Many of the Banned and Restricted Announcements have traditionally contained no changes, or small changes that players are expecting. Some announcements have contained one very significant ban or unban. Very few of these announcements contain significant bannings and unbannings across multiple formats. I love big shakeups, and Wizards is definitely shaking things up with this latest announcement. Here are all of the changes:
Rampaging Ferocidon is UNBANNED
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is BANNEDFaithless Looting is BANNEDStoneforge Mystic is UNBANNED
Karn, the Great Creator is restrictedMystic Forge is restrictedMental Misstep is restrictedGolgari Grave-Troll is restrictedFastbond is unrestricted
I want to touch on each format, but spend the most time on Modern, since those are arguably both the largest and most unexpected changes. The Vintage changes also are quite significant, though I don't play that format quite as much as Modern.
I think some players are having a good laugh at this one. The original banning of Rampaging Ferocidon was in my opinion quite low impact. By unbanning the card you give us a chance to remind ourselves that it was banned in the first place. When Rampaging Ferocidon was first banned it was supposed to hurt Mono-Red Aggro decks, but then shortly thereafter Wizards printed an almost strictly superior three-drop in Goblin Chainwhirler.
Rampaging Ferocidon was never a high-impact card, and I think it would be foolish to think that is going to change. It could maybe find a home in some Dinosaur lists, or Mono-Red builds, but it shouldn't impact the current Standard format very much. The fact it is able to stop lifegain out of White-Black Vampires is somewhat relevant. Still, Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord actually answers Rampaging Ferocidon quite well since it is a 3 toughness creature.
The biggest thing Rampaging Ferocidon has going for it is it seems good against Scapeshift. It nerfs the lifegain lands, and is naturally suited to beat up on tokens. If Scapeshift is the top deck this could be a good foil card. I think the unbanning does make sense, though the timing is very weird since it will rotate out of the format shortly. Of all the announcements made, this is the one I think will have the lowest impact.
My expectation here was that Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis would be banned, and that would be the only change in Modern. I think this was the widespread consensus among the community. The card has made a huge impact in Modern ever since it was printed in Modern Horizons. The last time we saw a deck as dominant as Hogaak was when Eye of Ugin was still legal, and Eldrazi were at the height of their power.
Sometimes a card is simply too powerful, and this was the case with Hogaak. When I first heard about the Bridge from Below banning I was worried that there would be new ways to abuse Hogaak, and this was of course the case. When you see over a quarter of the field playing the same Modern deck for a Mythic Championship that should be very telling. Many players (including myself) felt the need to main deck Leyline of the Void to have any hope against Hogaak. Measures such as these aren't healthy for Modern, and this ban was both completely necessary and expected.
Let's talk about the other cards banned as well, as Wizards went one step further. They also banned Faithless Looting, which really hurts any decks trying to win with value from the graveyard. Decks such as Blue-Red Phoenix, Dredge, and Hollow One will be really hurting from this ban.
Personally, I didn't expect Wizards to make this move right now, but it will certainly shake up the format. We will be playing more "fair" Magic in Modern. Fewer games decided in the first few turns, and more grindy card advantage battles. Speaking of card advantage there was a third change to Modern, and in many ways this is the most exciting one of them all, as Stoneforge Mystic is unbanned and entering the format for the first time.
How will Stoneforge Mystic impact Modern? First of all, the timing is kind of weird to me. Stoneforge Mystic isn't a combo card, it's a card that looks to play a longer game. It can be played in a combo deck, but usually only as an alternate win condition. The natural predator to Stoneforge Mystic is a card like Faithless Looting that enables the graveyard. If indeed the format is moving away from graveyard decks, this makes Stoneforge Mystic even better positioned.
It is totally possible unbanning Stoneforge Mystic a few months ago would have made very little impact on the format. Now, however, I do think things have changed, and it will see a decent amount of play. It slots quite easily into White-Blue Control or Jeskai Control. The control decks will likely maindeck only Batterskull as an equipment that can be found by Stoneforge Mystic, and cap the Mystic at three or fewer copies.
I like playing three copies of Stoneforge Mystic here. Drawing multiples, or drawing one when you already have Batterskull in your hand, can be a little bit awkward. You can put the Batterskull back in your deck for some value with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but that's a plan for a very long game. Batterskull is a perfectly fine play as a five mana card. There are matchups like Burn that have an extremely tough time beating a single Batterskull. In many matchups the Stoneforge Mystic will die immediately, but you'll essentially get a two-for-one by tutoring that additionally Batterskull in your hand for the late-game. Making cuts from control decks isn't easy though, so it will be interesting to see which direction they elect to go in. There are other powerful plays like Search for Azcanta for example, that will be competing with Stonefore Mystic. Cards like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria may start to get cut for the additional card advantage provided by Stoneforge Mystic. Sweepers like Supreme Verdict also start to get slightly worse as you start playing more creatures, so it really is about picking and choosing here.
Stoneforge Mystic can also go into Hatebears decks. While Batterskull is the premier equipment to search for with Stoneforge Mystic, it certainly isn't the only one. There are a variety of Swords that start to make sense once you are playing a deck with a lot of creatures. This is the type of strategy that will definitely want to play the full four Stoneforge Mystic, and likely two equipments in the maindeck.
Another important Sword is Sword of the Meek. Stoneforge Mystic could become a toolbox card of swords in an Urza deck, but also could be a way to grind out a game by finding Batterskull. I expect to see some versions of Urza try to play Stoneforge Mystic, though it isn't clear it's better than Goblin Engineer in the current versions of Urza.I've been hoping for a Stoneforge Mystic to be unbanned for a while now, and I believe this is a good move. Modern is going to become much more about creating card advantage over the course of a long game. There is so much untapped potential with Stoneforge Mystic—we could see it in Collected Company decks, or alongside Bloodbraid Elf. The reactions to the Modern changes have been very positive from Modern enthusiasts.
I was on the last Vintage Super League, so I am familiar with the format. That said, I'm not a specialist, but I can piece together what happened here. Workshop decks have been a powerhouse in Vintage for quite some time now. All on its own, Mishra's Workshop is just a completely busted card. It borderline breaks the rules of what a land should be able to do. By allowing Mishra's Workshop to be unrestricted you have to restrict all the best artifacts to make the strategy a little bit worse.
Mystic Forge gave decks like Shops an insane source of card advantage. Karn, the Great Creator is somewhat similar, but the fact that it can't be cast off a Mishra's Workshop is still worth noting. We have seen artifact strategies move away from Arcbound Ravager-based Shops decks and more toward big mana Shops decks with cards like Grim Monolith, because of these new four-mana cards. It isn't clear to me that these new versions of Shops were actually a huge problem, but I will defer to Wizards and their data mining of the Vintage format.
Format-wide restrictions that hurt almost every deck are in some ways a bit more fair than simply restricting a card from one deck. In this case, almost all the top decks have been hurt. Dredge losing Golgari Grave-Troll is interesting to me. We know that banning a dredger isn't a way to kill off a deck, as we have seen the same evolution with Dredge in Modern. There are plenty of other dredgers, they simply don't dredge as many cards. This should hurt the Dredge deck a bit, and I think this is a good thing. Bazaar of Baghdad becoming easier to find with the London mulligan really helped Dredge, and I expect it will still be a popular deck without Golgari Grave-Troll.
The bannings wouldn't be complete without also hurting blue decks. Mental Misstep is another card that has always felt a little silly and unfair. The reason I think it has been fine to keep around for so long is that you can build Shops with very few one-mana spells. However, it makes life really tough for combo decks like Storm when all the blue decks play Mental Misstep. Blue combo decks should get better now that there are fewer Mental Missteps running around.
I'm not familiar enough with the format to know exactly what unrestricting Fastbond will do. I assume it will make land-based strategies that revolve around cards like Wasteland and Life from the Loam better.
This announcement is a lot to take in. Wizards could very easily have satisfied the community by just banning Hogaak, and held back from any other changes. Instead they dug deep into a variety of formats, and were not scared to make big moves. I like it. Change is good for the game, and many players seem to have a new itch to play after this announcement, which is exciting!
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