Aetherworks Marvel Banned, Magic Duels Support Discontinued

Announcement Week 2017: Day 2

The news many players have been waiting for has finally arrived in the form of today’s update to the Banned and Restricted list. Let’s get this out of the way: effective June 19th, 2017, Aetherworks Marvel is banned in Standard.

Additionally, we received surprised news of a cancellation, and updates on Wizards’ much-discussed Magic Digital Next from vice president of digital game development, Jeffrey Steefel.

Ulamog the Ceaseless Hunger

No more surprise Ulamogs.

Aetherworks Marvel Banned in Standard

Aetherworks MarvelThe banning is the latest in a series of reactionary bans from Wizards of the Coast in an attempt to address a series Standard meta environments dominated by a small number of powerful decks. To their credit, Wizards has owned up to the turmoil Standard has been through – particularly in the last year – and it’s clear they’re making an effort to improve the format.

In today’s announcement article, Magic: the Gathering Senior Design Director Aaron Forsythe was quick to point out that Marvel decks represent a slightly different threat to the health of Standard than pure dominance. Frosythe shared MTGO data showing that “every popular deck except Blue-Red Control and Mono-Black Zombies has anywhere from an even to a positive matchup against Temur Aetherworks.”

It’s worth noting, however, that Marvel’s presence and performance at the professional level has been greater than on MTGO and in local metas, which certainly does not help convince non-Standard players to try the format.

Key to the banning of Aetherworks Marvel was play experience. The article noted that Marvel decks have a roughly 10% chance of putting out a Turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, rightly describing that experience as “unpalatable.” Forsythe continued,

(…) we believe Aetherworks Marvel needed to go, even though it is not unbeatable.

The fear before this Banned and Restricted announcement was that Wizards was in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. Not banning Aetherworks Marvel could keep players away from Standard. Who wants to lose on Turn 4 again, immediately after banning the Turn 4 Saheeli Rai + Felidar Guardian combo? Banning the card, however, could cause current Standard players to think any deck could be banned out of nowhere.

Wizards seems to agree with a large number of players who believe Standard is better without Marvel. To address the issue of “banning fatigue,” they are once again cutting back on Banned and Restricted updates. The next announcement is scheduled for August 28, 2017 – after Pro Tour Hour of Devastation.

Pithing Needle

The possible return of cards like Pithing Needle to Standard without reprinting is worth keeping in mind.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of the announcement was that Wizards thought about “several weird or off-the-wall options” that may be considered in the future. Rather than an outright ban, Wizards considered options like a pair banning (i.e. not allowing both Aetherworks Marvel and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in the same deck), restrictions, functional errata of card text, or even making cards like Pithing Needle and Duress legal in Standard despite not being printed in a Standard legal set.

Importantly, Forsythe pointed out that these options may are still on the table should similar situations arise in the future. With the introduction of the Play Design team going forward, hopefully Wizards can avoid these issues before they happen in the first place. In the meantime, expect Temur Energy builds – replace the Marvel combo with energy creatures – to continue to be a powerful presence in Standard.

Support for Magic Duels Discontinued

Surprisingly, perhaps the more negatively received bit of news today was the announcement that Amonkhet will be the last set supported for Magic Duels. Initially framed as an announcement of future Magic Digital Next announcements to come, Jeffrey Steefel’s Magic Digital Next Update broke the bad news that no further sets would come to the platform.

This announcement came as a shock to Magic Duels players, many of whom have invested real world dollars into playing the game as an alternative to MTGO or paper Magic.

About the sudden discontinuation of the platform, Steefel said,

Magic Duels is still downloadable and playable, but our digital teams are focused on the next generation of Magic digital gaming.

Gate to the Afterlife

A strange consequence of this announcement – as pointed out by players on reddit – is that Magic Duels allows you to cast Gate to the Afterlife, but will never receive God-Pharaoh’s Gift to for the Gate’s second ability.

One can also infer that dropping support for Magic Duels may be a contributing factor to Wizards of the Coast cancelling the PS4 version of the game in 2016.

Read yesterday’s news about set release structure changes, the return of core sets, masterpiece series changes and more here.