Yesterday’s Banned & Restricted Announcement was a doozy. The vast majority of the community expected one to two bans to the Energy deck in some combination of Attune with Aether, Aether Hub, and Rogue Refiner. However, many players (including professionals) were blindsided by the hammer coming down on Ramunap Red’s namesake card, Ramunap Ruins, and an innocent dinosaur. All of this to process after a long weekend is giving me a splitting headache.
According to the article, Temur (Green/Red/Blue) Energy and Ramunap Red were 40% of the meta. These numbers do not include other energy variants such as Sultai (Black/Green/Blue) or four and five-colored variants. These bans essentially have erased 40% of the meta, improving some of the unaffected 60% and allowing some previously uncompetitive decks to become viable. Although dinosaurs were not doing particularly well, mid-range dinosaurs also took a hit.
The public outcry to nerf Energy variants were loud and the statistics backed up the outrage. The statistics cited indicated that Temur Energy need to be taken down because it had a 46% chance to win its worst matchup. It’s best matchup was 56.6% and the majority of matchups were greater than 50%. After sideboarding (games two and three), the deck only had one matchup that it was not favored to win, against Red/Green Electrostatic Pummeler, and even that matchup was only a 49.8% chance of a loss (essentially a 50/50 matchup). After sideboarding, all of the other matchups were greater than 50% and some even reached into the low 60% because of the deck’s colors and ability to play the best sideboard cards from anywhere between three and five colors.
The article mentions several other cards that were on the chopping block, but that they decided that the best way to take Temur Energy down was to ban the cards that provided “free” Energy: Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner. Attune with Aether is essentially Lay of the Land but you also get two “free” Energy. Attune with Aether also provided mana fixing which allowed Energy decks to play three to five colors and all of the best cards in those colors. Rogue Refiner provides insane value at a 3/2 body, drawing a card, and two “free” Energy with the converted mana cost just the 3/2 body (Ravenous Daggertooth). Killing a Rogue Refiner was always worse than a 1:2 trade because the opponent already got their card and Energy. These green and blue cards were obviously powerful because both Temur and Sultai Energy shared both colors and played both cards. Interestingly enough, the reasoning behind not banning Whirler Virtuoso was because it was strong against Ramunap Red, but then Ramunap Ruins got banned.
The decision to ban two cards from Ramunap Red is a little different. It was proactive, not reactive. Basically, Ramunap Red was favored to win all of its matchups except Temur Energy. This data indicated that if Temur were to take a hit, but Ramunap didn’t, then Ramunap would just fill the void left by Temur and we would be right back where we started. Ramunap Red had a 46-49% chance to beat all Energy variants, but had a greater than a 50% chance to beat every other deck in the format and some decks by 60-70%. Temur Energy was the only thing holding Ramunap Red back and Ramunap Red was preying on all of the decks that were being brewed to beat Temur Energy.
As a Ramunap Red player, the decision to ban Ramunap Ruins seems misguided to me, because not only rarely did I have five or six mana to be able to activate it in the first place, but that Hazoret the Fervent provides essentially the same end game reach. Perhaps they did not want to ban another Mythic Rare or open themselves up to criticism about banning one god, Hazoret, but not the ubiquitous and clearly undercosted The Scarab God. The decision to ban Rampaging Ferocidon was even stranger. The article itself admits that Rampaging Ferocidon was a sideboard card, and the only justification for banning it was that it hosed specific strategies, life gain and token generation, despite the fact that that’s exactly what a targeted sideboard card should do. Instead, I bet that the reasoning behind banning Rampaging Ferocidon was because the strategies that it targeted aligned exactly with one of the four Ixalan tribe’s identities: Vampires. Black and White Vampires excel at generating tokens with Lifelink, and they did not want one card that was practically good enough to run maindeck (I was running 4 maindeck), to single-handedly beat the entire theme of the latest block.
First of all, let’s look at how the bans affect Magic: the Gathering products. A pack of Kaladesh can now contain up to three banned cards: Attune with Aether, Smuggler’s Copter, and Aetherworks Marvel. The Kaladesh Nissa Planeswalker Deck is also no longer tournament legal. Neither of these things are good for newer players, and I hope that newer players aren’t buying Kaladesh packs and Planeswalker Decks as an entry point to FNM. If you are interested in how to start playing at the FNM level, you should read my article from two weeks ago.
Another non-meta-related impact: where are these stats coming from? Why don’t the players have access to them outside of Banned & Restricted Announcements? Transparency would be helpful. There are some different camps of thought here. On one side, stats would help the pros gain even more of an edge. On the other hand, pros already have the time and money to build all of the decks and play all of the matchups so they already have these statistics, too. Therefore, the statistics being common knowledge would only help the non-pros.
As far as decks go, Mono-White Vampires had already made some ripples before the bans and I expect it to do better now that bigger and faster decks have taken a hit. It also helps that a faster deck’s sideboard card is now gone.
The banning of Rampaging Ferocidon also improves the viability of the Blue/White Control Approach of the Second Sun life gain deck, which had a rough matchup against Ramunap Red and is currently 6% of the meta.
The colors that gain life, black, white, and green may see a slight uptick with the lack of the dinosaur. If the format slows down with the loss of Ramunap Ruins, black might also see an uptick because it often uses its life for benefits such as drawing cards with Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.
Mono-Black Aggro was already an alternative to Ramunap Red if you just wanted a mono-colored deck that went straight for the face. Although its impact was not felt as much, it was no slouch and I could see it taking at the very least a portion of Ramunap Red’s share of players who prefer playing the “fastest” aggro deck.
I would also not be surprised to see some former Ramunap Red players behind Mardu (Black/White/Red) Vehicles’ comeback, but it may be short-lived because it’s a three color deck that has mana issues. While Temur Energy had Attune with Aether and Aether Hub to fix its mana three-color decks like Mardu Vehicles, Dinosaurs, and Pirates do not have access to efficient ways of producing three different colored mana.
Finally, I expect to see R/G Pummeler go down in popularity. The two decks that it preyed on just took a major hit and don’t forget that Pummeler itself used Attune with Aether.
All of this looks likely, but that’s without the impact of Rivals of Ixalan, which is officially released Friday of this week (just like the bans).
The next Banned & Restricted Announcement is less than a month away, February 12, 2018. That announcement will take place after Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan but will not be effective until two weeks later and after Modern Grand Prix Lyon, February 25, 2018. Many suspect that WotC did not want to shake up the Grand Prix and that we will actually see some unbannings, instead of bannings, in Modern.
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