This post is from Andrew Batinich from the Princes of Pauper podcast. Thanks for contributing.
After having a lengthy discussion with a friend of mine I decided that a piece talking about the banned lists for Magic would be a valuable thought experiment.
For those who are not aware at the time of writing this on February 14th, Nexus of Fate has been banned in Magic: Arena’s best of one (bo1) format. This does not affect paper magic at all, nor does it change the best of three (bo3) format on Arena at all.
To many though this may seem
Separate Ban Lists for Bo1 and Bo3:
Magic is an incredibly diverse game with an insane amount of ways to play. Standard, Modern, Legacy, Commander, and Pauper are the five most well-known ways to play MTG but there are many past that. There are variations of many formats, like Competitive Commander regularly being a different format from normal Commander.
The same can be said with Single Player commander versus Multiplayer Commander. Again for 100 Card Singleton against Commander which are dramatically different in design philosophies for the people that run the banned lists and rules for the format. Pauper has variations and along with
The reason that I
Take Hearthstone, for example, a game where Bo1 is the only option for in gameplay outside of challenges and tournaments. Hearthstone very rarely has a control deck as the best deck unless the cards are just that heavily pushed.
That is because in a Bo1 format you can just play an aggro deck and generally curve out well enough to beat your opponent no matter what they draw. A nut draw from an aggro deck looks the same time every time. A nut
More About Bo1
Magic is the same way when we’re talking about Bo1. In Bo1 we’ve seen that Mono-Red Aggro is constantly at the top of the ladder for the sheer fact of unless you metagame your deck to beat Red specifically you’re going to be behind inherently. This is true because their nut draw is much more likely and easy to obtain than any other deck in the formats.
Mono White also follows this same rule but generally can struggle to cards like Goblin Chianwhirler out of Mono-Red so you see less White Weenie at the “top tables” on the Bo1 Rankings. Another deck that had a similar dominance in Arena’s Bo1 was, of course, the Nexus of Fates decks but for a different reason. While Red kills you consistently and fast, Nexus specifically doesn’t kill you fast and just decides to Nexus loop you because of the way that the timers in Arena are set up.
The problem with the Nexus loop on Arena is the fact that you can’t lose. Once you’ve got through enough of your deck that you are just playing Nexus over and over again you don’t lose. Sure, you don’t win. But you can’t lose. So unless you concede to your opponent or your opponent concedes to you. That’s it. You just keep doing that. The problem with this is it regularly causes players to just concede to the Nexus player. Meaning that a player playing Nexus of Fate in Bo1 will get free wins unless the opponent thinks they can win if there’s a hiccup.
With that in mind, it’s important to consider bannings of some sort. And the banning of Nexus of Fate in just Bo1 makes an incredible amount of sense. In Bo3 the above discussion about the Nexus loop isn’t game over because there are still up to two games that have to be played regardless of who conceded to who. There are still issues with the card in Bo3, but this discussion at the moment lends to just Bo1 play.
There is fear for a separate banned list for Bo1 and Bo3 play but this is exactly the way I want to see WotC handle something like this. I believe that they should have separate banned lists as they are separate formats. But I think they should both be supported as separate formats by WotC properly.
I think we should possibly get more bans in Bo1 if problems start to arise to card power levels. I think that Bo3 power levels should be separate from Bo1 power levels. For example, there may be a world that Rampaging Ferocidon is safe for Bo3 but not Bo1. I think in that world it should be unbanned in just Bo3 play.
In a hypothetical sense, Bo1 and Bo3 Modern would be the easiest discussion I could have for treating them as different formats entirely. Think about Bo1 Modern. No sideboards. No Stony Silence, Rest in Peace, Dispel, or any other card that is a hoser for certain matchups unless you put them in your Main.
That would be an incredibly different format than the Modern that we currently know. Decks like Storm, Ad Nauseum, Dredge, and Amulet Titan would just absolutely dominate the format to unprecedented amounts. It would look almost nothing like Bo3 Modern which has many more interactive decks at the top of their metagame.
The Worry About New Players
Magic Arena has been a fantastic thing for WotC, like an indoor free flight, as we have seen in many of their recent company decisions. It has taken a lot of focus from the other ends of the game and because of
Arena brings in a ton of new players to Magic. New players are likely to only really play game modes that they are offered straight up. Arena only offers Bo1 to a new player unless they check a box for other game modes.
Therefore, a new Magic player will only really be paying attention to the Bo1 side of the game for a large part of their introduction to the game. Those players will know that they cannot play with Nexus of Fates as it is a banned card in their collection. Imagine the confusion that player may have if they went to a local game store and saw people playing in a Standard Tournament playing with Nexus.
It’s a very different experience when we talk about it from the sense of a new Magic player that has been introduced through Arena. While I think this is something that will unfortunately just have to be a part of the game for right now I have a suggestion that ties in with what I said before.
Support Bo1 in Paper
This is probably the most controversial thing I’m going to say. We’ve already seen Wizards allowing Local stores to run Bo1 drafts with
I believe that they would have a lot of value by allowing new players that come into Magic from Arena a bridge into paper magic through a Bo1 tournament system. This would also be a great way for local brewers to test out their decks to see if they should continue to invest
The ban in Arena is an incredibly good thing for the game and the refunding of Wild Cards was an incredibly good approach to how to handle the situation.
We should separate the formats as the different things they are. And especially with an event like the Arena Mythic Invitational that uses the Bo1