The March 9th Banned and Restricted List update brought changes to Modern, Legacy, Brawl, and Historic, but didn’t touch Pioneer or Standard.
Brawl and Historic
I haven’t played a game of Historic or logged in during the right two hours when they let you play Brawl, so it’s hard for me to offer a take here, though it seems fairly common sense that Golos could be too strong for Brawl and cards like Oko, OUAT, and Veil of Summer don’t belong in Historic. Field of the Dead being legal in Historic is “interesting,” meaning if someone out there finds Historic interesting, this will definitely have an impact. I just haven’t met that person.
Once Upon a Time is banned. Every few weeks of playing Pioneer and Standard I would stumble upon a Modern list and be amazed that this card was still legal. “Zero” is not the right casting cost, lands and creatures are incredibly powerful card types in the format to find, and this card deserves to be banned.
What did not happen is more interesting. People were speculating (or just daydreaming) that Splinter Twin would be unbanned. What about Birthing Pod, would that be too good in a world of Amulet, Death’s Shadow, Tron, etc? We won’t know, not yet. Even though the Stoneforge Mystic and Jace unbannings went well, they haven’t shown a willingness to let the combo engines out of their cages.
I agree that aggressively unbanning combo engine type cards is very dangerous. Thousands of cards have been printed since Birthing Pod was banned, for example, and Pod could easily be just as strong as it was before, if not stronger. Modern does feel like Legacy used to feel, so they might want to start unbanning more stuff that was ruled too strong back in the old days, but the combo pieces in particular I’m not so sure about.
The win rates, play patterns, and just the eyeball test with Underworld Breach in Legacy all made this an easy ban. Could you load up on answers and win the matchup? Probably, but it doesn’t take a literally unbeatable deck to warrant a ban, just something extremely warping that still wins more than its fair share, which this did.
The big surprise for me was Pioneer, a format where Lotus Field combo and Inverter of Truths combo create a pretty tough environment for people to brew up their own take on things. Wizards took a data-driven approach and focused on win rates, and concluded that other decks have been able to adapt. I have to say I don’t mind this approach. They let the format breathe and then observed what’s happening. When I talk to players about the format I hear diverging opinions on how certain matchups go and which decks are tier 1 (tournament recommended), which is a sign of health. When strong players can’t reach a consensus about the top strategies and matchups, there is something interesting, complex, and at least somewhat balanced taking place.
I like Pioneer a lot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually some of this stuff gets banned, but I’m okay with wait-and-see. It is nice to see them deliver on the promise of fast changes in 2019 but more stability and patience in 2020. If you haven’t tried Pioneer, the Mono-Black Aggro decks remain a good entry point to get your feet wet, and if you do branch out to Lotus Field or Inverter, your investment looks safer now than it did last week.
For the sake of completeness, Standard is in a really healthy place with several viable decks and they didn’t make any changes to it–no surprises there.