So Many Insane Plays – Suggested Banned and Restricted List Updates (2018)

Throughout my long career opining on Magic, one of the perennial topics is the Banned and Restricted List. It is the primary mechanism by which the DCI and other organizing bodies promote strategic diversity, maintain competitive balance, and regulate the most unfair elements of any Magic format. Most columnists – including myself – tackle this sensitive subject in an ad hoc manner – responding to crises as they arise, or periodically – in anticipation of pending DCI updates.

After watching the annual Swedish Old School managers successfully and happily tweak their format on a simple annual basis, it occurred to me that I could publish a similar article, on a regular basis, that would present my own opinions about what could – or should – happen in any format. Much as I have done with the annual Vintage Checklist, I will commit to publishing updates to my suggestions for Vintage and various Old School formats once a year, around this time.

In addition to using this article as a vehicle to contribute to the ongoing debates over banning and restriction, I hope this annual article will serve as a compass or a north star, to point out an alternative approach to managing formats of interest, and to provide a consistent and coherent framework to support that approach. In that regard, I hope that this article will serve as a historical point of reference, as other policymakers follow (or ignore) my approach.

There are many considerations that govern Banned and Restricted List policy, many of them subjective. Without purporting to be entirely objective or empirical (as a specious form of scientism), I give much greater weight to such sources of information than more subjective or amorphous notions of fairness. Thus, in descending order, here are the bases for restriction that I believe are the most defensible grounds:

Dominance (monopoly power)

The most legitimate basis for restriction is to regulate a dominant strategy. This is equivalent to antitrust power when it comes to economic monopolies. Monopoly power stifles innovation and destroys competitive balance. Decks that dominate formats over time (such that competitors have had ample opportunity to dislodge or diminish it) merit DCI intervention.

However, in such cases of dominant decks, the implementation must be carefully tailored to solve the problem, and reach no further than necessary. Although it is possible that a deck is so strong that it requires several restrictions to ultimately curb its dominance, I prefer an approach that restricts a single card at a time to ensure that each restriction is truly necessary. Furthermore, the restriction should generally target a card with strategic value, as opposed to tactical use. Thus, it should generally select card advantage engines, mana producers, or troublesome threats, as opposed to removal or counterspells. If the latter class of cards is used in such a way as to fuel the former, then exceptions can be made.

Imbalance (oligopoly power)

A format can remain unhealthy and insufficiently diverse even in the absence of a monopoly or dominant strategy. The appropriate analog here is oligopoly or duopoly. When two decks polarize a format it can be just as unhealthy as when a single ‘best’ deck does. Thus, if two decks are 50% or more of the format, I believe there is a legitimate case for taking action. The same framework for operationalizing intervention under monopoly power applies, except that in this case restricting two or more cards simultaneously is justifiable to hit both strategies at the same time.

Interactivity

The first two criteria make up, in my view, more than 90% of the grounds for banning or restriction. Many years ago, I read David Sirlin’s famous essay on “what should be banned?” and with the benefit of time, have come to see its wisdom, while also recognizing that his conclusion, that “The only reasonable case to ban something because it is “too good” is when that tactic completely dominates the entire game, to the exclusion of other tactics” is a bit rigid for my taste. His analysis and key points are brilliant insights, but his conclusion is philosophically correct, even if I am willing to grant exceptions.

As I already noted, oligopoly or duopoly power over a metagame can have as much of a stifling effect on format health as a single, dominant strategy. But I am also willing to grant a further exception for strategies that are neither dominant nor part of an oligopoly, if they so blatantly violate principles of fun and interesting game play that they warrant separate action. This concern is typically framed in terms of “interactivity.”

“Interactivity” is a troubling and surprisingly vague concept in Magic. An overweening desire for interactivity has a natural bias towards control or other slow and durdley decks, and displays a prejudice and lack of patience for combo or prison decks. Even without agreeing wholeheartedly on an objective and defensible definition, I think we can recognize that some tactics affect game play to such an extreme way that they merit special action.

However – and this is a large caveat – I would never restrict or ban a card simply because it is non-interactive. A card must see a substantial amount of play – even if it is nefarious in principle – before I would permit a restriction or banning. Think about it: if a card is odious in its own right, but sees no competitive tournament play, then restriction or banning is unwarranted. Extreme non-interactivity is a necessary condition for banning or restriction under this criteria, but not sufficient.

In my view, the classic example of a card that justified restriction under this criteria is Trinisphere in Vintage. Trinisphere was not an unbeatable tactic, but it so dramatically narrowed the options for responding to it or counter-acting it (largely to Force of Will, Wasteland, or another Sol- or Lotus-land) to such an unreasonable degree to merit restriction. Trinisphere never enjoyed sustained dominance in the Vintage format, but it was a large enough portion of the Vintage metagame to become a nuisance.

Further validating the intervention, the restriction of Trinisphere resulted in a proliferation and greater diversity of Workshop strategies. If not for the restriction of Trinisphere, Uba Stax, to take but one example, would not have emerged that year. Such strategies had been stifled and smothered by the raw power of Trinisphere-centric approaches.

Another restriction that is generally viewed to fall under the ‘interactivity’ basis is the restriction of Flash in Vintage. Flash was banned in Legacy even before Future Sight was released, which would have dramatically elevated the power of that strategy. But it was allowed to exist in Vintage for a year, in which it rarely broke 10% of Top 8s. It was ultimately restricted prematurely, in my opinion, because the restriction of other cards, like Merchant Scroll and Brainstorm, greatly weakened it. Yet, all three cards (in addition to Ponder and Gush) were restricted simultaneously.

Today, the case of Flash illustrates a fundamental tension between criteria. The first two grounds for restriction I presented have as their goal the promotion and maintenance of format diversity. I believe that unrestricting Flash in Vintage would have the effect of slightly enhancing format diversity by adding a new deck to the format. My guess is that it would be somewhere between 5-15% of Top 8s within 12 months, just as it was in 2007-2008. The problem is that it would also increase the number of Turn 1 or Turn 2 kills, and require specialized tactics like Leyline of the Void to combat it. So, it is a judgment call as to how to balance those criteria.

Those three grounds constitute most of the well-reasoned and logically defensible grounds for restriction in Vintage or analogous Old School formats. More metaphysical bases such as card functionality or being a “tutor” or “fast mana” have fallen by the wayside, and for good reasons. The DCI realized, only after many years, that not every recursion spell or efficient tutor or mana source needed restriction. Thus, cards like Feldon’s Cane could be unrestricted, as could Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond. Even as late as 2007, the DCI justified its restriction of Gifts Ungiven, at least in part, on the ground that it was a multi-card tutor. Gifts is now unrestricted, and with good reason.

I am willing to grant that there may be further criteria to justify restriction or banning – but aside from cards that essentially make tournament logistics impossible, like ante or manual dexterity cards, I cannot as of yet imagine that they might be. I am also willing to accept, for the moment, the principle that cards are not banned in Vintage for power level reasons, even if I think it’s conceivable that a restricted card might some day so dominate a format as to warrant banning.

To avoid misleading anyone, I wish to acknowledge that the framework I have just presented is not necessarily the same framework that the DCI uses (the DCI’s approach over the years has never been systematic or internally consistent). My approach, with an emphasis on statistical performance and narrow tailoring, can lead to candidates for restriction or restrictions that are counter-intuitive, in the sense that they may be less powerful than cards traditionally restricted. A narrowly tailored approach will sometimes lead to restrictions of lower powered cards in some objective sense, but are nonetheless the best card in terms of maximizing strategic diversity and minimizing the length or size the Banned and Restricted List.

With these criteria laid down, I will now turn to my suggested Banned and Restricted Lists for Vintage, Old School 94, Old School 95, Old School 96, and Old School 97, the formats I currently and actively play.

My Suggested Vintage Banned and Restricted List

The following cards are banned in Vintage:
25 cards with the Card Type “Conspiracy.” Click here for list.
9 cards that reference “playing for ante.” Click here for list.
Chaos Orb
Falling Star

The following cards are restricted in Vintage:
Ancestral Recall
Arcbound Ravager
Balance
Black Lotus
Brainstorm
Chalice of the Void
Channel
Demonic Consultation
Demonic Tutor
Dig Through Time
Flash
Gush
Imperial Seal
Library of Alexandria
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Lodestone Golem
Lotus Petal
Mana Crypt
Mana Vault
Memory Jar
Merchant Scroll
Mind’s Desire
Monastery Mentor
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Mystical Tutor
Necropotence
Ponder
Sol Ring
Strip Mine
Thorn of Amethyst
Time Vault
Time Walk
Timetwister
Tinker
Tolarian Academy
Treasure Cruise
Trinisphere
Vampiric Tutor
Wheel of Fortune
Yawgmoth’s Will

Differences between my suggested list and the official DCI Vintage Banned and Restricted List:

1) Fastbond.

In my view, Fastbond is the most obvious unrestriction on the current Vintage restricted list, as it relates to the criteria I have articulated. Unrestricted Fastbond would neither create nor contribute to a dominant deck or set of decks, while also promoting format diversity.

The chances that unrestricting Fastbond would lead to a dominant strategy or support an oligopoly format are infinitesimally small. Consider that, in the years before its re-restriction, only a tiny percentage of Gush decks even used Fastbond. With Gush restricted, the most obvious abusive interaction is even less plausible than it was beforehand.

Fastbond may once have been a plausible card for Academy or Storm combo decks, but the DCI’s unrestriction of so much artifact mana acceleration in recent decades combined with the printing of so many additional mana accelerants like Mox Opal and Simian Spirit Guide, have rendered cards like this rather unnecessary. The first additional land drop with Fastbond is worse than simply having played Mox Diamond, which sees almost no Vintage play. Storm combo decks are very unlikely to play Fastbond as an accelerant.

The more interesting place that Fastbond might see play is in a Vintage version of the “Lands” deck. In this strategy, it would provide yet enabler to make the strategy more consistent – and more powerful. It is debatable how much more powerful Fastbond would make such a deck. It’s clearly superior to Manabond or Exploration, since a first turn Fastbond would enable the Lands deck to play out all of their lands during the main phase, and potentially cast cards like Life from the Loam and Gamble immediately.

Some players might be concerned that a Fastbond-enabled Lands deck might violate my 3rd criteria, by creating a non-interactive deck. They might be concerned, for example, that a Fastbond-enabled Lands strategy could more efficiently and quickly power out the Dark Depths combo. While deploying it on the first turn is already feasible with Manabond, I am not terribly concerned about such interactions. First of all, most decks in the format already have Wastelands, Swords to Plowshares, or other answers. Second, Mental Misstep is sufficiently played that it could prevent this from happening on a regular basis.

Even aside from the lands deck, some might complain that a Fastbond-fueled Crucible of Worlds or Ramunap Excavator – followed by thinning one’s entire deck – or Wastelanding an opponent’s entire board – is unfair and unfun. I actually think that is a perfectly fair play for Vintage. There are ways of combating this at a tactical or strategic level.

Third, and most importantly, I don’t actually think that this is sufficiently threatening to maintain a restriction. In fact, if the Lands deck were powered to a sufficient extent that it became a consistent presence in the Vintage metagame – even 5% of Top 8s – then unrestricting Fastbond will have served the purpose of promoting format diversity. I view that as a positive good. Even better, the Lands deck would be strategically well positioned against the two strategies that have dominated the format for years now, Xerox strategies and Workshops, while being weak to Paradoxical decks and other combo decks. I would love to see what Fastbond can do.

2) Gitaxian Probe

Gitaxian Probe was restricted, according to the DCI, because of its interaction with Monastery Mentor. Specifically, the DCI said that “We believe by removing these free draw spells—and the perfect information that comes with Gitaxian Probe—we will significantly weaken Monastery Mentor–based strategies.” Empirical data collected subsequently demonstrated that this expectation was mistaken, and that Mentor itself needed restriction. With Mentor restricted, the express ground for restricting Probe has disappeared. It logically follows that Gitaxian Probe should no longer be restricted.

Granted, there are other grounds for restricting Probe, but none based on the criteria I have articulated above. Unrestricted Gitaxian Probe does not create or support a dominant strategy, it does not create or support a polarized format, and it does not produce an unreasonable degree of Turn 1 kills or non-interactive games. Gitaxian Probe was and continues to be played by multiple strategies. If anything, the boost it gives to Storm Combo decks, which are a marginal part of the Vintage format, is a reason to unrestrict it.

Some players support the restriction of Gitaxian Probe on more metaphysical grounds, such as ease of having perfect information. While I can respect these views, I do not support them. I view restriction as a radical intervention into a format, which should only be warranted by the strongest available empirical evidence and demonstrable problem. Dislike of having too much information is not, in my view, a valid ground for restriction.

It also matters that very few players, in polling, expressed a desire to see Gitaxian Probe restricted in Vintage before it occurred. I would unrestrict Gitaxian Probe.

3) Windfall

The DCI has recently discussed Windfall as a candidate for unrestriction. I agree with them, and I would go further and unrestrict it. It would not work particularly well with Paradoxical Outcome but would create, if anything, its own deck. In the last 5 years, combo decks have had a tenuous foothold on the Vintage format. They have benefited from the unrestriction of Yawgmoth’s Bargain, but they are still a marginal player. Unrestricting Windfall is another action that can promote format diversity without seriously risking a dominant strategy. If Windfall would contribute to too many fast kills, I would remind folks that Mindbreak Trap is waiting to help keep such strategies in check.

4) Arcbound Ravager

There seems to be a widening view that Workshops remain too strong and consistent in Vintage, a view with which I concur. There is no agreement about what to do about them. Rich Shay has suggested restricting Phyrexian Revoker, and perhaps other cards as well. After careful consideration, I think that the next best restriction would be Arcbound Ravager.

The main problem with the Workshop deck as it is currently constituted is its speed. It can mount and executive an overwhelming offense before an opponent can do anything about it. Arcbound Ravager is the lynchpin to this problem. Although Walking Ballista is often the finisher, Arcbound Ravager is the card that makes Ballista so deadly, by transferring all of the permanents and power on the board to the Ballista. In addition, Arcbound Ravager is the card that renders so much spot removal worthless or ineffective. By moving its power to another threat in response to a Swords to Plowshares or Ingot Chewer, Arcbound Ravager allows the Workshop deck to effectively evade counter-tactics.

Restricting Arcbound Ravager should both slow the Workshop Aggro deck and make it less resilient to spot removal, and thereby weakening its tentatively dominant position in the format.

5) Shahrazad

I do not believe Shahrazad should be banned in Vintage. It was legal in the format for many years without serious or notable incident. Its banning was unexpected. If the management of Organized Play really felt it was a problem, the correct initial step is restriction, not banning. This a nitpicky point, and not really one that matters, but that’s my view.

Additional Notes:

I personally do not believe Flash would be a problem if it were unrestricted, but I would prefer to wait to see the effect of these changes made before recommending it for unrestriction.

Gush, in my opinion, did not merit its most recent restriction, as the clear problem, with the benefit of hindsight, was Monastery Mentor. With Mentor restricted, the case of Gush is considerably weakened. It is certainly possible that, even with Mentor restricted, Gush would predominate, but we should be able to observe that rather than assume it. Even if I am right in terms of the data and the empirics, I realize that there is a general Gush-weariness across the format, and so do not advocate for its immediate unrestriction, even if I believe the restriction was not fully justified.

There are a number of other cards I would consider for unrestriction, but I would prefer to wait to observe the effects of these changes – and understand the ensuing metagame dynamics – before taking further action.

My Suggested Old School 94 Banned and Restricted List

(What I call “Old School 94” is what most people know more familiarly as “93/94.” I adopt the term “Old School 94” as a convention that extends to later years.)

Here is the Banned and Restricted List I would personally recommend for Old School 94.

The following cards are banned in Old School 94:
Bronze Tablet
Contract from Below
Darkpact
Demonic Attorney
Jeweled Bird
Rebirth
Tempest Efreet

The following cards are restricted in Old School 94:
Ancestral Recall
Balance
Black Lotus
Braingeyser
Chaos Orb
Channel
Demonic Tutor
Library of Alexandria
Mana Drain
Mind Twist
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Regrowth
Sol Ring
Strip Mine
Time Walk
Timetwister
Wheel of Fortune

Differences between my suggested B&R List and Eternal Central and Swedish rules:

1) Strip Mine.

My views on Strip Mine in Old School 94 have been widely presented in podcasts, social media, and on forums. My main complaint about unrestricted Strip Mine is that it leads to the dominance of Aggro, Aggro-Control, and Tempo strategies in Old School to an absurd degree (nearly 80% of Top 8s). Formats with Strip Mine restricted, such as the Swedish metagame, are still dominated by Aggro and Aggro-Control decks, but to a perceptively smaller degree.

Part of the reason for this is that Control decks, combo decks, weird durdley decks, and prison decks all constituted a larger part of the metagame with Strip Mine restricted. Thus, Strip Mine is the perfect candidate for restriction based upon either of the first criteria described at the outset of this article. It pushes out marginal strategies that either rely on specialized lands or that are too slow to compete with the tempo generated by Strip-Mine backed Aggro decks. A statistical analysis of the difference between EC and Swedish rules bears this out.

My complaints about Strip Mine go deeper, however, than metagame composition or balance. It broadly affects deck construction and design approaches, homogenizing mana bases by pushing players to increase the number of lands in their deck, effectively eliminating decks that would design themselves by bending down their mana base tremendously.

Moreover, a non-trivial number of games are rendered ‘non-games’ or non-interactive by multiple Strip Mine and or Strip Mine backed up by Chaos Orb. The grounds for restricting Strip Mine are multiple, and flow from the criteria I have set out above.

One of the arguments that is often made for unrestricting Strip Mine is that it helps keep The Deck, Mishra’s Factory or Library of Alexandria in check. To me, that is like amputating your arm to heal an elbow scrap. If the Deck is too good, and there is scant statistical evidence to support that view, then it should be the target of restriction. The same logic applies to Mishra’s Factory. And if Library is too good, then it should either be banned, or players should use more cards to deal with it, such as City in a Bottle, which is criminally underplayed.

2) Recall

I would unrestrict Recall. Recall was restricted in Type 1 not because of its tournament dominance, but because of the principle that it elided the concept of restriction by allowing players to replay restricted cards. That does not serve as a legitimate basis for restriction. And there is no reason to believe that this is a dominant tactic or supports a dominant strategy. The Swedish rules team unrestricted Recall recently, and it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this decision has. But it is a decision I agree with.

3) Maze of Ith

I would unrestrict Maze of Ith. Maze of Ith has been unrestricted in Swedish rules for a year without incident, and is a card I advocated for unrestriction even before that was officially done. I do not see any compelling reason to keep Maze of Ith restricted in any Old School ’94 variant.

4) Time Vault

I would unrestrict Time Vault. This is a controversial choice, but easily explained. Going “infinite” in Old School 94 with Time Vault requires three cards, such as Animate Artifact and Instill Energy. Unlike Vintage, which can win with just Tezzeret the Seeker, no such card combo complement exists in this format.

Three cards combos are generally too fragile to restrict, and this one is even less powerful than Power Monolith. Basalt Monolith is a useful mana accelerant even in the absence of Power Artifact, and, when paired with Power Artifact, can do powerful things even in the absence of a finisher like Fireball. Neither Animate Artifact nor Instill Energy are very powerful by themselves, and Time Vault is basically useless without the other combo parts (although it can be used nicely with Stasis).

Rather than assembling a fragile, 3-card combo, a more realistic and abusive application for unrestricted Time Vault is to simply take a number of additional turns with Twiddle, possibly aided by Regrowth and/or Recalls to recur Twiddle. I foresee this being the best application of unrestricted Time Vault, but not so abusive or scary as to warrant keeping Time Vault restricted. Playing two cards to gain a single turn is a powerful, but fair interaction for Old School 94.

Combo decks are already a tiny portion of the Old School ’94 metagame. If Time Vault decks were to rise to even 8% of Top 8s, then the unrestriction here would be worth it. I might also add that unrestricting Time Vault does not mean that optimal Time Vault decks would play 4 Time Vault. With Transmute Artifact, it is likely that they would play between 2-3, to start with.

5) Mishra’s Workshop.

The Swedish rules restrict Mishra’s Workshop. I must admit that I was skeptical of this unrestriction in Eternal Central’s rules when playing under non-Swedish rules a few years back. After many encounters with Workshop decks, I’ve decided that the removal in Old School ’94 remains so efficient, especially with Shatter, Swords to Plowshares, and Disenchant, that it is difficult for even the fastest draw to overwhelm well-prepared pilots. And Energy Flux is a blowout. I still have concerns, however, that a first and second turn Juggernaut or Su-Chi followed by multiple Strip Mines and/or Winter Orb and Icy Manipulator is too much tempo advantage. But restricting Strip Mine largely alleviates my concerns. I now prefer the format, slightly, with Workshop unrestricted, as I don’t believe it leads to a dominant deck, and creates more strategic diversity.

Additional Notes:

If there were evidence that The Deck was too good, I would restrict Jayemdae Tome. But despite many views expressed that way, I do not believe that The Deck is dominant in any version of Old School with Mana Drain restricted. In the Swedish metagame, The Deck is no more than 20-25% of Top 8s, and infrequently wins major tournaments. Under the EC rules, its density is even less, at 10% of Top 8s. And, under EC rules, I think that UR Burn, and a number of other decks, are well equipped to compete with The Deck.

My Suggested Old School 95 Banned and Restricted List

Here is the Banned and Restricted List I would personally recommend for Old School 95.

The following cards are Restricted in Old School 95:
Ancestral Recall
Balance
Black Lotus
Braingeyser
Channel
Chaos Orb
Demonic Tutor
Library of Alexandria
Mana Drain
Mind Twist
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Necropotence
Regrowth
Sol Ring
Strip Mine
Time Vault
Time Walk
Timetwister
Wheel of Fortune

Differences between my suggested Old School ’95 Banned and Restricted List and Eternal Central’s:

1) Maze of Ith.

See my explanation for Old School 94, above.

2) Recall.

See my explanation for Old School 94, above.

3) Necropotence.

Necropotence is not a card that fits Sirlin’s strict definition of dominance. However, it falls under the second criteria for restriction. It is so powerful that it warps the metagame and polarizes the format into Necro decks, anti-Necro decks, and decks that beat the anti-Necro decks. Even as a restricted card, it powerfully boosts black aggro and combo decks. I have played countless matches with Necropotence restricted and unrestricted. In my experience with Old School ’95, keeping Necropotence restricted has opened the format far more than playing with it unrestricted.

Additional Notes:

Demonic Consultation is immensely powerful. I actually like Demonic Consultation, even though it makes Power Monolith much more powerful. One reason is that it helps make Reanimator) very strong and consistent, and this is a strategy that helps diversify the format.

Brainstorm is another very powerful card from Ice Age, and with Zuran Orb, makes Land Tax a much more reliable and powerful effect. In my experience with Old School ’95, these decks are very good, but not close to dominant.

Time Vault is restricted here, whereas it wasn’t in Old School 94. The reason for this difference is simple: there are more efficient tutors and recursive spells than in Old School 95, making it much more dangerous. With Demonic Consultation, Brainstorm, and Forgotten Lore, it is not inconceivable that a 4-of Time Vault deck could gain effectively infinite turns by recursion and tutors. In this format, I would keep Time Vault restricted. It would only become more obnoxious in later formats with Force of Will and more tutors.

My Suggested Old School 96 Banned and Restricted List

Here is the Banned and Restricted List I would personally recommend for Old School 96.

The following cards are Restricted in Old School 96:
Ancestral Recall
Balance
Black Lotus
Braingeyser
Channel
Chaos Orb
Demonic Tutor
Library of Alexandria
Mana Drain
Mind Twist
Mystical Tutor
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Mystical Tutor
Necropotence
Power Artifact
Regrowth
Sol Ring
Time Vault
Time Walk
Timetwister
Wheel of Fortune

Differences between my suggested Banned and Restricted List for Old School ’96 and from Eternal Central’s Rules & historical Type 1:

1) Necropotence.

As with 95, Necropotence is restricted.

2) Mystical Tutor.

Mystical Tutor needs to be restricted. It is a dominant tactic without restriction, and would be used by many of the best decks in the format to find Ancestral Recall, Balance, Time Vault, or tutor chain anything with Demonic Tutor. It’s too good to allow as a four-of.

3) Power Artifact is restricted.

In this format, with Force of Will, Lim-Dul’s Vault, and Brainstorm, you either need to restrict Demonic Consultation or Power Artifact. I think the latter is a better choice in terms of promoting format diversity.

Additional Notes:

With the addition of Mirage, enough alternative strategies are viable, and enough specialized lands are problematic, that Strip Mine can be safely unrestricted again, as it was in Type I of 1996.

Enlightened Tutor and Flash are unrestricted, as there is no compelling reason to restrict them. None of the broken Flash creatures are printed until Urza block, and Enlightened Tutor does not make the most broken decks appreciably better (even MaskNaught!).

Fastbond remains unrestricted, despite providing a powerful combo with Storm Cauldron.

My Suggested Old School 97 Banned and Restricted List

Here is the Banned and Restricted List I would personally recommend for Old School 97.

The following cards are Restricted in Old School 97:
Ancestral Recall
Balance
Black Lotus
Braingeyser
Channel
Chaos Orb
Demonic Tutor
Library of Alexandria
Mind Twist
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Mystical Tutor
Necropotence
Power Artifact
Prosperity
Regrowth
Sol Ring
Strip Mine
Time Vault
Time Walk
Timetwister
Wheel of Fortune
Vampiric Tutor

So far I can tell, there is no public list of Old School ’97 Banned and Restricted list aside from the actual historical Type 1 list of the time.

Differences from Old School ’96:

1) Mana Drain.

Mana Drain can now be unrestricted given the variety strategies that are boosted by recent sets.

2) Prosperity.

Prosperity is restricted. Prosperity combo is too good with the addition of Visions, and when boosted by Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, and Lion’s Eye Diamond. You either need to restrict Prosperity or some of the artifact acceleration. I’ve opted for the former.

3) Vampiric Tutor.

Vampiric Tutor is restricted. It’s even better than Mystical Tutor, and needs to be restricted for the same reasons.

4) Strip Mine.

Strip Mine is restricted again because Wasteland is in Tempest. Having a format with 8 Strip Mine and Wasteland effects is far too many. Strip Mine was restricted in early 1998 for this very reason.

Additional Notes:

Land Tax and Scroll Rack is a very powerful, but fair combo. I would not restrict either.

Braingeyser has to remain restricted because of Mana Crypt and Mana Vault, as well as unrestricted Mana Drain.

Conclusion

The management and Banned and Restricted Lists is one of the most important responsibilities for the DCI or any Old School community. The Banned and Restricted List sets the range of possible strategies within a format, and spurs players to design and develop deck concepts along certain lines.

In my view the goal of any policymaker should be to balance the goal of allowing players to play with as many cards and in maximal quantities as possible with the equally important goal of promoting and enhancing strategic diversity. The criteria I have set out carefully balances these two goals, and I have demonstrated how to apply them to the Vintage format as well as four different Old School formats.

I look forward to seeing how the formats I covered change over the next year, and will be sure to update my recommended lists in about a year’s time.

Until next time,
Stephen Menendian