This article isn’t just about the Felidar Guardian ban, but it is certainly a great place to start when looking at how Wizards of the Coast deals with balancing the health of the game and consumer confidence.
So, Wizards of the Coast has had a bad couple of weeks. After the original Banned & Restricted announcement that saw nothing get banned in Standard, Wizards made the decision to ban Felidar Guardian less than a week after the original banning. Sensei’s Divining Top going in Legacy caused enough of a stir, but then Wizards suddenly decided that Felidar Guardian also needed to go. The real problem with this decision doesn’t really have to with improving the quality of gameplay. I suspect that banning Felidar Guardian was probably right for gameplay.
However, with Standard being a more expensive format than ever, people are now having a difficult time believing that their decks and cards will stay legal for even a full Standard cycle. I want Magic to succeed in all facets, but through my eyes I see a player base that loves the game but is having a hard time trusting Wizards of the Coast. It doesn’t matter if they now enjoy a healthier format if they feel their investment in a playset of Saheeli Rai was for naught.
The “data” argument used by Wizards of the Coast to justify the Felidar Guardian banning is smoke and mirros in my eyes. This was simply a reactionary emergency ban due to the backlash that was received after the initial ban (or lack thereof). Wizards needs to allow players who may or may not have spent a ton of money buying cards for a specific archetype to be able to play with those cards. A lot of Magic players feel cheated about this change in one way or another, and rightly so.
Those who invested in a now extinct deck lost a lot of money, those who started testing 4-Color Copycat because it didn’t get banned lost a lot of time, and those who have a playset of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar are now clutching the planeswalker close to their chest, fearful that it may be the next card to get the axe. Once the precedent has been set that emergency bannings in Standard are fair game, all bets are off. If Wizards is going to posit this new process of banned and restricted announcements, then it is certainly something that they should stick to.
In my eyes, Wizards has been unfair with this process. The value of so many cards are now tied to the banning and unbanning of certain cards. If Wizards sets the rules, they shouldn’t break them. If secondary Magic vendors are the “banks” of the Magic world, then Wizards is the Mint and to use and abuse the powers that they have to control supply and demand is unhealthy for the game, and I’m having a tough time figuring out how the shot that consumer confidence took is worth it. We hear a lot of stories of stores giving reimbursements to players who have bought cards that have now been banned, which while extremely nice of them, but it shouldn’t be a store’s responsibility and is something that they shouldn’t have to do under any circumstances.
So overall, my argument is this. Banning Felidar Guardian is a good thing for perhaps the next 6 months of Standard. However, if we take into account that 4 cards are banned in the current Standard, then this is a really scary thought, and hurts Magic in the long run. A higher frequency of banning directly correlates to a huge loss in the value of cards and collections. It makes me not want to invest in already extremely expensive Standard decks, and it also will likely lead to further decreases in current Standard tournament attendance down the line. With all of this being said, Wizards is a complicated company, they have a lot of needs and wants to balance, but I believe they made the wrong decision here.