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February 2014 Banned and Restricted changes: Deathrite Shaman out, two others in

Alas, poor Hamlet impersonator! I knew him, Vraska, a fellow of infinite combos.

The DCI is on a new ban and restriction announcement schedule - and February 3, post-Born of the Gods, was the first announcement of this year. And what a way to kick the year of tournaments off. Three cards are affected - one banning, two unbannings, all of them in Modern - and the metagame already trembles.

In brief: Deathrite Shaman is banned. Wild Nacatl is unbanned. Bitterblossom is unbanned. The full explanation:

Different flavors of black-green decks have recently been among the best-performing decks in Modern. These decks play many very efficient ways to trade cards one for one with their opponents, such as Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and Abrupt Decay. Strong mana acceleration helps these decks trade one for one efficiently enough that they can keep up with the other decks in a large format such as Modern, but normally playing mana acceleration comes at the cost of playing cards that are less powerful in the late game. Deathrite Shaman, however, is powerful at all stages of the game. Having a strong attrition-based deck as a large portion of the metagame makes it difficult for decks that are based on synergies between cards instead of individually powerful cards. We believe that removing Deathrite Shaman from the format will leave more room for future innovation.

At the time Wild Nacatl was banned, we hoped that this would allow room for other aggressive decks to shine. Artifact-based aggressive strategies have remained popular and a few other aggressive decks have emerged, but the Zoo decks eventually disappeared as a result of the ban and nothing else emerged as a viable traditional aggressive deck. We expect that with the return of Wild Nacatl, those decks will return as a viable option.

At the time of Modern's inception, the dominance of Faeries in Standard was at the front of our minds. Therefore, we took the conservative approach of including Bitterblossom in the initial banned list. After observing the evolution of the Modern format, we feel that it is of an appropriate power level to compete with the other powerful strategies in the format.

All three cards here are extremely early drops - two of them are actually only one mana. The key difference between the banned and unbanned cards is that Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom are good at doing one specific thing extremely well. The Nacatl is a beater with nothing else, no evasion, no removal-proofing; it can just get unusually big for when it comes out. Bitterblossom is only effective if the Fae deck's pilot can slow the game enough for it to actually produce a large army in the air. Deathrite Shaman is one of the most powerful cards in both Standard and Modern because it's just so much of a toolbox. Plus, neither Bitterblossom nor the Nacatl actually generate mana.

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