Thanks to changes made in 2023, MTG now has a yearly calendar for bans that players can look forward to. Occurring after every major set, the new fixed ban windows allow Wizards to take action when needed. As you might expect, this change has facilitated no end of discussion and speculation about what bans might happen in MTG next.
Currently, the next ban round of bans is scheduled to take place “around March 11th.” As a smaller post-set release widow, for better or worse, these bans aren’t designed to be a shake-up any MTG format. Due to this, there’s a very real chance that nothing is banned at all. Despite this very real possibility, some MTG players are already deciding what needs to go.
Too Many Wraths Spoil the Broth
Following the recent change to Standard’s rotation, there’s currently an awful lot of removal in Standard. Between Depopulate, Farewell, and Path of Peril players have no end of options. Worryingly, building an entire MTG deck with nothing but board wipes is even viable.
Proving this treacherous possibility, MTG content creator Saffron Olive recently did exactly that. Taking removal to the extreme, Saffron Olive built a deck containing nothing but 36 wraths. With no creatures, enchantments, artifacts, and basically no win condition, this deck was a bizarre Standard deck, to say the least.
Despite its unusual construction, this 36 Wraths deck was surprisingly good. Who knew that constantly keeping the board clear so your opponent can’t do anything was an effective strategy! Remarkably, this deck consistently beat Standard’s Domain deck, which is typically one of the format’s strongest. Notably, however, Olive was just playing Best-of-One matches.
While the 36 Wraths decks did have some very strong matchups, ultimately, it wasn’t perfect. As Saffron Olive attests in their article about the deck, two matchups were serious problems. These decks were “creature-free control decks [Azorius Control] and spell-based combo decks [Rakdos Anvil].” Unsurprising, ultra-aggressive mono-red decks are also a major problem.
For better or worse, neither of these wrath-avoiding decks is very popular in Standard right now. Instead, the format is dominated by creature-heavy and focused decks that win by beating opponents down. This is the perfect environment for an all-wrath deck to thrive and show its strength.
Thankfully, following their video on the 36 Wrath deck two weeks ago, it hasn’t taken over the format. While it seemed to have decent potential, it’s very much still in the meme category.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Outside of being fun, Saffron Olive’s recent escapade with the 36 Wrath deck highlighted just how many board wipes Standard has. Unfortunately, it seems some of these are a little too good, with Sunfall and Farewell drawing ire. Boasting a devasting exile effect that’s almost impossible to avoid, these two cards are uniquely polarizing. So much so, that some players want them gone.
Taking to Twitter, Saffron Olive recently posed an interesting hypothetical about Standard’s overabundance of board wipes. “Standard would be significantly better with Sunfall and to a lesser extent Farewell banned.” Later explaining this comment further, Olive stated that while not format warping, these cards “narrow the meta and make a lot of cool cards unplayable.”
Given that both Farewell and Sunfall annihilate go-wide strategies, there’s no denying they have this effect. That said, most board wipes in MTG can do this, so Standard’s exiling menaces aren’t unique. Nevertheless, these cards are powerful and limit player freedoms, but are they really ban-worthy? Surprisingly, Saffron Olive doesn’t seem to think so.
Within their original tweet, Olive stated that they have “zero hope” of their suggested MTG bans happening. Considering the next ban window is meant for new problematic cards rather than metagame shake-ups, this lack of hope is understandable. Beyond this, both these cards are hardly new, so if Wizards wanted them gone, they would be already.
What’s the Real Culprit
Alongside the rest of the 36 Wrath deck, there’s no denying that board wipes aren’t fun to play against. You spend an entire game building your board and then poof, it’s gone in an instant. Unfortunately, Farewell and Sunfall exacerbate this problem by being exile effects.
Without a strong Phasing effect or counterspell, exile-based board wipes are practically impossible to stop. Sadly, Phasing effects are incredibly rarely printed in Standard, giving many decks no defense. Not only does this limit the potential of go-wide strategies, but it’s also incredibly un-fun to play against.
Back in 2017, when you got hit by Settle the Wreckage it was your fault. Since this board wipe only hit attacking creatures, you could easily play around it, or at least mitigate its effectiveness. Comparatively, Farewell and Sunfall aren’t nearly as fair, as they simply set you back at square one with virtually no interaction.
While Settle the Wreckage stands out as a remarkably fair board wipe, all these cards have one thing in common; Exile. In the eyes of many players, this is the real problem with these cards.
“I think the issue is that exile has sort of been put on the same level as just killing a creature when it really shouldn’t. As previous posters have said, exile gets around indestructible, death effects, and any graveyard tricks, making it leagues better than just killing a creature, but it seems like every white removal these days exiles instead of kills. This would be fine if this was reflected in the mana cost of these spells or the punishing effects of casting them, but they are not.”
Without any downsides like being over costed or having accessible counterplay, Sunfall and Farewell certainly seem like bad designs. Surprisingly, however, this didn’t have the majority of MTG players up in arms. Instead, only Sunfall was singled out as being especially egregious thanks to it also Incubating a potentially massive threat for just five mana.
Overall, it seems what MTG players really want right now is a change in design philosophy. While it’s no secret that power creep is a powerful force in MTG, board wipes have simply become too strong. Hopefully, this can be adjusted in the future, but before these cards are playable, the current problems will need to disappear.
Farewell to Farewell?
If banning Standard’s board wipes is off the table, the question remains, does anything need to be banned? Looking at Standard right now, it seems the format is surprisingly healthy, with nothing standing out as a game-breaking bomb. Sure, Deep-Cavern Bat is a new menace and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is as annoying as ever, but these cards aren’t broken.
Ultimately, what Standard needs right now is a rotation. Thanks to the new three-year rotation cycle, the entire format is feeling more stale than ever. Unless Murders at Karlov Manor really changes things up, this issue is going to persist for another three months. Potentially, this may turn more players away from the format, even if it is more financially viable.
Sadly, it seems that Standard is stuck between a rock and a hard place right now. Despite this, the format has the potential for good times. Whether you’re playing 36 Wraths or Slime Against Humanity, Standard has plenty of fun games. We just have to hope that some of these will make big enough waves in the metagame to keep things feeling fresh.