B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020

I was hoping to see banned as a Companion instead of an outright ban like many others. In the long term, the simplicity of an outright ban makes the overall B&R list slightly cleaner, but I'm not sure that outweighs being able to brew with Lurrus as a maindeck option. He's strong enough to operate in various contexts, perhaps even more in a future context where the multiverse is much less hostile than Format Karakas.

I wrote a long response recently but it's already buried so I'll re-post the parts relevant to the gravity of the first explicit power level in some time.

@brianpk80 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

There's been a myth about "no power level bans" in Vintage for a long time that's been put to rest definitively by some recent tweets by Mark Rosewater. Yes, Vintage has a banned list and it's still available as corrective action for cards that warp gameplay. Channel and Mind Twist were unbanned because those cards no longer met the criteria for banning. It was not because Wizards decided to abolish the ban list itself. Though as time passed without any subsequent bans, that interpretation became prematurely ingrained and inadequately challenged, even while Time Vault itself was stealth banned via power-level errata until 2008.

[snip]

@brianpk80 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

On the bright side for more preservative views, that means if Lurrus or the Companions are banned or banned as Companions in Vintage it won't signify a grand rupture of the format's foundation. It's just an exercise of a reserved power that hasn't been used in many years. Starting the game with a functional +1 hand size is a very drastic change whose magnitude can justify a weighty response.

One way we can look at the B&R action is to consider that banning Lurrus is actually a much less drastic change than printing Lurrus was. The milk was spilled in April, not May.

@brianpk80 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

One way we can look at the B&R action is to consider that banning Lurrus is actually a much less drastic change than printing Lurrus was. The milk was spilled in April, not May.

This is I think a very fair way to look at this, but it also feels like something we are going to be saying more and more set after set as the power creep and uncharted territory gets even more prominent. Prior to companions we had:

  • The printing of a 4x, arguably more powerful Yawgs will
  • some number of waves of the most powerful planeswalkers ever made
  • a 1 card I win combo that was restriction resistant (karn and lattice)
  • The best blue hate card maybe ever (veil of summer)
  • One of the most busted effect lands printed (mystic sanctuary)
  • A new pitch counter that at least exists in the same ballpark as FOW
  • A pitch artifact/enchantment hate card that may be the most powerful ever made

I mean, the list goes on and I believe that is only the last year.

@protoaddict said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

@brianpk80 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

One way we can look at the B&R action is to consider that banning Lurrus is actually a much less drastic change than printing Lurrus was. The milk was spilled in April, not May.

This is I think a very fair way to look at this, but it also feels like something we are going to be saying more and more set after set as the power creep and uncharted territory gets even more prominent. Prior to companions we had:

  • The printing of a 4x, arguably more powerful Yawgs will
  • some number of waves of the most powerful planeswalkers ever made
  • a 1 card I win combo that was restriction resistant (karn and lattice)
  • The best blue hate card maybe ever (veil of summer)
  • One of the most busted effect lands printed (mystic sanctuary)
  • A new pitch counter that at least exists in the same ballpark as FOW
  • A pitch artifact/enchantment hate card that may be the most powerful ever made

I mean, the list goes on and I believe that is only the last year.

All good examples. The power creep and release saturation is what's affecting the rate of change more than the B&R updates which haven't even adequately kept up with them despite 7 adjustments in the past year.

For all the displeasure at the briefness and "incompleteness" of the rationale for banning - I think they said all they needed to perfectly. The card is busted in Vintage and legacy because of the cheap, OP stuff we have access to. The companions are working as planned in newer formats.

They print cards to sell. Newer formats are where they get 99% of their revenue. What do you all not understand about that? These weren't designed with Vintage/Legacy in mind. They saw the impact and banned it. Get over it. It's almost like people think WotC is testing newer cards for their interaction in Vintage and Legacy with any amount of effort. They are not. If they see something blatantly obvious - something like a 0cmc artifact that transmutes for 0 to get a 0cmc card, they'd likely say "wait, that's free black lotus/land tutor every game" and pump the brakes. But anything outside of THAT obvious, they're going to test how it plays in Standard and maybe Modern, and that's about it. They are a for-profit company, and they will always do what is best to maximize sales, not the grumblings of a small community that only buys old cards via Ebay. Get used to that reality and stop acting confused when WotC/Hasbro acts this way.

@thewhitedragon69 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

For all the displeasure at the briefness and "incompleteness" of the rationale for banning - I think they said all they needed to perfectly. The card is busted in Vintage and legacy because of the cheap, OP stuff we have access to. The companions are working as planned in newer formats.

They print cards to sell. Newer formats are where they get 99% of their revenue. What do you all not understand about that? These weren't designed with Vintage/Legacy in mind. They saw the impact and banned it. Get over it. It's almost like people think WotC is testing newer cards for their interaction in Vintage and Legacy with any amount of effort. They are not. If they see something blatantly obvious - something like a 0cmc artifact that transmutes for 0 to get a 0cmc card, they'd likely say "wait, that's free black lotus/land tutor every game" and pump the brakes. But anything outside of THAT obvious, they're going to test how it plays in Standard and maybe Modern, and that's about it. They are a for-profit company, and they will always do what is best to maximize sales, not the grumblings of a small community that only buys old cards via Ebay. Get used to that reality and stop acting confused when WotC/Hasbro acts this way.

I largely agree with you, but I have to say that there is a more than just a whiff of incompetence surrounding this whole Companion affair. WotC does not profit from Vintage, but it certainly does from Standard and Commander. Companions have massively warped the Standard format (and have overshadowed the intended marquee mechanic of the set, Mutate) and Lutri was preemptively emergency-banned in Commander.

@evouga said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

I largely agree with you, but I have to say that there is a more than just a whiff of incompetence surrounding this whole Companion affair. WotC does not profit from Vintage, but it certainly does from Standard and Commander. Companions have massively warped the Standard format (and have overshadowed the intended marquee mechanic of the set, Mutate) and Lutri was preemptively emergency-banned in Commander.

Lutri may have been overlooked in commander in testing, but the rest seem fine. And if by "warped" standard, you mean a major mechanic of a new set is influencing all the standard decks...isn't that "Mission Accomplished" from a design standpoint? Mutate was a major mechanic, but not a very good one - more like a better bestow. Companion was just a more powerful mechanic, and on-theme with the "animal friends" plane. It seems likely that it would be the more played mechanic. And if the mechanic of the newest set is overshadowing older legal sets, I'd think that's a win for R&D.

@thewhitedragon69 Three things to think about in response to that.

First, power creep in general is not a great thing for the game. It's a short-term boost in sales, sure, but it's long-term detrimental because you either have to fall back and print a Masques or Kamigawa and deal with disapointed players and disappointing sales or you keep on creeping and things get more and more unbalanced. They've tried to balance this in the past with power creeping different aspects to different sets at different rates, but that seems to have been thrown out the window recently. It's very legitimate for people to worry about what sustained power creep means for long term health of the game.

Second, perhaps by accident, WotC's recent power creep may have come at the exact perfect time to actually be the right call. With Covid shutting down paper magic hard, Arena is probably picking up steam. All the recent power-creep sets are on Arena, and having splashy, powerful cards on that platform is good for that game. I don't play Standard typically, and I like the meta on Arena right now in standard. It's powerful and flashy. Feels more like eternal, complete with combo decks, than it has in a long time. If you were going to choose a period of time to mortgage paper magic's future in exchange for a boost online, now seems like exactly the time to do it.

Third, overall, I think this power creep + ban trend is good for eternal because it means they're finally shaking off the chains restraining them from printing cards as powerful as the old hard-to-obtain cards. I've been a big advocate for helping people get into eternal by printing cards that compete with the old reserved list staples, and they're doing that. I don't think they've gone far enough into making the new cards MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE with Vintage staples yet, but they're certainly making sure that the Vintage metagame is chock full of new and relatively cheap cards at competitive levels. That's a good thing! But, of course, since Vintage is the Whos-Who list of Magic's Greatest Mistakes, when you print cards to compete at that level you are absolutely going to have to police the format against breaking.

@maximumcdawg I think the power creep here isn't as bad as perceived, though. Lurrus, for example, is not OP in standard. It's only OP in eternal formats because of all the already OP old stuff they have access to, like lotus. If none of the mana accelerants existed in Vintage, Lurrus would be much less powerful.

Power creep also isn't always obvious at first. Goyf was a vanilla beater, but an efficient 4/5 for 2 on avg. He got played fairly early and has remained the power-creep-flag-bearer for a long time. Death's shadow is a 7/7-12/12 for 1 mana, and I don't recall him being immediately trotted out as a beast until much more recently. He was sorta unplayable at first iirc. Lurrus is much more of a grindy, decently-costed 3/2 lifelinker in formats that pay WotC.

Another thing to consider is that WotC typically prints a balancer in the same standard block. Drannith Magistrate is cheaper (played faster) than all the companions and drop-kicks them in the fangs. A DM deck is going to punish companion decks. Unfortunately "being broken" is more fun than "stopping broken" and people usually run the flashy wins in far greater numbers than the slogging decks. See humans in vintage vs everything blue as an example. FAR more PO/mentor players than thalia players.

The key takeaway for me is it closes the book on any debate that WotC actively looks at vintage/legacy in R&D. They have a B&R list as more of a courtesy to its old clientele. Their paying customers are 100x more important to them. And since standard cycles sets, OP printings are easily handled, either by corrective printing in the next set, or....time. Bans can be used if they just made an oops, and people won't stop buying packs over an "Oko" ban.

@thewhitedragon69 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

Lutri may have been overlooked in commander in testing, but the rest seem fine. And if by "warped" standard, you mean a major mechanic of a new set is influencing all the standard decks...isn't that "Mission Accomplished" from a design standpoint? Mutate was a major mechanic, but not a very good one - more like a better bestow. Companion was just a more powerful mechanic, and on-theme with the "animal friends" plane. It seems likely that it would be the more played mechanic. And if the mechanic of the newest set is overshadowing older legal sets, I'd think that's a win for R&D.

Standard is not a good barometer for this. If there were 10 decks in standard corresponding to one of each of the companions, that would be considered a healthy meta. An unhealthy meta in standard is typically less than 3 decks, while in vintage I would think we want the number to be much higher than that.

If you look at all the non rotating formats however, companion is pretty much everywhere. Now different formats lend themselves to different beasts, and some of the 10 are clearly just not good, but it looks like the ones that are here are here to stay because the mechanic is what it is. There are even allusions in that BR post that they are watching what happens for the next few weeks and they are not opposed to banning more.

I am inclined to agree that the situation we are in was heavily influenced by incompetence and a lack of testing. Certainly a new format like Pioneer should be getting attention in play test, but even there, players have concerns. Personally I think more companions is the answer since the cat is out of the bag already, but I don't think it will happen soon enough.

@thewhitedragon69 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

Drannith Magistrate is cheaper (played faster) than all the companions and drop-kicks them in the fangs. A DM deck is going to punish companion decks.

no, it doesn't. you play a 1/3 for 2. your opponent's card that they got for free is now not accessible until your 1-3 dies. this is you in a worse spot(as they can break out if they have to) than if your opponent had no companion and you put a 1/3 for 2 in their deck, which is obviously not something that is typically worth doing

@thewhitedragon69 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

since standard cycles sets, OP printings are easily handled, either by corrective printing in the next set, or....time.

standard sets are designed far enough in advance that wotc's planned counterweights to the cards that they think will be a big deal are notoriously mismatched to what actually ends up being good.

I think the sentiment that WotC/hasbro only cares about profit is a more or less true observation, but doesn't explain stuff like companion; it more clearly matches the pushed mythic phenomenon, with stuff like oko, uro, the set with dozens of planeswalkers. I don't think companion in particular was what was intended to sell packs of ikoria rather than trilands, planeswalkers, and other mythics. "they don't care" is a general explanation, but it doesn't explain why one particular mistake happens instead of any of the other potential different ones. wotc fundamentally messing with the resource system of the game(companions, delve, breach, etc) has had vastly more influence, especially in this format than the stuff that they are doing as intentional power creep and cash grabs(explore being mythic, planeswalkers, evolving wilds at rare, collector's packs and 3-4 different versions of each rare)

last edited by BlindTherapy

If you started playing a brand new TCG today that had a rule that let you play certain cards from your sideboard, you wouldn’t think anything of it. It’s just part of the game. What is the obsession with wanting MTG to follow some sort of purity formula in which new game mechanics are unwelcome?

@desolutionist Mark Rosewater has written dozens of articles about how important the randomization mechanics are to the success of Magic: the Gathering, and he dusts off these arguments every time somebody complains about mana screw, mulliganing, etc. I have no reason to believe he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Companions throw deck randomization out of the window. They let you stack your deck and put one of the most powerful cards in your deck (in the case of Lurrus) on top. If Companions had been part of the game since the beginning, I think they would have been identified as a mistake and a poor piece of game design, in the same way that getting rid of MtG's mana system (as is done in some famous non-Magic TCGs) is a severe game design misstep.

@evouga having a companion in no way means there's no randomization. You can't be serious.

@evouga said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

Companions throw deck randomization out of the window. They let you stack your deck and put one of the most powerful cards in your deck (in the case of Lurrus) on top. If Companions had been part of the game since the beginning, I think they would have been identified as a mistake and a poor piece of game design, in the same way that getting rid of MtG's mana system (as is done in some famous non-Magic TCGs) is a severe game design misstep.

Plenty of other CCGs throughout the years, including ones that have been incredibly well received in their own right have had a mechanic mirroring Companion. The one that springs to mind right away is Legend of the Five Rings, where each player had a stronghold card that was basically a sort of land that started in play for them and provided an ability. It also provided a restriction in that your stronghold limited what cards you could and could not include in your deck. Most people who played that game loved it and accredit it to that system.

Other examples include Yughio (I think, I know they had some sort of second deck for specific cards at some point) and Hearthstone which has both quest cards as well as the cards that have a pregame effect if you play only odds or evens. Argue as much as you like as to if those games are good or not, but they have legions of players and they have managed to dabble with this mechanic as well, so it can be done without being regarded as bad design.

There are also plenty of games without a mana system, and they are perfectly fine as well. You would not call them a "severe game design misstep."

The key with these mechanics is now and always will be cost vs value, and that is not that much different than any card in the game. The calculation you need to do to determine that for these cards may be different in the new context, but it is still a risk/reward calculation. If Lurrus cost 5 would we be having this discussion? Keruga is a companion, he will never see play in vintage because his restriction is so hard to manage, but he does see play in standard and pioneer without being broken.

Decks are still random. If you wanted actually force players to adhere to deck randomization and variance, you would never have let the fetches and Dual lands be unrestricted because they throw all that randomness of mana production out the window. Outside of cards that roll dice, nothing in Magic has been random, just probabilistic, and even then I guess dice are as well.

last edited by Protoaddict

Netrunner had a controlled click and credit system instead of mana, and the FFG version, which was extremely well received, had identity cards that you built your deck around.

@maximumcdawg said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

I don't think the statement is too short, but I think a lot of Vintage players will be annoyed it didn't reference two things:

1. The Gravitas of the Moment.

It took Vintage about, what, 26 years to finally have to ban a card for power level reasons? It took awhile. Congratulations, WotC. you did it! Anyway, the fact that this is so unprecedented probably means players would have expected something in the banned and restricted announcement acknowledging this. It's kind of like if Grandma dies and you just a get a quick text messages saying "Oh also Nana died."

  1. When Will Cards Get Banned in the Future?

What exactly was the philosophy behind the Lurrus ban, and when will the rule be applied again? I feel like I know why Lurrus was banned because I observed the format with it, but I don't know exactly what the criteria will be for bannings in the future.

It truly is a historic day. But it really doesn't feel like it, does it?

Why is that?

I have to say that I was prepared to pounce on any flaw in the announcement, but I found it to be well-written and well-reasoned. I like the explanation provided, but I dislike that the historic nature of the banning wasn't mentioned.

It doesn't feel like this is an "open the floodgates" moment, for the simple reason that restriction was an ineffective tool to deal with this particular problem.

I went back and looked at the last banning, and it's interesting to note that Mind Twist was restricted for nearly two years before it was finally banned. And when they unbanned it, they simply said that Channel and Mind Twist would no longer be unbalancing.

All of that is readable here: https://www.eternalcentral.com/history-of-vintage-schools-of-magic-an-alternative-history-of-the-banned-and-restricted-list/ And the links to the official announcements are embedded herein.

A few other responses:

@brianpk80 said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

This is a good observation. In my two weeks playing the Lurrus format, what stood out to me most was how much it illuminated how degenerate Paradoxical Outcome and to a lesser extent Underworld Breach are.

I don't mind the grindy Lurrus decks so much. Often the most explosive (and seemingly problematic) plays are not the best ones, as rushing him out prematurely where this environment is so prepared to remove or neutralize him is a recipe for disaster. Testing is showing me that patience is rewarded.

Although I've been enjoying Vintage recently, this seems to be a minority view and the intensity of dislike fueling abandonment is severe. Banning Lurrus as a Companion seems to be the most narrowly tailored solution. I'd be happy with action on PO as well. It's never a bad time to clean up the few remaining blights that escaped the more urgently needed restrictions in the past year.

There is alot of nuance here, and I agree with much of it. But that underscores one of the reservations I have about this banning. It feels like the problems in the format right now aren't actually Lurrus caused or even Lurrus significant, but rather Lurrus is an ephiphenomenon, that is a symptom rather than the cause. We'll see what happens now, but if Breach and PO continue to perform at those levels, or near to it, then maybe Lurrus wasn't really a "problem" so much as those two decks were problematic.

It feels very much like the Gush v. Mentor debate. Granted, they were both dealt with in the end, but many people projected Mentor's problems onto Gush, mistakenly in the first instance.

That aside, the core of my reservation on this particular point (and aside from how swiftly this occured) is that Lurrus isn't really "dominant" in the sense that a key engine part of a dominant deck is dominant. Lurrus doesn't drive or really make PO or TX Breach combo the powerhouses they are. It's mostly just an add-on - the cherry on the top or the icing on the cake. So to say that because those decks are dominant, that so too is Lurrus is really, in my view, a mistake.

In short, in the case of Lurrus, prevalence is being conflated with dominance, and they aren't the same thing. Yet people like chubbyrain conflated them in his public comments.

Stephen raises a good point about the difference in relative adaptation velocity between more frequent players and players who enjoy Vintage as an occasional pastime. It was not necessary to truncate one of Matt's threads to misrepresent him as inconsistent, but the point remains valid.

I appreciate the affirmation about my concerns, but on the point about Matt's tweets, I don't believe I misrepresented anything. Matt says I misrepresented one of his tweets by not linking directly to the tweets, or by omitting the other parts of the tweets in that thread, but it's not really a misrepresentation of any material fact (or even immaterial one). All I was trying to do was show how quickly someone who plays alot of MTGO could change their mind about this, and nothing in either thread appears to contradict that. Matt may try to elide this, but he really did have a change of opinion within those 10 days (specifically, about what should be done and on what time frame). I don't see the problem with that, or why he got so upset when I juxtaposed those tweets. It's perfectly fine and normal for one to revise one's views as evidence accumulates. I can't explain why he lashed out for doing that, and became so angry, except that I've observed in conversations like this he gets very heated/emotional.

last edited by Smmenen

@blindtherapy I think they just have to try totally new mechanics to shake things up and get more cash. Going from "flying" to "horsemanship" is not going to drive sales. They need drastic changes on the fringes of the rules to keep things exciting. WotC could print a new set of cards with protection, replicate, revolt, and morph with cards more powerful than originals with those mechanics, and Vintage and Legacy players might find a few powerful gems to jam...but standard sales would likely be the worst of all time. Pack-crackers want new, exciting, DIFFERENT, mechanics, and you sometimes break an egg while making an awesome omelet.

There are so many underexplored mechanics at this point that I stopped being able to keep track around the time of Zendikar. Haunt, Splice Onto, Meld, and DFCs are just a few of the spicy mechanics that would be fun to see revived or improved. I don’t think it’s true that everything has to be NEW to be exciting.

In fact, there’s also a huge graveyard of boring mechanics that were different just for the sake of being different, and don’t come close to pulling their weight in terms of the complexity they add to the game. Bolster, Eternalize, Megamorph, Scavenge, ...

@evouga said in B&R Announcement - May 18, 2020:

There are so many underexplored mechanics at this point that I stopped being able to keep track around the time of Zendikar. Haunt, Splice Onto, Meld, and DFCs are just a few of the spicy mechanics that would be fun to see revived or improved. I don’t think it’s true that everything has to be NEW to be exciting.

Splice had another taste in Modern Horizions, DFCs had both Innistrad blocks and Origins and whatever that one oddball Nicol Bolas one was in. I think we can give them a rest. Let's wait for that ripple comeback.

Personally I don't like using keywords as an interchangeable term for Mechanic. The seven dwarves in Eldrane have a unique and novel mechanic I would like to see more of. Dragons of Tarkir making you reveal a dragon was novel enough, or at least a continuation of the cards from Lorwyn block. Brothers Yamazaki played in an interesting space. Point is that there is all sorts of design space to explore. Does not mean they cannot break it just like they did here, existing mechanic or not.

Would be nice if they revisited historically broken mechanics and made more interesting cards around them.

Some thoughts:
Affinity for [land type]
Gravestorm
Threshold
Tribal

To name a few.

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