in a healthy and fun way.
The Effective date for these changes will be on the 16th for Arena, which lines up with Jumpstart’s release. I think that dealing with these cards now is a great way to allow Jumpstart to really shine in the format, and I’m very excited for what Historic will become in the following months.
As for predictions of where the format goes on Thursday, I’m very high on Elves at the moment as being a home run deck, and that mono black devotion or combo will be great decks to play.
Oath of Nissa is Unbanned
Yup. That’s all that happened. Truthfully I don’t play a ton of Pioneer, but the format as I understand it is that there are a few problematic decks, and there’s a large outcry from the player base to deal with some of these strategies. We’ll talk about that in a second, but let’s unpack the Oath of Nissa unban. Back in Nov 2019, Oath of Nissa was banned in addition to Leyline of Abundance. At the time, the green ramp decks were a big portion of the young metagame, along with Copy Cat combo. Leyline allowed those decks to ramp so heavily and add free devotion to Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which put the deck over the top. Oath was banned because of the incredibly cheap and versatile card selection that it provided at all parts of the game. With Oath being Unbanned at this point, Wizards is making the concession that the card is in fact reasonably fair, and they hope that it will allow Nykthos to shine again in the format, and also to help open up various planeswalker centric strategies as well.
Now let’s discuss the elephant in the room: Inverter combo. This is a very powerful and consistent 2 card combo, using Inverter of Truth and Nissa’s Oracle, or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. In addition to this combo, there are very consistent ways to find the combo with cards like Dig Through Time and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, disruption in Thoughtseize, and a slew of various removal spells and countermagic. People have been talking about this deck and the need for it to get something banned to bring it’s power level down or kill the deck entirely. Some notable cards for consideration were Dig Through Time, Inverter of Truth itself, or Thassa’s Oracle. The deck currently holds a percentage of the online meta that’s a little more than twice as much as the next set of decks. The other list that people were talking about for bans was Lotus Breach combo, which has a similar win condition in Thassa’s Oracle, but takes a different approach, abusing things like Lotus Field and Underworld Breach to generate mana and value. In this deck both of the aforementioned combo pieces were on the list of many for bannings.
Considering that both of these decks remain intact after this B&R, what does this mean for Pioneer? Well, unfortunately I don’t think a lot changes here. I don’t think that Oath of Nissa is strong enough on it’s own to bring the other two decks back in line. The top 3 decks in the format as it is are combo decks to some extent and it and with my limited knowledge of the format, I don’t think that there’s anything that Oath of Nissa can bring to the table to topple these powerhouse strategies.
Arcum’s Astrolabe is Banned
Again I don’t play a ton of modern at the moment. This has been a card that people have been talking about for bans for a little while. The card is incredibly good. There’s virtually no downside to playing this card, as there’s no downside to playing snow basics in your deck. This card was used in Bant and Sultai control both. It used to see even more play before Mox Opal was banned and the Urza decks went the way of the Dodo. While Modern’s meta percentage break down is a lot more even keel than Pioneer, the control strategies were very powerful, sporting near 55% win rates, and astrolabe added so much consistency to the decks at so little cost to deck building.
What does this mean for Modern? Well.. I don’t know that it means a lot. The cards in both the control decks lose very little. Both decks did play Ice-fang Coatl, which gets slightly worse without Astrolabe. It’s still a great card just it doesn’t have the tempo impact that it once had. Sultai only loses 1 copy of Dead of Winter, which also isn’t a huge loss for the deck as well. I expect that the win rates of these decks will drop a bit, but still be great contenders in the format. The decks that I’m currently speculating on to push up a bit more are Eldrazi Tron, which already is incredibly powerful, and Goblins which has only had a little while to get it’s legs in the format.
Expedition Map is Banned
Mystic Sanctuary is Banned
I definitely play Pauper the least of the formats here, so this is all speculation to an extent.
I understand and support the Expedition Map ban. The reasoning behind it is to bring the consistency of Tron down. Tron is already a powerful deck in modern and so bringing it into a format such as pauper where cards are far lower on the power curve just feels like the thing to be doing. Bringing the consistency of the deck down a bit is going to allow more decks to pop up and take foothold in the meta. Though it takes on a very different form in the format than in Modern, it still holds a very powerful game plan and I think with the consistency reduce, it will bring it back in line with the power level of the rest of the format.
As for Mystic Sanctuary, The reasoning behind this ban is that the card allows certain decks to create endgame loops and lock out board states. As for which decks these are, I’m not entirely sure as I’m not familiar with the format.
From what it looks like, the speed of which pauper is played and the power level of which it is played has become a lot more fair with these bannings. I expect that those who play the format consistently will be happy with these changes.
Wizards did make a statement on Standard. They didn’t feel it appropriate to take action in standard at this time. While Temur Reclamation and Bant Ramp had been monopolizing the top 8s of the Players Tours in previous weeks, the meta has adapted and shifted to include other decks, such as Rakdos Sacrifice, Mono Green, Mono Black, Sultai Ramp and others. They are aware that the consistency of Growth Spiral decks is something that should be monitored, but I think that considering many of these top tier strategies will be heavily affected by rotation in a couple of months, they’re going to let this iteration of Standard play out until then.
What a doozy! A lot of changes happening in non-rotating formats which is very exciting! I know that for me, I’ll be jumping head first into Historic on Thursday with Jumpstart. Let me know what your thoughts on the B&R are down in the comments! Be on the lookout for an article tomorrow on a few more Jumpstart deck lists to try on Thursday, as well as more articles throughout the week!