Ban list update
As I stated when I did the last ban list revision (unbanning Black Vise on May 16) I’d do the next revision after the Swedish Nationals, and now that time has come. One should not generalize too much from any given tournament, especially before a clearer meta has been established, but for what it’s worth the results from the Nationals showed a rather varied mix of decks overall as well as in the top 8. In light of this, and based on other testing and input from the community up to this point, no cards are added to the ban list.
The main piece of news is instead that Land Tax is unbanned.
The reason for putting Land Tax on the ban list in the first place was mainly a concern that it could be used in a blue-white control deck to quickly establish a soft lock with Forbid, or just generate an unfair amount of card advantage with Scroll Rack. This “engine” can be set up fairly easy with support cards like Enlightened Tutor, Mox Diamond and Zuran Orb and/or Trade Routes.
This is the deck I’ve been testing:
While this deck has certainly felt strong in testing, it also felt very beatable. Land Tax is a strong draw engine, but so is Standstill, Fact or Fiction and Accumulated Knowledge. In the end, “Tax-Rack” is a control deck much like others. It must be able to deal with a wide variety of threats and whether this is successful or not boils down to much more than the choice of draw engine. Choosing Land Tax as your engine also puts several restrictions on how you can build your deck, so it does come with a cost. Worst comes to worst, Land Tax can be removed with a Disenchant, or one of its many cousins. (Perhaps Hull Breach, and you can remove a Mox Diamond or a Scroll Rack too?)
Besides enabling Tax-Rack, this unban also enables a few other deck archetypes, e.g. Tax-Edge with Land’s Edge or Seismic Assault and white weenie with Empyrial Armor. This is a good thing and neither of these decks should be too strong.
Watch list update
Besides the one change to the ban list, the following cards are removed from the watch list:
The motivation for these changes are as follows. The “sol lands” Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors have not proven to be particularly broken. Besides the built-in drawbacks of these cards, there is also a real cost of running colorless lands in most decks, not least because the absence of the original dual lands. There is also an alternative cost, in the sense that the colorless land slots compete with cards like Mishra’s Factory, Wasteland and Rishadan Port.
Illusions of Grandeur was on the watch list partly out of fear of Trix (i.e. the combo deck based on Illusions of Grandeur and Donate, see the decks page) being a too strong deck. Although I’d rank Trix as a tier one deck in the format at this point, it has not proven to be too strong in testing nor in tournaments up to this point. Another reason for putting Illusions of Grandeur on the watch list is that it can be abused with Yawgmoth’s Bargain to draw 20 extra cards. If the synergy between these two cards is found to be too strong in the future, it seems more natural to ban Bargain instead of Illusions, however, as the former is clearly the more broken one.
I have experience with Standstill from UW control and Lands (both featured on the decks page). These are two very good decks, and Standstill is often a very good card, but as mentioned above in the discussion about Land Tax, there are several other good draw engines to choose from as well. And just like Land Tax, Standstill comes at a cost of building your deck in a certain way.
The only card remaining on the watch list is thus Yawgmoth’s Bargain.
In a vacuum, this card appears to be too strong for Premodern, especially given the choice to allow all fast mana in the card pool, except for Mana Vault and Grim Monolith. The Bargain decks I’ve seen so far have certainly proved to be capable of quick kills (see e.g. Per Algander’s Bargain Storm on the decks page), but in the absence of an obvious win-con like Tendrils of Agony (which is banned) and premium filtering like Brainstorm (also banned), these decks seem to be lacking in consistency (compared to e.g. the Trix deck) and are also vulnerable to cards like Gaea’s Blessing as well as potential sideboard cards like Arcane Laboratory and Null Rod. The fact that both Sligh and Goblins, which I’d both rank as tier one decks, are capable of quickly taking large chunks of life points (i.e. cards) away from the Bargain player might also help keeping the deck in check.
I’m sure that there are many ways to build around the card, and that more tuned versions can be found, however. Is Yawgmoth’s Bargain at its best in a storm build, or together with cards like Academy Rector or Replenish? Or perhaps just as a “finisher” in a mid-range or control deck? Here is one build that Samuel Korsell has worked on for a while. The deck combines a lot of different ideas and ties it all together with Burning Wish.
The format seems to be pretty open at this point and there are a lot of decks yet to be built and tested. At this point, many of you are probably in the process of building decks and are eager to start playing. I hope that the changes outlined above will provide for some stability so that you can dive into the format with confidence. The next ban list revision is expected to take place towards the end of 2018 and not before the European Championships held in Italy on October 28. In the future, I plan to revise the ban list once a year, but somewhat more frequent revisions may be necessary for some time ahead.
Happy brewing! 🙂 / Martin