Felidar Guardian has been banned in Standard. This announcement comes just a few days after they announced that no cards were being banned in Standard. Schrodinger’s Cat’s fate was more predictable than this Cat’s.
How do I feel about this? I feel like I loaned a friend some money, they said they would pay me back in two weeks, and then they paid me back 6 weeks later.
How that feels, in order of importance:
1) I have my money back.
2) This friend needs to get better at setting timelines, managing expectations, and following through.
3) I don’t trust this friend as much as I did before this happened
So, for Wizards:
• The Pro Tour will not have this stupid combo in it.
• Wizards needs to figure out how to time announcements and how to get the data they need in advance of the announced timing.
• I now worry about their process, and whether they’ll overreact the next time people are upset.
What about their offered explanation of “additional data” they didn’t have a week ago?
“[…]Our plan was to monitor early play behavior and pro competition and make a call following Pro Tour Amonkhet[…] What we expected to take a few weeks to understand has ended up taking two days to form a clear picture of a metagame unbalanced by the Copy Cat combo, as even its natural predator, Mardu Vehicles, fell behind. Couple this with consensus among a wide sampling of pros and feedback (and pizza) from our community and we decided to take action.
Saheeli-Felidar’s win-loss ratio and metagame share has actually increased since the release of Amonkhet. In Magic Online Standard Leagues since Monday, Saheeli combo has made up approximately 40% of 5-0 and 4-1 decklists—up from prior to Amonkhet‘s release. While we never take decisions like this lightly and recognize this is a change from the norm, when a plurality of the data points in a clear direction, we will take action.”
Their announcement cites MTGO data from the first few Standard Leagues with the new cards. 40% of the 5-0 and 4-1 decks were Saheeli Guardian decks. Well, yeah, how are the new decks going to be tuned and in the queues on literal day 1? To understand day 1 of a new format on MTGO, picture someone sending their personal shopper to rip open digital packs at full retail, then putting their monocle on, then brewing a Standard deck.
Pro players concerned about the metagame also made their opinions known. So that was additional information. It is a bit complicated to get that information ahead of time. They have a player feedback committee willing to provide info, but is it fair to give that group any advance notice of potential changes? I’d argue it isn’t. So to get that feedback, they’d have to do something like solicit opinions without revealing their own leanings. That’s not a great feedback loop, but they would have gotten feedback that way.
I keep picturing Erik Lauer as Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, drawing formulas in a window with this new data. He passes out. Wakes up the next day on top of a pizza box and it clicks. If you take the probability of someone beating a tier-3 brew with Saheeli and multiply it by Jeff Hoogland’s angry tweets, then plot the result against the retail price of Saheeli Rai, a card with no purpose other than ruining Standard, you get d34d c47, or “dead cat.” HOW DID HE NOT SEE IT BEFORE?
When should they announce bannings?
I think they should announce bannings at the midpoint between set releases/Pro Tours. This places the announcement at maximum distance from any spoiler season and the excitement and natural change that each set brings. The dust will have mostly settled, and bored players might get reengaged with the format if a shakeup is needed.
Should they do away with fixed dates altogether and just announce whenever they feel compelled to act? I don’t think so. The rationale for scheduled announcements still makes sense, people can buy cards following the announcement if they want to, they stop bugging Wizards 24/7 about when and what they’re going to ban, and these emergency bannings that make it all seem like a farce are going to be pretty rare on this timeline.
Hey, there’s still time.