Every Banned and Restricted Announcement is another shakeup. This time around it was difficult to predict exactly what moves Wizards of the Coast would make as arguments could be made to make adjustments to every format. I am going to provide my thoughts on the moves that were made, starting with the format that actually did change.
If you are not a Legacy player, or don't pay attention to the format, feel free to ignore this section. For those Legacy players out there, this news is huge! The common consensus going into this announcement was if a banning took place in Legacy the most likely card to be taken out of the format was Deathrite Shaman. The card is just absurd in many ways, as a mana accelerant, a graveyard disruptor, and a win condition it pretty much does it all. Having a card this versatile is okay, but not one that only costs one mana and can go into pretty much any blue deck despite being a black-green card.
Since the printing of Deathrite Shaman, it has been a Legacy and Modern staple. At first it wasn't obvious to most players just how good this card is, but the interaction it has alongside fetchlands is just broken, as it allows you to easily have lands in your graveyard for its ability. While Deathrite Shaman got banned in Modern a few years ago, the impression was that it would be okay to keep around in Legacy because the power level of the cards is so high. It turns out that just isn't the case.
I believe that banning Deathrite Shaman needed to be done for the health of the Legacy format. We came to a spot where it could be argued all the best decks in Legacy play Deathrite Shaman, and that's a huge red flag. The card is so universally good while preventing graveyard strategies from being effective. This banning was long overdue in my opinion as it makes a lot of sense. Blue decks are traditionally dominant in Legacy, and there is no way that cards like Brainstorm or Force of Will can be put on the chopping block, as they have simply been around for too long and are more beloved by Legacy players than Deathrite Shaman.
For the sake of Legacy, Deathrite Shaman is essentially a blue card, as pretty much all blue midrange style decks wanted access to Deathrite Shaman. The best deck in the format before the banning was certainly Grixis Delver, followed by Czech Pile. It is possible that in a given Legacy tournament over half the decks were playing Deathrite Shaman. While the primary reason Deathrite Shaman was banned was to hurt blue decks like Grixis Delver, there is unfortunate splash damage to Elves as well.
Elves is the primary non-blue deck where Deathrite Shaman saw play. Elves, and the few other decks playing Deeathrite Shaman, were not the top tier choices in the format so these decks will likely end up being hurt the most by the banning. This isn't terrible when you look at the fact the metagame does get a shakeup, but it could be pretty brutal for those players who have invested into decks that are no longer as viable because of the banning.
Perhaps the biggest argument against making a Legacy banning is how significant the financial impact is for those who have decided to invest in the format. This is a big reason as to why bannings in Legacy tend to not happen as frequently compared to newer formats. Imagine buying an Elves deck, complete with a playset of Gaea's Cradle, only to have arguably the best Elf in the deck now be banned. It can be tough to stomach. While I'm not saying that Elves won't continue to exist it is a tough pill to swallow for those diehard Elves players out there. This banning will significantly shake up both the format, and the Legacy marketplace.
I have already went over some of the losers but to reiterate: Elves, Grixis Delver, and the other various blue midrange or control decks that played Deathrite Shaman were the big losers. Let's get into the winners: Decks that rely on their graveyard like Reanimator and Dredge are clear winners here because Deathrite Shaman was the best and in many cases, only maindeck graveyard hate card worth worrying about.
Other decks that may have seen little play because of their inability to play Deathrite Shaman are looking much better. This means old school Stoneforge Mystic control strategies, and other flavors of Delver, look much stronger. In addition, various combo decks will inevitably also be on the rise. Without Deathrite Shaman the format is likely to speed up, as there will be less early interaction, and probably less Force of Will decks.
This is a banning that was not really anticipated, but also doesn't have nearly as significant an effect as the Deathrite Shaman ban. Gitaxian Probe is another important piece to blue decks, and Grixis Delver in particular. The interaction with Young Pyromancer and Cabal Therapy is particularly brutal. It is also a free blue card to pitch to a Force of Will, and another card to reveal for a Delver of Secrets. It's clear that Wizards is aiming at dethroning the previous top deck in the format, and I do believe they have successfully made Grixis Delver much worse.
While Gitaxian Probe is somewhat replaceable, unlike the uniquely powerful Deathrite Shaman, it's also not really a good card for Magic game in general. Operating with perfect information should really come at a higher cost, and seeing your opponent's hand in Legacy is in many ways not very fair. This is a card that only got the axe in Modern a couple years ago as it isn't obviously a high power level card. Sometimes banning a role player that doesn't improve a format's health is a smart move, and this banning is one I fully support.
Now that we have gone over the Legacy bannings alongside many of their implications, let's take a look at some of the other formats. Just because there were not any bannnings or unbannings in Standard or Modern doesn't mean there couldn't have been. In fact, leading into the Banned and Restricted Announcement there were a couple cards that became hot topics for discussion.
If any card were to have been banned in Modern I believe it would have been Ancient Stirrings. This is a card that has proven time and time again to be an incredibly powerful sort of tutor, as there are many decks that have a ton of colorless cards and artifacts, in addition to the fact it can always find lands. The recent success of the Ironworks decks is why there had been rumors surrounding a potential Ancient Stirrings ban.
While hurting Ironworks Combo may have been something Wizards is interested in, it also is the case that the Ironworks Combo deck hasn't been seeing this kind of success for a very long time. Matt Nass has done incredibly well with the strategy, though it is also a deck that is very difficult to play. Now that it is a deck players should be familiar with, and understand it is a major Modern player, there could be the expectation that it won't continue to do as well as it has been doing.
The other factor is that there really isn't a need to hurt the other Ancient Stirrings decks in Modern. Tron for example, is a tier one strategy, but it isn't too good (arguably). There are effective ways to fight it with cards like Fulminator Mage, other forms of mana denial, or fast combo. There are other decks like Lantern Control and Eldrazi strategies that would be affected as well. Ancient Stirrings also was just reprinted in Masters 25, so banning it now really doesn't look good for Wizards.
Ancient Stirrings is undeniably one of the most powerful cards in the Modern format, but I think a wait and see approach here is okay. Give Ironworks a little but more time in Modern to flex its muscles before judging if it is as strong as advertised. I could see Ancient Stirrings eventually being banned though.
There were calls from many players who wanted to see the unbanning of Stoneforge Mystic. After the recent unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, many players are eager to see more cards return to the Modern format. These unbannings turned out to be relatively safe, even though there was a lot of apprehension before their return at first. Now the idea that introducing fair and grindy cards back into the format is perfectly fine.
Stoneforge Mystic is a card that I expect to be unbanned within the next year or two, as it is not too good for Modern. It would see play alongside Batterskull, as a way to get good value off your two mana creature, the question would become whether or not it makes control decks too strong. Since there is already a big shakeup in Legacy, and there is nothing really wrong with Modern right now, leaving things the way they are is the safe bet.
Some players wanted to see red decks taken down a notch with a Goblin Chainwhirler banning. However, the next Standard rotation is on the horizon and it makes sense that Wizards wants to stand pat here. While red decks have put up more impressive results than any other strategy there are still other deck choices that are perfectly viable. The argument against Goblin Chainwhirler specifically is the Oppression of one toughness creatures.
By having Goblin Chainwhirler in the format, a go-wide tokens deck for instance becomes much worse. While Llanowar Elves and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner do see play, these are still examples of cards that don't match up well against Goblin Chainwhirler. On the flipside there is the argument that without Goblin Chainwhirler Llanowar Elves would actually be too strong.
Overall this seems like a win across the board. The Legacy shakeup is not only good for the format, but also will be interesting considering the team Pro Tour that is a month away features the Legacy format. Core 2019 also has the potential to shift Standard a bit, and Modern seems to be thriving at the moment. While there are other directions Wizards could have gone, what they did does make sense, and it is clear that they put a good amount of thought into this announcement, which is something to be thankful for.
Thanks for reading,