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When Is the Best Time to Announce Changes to the Banned & Restricted List?

Today I want to go over different approaches for timing of notifying players of banned and restricted card changes, and those changes going into effect.

Announce the announcement (WotC’s current approach)

This involves no set date for announcements (but perhaps a set day of the week, Monday), but rather WotC will try to give a week or two notice that they intend to or are strongly considering making changes to one or more formats. Then, a week or two later, when they said they would, changes are announced which then go into effect immediately.

Pros: Clear at all times what cards are legal in what events. If a card hasn’t been announced as banned, it’s legal. If it has, it’s not. No “dead format” matches wherein you know the decks aren’t current decks. Card values and reliance on certain cards can fall down a ramp rather than off a cliff.

Cons: Announcement before the announcement leads to 2x announcements and roughly 0.5x the useful information per announcement. If you try to liquidate your Modern deck when possible changes are announced, you end up selling low and having to buy back in high if that card isn’t banned. So you’re left guessing and scrambling. Although there are technically no“dead” format matches—in another sense they all become dead format matches. Specifically, it becomes impossible to practice/test the new format, since you don’t know what it is. If changes are announced Monday and you want to play Friday or Saturday, can you even get the cards you need? What about the practice you need? There is also a risk that information will leak when you make a decision, announce that fact, but don’t release the info.

Announce changes on any Monday. Those changes immediately go into effect.

Pros: Not only do you know where you stand (zero “dead format” matches), nobody has to waste any time playing formats we all know are broken. (Let alone entire Mythic Championships with Oko legal in Standard). WotC can act quickly and decisively. And while the heartbreak and scramble is condensed into days not weeks, that’s a feature! Either way you’re going to have to find a non-Oko Standard deck, why drag it out? Rip the bandage off.

Cons: The amount of trust and stability you feel is not going to be high if you arrange travel to events only to get your deck banned four or five days prior to that event. “Rip the bandage off” isn’t a very palatable solution for players who can’t afford to drop hundreds of dollars on a new deck right away, over and over since they can’t seem to print balanced cards. These are real costs.

Announce changes on any Monday. Those changes go into effect a week or two later.

Pros: Your prep for the upcoming tournament is valid. In fact, if they announce how much lead time they will always give—say, two weeks—you know what the drop dead date is for changes and can “lock in” as early as that date. Only one announcement is needed, but we still get to ease into the changes, order cards online, trade cards, etc.

Cons: Lots of “dead format” matches, some of them streamed. There can be a real dip in excitement when we aren’t playing the “new” format, just the old one. Practicing for the new format is annoying—do you play a post-ban deck and just hope opponents don’t show up with the “old” strategies? That doesn’t seem like the best use of your time.

Schedule certain Mondays when announcements will always be made. Changes effective immediately.

Pros: Stability from period to period and somewhat of a guarantee that things will be given room to breathe and maybe work themselves out. Avoids literal dead format matches. When you purchase cards, you know the minimum amount of time they will be legal to use.

Cons: Doesn’t give WotC flexibility to act quickly when big issues are obvious. Players may not wait around they might leave the format or card store. What if you have to ban multiple waves of cards because the wolves kept the deer population in check, so to speak? It doesn’t really function in any climate where card bans need to happen somewhat frequently, which is definitely 2019–2020.

No holds barred. When it’s broken, fix it.

Under this system there will be an attempt to give some notice, usually, and to announce on a Monday, usually, but maximum flexibility is retained because sometimes you have to act fast when broken interactions emerge.

Pros: Maximum flexibility, both with announcement timing and timing of when it goes into effect. Can tailor announcements to the event schedule. Maybe more notice is given before a PT than if there is no PT scheduled.

Cons: Chaos from a player trust perspective. The rug can really get pulled out from under you, even if you just traded for the cards or booked the trip.

What do I recommend?

I think the best approach is announcing changes to any format, on any Monday, and having those changes go into effect a defined number of days later (I’d pick seven unless there is a professional event within fourteen days in which case I’d use fourteen). Announcing the announcement and letting people settle into the change gives enough flexibility to act quickly, but doesn’t leave people scrambling four or five days away from a professional event.

Which do you think is the best approach?

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