Banned List Update
Changes to the Overextended banned list:
Aether Vial is Unbanned
Dread Return is Unbanned
These changes take effect immediately. The next banned list update will take place on August fifth.
For the explanation about the changes in this update, please continue reading below.
Earlier this week, I wrote this extensive article on July’s banned list update. The article fostered over 100 comments, and many great points were thrown around and brought up back and forth. In this piece, I’m going to address each of the four cards that were the focus of that article (Aether Vial, Dread Return, Glimpse of Nature, and Stoneforge Mystic) and why this exact decision was made.
First, let’s talk about the unbannings.
The first card I want to discuss is Dread Return. I didn’t give this card a lot of attention in the pre-ban article because I didn’t want discussion of it to interfere with the other choices, and I would like to take the opportunity now to discuss it a bit more.
I promised shortly after the format debuted that Dread Return would be unbanned, and it’s important that I make good on my promises. However, it wasn’t a decision made simply because my hands were tied. Unbanning Dread Return adds something new to the format.
Originally, three Dredge cards were banned because I did not want the deck to exist at all in its Legacy form. Having to deal with turn two or three kills backed up by Cabal Therapy is agitating, and it adds a very annoying wrinkle to the format you always have to be worried about. You either have to run a ton of graveyard hate cards in your sideboard and give up margin against other decks, or run none and always lose to Dredge. It’s a very frustrating dilemma.
Not to mention, playing against Dredge is not fun at all. I mean, are they even playing Magic over there? I’ve seen Dredge win solely via game actions – dredging, resolving triggered abilities, and attacking. No lands, no spells, no activated abilities. There’s no other deck in the history of Magic that can claim that.
Though some people may enjoy this kind of Magic, a large amount of people do not. As a result, I chose to ban three different cards from the dredge deck. My reasoning was that these three cards would never be used for anything else but unfun, unfair strategies, so there was no reason to leave them legal. Yes, it may have been overkill, but it ensured that any kind of speedy, broken dredge deck would be impossible.
In hindsight, that is poor philosophy. There are a lot of cards you can ban when you consider that they can only be used for nefarious purposes. Part of Magic is to excite players with allures of powerful synergies, after all. Additionally, keeping the banned list as compact as possible is a good goal to strive for. The fewer exceptions players have to remember about the format, the better.
I knew I wanted to narrow the list down to just two cards banned specifically for Dredge, and unbanning Bridge wasn’t a reasonable option. That left me with Narcomoeba and Dread Return.
Now, I’d like to address a popular point of discussion in the pre-ban discussion comments. Several people said something akin to, “Dread Return is fine, but just don’t unban Narcomoeba – that’s the real problem.” Basically, they were making the point that Narcomoeba was more important than Dread Return – and I completely disagree.
In Overextended you already have Bloodghast and Ichorid. You have access to free creatures of which you only want to play so many of. Now, there’s no mistake – Narcomoeba speeds the deck up a turn from cards like Ichorid. Coming directly into play is much more powerful than waiting until your next upkeep or requiring a land drop. However, without Dread Return, a bunch of free Narcomoebas isn’t as scary. You can maybe Cabal Therapy a couple times or have extra 1/1’s, but where do you go from there?
Dread Return is much different. There is no redundancy for Dread Return; there’s only one alternate cost reanimation spell you can play from your graveyard. Dread Return enables more powerful starts and allows Dredge to reanimate game-changing creatures.
So, if Dread Return is so much more powerful, why Dread Return over Narcomoeba?
Dread Return is alluring. It can certainly do powerful things, and it may add another wrinkle to the format. But rather than being a frustrating wrinkle, it’s a very interesting, if inconsistent, one. It says, “Some graveyard hate would be nice to consider, but you can certainly beat me even if you don’t play any.” It gives people who have been looking for an avenue to deploy this kind of strategy a new tool to consider without simultaneously warping the format.
I built up several versions of Dread Return based Dredge decks to pinpoint exactly what they could do. None of them were too good. The absolute best draw resulted in them reanimating a huge creature on turn two, but that’s far, far, far less likely that just an already legal Reanimator deck doing that. (Or Combo Elves just killing you on turn two.)
For the turn two reanimation to happen, you have to play a turn one discard outlet, discard a dredger and dredge, then turn two cast Careful Study dredging twice and hitting two Bloodghasts, a Dread Return, and a reanimation target, then play your land for the turn and return two Bloodghasts, followed by a Dread Return targeting whichever creature you are reanimating. Like I said – unlikely.
More realistically, with a pretty good draw and no opposing disruption you can reanimate a creature and maybe Cabal Therapy on turn three. Most commonly, you’re going to be doing it on turn four if everything goes right, which is the same turn many combo decks will outright kill you. Without all of those Zombie tokens, life as a Dredge deck gets a lot harder. (Plus you lose its main form of resilience.)
Dread Return certainly ups the deck’s power, but not close to intolerably so. It’s exciting for many players that a deck like this can exist, but it’s also simultaneously relieving for many other players that it’s not something you have to sideboard 8 cards to beat.
At its most powerful, it will just be another playable deck in the Overextended metagame. It’s not even clear that going all-in on Dread Return will be better than something like Pedestrian’s more consistent Friggorid-like take on the Dredge deck.
If Dread Return becomes a problem, it will likely be swapped for Narcomoeba in the next banned list update. However, I don’t anticipate it being one.
Aether Vial is a tremendously powerful card. Though it took many people a while to catch onto the Vial, it quickly exploded in popularity once players realized just how good it was. Does it belong in Overextended?
As I mentioned in my pre-ban article, Aether Vial mostly helps tribal decks and other beatdown decks that are benefitted by deploying multiple creatures that cost 2-3 in a single turn. Despite what many people feared in the vast discussion on Aether Vial, the cheap artifact isn’t even that good in Zoo and I doubt it will see much play there.
Zoo already has the most efficient creatures at each cost, and spending a turn playing Vial just sets them back in time.You would much rather cast Wild Nacatl or Kird Ape turn one than Aether Vial in a Zoo deck. If you don’t have either of those in your hand, well, then Aether Vial isn’t going to help you until long after you’ve already deployed your two drop normally anyway. I wouldn’t be concerned about Vial there.
The interaction with tribal decks is great. Players love decks like Merfolk and Goblins, which could certainly use the help, and Aether Vial being legal allows players to strengthen their Wizard, Zombie, Beast, or otherwise tribal strategy. This seems like a major upside.
Aether Vial in decks like GWB Junk, B/W Midrange, White Weenie, and other strategies is also likely to be okay. It will boost those decks, but not to a unfair point of insanity As I stated in my prior article, my largest concerns are control decks that will put the free mana to good use and the interaction with Stoneforge Mystic in control decks.
However, despite the potential for danger, all of the benefits of allowing Vial make it at least worth trying out in the format.
It may end up only being fringe playable. It may end up being a cornerstone. We can theorycraft all we want, and I can build more decks and play more games against each other, but really, the best way to find out for sure is opening the opportunity up to all of you. We’ll try it out for the next month and seriously reevaluate if it should be legal or not at the next banned list update.
Now I’m going to begin talking about the cards that weren’t banned.
Stoneforge Mystic has been a force in nearly every format, and Overextended is no exception. There’s no doubt that the card’s ominous presence is frustrating.
Currently, the card is clearly highly played. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too good. Let’s look at some of the main places it’s being used.
In a Zoo deck, the existence of Stoneforge is okay. Yes, it’s still very powerful, but Zoo is about running all of the most efficient creatures they have access to. Stoneforge is just a very efficient creature with a lot of raw power, and it’s not going to be nearly as backbreaking there as it is in control archetypes. Having it killed is a gigantic tempo black hole.
In more midrange decks like GWB Junk and BW the card is certainly great, but, similar to Zoo, it’s hard to say it’s downright broken compared to everything else going on.
The control archetypes like U/W Stoneforge is where the card really shines. For its mana cost, it gives you something in every matchup that no other card can provide. However, if you look at the metagame data versus results, in last week’s Tuesday Night Overextended events we actually saw a significant drop off in the popularity of the U/W Stoneforge deck. I think we may finally be at the turn where players are shifting away from that deck choice, and I want to give the format time for that to develop.
Every playable card warps the format to some degree, and while Mystic certainly does, it might not be as much as you might think. She asks you to do one of two things: have an answer to a 1/2 creature, or have an answer to an equipment. If you can’t, the result can certainly be disastrous – but in a format like this, shouldn’t you be able to do one of those? I would hope so.
I was certainly hesitant to include both Mystic and Vial in the same format. Allowing players to Vial in Mystic is problematic since the Stoneforge player can leave mana untapped to protect it, and it prevents sorcery speed removal from working. However, I am not going to preemptively ban Mystic in this context. (For more on this, check out the discussion on Glimpse below.) If the combination of the two becomes ubiquitous, one of the two will not survive the next banned list update.
Stoneforge Mystic is certainly a card on the watch list and one that could be banned at some point. However, with the metagame morphing and changing, it’s too early to be sure. Having an announcement each month gives us the luxury of waiting to see, and that’s certainly the case with Stoneforge Mystic.
The decision to not ban Glimpse of Nature sets a significant precedent in Overextended’s banned list philosophy.
The decision came down to one crucial question: should cards be preemptively banned?
One very, very interesting quality about Overextended is that a banned list had to be created from scratch. If you think about it, the banned list for every other format is essentially grandfathered in.
Extended and Standard keep their banned cards until they rotate out, and the banned list for Legacy and Vintage has been tinkered with since, more or less, the game began. Even when Legacy split from Vintage, there was a good idea of what would be playable in Legacy. When new cards are banned, it’s done within the context of a developed format; cards are banned because they prove to be too dominant or otherwise problematic within the context of a format.
Overextended didn’t have that option. It was a new format, and it needed a new banned list to set the boundaries. Though I did play hundreds of games to identify these boundaries, to the eyes of everybody else all the cards on the list were essentially “preemptively banned.” Glimpse of Nature was certainly a card I considered strongly, but ultimately decided to put it on the watch list to let players try it and go from there.
Here’s the deal about Glimpse. I believe it is in one of the best decks (if not the best deck) in the format. I believe it has the power to cause unfun games. I believe it has the ability to end games too quickly. I believe it is too powerful. All of these properties are hallmarks of cards that are typically banned. However, the card lacks one very important property: results.
Practically every card Wizards has banned in the past ten years has been dominating a format. (Some of you may make an argument about Mystical Tutor, but even so that’s highly debatable and depends on your take of the word “dominating.”) Glimpse of Nature in Overextended is nowhere near that level. It’s done well, sure, but I can name several decks that have put up more consistent results. By that criterion, Glimpse of Nature isn’t banworthy yet.
On the other hand, this isn’t the act of managing a well defined format. This is an attempt to tweak the banned list to an ideal state. If I had put Glimpse of Nature on the banned list originally, there may have been some outcry but people would have mostly understood why. If I chose to ban Glimpse now, it would almost be like “correcting” the original banned list in that sense.
If more players who were proficient with Elves played the deck, I strongly feel it could dominate the format. However, without results showing that Elves is dominating the format, any ban on it is preemptive.
The bottom line is this: bans are all about ensuring people want to keep playing a format and dealing with perception in favor of actuality. Do I believe Glimpse of Nature is a great card to have in the format? Simply put, no. But is its existence currently making many players not want to play the format? The answer to that is also no. In fact, Stoneforge Mystic is more likely to steer people away than Glimpse of Nature is simply because of popularity and how the two cards are perceived. (Interesting enough, it seems like the two cards have exactly the opposite problems.)
After a lot of careful thought, I decided the answer to that crucial question the card’s fate hinged on was “no.” Though Glimpse of Nature is a problematic card, there is not enough of a reason or evidence to ban it with the way the format has played out so far despite what my feelings are.
Glimpse of Nature will remain on the watch list. If it begins to take over the format, it will banned in the next update. I will reevaluate and present you all with another pre-ban article and analysis as the next date gets closer.
The Watch List
Some of you have asked for an official “watch list” of cards that could be banned. I’ve always felt that official watch lists were kind of silly. All they did were note cards that were problems to keep an eye on in the format… but if there was a problem in the metagame, you could probably figure out what it was already. It’s hard to tell what a watch list really does that’s useful.
With that all said, I’d be happy to provide one for everybody The watch list for month is: Aether Vial, Dread Return, Glimpse of Nature and Stoneforge Mystic.
Wait… aren’t those the same four cards that were just talked about in this article!? Yep. Glimpse and Stoneforge should be a part of it after all this discussion about them, and it makes sense to put any freshly unbanned cards on the list as cards to watch and reevaluate. Dark Depths is being taken off because it has not been a problematic card. Banning discussions next month aren’t limited to these cards, but they will at least be discussed again.
We’re through out first banned list update, and nothing has had to go yet. Hopefully we’ll be able to say the same this time next month.
Overextended banned list updates are scheduled for every month. Why? Because in a developing format it’s important there is room for experimentation and being able to quickly adjust in case a problematic deck breaks out. For example, I would be much less willing to unban Aether Vial if it meant I had to live with its impact for three months rather than being able to reevaluate after just one. It allows for nice trial runs like this.
One thing is for sure: it’s an exciting time to be playing Overextended. All kinds of new archetypes have been appearing, and with Aether Vial and Dread Return unbanned it gives all deckbuilders some new tools to try. What decks will be next? Well, we’ll have to wait and see – but fortunately that wait will just be a couple days!
I hope to see you all on Monday for Overdrive! followed the next day by Tuesday Night Overextended. Let’s see what you all come up with.
Thanks for your input and support as always,