September 2012 Banned & Restricted Update – Burning Wish Unrestricted in Vintage, Valakut Unbanned in Modern

The DCI has announced their quarterly updates to the Banned and Restricted lists today, and Burning Wish has been Unrestricted in Vintage, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle has been Unbanned in Modern! There are no changes in any other format.

Burning Wish is Unrestricted.

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is Unbanned.

Standard, Extended, Legacy, Block Constructed
No changes.

Hooray, the DCI has finally unrestricted Burning Wish many years later than need be! Here is a word from the explanation from the DCI’s own Erik Lauer:

While Vintage tournaments have also been fairly diverse, there has been a paucity of combination decks. Burning Wish is a strong combination enabler. It was first printed in Judgment in May 2002 and restricted in January 2004. At the time, quick-kill combo decks were dominating. Since then, the DCI has unrestricted many Vintage cards, and the restricted list is smaller today than it was in 2000 or any time since then. Continuing in this long-term trend, Burning Wish is unrestricted.

To the surprise of absolutely no one paying attention to Vintage, Burning Wish is a safe candidate for unrestriction, and that time has finally come. It is a fringe playable card at best right now, but this always opens up more exploratory design space for the rogue deck builder, which is exactly what should happen. Bravo Mr. Lauer, bravo.

Regarding the changes to Modern, the format is pretty open-ended and at a relatively limited power level with a number of known commodities as far as decks and strategies, and it appears the DCI felt it was safely time to start unbanning cards to spice up the metagame. Here is the official explanation about Valakut’s unbanning in Modern, once again via Erik Lauer:

Recent Modern tournaments have been diverse, with no deck dominating the metagame. Since Modern is a non-rotating format, banned cards never rotate out. The DCI is unbanning a card to see how that affects the format. We looked for cards that were on the initial banned list for Pro Tour Philadelphia. We wanted a card that would not easily slot into an existing top deck and also wanted to enable a deck with a different play pattern than the current top decks. After examining the options, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was selected as the card to unban.

Valakut has never been used to go about doing anything fairly, instead acting as a combo finisher in decks with Primeval Titan and/or Scapeshift, both of which are currently legal in Modern. Prismatic Omen is also legal in Modern currently, so expect to see new Valakut combo decks sporting the Omen, Scapeshift, and Primeval Titan trifecta pop up immediately, and quickly become one of the best decks.

This is quite a bold shakeup to the Modern format with Grand Prix: Chicago on the horizon in early November, as well as Grand Prix: Toronto in December, followed by Grand Prix: Bilbao and Grand Prix: San Diego in the first quarter of 2013. Time will tell if Valakut is indeed a safe choice to unban, and I suspect there are very good chances it will end up back on the Banned list by the end of 2013.

The other interesting nugget released today was a Banned & Restricted policy update by the DCI, changing the timing of the Banned & Restricted updates from an arbitrary date to one that parallels the release of new sets:

Going forward, Banned and Restricted updates will by synchronized with set releases. For each set, starting with Gatecrash, the announcement will be the Monday after the Prerelease, and the effective date will be the same as the release date of the set.

There are several advantages to this. First, this means there is no longer a date you have to remember. Second, it is less disruptive to deck management. Most players find it is a good time to update their decks when a set releases. Finally, this answers odd questions as to whether a banning has taken place if the update date occurs in the middle of a tournament.

So what this means for us is that you can expect the announcements to be made on the weekend of the Prerelease for each new set.

Let us know your thoughts on all of this news in the comments section below, or on Twitter @EternalCentral!