The Spiraling Bans and the River of Tears

da | Dic 11, 2019 | Game Analysis

Article by Bragioto Pietro aka CrilaPeoty
Translated by Niko Leporati

Once and for all

I usually get asked  a lot about my take on the most recent bans and the foreseeable future of the format while attending tournaments or at my LGS and the questions usually are:

– Did Astrolabe really deserve a ban?
– Is Tron far too strong and will it meet the banhammer?

After the next round of these same questions I decided to put them down in an article so I’ll have an easier time answering next time, by simply linking this article of mine.

Don’t read on if you’re expecting positive vibes and good feelings because you’ll only find what many will call pessimism and saltyness, but for me it’s just being real.

As bitter as it will be.


The root of the problem

I want to be clear from the get go: I won’t be talking specifically about Tron’s state or if it needs bans on its engine because that’s not the point I want to make.

I want to talk about the mechanism that drives Wizard’s bannings and balancing of the format: the problem is not Tron per se, but it comes from a few months back.

Ever since the “Blue Monday” that saw the banning of the 3 “free spells” of Gitaxian Probe, Daze and Gush, WotC started a loop of bans without any foresight but simply supporting them with sheer numbers, hurting the overall state of the format.


Numbers VS common sense

Numbers and common sense should both work together when taking any kind of action: acting based only on numbers might sometimes lead to errors that would’ve been prevented by common sense.
Which is why banning a card only because it’s the most played in the format and also in a given “best deck” is usually wrong.
If a deck is warping the meta and it cannot be solved otherwise with new printings or downshifts, which is pretty rare in Pauper, then bans are due.

When Jeskai and UB Delver were dominating like winrates showed something needed to be done, but with more common sense.

Following this line of thought lead to the current meta:

– Jeskai and UB Delver were problematic for Pauper.
– The most played cards in the format that were also in those decks were Gush and Astrolabe.
– Let’s axe those cards.

Numbers were the main reason for the bans, but they made little sense: the decision to abn was right due to the excessive win rates of those decks but the card choices are questionable to say the least.
Hitting the right cards isn’t always easy, but you have to in order to keep the format healthy.


After the upheaveal

Far too often we see people asking for changes just for the sake of it, but it can’t be this way: you also need a purpose supporting those changes.
Bans shouldn’t merely be made to gut the perceived best deck, but should also leave the meta in an healthy state.

If one ban leads to an unhealthy or unbalanced meta, only another ban will fix things.

As of now, who would’ve thought that Tron would become problematic for the format, when as early as 6 months ago it would’ve been hardly considered a decent choice for any competitive metagame?
What led Tron to be so oppressive and overpowered?
Someone had the brilliant idea to wipe away all the deck’s natural predators: with Tempo and Combo getting gutted by the Blue Monday and subsequently the consistent mid range decks powered by Astrolabe being removed from the equation, let free reign to Tron.

Things have been changed just for the sake of changes.

No clues about the outcomes.

Just for the sake of changing.


Knowledge and foresight

When banning something the main focus should be the format’s health.

It takes a fair amount of foresight to do so, otherwise one might find out it all led to disgusting scenarios, like Tron suddenly becoming a problem for the format.

But foresight requires knowledge.

Without sugar coating it: WotC sorely lacks interest on the format that gets mistreated and neglected.

Without foresight, knowledge and interest about the format, we’ll always be in a constant state of upheaval.

Their latest bans have always been justified by sheer numbers without any foresight, simply to demolish the current best decks:
– Gush, Gitaxian Probe and Daze were free spells that hurt the format were everything else was common, making UB Delver the most dominant deck
– Astrolabe allowed proper mana bases in Pauper and allowed Jeskai to reach absurd win rates.

It’s all nice and dandy to make your homework look clean, but it all lacks any kind of foresight.
They banned out the best decks without any sort of knowledge or evaluation of what that would do to the format.

They had no clue that without Tempo, Combo and proper midrange decks, Tron would become a major issue for the format.
That much you could’ve asked anyone actually playing the format, even at FNM or that simply played a 15 men tournament every week.
Because those people have a little knowledge about the format.

WotC showed us multiple times that they have a very capable and efficient design team, that showed their masterworks in the recent years’ limited format, that many consider the best limited formats ever.
I refuse to believe that such talented game designers can’t ban properly to make the format healthier.

It’s just that they simply do not care about pauper.


The River of Tears

We then come to the point of why would they care about bans if they don’t care about the format?
Because the mob becomes very loud as soon as something is a tiny little bit out of order in Pauper, so they rise up and dust off their pitchforks making their best whiny faces.

We had many content creators that usually look like format experts lose credibility with columns after columns of simply asking for bans without giving any constructive criticism or any sort of “plan” for said bans, other than trying to make the perceived best decks unviable.

You’d expect that those people at least had a huge amount of games, testing and vast knowledge of the format when all they did for months was write about bans.
But that’s just what you would expect, not how it actually was.

They just stirred the masses to embrace the pitchforks and all of Pauper’s media outlet were drowned in a river of tears, that WotC simply shut down by banning everything in sight, with little to no reasoning but just numbers.


The Spiraling bans

After all this is said and done, I’ll just go on and close it by saying that I think the spiral of bans is continuing without any kind of logic or foresight.

Because we’ll just get another ban without any kind of focus and after that another and another.

With Gush and Astrolabe gone, we’ll see Flicker effects or other Tron pieces go, but what next?
Who will be the next “Problem too big for Pauper” we’ll hear about?
Maybe our good ol’ Monarch mechanics?

Or perhaps after that is gone too Atog?
What about the Quirion Ranger that most green decks abuse?

This spiral will never ever end because it started just to destroy the best deck instead of trying to build a solid and healthy metagame.

I feel trapped in this kind of reasoning that has no foresight nor focus for the format.
I’d like to play and brew, instead I’m stuck in my battle box because everything outside is stale.


I have a Dream

I dream of a format where people can daze trivial matters.
I dream combo decks gushing around free.
I dream of midrange decks with proper mana.

I dream to keep my hand secret.
I dream of elementals that aren’t ephemereal.
I dream of forest that host faeries but not merfolks.

I dream about Wizard’s caring about pauper.
I dream about getting good downgrades for Christmas.
I dream about playing a better format.

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