Four Standard bans! You know you have a crippling caffeine addiction when Wizards of the Coast bans four cards in Standard and you’re like, ayyy, an excuse for coffee! Gotta rewrite your column in time for that deadline!
And by coffee, I mean energy drink. And by energy drink, I mean… okay, I mean like a few of them.
It’s fine, I swear. Just don’t do what I do. These are unwise choices that I make.
Anyway. Standard bans. Soapbox, please!
Standard bans on the run!
Following a particularly pellucid Standard season, in which Energy decks put up an astonishing number of tournament results, Wizards has banned Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner from Standard play. They explain that while cards like Bristling Hydra, Longtusk Cub, and Aether Hub might be higher-profile, it is the “free” consistency provided by Attune and Refiner that push Energy over the top.
They’ve also chosen to ban Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon from Standard. To explain this, Wizards revealed some data from Magic Online in their announcement—specifically, that Ramunap Red has an eyebrow-raising 60% win rate against everything except Energy decks. Fearing that only banning Energy cards would let Ramunap Red run ramun-ampant, they’ve banned Ruins to hurt the deck’s late-game ability, and Ferocidon in order to open up counterplay via life-gain and token strategies.
Now. There’s a thing I like about this, and a thing I don’t.
I like that Wizards is more willing to ban things in Standard these days. Making sure Standard is a fun, inventive play environment is the most important thing Wizards could possibly be doing. Sure, it’s a shame that their 12-year streak with only two Standard bans had to come to an end, but all things must. And while we can rightly ask questions about what’s happening inside Magic R&D—or what was happening two years ago—it’s ultimately moot. The cards are out now. R&D can’t fix the present.
So I’m glad to see more standard bans. It shows that Wizards is willing to put our play experience first, even if it means admitting some pretty brutal mistakes. And the shake-up should make for some pretty fun brewing.
I am less forgiving, however, when it comes to that Ramunap Red statistic.
Wizards used to publish the decklists for every deck that went 5-0 in various leagues on Magic Online. This allowed enfranchised players to mine the data, stay on top of an ever-shifting metagame, see the newest brews, tweak their decks—and, importantly, for the rest of us to learn from them. It was an admirable amount of transparency.
Last year, they stopped doing that. Instead, they would only publish a curated sample of five decklists each day. Their stated rationale was that it would prevent Standard from being solved too quickly—but many players wondered what else was being obscured.
And now in this week’s B&R announcement we see the kind of Magic Online statistic we used to have, only it’s far too late to do any good, and for the sake of the health of the game I have to raise some points.
First: if players had access to the same Magic Online results they once did, they would have noticed Ramunap Red’s incredible win percentage much earlier. That headline-grabbing stat would have crushed the accepted wisdom that Energy was the only deck worth playing, and we could have had several months with the entire Magic community brewing and tweaking ways for Ramunap Red and other decks to out-race Energy.
Second: if Wizards’ goal in obscuring Magic Online results was to limit Standard from being solved so quickly, it has been a clear failure. Prior to this week’s bans, Standard was perhaps the most solved it had ever been—in part because we couldn’t mine through Magic Online results for those rogue 5-0 decks that capture the imagination.
I want to see those at the store, you know?
I want to show up for a Standard Showdown and face off against a wild-eyed opponent piloting some crazy brew they just came up with after seeing an insane interaction put up results on Magic Online. There’s a fire there. It’s why I play.
This week at A Muse N Games, there will be some great new Standard brews. I can just feel it. The bans have blown the field wide open, and I’m going to get to see some of that fire again.
My one small request is that we get those Magic Online results back, so that I can see it again and again and again.
Let’s have an owl of a good time!
Coming up at the store—how do you feel about owls? Are you ready for some… superb ones?
See you there!
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He actually does drive standard, although he’s thinking of banning the 6th gear—it’s pretty OP. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!