Banhammer hits! Big Changes for Standard

Posted by zach - June 20, 2011 - Blog - 3 Comments

So, what’s the deal with the newest (June 20th, 2011) round of bannings and restrictions?

I guess I should start by answering the more fundamental question: What’s the deal with the banned and restricted list anyway?

Often in Magic there emerges a card, or a card-combo that is so good that people begin to call other players foolish for NOT playing it. These cards are so powerful in their environment that the entirety of a format begins to revolve around them, bringing stagnation and frustration to a community that LOVES change and variety.

Part of what makes Magic great is the random and cyclical elements of the game. When a card or two threatens to bring monotony, as the current offenders have, it often becomes necessary to restrict or ban them.

Before we go too much farther, let me just drop a couple quick definitions on those of you who are unfamiliar with our terms: A banned card is not permitted in any decks (or sideboards) in the format in which it is banned. A restricted card, however, may appear once, and only once, in any deck (sideboard included) in a format in which that card is restricted.

The newest bannings in Standard are… no drumroll neeeded:

Stoneforge MysticJace, the Mind Sculptor

While many players will be surprised that ANY cards were banned in Standard, those who predicted a ban almost invariably suggested that Jace, STFM, or both would be the target.

BatterskullPersonally, I’m a little surprised that Wizards would wield the hammer against Stoneforge Mystic when she was just released as a staple rare in the “War of Attrition” New Phyrexia Event Deck. However, the bannings came with a caveat:

Exception: The deck list for the “War of Attrition” Event Deck will be legal in Standard if kept completely intact. That deck, which went on sale on June 10, contains two copies ofย Stoneforge Mystic.

While I understand that the Event Decks were probably designed (and sent to the printer) well before Caw-Blade became the most common (and boring) deck in Standard, I think that this exception is almost laughable. The Event Deck which (as we said on last week’s podcast) has never (in our experience) beaten its counterpart, “Rot From Within”, remains the only legal use of a Stoneforge in Standard.

And how does that make you feel?

Overall, I’m pleased with the decision to ban Jace and Stoneforge. Banning a card in Standard, as Aaron Forsythe said in his announcement, is always a difficult thing because it does represent an oversight of R&D,ย whereasย banning a card in Legacy every once in awhile is understandable. Imagine having to create a set of 250 cards while trying to keep in mind their interactions with all 10,000+ cards that already exists. Pretty crazy huh?

In the case of Stoneforge, I think the problem arises from the fact that equipment, and living weapons in particular, NEEDED to be a staple in the return to Mirrodin. Very few people recognized Stoneforge for what it was when it was first released. She definitely ended up in our big box of “other rares” after her initial appearance in our first box of Worldwake. While it wasn’t long before she was recognized as a “worthwhile” card, Stoneforge’s power only grew as time went on and the equipment she could tutor up became more and more powerful (Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Feast and Famine
, Sword of War and Peace
Sword of War and Peace
, Batterskull).

Jace, The Mind Sculptor, however, was immediately recognized by most players as one of the most powerful cards ever printed. The problem with this became that, while most players could find a playset of Mystics, Jace was selling for anywhere from 80 to 100 dollars a piece. That pricetag, combined with the near-necessity of playing as many Jace, The Mind Sculptors as possible, has left casual players a choice between buying new cards (this quarter) or buying a playset of Jace. Often those players who chose option number one found that they could no longer compete in FNMs dominated by decks running four Stoneforges, four Jace TMS, and a couple baby Jace for good measure.

Sword of War and PeaceI think that Wizards needed to ban Jace in order to revive Standard enough to get people to Innistrad (the first set of the next block). Many will say that Jace will rotate out soon enough, but I think with Jace there is no such thing as soon enough. Casual players have been dropping like flies. Hopefully having Jace out of the picture will revive the spirit of fun and creativity that used to be characteristic of FNM.

While I think we could have waited until Stoneforge rotated out, the only other way to break-up the Stoneforge/Batterskull/Swords combo which provides straitforward synergy between what might still be considered individually the most powerful cards in the format, would have been banning Batterskull. No one wants to see a card that was just released banned, and Wizards knows it would be bad for sales to ban one of the most sought-after mythics in their newest expansion. The only other option, it appears, was to ban Stoneforge.

So, after all that speculation, we finally have the official word. Stoneforge and Jace are out. What do you think?


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