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Brewer's Minute: Understanding the Bannings

Hey, everyone. It's time for another Brewer's Minute. This week brought with it some of the craziest, most impactful bannings we've ever seen, with Smuggler's Copter, Emrakul, the Promised End, and Reflector Mage getting the hammer in Standard and Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll meeting their end in Modern. What do these bannings mean for other cards and decks? Let's break them down from a brewing perspective!

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It's pretty clear that the reason Smuggler's Copter got banned isn't so much because it made a specific synergy or deck too powerful, but because it was everywhere. Last time I checked, it was played as a four-of in over 60% of Standard decks—an almost unheard of level of dominance. As far as game play, there were two major issues with Smuggler's Copter. First, it pushed a lot of other options out of the format. As a colorless card, literally any deck with creatures wants it, and if you were playing another two-drop in its place, you were almost assuredly building your deck wrong. Second, it was a super swingy card. If a deck has it on Turn 2, it feels super favored to win the game; on the other hand, if it doesn't, if struggles and feels quite beatable. 

Likewise, the impact of the banning is twofold. Most importantly, a bunch of cards get worse. Toolcraft Exemplar and Inventor's Apprentice really like having Smuggler's Copter on Turn 2 to power them up, and with the Vehicle banned, artifact-centric aggro decks will need to be reworked. While I expect that they will still be playable, in some sense, Mardu Vehicles and RB Aggro are back to the drawing board as far as finding the right build. The second group of cards that get hurt by the banning are one-drops like Bomat Courier. With Smuggler's Copter hanging around, it works to play some underpowered one-drops because once they get outclassed on the ground, you can use them to crew up Smuggler's Copter. Without the crew ability, these cards lose a lot of utility in the mid- to late game.

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Emrakul, the Promised End had an extremely constricting effect on brewing—if you were trying to be competitive and were playing any six-plus-mana card other than Emrakul, the Promised End as your finisher, you were probably doing it wrong. As a result, with the banning of the Eldrazi, a whole slew of cards suddenly reenter the conversation when it comes time to building decks, including more expensive planeswalkers like Chandra, Flamecaller and Sorin, Grim Nemesis, along with various Gearhulks and other Eldrazi like Oblivion Sower and World Breaker. Furthermore, banning Emrakul, the Promised End frees up a ton of potential brews in Standard—I can't even counter the number of times over the past few months I started to build what looked like a fun Standard deck only to scrap it because I knew it couldn't beat an early Emrakul, the Promised End. Beyond the changes to the format in general, what about the two big decks that rely on Emrakul, the Promised End?

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Aetherworks Marvel gets hurt the most by the banning. While cheating things into play is powerful, and it's likely that the card will remain in the format in one form or another, for the immediate future, Aetherworks Marvel is much, much less scary than it was last week. If you think back to Pro Tour Kaladesh, most of the energy decks were all-in on the energy combo, and while these decks looked great when they worked well, it didn't take long for people to figure out that if you counter (or otherwise disrupt) Aetherworks Marvel, the decks were horrible. It wasn't until the deck was reworked as a strong G/R Delirium / Midrange deck that could consistently hard cast Emrakul, the Promised End (along with other good cards like Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Chandra, Torch of Defiance) that it became the best deck in the format. Without Emrakul, the Promised End, I expect that the deck goes back to being playable but very beatable (on another note: without Emrakul, the Promised End, it's also possible that people will explore new uses for Aetherworks Marvel beyond slamming huge Eldrazi on Turn 4). 

Meanwhile, GB Delirium should be just fine. While having the ability to tutor up an Emrakul, the Promised End to close out the game was nice, even while the big Eldrazi was legal, we saw some GB Delirium decks skip Emrakul, the Promised End altogether. I'd guess the best plan for now is to be more aggressive, throw in some additional copies of Verdurous Gearhulk, and otherwise run essentially the pre-banning version of the deck. 

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Clearly the strangest banning on the list; there's not really much to say about this one. Obviously, UW Midrange / Flash gets worse (which was the goal of the banning), while UW Panharmonicon gets dinged as well. That said, I expect both of these decks will survive in some form of another. Filigree Familiar is a reasonable substitute for Panharmonicon decks, and Reflector Mage was something like the fourth or fifth best card in UW Flash. 

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Gitaxian Probe is—by far—my favorite banning of the bunch because it should help slow down Modern just a little bit. If the current Modern format is a Turn 3 format, without Gitaxian Probe, Modern might be a Turn 3.3 format, and the closer this number gets to four, the happier most Modern players will be. As strange as it sounds, Gitaxian Probe was one of the most important cards in Modern and supported several tier one or tier two decks by itself. The good news is the decks that get hurt the most by the Gitaxian Probe banning are super-fast uninteractive decks, and while Modern players will continue to figure out the best way to goldfish into a fast win, things might slow down a bit, at least for the next few months.

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The biggest loser of the group of Death's Shadow Aggro, which might not survive the banning. If it does survive, it will likely drop from tier one to tier three. Next in line is UR Prowess, where Gitaxian Probe is essential for Turn 3 Thing in the Ice kills. While it might be possible that some form of UR Prowess sticks around, much like Death's Shadow, it's safe to expect it to drop a tier or two. On the other hand, the rumblings from Infect experts on Twitter are that their deck doesn't really care a whole lot about the banning. While there's no doubt that Infect is better with Gitaxian Probe than without it, the deck will just throw in more pump spells or Serum Visions and keep beating down. 

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Golgari Grave-Troll gets the award for least impactful banning, not just from our current group but maybe even of all time. The problem with the Golgari Grave-Troll banning is that players can just slot Golgari Thug in its place without losing very much at all. While the difference between dredge 6 and dredge 4 makes the deck a tiny bit less consistent, I'm not sure it will be noticeable. The difference between a Turn 2 Cathartic Reunion dredging 13 cards and 16 cards just isn't all that meaningful—Dredge is still dumping about a quarter of their deck into their graveyard and likely getting back a board full of free creatures. This said, I'm not against the ban, but I expect that Dredge will remain on a short leash (partly because Wizards simply doesn't like the archetype), and if it remains at or near the top of the format, Stinkweed Imp (which, combined with Golgari Grave-Troll, would really impede the deck) could be next in line. 

As far as brewing, the biggest question is just how much this banning hurts Dredge. If, as I expect, nothing really changes and Dredge remains near the top of the format, then the impact on the format will be minimal. On the other hand, if Dredge drops down to tier three, this could reopen the door for other graveyard-based strategies (with Abzan Company likely being at the top of the list), as people will trim Rest in Peace and Grafdigger's Cage from their sideboards to play cards that are helpful in other more important matchups.


Anyway, that's all for today. What other impacts do you think the bannings will have? Are you excited for how the new formats will look, or are you missing the banned cards already? Let me know in the comments, and as always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions. You can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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