Wizards of the Coast bans Field of the Dead in one format and Arcum's Astrolabe in another. This as the company moves up the regularly-scheduled Magic: The Gathering banned and restricted announcement up from Nov. 18 to address issues they say are caused by the cards.
Effective Oct. 25 on paper, Oct. 24 on MTG Arena, and Oct. 21 on Magic Online, Field of the Dead has been banned from Standard play. The card was mostly featured alongside Golos, Tireless Pilgrim in a deck that WotC says had a much too high win rate and restricted the space of other would-be-viable decks in the format as the deck it's most common in took over some 42% of the field at Mythic Championship V this past weekend. Field of the Dead has the ability to provide its player with a constant stream of 2/2 zombie tokens and can easily go over the top with hyper-aggressive plays. The issues, however, go beyond simple card strength according to WotC.
"Field of the Dead presents a number of other problems for the metagame," says WotC's Ian Duke. "The repetitive, on-board nature of its effect can cause games to frequently play out in a similar, deterministic way. Since Field of the Dead is a land, it can be difficult for many archetypes to interact with, further limiting the metagame's ability to react. Finally, the long-term advantage Field of the Dead provides often leads to prolonged games. We've observed a marked increase in matches going to time in tabletop tournaments and in average game length in digital play."
Duke points out that the decision has been one WotC has been considering at some time. The card's prevalence at Mythic Championship V, while a factor, was not the only reason.
"This change is not a direct reaction to the results of that event," he comments. "In general, a single tournament is only ever a part of the bigger picture when we consider B&R changes."
In Pauper, the Modern Horizons card Arcum's Astrolabe is no longer allowed. The ban comes as WotC has seen the card's rise to become one of the most ever-present cards across the format's archetypes.
In short, it made color fixing too easy in a format which has a card pool that makes for otherwise challenging multicolor play.
"As many decks would adopt Arcum's Astrolabe purely for color fixing anyway, it becomes 'free' to gain additional value from it being a cheap artifact and card-advantage engine," says Duke. "To some degree, the metagame has shifted toward selecting for the best Arcum's Astrolabe deck."
WotC points out that there has been a substantial rise in three-plus-color Skred decks, as well as red-white Glint Hawk decks in both proliferation and in win rate due to Arcum's Astrolabe's involvement. The pauper format aside from decks that rely on Arcum's Astrolabe has "healthy diversity," according to WotC.
None of Magic's other formats saw any changes this time around.