February 15, 2021 Banned & Restricted List Announcement


The Tentacled One

Announcement Date: February 15, 2021


Omnath, Locus of Creation is banned (from suspended).
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is banned.


Balustrade Spy is banned.
Teferi, Time Raveler is banned.
Undercity Informer is banned.
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is banned.
Wilderness Reclamation is banned.


Field of the Dead is banned.
Mystic Sanctuary is banned.
Simian Spirit Guide is banned.
Tibalt's Trickery is banned.
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is banned.


Arcum's Astrolabe is banned.
Dreadhorde Arcanist is banned.
Oko, Thief of Crowns is banned.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den is unbanned.

Rules Change:

Additionally, we are updating the rules for cascade to address interactions in older formats. This rule will be implemented on Magic Online on Wednesday, February 17. The new rule for cascade is as follows:

702.84a. Cascade is a triggered ability that functions only while the spell with cascade is on the stack. "Cascade" means "When you cast this spell, exile cards from the top of your library until you exile a nonland card whose converted mana cost is less than this spell's converted mana cost. You may cast that spell without paying its mana cost if its converted mana cost is less than this spell's converted mana cost. Then put all cards exiled this way that weren't cast on the bottom of your library in a random order."

Effective Date:
February 15, 2021

Cascade rule effective date for Magic Online:
February 17, 2021


The Tentacled One
There's a lot in this announcement and a lot that could be said here. But I find myself at a loss for how to even approach this one. In what may or may not be a sensible order, here are my reactions...
  • I asked a friend who used to run tournaments, "Where are they even getting the data to make these decisions? No one is running tournaments anymore! Is it all just coming from MTGO?" He confirmed that, as far as he knew, my understanding was correct. Other than the Historic format, which is done entirely on the MTG Arena platform, the data for the rest of these decisions is coming almost exclusively from Magic Online. Now, it's not really WotC's fault that tournament data isn't coming in from their usual sources. But I do see this as a major problem. I believe that acting on MTGO data alone should only be done with great trepidation. We know from past experience that MTGO doesn't always reflect the way people play in real tournaments. It would be one thing to make a particular ban for a really glaring issue, but sweeping changes across multiple formats, particularly formats that don't rotate and will hopefully still be around once the pandemic is over and regular tournament play resumes, just seems like a bit much.
  • With no explanation, WotC chose to leave Lurrus of the Dream Den banned in Legacy, despite unbanning the card in Vintage. They used to do this sort of thing a lot and it has been a major complaint of mine. Although it seems that they've never once addressed the pattern at all, WotC has a habit of eventually getting around to unrestricting chaff in Vintage, but leaving it banned in Legacy, even though the ban in Legacy is just as antiquated and obviously unnecessary. In many cases, they later unbanned the cards in Legacy. But in some cases, they still haven't. Mind Over Matter was unrestricted in Vintage in September of 2005, but remained banned in Legacy until June of 2007. Speaking of June of 2007, that's also when Black Vise and Mind Twist were unrestricted in Vintage. It took until 2015 for WotC to unban Black Vise in Legacy and Mind Twist is still banned. Time Spiral was unrestricted in Vintage in September of 2008, but had to wait until December of 2010 to be unbanned in Legacy. Grim Monolith was unrestricted in Vintage for a year before it was unbanned in Legacy. Same goes for Dream Halls. Yawgmoth's Bargain was unrestricted in Vintage in August of 2017, but it remains banned in Legacy. And while I'm on the subject, why is Mind Twist still banned in Legacy? That's ridiculous. Anyway, one could argue that having Legacy unbans be more conservative than Vintage unrestrictions (and unbans) serves some function, perhaps because Vintage is closer to being an "anything goes" environment or something. But I don't think that really works, and WotC has never established a policy of doing this.
  • If we grant that MTGO data needs to be used as the sole source for making these determinations, it should still be totally possible to address these issues one-at-a-time. Some of these formats have seen few changes lately. Legacy and Vintage were left untouched since May of last year. Modern was left untouched since July. I'm less irked with any individual change here than I am with the scope of these changes. There isn't anything special or momentous about February of 2021 that would necessitate waiting until now or needing to make a decision now rather than giving formats some time. Legacy is seeing three cards banned at once. Pioneer gets five cards banned and a whopping six cards are being simultaneously banned in Modern. I've complained about this sort of thing in the past. If WotC would ban just one card in a format and then wait a while, they might get data that could better inform them on whether they should ban other cards, and if so, which ones. But they seem to prefer waiting and then acting on multiple cards simultaneously. And that's just a worse practice. No way around it.
  • Out of the five formats changed here, it's no secret that my two main interests are Legacy and Vintage. I don't really have a problem with the Vintage unban other than the fact that Lurrus wasn't also unbanned in Legacy. So I'll focus on the Legacy changes instead. Some people in Legacy are happy with them. I think they're bad. Let's dissect WotC's explanation...
While balance hasn't looked problematic in Legacy, we've heard community feedback that a few cards have come to draw too much of the focus for deck building and gameplay.
Well, that statement is totally wrong. Legacy had become so poorly balanced that someone created a website called "Blue Stew" to randomly generate decklists that resembled Legacy tournament lists. The creator of the site put it this way...

"There's never been a better time to play the Legacy format of Magic: the Gathering. In today's wide-ranging meta a player might face anything, from 3-color Blue-based tempo piles running Dreadhorde Arcanist ("DHA") and Oko: Thief of Crowns to 5-color Blue-based midrange piles playing DHA and Oko along with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Legacy grinders have to keep their eyes peeled for the unexpected, whether it's Doomsday with Dreadhorde Arcanist or Infect with Dreadhorde Arcanist or Omnitell with Uro and Oko or Loam with Oko.

Navigating a meta like that can be quite taxing. What if I told you there were an easier way? Just let Blue Stew, the Legacy Blue Midrange Deck Generator make your deck for you. The output may be a bit random (literally), but the plan isn't. Once you've resolved an Astrolabe, you're half way to victory.

That was the situation Legacy was in and had been in continuously ever since the Companion errata. Saying that "balance hasn't looked problematic in Legacy" is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Oko, Thief of Crowns has proven powerful in other formats, but with Legacy having an especially high overall power level, we'd been waiting to see whether it would fall in line with the average power of the rest of the metagame. Over time, we've seen Oko continue to remain a major metagame presence and a contributor to lower diversity. With its huge card pool, Legacy is a format that should offer tremendous variety of deck-building options and reward innovative deck construction and tuning. Because of its power and flexibility, Oko can provide an easy answer even to unanticipated threats and defenses and generally homogenizes gameplay patterns in a way that's counter to the spirit of the format. Therefore, we're choosing to ban Oko, Thief of Crowns.
That part is correct. Banning Oko was warranted, and has been for almost a year now.

Arcum's Astrolabe is another card that has contributed to the power and consistency of Snowko decks. Traditionally in Legacy, deck builders need to make choices about whether to have easy access to many colors or build a mana base that's resilient to disruption like Wasteland and Blood Moon. Arcum's Astrolabe allows mana bases to have both high color flexibility and high resilience to mana denial that's a uniquely important part of the Legacy metagame. Ultimately, we think a narrow class of decks having such resilience for a relatively low investment is an advantage that leads to less metagame diversity.
So, WotC have correctly identified the issue with Arcum's Astrolabe in Legacy, but there is considerable nuance here. Arcum's Astrolabe does seem to be a problem and might have eventually proved itself banworthy even without Oko, but the card didn't become a problem in a vacuum. There's a lot I want to say about Arcum's Astrolabe, but this post is already going to be stupidly long, so for now I'll contend that my Arcum's Astrolabe commentary goes beyond the scope of this thread. Short answer: Oko needed to be banned. Banning Arcum's Astrolabe as well is partially redundant because banning Oko clearly kills the "Snowko" deck. At any point in 2020 or 2021, WotC could have banned Oko in Legacy and then waited to see what happend with Arcum's Astrolabe once the dust had settled. Their failure to do this is part of a pattern of incompetent decision-making when it comes to managing the Legacy format.

Next, Dreadhorde Arcanist has proven to be powerful and game defining in a way that further adds to cards and strategies that were already among the most powerful, like Temur Delver. Without Oko, we anticipate that Dreadhorde Arcanist strategies would only become more prominent. Ultimately, the community sentiment we've heard is that Dreadhorde Arcanist makes gameplay revolve around it too early in the game and that too many games come down to whether an opponent can immediately remove it. Therefore, we're choosing to ban Dreadhorde Arcanist in Legacy.
I doubt that anyone at WotC will ever read this post, but if there's one thing that they need to be told on this topic, one message I could get across to them, it would be this. Cut the Nostradamus crap. Stop it. Don't do it. No. Bad. Bad. Bad. Shame. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it! You can't predict the future. You're bad at predicting the future. Your predictions have been wrong before and no one is holding you accountable for that. So hold yourselves accountable for once and stop making these wannabe prophetic statements.

So-called "Temur Delver" was a deck powered by Oko, Thief of Crowns. Everyone in Legacy knew it. I know it has "Delver" in its name, but really, it was every bit as much of an "Oko" deck as "Snowko." So call it that. For the sake of clarity, I'll replace the name "Temur Delver" with "Temur Oko." If that sounds too cheeky, keep in mind that the Legacy community were almost universally calling the deck "RUG Delver" and connecting it to past incarnations of "RUG Delver." Almost no one actually playing the deck would have called it "Temur." Now, let's see how WotC's statement reads: "Next, Dreadhorde Arcanist has proven to be powerful and game defining in a way that further adds to cards and strategies that were already among the most powerful, like Temur Oko. Without Oko, we anticipated that Dreadhorde Arcanist strategies would only become more prominent."

To put this into context, Oko was the centerpiece behind three different prevalent archetypes in the Legacy metagame, and two of those were the top two archetypes (Temur Oko and Cascade) in the format, with the third (Snowko) being arguably about tied with a handful of other decks (UR Delver, Death & Taxes, Elves, Doomsday, Dragon Stompy, Goblins, and Hogaak Vengevine), but probably surpassing all of them except one (UR Delver). That last part is a bit messy because Oko/Astrolabe were present in decks like Bant Control with Uro, Loam decks, Sultai/BUG Control, and some others that didn't fit the most popular "Snowko" mould. Adding all of those together paints an even bigger picture of how dominant Oko really was. Banning Oko definitively excises or redefines those three different archetypes. Any one of those might be reconstructed to not use Oko and might still rebound as a competitive deck, but we couldn't know how that would shake out until we got data.

In any case, Oko was dominant. Banning Oko fundamentally changes the composition of the metagame. There is no reason to predict that a single card, such as Dreadhorde Arcanist, would rise to the top. No one on the planet has the data to support that claim. If WotC had banned Oko months ago, then maybe we'd have gotten the data. But they didn't, so we don't.

Finally, we did discuss banning Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath in Legacy as well, but we feel its power level is more in line with the overall power level of Legacy (as compared to Historic, Pioneer, and Modern). The bar is high for what three- and four-mana spells need to accomplish in Legacy, and we believe Uro can coexist as a competitive but not dominant option. Additionally, the bans of Oko, Thief of Crowns and Arcum's Astrolabe should significantly decrease the metagame share of existing decks that Uro naturally slots into.
I mean, on the one hand I'm glad that they didn't ban Uro. On the other hand, it's pretty frustrating that the exact same principles weren't applied to holding off on a Dreadhorde Arcanist ban. It seems entirely possible that both Dreadhorde Arcanist and Uro could have existed as parts of a healthy Legacy metagame once Oko was out of the picture. But now we'll never know.