The high-fiving seems to have finally subsided.
Look on the bright side: they can’t blame the availability of Magic Online deck lists this time.
In order of least surprising to most surprising we have Attune with Aether, [gap], Rogue Refiner, Ramunap Ruins, [large gap], Rampaging Ferocidon. Surprising doesn’t mean bad, it just means surprising. We all kind of knew Attune was on its death bed. But I don’t think many of us suspected Rampaging Ferocidon was even receiving strong consideration.
Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner
A full 40% of respondents to this Twitter poll think energy is such a bad mechanic that they wouldn’t touch it in the next TEN years:
I’m in that 40% if it has to show up in a way that harmonizes with Kaladesh block. I say “if” because I suppose at a high level, energy is just the concept of an arbitrary emblem-like persistent set of counters a player can accumulate, so you could bring it back and have it feel pretty different. But if it feels like this energy, why bother?
Mechanics like energy (and its cousins infect and snow mana) are very difficult to pull off. Put that new wingding on a card and chances are it needs many other cards with wingdings to feel like it belongs and is worth the new zone of tracking information. It’s highly linear–self-contained, snowball-y, hard to sprinkle into a Cube or Commander deck, etc.
But Attune and Refiner aren’t being banned the mechanic is hard to execute, right? They’re just too efficiently costed. Well, sure, but it doesn’t help that what they give you, the advantage they create, persists in a way that the opponent can’t interact with. And it doesn’t help that once you put Attune with Aether in your deck you might as well put Rogue Refiner in too. So the linear and persistent nature of energy does impact the need to ban it, even though in theory they could have had each card give only 1 energy and never had to ban anything (but with each such tweak, risk the mechanic not being powerful enough).
Wizards shared their statistics with us alongside the news, and Energy was around 50% against everything even in the world where everything was trying to be better than 50% against Energy. Never forget that those stats reflect the warped world of Energy dominance, not a “fair fight” between people just doing their thing and then oops an Energy deck shows up. Numbers aside, many of us have played this Standard recently and quickly learned how hard it is to get a big edge on Energy and Red.
If Wizards were in possession of a time machine, I’d be in favor of just not printing the energy mechanic this way at all (you know, after baby Hitler and the fetchlands—life-saving stuff first). Since no such time machine exists, I’m glad the two most popular energy cards are banned.
Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon
Having a tier-1 mono-red deck in the format is usually a good sign. It’s often a relatively cheap entry point into the format (maybe less so this time with Hazoret and Chandra around, but usually) and keeps formats from degenerating into control mirrors that take forever and push midrange out of the format. Newer players understand what these decks are trying to do, how to use them, and even how to stop them by using cheap removal and life gain (most of the time this works). These are nice things to have around.
Red decks are rarely too good because, again, the things that tend to be good against them are plentiful and obvious.
Except in this format those obvious and plentiful countermeasures weren’t as obvious or as plentiful. Wizards stopped printing a lot of the cheap removal (outside of red, which not every deck should need to be), Hazoret is resistant to it anyway, and if you’re looking to use life gain instead of or alongside removal, Rampaging Ferocidon is a cheap and efficient way to shut it off.
Wizards decision to ban the Ferocidon strikes me as pretty insightful. The numbers they provided in their write-up support the idea that without Energy decks (at least in the same or similar numbers), the Ramunap Red deck was likely going to be a problem. People will need effective countermeasures. Cards like Aethersphere Harvester and Cartouche of Ambition could be neutralized without the red deck even missing a beat as it deployed an efficient and somewhat-hard-to-kill threat (because, as I keep mentioning, cards like Ultimate Price aren’t being printed right now).
Ramunap Ruins was (for no good reason since HazoRed was a better name the whole time) the namesake of the deck, and a nice, low-cost tool to finish people off from 4 or 6 life. Banning this is a way to simply make the deck weaker and perhaps force some additional deck building choices now that it isn’t obvious you want 8-14 Deserts in your mana base every time out. It’s a costly ban aesthetically, given how the deck has been named and what was different about it. But there are maybe Lee Sharpe and 10 other people in the world who have a deep sense of the aesthetics of the red deck. They’ll survive.
What Happens Now?
We’ll all probably lose to Torrential Gearhulk and Glimmer of Genius a lot. Kaladesh will go down as one of the absolute worst sets ever, and we won’t be rid of its stink this easily. But we should be happy with that. It means the new cards aren’t quite as stupid as these Kaladesh cards, and eventually sanity might be restored to the format.
Will we ever be able to just Commune with the Dinosaurs like Dr. Garfield surely intended? Probably not.