Possibilities From the Upcoming Ban & Restricted Announcement

Without a new expansion set around the corner, players have two options for relief from metas that they may deem unfavorable, or otherwise played out. They can rely on the collective ingenuity of the community to continuously develop new and innovative ways to combat a stagnant or oppressive meta game, or they can sit back and wait for a reprieve in the form of divine intervention. That proverbial lightning bolt from the heavens would come in the form of a ban and restricted annocunement. The next wave, of which, lands on April 5, 2022.

We have already seen the wreckage that can be left from an aggressive ban hammer, with Briar being the catalyst for several outright deletions from Classic Constructed. Cards like Ball Lightning and Plunder Run were scrubbed from play, leaving a nerfed Briar to struggle for sustained relevancy. In this wave of potential bans, Legend Story Studios has kept a tight seal on any leaks, but one thing we do know is who is inspiring the next set of changes: Bravo, Star of the Show.



Header - Nothing Could Change

Bravo, Star of the Show (Regular)

Despite a dominant run through the competitive landscape since it burst onto the scene in Everfest, Starvo might get a Godfather level pass. The transgressions are numerous, as we’ve seen just how much of the pie Starvo accounts for when evaluating tournament results. He is very much the talk of the town, suiting his persona. He may parlay that show-stopping personality into a Jedi mind trick on the balance team.

That may come off a little dismissive of the developers who are most certainly aware of the power level Starvo has attained. What I mean to say is that his success has propelled him so close to Living Legend status that LSS may let the hero’s journey take its course to the finish line. They may see how close to the sun he’s flying and let him singe his wings on his own accord.

This passivity by LSS may be met with disdain from the masses who are already sick and tired of being flashed three elements and then force fed an Oaken Old. I can certainly commiserate with them on that. But there is a delicate issue at hand that needs to be considered; Pro Tour is happening in May, and there will be no other opportunities to test or handle a misfire ahead of the highest stakes tournament the game has ever had. A slip up here could derail the biggest show LSS has ever concocted, and that is potentially much more dangerous to the game that another tournament of Starvo prowess.

Keep in mind that The Calling Indianapolis had multiple variations of Starvo in the field, as well as Prism attaining the top seed. Chane and Briar were also buzzing, while other upstarts made waves amidst the field on the backs of Lexi, Kano and even Katsu. The meta is forever in flux, and without a digital client to accelerate the dust settling on new cards, the Pro Tour might look very different without any bans or restrictions, and LSS knows this.


Header - Oaken Old Gets Specialized

Oaken Old (Regular)

This suggestion has been floated around a lot, and it feels like it could be the right medicine. Oaken Old becoming an Oldhim specialization just feels right, doesn’t it? Look at the card art and tell me this is something that a Gaston wannabe would play? The card itself should be intimately linked with the hero that was born in the icy earth. The steadfast Guardian should be the only hero able to wield this attack.

At first glance, the optics of this change seems to fit. When evaluating the impact to Starvo, however, you’re likely led to believe that cutting these three attacks out of Starvo’s laundry list of attacks would be laughable. Sure, Oaken Old is a S-tier offensive weapon, but it has no effect on what makes the new sparkling Bravo so dangerous: the hero’s game text ability. The hero ability itself is powerful, yes, but by clipping a significant offensive force from their arsenal, you’re giving your opponent an opportunity to make a decision on the turn it would have been played.

The stature of Oaken Old is so intimidating because it is such an efficient card. The ideal Starvo turn will double fuse it to swing in as an 11-attack, dominated, with go again. The on-hit effect (which is not a crush effect), will effectively ensure you’ve got all the momentum, and you opponent is relatively punchless when the turn pivots to them. All this for a blue pitch seems absurd when at the disposal of a hero like Starvo. Eliminating this card from the pool gives players a few more options when it comes to blocking attacks. There will be no more hand disruption, leaving players an opportunity to just soak the damage, preserve their hand and begin the counteroffensive. The significance of losing Oaken Old means Starvo players will be swinging in for a lot more vanilla damage, or more devastating attacks that have the much more digestible crush effect.


Header - Pick Your Poison Pulses

When Starvo was printed, I had my suspicions about why such a powerful ability was set out into the fray. My initial reaction was that there was likely low levels of consistency when it came down to activating the ability at the start of your turn. Perhaps LSS expected more blocking to occur, or for players not to devote so much to the three elements when constructing their decks. Doesn’t matter now, because any tournament goer with a horror story will tell you about the time Starvo fused on seven consecutive turns against them. Consistency of the fuse is much higher than likely anticipated, and Pulses have a lot to do with that.

Pulse of Volthaven (Regular)Pulse of Candlehold (Regular)Pulse of Isenloft (Regular)

Depending on your matchup, Pulses are either coveted cards to hang onto as long as possible, or merely nice to draw when you do. Either way, the worth of the pulses is in the text to the left of the defense value. Each Pulse represents two of the elements you need to activate Starvo, easing the difficulty of pulling it off. It’s the kind of Buy One Get One offer that would make Billy Mays smile. In some matchups, holding a valuable pulse to streamline the beatdowns can in itself feel bad for the game. Pulses shouldn’t be able to do it all, even if they are limited to one per deck.

Pulses could be the target of the upcoming changes. A revision to each could dictate that any Pulse could only represent a single element when being used to fuse. No more flashing a Pulse of Isenloft to fuse your Oaken Old. You need to pony up two cards, no discounts. The spirit of the card would still exist, allowing some flexibility in which element you need it to represent, but overall the sheer fix-all capacity of the Pulses could very well be what LSS is targeting.


Header - Skeleta Gets Clipped

Bloodsheath Skeleta (Regular)

Given the entire theme of this upcoming B&R announcement revolves around Bravo, seeing anything but Guardian centric adjustments can come off as odd or unwarranted. After all, there wasn’t even a Viserai in the Top 8 at Indianapolis. Why does Bloodsheath Skeleta get some attention?

Ultimately, this would come as a package deal with something Starvo related. When bans, erratas or restrictions are considered, they’re going to be explored within what the meta would look like should those changes be met. Everyone may be clamoring for the ultimate neutering of Bravo, Star of the Show, but considering the implications is important. Who would run the table if Starvo was given an effective heave-ho out of relevancy? The common consensus amongst many of the top minds in the game is that Viserai would be the clear winner of any salvo Bravo had to endure. Some of the shrapnel coming from the salvo of the B&R announcement should be weathered by Viserai.

The problem with Skeleta is that it does so much, and can account for an incredible smash of a turn. Runeblades already have access to an incredible amount of equipment-related defense, so being able to absorb two damage is in itself pretty decent. That isn’t why Skeleta needs to get looked at, though. In the right hands, Skeleta will account for obscene amounts of value when paired with Sonata Arcanix, and an otherwise expensive follow up attack. It is the peanut butter and jelly that Viserai leans on to keep games interesting against Starvo, but otherwise blow past a myriad of other heroes. 

Addressing the Skeleta would only happen if significant changes would be thrown at Starvo, so no need to panic if you’re already an edgy Viserai main. This change would ultimately be a package deal if Starvo gets shafted hard, preventing an outcome where Viserai stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field… which is exactly what would happen.


Header - Longshots

Ban & Restricted announcements often come with that extra little nugget of excitement (outrage?) when an unsuspecting card gets hit with the wrath of the developer. Seeing cards like Plunder Run bite the dust had a ripple effect, and perhaps it is prudent to say that nothing is safe. Here are a few out-of-left-field possibilities of cards getting tickled by the ban hammer.

Early Retirement

Why wait? Get Starvo a condo at Del Boca Vista right away, and let him run for head of the condo association. There is definitely some argument to just accelerate the plan and give him the extra nudge over the edge, but I personally would be a little disappointed in this approach. If heroes keep getting slapped around ahead of their graduation day, then why even have a Living Legend program that can’t be adhered to? It is definitely a possibility worth considering, however.

Anything Prism

Rest easy, Prism mains, I don’t see any pain on the horizon. The idea has been floated around of eliminating Arc Light Sentinel from play, but it seems unwarranted. Prism is a strong hero, sure, but the heroes that can prey on her lay dormant until Starvo has exited stage left. Still, in conjunction with some other adjustments, I can see a phantasmal world where a Prism tool gets a little of the hocus pocus treatment. 

Return of Plunder Run

Rejoice! But only in red. Giving aggro back a very important tool could create some very turbulent waters for existing decks when red Plunder Run gets taken off ice. This could reawaken slumbering threats like Briar and Katsu, and reignite Chane, which in turn might tip the scales against the Guardian dominance.

Rosetta Thorn

Easily one of the most powerful weapons in the game, if not the premiere poster child of weapon efficiency. This card flew out of the gates as the weapon of choice for Runeblades, and gave players a nasty attack option to book-end even a relatively average turn. Rosetta Thorn is iconic, and likely not getting messed with, but if LSS wants to slow down the runaway Runeblade train, this is certainly sugar in the gas tank.

Crown of Seeds

Full credit to U.S. National Champion Tariq Patel for putting me on this train of thought. We discussed the potential bans on my podcast recently, and he drove the point home that this card, albeit universally recognized as good, was even better than the common opinion would suggest. A ban to Crown of Seeds would effectively do more than just eliminate the opportunity to reduce one damage each turn, it eliminates the card cycling engine that Starvo leans on heavily to fix hands and secure the three elements needed to fuse when your turn begins. Cutting a defensive and cycling tool like Crown of Seeds could be the unorthodox choice, but it definitely would be effective.

Starvo Loses Part of the Trifecta

You can’t have it all, yet Starvo seems to not play by the same rules as you and I. This man-mountain gets +2 attack, dominate and go again? If LSS truly wants to mess with his game text, seeing Starvo lose one of those bonuses is definitely in play. Which, however, is up for debate, as the go again aspect seems to be the most powerful. Shedding dominate might be the right medicine, but one of these could get scrubbed from memory.

A Little Haircut

The longest of longshots in my opinion is Bravo getting a shave off his life total. Typically most heroes in Classic Constructed will all hover at 40 points of life, with exceptions going to those true glass cannons like Kano who will happily scorch the world to ashes with you along for the ride. Knocking Bravo down a few pegs could give opponents a little head start, perhaps shifting how he is played against. Aggro lists may become more viable when faced off against the head honcho, which could also open up the meta game a little. Starvo at 35 or 36 health may seem drastic or unreasonable, but it isn’t exactly a myth worth busting just yet.

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