The Impact of Standard Bans: May 2023

The Impact of Standard Bans: May 2023

Mason ClarkStandard

Standard received a new wave of bans on Monday, removing Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Invoke Despair and Reckoner Bankbuster from the format. With such powerful and popular cards removed from the format, it’s time to look at what will fill this power vacuum.

While we knew some bans were coming, these do fall outside the new Banned and Restricted announcement cadence that Wizards of the Coast revealed recently. This change came about due to Standard switching to a three year rotation cycle

The way things will work going forward is, in the fall every year, Wizards of the Coast will drop a big update for the format. Then three weeks after every Standard set release, there is a chance for additional bans. 

Those post release bans, however, are a worst-case scenario button. Don’t expect anything to change in this window unless some card is truly crossing a line (principal game designer Andrew Brown gave the example of Felidar Guardian).

With that said, it should be no surprise that such meta-defining cards, all from a set that would have rotated soon under the old cycle, got the ax this time. And now that they’re gone, let’s see what will replace them.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker 

Anyone who has played Standard Magic during the last four months could have called Fable’s ban a mile away. This card is the ultimate smoothing and payoff option in Standard. 

It lets players have consistent draws while being a win condition on its own. Had Fable of the Mirror-Breaker maybe been weaker on the backside, we wouldn’t have seen it banned in Standard. That said, it also probably wouldn’t be one of the most played cards by a solid margin. 

In the wake of Fable’s absence, other three drops that generate value are now on the menu. Cards like Wedding Announcement and Raffine immediately jump out as potential huge role players going forward. 

Wedding Announcement was already a card that saw play under the pressure of Fable, and players have been quick to note we can expect more of it in the coming weeks. 

I also think that is true. However, I do not think we’ll see the Mono White apocalypse as some players have claimed. It’s important to remember that, with three new cards banned, new decks can rise up to challenge lists like Mono White, which in some iterations were actually preying on this Rakdos matchup.

As for Raffine, she has already proven to be one of the best three drops in Standard during the last round of regional championships. Esper was one of the best decks across all the tournaments. 

While cards like Lithomantic Barrage can be very effective against Esper, the color combo is still likely to rise up again — especially in the early weeks after these bans. The deck was incredibly consistent and solid before, but it did lack in the Rakdos matchup post March of the Machines. Players might be able to adapt with new red/X shells, but only time will tell. 

Invoke Despair 

Invoke despair has been one of the most powerful top-end cards in Standard during the last six months. At the latest Pro Tour, we saw it completely dominate the format, putting a limiting factor on the types of games players could pursue. 

You cannot sit behind a Planeswalker and ride it to victory when this card is in the format. It also added a powerful way to push damage, meaning players could actively work toward ending the game sooner. Being such a powerful draw engine, combined with a way to push damage and the ability to control what the opponent was doing, is exactly why this card had to go. 

In Invoke’s absence, we might see more Planeswalkers and expensive enchantments end up sticking around. Chandra, Hope’s Beacon already showed it could survive the Invoke Despair pressure, but now her presence could balloon if it’s easier to stay on board.

Reckoner Bankbuster 

Finally, in the family of two mana artifacts that generate card advantage (think Treasure Map and Mazemind Tome), Reckoner Bankbuster was easily the most powerful thanks to its big body. Being able to clock opponents and their walkers put it over the line as a fantastic option for almost any deck. It asks so little of you and gives you so much in return. 

Bankbuster applied incredible pressure to multiple spots in the metagame. Your creatures needed to be big enough to crew bank buster, which limited the cards that players could build with. Sacrifice-based cards like Liliana of the Veil also had an incredibly hard time making waves due to Bankbuster negating their effectiveness.

With this mech out of the format, not only will smaller creatures have a smaller drawback to running them, but players will have to stretch a bit thinner to get the same amount of value in their decks.

End Step

With all bannings, players are quick to assume the decks surrounding the top of the metagame will just trickle upstream. While that might happen, it’s also important to remember that these three cards were incredibly limiting on what other strategies you could execute and the cards you could play. 

We might see a whole new set of archetypes pop up in the coming weeks as players explore this new landscape. Just don’t expect too many big changes overnight, as it takes weeks for the metagame to catch up to bans as impactful as these — especially when Standard isn’t the main format for many competitive players right now. The format does look to be incredibly fun now, so if you have an idea, get out there and try it.