Earlier today, the least surprising ban announcement was made…
Brainstorm is now suspended in Historic (which is a fancy way of saying it’s banned, even if “suspension” means that’s temporary for now), which is what most people predicted when it was added to the format.
Saying you might put Brainstorm into Historic doesn't get me excited, it just makes me think you don't know what you are doing.
— Andrew Cuneo (@AndrewCuneo) August 29, 2019
Brainstorm has long been the best card in Legacy, and even in a format without as much free shuffling, it was the best card in Historic as well. It made Izzet Phoenix much more consistent, which is critical for a deck that’s trying to sequence their spells in such a specific manner. It let Jeskai Control put back removal in control matchups and slow cards against aggro, also key to that deck’s success. Since Brainstorm became legal, I’ve played four of it in every high-level tournament, and to great success. As a result, I firmly agree with the ban announcement of Brainstorm, as it was indeed too good for the format.
For reference, if you look at Untapped.gg’s deck lists, both Izzet Phoenix and Jeskai Control, which all play playsets of Brainstorm, have healthy win rates at 59.5 and 60.8 percent respectively for the best-performing versions.
Now that Brainstorm is out, where does that leave us? The most obvious effect is that the decks that rely on Brainstorm took a huge hit.
My first inclination is that this relegates Izzet Phoenix from the best deck to just a decent one, and possibly worse. Brainstorm plus Stormwing Entity, Fabled Passage and Expressive Iteration was just so important to the deck being functional, and replacing Brainstorm with Abundant Harvest or some random blue cantrip is a huge downgrade.
Jeskai Control definitely got weaker without Brainstorm, though I think this deck takes less of a hit than Phoenix. It used Brainstorm to smooth out its draw, for sure, but the deck is mostly just card draw and removal regardless. I think this deck will continue to be solid, but not the best deck in the format moving forward. Seth Manfield even Top 8’d the Set Championship with a three Brainstorm version (on accident), but I wouldn’t recommend doing what Seth does unless you also have the skill that Seth has.
One big winner from this shakeup is Jund Food. A Thoughtseize-based midrange deck is exactly the kind of deck that loses badly to Brainstorm, and Jund Food was the best deck pre-Brainstorm. I’d definitely look to sleeve up Cats and Ovens right now, and am high on the deck in the new format.
Now that Historic is a lot less stormy, there’s more room for non-blue decks that aren’t trying to end the game immediately. Like Jund Food, you can compete in long games without being forced to play Brainstorm, and that’s certainly a positive. Blue decks will still be good, as they have plenty of toys, but now the door is open to play something like Abzan Midrange, Rakdos and more. Best of luck, and I hope you enjoyed getting to play with “fixed” Ancestral Recall while it lasted.