On July 2nd, we’re going to have the next ban announcement. It’s a very important one since it’s going to affect a Pro Tour with all three formats—for the first time in who knows how many years, WOTC will look with more scrutiny towards the Legacy metagame. In today’s article, I’ll share my predictions for what I think will happen, as well as what I think should happen.
The Goblin Chainwhirler Ban
I think Goblin Chainwhirler is a horrible mistake—it has an oppressive hold on the format that makes a lot of strategies irrelevant. You might look at the current Top 8s and say, “but PV, it doesn’t even kill that many things,” and you might be right, but the biggest impact of Goblin Chainwhirler isn’t in the creatures it’s actually killing—it’s in the creatures that can’t even be played solely because it exists. Take Ixalan, for example: It has a whole Merfolk and Vampires theme, but who is ever going to play that? Saprolings? Wizards? Pfft. The same is true for all Anointed Procession decks, all Servo decks, and so on. Craig Wescoe was talking about having Llanowar Elves in the sideboard of his green deck because they were too big a liability game 1!
Goblin Chainwhirler existing has also made spoiler season worse because every card that I look at I just imagine it dying to Chainwhirler and it seems bad to me. As long as Goblin Chainwhirler remains a legal and powerful card, a huge portion of the format might as well not exist, and that’s bad.
When you’re playing a card that completely dominates another strategy, you usually pay a cost, and that cost is that the card isn’t good if you are not facing that strategy. So you can main deck Circle of Protection: Red if you want, but no one is going to do that because they might not play against Red.
Chainwhirler is a similar card, except it’s also just really powerful, so you can play it against other decks and it’ll still be good. This means that you just get to hate a huge portion of the field, but if you do not get paired versus that portion of the field, then you’re still fine. If you’re one of the decks that gets hated by Chainwhirler, you can’t just hope to dodge it because the Red deck is so powerful that the card will be everywhere.
Chainwhirler is also basically free in what it demands. RRR is supposed to be an actual cost, but it doesn’t feel like it in this Standard format because you want to be almost mono-red anyway. In reality, the only cost of playing Chainwhirler in your deck is that you can’t play a ping Desert that wasn’t very good anyway.
If the format wasn’t rotating soon, I’d say that Goblin Chainwhirler was a must-ban—we cannot afford to have two more years of a format where any creature with 1 toughness is unplayable. But there is a rotation coming soon, and while it won’t affect Chainwhirler perse, it might make it much more of a liability to play it. A lot of the support is rotating (Hazoret, Bomat, Chandra, Scrapheap), and it’s possible that Mono-Red will not be the great deck that it is right now. This will do two things:
- It’ll make Goblin Chainwhirler have a cost. There might be a color combination that is better than Mono-Red, and you’ll have to make sacrifices to your mana to play Chainwhirler, instead of just throwing it in your deck.
- Red won’t be as good, which will mean less Chainwhirlers, which will mean that people can actually play 1 toughness creatures. Yes, you can still get paired versus red, and they can still draw Chainwhirler, but it’ll be in 15% of the rounds and not 40% of the rounds.
Of course, there’s a chance that mono-red remains super powerful after the rotation (Goblins?), in which case Chainwhirler might remain oppressive and will have to be banned. If R&D has a strong reason to believe this will be the case, then I think they should just go ahead and ban it. But assuming a normal progression of things, I’d rather suffer for three more months, and then wait and see what happens.
My opinion: Don’t ban Goblin Chainwhirler right now.
What I expect to happen: No ban.
Bonus: Errata on Teferi
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is a very powerful card, but it has an extra, unnecessary power—it’s a kill condition by itself. By using its -3 on itself, it can make sure that you never get decked, which means that you don’t have to put kill conditions in your deck, which makes for horrible games. At the GP he Top 8ed, Siggy had three games that finished 1-0.
I think that Teferi should not be able to put itself back, and should be errata’ed to reflect that. It’s weird to have an errata in a paper game, but there is recent precedent (Hostage Taker), and it’s the kind of errata that is harmless—no one outside of competitive play is trying to deck people by tucking Teferi over and over anyway, so for the casual player that plays Teferi there’s not going to be any difference, and the people who actually would want to do that are the ones who will surely know what’s going on.
I don’t think they will do it, but I think Standard would be better if they did and it would force U/W people to actually put a kill condition in their decks.
The Deathrite Shaman Ban
Deathrite Shaman is obviously a powerful card, but it lives in a powerful format, so I don’t think that is the issue. The issue is actually remarkably similar to Goblin Chainwhirler’s—it offers everyone a free hate card.
Graveyard hate is a powerful thing, and if you want access to it, you should have to pay for it. Right now, Deathrite Shaman gives you free graveyard hate—both on spells and creatures—at the cost of, well, nothing. If it didn’t actually exile either of those types, people would still probably play it, because the combination of a 1/2 body plus mana of any color, plus reach, plus life gain, is already absurd.
Deathrite Shaman existing and being everywhere means that there are a lot of graveyard strategies that can’t exist in the same format. In our podcast this week, Sam Black mentioned how he’d like to play a Zombies deck in Legacy, but it’s completely unplayable now because of Deathrite Shaman (some would say that it was already completely unplayable before, but hey). Everyone plays Deathrite Shaman and no one has to pay for it, so everyone gets to hate you for free. Some graveyard decks still exist, but a lot of them just rely on comboing off before your opponent can actually untap with a Deathrite Shaman.
On top of that, Deathrite Shaman makes colors a little bit too free. I like it when people can cast their spells, but I think it’s annoying that people can just jam 4 colors and not have a single mana problem even in a format with Wasteland because it makes decks more uniform. If you can play everything, why not just go ahead and play everything? What incentive is there to deviate when you don’t have to choose one of the aspects you want to highlight?
So, in the end, I think I’d ban Deathrite Shaman. If you want to play Delver, well, you still can, but you’ll probably have to play U/R or U/B. 4-Color Control? Probably stick to 3 colors. I think this will make for a more diverse metagame in the long run. There is the risk of some graveyard deck just dominating, but that’s probably not going to happen, given that they didn’t dominate before Deathrite Shaman was printed, and there are a lot of tools to hate those decks in Legacy.
What I want: Ban Deathrite Shaman.
What I expect will happen: No ban.
The Stoneforge Mystic Unban
Unbanning Stoneforge Mystic in Modern is one of the most popular stances lately. In fact, the card has even spiked in value because people expect it to be unbanned. Personally, I don’t think it should be.
I think people often look at bans and unbans in the same way, as in, if a card doesn’t deserve to be banned, then it should be unbanned. I don’t think this is necessarily the case. Banning a card is a huge cost—it upsets the player base, and it makes certain cards that players paid a lot for way less valuable. For them to ban a card, the threshold has to be very high. But once a card is banned, then that cost is already paid. Therefore, the threshold for a card to remain banned is much lower than for it to be banned to begin with.
My issue with Stoneforge Mystic is not necessarily that it’s too good (though I think it’s too good)—perhaps it wouldn’t have been banned right now, for example. My issue is: why? What are you gaining by unbanning it? I think you run the risk of it being too good and oppressive to some aggressive strategies (Humans, for example, doesn’t seem like it’d enjoy facing a Batterskull with two lands in play) without much upside. Take, for example, Jace the Mind Sculptor. Jace is a dangerous card to unban, but there is upside. Control decks almost didn’t exist in the format, and they tried to revitalize them by unbanning Jace. People who wanted to play control were happy that Jace came back because it meant a whole new archetype could potentially be viable.
Now, who is happy about Stoneforge Mystic? Who has ever thought, “if only I could have my Stoneforge Mystic back then maybe this archetype would work?” There’s nothing fun about it and nothing novel. It’s either going to be a great card or it’s going to be a horrible card, and I’m fine with it staying banned in either of those cases because it staying banned is not a huge cost (as opposed to being banned to begin with, which was a big cost).
My opinion: I wouldn’t unban Stoneforge Mystic.
What I expect: No unban.
The Ancient Stirrings Ban
This is trickier. I think that, on power level alone, Ancient Stirrings is clearly too good. Preordain and Ponder are banned, and this digs two deeper. I do think that banning Ancient Stirrings would probably kill the decks it’s played in: Lantern, Tron, and KCI, as well as any green version of Eldrazi. Is this a good thing?
In my opinion, yes. Lantern is not a deck that should exist. It’s just too miserable to play against, and it turns the game into a non-game. No one put cards in their decks so that they would be completely unable to draw them over the course of a match, and that’s what Lantern does. Now, I’m not saying that “Lantern is broken” and “there is no counter play” or anything of the sort. I’m just saying that I believe the Modern world will be better if Lantern did not exist.
KCI is another abomination. No one can know what’s going on, and even its experienced pilots mess up the multitude of numbers and effects involved. When it does work, you goldfish for 20 minutes and then hope they understand why they are dead. It’s very reminiscent of Eggs, and Eggs was banned for being too annoying, so I don’t mind this deck being gone as well.
Tron is a different thing. I think Lantern and KCI not existing would be good for Modern. Tron not existing would be good for me. I honestly hate Tron, and any game where Tron is involved makes me feel like I’m playing poker. Did you get your Tron lands full of Karns? If so, congratulations. You win. Otherwise your deck does nothing. That said, it’s not clear to me that Tron is actually bad for the format, as it does keep some decks in check. It’s hard for me to separate personal feelings with the format in this case.
The collateral damage here is Eldrazi, which is a fine deck in all its versions—not too broken but playable if you like it. It’s a nice deck that never did anyone any harm (after Eye of Ugin got banned, anyway) and they will probably cease to exist with a Stirrings ban.
The Mox Opal Ban
The other alternative is to ban Mox Opal. This is also a card that has an extremely high power level. Banning it would kill Lantern and KCI in the same way (probably more so), but it would not touch Tron or Eldrazi. Instead, it would kill Affinity. I feel similarly about Affinity as I do about Tron—I don’t like it, and on a personal level I wish it wouldn’t exist, but I am not sure that it’s bad for the format.
My opinion is that the “bad” decks (Lantern and KCI) are just too bad, and given that I’m not even sure the other two decks are good for the format, I would ban one of the two cards. In my mind, Tron is a “more evil” deck than Affinity, so that’s what I would go for.
What I expect: Neither of those cards will be banned.
So, in sum:
What I would like:
- Ban Ancient Stirrings in Modern
- Ban Deathrite Shaman in Legacy
- No bans in Standard
- Teferi errata in Standard
- No unbans in Modern
What I think will happen:
- No changes to anything