What a crazy time last week was. The remaining set of Echoes from the New World was revealed. A First Turn Kill was discovered and shared; we even wrote an article talking about countering said first turn kill. Jordan said they were aware of the first turn kill. Finally, to cap it all off: a ban announcement was made. …Oh yea, and pre-release for the set happened or something like that, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about.
Reactions to the bans overall seem to be positive and I personally agree with the ban updates. While we’ve already briefly gone over the possibilities of why the selected cards were banned or unbanned, I want to take the time to reflect on the repercussions of these updates and how they would affect their respective formats. Let’s start with Wanderer.
Morgiana is a card that when the ban list was first being speculated I felt should’ve been one of the first targets instead of Whispers from the Abyss for the Yggdor combo. So long as there are draw mechanics in the game, and there will be, Morgiana is a card where you get way too much value for her cost. But when I saw she was a promotional Wanderer League card, I had resigned that she was going to be staying. So consider me surprised at the news of her inclusion on this list. Her banning makes it so combo oriented decks don’t get their pieces so easily and should ultimately decrease the win rate of such decks. It’s a shame since I love her Promo art, but it was for the best.
Law of Silence has always been something of a dumb card, even if it got overwhelmed by Fire decks during its last moments in New Frontiers. In Wanderer, the card has become something of a promise to close out a game without worry of interference from your opponent. This is especially prevalent since Wind has firmly established itself as one of the stronger attributes in the format, with Fox being one of the strongest choices. It’s banning affirmed that even FoWCo thinks this advantage was a bit too good. This should ultimately weaken decks basically getting a free turn without worry. Decks that were using Law of Silence will probably switch over to Final Breeze as a replacement.
Finally, Pumpkin Witch has always been a problematic card when it came to New Frontiers and Wanderer. It enabled decks like Alice’s World and Fox to dominate by flooding the field with big swiftness resonators then bash in for the game or at least a ton of damage. Having so much kill power for only 3 will was way too powerful so its banning is understandable. Pumpkin Witch’s banning should cut down on sudden blowout victories by providing a bit more breathing room to respond to gigantic threats.
What was particularly fascinating about this ban update was that we also got the game’s first unbans! And they were significant unbans!
Let’s tackle the biggest fish here with Reflect/Refrain’s unbanning. It’s definitely surprising and while there a good number of people who think the Twins should’ve stayed banned, including our own website head Alex, I think this change is fine. Looking at the top decks in Wanderer right now:
Deck lists from HQ Games Wanderer 1k Top 8 Decklists. Click the image above to see a bigger version.
Lilias Petal. Gill Alhama’at. Turbo Fiethsing. Occasionally, an Arla 2.0 combo deck. One of the main reasons why Reflect/Refrain was such a dominant ruler was that whenever you had a deck concept that wasn’t strictly tied to the ruler, it was often just better to just run Reflect/Refrain because of the utility they provided. However, with these top Wanderer decks, that… isn’t as true anymore. For a Lilias Petal deck to function, it NEEDS Lilias Petal as the ruler. For Fiethsing Turbo to function, it NEEDS Fiethsing. Arla 2.0 NEEDS Arla 2.0 as it’s ruler. The only “maybe the Twins might be better” case is Gill Alhama’at stealth, but Ancient Magic has steadily become a very powerful mechanic. While Refrain can tutor for Black Moonbeam, Alhama’at can tutor for it AND cast it for effectively free, while still relaxing on his ruler side. Plus, Energize as a mechanic has pretty much killed off most of the Alice Cluster rulers in New Frontiers, with a few exceptions like Dark Alice managing to stay relevant.
Overall, Reflect’s unbanning is surprising, but when you think about it might not change the meta as much as people seem to worry about. Time will tell if this was an okay banning or if FoWCo made a mistake.
Next up is Seer of the Blue Moon, who I was sad to see initially banned because there was some potential for Croco-Sharks to be a contender in Wanderer. However, I think Seer’s unbanning goes hand in hand with Pumpkin Witch’s banning. With Pumpkin Witch still available, the Croco-Shark threat could’ve been too strong. It’s not too fun to fight a slew of 1000/1000 swift flyers possibly as early as turn 3. However, since Pumpkin Witch is out of the picture, it was deemed appropriate for Seer to play with the big boys once again. Croco-Shark strategists may well add Library of Alexandria as a means to get the swiftness effect, but without a way to get flying, the strategy should be kept in check. Alhama’at Stealth is one of the stronger decks in Wanderer at the moment, but Seer might take over that role ultimately with her unbanning.
Lastly, for Wanderer, we have Ruler’s Memoria, which… is probably the most head scratchy card for me to understand why it was unbanned. It’s basically perfect mana if you run a minimum of 0-cost regalia that is still used today in New Frontiers. However, I suppose with Laevateinn’s banning in Wanderer, there was almost no point to running other regalia. This might be an attempt to increase the use of regalia, but really I feel like only Fiethsing Turbo gets the most benefit from this unbanning. That and probably other j-ruler centered control decks like Dark Alice.
Now that we’re done with Wanderer, let’s talk about the two new bans in New Frontiers.
Laevateinn’s banning was a long time coming. I think the meta would’ve been fine without its removal, but since we’re having a ban update anyway, might as well remove it. There’s little to say that hasn’t already been said about Laevateinn’s power. Simply put: for a 0 cost permanent, it has way too much utility and provides way too much kill power for J-Ruler decks. Despite all this, it was still deemed “okay” because it allowed center rulers to become viable, even if the rest of their abilities were so-so (looking at you Yogg-Sothoth). With Pricia True Beastmaster, that power level was turned up to 11, winning games by turn 2. As a community, we’ve come up with answers to this threat, as we’ve done with every other threat, but it basically boiled down to play Deathscythe, play Alhama’at and have Rune of Sol in hand, or play Zero as an anti-meta deck.
The problem with those solutions is how it limits the game. What’s that? You mulligan aggressively for that Deathscythe but didn’t get one? Better hope your opponent doesn’t have the OTK in Han-and you’re dead. Too bad you weren’t playing Zero or you might’ve delayed the inevitable. Even if we do get what we need, the OTK is just one of Pricia’s several powerful game plans and it’s difficult to account for them all, though it is possible. Laevateinn’s banning gives players more breathing room in this regard, and though I expect some players to replace Laevateinn with Sprinting Flame Horse, I don’t think the OTK strategy will be nearly as efficient.
Besides Pricia, how else does Laevateinn’s banning change the meta? For one, J-Ruler centric decks are possibly dead in the water without the threat of swiftness. There is still the Flame Horse example, but part of the threat of Laevateinn was the suddenness and no-color commitment it had. I don’t see Val 2.0 running the horse anytime soon for instance, though I could be mistaken.
What I suppose I’m trying to convey is that J-Rulers who naturally have a way to obtain swiftness might become more appealing to J-Ruler centric decks. J-Rulers like: Nyarlathotep, the True False Legend; Lumia, Saint of the Crimson Lotus; Gill Lapis, Rebel of Darkest Fires; and of course, Reincarnated Maiden of Flame, Pricia (even if only through her God’s Art). Though, Pricia and Lumia already see a good amount of play, the new remove from game cards that were introduced in Echoes from the New World might give Gill Lapis some nicely needed aggressive power.
And finally, we come to Horn of Sacred Beasts, possibly the instigator of this sudden ban in New Frontiers. Without it, Laevateinn may well have survived its 3 months till retirement, but since Horn had to go, FoWCo probably saw it fit to take out a highly disliked card as well. And the reasoning for Horn’s ban is perfectly valid; it allowed the First Turn Kill discovered last week.
What are the further repercussions of Horn’s banning though? Decks no longer have a way to reliably get back all their resources back into their deck, and while there are other cards like Miracle Millennia Medicine and Time Altering Stone that have a similar effect, it’s not to the same scale on top of costing will. Because of this, reincarnation decks might become more appealing to some players and resonators like Valentina, the Crumbling Illusion become stronger.
Another trick Horn removed was a ‘Infinite Life’ combo with Yggdrasil, Malefic Verdant Tree, where even if the Tree player was with no cards in their deck, so long as they had Horn on the field, they could banish it, put it “shuffled back” into their deck, draw it, replay it, and basically keep alive until the opponent drew instant burn damage or life loss. It’s not necessarily a difficult combo to fight, but from the outside looking in, it can appear confusing and was most certainly an unintended trick.
It’s difficult to say what the meta will look like with Echoes coming out at the same time of this sudden banning. Pricia could still be the top tier deck as her resonator based game plan is still very strong, but at the same time, a lot of answers to Pricia’s threats were printed and it’s possible a brand new deck could take over. I’m eager to see what rises to the top.