The Fun Police

Well, last week was a bit eventful wasn’t it. New core sets, Dinosaurs and Pirates, and a return to Dominaria, were just a few of the many announcements to spill out of Wizards of the Coast. If you were anything like me, you would have spent most of last week hitting refresh on your phone, waiting to see the next juicy piece of information. Now while I’m very excited about all the news we received, there was one think that I wasn’t all too keen on, and that ladies and gentlemen was the Banned and Restricted announcement.

Now let me be 100% clear, I fully support the banning of Aetherworks Marvel. Having played against many variations of the deck over the past few weeks I have found you can draw the ultimate a god hand, and can still basically lose on turn 4 when Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger turns up to party. At its ‘high’ point, Marvel decks were taking up 35%+ of the standard meta game. It made of predictable top 8 coverage, as games devolved into ‘who can find an Ulamog’ first (we all remember that Cardboard Crack comic strip). So, you may be asking yourself, why do you have an issue with Banned and Restricted announcement? Two words. Not Fun.

In the June 13th update, Aaron Forsythe went into great detail about Marvels win rate, its share of the meta, and its impact on top level and in store play. Again, on the whole I agreed with what Aaron had to say. However, the big take away was that the reason for the banning taking place was that after talking to standard players, the deck was deemed ‘not healthy or fun for Standard’. This I feel is a dangerous precedent to set.

The problem is that ‘fun’ is not a measurable quality. As a subjective term, it can’t be easily identified, nor agreed upon. What is fun for some, will not be fun for others, nor should it be. We are all different people and play this great game for a multitude of reasons. Some of us are very competitively minded, others grind out at their local store, and yet more play causally at their kitchen table. Therefore, it is very likely that we will all never agree on the ‘right’ way to play Magic. So, when Wizard’s state that they are banning a card because it is ‘not fun’, it will have a negative effect on some people’s experience of the game.

Let’s say you are a combo aficionado, and have spent the better part of three months building up a Standard deck that fits right into your wheelhouse. Well if Wizards were to ban a card in your deck because it isn’t seen as fun, it would be hard for you not to take it as a personal attack. An example of this was a few months ago when Wizards re-banned Golgari Grave-Troll in Modern. Dredge was on the rise, but was still seeing nowhere near the levels of play that some of the other banned decks in recent memory had. Yet the deck was targeted because the Dredge mechanic itself was seen as unhealthy. I have played against several Dredge players over the years, and most of them felt they were been targeted because of their choice of deck and beloved play style, which is never what you want to see.

Now I do see the value in bannings. Any TCG will come across busted interactions during its lifespan, either through unseen combos or the designers trying something new, and when this happens bans are sometimes the only answer. But the reason for these bannings should be based on tangible concepts. If a deck is taking over the meta and you can see a lack of attendance at your events, then action should be taken. If people are failing to tune in to watch your large-scale events because of a lack of variety, then you can show why a banning may be necessary. We all understand that WoTC is a business, and that if they can’t keep people invested in their product, they will lose money. But when we see Wizards altering the game in the name of fun, we can end up damaging the game.

If I was to say I found Chalice of the Void unfun, which as a burn player is a very true statement, it wouldn’t carry much weight. We all know that the Chalice sees a lot of high level play in quite a few Tron decks, but still doesn’t rule the meta. But what if a large portion of the Magic community rallied behind me and condemned it. Even though it isn’t taking over the meta, because it is being seen as unfun, would it be targeted by a ban? If so, is that right? I hope you can see my point. If we can decide by consensus how magic should look and feel, then we run the risk of alienating people from the game because they don’t conform to the way we believe Magic should be played. That, more than anything, would spell the end for this fine game.

Now as I have stated before, I was in favour of the Marvel banning, and I do believe standard will be better for it. But we should always make sure the reasoning behind such decisions is tangible, not abstract. In this way, players will see the merit of a ban and come to accept it as a necessary part of the game, rather than feel they are been attacked as a subset of our community.

We may only be a drop in the ocean compared to some of the larger content providers out in the community, and our words may not carry a lot of weight. But I feel it is important to open dialog on these subjects. We must make sure that when things like this happen, that the reasons for such changes are transparent. If we do, then the risk of players been put off from this great game because they themselves feel targeted will be greatly mitigated, and that can’t be a bad thing.

But what do you think? Is fun measurable? Have Wizards banned a card you think wasn’t a problem? Why not get in touch and let us know your thoughts. And don’t worry, now I have shared my two cents, I will be getting around to covering some of the other great news we heard about last week. So until next time Good Luck, and Have Fun.

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