Today's banned and restricted announcement has hit Magic: The Gathering's Pauper format with four bans targeting the Initiative mechanic from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate. Those banned cards include Stirring Bard, Underdark Explorer, Vicious Battlerager, and Aarakocra Sneak.
Gavin Verhey of the Good Morning Magic YouTube channel (and member of the Pauper Format Panel) outlined why these cards received the ban hammer in his latest video. The short story is that the Initiative mechanic from Battle for Baldur's Gate proved to be too powerful in Pauper, Magic's all-commons eternal format, necessitating the removal of some of the best Initiative enablers.
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The long story started almost three weeks ago when "take the initiative" cards started showing up in Magic Online. With thousands of players able to iterate on the mechanic, it went from being a few decks that featured the Undercity to almost every popular Pauper deck.
As Gavin explains in his video, the issue is that taking the initiative, much like becoming the Monarch, provides Pauper decks with ongoing value–something that is extremely difficult to find in the all-commons format. It can also be extremely difficult to deal with if someone were to play a Lotus Petal into a Dark Ritual and then cast a Vicious Battlerager on turn one.
When taking the initiative turned up in so many decks after two weeks, the Pauper Format Panel looked at the seven Initiative cards from Battle for Baldur's Gate and decided to ban the three most popular ones and then throw in Stirring Bard because of its ability to easily defend holding the initiative. Avenging Hunter, Goliath Paladin, and Trailblazer's Torch are still under observation while the team waits for today's bans to ripple through the format.
Elsewhere in today's update, Gavin confirmed that Artifact Affinity, one of Pauper's oldest and most popular deck archetypes, doesn't actually have a win-rate superior to other decks in the format. As such, no bans will be taken for that particular deck at this time, but Pauper planners are keeping an eye on Affinity as well as Dark Ritual, which has been identified as a card that doesn't allow for much counterplay.
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