Discussion in 'CPA/WOTC Magic Issues' started by Spiderman, Sep 26, 2016.
September 26, 2016 Banned/Restricted List
Another round of no changes. Since I clearly cannot bring myself to take the time to write a real article for this, I'll settle for a forum post. I've commented on my frustration at the lack of changes in Legacy even when it would make perfect sense to make changes. And I've already written articles on the Legacy banned list. So here's a sort of mini-article report on my B/R list thoughts...
I've already picked out unban candidates in my articles. I think my reasoning still applies to all of them. Reiterating my earlier position, there are many cards that might be safe unban choices, but I can narrow down five that should be targets for future updates:
-Survival of the Fittest
There are Legacy players who are opposed to unbans on each of those, but I do not think that their arguments are very good. Examining them one at a time...
Survival of the Fittest: Opponents of this card sometimes concoct fantastic scenarios in which this card would be dominant or would excessively warp the metagame, but overstate Survival's strengths while outright ignoring its weaknesses. The Vengevival archetype that was once so good in Legacy would not be competitive today, and no one has been able to present a decklist that looks like it might remotely justify the continued ban on this card. But the primary objection to Survival has been that because it is a tutor for creatures, future printings might introduce creatures that would break it, even if current creatures don't make it a dominant deck. This is specious because there isn't evidence that it applies more to Survival of the Fittest than to any other card. It was a safe card for over six years since Legacy's inception, and recent sets have considerably enhanced strategies that do not synergize with the card while doing comparatively little that would actually make Survival decks better. The boost by Rise of the Eldrazi was flash-in-the-pan.
Earthcraft: Almost no one still argues for this card to stay banned.
Goblin Recruiter: Concerns over this card have been pretty laughable. There is some misinformation that Goblin Recruiter would cause logistical issues. Since the card was once widely used in tournaments without logistical problems, I dismiss these concerns with extreme prejudice. It's a safe, safe card for Legacy.
Mind Twist: Almost all resistance to Mind Twist seems to fall into the "unfun" category. The argument goes something like, "Mind Twist probably wouldn't be good enough to see widespread play in Legacy, but if it did become successful, it would be be unfun to get blown out by the card, and that would drive new players away from the format. So it's safer to keep it banned." Yeah, people said that about Land Tax too. Give the card a chance, rather than making crap up.
Memory Jar: This one gets the most resistance out of the five, and perhaps rightfully so. Opponents point out that it is not as symmetrical as other draw-7 spells, since in many cases you can play most of the cards you draw off it, but opponents can only use the instants that they get and have mana open for. And it is an artifact, so it can be saved for a future turn when one has more mana open. It has no colored mana requirement and synergizes with some powerful cards. But opposition to Jar seems to be about 5% reasonable caution and 95% horror stories of old Standard/Extended in which decks running the card ran rampant. This isn't Vintage. Tinker is banned. Mana Vault is banned. Mana Crypt, Sol Ring, Mishra's Workshop, Mox Sapphire, Yawgmoth's Will—all banned. It's a powerful card, but there isn't an existing deck that is well-positioned to use it, and evidence that a new archetype based around Jar would dominate is scant.
At this time, WotC is either back to ignoring Legacy (unlikely) or they are too timid to unban anything because there might be consequences. Some level of trepidation is fine, but as months wear on and more and more sets are released that empower decks that wouldn't make use of any of these five cards anyway, leaving them banned becomes less and less excusable.
Although I do follow this format and would be interested in playing it, my expertise is rather limited, and the Restricted list is in a weird spot from my point of view. I'm at a bit of a loss as to how the format should be treated. A lot of the restricted cards are accelerants that, were they not restricted, would push either Dark Ritual or Mishra's Workshop over the edge. Because the fastest, most infamous accelerants would provide a boost to storm decks fueled by Dark Ritual, those decks are partially restricted out of existence, but the printing of Dark Petition allowed the archetype to scrape by. Mishra's Workshop keeps getting other cards restricted and is still arguably the best deck in the format. If this were any other format, the DCI would not allow the card to remain unchecked. But Vintage is weird. And because these two powerful, unrestricted mana accelerants are held at bay by the sheer number of other restrictions, the format is filled with Monastery Mentor decks, blue control decks, Eldrazi decks, Null Rod decks, Oath decks, and Dredge decks. It's not so much that I think the format is bad or unbalanced as it is that the restriction decisions have crafted a certain metagame and that maintaining a metagame with some of those features has become a looming issue for future decisions. Some of the strongest cards in the format are probably taboo for restriction, as it would entail a total restructuring of the format. Also, the sample sizes are small with tournaments mostly being sparse and with diminutive attendance sizes relative to other formats. So it's all wildly speculative. There are tons of ideas I might have for how to handle Vintage restrictions, but I don't know which ones are best, and the same goes for just about any other analyst. Since the current environment is reasonably balanced, "no changes" just might be for the best.
I've been very critical of Modern in the past and will continue to be, but ultimately, it is cool how players have embraced the format and, with passion and creativity, carved out something with its own identity. I think that Modern suffers from two problems that are almost fundamental to its nature...
The set legality cutoff just looks like it's in a bad spot. I can understand how, at the time, there was a certain login in using Eighth Edition as the starting point: it was the tenth anniversary set and it was the turning point for the card frame. But now that the game has gotten so much older, those distinctions aren't quite so iconic. Why ten years? Fifteen or twenty or five? And the card frame has continued to change. Also, other product lines use newer card frames without having their cards be Modern-legal, such as Conspiracy and Commander products, so the frame distinction is seemingly even less important. Beyond that, the ten-year mark isn't necessarily the best spot to set a cutoff on the basis of what was actually going on in the game. In theory, Modern could use any point as its cutoff. Which one to use comes down to preference, but my money is on Time Spiral as the worst point to pick. For a truly "modern" feel, starting at Magic 2010 would probably be optimal. If the Reserved List is a consideration, it would be possible to go all the way back to Mercadian Masques. I mean, I want to use my old cards as much as anyone and maybe a "modern" format is just never for me, but really, Mercadian Masques wouldn't be a bad place to start. We'd have Mind's Desire (presumably banned), Dark Ritual, Counterspell, Brainstorm, Gush, Saproling Burst, Rishadan Port, Fact or Fiction, Ichorid, Cabal Therapy, Land Grant, Unmask, Snuff Out, Food Chain, Careful Study, Braids (Cabal Minion), Invigorate, Fire//Ice, Cabal Ritual, Cabal Coffers, Sterling Grove, Tendrils of Agony, Orim's Chant, Burning Wish, Cunning Wish, Living Wish, Pernicious Deed, Buried Alive, Daze, Massacre, Quirion Dryad, Mobilization, Skirk Prospector, Enchantress's Presence, Spore Frog, Foil, Fires of Yavimaya, Artifact Mutation, Entomb, Standstill, Werebear, Hull Breach, Cavern Harpy, Vindicate, Spiritmonger, Wirewood Symbiote, Voidmage Prodigy, Goblin Ringleader, Psychatog, Wild Mongrel, Innocent Blood, Nimble Mongoose, Extract, Deep Analysis, Basking Rootwalla, Cephalid Illusionist, Genesis, Mirari's Wake, Chain of Vapor, Goblin Sharpshooter, Wonder, Tranquil Thicket, Nether Spirit, Birchlore Rangers, Goblin Warchief, Stifle, Opposition, Force Spike, Static Orb, Xantid Swarm, Silver Knight, Carrion Feeder, Eternal Dragon, Anger, Brain Freeze, Temple of the False God, Dragon Breath, Decree of Pain, Equilibrium, and Decree of Justice, among others.
The heavy-handed approach to the Modern banned list is my biggest problem with the format. Over the few years that the format has existed, increasingly more cards were banned even when they were not dominating tournaments. This, combined with an absence of powerful utility that effectively polices formats in cards with older sets, eventually led to the need to begin banning cards that had been innocuous in other formats for years, such as Summer Bloom, Birthing Pod, and Eye of Ugin. Much of the Modern Banned list is designed to hate out fast combo decks, but some organizers have run "no banned list" Modern and none of those events were overrun by storm decks (Delver decks and Metalcraft decks seem to be the most successful in such tournaments). The hypersensitive notion that someone, somewhere might get beaten by an unfair deck is detrimental to the format.
I think that in any eternal format, there is an obligation to try to make the banned/restricted list as small as possible. Wizards doesn't really seem to agree, there is rarely any visible urgency to removing cards from the lists. I think it is obvious that Mind Twist is safe for Legacy. It's not more oppressive than what's already out there and it doesn't obviously help put any deck over the top.
I think their attitude has shifted multiple times in the 12 years that Legacy has been around. But they really have developed a tendency to save clearly safe cards for "prisoner exchange" changes in which something leave the list and something else is added. Out of the cards I consider to be strong unban candidates, WotC will probably exclude Jar because they're afraid of it being a broken combo card and Survival because of it was a controversial ban the first time around. But the next time they print a card that Legacy can break or something changes and they want to ban a card, Earthcraft or Mind Twist is probably next to leave the list.
There are some Elves players who really think they could make great use of the card, but for that to even start mattering, Miracles would need to get axed, and even then I contend that Mind Twist would be safe.
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