Deep Analysis – Fear Will Keep Them In Line: The Standard & Modern Bans

On Monday, Wizards announced a surprising banned an restricted list:

Yes, that is the sound of hell freezing over as Wizards has banned cards in the Standard format for the first time since June 2011 when it hit Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic.  The last time Wizards banned more than two cards in Standard was 2005.

I think what is surprising is that Wizards is completely changing the Banned and Restricted announcement dates.

In the announcement, Wizards is putting the B&R list out the week before the pre-release to allow players time to adjust before the new set becomes legal as well as 5 weeks after the Pro Tour.    Tournament attendance has been down to numbers that haven’t been seen since Caw Blade.  Wizards felt it had to do something.  The precedent that this sets though is that they will look and possible take action more often if the need arises.  This makes it almost impossible to try and build a Tier 1 deck in Standard for fear that Wizards might drop the hammer on it.  That fear hasn’t been around since the late 1990’s when the ban hammer was swung a lot by Wizards during Urza’s Block (Tolarian Academy, Stroke of Genius, Memory Jar).

So why did Wizards ban these cards?  One theory is this:

I know that Wizards has lost players because of the format being fun.  This seems to be a new philosophy now as they only used to ban cards due to power level before.

What this means is Wizards is likely to ban anything in standard that loses customers.

Now, on to Modern.

Modern Doomsday

So from an engine standpoint, I understand why they banned Golgari Grave-Troll again.  Being both the most effective dredge card and have the potential to be a large threat late game made it dangerous.  Dredge didn’t become unleashed until recent additions in Cathartic Reunion, Prized Amalgam, and Insolent Neonate.

The problem here lies in the fact that the deck is holding 6-8% of the meta game.  As a matter of fact, according to MTGTop8.com, no deck in the Modern format was more than 8% of the metagame at the time of this article.  My only thought is that this may be a preemptive ban with what could be lurking around the corner in Amonkhet.  Honestly, I think I would have hit something like Prized Amalgam or Cathartic Reunion

Let’s take a look at the most played cards in Modern.

Most played non-land cards in Modern for November / December 2016 – MTGTop8.com

Not surprisingly, the best 2 removal spells in the format are the top 2 cards.  Gitaxian Probe is 7th.  The card is effective at what it does.  The other telling note about this list is the number of Phyrexian Mana spells on this list.  Git Probe, Mutagenic Growth and Dismember are all on the top 20 cards played.

Top 25 non land cards played in Modern – MTGGoldfish

MTGgoldfish also houses stats on cards played in many formats.  Here again it is in the Top 10 most played non-land card in Modern.

With all this data about Gitaxian Probe we ask one question: So why ban Gitaxian Probe?

The only reason I believe that Gitaxian Probe got the ax was that it was a 4 of in so many degenerative decks (Infect, Death’s Shadow Aggro, UR Prowess, Storm).  Personally, I would have rather had a card like Become Immense banned.  Become Immense was only played in 3 lists (Infect, Death’s Shadow Aggro, UR Prowess) but it is essentially a G for +6/+6.  This is basically Berserk which is far too powerful for Modern.

Where do we go from here?

For Standard, things should be headed upward except for the potential  2 combo decks in Modern.  I expect Pro Tour to determine if they stay or not, so be careful about early speculation.

For Modern, I’m not really sure.  Dredge will be slowed down with this ban, but I don’t think it kills it.  Git Probe does hit a number of decks in the format but it wasn’t a card that was 100% causing a deck to be broken.  I truly believe they banned the wrong card here.

Nicol_Bolas@MTGDecktechs.com

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