MTG Arena August 2020 Banned and Restricted Announcement

by in Magic: The Gathering Arena | Aug, 4th 2020

Full Disclosure: This was meant to go out yesterday, but I had no desk to type at! But now that has changed, we’re ready to talk cards! MTG Arena revealed their August 2020 Ban and Restricted Announcement, and whoo is it a doozy! Standard saw four cards banned, Historic had two suspended, one for Brawl, and Pioneer a different set of four cards banned. Originally, this was set for Aug. 8 as far as we’re aware. However, a friend alerted me that it would drop yesterday, as he had already gotten his Wildcards back. So, what cards were banned, why, and was it worth it?

Spoiler Warning: 1,000% yes, it was worth it. Too late, but worth it.

Standard Bans:

  • Growth Spiral
  • Wilderness Reclamation
  • Teferi, Time Raveler
  • Cauldron Familiar

Historic Suspensions:

  • Wilderness Reclamation
  • Teferi, Time Raveler

All the Cards Banned Between 2017-2020

There have been 20 bans from 2017 to 2020, most recently Fires of Invention and Agent of Treachery. That may not sound like a big deal until you consider years 2006 – 2016: TWO BANS. Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mindsculptor were both banned between those years, and that’s it. What happened between now and then to make so many bans? There’s a lot that could be said. I don’t have the insider scoop, but my best guess is poor testing. Many of these cards should have never seen the light of day in the first place. Oko? Are you kidding? One change, and he’d have been fine.

Power Creep has been a real threat to MTG Arena lately. If I’m 100% honest, I’ve barely touched Standard this year. Once Historic became a permanent fixture, I gave up on Standard. Why? Because T3feri (Teferi, Time Raveler) makes the game completely unfun. I cannot think of a card that I hate less and used more than Teferi. We’ll get into that why very shortly.

The meta has been a stale, awful place. One deck dominates everything, and then it gets banned out. Then another deck takes its place, rinse, repeat. It’s a result of power creep and not considering how a Magic player thinks. If a player knows a deck has a 60-70% chance of winning and can build it, they likely will. They may not enjoy it, but they’ll do it to get wins. It becomes less about building something fun and competitive that you enjoy. Why do that when you can just build the OP deck of the month and grind to Mythic in one day with it?

Wizards insist that there’s a wide variety of decks across all play levels, except the top. They are looking at the latest PTs and other high-level tournaments that might seem to be the case. This last tournament was “Wilderness Reclamation versus the World,” after all. In MTG Arena, it’s the same thing. Mythic is almost nothing but Wilderness Reclamation it feels like. I played a set of matches the other day that featured 10 of them back to back. With the COVID-19 era in full swing, the pace people can play Standard MTG Arena is much faster, now that they can’t go to card shops. Instead of just letting these rotate out soon, Wizards took an active stance with the MTG Arena August 2020 ban and restricted announcement.

However, these came far, far too late. Too many players I know are just burnt out on how frustrating and boring Standard had become. The cards listed below just ruined the game for many people (even the people who ran them in some cases!) and had no business being around in the first place. So, what disappeared?

Growth Spiral was the most powerful mana ramp spell in the entire game. It is a common for 2 mana that casts at instant speed, lets you draw a card, and plays an extra land for turn? Do it at the end of your opponent’s turn, then just play another one! The latest Players Tour saw 68% of the Day 1 decks running Growth Spiral in some fashion. The Arena ladder, according to WOTC, states that about 25-30% of the Mythic decks contain the card. Ramp was in such a powerful place that you almost had to run ramp decks to get wins. Ugin Ramp, Nissa Ramp, Wilderness Reclamation Ramp, you name it. You did it to win.

How in God’s good name did Wilderness Reclamation ever get printed?! If this had been the only card on the August 2020 ban and restricted announcement, I’d be happy as a clam. Wilderness Reclamation decks have been the strongest in the meta, with only a few coming anywhere near its dominating force. 54% of the decks in the PT Finals were Wilderness Rec decks! Why? Because it’s an enchantment that lets you untap all your mana at the end of turn. The way it works is you get a few on the table (though that’s overkill), and use them to cast Explode and One-Shot a player. It’s even better if you paired it with Teferi, Time Raveler, so there’s no stress about counterplay.

Wilderness Reclamation and Growth Spiral were often combined with the next banned card, Teferi, Time Raveler. Wizards considered banning this card, apparently for months, but have not. Why? Because it was “helping hold Wilderness Reclamation decks in check. With Wilderness Reclamation leaving the environment, we feel it’s also time for the Standard metagame to move on without Teferi, Time Raveler.”

But was it holding Wilderness Reclamation in check? Was it? Sources say: No. Teferi, Time Raveler, or T3feri (because there are multiple Teferi’s right now) created incredibly hopeless situations. He prevents the other player from casting spells at instant speed; this completely negates all counterplay. All you can hope to do is play spells at sorcery speed on your turn and pray they don’t have a counterspell (they do). He oppressed the game state, and made every match he was in incredibly tedious and frustrating. His power to let you cast sorcery-speed board wipe at instant speed was equally damning.

While these cards were crippling and infuriating, they were on the way out. Cauldron Familiar, however, was going to be around for quite a long time. This sounds like taking appropriate action before the next set could make Cauldron Familiar even more annoying. Rakdos (Black/Red) Sacrifice decks are also a very high win-rate deck. Jund Sacrifice (Black/Green/Red) is just as good too. You combine the Cauldron Familiar and several Witch’s Ovens to constantly loop sacrifice damage/life gain for almost no cost.

It created matches where you forced other decks to play even faster if they wanted even a winning prayer. It also dropped tons of really annoying triggers on the stack, and players have to respond to them each time. That’s not a bad thing, but it is pretty annoying, I guess. But Cauldron Familiar gave players a near-guaranteed win as long as their ability to play cards from the grave is unimpeded. The thing about Sacrifice Decks is that they’ll still be very good. Not unstoppable, but incredibly good post-ban. Wilderness Reclamation decks don’t need to be here in the first place.

Brief Discourse on Historic

Historic in MTG Arena is already wild, thanks to Jumpstart and the forthcoming Amonkhet Remastered sets. When they got rid of Nexus of Fate, I feel that Wizards thought their Historic problems were over! Not at all! Wilderness Reclamation and Teferi, Time Raveler came out of the woodwork in droves! Temur Reclamation in Historic felt overwhelmingly powerful with Expansion // Explosion and Field of the Dead. Teferi and Wilderness aren’t banned, just Suspended. It means they are going to look at how the meta changes without those cards in it.

Since the suspension went down for me in the day, I started to see a lot more variety in the meta. High Alert, Mono-Blue, Goblins, Vampires, Mono-White Lifegain, and all flavors of weird janky nonsense. But they were able to come back without fear! There are so many new cards in the Historic meta right now, with more to come. So let’s show Wizards that they were right to get rid of those cards! Let the meta flow free with wild nonsense! Build the craziest, ridiculous decks you can think of and grind those ranked matches!

I’ve been in the lab myself with stuff like Elfball, High Alert, UW Bogles, Mono-Black Control and Grixis Discard. You name it, I’ve tried it! With that in mind, we’re looking at a new Standard blog to see just what will shake up the meta now that these cards were banned!

I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too! Feel free to hop in my DMs on Twitter to drop ideas, things you think are interesting, whatever! If you want their full discussion on the August 2020 ban and restricted announcement, click this link.

It’s a very good time to be a Magic player. So many awful things left the game, hopefully forever. All we can do now is wait and see if it’s going to be a pattern! Hopefully, 2021 doesn’t see as many bans as 2020 did. Not out of stubbornness, but out of better card design.


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