We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Scary new artifact MTG card banned right before release

The Modern Horizons 3 MTG card Cranial Ram has been banned in Pauper before this powerful artifact even had a chance to mess things up.

Wizards of the Coast teased that it might have to happen, and now it’s dropping the axe, banning the MTG card Cranial Ram in Pauper before it’s even been released.

This Modern Horizons 3 card is an equipment that makes its wielder stronger for each artifact you have in play. Even before it was previewed, designer Gavin Verhey teased that it might need to be banned, due to qualities it shares with other previously problematic common cards, which already appear on the Pauper MTG banlist.

Verhey, the face of the Pauper Format Panel (PFP), explained in an article on June 6, 2024 why Cranial Ram had to go before Modern Horizons 3 drops on June 14.

The MTG card Cranial Ram

The main reason is the extreme similarities the card has with Cranial Plating and All That Glitters, two other banned cards that also buff creatures based on artifacts on the field. Played with artifact lands and treasures, it’s very easy for this to get out of hand.

“These cards are strong. But on top of that, their play patterns aren’t very enjoyable,” Verhey writes. He explains that when you face them early, you can quickly lose if you can’t remove your opponent’s evasive creatures, while in the later stages of a match you can still lose out of nowhere when your enemy suddenly applies a massive buff to something unblockable.

Gavin notes that there are downsides to Cranial Ram – such as the restrictive casting cost and less efficient equip cost. But there are upsides too, in particular the MTG keyword Living Germ, which provides an immediate body to wield the Ram. Overall, Verhey says, “this card is extremely comparable to Plating on power level.”

The MTG card Cranial Plating

In the article, the designer takes pains to emphasize that pre-banning cards is not the new normal – for Pauper or any other MTG format. He expresses distaste with the idea, saying that “cards should generally have to prove they are too strong” and that this is a “very rare and special exception”.

In some ways, it seems, the timing of the MTG release schedule is what sealed Cranial Ram’s fate. The major European Pauper tournament, Paupergeddon, takes place in Pisa, Italy on June 21 – just six days after Modern Horizons 3 comes out.

Verhey points out that it would be comical to release the card, let it completely warp a tournament, and then ban it the next week, making all those winning decklists invalid.

For more Magic: The Gathering content, check out our guide to the best MTG Arena decks, or our cEDH tier list.