March 11, 2019 Banned/Restricted Announcement


The Tentacled One
Unlike nonrotating formats, where the best option for making balance adjustments in a timely fashion is by banning cards, we prefer whenever possible to use Standard's rotation to help phase out problematic cards and pave the way for new strategies in a natural and predictable cycle.
I like how the act of simply waiting for a problem to go away on its own is described as "using" something to do anything. I mean, they are the institution that set up the framework for the Standard rotation in the first place, so it is technically true that they're the ones "using" it. But that's not the way a normal person would describe the process. He even says that the rotation "helps" to phase out "problematic cards" when it is the process that does this entirely on its own. If I eat an entire pizza by myself I don't say that I "helped to eat the pizza." Letting a problem go away on its own with time through an established system of things going away with time isn't a tool. It's just doing nothing. I know I come across as pedantic sometimes (a lot?), but honestly I do not think this issue by itself is a big deal. I do think the description reads as rather silly, though.

A lot of the concerns I've heard with the Nexus of Fate debacle, some of which I share, are associated with the way Arena-specific issues might affect the future of the rest of the game. The erratum to Ajani's Pridemate illustrates this more (and if they're willing to change the wording on a freshly reprinted card that's always had the same wording across multiple sets for years just for the sake of making things slightly more convenient on a computer game, what other things will they change?), but this one has people worried too. I don't entirely agree. Best-of-one on Arena was already its own thing with its own unique aspects (insert joke about 13-land red aggro deck). If they keep it that way, then fine. The format that matches real Standard is the best-of-three, and Nexus of Fate isn't banned there.

Ultimately, when it comes to Nexus of Fate in real formats (ones where the contents of your opening hand really are randomly determined), my position over the whole time has been pretty consistent. I'm inclined to describe the card in these two ways...
  1. It's not banworthy. I do not closely follow Standard, but the resources exist now to get sufficient data to make it clear even to me except in borderline cases and such. Nexus of Fate isn't even close. It meets neither of the traditional criteria of dominance (it doesn't represent a high percentage of the field, nor of the top tables) or distortion (it doesn't warp the metagame around itself by forcing other decks to reconfigure themselves to beat it). It doesn't even meet the fuzzier newfangled ban criteria like "interactivity" or "diversity." It's not only something that I'd contend shouldn't be banned, but something so far on the "safe" side of the line that it's not even close.
  2. It's a mistake of a card and then some. Everything about it is a massive blunder and it's frustrating that WotC screwed up so spectacularly with the design of this card. It is disheartening. Extra turns have been a mechanic they've tread carefully around because they learned the lesson so damn many times in the past. It's why they've built anti-reuse clauses into extra turns cards (Karn's Temporal Sundering, Part the Waterveil, etc.). They've experimented with some more reusable extra turns cards in the past like Beacon of Tomorrows, Sage of Hours, and Walk the Aeons. But they'd moved away from that years ago because it's dangerous and I thought everyone was on the same page with that: Time Vault is broken and if you want to make a new Time Vault, you'd better be very, very careful. Instead they printed the most robust reusable extra turns card ever and unleashed it on relatively sluggish Standard environment. Even beyond competitive play though, it's just a stupid design. Extra turns are scary and reusable extra turns are even scarier, but opponents have options for counterplay. You can try to Time Warp yourself, but I might be able to counter it or to make you discard it. If you try to Regrowth it I could use graveyard hate to stop your recursion. What does it contribute to the game to make a Time Warp that circumvents that counterplay? Did no one stop any ask, "Will this be fun?" Making is an exclusive buy-a-box promo just adds insult to injury. The card was bound to be playable in Standard. There was already uproar of the first (unremarkable) buy-a-box exclusive. It's as though WotC was trying to rankle their own customers. This card was a bad, stupid, awful decision and there's no excuse for it.
But what I want to emphasize is that it's totally possible for both of those things to be true. One may or may not agree with my assessment on either (although I think that the correctness of my statements should be obvious and non-controversial for both, in my own biased view). But what a lot of the controversy I've observed elsewhere seems to miss is that it's quite possible, and indeed likely, for a card to both be an unfortunate blunder of a design, unfun and disappointing for multiple reasons, while also not being banworthy. That's just how it goes. Trying to expand the ban criteria to accommodate every card that people hate isn't feasible. the focus should be on the ones that cause real problems in the balance of a competitive format. Nexus of Fate just isn't such a card in any real competitive format, so there's no need to ban it. Best-of-one on Arena isn't a real competitive format, so it doesn't count. WotC, for all the criticism I'll fire their way for making Nexus of Fate in the first place, came to the right decision here.
Speaking of cards that do not warrant a ban, Earthcraft has been wrongly placed on the Legacy banned list for 755 weeks. Isn't it about time to correct that error? :p