Pioneer Bans – Reactions and Predictions

Wizards of the Coast has banned two more cards in Pioneer as we near the end of the “quick trigger” ban period that was used to kick off the new format.

Of those two cards, one was an extremely obvious choice, the other not so much.  Both are cards that let us draw some conclusions about the informal “watch list” that is forming in Pioneer’s early days. 

Oko, Thief of Crowns

Oko, Thief of Crowns is Banned in Pioneer

Personally, I think the 1-mana creatures have more to do with the success of Simic ramp decks than Oko does.  However, Oko is clearly a broken card, clearly the best thing to be doing with that elf mana on turn 2, and clearly something that is very hard to fight back against (as opposed to, say, Lovestruck Beast, arguably the next best thing to be doing turn 3 with that elf mana).  With Oko out of the mix, I have some optimism that although Elves and Nykthos will remain playable, it will be tougher sledding for green players against the opponents who showed up prepared for the matchup.  

Is it possible they will still have to go back and ban Nykthos and/or Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic?  Of course, just as it was possible when they banned Once Upon a Time that Oko + Goose would still be too strong.  Turns out when you spend 12 months releasing unbalanced cards, it’s hard to tell exactly how many of them you have to ban before other stuff gets to shine.  I risk beating a dead horse here regarding 2019 card balance, but what am I supposed to do when the horse shows up alive and well every 2 weeks after they try to put it down?  (Okay, that’s enough of that analogy; I like horses).

Do I still wish they would “unprint” cards they wish they could errata by banning in multiple formats?  Yes. Do I still wonder whether Pioneer should have kicked off with these obviously broken cards banned?  Yes. But that’s as far as I can go without harming additional equines.

Nexus of Fate - Foil - Buy-a-Box Promo

Nexus of Fate is Banned in Pioneer

Okay, if it was difficult for me to hide my contempt for Oko’s design, this one is going to be impossible.  I’ve played 1 paper Pioneer event so far and one person at the event was playing proxies. Wait, aren’t proxies illegal in tournament play?  Yes, except for Nexus of Fate (which was only printed as a foil box-topper that is subject to warping). And taking all the turns while shuffling a bunch isn’t the best play pattern in a timed round.  We knew all this from Standard, but yeah, what a nightmare. At least they learned their lesson and are no longer printing Standard-playable cards in the supplemental distribution channels….

Alright, so I’m not a huge Nexus of Fate fan – turns out most people aren’t. WotC even had some win rate data suggesting the deck was poised to be Tier 1 or broken, and I support the decision to proactively go after a card like this specific card, with these specific issues looming in addition to format balance.  Some players are going to ask “Why not wait for it to actually dominate before taking action?” and that’s fair. But between shuffling and proxies and indicators it was tier 1, this is almost like the initial Fetch lands bans, where the thing is so miserable and so likely good, why wait.

Thoughts on the new Watch List

As was the case last announcement, there is no official watch list.  But there’s also nothing from stopping me from creating an unofficial one.  

These seem like the strongest cards to me, which is a bit different than a watch list that tries to predict what they will do:

(Not in any particular order) The Strongest Cards

 (Not in any particular order) The Most Likely Bans in the Coming Months

The Lotus Field ban is the most dependent on how good tuners can actually make that deck, and whether Theros, Beyond Death adds anything to it.  The others are sort of hanging around until enough of the other broken cards being banned gives deckbuilders a chance to show that these aren’t really fair tools either.  

The odds that the new Theros set provides enough new toys to break Nykthos (again) seem pretty high to me.  I would not go take out a 2nd mortgage on your home to purchase a few thousand Nykthos.  #MTGFinance 

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of “Broken Card Flashbacks: The Format.”  I’m honestly having fun playing Pioneer, but like everyone else, I look forward to the day when the obviously broken, shouldn’t-have-been-printed-in-the-first-place-with-those-numbers cards are banned and we can get to exploring new territory, as the name Pioneer suggests.  


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