Rakdos Midrange Hit In New Magic Standard Bans

Published: May 29, 2023 2:25 PM /


Magic the Gathering key art image featuring a female character attacking an unknown subject with an engraved axe with other soldiers in the background

Wizards of the Coast has announced a new banned and restricted update, specifically for the Standard Magic: The Gathering format. The three newly banned cards are:

Wizards frame this as the second step in their move to improve Standard, and are targetting the Rakdos (R/B) based midrange decks with these changes. These decks have made up a lot of the metagame, and were expected by players to be targeted once Wizards announced there would be a ban list update today. None of the three cards banned are particular surprises, though it's possible that it may not be enough with leaving strong cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse to rein it in completely.

The three banned cards in Standard, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Invoke Despair, and Reckoner Bankubster
Three banned cards, three banned cards, see how they run right out of the format...

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is one of the strongest cards in the format and generally requires multiple cards to answer. In their announcement, they explain that by banning it they "hope to reduce the power of black-red decks but also make deck-building choices for these strategies more meaningful." They further cite the high play rate for the card in the format, which has also proven to be powerful enough to be a defining card in the Pioneer format.

Invoke Despair is a rare case of a removal spell being hit with a ban. Its ability to remove multiple card types at once in black, and generate card advantage has made it ubiquitous among black-based decks. It has also limited the play of enchantments and planeswalkers, as the popularity of the decks running it makes it a hostile environment for card types you often only have one or two out of. In the post, Wizards cites that Invoke Despair is "excellent for shoring up some of black's weaknesses" as part of why it is getting banned. Another aspect is that unlike most sweepers and removal, Invoke Despair is still strong against an empty board, burning your opponent for six damage, and drawing you three cards.

Reckoner Bankbuster is the last of the banned cards, and as a colorless card is guilty of being everywhere at times. It is a strong card advantage engine for all colors, that also functions as a notable threat. Its sheer ubiquity is a big part of the banning here, and with it being gone Wizards is hoping to "give power back to other types of cards in different colors", while also increasing the variety of creatures as "can it crew Bankbuster" no longer becomes a decision point in deckbuilding.

This is essentially a patch on the format as they move to the three-year rotation going forward, as all of these cards would normally have rotated out with the release of the Fall set after two years. Going forward, Wizards is going with bannings happening at a set time each year for all formats. This will happen before the Fall previews begin, so typically in August. This year, the announcement is set for August 7th, 2023, before Wilds of Eldraine previews begin. Supplementing the annual banning will be an emergency ban window set three weeks after a set's release. This will be for format-destroying type threats, with them citing Felidar Guardian as an example. While the card appears innocent, when Wizards released the next on Magic: The Gathering Online in 2017 (Amonket), they found that after only two days, decks featuring Felidar Guardian combo made up 40% of the 5-0 and 4-1 decks for Standard league play.

Felidar Guardian from Aether Revolt
Someone was a naughty kitty in the combo yard

What happens next with Standard remains to be seen as Wizards is working to revitalize the flagship format in paper play with changes like this and the three-year rotation. It is the most played competitive format overall when counting online play, but paper play for the format was struggling even before the pandemic and fell off a cliff since.


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