söndag 13 januari 2013

Banned and restricted: 1994 and now

Magic's very first B&R rules simply stated that you could not play with more than one of each artifact, and no more than a total of five artifacts in your deck. That didn't live for long, and in January 1994 (after Arabian Nights, before Antiquities) USENET provided the first ever proper banned/restricted list. The banned cards were the ante cards and Shahrazad; the restricted cards were a pile of power and randoms. Cards like Orcish Oriflame was restricted due to the 2-mana alpha version, Dingus Egg was restricted since it was to good with Armageddon. Cards like Balance, Mind Twist, Channel, Library of Alexandria and Chaos Orb were free to play as 4-offs.

Flash forward to the autumn of 94. Three new expansions have been released (Antiquities, Legends and The Dark). The tournament scene has grown, the successful tournament players understand the power of card advantage, and the control decks have evolved to the best decks in the game. This is where we come in, these are the cards we play with. The B&R this time 94 looked like this:

Restricted (30)
Ali from Cairo
Ancestral Recall
Berserk
Black Lotus
Braingeyser
Candelabra of Tawnos
Channel
Chaos Orb
Copy Artifact
Demonic Tutor
Falling Star
Feldon's Cane
Ivory Tower
Library of Alexandria
Maze of Ith
Mirror Universe
Mishra's Workshop
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Recall
Regrowth
Sol Ring
Sword of the Ages
Underworld Dreams
Time Walk
Timetwister
Wheel of Fortune
Banned (3 + Ante)
Divine Intervention
Shahrazad
Time Vault
Ante cards

One of the first things we notice with the B&R list is the cards that are banned and restricted here, but legal in e.g. Legacy without being played there at all. Cards like Copy Artifact, Mirror Universe, Feldon's Cane and Recall fall into this category. We note cards on the list that are both legal and playable in legacy; this would be cards like Maze of Ith and Berserk. Next we note cards that are legal in vintage but restricted here, that would be the Workshop. Then we note cards that are restricted/banned in Vintage today, but doesn't appear on this list, e.g. Strip Mine, Shahrazad and Balance; and finally Mana Drain, which is legal in Vintage but banned in Legacy.

This list is clearly an improvement of the one from January 1994, but with our current knowledge of magic, this list needs to be updated to something that doesn't just break the format. Mind Twist for example was banned for a long time in vintage, and Black Vise is incredibly powerful but nowhere to be seen here. Also how good are really cards like Recall and Ivory Tower? (Spoiler: Recall is awesome).

The first steps to create a more balanced list was to play a lot against the potentially busted cards and decks. The point where our B&R is right now has evolved for over five years, and we are still tweaking it; last year we saw the unrestriction of Fastbond, and the re-restriction of Mirror Universe after having that card legal for two years. The point were the list is right now is well though trough, even if some cards might seem surprising for new players in the format (yes, Power Artifact is good):

Restricted (30)
Ancestral Recall
Balance
Black Lotus
Black Vise
Braingeyser
Channel
Chaos Orb
Demonic Tutor
Fork
Library of Alexandria
Mana Vault
Maze of Ith
Mind Twist
Mirror Universe
Mishra's Workshop
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Power Artifact
Recall
Regrowth
Shahrazad
Sol Ring
Strip Mine
Time Vault
Time Walk
Timetwister
Wheel of Fortune

After n00bcon (during the coming Easter), we will give the list a thorough look again and see if we need to change something else in order to keep the format fun. The last two years many players have complained about having Mana Drain legal as a 4-off, and players have also expressed that Fork could be a nice card to un-restrict. If you have any suggestions on the B&R, you're welcome to send me a mail to delaval(at)gmail(dot)com.

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