May 17, 2021 Ban Announcement
Updated: May 18
Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora are now banned in Pauper Commander, effective May 17, 2021. These are the first official bans for PDH outside of un-sets, conspiracies, ante cards, and cards banned from all formats by Wizards due to offensive imagery. You can find the complete PDH rules page, including the current ban list, here.
Many people may ask the question, "Why now?" After all, these cards have been legal in PDH for the whole life of the format, up until now. The answer is simply that it's been a long time coming. Banning Rhystic Study has been discussed semi-regularly ever since we first formed the PDH rules committee, almost 2 years ago. While many of us have long viewed Rhystic Study as problematic, we always felt that the format was in such a place that there was no real damage being done.
So what changed? Previously, without a well-developed competitive PDH metagame, it was difficult to judge whether Rhystic Study would truly be as ubiquitous or harmful as we suspected. In the past 9 months though, several prominent community members have been consistently playing cPDH games, steadily tweaking their decks, testing the limits of the format with new combos, and developing better counter-strategies. In addition to the rise of cPDH, we are also now witnessing some of the first attempts at PDH tournaments. When there are prizes on the line, the importance of balanced gameplay increases drastically. Taking proactive steps before more tournaments are organized can ensure a better reputation for PDH and help the format continue to grow.
The first result of the growth of cPDH was a realization that, at the top tier of play, Mystic Remora could be just as problematic as Rhystic Study. The second result was the need to have the fairly new cPDH side of the community represented in the governing rules body. Our Rules Committee has now grown to 10 people, including Crash, Wirox, Yaloron, and Clay, who are all at the leading edge of developing and growing cPDH. The third result was that the RC finally felt there was enough evidence and collective discussion to have an official vote on whether to ban these two blue enchantments.
Arguments For Banning
· Resource Imbalance: Both Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study are fairly unique because they combine low mana value, the potential to draw more than 3 cards, and low requirements for setup or mana investment. Together, these three factors can cause games with severe resource imbalances, where the only way to defeat the player with the draw engine is to play a 3v1 game, regardless of whether or not players are paying the taxes. When comparing Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora to other draw engines and their costs, we looked at examples including Audacious Thief, Tuskeri Firewalker, Dimir Guildmage, Ophidian Eye, and Brightwood Tracker. When comparing Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora to other tax effects, the closest comparison in the format was to a potential commander, Vryn Wingmare. Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora compare favorably to all of these cards.
· Archetype Balance: Because of their card draw potential, Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study both incentivize decks focused on card advantage, such as combo and control. They also suppress aggressive decks, since they are least able to pay for any taxes on their spells. Because these two enchantments don't directly interact with the rest of the decks they are in, this ban is expected to increase diversity in high level play, without severely damaging any particular deck or archetype.
· Color Balance: Everyone knows counterspells and card advantage are powerful and that blue will be omnipresent in competitive pods. However, from a multiplayer perspective, both of these blue enchantments are among the most powerful stand-alone cards ever printed at common. Banning them is a small step towards moderating the power imbalance between colors.
· Early Game Tempo: Whenever a Mystic Remora or Rhystic Study resolves, the tempo of the game usually slows as people carefully select which spells are worth casting and whether they can afford the taxes. However, a less direct effect has also emerged in cPDH, where the popularity of these draw engines has led to slower early games, as players are more likely to hold up mana to counter or immediately remove them, slowing the rate of board state development. There are plenty of other powerful and dangerous cards that can be played early on, such as Crypt Rats, Ley Weaver, Malcolm, and Zada. The difference is that these other threats require more setup, whether that's a haste enabler, other attacking creatures, or available mana, before they can start threatening a win or swaying the balance of power. Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora require no such setup, and therefore are always a threat in the minds of competitive players.
Arguments Against Banning
· Minimal Bans: The goal of any rules committee should be to maintain a healthy format with the absolute minimum number of bans, since they reduce the total possible deck variety and in and of themselves can be a barrier to entry for new players.
· Combo Deterrent: While Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora are powerful in the hands of combo decks, they can also occasionally disincentivize infinite combo decks from going off in the late game. After all, if you have a Remora out and draw half your library as an opponent executes their combo loop, you're fairly likely to find multiple pieces of removal to help you fight the combo. Without these kinds of deterrents, the burden of stopping combos falls even heavier on instant speed removal and grave hate.
· Remora's Low Impact on Casual Games: Outside of competitive play, PDH games tend to be more creature-centric, making Mystic Remora less problematic. This means that any potential ban of Mystic Remora has to be based on how competitive decks interact with each other and how games play out when you have a mix of casual and competitive decks.
Neutral or Subjective Arguments
· Bombs: Outside of PDH, many games across many formats end up revolving around whether or not players can resolve and keep control of single, powerful permanents (sometimes referred to as bombs or haymakers). Planeswalkers are some of the most prominent and controversial of these cards in other formats, but Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora are some of the best bombs PDH has outside of the command zone. Some people enjoy when a game has a unique, powerful card as a focal point to help define games and make them more interesting. Meanwhile, other people see PDH’s lack of these cards as an enjoyable and unique aspect of the format.
· Auto-Includes: Similarly, it’s widely accepted that Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora are auto-includes in more competitive decks. Some people feel strongly that this harms deck diversity, while others see auto-includes as being a vital and unavoidable part of the competitive mindset and experience.
· No Archetypes Lost: As was mentioned above, these bans are not expected to drastically decrease the effectiveness of any single deck or archetype. The lack of collateral damage makes some feel that there is less reason to be wary of this ban, while others see it as proof that the ban will not have any meaningful impact.
· Price: While Rhystic Study is a fairly expensive card (currently ~$40 on MTGGoldfish), the RC did not take this into account when evaluating whether a ban was needed.
After extensive discussion and debate, the RC voted to ban both cards. Both votes were decided with 8 votes for banning, 2 votes against, and no abstentions. Visit the About Us page for more info on the members. The current RC members are (as of the time of voting and this announcement's release):
These bans were based on PDH primarily being a free-for-all format with 3+ players. If you are playing 1v1 PDH, these cards should not have any negative impact on your games. As always, you can discuss with your play group whether you want to house rule that these are still legal at your tables.
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