MTG Arena June 2020 Banned and Restricted Announcement

by in Magic: The Gathering Arena | Jun, 1st 2020

What a major day for MTG Arena! This might be the biggest MTG Arena news day we’ve had all year (and will have all year). After the debacle that was Oko, perhaps Wizards are keeping a better eye on what’s disrupting play. But what confuses me, is why it took so long for MTG Arena/Wizards to ban Fires of Invention! It was clearly showing up everywhere and had at least a 55% win percentage.

You could slap it into any deck that had access to red mana and do filthy things without much fear. It was worse when you paired it with cards that prevented counterplay: Teferi, as an example. Anything that stopped cards of yours from being countered made Fires of Invention horrifyingly powerful.

It and Agent of Treachery both saw bans in Historic/Standard, but that’s not all we have to talk about! Companion is a mechanic introduced in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and it has been incredibly divisive. It’s so powerful, having access to a guaranteed eighth card in your hand that you don’t have to do anything extra for, other than obeying some deckbuilding rules.

Let’s discuss these changes today. It’s important to note that both cards were “Suspended” in Historic. That could be revoked somewhere down the line. But for Standard? It’s the ban hammer for ya!

RIP in Peace, Agent and Fires

Both Fires of Invention and Agent of Treachery both received a ban in MTG Arena, for Standard and Historic. Fires of Invention, in particular, has a terrifying win rate of 55% as we said. It has a favorable match-up against so many decks in the Tier 1/Tier 2 decks.

There was no way to stop this deck other than simply banning what makes the deck archetype go. They also tested for the future and found Fires of Invention incredibly difficult to balance and design around. With more cards, more power would mean Fires of Invention would just spiral out of control wildly.

What made Fires of Invention so destructive and powerful is that you don’t even need the right mana in a deck to play cards. This removed the need for cards that altered what your lands could do/cards that give additional mana. All you need is a turn-4 Fires of Invention in MTG Arena, and whatever lands you want. It’s even worse when you can fish out multiple lands a turn from all manner of sources.

Fires of Invention made so many decks overwhelmingly powerful. You could play huge creatures without paying their mana, and then activate haste/buff abilities (Cavalier of Flames), and just swing lethal as soon as they dropped on the board. But what about our other ban?

Agent of Treachery is a major focal point of the various Winota, Joiner of Forces and Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast decks. The problem is you put a 7-cost card like Agent of Treachery in play on turn 4. Winota lets you look at the top cards of your deck and pick a human to put into play, also attacking. This happens every trigger of a non-human attacking. So in theory, you could pull two or three Agents in the same attack phase.

So what’s so bad about that? Agent of Treachery steals permanents from your opponent when he comes into play. Being able to play such a powerful, high-cost creature on turn 4 at the earliest is terrifying. Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast can do this on Turn 5, so it’s just as devastating.

Lukka uses his -2 to exile a creature you control. Then you reveal the cards of your deck until you get a higher-cost creature, then you put it into play. You can just exile a token or a 1-cost, and get a 7-cost if you build your deck for it.

Being able to start stealing your opponent’s lands on turn 4, it’s no surprise that Agent of Treachery saw the same MTG Arena ban that Fires of Invention did. Once that starts happening, it’s incredibly hard to come back. It’s worse when the decks run Yorion or Thassa to bounce Agent out of play and back into play.

This leads me to one of the problems with MTG as a whole. I love the card game, but being physical and digital means they can’t balance cards after they come into existence. These changes should help the meta be less devastating to play in, and offer some potential comebacks in hard situations.

Speaking of balance, Companions saw a major rule/mechanic change, to make them far more balanced.

Companions, Come Forth!

Companions aren’t going anywhere, don’t worry. Normally, Wizards doesn’t make rule changes in a Ban/Restriction announcement, but this is a very special occasion. The Companion mechanic harms balance and the overall Standard/Competitive experience. With this coming update, the Companions are going to be changed in a minor, but important way.

So, here’s what the new rule is, according to Wizards of the Coast, verbatim:

“Once per game, any time you could cast a sorcery (during your main phase when the stack is empty), you can pay 3 generic mana to put your companion from your sideboard into your hand. This is a special action, not an activated ability. It happens immediately and can’t be responded to. It can’t be countered or stopped by cards like Phyrexian Revoker.”

This change is due to metagame data, and the play rates of companion decks in all formats, versus the non-companion decks. The companion decks are reported to have much higher winrates versus their counterparts. We’ve already seen bans for some of the companions in Legacy and Vintage before they were even available!

That’s how strong some of this power was. Instead of making a bunch of changes across format to format, they decided to remove the overall advantage the companions represented. The result is to slow down companions a little, while also making them still useful. We still have that guaranteed permanent to put in our hand.

But now, they can be responded to in so many more ways. One of the downsides to companions is that they couldn’t be forced into a discard situation. No Surgical Extraction, no Hymn to Tourach, no Thought Erasure. You just had to hope you had a counterspell for when it was played!

This additional mana cost slows down how quickly you can get one into play. Wizards feel that players will be more likely to cast their other spells before the companion and slow the game down by a turn. That may be just enough to set up counterplay. This is a really rare situation though.

While on a personal level, I’m less thrilled, because I do run a companion deck in Historic (Gyruda), I know we will mana ramp enough to likely be safe. This is a move that makes sense and will help the game state. Ikoria, despite having a feeling I like, has not been fun to play at all. I’ve only played Historic so much because my deck is outrageously powerful without using cards like Fires/Agent.

When Does This Take Effect?

As far as MTG Arena is concerned both sets of rules come into play on June 4. Magic Online will see this on June 1, as will tabletop. Magic Online’s bans are today, but the Companion Rules Update is on June 4, as well.

As usual, MTG Arena will receive Wildcards for as many of these as you have in your collection. They will also be adjusting the Throne of Eldraine and Core 2020 pack collation to change the rate in which those cards appear in boosters. After the game update, players will only receive them, if they have already collected playsets of every other Standard-legal card in the booster in question.

These changes will not impact the collation of cards in Limited boosters used in Throne of Eldraine or Core Set 2020 Sealed and Draft events (cards will still appear at their original distribution rate). As a final note, if you were entered into an event/draft using these cards, you are still eligible to participate. Your deck will be flagged as invalid, due to the ban. But you will still be able to complete events you were a part of.

The card bans and suspensions will immediately go into effect for all Standard and Historic play queues once maintenance on June 4 is complete. This includes Standard Ranked, Traditional Standard Play, Traditional Standard Ranked, Traditional Historic Ranked, and Historic Ranked.

Again, I’m very glad to see this change. Fires of Invention is a card I predicted to be banned, as was Agent. However, I also thought maybe Winota might go on the chopping block, but such was not the case. I’ll continue to draft and pick up decks to try, and keep you updated on both our Standard and Historic blogs.


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