The dungeon is closed.
For the past two weeks since the introduction of cards using Initiative to Magic Online, Pauper has warped around these cards. This has led to a quick Banned and Restricted announcement today.
Four of these Initiative cards from Battle for Baldur’s Gate are banned in Pauper, the Magic: The Gathering format using only Commons. The bans will take effect immediately. The cards banned are:
Pauper Format Panel member and game designer Gavin Verhey released a video explaining the decision to ban these four cards and addressed some other potentially problematic areas in the format.
Since their release on Magic Online, Turbo Initiative decks dominated the format, completely pushing out all midrange lists in Pauper leagues and challenges. The only decks that were able to fight against Turbo Initiative were lightning-fast aggro lists.
The cause of many of these issues was the four-mana Initiative cards that could come out on turn two using Dark Ritual. Being able to resolve a potentially game-winning spell on turn two was unhealthy for the format and led to Stirring Bard, Aarakocra Sneak, Underdark Explorer, and Vicious Battlerager being banned.
The Pauper Format Panel considered outright banning all seven cards with Initiative in the format, according to Verhey. The decision was made to target Turbo Initiative and see how the other cards fit into the format. Like Monarch, Verhey said Initiative could add unique flavor to Pauper, which is good for the format. But if the cards do end up being problematic, they will be banned quickly.
Before coming to Magic Online, Verhey said Initiative was largely positively received by players who experienced Pauper in smaller quantities at local game stores. But when thousands of games of Pauper are happening each day on Magic Online, the cracks start to show. This is what led to Initiative becoming a problem.
Verhey addressed the powerful Affinity card, an archetype that has remained near the top of the format despite several bans targeting it. Affinity is one of the most-played archetypes and will evade bans for now. Verhey said the Pauper Format Panel will continue to monitor Affinity and act quickly if anything gets out of hand.
Dark Ritual was a key piece in the dominant Turbo Initiative decks and the Pauper Format Panel considered banning the one-mana ritual spell. Verhey said banning Dark Ritual would be a major step and, for now, the card will remain in the format. Cards like Dark Ritual and Lightning Bolt are powerful spells that elevate the overall strength of Pauper as a format.
Pauper is similar to Legacy-lite with fast decks and explosive interactions. Removing iconic spells from Pauper like Dark Ritual would be a significant move that isn’t needed in the format at this time.