Magic: The Gathering is changing its approach to bans, and now plans to only have one batch of card bannings every year. Rather than an ad hoc approach, dealing with problem cards as and when they crop up, there’ll now be one set day each year where new card bans for all Magic: The Gathering formats are announced.
According to designer Andrew Brown, this decision has been made because of community feedback saying Wizards is “banning too frequently, too randomly”. Apparently, this is “hurting too many players” and making it “hard to invest in the cards”.
“We want to ensure players can feel confident” in their decks, Brown added. It seems Wizards of the Coast feels the risk of cards getting suddenly banned is reducing players’ desire to invest in Constructed formats.
Speaking of which, this clearly relates to the company’s plan to rescue paper Standard. Last week, when announcing that the MTG banlist was going to see changes, Brown said “We plan to have set dates ahead of time so that players don’t feel like they’ve had the rug pulled from under them.”
Now it seems more accurate to say “set date” ahead of time, since there’ll just be one big group of bannings annually. This will apparently take place in the late summer of each year, shortly before the fall (or rotation) set.
Wizards adds that, while normally this is the only time bans will take place, they will also have a three week grace period after a set comes out, for special emergency cases. Brown says these will be extremely rare, and only come when something really harmful for a format, like Felidar Guardian, shows up.
For us, this raises obvious concerns about whether Wizards will be able to catch problem cards in such a short period. For instance, while Brown gives Oko Thief of Crowns as an example of a card that could be banned in this three week period, Oko was in Standard for more than six weeks before finally catching a ban (remember Elk October?).
One more wrinkle: before the new ban cadence comes into effect, there’s going to be an update to the Standard format, on May 29, which will include some card bans. The new annual ban day will then take place later this summer, focusing on older formats, rather than Standard.