Let’s talk about Bannings

This last weekend we were treated to not one, not two, not four, but three Standard Grand Prix. Although there were some innovations over the weekend, with brews like Grixis Tokens even making a top 8, overall the dominant deck was the ever-present Temur/4 Colour Energy. This isn’t surprising considering the meta of the last few months but it still leads many to ask the question: Should Wizards ban Temur Energy? While a meta game share of around 41% might seem like good grounds for slamming the deck with the banhammer, the question is far more complex than it would first appear. In today’s article I am going to explore some of the reasons why I believe Temur/4 Colour Energy should NOT be hit with a banning. Now I know that some of you out there will have different feelings about this, and may even strongly disagree with me, but when we feel that there is a problem with the game,it is important to have honest conversations to address the issues. So please respect everyone’s opinions, and let’s keep it civil. Right, now we are done with the PSA, let me tell you why you are wrong.

41% isn’t all on One Deck

It’s easy to look at the percentages and panic. And while yes 41% is ridiculously high, it is important to note that not every one of those results are with the same deck list. 4 Colour, Temur, and even some Dino inspired builds all come under this category. The argument that the decks only change two to four cards is also not that accurate. Looking at the many lists out there you can see a ton of variation, in both includes and ratios of cards in the mainboard and the side. While the base shell of the deck is pretty solid, it still leaves plenty of room for customising. If it was the same 75 cards in each deck then it would be a different story, but for now there still seems to be some variety to be had.

The Deck isn’t Broken

Most of the time Wizards administers a banning, it is because the deck in question is ‘broken’ in some way. Maybe it’s winning by turn four with zero interaction like Splinter Twin. Maybe there is a busted card that is warping the format like Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Maybe it is stopping people playing a fair game of Magic like with Emrakul, the Promised End. All of these are legitimate reasons for Wizards to intervene and reach for the banhammer. Now considering these facts, if you were to ban a card from Temur Energy which card would you choose? If you can tell me with a straight face that you believe that Attune with Aether or Longtusk Cub is on the same level as Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Aetherworks Marvel, then you have one heck of a poker face. The fact of the matter is that the Temur is a solid mid-range build, that can have a decent game against most other decks in the format. Yes, the Energy mechanic is strong. But even in games where you come across a turn three Solemnity the deck can still perform well (as I discovered last Friday). Banning unfair decks is fine, but we must be really careful when we start talking about banning a fair deck.

 

Risk vs Reward

It is also important to note the risk vs reward element of high level Magic. When you go to play in FNM or a Store Championship, what’s on the line? A couple of packs? Maybe a playmat? Bragging rights? Hardly top tier prize support if we are really being honest. Now imagine that you are a Grand Prix grinder. What are up playing for? Potentially thousands of dollars and the chance to get on to the Pro Tour circuit, where the stakes are even higher. And what if you fail? Do you have the financial means to keep grinding away if you don’t come in the top sixty-four of a two thousand player tournament? It is easy to see why, when a deck like Temur Energy comes along, players gravitate to these successful builds. If you want to eat warm food and afford to pay your bills you are more likely not to risk playing a brew that might not work, and instead play it safe with a deck that has a higher chance of netting you some rewards. This is why most Magic Pros like a ridged format. It means they know what to expect and have a higher chance of winning their matches if they pick the right deck. While an open meta game sounds great in theory, in practise there is nothing worse for a competitive player.

It might make things Worse

While it is easy to imagine that the banning of Temur Energy would lead to dancing in the streets and a huge swell in tournament attendance, the fact is that Wizards may end up making things a lot worse. It wasn’t that long ago that Temur Aetherworks was terrorising Standard, forcing concessions as early as turn four. Wizards tried to solve the issue by banning Emrakul, the Promised End, but players just started to use her fellow Eldrazi Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to much the same result. Wizards finally banned Aetherworks Marvel, and the world breathed a sigh of relief. But what happened to all those Temur players? I think you can see where I’m going with this. A Magic format is like a delicate eco system. When you remove the apex predator, another species that was been kept down by that predator will sudden find itself free to multiply unchecked. This will keep happening as long as we keep removing top dominat decks. As my favourite fictional mathematician would say ‘life finds a way’. While it might not be all that fun to face Temur Energy in every round of your PPTQ, if it wasn’t there you might find the same issue with Ramunap Red or U/W Approach. And what if we remove Temur and the next top dog take up 60% of the meta? Sometimes it is worth letting nature take its course.

There are other Decks

The simple fact is that although Temur is popular, it is still beatable. If we look at all the decks from last weekend’s Grand Prix, we see that eleven of the twenty-four top 8 decks where Temur/4 Colour Energy. That may seem like a lot, but remember that we are talking about a beck that has a 41% meta game share. If that many people turn up to an event with the archetype, then it is not surprising that so many players made it to the top table. If you and nine your friends go to a sixteen player PPTQ with the same Mono Blue Mill Deck, then at least one of you will reach the top 8. It doesn’t mean the deck is good, it’s more like the law of averages was in your favour. In that regard, Temur merely performed averagely. Now look at Ramunap Red. Six of the twenty-four players where running a Mono Red build, exactly 25%. Compare that to Ramunap Red’s meta game share of 16%, and you can see that RDW performed better than the bogeyman format. There was also good showings from Mardu Vehicles, Approach of the Second Sun decks and Sultai Energy, making Standard far from a one horse race.

There are many other reasons that I believe banning Temur/4 Colour Energy would be a mistake, from taking cards away from other decks to putting players off investing in Standard, but I think that will be all for today. What do you think? Should Temur Energy be banned? Or is the Standard meta okay? We would love to hear your opinions on this subject in the comments below, so let’s get to debating. If you have enjoyed today’s article and want to read more, why not like and subscribe to keep up to date on the latest articles from us here at Master of Magics. But until next time remember, Good Look and Have Fun.

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