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June 1, 2020 B&R Announcement

Oversoul

The Tentacled One

Standard:
-Agent of Treachery is banned.
-Fires of Invention is banned.

Historic
-Agent of Treachery is banned suspended.
-Fires of Invention is banned suspended.

Also, the rules for the Companion mechanic have been changed. Now instead of casting it from your sideboard, you can pay 3 at sorcery speed to move it from your sideboard into your hand.

While Magic rules changes aren't normally a part of the banned and restricted list updates, in this case, we're introducing a change to the companion mechanic that is motivated by game balance and metagame share across play environments. Effective with this update, the companion mechanic (and all cards featuring it) will now work differently from before. The new version of the mechanic will work as follows:

Once per game, any time you could cast a sorcery (during your main phase when the stack is empty), you can pay 3 generic mana to put your companion from your sideboard into your hand. This is a special action, not an activated ability. It happens immediately and can't be responded to. It can't be countered or stopped by cards like Phyrexian Revoker.

Our reason for making this change is based on metagame data and play rates of companion decks across all formats, and on player feedback on repetitive gameplay patterns. As a group, decks using companions have too high of win rates and metagame share in Standard, Pioneer, and Modern, and have already necessitated bans in Legacy and Vintage. This trend represents a long-term problem for the health and diversity of all formats. Rather than go down the path of making several individual adjustments to the banned list for each format, we feel the better solution is to reduce the advantage gained from using a companion across the board.

The result we intend is to reduce the metagame share of companion decks while still capturing the spirit of the mechanic's design and still having companions be worth building around in many cases. We expect that this new version of the companion mechanic will result in a deck-building challenge and means of self-expression that some players can opt into, rather than being a huge part of the competitive metagame.

We discussed several alternative rules changes but ultimately settled on this one, as it best mitigates the potential for repetitive gameplay and provides a wider window of interaction. By charging additional mana, playing a companion becomes less efficient relative to playing the other cards the player has drawn. In this way, players are more likely to cast their other spells before their companion, resulting in more divergent game paths. Next, this additional mana will often slow the companion down by a turn, allowing the opponent to interact with it while in the companion player's hand or otherwise giving the opponent an additional turn to plan ahead before the companion hits the battlefield.

It's rare that we use a rules change to address metagame balance, and this isn't something we have plans to do in the future. In this case, the issue wasn't with one individual card but rather the companions as a group. We believe this solution is preferable to potentially needing to make multiple bans across different formats over time.
 
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Ferret

Moderator
Staff member
Wow! Two cards that I absolutely despise are finally banned? Nice! It's almost enough to make me want to play again...almost.
 

turgy22

Nothing Special
I won't miss Agent of Treachery or Fires of Invention. Especially the Agent. Yuck. 🤮

I'm a little disappointed in the companion thing, though. The reason everyone was playing them was because they occupied a place in the game that no other card could currently fill. Sort of like mini-commanders, which imposed their own set of restrictions on each deck. Of course, maybe turning every format into a quasi-commander format is what they're trying to avoid, but I don't think the ability, as a whole, is worth nerfing like they did.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
They changed the rules, rather than banned them. You now must play the from your sideboard.
They did change the rules, but that's not quite the change. The way it worked before was that if you met a Companion card's deckbuilding requirements, you could reveal it from your sideboard at the start of the game and then you'd be able to cast it from your sideboard once during the game. In the changed version you still meet deckbuilding requirements and still reveal it from your sideboard at the start of the game, but now you don't get to cast it from your sideboard, and instead you can pay 3 mana at any time you could cast a sorcery to transfer the card from your sideboard into your hand. You can still put any of these cards in your maindeck (or sideboard) if you want to, unless they're banned in your format. The change only applies to using the "Companion" mechanic.

This is a pretty big nerf, but I'm not sure how it'll change things. I think some of the companions are now probably unplayable. Keruga and Obosh seem pretty lousy now. Gyruda was the centerpiece of a combo deck, and that deck is probably dead in every format now. Kaheera, Jegantha, and Umori were kind of free in the sense that decks just used them because they happened to meet their Companion requirements anyway. I'd think that even with this new, much worse, version of the mechanic, those cards don't change too much. If I'm playing a Lands deck in Legacy and I had Jegantha as Companion before, it's still worth the sideboard slot. Yorion might become untenable as a companion, or maybe people can still make it work. Its ability is powerful, but part of the appeal was the guaranteed five-drop. I'm just not sure, but I'd lean toward Yorion fading away due to this change. Lutri is looking a lot worse on paper, but most actual usage seems to be late-game anyway, so maybe there's some hope for it. Lurrus takes a hit, although it's banned in Legacy and Vintage anyway. Zirda is banned in Legacy, and this change probably kills its use in Vintage.

I won't miss Agent of Treachery or Fires of Invention. Especially the Agent. Yuck. 🤮
Fires of Invention was way out of control in Standard. It's virtually unplayable in most other formats, so I find that interesting. But I can appreciate that it needed to go. Agent of Treachery is just an obnoxiously pushed card in general. I haven't seen it older formats yet (other than EDH), but I'm guessing that I will.

I'm a little disappointed in the companion thing, though. The reason everyone was playing them was because they occupied a place in the game that no other card could currently fill. Sort of like mini-commanders, which imposed their own set of restrictions on each deck. Of course, maybe turning every format into a quasi-commander format is what they're trying to avoid, but I don't think the ability, as a whole, is worth nerfing like they did.
Well, I can't pretend that I'm not biased. I hate the Companion mechanic. I think it's the biggest Magic design mistake in a long time, maybe ever. I play Commander. Last year and this year, it's been the main way I play Magic. But I don't want Commander in my Legacy. And this isn't even that. If WotC just up and changed the rules of tournament formats to be like, "You're all using commanders now" that would be bad for the game. I'm not saying the Companion mechanic is worse than that, but it does lack some of the robustness that makes Commander a deep format. The distinction is that in the Commander format, the mechanic of having a commander/general is built into the rules of the format by design. It also helps that they draw on the entire history of legendary creatures. Even in cEDH, there are dozens of perfectly good options. We've got a grand total of ten possible companions and all of them require harsh deckbuilding constraints. For many tournament decks, none of those constraints can work. But the decks that can reasonably make a companion fit just get an inherent, consistent advantage over the competition. Not only do they get this extra card, but they know with 100% reliability that it'll be there for them. That can't help but lead to the most repetitive, tedious gameplay patterns ever.
 
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