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By: HydraLord, Charles Sutphin
Mar 06 2008 12:16pm
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So, what did you do Friday night? Well, I had planned on staying up and eagerly refreshing the Wizards page at 11:01 Central Time to see what got banned. Imagine my disappointment when the announcement was already up by 7:30. Then I saw they didn't ban anything in Extended. Frowns. Rather than sit around and be angry that the format will be rocked for the next year (or four) by everyone's favorite two mana 4/5, I went on a miserable 0-3 drafting streak. My decks were never bad - and sometimes quite good - but I kept getting blown out. Heartbreaking blowouts too. I was manascrewed, but battled back and got a bevy of Elf tokens. Enter Incendiary Command. Thanks to some good bluffing - and admittedly substandard draws from my opponent  - I get him down to one while sitting pretty on 12 or so life. I've got him dead on board, with a Nameless Inversion in hand to take out a blocker if need be. Arbiter of Knollridge. I literally punch my computer and knocked it onto the floor. Really must work on those violent urges. Anyway, I've calmed down now and I'm ready to talk about it.


This is the format most of us have on the brain right now. It's the only major format where anything changed, so that's convenient. I really like the change to the rotation structure. It never made much sense to rotate three blocks at a time and change everything all at once. I feel like that leaves major pieces of the format unknown and unexplored, simply because the change is so drastic. This approach should allow much greater understanding of the format, as well as more gradual evolution of decks. Fewer decks will be straight up eliminated at once than before. I just remember Extended before and after the last rotation feeling really awkwardly disconnected. To some extent this is unavoidable, but the new structure will greatly reduce this effect. And hey. Another year of Bloodstained Mire goodness. Plus one fewer years of Affinity. That's something to smile about.
Flooded Strand

Now for bannings. Or lack there of. There was a flare of discussion about whether or not anything would (or should) be banned on March 1st. The most popular targets seemed to be Tarmogoyf, Counterbalance, Sensei's Divining Top, Dread Return, and Bridge from Below. Some other things were mentioned as well, but they seemed pretty fringe, ie silly. I generally agree with the decision not to ban any of these things. Here's why.

Bridge from Below and Dread Return

I'm pretty sure that only banning Bridge would not do enough to kill off Dredge. Friggorid was literally the best deck its debut season without either of thse cards. Dredge decks would have to move back in that direction - maxing out on Ichorid's if nothing else - but wouldn't be dead. After all, no number of Mogg Fanatics lined up to RFG the Bridges have stopped Dredge thus far. Dread Return would be a much better solo ban, since you can't really beat the hate without it. But then we're just back to Friggorid again. Even if you knock off both cards, you still have a very powerful and disruptive - if slower - aggro deck. To kill the deck, you have to ban the dredge cards themselves.

But this all sidesteps the issue of whether or not such action is necessary or desirable. Dredge has been miserable at high level events. It wins at PTQ's and PE's sometimes, but that's really it. Sure, it maybe eats a few more sideboard slots than is optimal. But that's all. It's eminently beatable. The hate cards can go in any deck. Leyline of the Void backed by a good clock will beat Dredge more often than not. This isn't Affinity, which was known to win the game with Energy Flux out starting on turn 1. Man up and pack some Tormod's Crypts.

Sensei's Divining Top

The arguments for banning this have been really weak. I think. It's "unfun"? It slows down the game too much? On the first count, blame Counterbalance, which we'll get to in a minute. On the second, get a grip. The average Top activation takes about 5 seconds. I know it can be frustrating, but this is a card which enables whole strategies. It makes decks loads more consistent than they would be otherwise. That's a good thing to have in the metagame. Really. Less randomness -> more skill -> more goodness. If you hate it so much, run Burning-Tree Shaman.


This one I understand wanting banned. I don't agree, but I at least get it. Counterbalance is an incredibly frustrating card to play against. That said, it isn't unbeatable. They don't always have the Top. And even when they do, it isn't always. Enter Akroma's Vengeance. Or, for the more short-tempered among you, Sudden Shock. I actually think Counterbalance encourages correct strategic play. It makes you think about how to go for The Big Turn and forces you to sculpt that turn properly. This isn't a broken card. It's simply another element of the metagame that has to be taken into account when designing decks. People just have very particular ideas about what's "unfun." Not playing spells for five turns qualifies for lots of players who are looking for cheap thrills. Me? I say, who needs normal spells? Lots of the time, I find myself killing people with either Mindslaver or Barbarian Ring. Good luck countering those.

In short, this is a card which lends itself to powerful decks and demands strategic play from the opponent. It's difficult to overcome, but so are most competitive decks. Don't ban it.


Now we get to the big one. Here I think Wizard's made a mistake. Tarmogoyf should get the hell out of Extended. Also Standard. Quite simply, it's unreal dominant. Looking at PTQ Top 8's, fully FIFTY PERCENT of decks have this innocuous looking Lhurgoyf. 

ASIDE: Have more internet pundits been wrong about a card before? Because it's literally laughable how many people though this guy was junk. Me included. I opened a foil one and traded it for a friggin prerelease Korlash. This is on the level of Tooth and Nail. But this is literally the best creature ever printed. And no one knew that 9 months ago. I think that's weird. END ASIDE

It's the only non-land card in the top 11 most-played cards in the format. The next most played card is Cabal Therapy, with a comparitively paltry 28%. This is absolutely insane. You can't even claim that it's giving the beatdown decks chance to compete against the more powerful control opponents. At this point, its been clearly shown that Goyf is at least as effective in control and combo decks as it is in beatdown. When a two drop is the only creature in a GP winning blue control deck, you know something is wrong. Nothing this prevelent should be allowed to continue to exist in the metagame. I know lots of people will be upset that a fair bit of their $200 investment is down the drain. But a lot more people will be glad that they'll be able to have some real diversity in decks. Almost every deck can be improved with the addition of four Tarmogoyf. This dramatically decreases the amount of creativity in the format...there's only really one finisher that decks should be running. Vomit. Goodbye Tarmogoyf. It was nice not so nice to know you.

So that's Extended. As I said, I mostly agree with the DCI. I also feel like Goyf should have gotten banned in Standard. It does nothing but bad things there too. I wold rather have it banned in Extended, but it should really be both. Maybe June 1st? I doubt it though. It isn't "unbalancing," since it gets played in all the decks. But that doesn't mean that its a good thing to have.

I don't really have any objections to the lack of changes to most of the other formats. The one other thing - the banning of Kokusho in Singleton - is a good move. That card just isn't fun. It randomly blows out games that shouldn't be, and really makes the game less fun. It's straight up too swingy to be allowed in this format which is really supposed to be based on fun. I'm also thrilled by the implication that EDH is going to be a permanent part of the online structure. I think that's an awesome decison on the part of Wizards.


The last set of changes were in the Vanguard format. I feel like these are basically all positive.

Mirrir the Cursed: -2 Cards, -3 Life
This is my least favorite Vanguard avatar. It just straight up ruins people's lives. It makes most of the aggressive strategies worthless all by itself. That's not a good thing. Far too often, things degenerate into Mirri and anti-Mirri. The best part about the hand size change is that you can still use Mirri. You just have to pay a price for that, instead of getting it for free. This change has been too long coming in my opinion.

Heartwood Storyteller: -1 Cards, -3 Life
Like Tarmogoyf, this is a card that is ostensibly a pro-beatdown card. Pro-beatdown is usually pro-fun. But really, Storyteller tends to supercharge Faeries deck. Its ability - like Mirri's - is much to powerful to get without paying a price for it. Unlike Mirri - which I feel was really neutered by the update - Storyteller is still very powerful. It's just less abuseful than before. Another change that gets the Charles Sutphin stamp of approval.

Dakkon Blackblade: -3 Life
One of my favorite Avatar's. I'm a big fan of control decks, and Dakkon makes them a lot more effective. That said, I think that Dakkon should perhaps be the normal 7 cards, rather than 8. Your deck already gains a lot of virtual card advantage by not really having to run any land. Especially with the weakening of other avatars, I don't think the +1 cards is really necessary. This is a step in the right direction, but since Dakkon decks don't ever get mana screwed, I'm not a fan of the +1 cards.

Jhoira of the Ghitu: -3 Life

I don't really think this avatar has what it takes to make it in the current environment, but that may change with the updates. I don't know if the life needs to be knocked down like this, but it's probably not that important.

Ashling the Pilgrim: -1 Cards

This is the one that I really disagree with. The justification - that it ruins the fun by killing Birds and Elves - seems weak to me. I think this effect is extremely interesting and encourages interesting deck designs. I think at least give this a chance at seven cards. See how it goes. I don't think that it'll cause any problems. Even if it does, I think this is a good chance to take. It's a cool ability. It doesn't deserve the card penalty.

Royal Assassin: +3 Life

Again, I don't know how much of an issue this is going to be. The one good thing is that, with the relative demis eof Mirri, there are going to be more aggro decks in the format. Three extra life will be useful for that. I think the -2 card restriction is very important, since the ability of this avatar is very powerful. The extra life should make Royal Assassin more playable without making it too dominant.

Maro: +1 card

This is a good move. Maro's ability isn't that powerful, meaning that this has to be a fun card. Having cards in hand is fun, especiallly when your avatar's ability involves discarding them. To encourage interesting deckbuilding, this is a good move.And that concludes this quarter's look at the B&R update. I agree with most of the changes, the only thing I disagree with obviously being the fact that Tarmogoyf is still kicking around. I almost might have considered unbanning Disciple of the Vault. Is this crazy? Maybe. I wouldn't be caught dead running Affinity in a format with Hurkyl's Recall though. It might be too much of a risk, but I hate seeing cards banned. I don't know that this deserves it any more.

So here's to having an awesome next three months. May they be enjoyable and interesting for all of you.

Charles Sutphin
charles dot sutphin at gmail dot com


by Junri (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 03/11/2008 - 13:09
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Actually, if it can be played in aggro, control, and combo, and is not warping the environment, that is a reason for it to be in the format. Everybody liking a card and wanting to play with it is an argument [i]for[/i] it being legal, not against.

And it still comes down to not being broken, which is the only justification for telling somebody that they can't play with a card that they opened from a booster pack.

by HydraLord at Sun, 03/09/2008 - 19:32
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Things mostly get banned because they are warping to the environment. Part of the reason Goyf isn't warping is because everyone can play it. The evil that the card really entails is therefore largely hidden. But when a card gets played in aggro decks, control decks, and mother loving combo decks, there isn't a reason for it to be in the format. Really, what other card in history can claim that kind of popularity?

by Junri (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sun, 03/09/2008 - 18:05
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Frankly, it angers me the idea of "Let's ban Tarmogoyf because it is in all the good decks." First of all, that is not true, and secondly (more importantly), banning is supposed to eliminate broken cards that the environment can't deal with effectively. Period. It is not intended to ban cards on the basis that they are too popular.

Tarmogoyf is overpowered. WotC made a mistake in printing the card in its current incarnation. But it is not insurmountable.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sun, 03/09/2008 - 03:40
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Yes Jam but then treetop village is also played more than plains.  Now is this saying Tarmogoyf is too good or that Wizards needs to put some effort into making white more playable?

Bad costing by Isotope (Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 03/07/2008 - 13:56
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Goyf would be much more appropriate at GG instead of 1G.  That would reward Green-heavy decks, which aren't much better off than White.

by Tarmogoyf (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 03/06/2008 - 13:50
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I think I should be banned.... simply put, no way I should've been born.

by HydraLord at Thu, 03/06/2008 - 14:19
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lol...I disagree. Have you seen the footage of Kengi reacting to learning you were made by Mike Turian? That was worth it.

But yeah...you should definitely be banned. For sure. Too much whoring yourself out to, say, blue decks. Or combo decks.

Tarmo by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 03/06/2008 - 16:02
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I wasn't wrong about Tarmogoyf.  I made about 350tix on magic online buying them low during release and selling them higher.  Too bad my focus was too narrow to go into the paper version as well.  I did tell all my friends how amazing it was, but no one else believed me enough to speculate like I did.

by The DCI (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 03/06/2008 - 18:16
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As long as Futuresight packs are sold in the store our bigest funder wont let us ban you Tarmogoyf.  Don't worry I am sure sooner or later they will stop selling Futuresight and we can take care of you!

Tarmogoyf by jamuraa at Thu, 03/06/2008 - 12:51
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One of the things that everyone seems to want to point out is that Tarmogoyf is just a vanilla creature that gets killed by many cards in the format.  The problem is that he is the most insane creature in existence.  If you look at the top cards played in paper from <a href="http://www.deckcheck.net/format.php?format=TSp_10th_Lrw">Standard</a> (click on the side where is says "top 30")..  I see something insane:  Tarmogoyf is played in more decks than PLAINS.  Granted, white is in a bad place right now and probably will be for a while, but that says something about the current standard. 

I don't think that banning Tarmogoyf in July is going to happen - maybe for extended, but definitely not for Standard unless something changes completely.  Everyone needs to remember that we only have about half a year left with Tarmogoyf in standard. 

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