Broken infinite combos trigger first ever MTG Arena Alchemy ban

Magic the Gathering alchemy ban combo - artwork of Grinning Ignus by James Kei

The first ever ban for MTG Arena’s digital-only Alchemy format was announced on Tuesday. Alongside a number of card alterations, intended to weaken particular dominant cards and strategies, it was revealed that the 2/2 elemental creature, Grinning Ignus, will be getting the chop.

In an article explaining the ban, Wizards of Coast says this will help to keep the format “fun, fast, and dynamic”. This is the first card to be banned in Alchemy, a Magic: The Gathering format where Wizards’ ability to change a card’s text at any time reduces (up to now, we would have said eliminates) the need for a banlist.

Grinning Ignus may appear quite innocuous at first, but its ability to generate mana has given rise to a number of nasty combos. These involve repeatedly playing the card and then bouncing it back to your hand over and over, generating infinite enter the battlefield triggers. All you need for this trick is a Birgi, God of Storytelling, or Racketeer Boss on the field, at which point you can play and bounce Grinning Ignus as many times as you choose. Throw in a Prosperous Innkeeper, and you can gain infinite life, while a Witty Roastmaster or Dragonspark Reactor can wittle an opponent down from any life total. Now you see why the little devil is grinning so much.

The clock is ticking if you still want to try these infinite combos out, as the card ban will go into effect from July 7. In the ban announcement article, Wizards states that it is not opposed to combo decks, but that the Grinning Ignus deck falls outside of its goals for the format (it is neither fast, fun, nor dynamic).

Magic the Gathering alchemy ban combo - the MTG card Grinning Ignus

Wizards also addresses the fact that it’s pretty unusual to be banning a card in Alchemy, when it could just make the card worse instead. Indeed, alongside the ban, Wizards is making quite significant changes to nerf strong cards like The Meathook Massacre and Winota, Joiner of Forces. (She’s back in Historic, people!)

“Each change we’ve considered so far would effectively eliminate this combo, so we’ve decided to ban the card instead,” Wizards explains. This does mean players get their wildcards back, but they’re only uncommon, so if you crafted a bunch of Racketeer Bosses in order to play this combo deck, then it’s not much consolation.

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