The Global Operations Team’s Design Committee is excited to present some new additions to the Standard Format’s restricted list, which will come into effect on January 1, 2022! But before we get to the nuts and bolts, a reminder of our policy, when considering which cards to address in these updates.
When considering which cards to restrict, we tend to look at cards that are significantly above-curve, or at cards that are becoming ubiquitous. If two or more cards interact with each other in an abusive way, we instead use pods, to address the interaction without affecting a deck’s ability to use the cards individually in their intended way.
That said, we found ourselves faced with a situation where one card was not only becoming ubiquitous, but was forcing one of the most interesting parts of this game – the plot deck – to become almost uniform across a large percentage of decks. This, despite the fact that the typical opener for such a deck (At the Gates) was already restricted.
Ever since its inception, the card has simply done too much to guarantee a stable economy, such that other considerations for an opening plot fall considerably short. When combined with Gulltown, it became far too easy to guarantee a one-two punch of unheard-of economy, with City Festival already meeting the “two-city-plot” requirement after a single turn, followed by City of Spiders to repeat the effect later.
While we could have tried to address the situation with further restrictions or podding, all such suggestions had the potential to just be a band-aid on the situation – or to only address one or two specific decks, rather than the root cause.
We have therefore decided to take the drastic step of banning At the Gates. Our hope is that this will allow for a wider range of plot deck choices, while still allowing decks that wish to pursue the City plotline to attempt it honestly. Gulltown is being left alone for the moment – if a deck wishes to accelerate their City plots, they may still do so, but they will have to either run multiples of Gulltown, or find another way to get it into play that doesn’t also serve as an accelerant itself. We also hope this will serve to address the Martell decks that have sought to inflate the number of plots in their used pile, without completely removing their ability to do so.
With that, we continue to the updates of the Standard Restricted List:
In our last update, we sought to address the ascendancy of Tyrell, by restricting their economy in the form of The Bounty of Highgarden. However, many of the most powerful effects currently seeing play in Tyrell actually ignore economy entirely, by putting cards directly into play without paying their gold cost. As such, we are adding two of these cards to the Restricted List – and while neither of them belong to the Tyrell faction, it was Tyrell that was able to get the most use out of them.
Ser Boros Blount’s ability to temporarily put another character into play is fine in a vacuum, but there have proved to be too many ways to return him to hand or to shadows and re-use his ability – and while the free card is supposed to end up in the discard pile, cards like The Iron Bank Will Have its Due or The White Swords either avoid this downside, or turn it into an upside.
Speaking of The White Swords – when you look at the range of possible targets for this effect, this plot can have an effective gold value of anywhere from 9 to 11, putting it much, much higher than other economy plots (and, if the target is in your discard pile, it also acts as a form of card advantage). While it is possible for an opponent to play around it, for example by carefully timing their own Barring the Gates, this is not a guarantee, and usually would need to happen on turn one. We have found that it is unreasonable to ask a deck to do this (though they still have the option to include it if they wish to disrupt the opponent’s Shadows cards on a later turn).
By adding these two cards to the Restricted List, we hope to see Kingsguard decks become slightly more honest in how quickly they can get characters onto the table.
The next faction we wished to address was Stark, which has seen continual success of late in both its Fealty and Lord of the Crossing variants. This, however, was trickier, as there are no individual cards that stand out as being particularly problematic – rather, the deck simply combines a large number of very efficient cards, and the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.
We have therefore decided to add Alysane Mormont, She-Bear, and Skagos (R) to the Restricted List. We hope that by making decks choose between an extremely efficient body, an explosive economy card, and an enabler of sacrifice tech, we may reign in what is quickly becoming one of the hardest decks to handle in the current scene.
One more faction is being addressed in this update, but for a different reason than the others. Targaryen’s Burn strategy has a love-it-or-hate-it relationship with our players – and while we are conscious of those players that find the strategy frustrating to play against, we have to acknowledge that it is no longer performing as consistently as it used to. We are therefore tentatively removing Daenerys Targaryen (TFM) from the restricted list.
We anticipate that many players will take the opportunity to instead play Exchange of Information as their restricted card, improving their ability to find their tools even further. As such, we have decided to add to the list both Meereenese Market, which allowed players to play their burn events over and over again, and Shadow of the East, which was used to aggressively protect Dany and to control any attachments the opponent relied on. In doing so, we aim to ask Burn decks to decide what is most important to their deck – draw, recursion, or attachment control.
Lastly, we feel it needs to be said that there was some discussion as to whether or not these decks are impacting the competitive meta to the degree that we would need to address their balance. Looking at data from The Jousting Pavilion, we are encouraged to see one of the most diverse metas we’ve seen in the history of this game! However, on considering appeals from the community, it was determined that it was better to act now than not. Even if these decks are not completely dominating the tournament scene, they are definitely overperforming, and it is better to address them now than to wait for a bigger problem. Please be assured that we take these steps only when we deem them necessary.
As always, the Design Committee will watch the results of these decisions closely, with a mind towards maintaining a healthy, fun, and diverse meta that provides a wealth of effective, competitive options, and we welcome your feedback.
Good luck, have fun,
The Design Committee