After five long months, Wizards of the Coast has finally announced the latest round of Banned and Restricted MTG cards. In theory, this long wait should be a very good thing for players. After all, it implies that every competitive format is in a stable and healthy position. In reality, however, the past few months have been filled with constant complaints and concerns about overpowered cards. Thankfully, at long last, Wizards has finally taken notice, banning a pair of dominant cards following the launch of Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Unfortunately for MTG players disgruntled with the continued dominance of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, the latest bans only affect Legacy.
Expressive Iteration Banned in Legacy
First released in Strixhaven: School of Mages, Expressive Iteration has been a constant menace across numerous formats. Allowing players to look at three cards and effectively draw two of them, Expressive Iteration provides decks with incredible consistency. This fact has been known for a long time. Not just because we can look at it ourselves but because it has already been banned before.
Back on June 7th, 2022, Expressive Iteration was singled out as “a multiformat all-star,” that was dominating Pioneer. Providing fuel for numerous Izzet decks, Expressive Iteration was simply too good for the format, earning its ban. Nine months later, Expressive Iteration is being banned again as it has grown too prevalent and powerful for Legacy. Somewhat remarkably, however, the card remains unbanned in Modern, for the time being at least.
In Legacy, Expressive Iteration was used as a core component within Izzet Delver decks, which have been dominating the format. Alongside the powerful Modern Horizons 2 cards Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Murktide Regent, this deck was worryingly consistent. So much so that Wizards has finally stepped in to clip its wings.
“Our data indicates a need to take the win rate and popularity of the deck down a notch to allow for more metagame diversity and innovation. Our choice is to ban Expressive Iteration, as the card quality and quantity it provides allows Izzet Delver to easily adapt to stay on top of any changes in the metagame.”
Principal Game Designer Ian Duke | Wizards of the Coast
According to Principal Game Designer Ian Duke, this change should make Izzet Delver a more “vulnerable” deck in Legacy. This should allow it to be knocked down the competitive order when new cards get released or new strategies emerge. In the meantime, however, players don’t expect Izzet Delver to be going anywhere. Izzet Delver has suffered multiple bannings in the past, with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer being a more recent one. Delver will be fine, just a big consistency hit with EI finally f*cking dead,” Reddit user u/noahconstrictor95 commented.
White Plume Adventurer Banned in Legacy
In their latest round of bans, Wizards of the Coast isn’t just going after one Legacy MTG deck. Instead, the breakout Mono-White Initiative deck is also being targeted due to its potential for format dominance. To nip this in the bud, Wizards is preemptively banning White Plume Adventurer in Legacy. At the moment, Mono-White Initiative is hardly dominant in Legacy, commanding only a 6.5% share of the meta. According to Wizards, however, this share of the meta is only due to the dominance of Izzet Delver decks.
“According to our data, these two decks are holding each other in check, as well as stymieing additional metagame movement. Therefore, we’re choosing to impact both decks together.”
While it has been kept in check by Izzet Delver, the Mono-White Initiative decks are undeniably powerful thanks to their namesake mechanic. Introduced in 2022’s Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, The Initiative is a new game piece that allows players to “venture into the Undercity.” When venturing throughout the Undercity dungeon, players have access to an incredibly useful range of abilities. From tutoring a land, putting two +1/+1 tokens on a creature, goading a creature, and drawing a card, the Undercity has an application for almost every occasion. Because of this, once the Undercity is in play, dealing with its controller is incredibly difficult.
Thanks to White Plume Adventurer, Legacy players can venture into the Undercity for only three mana. When used in conjunction with fast mana at the start of a game, The Initiative understandably set players up for success. Offering “an early advantage that’s difficult to recover from,” this Commander mechanic has been the bane of many players’ existence. For better or worse, many are now expecting the deck to completely fall by the wayside. While there are other, slightly more expensive, cards that take The Initiative, there’s simply no beating White Plume Adventurer.
“Initiative is completely dead. The difference between three and four is infinity – there’s a reason that despite there being Initiative cards in every color, every Initiative deck was white.
Occasional stompy decks might play Initiative cards as threats, but Initiative as a coherent archetype doesn’t work without [White Plume Adventuer]”
That’s All Folks
While it might not be what many MTG players want to hear, bans are only being dished out to two cards in Legady this time. Stating “the Standard metagame is in a fun spot” and “things are in a good place,” for Pioneer, it appears Wizards doesn’t want to risk another controversial “shakeup” just yet. Despite this apprehension, it appears it might not be long before more MTG bans happen, as there are some concerns.
In their article, Wizards states, “Modern continues to be in a healthy spot,” however, the Izzet Murktide deck nevertheless remains “the most popular archetype in competitive play.” Thankfully, this popularity hasn’t reached problematic levels just yet. However, Wizards is nevertheless keeping their eyes on the format. Should things go south, we might just see Expressive Iteration getting banned for the third time. However, we’ll just have to wait and see whether or not that happens.