December 2, 2022

Despite recent bans, the MTG format is still struggling

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Since the exit of Dominaria United, Standard has been in a bit of a bad place. In the weeks after release, everyone played with black decks, maybe with a touch of red if you were feeling really fancy. Thanks to the introduction of powerful new cards such as Sleeper Evolved and Sheoldred, the Apocolalysis, nothing seemed to be able to stop the domination of the black bridges. Fortunately, after the initial rise in popularity, savvy MTG gamers resolved Standard a bit and introduces more variety. However, the format has slowed down to combat the range of threats available in Standard. Almost all level 1 decks were part of a grueling midrange soup that could often be unsatisfying to play. To try and combat this soupy slog, Wizards of the Coast had a trick up its sleeve, surprise bans from MTG.

As we discussed earlier, Wizards’ reasoning for this ban is a little odd. Generally, when it comes time to banish a card, it’s obvious which card should be removed. Omnath, Lotus of Creation was absolutely everywhere, Faceless Haven was virtually faultless, and let’s not even start with Oko, thief of crowns. However, for Standard’s latest ban, Wizards admitted that “no black card stood out as a major power outlier.”

Nevertheless, something had to be done, so Wizards decided that “banning The Meathook Massacre was the best choice. According to Wizards, it was “one of the strongest black cards in the format,” but it wasn’t the only factor. In their assessment, Wizards also noted that he “has had time to shine in Standard for over a year.” This left many MTG players question the motives of wizards why specifically the Meathook Massacre was banned.

Was the ban really good for MTG?

The Meathook Massacre | Innistrad: Midnight Hunt

Regardless of wizards’ motives, The Meathook Massacre the ban has taken place, and The standard was shaken accordingly. The question remains, though, was this ban actually a good thing for Standard and MTG as a whole? To answer this question correctly, one must consider a variety of factors. However, long story short, yes, this ban seems to have fostered an overall healthy shift in the Standard meta… sort of, at least. In the end, although The Meathook Massacre was supposed to be a landmark ban, not much really changed.

Compared to the state of Standard before the ban, the variety of Standard has undoubtedly improved. According recent data on MTGDecks.net, currently, Standard offers 11 Tier 1 archetypes, with Rogue decks also viable. However, most of these decks weren’t specifically held back by the Meathook Massacre that unleashed in Standard. Instead, these decks have simply grown in prominence now that black’s wings have been clipped somewhat, making them a less popular choice. That is to say, midrange decks are still the most popular choice in Standard, so the midrange soup lives on.

Although Standard has no shortage of picks for the withdrawal, many players assumed that banning The Meathook Massacre would alleviate this tedious work. Since The Meathook Massacre excelled at removing low resistance targets, there was even concern that this ban would lead to aggressive MTG decks dominating the format. This presumption, however, proved to be somewhat premature as only ultra-aggressive Red Decks paylists gained popularity. Likewise, like the mid-range soup, this archetype was not primarily affected by the removal of The Meathook Massacre. Mid-range strategies still come out on top, as they did before.

More of the same

Finally, even after The Meathook Massacre was slaughtered and removed from Standard, it didn’t really change much. The midrange soup remains dominant in the format, as aggressive decks can’t keep up. This may not be the result many players were hoping for. However, that’s not a bad thing either. As we mentioned earlier, Standard is now much more diverse thanks to black being a bit weaker. Therefore, Wizards achieved their goal of “keeping Standard enjoyable and trending toward an even healthier place in the future.”

On the competitive scene, however, the Meathook Massacre ban brought back a familiar foe. Impressively dominating before the release of Dominaria United, Esper Connive decks are back in fashion. Essentially built around Refine seer intriguing and now reinforced with Sheoldred, the Apocolalysis and destroy evil Esper Connive decks are popular again. For example, in the recent October 2022 Qualifying Weekend, more than half of the 4+ win decks were Esper Connive/Midrange. This impressive record could result in a new old threat dominating Standard once again if the wizards don’t act.

With the recent ban successfully expanding the casual meta, it’s possible Wizards will implement similar bans in the future. Rather than outright banning out of necessity, Wizards may instead ban cards to facilitate a “little tweak” to Standard. Since Standard is falling out of favor, these occasional increases in diversity can help keep the format alive. Similarly, removing fan-favorite cards and popular cards on a whim can spell the end of the format’s paper game. Personally, we doubt Wizards would shamelessly commit to this idea, however, the precedent is there to support future testing.

Read more: MTG Players Held Hostage by Broken Online Infinite Combo!

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