On 5/18 Lurrus of the Dream-Den has been banned, not just in legacy, but something that has never happened before, type 1/Vintage as well. For the first time ever, a card has been banned on the grounds of power level from Vintage, a format that has an assortment of powerful cards, including the power 9, Sol Ring, Library of Alexandria, every card from Urza and Mirrodin blocks, and so on.
Now, Lurrus wasn't just banned in Vintage, he was also banned in Legacy, which makes sense, Legacy is Vintage-lite, which has a ban list instead of a restriction list. Four cards in total had been banned across three formats, Lurrus being banned in both Vintage and Legacy, Zirda, the Dawnbreaker also in Legacy, and finally Drannith Magistrate and Winota, Joiner of Forces. Now if you include Lutri, the Spellchaser, who was banned by the Rules Committee when spoiled, you have five cards banned across four formats.
I don't believe in the history of the game, any card had ever been banned before it's release to the general public. I know Memory Jar had an extremely early emergency ban, but that card was still released. However we aren't here to talk about Lutri, or the Rules Committee. They aren't technically part of WotC, and as such, have some leniency, although these days its getting hard to tell how far removed they are from Wizards. However, Lurrus isn't banned in EDH which contradicts the statements "Commander is played with vintage legal cards." However given the number of times I've been seeing silver bordered cards and ponies at LGS tables, I'm sure that rule has only been a suggestion for some time.
"We recognize that it's a rare occurrence to ban a card for balance reasons in Vintage rather than restricting it, but this is a unique case where restricting Lurrus wouldn't affect its usage as a companion, which is the primary motivation for making this change."--Ian Duke
Honestly, when I initially drafted this, I had assumed Standard/Type 2 would have a ban card, and did four cards in four formats, since banning cards in Standard since Kaladesh has become the chic thing to do, within the last year four cards have been banned formats, one of whom, Oko, Thief of Crowns, has sort of become the poster child of unbalanced Magic cards, being banned in four formats,Standard, Modern, Pioneer, and Brawl. I have a feeling Lurrus is soon going to take that down. Currently Lurrus sees play in a multitude of formats, in fact, he is seeing play in all of them. He replaced Liliana of the Veil of in Modern Jund, he has burn decks running Mishra's Bauble. It chaos. In fact 87% of decks in the recent modern challenge ran Lurrus. This however isn't due to the nature of his graveyard retreivel mechanic, which while good, isn't broken. Instead it's his companion mechanic that's the issue here.
Years ago I read an article about a mechanic Mark Rosewater designed while working on Tempest, which he dubbed 'the forbidden mechanic'. In his own words, it was the most powerful mechanic he ever designed, even more so then the 'free' mechanic in Urza block. It basically was a mechanic that would guarantee a card in your starting hand. He said the cards would have been minor, and you would have to jump through a hoop, but he still determined removing that much variance would be detrimental to the game, and the mechanic was quickly scrapped.
It seems almost like he forgot this lesson. Companion is by design, a guaranteed extra card in your hand, except it can't be tucked or discarded, or interacted with at all. While the deck building requirements are admittedly interesting, they aren't by any means even. Lurrus simply requires you to have no permanents (not cards) with a CMC greater than 2. Zirda simply requires every permanent to have an activated ability. There are some that have creature type restrictions, cards in your deck only have odd/even converted mana cost, and one that requires you to have 20 more cards in your deck. They look fun in a vacuum, even possibly for another game entirely.
"We don't not make things we think will be enjoyable in newer formats because their is the potential of them being good in older formats"--Mark Rosewater 5/9/2020
The biggest issue seems to be a lack of play testing, which has come up more frequently, as WotC tries to release an ever increasing amount of product. However their are two larger issues to this as well. First is the issue of Magic being 27 years old. Vintage and Legacy don't make much money for WotC, if any. I don't blame them for not play testing how well a card interacts with a Tolarian Academy or a Black Lotus. Basically Legacy is getting the same treatment in post Pioneer world, as Vintage got when they started pushing Legacy, and if the game survives, in ten years they will being doing that to Modern. Further more, the majority of the player base will never encounter some of these cards anyway. So while, in a perfect world, they would have the resources to work on every format, I don't blame them too much in that regard. After all, this isn't the first card that generates obscene value with a Black Lotus.
The second is a long term loss for a short term gain. In recent sets, their have been an increased release of powerful chase cards. Oko, Field of the Dead, Once Upon a Time, and Underworld Breach had been banned in multiple formats, with Underworld being banned in Legacy, being dubbed by some as a strictly better Yawgmoth's Will. Naturally these cards exist to push packs, in an otherwise lack luster set. Avoiding any conspiracy theories about Oko and virtue signaling, Oko was still pushed hard, being such an oppressive presence when he hits the board, it could be nearly impossible to recover from, well without your own Oko. The mentality has become "If a card becomes problematic we will just ban it, after we sell the product". This makes for both a terrible standard environment, in which playing it even locally on any level but competitive is all but impossible, and a insecure environment, where no player can be sure their investment will hang around. A standard deck can cost several hundred dollars, and when you only get to run that for a few months at most, it leaves a bad feeling for the player in question.
It use to be cards being banned in standard was a rare affair, and would occasionally conflict with already established products. I remember you could run Stoneforge Mystic in standard, as long as you played the event deck as is out of the box. My favorite story to this as follows. My twin one Friday calls me up and asks if I would be interested in playing in standard FNM. This being a rare occurrence I took him up on it, since he rarely plays. So what did he do? He bought a starter deck at Wal-Mart, the Nissa Kaladesh deck built around Energy Counters. The common in the deck, Attune with AEther had been banned. He said "who bans a common?" and left the event. It was the last time he ever went with me to a FNM event. This is just one example, but I'm sure it's happened to others.
The next mechanic in question is Mutate. Despite another blow in the death knell of enchantments (especially local enchantments), its a rules nightmare. Besides the issues that stems from stacking cards on top of cards, there's the issue how it works with clone effects. Since at least 6th edition, a clone effect copies a card as printed, unless the card says otherwise. The best example I can give to this is how Vesuvan Doppleganger is always blue, or Quicksilver Gargantuan is always a 7/7. Things that don't get copied is counters, any temporary or permanent changes to the power or toughness (like Sorceress Queen or Riding the Dilu Horse), text changes, color changes, or any other temporary changes. It's my understanding that isn't how it works with a mutated creature, and if you copy it, you copy all the changes onto that creature. This doesn't just include the changes brought upon by the mutated creature, but any additional non-counter permanent changes to the creature as well. Since it "changes the characteristics of the creature". This isn't the case with Mutate, as copying a mutated creature mutates all characteristics as well. This I understand, copies changes made to the card from other sources as well (but I admit, I'm not certain of this).
This mechanic becomes a rules headache, in addition to a number of other issues that have come up with the rule (such as blink effects), and is hard to keep track of on paper. It isn't however, hard to keep track of on Arena, like another card in the set.
Yeah that effect works well in paper, as do most random effects. They work even better online though. I think the way this mechanic works is a hint about WotC and designing for a digital client. There is a Chinese Whisper I've heard that phasing is making a comeback in the next core set, and while I usually don't share rumors, especially on my public blog, I do find this interesting. It's been said that phasing would work well on a digital client, because the memory aspects would be automated. I think it's interesting to watch for that, since there has been at least one card with Phasing printed in recent years. Combine this with WotC seemingly abandon of older formats entirely, and you have
While it's still to early to be certain, but I have a bad feeling about the direction this product is going. I wish I was more well versed in the comics and sports card bubbles, because what I know, Magic is starting to resemble their end. With an ever increase in pushing limited premium products to artificially create scarcity. Whether it be alternative foil all-star cards, chrome and ghost covers, or borderless alt-art foils with pop culture icons on it, it's the same.
I think WotC will continue this route until the cardboard market nukes itself, and then will move to a digital exclusive product. However, it's very possible, and I hope I'm right, that I'm wrong. I enjoy the social aspects of the game, and that's my favorite aspect of it.
Standard cards currently banned in at least one format total: 10