Last updated on October 15, 2021

Dark Heart of the Wood | Illustration by Mark Tedin

Dark Heart of the Wood | Illustration by Mark Tedin

The “Banned and Restricted” announcements for MTG are pretty polarizing within the community. An important part of the formation and maintenance of constructed formats, it’s a huge part of the Magic ecosystem and has a lot of chatter around it.

But what is it? Why is it? Where is it? Who is it? Who am I? Who keeps eating my cereal at night?

These are all important questions that you’ll find the answer to both here, and at the back end of a breakfast-related existential crisis. So, let’s just do it here instead! Nobody needs to know about the cereal.

This is going to be super long, so buckle up and get ready for what is probably the most comprehensive thing you’ll ever read on the history of banlist discussions! That’s the goal, at least.

In the words of a 90s icon, much like Magic itself, lets-a-go!

Or. even better: Wah!

Waluigi

The Latest B&R Announcement

If you’re just here for the latest announcement, here it is!

Effective Date: October 14, 2021

Historic

Banned

Suspended

Rebalanced

  • Davriel’s Withering: rebalanced (“target creature” replaced with “target creature an opponent controls”)
  • Davriel, Soul Broker: rebalanced (“target creature” replaced with “target creature an opponent controls”)
  • Faceless Agent: rebalanced (2/1 stats replaced with 2/2 stats)
  • Sarkhan, Wanderer to Shiv: rebalanced (second ability now +1 instead of +0)
  • Subversive Acolyte: rebalanced (costs 1B instead of BB, 2/2 stats replaced with 2/3 stats, activated ability grants 1 less toughness)

Why Are Cards Banned?

Work a Double

Work a Double | Illustration by Carl Frank

Some cards are bad for the ecosystem of a format, some cards are egregious in their power levels, and some cards are just disliked by WotC.

Wizards has a ban philosophy, which you can try to figure out by scouring articles all over the internet and ending up down a hole of design philosophy, old formats, and eating ice cream at 4 am wondering what it all means.

But I did all of that work for you! On a blanket level, Wizards bans cards for one of reasons below:

  • Because they’re just egregiously powerful. Oko, Thief of Crowns, for example.
  • The card is too powerful for a specific format. Things like Wrenn and Six being banned in Legacy but not in Modern or the War of the Spark planeswalkers that are restricted in Vintage.
  • The card leads to “unfun” gameplay.
  • The card is too efficient.

It could also be the every-present fifth reason:

  • In the interest of competitive diversity.

The thing is, play design is hard. As seen recently with Oko, Thief of Crowns, one wrong stat can make a card absurdly powerful and there’s no way to patch or errata said mistake unlike in video games.

Wizards sometimes needs to innovate so they make new ideas that may be too strong for the game. Banned and restricted lists are filled with these card designs.

The cards need to go so they don’t end up overrunning the format. And sometimes newer strategies break older cards, so the older cards get banned while the newer cards still get sold. Honestly, I don’t see any correlation between new sets and wanting people to play with new cards, and profits and…

“Mom, I’m gonna have to take the ice cream again!”

But, seriously, we all make mistakes. And the banned and restricted articles are a great insight into why these cards are broken, and what they’ve done to their formats. Honestly, the day a new B&R article drops is like Christmas for some of us. Especially when the metagame turns into what it’s become recently. I don’t even need to name the format. You know.

I don’t particularly agree with all of these decisions, like the banning of my sweet, sweet Splinter Twin. But Wizards are experienced and they can be very right sometimes. They do also miss the mark sometimes, though. Faithless Looting was an issue for years and was only banned in 2019. But if we didn’t believe in the game we wouldn’t be here.

Who Does the Banning?

Omnath, Locus of Creation

Omnath, Locus of Creation | Illustration by Chris Rahn

For all of the official formats other than Commander, Wizards of the Coast bans the cards on their blog. Commander bans are made by the rules committee and are posted onto the official Commander rules committee website.

Any other format usually has its own committees or council to ban the cards.

Ban Announcement Dates

We have no clue.

None.

… Other than “Mondays.”

So, the Wizards banlist announcements used to give a date for the next announcement, but now we get an announcement a week. Sometimes even a day before? Whether this is good or bad, I don’t know. But sometimes we just get announcements saying, “There’s gonna be an announcement soon!” and go with it.

This means that cards are banned quicker but also that we have no preparation for these cards getting banned. We can still say that the cards are always banned on Mondays, though.

Official Banlists

Rules Lawyer

Rules Lawyer | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak

So, I think that’s it from me. Now, it’s time for me to spew a bunch of cards that are banned in formats for your pleasure.

I apologise, in advance, for the amount of spewing.

Especially in Standard.

(Blame Wizards)

Standard

The Standard format uses the most recently released Magic sets.

Modern

This format lets you dive deeper into Magic’s history, allowing cards from Eighth Edition to today.

Vintage

While Modern lets you play cards from as far back as 2003, Vintage lets you play cards from any set in the 20+ year history of Magic!

Banned

Restricted

The following cards are restricted, which means you can only have one of them in your main deck and sideboard combined:

Legacy

Allows cards from all legal sets but bans certain cards for power level reasons.

Commander

The following cards are banned from the format:

Block

These cards are banned in block-constructed tournaments, separated by block:

Innistrad-Avacyn Restored Block

Mirrodin Block

Masques Block

Urza Block

Tempest Block

Mirage Block

Ice Age Block

Brawl

The following cards are banned in Brawl and can’t be included in your deck or used as your commander:

Pauper

All cards in the Pauper format must have been printed at common rarity in a Magic set or product. Common promo cards are only legal if the card meets that qualification. If a common version of a particular card was ever released in Magic, any version of that card is legal in this format.

The following cards are banned in this format:

Pioneer

Pioneer is a new-ish nonrotating format featuring cards from Return to Ravnica and forward. The following cards are banned:

Historic

Suspended

Banned

Rebalanced

Rebalanced cards have been modified in order to correct any metagame problems without having to remove cards from play altogether. Rebalancing is possible because these cards only exist in digital form.

Historic Brawl

Timeline of Bans in MTG

All right. Let’s take a look at the banlist update from July 2nd 2018 (before we started getting regular updates because of the turbulent nature of recent card design) to now.

October 14, 2021

Historic

September 24, 2021

Standard

September 13, 2021

Commander

September 8, 2021

Pauper

July 22, 2021

Historic

July 12, 2021

Commander

June 16, 2021

June 10, 2021

Historic

May 20, 2021

Historic

April 13, 2021

Historic

Historic Brawl

February 15, 2021

Historic

Pioneer

Modern

Legacy

Vintage

Cascade Rules Change

January 14, 2021

Pauper

October 12, 2020

Standard

Historic

Brawl

September 28, 2020

Standard

August 24, 2020

Historic

August 3, 2020

Standard

Pioneer

Historic

Brawl

July 13, 2020

Historic

Pioneer

Modern

Pauper

June 1, 2020

Standard

Historic

May 18, 2020

Brawl

Legacy

Vintage

April 13, 2020

Brawl

March 9, 2020

Brawl

Historic

Legacy

Modern

December 2, 2019

Pioneer

November 18, 2019

Standard

Brawl

Legacy

Vintage

November 11, 2019

Pioneer

November 4, 2019

Pioneer

October 21, 2019

Pioneer

Standard

Pauper

August 26, 2019

Standard

Modern

Vintage

July 8, 2019

Modern

June 27, 2019

Pauper

May 20, 2019

Pauper

January 21, 2019

Modern

July 2, 2018

Legacy

Banlist Trivia

The B&R list has lots of myth, trivia, and legend around it. For example, there have been more cards banned in Standard since 2017 than before 2017. This is absolutely insane, and I’m not going to keep going on about power creep, but it’s definitely a telling statistic.

Also, the artist with the most cards banned in any format is Mark Tedin, which is very interesting. He’s probably the most powerful Magic artist. It really makes you think about how many of the most iconic cards have been helmed by his art. Rob Alexander and Volkan Baga are tied for second with nine cards each.

Adieu

Finale of Revelation - Illustration by Johann Bodin

Finale of Revelation | Illustration by Johann Bodin

Well, that’s it from me today. I hope you enjoyed our time together. Do you have any opinions about the banlist, or any cool trivia? Did you like what you read? Let me know down below in the comments.

If you’re enjoying what we do, then feel free to become a member of our Patreon! It helps us continue making lengthy stuff filled with content and (in my case at least) prevent existential crises about the design philosophy of Wizards of the Coast. Just as an example.

Thank you for reading my compendium on bans, restrictions, cardboard, and ice cream, and I hope to see you again. Have a good one!

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