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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WOTC Shows an Affinity for Balance
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
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.
WHY BAN ALL EIGHT CARDS ?
“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
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 REALITY, HASN’T WOTC REALLY BANNED ARTIFACT AFFINITY
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.
TOO SLOW IDENTIFYING THE REAL PROBLEM ?
In the past, it has been my opinion that DCI is slow to
act when individual Magic cards seem to be causing
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!
Level II DCI Judge
Zanman on Magic Online