5 Potential Bans in Magic: the Gathering's Next B&R Update

Credit: WotC

Credit: WotC


Last Tuesday, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) announced an upcoming Magic: the Gathering Banned & Restricted (B&R) list update on Monday, March 9. This update will ban or restrict at least one card in one or more of Magic’s Constructed formats: Standard, Commander Pioneer, Modern, Legacy, Pauper, and Vintage.

This is the first update to the list we’ll get under WotC’s revamped B&R system. Starting this year, instead of announcements scheduled soon after each new Standard set release, Wizards will only announce a ban when new cards are hitting the list. They promised players a week’s notice, and we’re seeing that here.

Cue the many jokes on social media about WotC announcing an announcement. They didn’t even clue us in on which format will see a ban! Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you feel about this issue, this lack of information has provided us with a week of exciting—or tiresome—speculation about Magic’s latest addition to the list of the game’s most broken cards in history.

In this list, I’ll go over the most likely ban scenarios, ordered according to how strongly I feel about the card or cards in question. If you find something you disagree with, as I’m sure people will, feel free to leave a comment on the site or on social media, and I’ll gladly discuss potential bans with you!

  1. Standard - Teferi, Time Raveler will be banned.

    Why it could be banned: Frankly, I think that a banning in Standard is very unlikely, if not impossible. But if WotC did decide to take action after a dominant showing by Paolo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s Azorius Control deck at the 2020 World Championships, then they will probably go after the card that leads to the most unfun game states. Banning Teferi would make straight UW a less attractive option and make three color decks other than Bant and Jeskai stronger by comparison.


    Why it won’t be banned: The format is in a really interesting place right now! Control, Midrange, and Aggro are all playable—Combo, too, if you stretch the definition to include sacrifice synergy decks, and players can play almost any combination of colors without giving up a ton of win percentage. 

    Sure, decks featuring Teferi do sit at the top of the heap of metagame decks, and the card is as enjoyable to play against as drywall, but I don’t think the Time Raveler warrants a banning. Theros: Beyond Death was an incredibly powerful set, and I’m sure players want to see a Standard that has access to as many awesome cards as possible.


  2. Modern - Splinter Twin will be unbanned.

    Why it could be unbanned: I think this B&R update announcement has also given players the opportunity to discuss potential unbans in Modern, which has reached a pretty spectacular power level with the release of Theros: Beyond Death. 

    Splinter Twin was originally banned because having access to the combo made all the Blue decks look the same and pushed out other strategies. Now, a lot of very good players believe that the Twin combo deck would be merely great in the format and not broken. New and better answers to the combo also exist, such as Veil of Summer and Mystical Dispute, which mess with the combo deck’s counterspells in a big way. The deck can also give Urza and Amulet decks a run for their money and force them to make deckbuilding concessions.


    Why it will stay banned: I personally believe that Splinter Twin will never leave the Modern banned list, mostly for the same reasons it was banned in the first place. In the archetype’s heyday, players were jamming the combo into Control and Midrange shells on top of playing a  dedicated combo deck. 

    Unbanning the card could force Blue mages to choose between Twin combo and Urza shells, with little room to innovate in between. 


  3. Pioneer - WotC will ban several cards.

    Why this could happen: Pioneer is extremely polarizing right now. It seems like half of players really enjoy playing this combo-filled format, especially since games between the top three decks, Dimir Inverter, Lotus Breach, and Heliod, are incredibly interesting and complex. 

    Of course, leaving the format in a state where the top three decks can all win out of nowhere, while also managing to interact and apply pressure at the same time, could disenfranchise a lot of players who were attracted to Pioneer from the start. 

    Pioneer was supposed to be the format where you could play your favorite Standard deck from the past decade, but with cool upgrades from other sets. Ever since the release of Theros: Beyond Death, the format has looked nothing like that. 

    The three top decks all revolve around brand new cards: Thassa’s Oracle, Underworld Breach, and Heliod, Sun-Crowned. Therefore, to make the format feel like it did just after its inception, WotC should target these three decks heavily.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if WotC take this route, banning Inverter of Truths, which was total garbage before Oracle was printed, Heliod, and Underworld Breach. This type of action would be pretty consistent with previous bans that removed two-card game winning combos.


    Why this won’t happen: On the other hand, it’s not exactly clear how WotC wants to position Pioneer as Constructed Magic’s newcomer. The three top decks are pretty unique, with each archetype playing out very differently despite sharing the combo aspect.

    In terms of diversity, too, it doesn’t seem like there’s a grave problem. Sultai Delirium and Niv-to-Light both exist as competitive Midrange options, while mages on either end of the archetype spectrum have access to powerful tools for their monocolor aggro decks and Azorius Control. 

    There are also safety valves built into Pioneer that can make battling against the Big 3 a satisfying challenge rather than a chore. If WotC want to let the format come into its own and adapt around Inverter, Breach, and Heliod, then they won’t exercise the nuclear option.

    Finally, it would be a pretty devastating blow to the players’ confidence in the developers of Magic if so many cards from the newest set were to hit the banlist at once. Players should be assured that they get to play the cards they purchase, and a huge swin of the banhammer would hurt a lot of collections.

  4. Modern - Once Upon a Time will be banned.

    Why it could be banned: Players realized pretty quickly that printing Once Upon a Time was a huge error on WotC’s part. Wizards themselves owned up to their mistake and banned the card in Standard and Pioneer.

    Many players, myself included, believe that the card is a net negative for the game and should be “unprinted,” or banned in all formats and basically forgotten. Having access to a free spell that hits everything you want to hit in Green decks and that digs so deep makes decks too consistent

    Deck consistency is definitely desirable to a great extent in Constructed formats, but OUAT just makes games play out the same way too often. It may make decks better, but it also makes games repetitive and therefore unenjoyable. 

    Thanks to the OUAT and to the recent printing of Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, Amulet Titan is currently on a rampage through Modern. Banning OUAT would make games more interesting and would bring the deck down a notch while still leaving its core intact.


    Why it won’t be banned: With the introduction of Pioneer, WotC may want to differentiate the formats in a way that allows OUAT to continue doing its thing in various Green decks. 

    The way I see it, OUAT is too good in Standard and Pioneer because there aren’t enough options to keep Green decks from homogenizing, but it’s terrible in Legacy where Blue cantrips are the name of the game and decks are land and creature light. This way, Modern’s identity can be the format where Green has the best card selection and consistency. 


  5. Pioneer - Dig Through Time will be banned.

    Why it could be banned: Let’s all just admit it: Dig Through Time has been living on borrowed time since Pioneer debuted. It may not have access to Graveyards stocked with fetchlands and one-mana spells, which is what got it banned in the other formats. But it’s still an incredibly powerful card selection spell that can be cast as early as turn four in Blue decks. Alongside Thoughtseize and Treasure Cruise, it’s one of the cards that many players didn’t expect to see legal in the format at the start of the year.

    Banning Dig on Monday would line Pioneer’s banlist up with that of older formats, while still giving Inverter and Breach decks the opportunity to adapt. It would also represent a more reserved attitude by WotC towards Pioneer bannings, one that gives the format time to grow before taking action. 


    Why it won’t be banned: Oh, it’s going to be banned, all right.

    I love Dig as much as the next person, but I simply cannot justify its existence in Pioneer. WotC announced this announcement for a reason; a card is definitely getting banned. 

    Whatever happens in other formats, Dig Through Time being put to pasture, either alone or with the worst offenders from Theros: Beyond Death

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