Winners and Losers: Magic's Biggest Ban Announcement Ever

Alby • February 18, 2021

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Now, let's talk about the real reason why you clicked on this article.

Wizards of the Coast dropped a huge bombshell on the Magic community with their most recent Banned and Restricted announcement. 5 formats were impacted by 17 changes, and there was even a rules update. We've never seen anything quite like it. We have a lot to go over, so no more time-wasting. Let's discuss.


Omnath, Locus of Creation and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath were both banned.

Both bans seem very reasonable to me.  These 2 cards had the perfect combination of being both very good and very unfun to play against. The community was very vocal about the need to remove Uro from the format and WotC listened. Omnath went from suspended to banned with today's announcement, which I think is kind of a no-brainer. If Uro leaves and Omnath comes back, Omnath just picks up exactly where Uro left off. I'm a little surprised Tibalt's Trickery didn't get hit as well, but that's really only an annoyance in best of one matches.


Gruul Aggro seem like the biggest winner of this announcement to me. They remove some cards with big bodies that say "gain life" on them from the format and likely increase the number of players playing sacrifice decks, which really helps out Gruul Aggro. Having access to cards like Klothys, God of Destiny and Scavenging Ooze is pretty big. Both of those cards are often seen in the sideboard of Gruul Aggro, but if the meta shifts to a higher percentage of the Sacrifice decks like I'm expecting it to, then Klothys and Ooze are perfectly fine cards to have in your main.


Midrange decks are the clear losers here. Every good midrange deck in the format was playing Uro. If you were playing a midrange deck without Uro, then your deck was built sub-optimally. I normally hate saying that because I'm all for deck innovation and playing something that will catch your opponent off-guard, but Uro was in a league of its own in Historic. With that being said, I do like that this will give us an opportunity to see some of the multicolored midrange cards that haven't been seeing a ton of play recently. Cards like Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, Kunoros, Hound of Athreos, and Cut // Ribbons are all midrange cards that I've enjoyed in the past, but they suffered the drawback of not sharing any colors with Uro. I'm excited to see a resurgence in those kind of cards. I also want to cast Champion of Wits again and not having my 3-drop slot dedicated to Uro could me an excuse to do that.


Balustrade Spy, Teferi, Time Raveler, Undercity Informer, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, and Wilderness Reclamation were all banned.

Again, these all seem very reasonable to me. I really like the decision of saying that Reclamation and Teferi go hand-in-hand. Teferi was the clear answer to the Reclamation decks and by choosing to remove Teferi from the format, you run the risk of Reclamation taking over with its biggest opponent now gone. Uro makes sense, again. I felt pretty strongly that it was going to get banned in Modern, so it only makes sense to get rid of it in the less expansive format as well. For Spy and Informer, I tried to imagine if there was any way of avoiding the banning of both enablers so that the deck wouldn't die, but I don't think you can. The deck is also pretty unfun to play against, which seems to be a pretty big factor for today's announcement.


I think the biggest winner for this announcement is Red White Aggro. This deck has been consistently putting copies into the top 8 of the Pioneer challenges on Magic Online, including 3 copies in the top 8 of the challenge on the 13th, and it managed to be the only deck in that top 8 to avoid getting a card banned from it with this announcement. We could see an influx of decks that prey upon this strategy emerging fairly quickly, but I expected to see some amount of dominance from Red White Aggro in the first few tournaments after the changes go into effect. If you're looking to get ahead of the curve and beat this deck early, I'd opt for something like Jeskai Control where I have access to a turn 3 sweeper like Deafening Clarion and efficient plays for early in the game like 4 copies of The Birth of Meletis.


It's pretty obvious that Oops All Spells and Wilderness Reclamation are losers here. A loser who will still have a playable, yet worse, deck after this is Niv to Light. Uro and Teferi were more important to this deck. They were early game plays that helped buy you the time you needed to get to turn 5 in case you didn't have the turn 2 Sylvan Caryatid. They were hits off of your Niv-Mizzet Reborn too, but that was just extra upside. It'll be interesting to see how players will change up their decks to replace the 6 or 7 slots that just opened up. Will it be an increased number of Deafening Clarion or possibly additional early game interaction like Dreadbore or Abrupt Decay? Either way, I'm very doubtful that the outcome will produce anything near the results that the Uro and Teferi versions were putting up.


Field of the Dead, Mystic Sanctuary, Simian Spirit Guide, Tibalt's Trickery, and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath are banned. The rules change that was made also makes it so that players can no longer cascade into Valki, God of Lies and cast it as Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter.

I think they handled the Valki/Tibalt situation in the best way possible. I saw people suggesting that WotC ban all 3 mana cards with Cascade or changing the rules of modal dual faced cards to only ever be able to cast the front side when not being cast from your hand. I'm very glad they made the change as they did and it was nice to see them follow the precedent that was created with the Brain in a Jar plus split cards situation. I'm glad Field is gone. I'll gladly go back to getting hit in the face with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Most people saw the Uro ban in Modern coming and we've already talked about Uro enough in this article.

Tibalt's Trickery was annoying to play against, but it's also possible that the deck was going to end up being like Neobrand. People stopped playing Neobrand after Once Upon a Time got banned, but the deck was being played before OUaT was even printed, so I'm not entirely sure what happened there, but I could have seen that happening with Trickery too. I'm not bothered that it's gone, but just wanted to bring up the idea that it may have been premature.

For the last 2 cards, I don't think they should have been banned. SSG died for Tibalt's sins. Before Tibalt came around, the only decks playing SSG were Ad Nauseum, Living End, Free Win Red, Electrobalance, Grishoalbrand, and Oops All Spells. These decks combine for less than 4% of the meta according to MTG Goldfish and I even think 4% seems a bit high. Anyway, you get my point, RIP Simian Spirit Guide.

Sanctuary is a fun one to talk about too. You can't mention the card without mentioning the synergy it has with Cryptic Command. It's a very strong interaction, but can you still win through it? Yes. Now, similar to what we just did for our mana making monkey friend, let's talk about the decks that play Sanctuary. However, I'm only going to list the decks that didn't also feature another card that was banned today. We have UW Control, Mill, Blue Moon, Taking Turns, and UB Control. When was the last time any of these decks was good? I really like the Mill deck, but I can't remember the last time I saw a 1st or 2nd place finish next to a Mill list. Same goes for control. Even the most diehard control players know that Modern control decks put up numbers based on quantity, not quality. So, if someone can explain why the decks that played Sanctuary, but didn't play Uro needed to be nerfed, I would love to hear your reasoning.


Any deck that didn't have a card affected by the announcement got better today. It seems like a copout answer, but it seems to be the general consensus across the Modern community. Want to play Midrange? Great. Death's Shadow decks and classic Jund both just got better. You won't lose to a pile of zombie tokens made from a colorless land or a 3-mana creature that draws cards, gains life, and is bigger than all your creatures anymore. Want to play Aggro? Great. Lightning Bolt is back on the menu. 9 out of the top 12 decks from the most recent challenge were doing busted cascade things, but Izzet Blitz managed to end up in the top 4 and was looking promising before Kaldheim's release. Want to play Combo? Great. Storm seems nice right now with players trimming on copies of Spell Pierce and Force of Negation now that having a turn 2 counterspell isn't a requirement to play the format. Heliod Company also seems great right now if you don't mind all the clicking you'll have to do on MTGO. Want to play Control? Probably don't do that. But if you have to, make sure your sideboard has a little something for everything because this format feels like it's going to be pretty diverse.


Unfortunately, there was a lot of collateral damage done today with the Modern bans. Ad Nauseum, Living End, Free Win Red, Electrobalance, Grishoalbrand, Oops All Spells, UW Control, Mill, Blue Moon, Taking Turns, UB Control, Primeval Titan decks, Bant Snowblade, Niv to Light, Sultai Midrange, and Temur Midrange are all decks that are still playable, but certainly worse. I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting, but those 16 examples should give you a good enough idea. Out of these decks, I think the 3 with the best chances of putting up quality results post-ban are Mill, Prime Time decks, and Bant Snowblade. For the rest of the decks, I expect to see a pretty significant drop off in their results and meta percentages as players switch to similar, but different decks.


Arcum's Astrolabe, Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Oko, Thief of Crowns are banned. The format was also impacted by the cascade rules change that I talked about in the Modern section.

When the Secret Lair announcement came out that included information on the banning of Uro in several formats, WotC mentioned that they were looking at it as a possible ban in Legacy too, so I think it's interesting to not see that included on the list. Astrolabe and Arcanist are both cards that I really like, but I can fully understand why they're gone. I like playing 3 or 4 color decks of miscellaneous midrange garbage, but WotC brought up a great point in their article about how they want Wasteland to be a format-defining card. However, Astrolabe decks were diminishing its purpose by getting all the benefits of the decks that Wasteland was meant to hurt, without actually being hit by Wasteland.

Arcanist is just a sweet card to me. I've tried to play Arcanist decks in every format where it's legal and it was the first Pioneer deck I tested for the SCG Invitational that took place about a month after the format was first announced. Legacy just has too many powerful 1 cmc spells for Arcanist that we don't have access to in other formats like Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain, Swords to Plowshares, etc. Valki and Tibalt were a problem for Legacy too, and just as I said for Modern, the format gets better as a whole with the rules change. Legacy decks were already playing 3 mana cascade spells like Shardless Agent before Valki and Tibalt came along, so it only makes sense that they'd do well in this format too. Again, great rules change decision by WotcC. Speaking of planeswalkers that were hurting the format, hi Oko. Oko is just a dumb Magic card. Playing against Oko feels bad. Playing with Oko feels bad. Oko can take his elk, his food tokens, and his abs that make me feel self-conscious and leave every format alone.  


The biggest single card winner is Wasteland, as mentioned above. For decks, the combo players come out as the winners of this banned and restricted announcement. The part of Legacy that keeps the busted combo decks in check are the free counterspells like Daze, Force of Will, and Force of Negation. These cards require a reasonable commitment to blue because you have to return an Island or exile a blue card to cast it for the alternative casting cost. All of the cards that were banned are commonly seen in blue decks. Oko itself can be pitched to Force, Arcanist is usually seen alongside Delver of Secrets, and Astrolabe enables 3 and 4 color decks that usually blue as one of their colors. Blue is still going to be great in Legacy as it always is, but you might see some players opting for a different deck like Lands, Hogaak, Eldrazi, Elves, Cloudpost, or Mono Red Prison if they feel like their current decks have been negatively impacted too much. That's a lot of non-blue, non-hand disruption, and even non- Thalia, Guardian of Thraben options. I think Show and Tell, Doomsday, or even Aluren could be good combo starting spots for the new Legacy format.


The first loser would be the Delver of Secrets decks. Temur, Izzet, and Jeskai Delver losing Arcanist is really big for those decks. Arcanist fit those decks perfectly and they're going to miss it a lot now that it's gone. Temur Delver will be losing Oko as well, which makes them seem like the biggest loser because they're losing 2 cards. However, I think Arcanist was more important to Izzet and Jeskai Delver existing than Arcanist and Oko were to Temur Delver existing. Uro will likely be filling in Oko's spot in the Temur versions, which will single-handedly keep the deck around despite the likelihood of all Delver versions decreasing in meta percentage and results. Multicolored midrange decks are clear losers as well with the loss of Astrolabe and Oko. Midrange decks will certainly still exist in the format because of Uro, but you'll be seeing a lot less 4 color versions now.

The last deck I want to touch on is Esper Vial. Esper Vial lists right now consist of very few one drops because they want to maximize their Aether Vial on 2 or 3. With Astrolabe gone, the deck now has even less one drops depending on what you replace them with. Even though the deck does normally play Force of Will and Force of Negation, I'm not sure if it'll be enough to make up for how slow the rest of the deck is. One of the biggest benefits and reasons to play a Vial deck in Legacy is because your creatures never hit the stack to give your opponent the chance of countering them. In the winners section, I talked about how the number of blue decks will be decreasing and that makes the Vial deck seem less enticing. On the brightside, Oko being gone means you don't have to worry about your Vial turning into an Elk anymore.


Lurrus of the Dream-Den is unbanned.

I'm going to be straight-up with you because I think that it is very important to understand sources when reading articles that are mostly opinion-based like this one. I don't play Vintage. I don't watch Vintage. I used to when I worked the Vintage tournaments that my LGS used to hold, but I don't have enough knowledge of the current state of Vintage to feel justified writing about it. With that being said, I like that they unbanned Lurrus solely because it was originally banned before the change to how the Companion mechanic works. Now that Companion is nerfed, it'll be interesting to see if that was enough to slow down Lurrus or if Lurrus truly is too good for Vintage.

Ok. That was a lot. Big announcements get big response articles to go with them. I can't wait to see what our lives will be like in all of these formats now that we've seen major changes to all of them. Thank you all so much for reading this article and for supporting myself as well as Cardsphere. To end off this article, I would once again like to bring your attention to the amazing charity receiving the donation for this article: The DNA Doe Project -