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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Aug 14 2017 12:00pm
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Ten Forbidden Fruits

 

Revised: November 16, 2016

The following cards are banned in this format:

 

Of the thousands of commons legal in our beloved format, only ten have every proven themselves so egregious to merit the dreaded ban hammer.

Round 1 (Decemeber 2012):

 Cranial Plating Frantic Search

What we learned:

Cranial Plating

Cranial Plating taught us that Affinity has always been the most dominant aggro deck in terms of raw power. Its ability to cheat on mana using the Affinity for Artifacts mechanic lets it drop oversized threats like its zero mana 2/2s, two mana 4/4s, and cheaty spells like one mana Divinations.

Today, Affinity decks still employ the backup combo kill of Atog and Fling, but their pilots also used to run two other combo kills: 1. Sacrifice all your artifacts to an Atog or Krark-Clan Shaman and drain your opponent to death with Disciple of the Vault triggers; or 2. equip Cranial Plating at instant speed mid-combat to any unblocked creature to hit your opponent for lethal damage. Hence my analogy last week that Cranial Plating makes every creature into an Atog. Because of losing Cranial Plating, most affinity decks have shifted away from black mana and don't even run Vault of Whispers anymore among their 16 lands. Which means we also see a lot fewer Disciple of the Vaults too.

Equipment was a new card subtype in Mirrodin. Some equipment were close to useless; some were busted. Cranial Plating was very busted.

Frantic Search

In the days of Urza block standard, the joke was that games were so fast that the early game was the die roll, the midgame was resolving mulligans and the late game was turn 1. The biggest culprit to the speed of the format were fast mana and combo engines that could generate infinite resources. While cards like Tolarian Academy, Windfall and Mind Over Matter all represented raw power as mana and combo engines, the mechanic that broke standard were the "free spell" that let you untap the same number of lands equal to the converted mana cost of the spell as the spell resolved.

Three of the ten banned cards on our list are "free spells" that untap lands. That's how broken the mechanic is, especially on proactive cards. 

As a combo engine, Frantic Search was just too powerful, often times netting mana as it untapped lands like Cloudpost and setting up either an infinite mana loop with something like Mnemonic Wall and Ghostly Flicker or fueling one of the storm spells we will shortly meet. 

Though initially seen as a reactionary ban, I stand by the early banning of Frantic Search. "Free" spells are too powerful. And Pauper doesn't have the same lock-out resources to keep combo decks in check without vastly warping the metagame to beat them.

Round 2 (February 2013):

 Grapeshot Empty the Warrens  Invigorate

What We Learned

Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens.

Even by banning Frantic Search, the dominance of Storm decks was still a serious problem in early days of Pauper. So Wizards decided to ban the two most effective kill cards in Storm decks. Of the two, Grapeshot was far more egregious because it was significantly cheaper than the others and it did not give the opponent a one-turn window to respond. Casting 20 spells in a turn one we have established a combo loop is trivial, and sometimes it wasn't even necessary to go infinite given the abundance of "free" spells and cantrips that would let you dig so deep that finding a second Grapeshot to play from your hand in the same turn was easy. 

Occasionally a deck would run Empty the Warrens as a fair card, trying to empty its hand in one turn  rather than use it as a combo card, but usually this was seen as an inferior strategy.

Because of the ineffectiveness of counterspells against the storm kill cards (You only get to counter one copy. Unless they print Flusterstorm at common), control decks that weren't running storm finishes were irrelevant, reducing the metagame to combo decks and Aggro decks, or as we're about to meet, Aggro-Combo decks.

Invigorate

When Modern was established, the competitive parameter was that consistent turn 2 and 3 kills were not ok. Even Splinter Twin as a turn 4 combo kill eventually had to be pushed out of the format because of how much it had warped the Modern metagame.

Though Pauper did not have the same established parameters as a new eternal format, there was one deck that was able to win on turns 2 and 3 far more consistently than the field and that was Infect. As Pauper writer Alex Ullman described at the time of its ban, Invigorate is a free double Fireblast. Since Infect only needs to count to 10 instead of 20, it's trivial to combine an Invigorate with two other one mana pump spells to win on turns 2-3 so that the threat of tapping out or letting any unblocked attacker through lets the deck steal its free wins. 

This deck was Kiln Fiend before we had Temur Battle Rage. It's Tireless Tribe where every dork you run is the Tireless Tribe and every other spell in the deck is Inside Out. It was just too consistent at threatening an early kill. And once again, the culprit was a free spell.

Round 3 (September 2013):

Cloudpost Temporal Fissure

What We Learned

Cloudpost

This was about the time I started playing Pauper. 

Honesty, it was miserable.

I hated playing against Cloudpost. It was utterly demoralizing. If you think that watching your opponent assemble natural Tron on turn 3 is disheartening, it's a lot worse when they don't actually have to find the three unique tron lands and any of the loci lands will do. Because of Glimmerpost, Cloudpost decks had a natural foil to aggro decks that weren't infect and burn decks. 8-Post decks were control decks that had endless mana, access to the most generally powerful cards regardless of color, had ways to abuse the untap mechanic I have listed above, and could usually win on its own time with something utter demoralizing like the card I'm about the feature below.

Temporal Fissure

Even when we banned away the two most egregious offenders among storm spells from the format, isn't it funny how Storm cards still find their way. Today, the most powerful storm card that sees regular play is Reaping the Graves, a card that only works either with an enormous amount of setup cost, or as a late game answer in an attrition war. And still, Storm finds a way.

Losing to Temporal Fissure was the worst. It's like losing to Capsize, except your opponent can set it up to bounce every permament you control to your hand all in one turn. I'm glad this card isn't in the format. I'm glad Cloudpost is gone. Call me salty, but these were just not fun cards.

Moral of the story: Give a control player access to infinite mana and they will find a miserable way for you to lose.

Round 4 (March 2015):

Treasure Cruise

What We Learned

Treasure Cruise

Like all eternal formats, Pauper suffers from a color imbalance. The reality is that best draw and filtering spells are all in blue. While Modern severely limits which cantrip spells one can play by drawing the line at Serum Visions, Legacy opens the door with cards like Brainstorm, Ponder and Preordain. Pauper players get access to all three of these plus one more recently banned Modern card in Gitaxian Probe. And these four cards, even in absence of true fetchlands are the reason why a card like Treasure Cruise can't be in Pauper.

With it in the format, blue is just too good. Blue Delver can run Treasure Cruise. U/x Midrange and Control can run Treasure Cruise. Any blue deck is better with Treasure Cruise. So much so that when it was legal in Pauper, the only viable decks where those that went under Treasure Cruise or those that could counter Treasure Cruise which, *ahem* happen to be blue decks.   

 

Round 5 (January 2015):

Cloud of Faeries

What We Learned

Cloud of Faeries

The most important turn in Pauper is turn 2. And the most oppressive turn 2 play in Pauper for years was: Island, Cloud of Faeries, untap Island and Island, Go. Thanks to its Faerie buddy Spellstutter Sprite, the turn two Cloud of Faeries with two island untapped was about the equivalent of having a Chalice of the Void in play or better yet a Trinisphere on just your opponent that until you had multiple answers in hand, you couldn't safely play a spell that cost 1 or 2 mana!


And that was only the fair deck applications of Cloud of Faeries. But the combo deck applications of the card are really what pushed it over the edge. Like we saw with Frantic Search, the free spell mechanic on proactive cards is broken. Especially on a creature that can be Ghostly Flickered to net mana, leading to infinite mana loops, recursion to draw your whole deck and your choice of kill conditions, even something as silly as Sage's Row Denizen.

When the two best decks in a format both use the same card from different angles, it wildly warps and constricts the metagame. Good riddance. 

 

 

Round 6 (November 2016):

Peregrine Drake

What We Learned

Peregrine Drake


And then three months later, they print this nonsense. Immediately flagged as the heir apparent to Cloud of Faeries what seemed safe as a 5-mana card turned out to be even more oppressive than its two-mana predecessor! It turns out with the free spell mechanic that adding to the CMC doesn't make the spell safer but more dangerous! No longer was it even necessary to run cards like Nightscape Familiar to net mana off your spell; Peregrine Drake untapped five lands for you!

I think the six months where Drake was legal saw the biggest exodus of Pauper players I've seen in a long time. The format was not fun and broken, kind of like 1 vs 1 Commander is right now, dominated by too few strategies. Do you want to beat Drake or be Drake? Those were your only two options. I'll pass.

 

Proving once again that on the storm scale list of broken mechanics, the free spells reign number one. Though certainly Storm and Affinity aren't far behind. Isn't it amazing that Dredge hasn't ruined Pauper too?

That's it for this week.

What's on your watch list that you wish was banned in Pauper?

Steve Jeltz 

*Bonus content*

Whenever I 5-0 a MTGO league, this is the song I'm singing in my head:

You're welcome.