Monday, 26 August 2019 11:28

Hogaak banned, SFM unbanned, and more changes hit 'Magic'

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Artwork from the Stoneforge Mystic GP promo. Artwork from the Stoneforge Mystic GP promo. WOTC / JOHANNES VOSS

Wizards of the Coast is shaking up a trio of Magic formats with the latest Banned and Restricted update.

Standard is seeing the fewest changes with Rampaging Ferocidon being removed from the format's banned list.  Wizards says returning the card to the format is so players have a better answer to the now popular Scapeshift and Orzhov Vampires decks.

"While we're generally happy with the health of the Standard metagame right now, we believe Rampaging Ferocidon will further improve the metagame's general balance and ability to self-correct for the remaining Core Set 2020 Standard season, until rotation with the release of Throne of Eldraine," says Ian Duke in the official announcement.

Magic's Vintage format gets four cards added to its restricted list, which means decks can now only run one copy of each.  Those cards are Karn, the Great Creator, Mystic Forge, Mental Misstep, and Golgari Grave-Troll.  Wizards says this is in part due to the game's change to using the London mulligan, which has proved problemental for certain cards and strategies..

"Recently, Karn, the Great Creator and Mystic Forge have turbo-charged Shops decks by giving them more early-game lockout potential (through Karn's static ability), a tutorable win condition (through Karn's -2 loyalty ability fetching Time Vault and Voltaic Key or Manifold Key), and card advantage in prolonged games (especially through Mystic Forge)," explains Duke.  "Relating to Karn's static ability, Vintage is the one format in Magic where players can enjoy playing with super powerful artifact mana like the Moxen, Sol Ring, and Black Lotus. We'd like to reduce the number of games that immediately come down to an early Karn preventing the opponent from casting spells."

WotC has decided to un-ban the classic card Fastbond in Vintage and says there has been discussion to unban both Necropotence and Windfall at some point in the future.

Of course, the announcements that are making the most buzz pertain to the Modern format.

Just a couple of days after MagicFest Las Vegas ran Modern as one of its two main events, WotC announced the bans of two popular and powerful cards: Faithless Looting and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis.  The former was a staple for a number of decks such as Hollow One and Bridgevine, but was mostly responsible as the key card in Izzet Phoenix and Dredge.  As for Hogaak, the company points to its extremely high win rate and how toxic the card and the decks that run it have become to the Modern format as a whole.

"...the results of Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona, several Grands Prix, and other tournaments have shown that Hogaak continues to have a high win rate and oppressive effect on the metagame," says Duke.  "In looking at the evolution of the archetype over time and the variety of successful ways to build the deck, it's clear that the card Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is the crux of the problem."

Finally, the news that many Magic players have been waiting for has finally come true as Stoneforge Mystic is once again involved in Modern play.  The card, which is a staple in Legacy with decks Death & Taxes and UW Stoneblade, was considered extremely overpowered at the time when it was new.  Since that time, WotC feels the Modern format has caught up with the card's power level.  However, the company says the decision isn't risk-free.

"The danger in reintroducing Stoneforge Mystic, and the reason it's remained on the banned list up until this point, is that it's at its strongest against straightforward decks that play to the battlefield," comments Duke.  "While we think it's unlikely, there is a scenario where Stoneforge Mystic could come to suppress this type of gameplay, in which case we would re-examine its legality (similar to Golgari Grave-Troll's history in Modern)."

These latest changes to Magic's banned and restricted lists take effect Sept. 4, 2019.

The complete official Magic: The Gathering ban/restricted list can be found here.