The B&R announcement that was released on July 13th came at an odd time considering that state of Magic the Gathering in-person play. It comes to no surprise that since in-store play was suspended in response to COVID-19, that Standard has become the go-to format for streamers and online events. This does leave much to be desired for players who prefer older formats that have fallen off in screen time on services such as Twitch. That being said, why ban or unban the cards that they chose now?
Evil Is Evil...Lesser, Greater, Milling. It's All The Same.
We’ll start with Pioneer, since this is the part of the announcement that I have the most grievance with. Let’s face it, this format has some issues. I’m looking at you Dimir Inverter; the shadow that continues to loom over the format. The announcement was this
Excuse me? What? This is the card that is supposed to fix the combo-laden format and return it to its brief but former glory? I think not. While I’m sure that the re-introduction of Oath of Nissa will change the format a bit, this is like attempting to fix a crack in a dam with a band-aid. In recent weeks the Magic Online Pioneer events have had issues firing due to not hitting the required number of entrants. This is a problem for a format as young as Pioneer.
Let’s be realistic, I would’ve said that if this is what you were planning on doing in Pioneer, it could’ve waited until we had the opportunity to play in in-person events again.
I tend to not be the kind of person that will present and criticize issues without presenting some sort of solution to said problems, so here we go. Firstly, I think it’s fine that Oath of Nissa be returned to the format so no changes there. That will also be my only recommended unban for Pioneer. As far as the bans that I would have gone with goes; I have two options that could be taken. The first is to ban Thassa’s Oracle. This allows the Inverter deck to still exist at a less powerful level given that the Oracle trigger can still be a game winning trigger even if Thassa’s Oracle itself is dealt with. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and Inverter of Truth, can be dealt with to prevent the win and break up the combo. The second scenario is banning the card Inverter of Truth itself, thus killing the archetype outright. In addition to this more heavy handed approach, i would also suggest removing Winota, Joiner of Forces from the format as well. The Naya Winota archetype has fluctuated in and out of the main spotlight since the release of Ikoria and I would guess that without the current grasp that Dimir Inverter has one the format, Winona and her forces could run roughshod over Pioneer. I believe that this would bring Pioneer back to a sort of equilibrium that we saw in the formats infancy.
That being said, here are a couple decklists that I would recommend if I was going into a Pioneer event.
Just Because It’s The Path Of Least Resistance, Doesn’t Me It’s The Wrong Path.
That brings us to Modern... oh Modern. This is another format that has had better days, although I do have to concede that there is light on the horizon. The cards that have been hampering the enjoyment of Modern players have since been removed! Well, one of them anyways.
Arcum’s Astrolabe has almost unanimously been seen as a mistake by the entire player base since the release of Modern Horizons. A quick aside on that set, I greatly appreciate WOTC R&D “taking the gloves off” when it came to designing a first-of-its-kind set to inject cards into the Modern format. Without that kind of attitude with a set such as this, it had a high likelihood of falling flat on its face.
I have no criticism of the actual banning of Arcum’s Astrolabe, but I can’t help but sonder; why now? As I said above, we have had no in-person tournaments of any kind since the end of March and again, it’s not the flagship format for streamers or online event organizers. So what has led to this fairly obvious ban? My answer would be that of the same reason that causes me to think that this is an odd time for a banning such as this, no in-person events. Banning such a pillar of the current Modern format during a time where numerous live events are scheduled and up-and-coming would throw wrenches into too many machines as players prepare for those events. Right now, you’re not throwing wrenches in anything and players have ample time to explore the format at their leisure.
However, I would’ve loved to see one other card chained up and sent back to the Underworld. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is an egregious card. This card has the ability to single handedly bring someone back from the brink of no return in a variety of different game states and positions. This is without even going into what it does for a player who is already ahead in a game, let’s just say that it’s extremely unlikely that the opponent overcomes the advantage gained. That would be my lone solution to the problems that I believe the format still faces. Oh yeah, and ban Mystic Sanctuary. If you have had the displeasure of playing against a deck the can abuse the interacting of this land as the likes of Cryptic Command, it requires no explanation. Just trust me.
Above are the decks that I would recommend for anyone walking into a Modern event in the coming weeks. There are a number of other different archetypes that have legs in the format, but I really like the current position of these two.
Here is a deck that I have been entertaining in the recent weeks, it is rough and untested so dive in at your own risk.
"But A Promise Made Must Be Honored. As True For A Commoner As It Is For A Queen." - Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher
Finally we have arrived at the formats that I have no qualms with, Pauper and Historic. The announcement in regards to these formats were handled quite well.
The use of the suspension list in Historic has surprisingly proven very useful. It serves as a warning of sorts to those who play with the card being suspended. This also does not serve as a death nail for a card in Historic, just a...well, suspension. All of the offenders that either left the suspension list and moved to the banned list or went straight to the latter are where they belong now. Goodbye and good riddance, Agent of Treachery, Winota, Joiner of Forces; Fires of Inventions and Nexus of Fate. You will find no complaint from me.
Burning-Tree Emissary was placed on suspension, which is unexpected I grant you. This is a deceptively powerful card and most do not realize that on its surface. So at this point I’ll wait to reserve judgement on that move.
Pauper is a format that I do have a fair amount of interest in, but not nearly enough time to play as I would like. So this may be brief. Expedition Map is a suitable nerf to a deck with the power and pedigree such as Tron in all of its flavors. Mystic Sanctuary has nearly the same problem in this format as it does in Modern, it seems to be more powerful in this format. Which is surprising. Pauper is a misunderstood format as far as perceived power level. Trust me, it's very powerful. My knee jerk reaction is to ban Urza’s Tower in all formats, but I have to admit I’m biased. At the moment, I believe that this is a great step in the right direction and I plan on fully exploring the format in its new state.
Lastly, here are the lists that I would play going into each of these formats. I urge you to try out the first Historic list soon, I’m not sure it will be around in this form for any lengthy period of time. (Spoiler: Yes, it’s that good.)
I hope that everyone out there is staying safe and doing what they need to do to stay healthy and help those that they can. Just remember to enjoy Magic and enjoy the things that you love. We play this game because we love it.
Good Luck, I Hope You Lose!