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Jeff Zandi is a five time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events. Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.


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The Southwestern Paladin

WOTC Shows an Affinity for Balance
DCI Bites the Bullet and Bans the Ravager Affinity Deck
by Jeff Zandi  - 3.4.05

On Tuesday, March 1, Wizards
of the Coast banned Arcbound Ravager, Disciple of the Vault and all six artifact lands to close the books on the Standard Constructed versions of the Affinity deck. The suspicions of many Magic players were confirmed with these bannings. Many were convinced that Affinity could simply not be allowed to rule another Spring and another Regionals season, as the deck has done for the past year. Most people I have talked to regarding this issue have described Arcbound Ravager and/or Disciple of the Vault as the cards most important to the Affinity decks, and the most in need of banning. According to WOTC, so many players have voiced their despair over Standard being ruled by the Ravager Affinity deck, Wizards felt their backs were up against the wall. Still, banning eight cards seems extremely dramatically. In effect, this ban removes more than HALF of the cards in the average Ravager Affinity deck.


“Affinity had to go away, and everyone that was having doubts about the future of Standard needed to understand it.” This quote is from Aaron Forsythe’s Friday article on Magic’s website.
Forsythe’s article went on to describe the process by which the eight banned cards were selected, a procedure that I will paraphrase for you here.

Strangely enough, to protect the
world from Ravager Affinity, the DCI first looked at the five basic artifact lands from Mirrodin. These cards, not Arcbound Ravager or Disciple of the Vault, were deemed the most dangerous cards in the Affinity deck archetype. This reminds me, MAGIC OLDTIMER, of Necro Winter, the year that mono black decks built around Ice Age’s Necropotence ruled the game. But more about this further on.

The DCI, who make the rules governing competitive Magic at Wizards of the Coast, were quick to identify Mirrodin’s artifact lands as the REAL problem.

They saw the artifact lands as being, too often, the REAL fuel in the Ravager Affinity deck’s more explosive game wins. There can be no doubt that this is a statement of fact when you consider how the Affinity deck is able to exist on a mana base comprised almost completely of artifact lands.

Ravager Affinity was tested without the artifact lands from Mirrodin, but was found to STILL be too powerful. Darksteel Citadel, along with the many cheap artifacts at the deck’s disposal continued to make Ravager Affinity almost as powerful regardless of the artifact land mana base. More cards would have to be included in the ban. At this time, the hammer finally fell on Arcbound Ravager. In my mind, this is the card that could have been banned a year ago, before the 2004 Regionals. I believe Arcbound Ravager was spotted early as a very dangerous card, easily as dangerous to the Standard Constructed format as Skullclamp. (Skullclamp DID receive the ax last June, but not in time to save Regionals from its devastating card drawing ability)

Was the DCI in denial about the singular danger of Arcbound Ravager? To a certain extent, the answer is probably ‘yes’. It is clearly not in the best interests of Wizards of the Coast to ban cards any more often than they absolutely feel is necessary, particularly when those cards are valued parts of players’ collections, as is the case with Arcbound Ravager. Wizards of the Coast and the DCI do not want players to fear that EVERY TIME a powerful card comes down the pipeline, that card is going to be summarily dismissed from tournament play. To WOTC’s credit, and players fail to give WOTC enough credit MOST of the time, very few cards ever end up being banned or restricted. Most cards, including some of the most powerful Magic cards ever printed, have never been in any danger of being banned.

Without Arcbound Ravager OR the artifact lands, it was STILL possible to build very abusive decks focused on Disciple of the Vault, with our old friend Atog taking the artifact-chomping duties of the Arcbound Ravager.

Clearly, Disciple had to go as well. Now, if I had Aaron Forsythe’s job, (and I almost did once…) I would have banned only Arcbound Ravager and Disciple of the Vault. And I would have been wrong. According to Forsythe, the Krark-Clan Ironworks deck could easily have filled Ravager Affinity’s shoes for the most hated deck in Standard if the artifact lands had been allowed to remain legal in the format.


In effect, by banning SO many cards from the Ravager Affinity deck, the DCI has in essence banned the mechanic known as Artifact Affinity. This is a bold move by the makers of Magic, and one that could have real significance in the future. Beyond the impact that banning and restricting cards has on the competitive Magic playing community, there is the backlash that these move cause against the Home Office, Wizards of the Coast in this case. When an individual card is banned, no matter what other explanation is made, there is always a clear sense that a card has been created that REALLY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN MADE. With the banning of eight cards that all work together in the Affinity deck, isn’t WOTC really admitting that Artifact Affinity was a mistake? The Magic community, casual as well as competitive, embraced last year’s Mirrodin block in a way that they certainly have not embraced the more recent Kamigawa sets. Mirrodin was a real celebration of the artifact, and the Mirrodin block was a great mixing of new card ideas as well as some of the best artifacts from ten years of Magic: the Gathering.

Mirrodin can only be viewed as a big success. Affinity, however, can only be looked upon as a failure.


In the past, it has been my opinion that DCI is slow to act when individual Magic cards seem to be causing problem
s. When Necropotence was winning tournament after tournament, the DCI looked at every card OTHER than Necro in order to solve the problem. Eventually, cards like Dark Ritual were banned, while Necropotence remained dangerous and easy to abuse. This pattern is repeated with the Affinity situation today. Aaron Forsythe admits that the first targets of scrutiny were the artifact lands. I am quite sure that the DCI would have LOVED to solve the problems caused by the valuable and beloved Arcbound Ravager by banning a few artifact lands. The DCI seems to have a problem placing the spotlight on the powerful and highly sought after cards when they are causing problems with the game. To their credit, the Duelists’ Convocation International (who might need to permanently change their name to something a little more relevant sometime soon…) DID get around to banning Arcbound Ravager and his little friend Disciple of the Vault, but you get the feeling that they would RATHER have banned every common and uncommon in the Ravager Affinity deck FIRST.

Of course, I’m always interested in hearing what YOU think, so if you have an opinion, let me hear it!

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online

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