My plan for this week was to write about Historic, the format I have been playing and enjoying the most recently. Part of the reason for that is that Standard has become very dominated by companions. As it turns out, companions are also a huge part of Historic, and of Magic in general.
For many players, including myself, companions were fun at first. It was clear they had the potential to be too powerful; you are essentially adding an additional card to your hand by having one. However, the hope was that the deckbuilding restrictions that they imposed would be enough to even out the advantage of playing one. After getting a chance to play with companions, most people quickly realized the deckbuilding restrictions were not strict enough. Simply put companions are too powerful, or at least some of them are.
It is weird to me that you have some companions like Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Yorion, Sky Nomad that see an unbelievable amount of play, but then there are others like Lutri, the Spellchaser that don't get played in Standard or Historic. This could have been intentional, or it could have been a bit of a misevaluation on WotC's part. Companions were a big gamble, and unfortunately the danger of them being too good has come to fruition. Most players have become frustrated by seeing most decks play a companion. The good news is our voices have not gone unheard.
In Standard and Historic, the card pool isn't as large as some of the older formats like Modern or Pioneer, so the power level isn't going to be as high. Therefore, companions have an even more pronounced effect. Standard and Historic almost feel like a player must play a companion in order to be competitive, which isn't a great spot for a format to be. This is why playing Standard and Historic during the next few days doesn't make a ton of sense. Based on what information is going to be provided in the announcement, it is very likely a lot less companions will see play. I think this will be largely positive, especially for Historic.
The announcement will likely have two parts to it, one of which will be bans. We rarely see unbans, and it is even more improbable for unbans to take place in newer formats. Technically we could see Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time, or Veil of Summer unbanned but it is extremely unlikely. Most of the worries surrounding Standard is still there are a few specific cards that warp the format. Let's speculate on some contenders that could be banned.
Ever since Fires of Invention was printed we have seen a lot of decks play it with the intent of abusing the ability to cast free spells. Not only can Jeskai Fires cast two spells in a turn, but can then use its mana for other things like activated abilities or cycling something like Shark Typhoon. Fires of Invention decks have been the very best decks in Standard for a while.
No one likes playing against Teferi, Time Raveler. Taking away the ability to interact on your opponents turn makes for extreme frustration, and nullifies a lot of cards, like counterspells and instant-speed removal. The card is really strong. When you see a card that sees play from Standard right up to Vintage, that should be a red flag.
If Teferi, Time Raveler gets banned Wilderness Reclamation also will need to go, as the only thing holding the Wilderness Reclamation decks in check is Teferi, Time Raveler. Wilderness Reclamation is another example of a single card that provides an extreme mana advantage.
Even though Nissa, Who Shakes the World doesn't see that much play right now, if you make significant changes to Standard and Historic, it will almost certainly rise in popularity again, assuming it doesn't get banned. Notice the mana advantage trend, which is something Nissa, Who Shakes the World provides.
The list continues from here, but these are some of the top options, and I don't think it is likely we will see more than 3-4 cards banned in a single announcement. The key is that you do need to be aware that as soon as you remove something from a format, there will be other cards that suddenly become much better positioned.
Having good aggressive decks is part of a healthy format, and right now the only good aggro decks playing companions. Expect that to change. Remember good ol' Mono-Red Aggro, like the deck I played at Worlds a few months ago? I expect that to be the exact sort of deck that improves because of this announcement. I am happy about that because I love playing mono-red! I'm sure sacrifice decks will also still have an important spot in the new metagame.
Now we get to the second part of the announcement that addressed the companion mechanic. The key aspect of this is that the mechanic itself appears to be changing. This means the idea isn't to change individual cards, but rather what companions do in general. Of course, there are a variety of different ways the mechanic could change, and everything I'm going to talk about now is pure speculation.
This will make companions worse not better. While we don't know for a fact that they will make companions worse, it seems like almost 100% likely this will be the case. I'm going to go over some possible "fixes" for companions.
I think the first solution is the most likely, but there could be another solution WotC has planned that hasn't been thought of yet. I'm excited to see what they come up with. Regardless of what the actual contents of the announcement are, both Standard and Historic should dramatically change.
By making companions worse they will be played less, but how much less, and how much worse will they be? Next week I will be digging into the actual contents of the announcement and what the best ways to proceed will be. I expect the announcement to be a positive one.