Emrakul, Smuggler’s Copter, and Reflector Mage Banned in Standard & Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll Banned in Modern!
Here is the full explanation of the banlist changes from Wizards of the Coast. The changes go into effect on January 20th in “paper” Magic and after the January 11th scheduled downtime on Magic Online.
First, we’ll take a look at the Standard bans. The last time we had a card banned in Standard were the bans of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic! So it's been awhile!
Here’s the official statement by Wizards on the banning of Emrakul 2.0:
“Created to be scarily powerful, Emrakul, the Promised End delivered on that promise too well. Emrakul faced too little resistance and ended games too easily. She was the world-ending, all-powerful monster she was in the story, which was too much for Standard.”
Yeah, she was a bit too good, wasn’t she? To be fair, the only decks that really played her in Standard were Aetherworks Marvel and Black/Green Delirium. But with Aether Revolt on the way, it’s very likely she would have become even more dominant in the format.
Some players believe that the card Aetherworks Marvel is really to blame and not Emrakul herself. But with Aether Revolt on the way, Wizards wanted to be sure that the new cards didn't make her better.
Wizards finally realized that having four “Looter Scooters” in like every top deck in Standard was pretty stupid. Here’s the official reason for banning the Copter in Standard:
“Simply put, Smuggler's Copter is too efficient and shows up in too many decks, diminishing the format's diversity. We want Planeswalkers, sorcery-speed removal, and a variety of vehicles to be viable options, and believe removing Smuggler's Copter will allow them to flourish again. Of the top archetypes in Standard, very few didn't play four copies of Smuggler's Copter, stifling many creative, fun options. Smuggler's Copter was the result of a new card type pushed too far, and, as such, is now banned.”
Pushed over the edge for sure. Can’t put it any better myself! A lot of people are upset and believe that the Copter actually helped some decks be more competitive than they would have been otherwise. While this might be true, the Copter became too much a part of the format.
I was a bit surprised to see the Mage get the ban-hammer. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been. The official reasoning makes a lot of sense.
“Our data showed the White-Blue Flash deck was too powerful against the field, and Reflector Mage has been on players' lists of most-disliked cards since the days of Collected Company. Other cards were discussed to check White-Blue Flash, but Reflector Mage came up time and time again as both frustrating and a targeted way to diminish the White-Blue Flash deck.”
White/Blue Flash is one of my favorite decks ever, but yeah, the Mage makes the deck a bit too consistent. I’m also really glad that Wizards made this decision based on real community feedback. Also, Felidar Guardian is a bit too good with him around, and we already have the infinite Saheeli Rai "Copy Cat" combo in Standard. We’ll see what they do about that!
Some players have said that Reflector Mage is past its prime. Perhaps, that's the case. But Emanuel Sator at MTG Card Market brought up a good point that Reflector Mage's ability has probably kept quite a few creatures from seeing play. He mentions creatures such as Woodland Wanderer and The Gitrog Monster that may have otherwise seen play without the Mage hanging around. The huge tempo shifts that the Mage can cause was warping the format a bit.
My take on the Standard bans? Overall, I’m very happy about the Copter ban, because that card is simply way too good. I’m fine with him in Modern. Reflector Mage was a bit of a surprise to me, but made sense based on the data and feedback. Emrakul was also a surprise, but she was just a bit too good for Standard. All three of these bans should greatly increase the diversity of the format.
Now, in Modern:
I’m not shocked at all about the Golgari Grave-Troll banning. Dredge was getting a bit too good in Modern with the printings of Prized Amalgam and Cathartic Reunion. In fact, the official reasoning for banning the Troll mentions these very cards!
“Dredge, the mechanic and the deck, has a negative impact on Modern by pushing the format too far toward a battle of sideboards. With the printing of Cathartic Reunion and Prized Amalgam, the deck once again became unhealthy for the format. While those cards were discussed, the real offender always has been the dredge mechanic itself.”
The deck functioned without the Troll once upon a time. It still may, but this is a major blow to the archetype. For all the people who recently invested in the Golgari Grave-Troll, I feel your pain. The deck won't be dead, but it will definitely be slowed down.
This banning seemed out of left field. So, I appreciate the official reasoning for the ban:
“Gitaxian Probe increased the number of third-turn kills in a few ways, but particularly by giving perfect information (and a card) to decks that often have to make strategic decisions about going "all-in." This hurt the ability of reactive decks to effectively bluff or for the aggressive deck to miss-sequence their turn. Ultimately, the card did too much for too little cost.”
Gitaxian Probe and most other “free” spells with the alternate Phyrexian mana casting cost have proven to be too good. Mental Misstep was way too good for pretty much every format except Vintage (and Commander, I guess). The Probe was one of the best draw cards in Modern, and now we bid it adieu. Some decks will just replace it with Peek. But that's not a true replacement, as being a "free" spell is what makes the Probe so good.
The Modern decks that will be impacted the most by this change are Infect, Death's Shadow Zoo and U/R Prowess.
With these official explanations out of the way, there’s another major announcement related to when Banned and Restricted List changes will be announced.
“Banned and Restricted announcements will now be made both on the Monday after Standard-legal set Prereleases and five weeks after a Pro Tour, also on a Monday.”
That’s a big difference! While Wizards says they don’t expect more cards to actually be banned or unbanned more often, the flexibility of being able to make the changes can address issues more quickly. In this case, the Copter is on the way out the door. So if Felidar Guardian & Saheeli Rai prove to take over the format, we won’t have to wait as long - in this case, March 13, 2017!
My take on these bans is that they were made with a variety of internal data and community feedback, and that’s good! While I know more than a few decks were severely impacted by these changes, I think that the health of the Standard and Modern formats will improve with these cards no longer in play.
What do you think of these Banned and Restricted List changes? Are you happy that we’ll be getting regular banlist updates more often?