Although it only launched a couple of weeks ago, Magic: The Gathering Arena's new Explorer format is about to receive its first-ever card bans. The wildly popular format is having one of its top decks nerfed into oblivion, while also taking out one of the current Standard's most problematic cards at the same time.
Both Winota, Joiner of Forces, and Tibalt's Trickery are now no longer legal in Explorer, putting an end to the numerous Naya Winota and Tibalt's Trickery decks that have been dominating these early days of the format.
As outlined on the official Magic blog, Winota, Joiner of Forces has been a big part of Explorer's parent format, Pioneer. Decks often revolve around getting as many cheap non-Human creatures out as possible, before attacking with WInota out and plopping enough powerful humans into play to end the game in a single, decisive combat phase.
The problem with WInota is that all the answers to her found in Pioneer aren't in Explorer. Wizards has been keen to point out that this ban isn't permanent, and Winota will be back once Explorer has gained more of Pioneer's card pool and has ways to deal with it. Specifically, the ban is in place until the launch of this September's Dominaria United, which gives Explorer time to grow some more over the summer.
The second ban is a card that caused huge problems in a number of formats after it debuted in 2021's Kaldheim: Tibalt's Trickery. While it was meant to be a red counterspell with an element of chaos, it turned into a quick and dirty way of cheating out permanents way earlier than intended. For example, casting a zero-cost spell and then countering it with a Tibalt's Trickery gives you the chance to put down an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon as early as turn two.
An issue with Tibalt's Trickery is that it leads to major glass cannon design – either you hit the big, splashy permanent you wanted to play and immediately win, or you don't hit it and immediately concede. As that's no fun to play against or with, a ban was in order. Unlike Winota, Wizards isn't planning on unbanning Tibalt's Trickery any time soon as it isn't really a part of the Pioneer format and its ban has little to no impact on the progression from Explorer to Pioneer later down the line.
If you already own Winota or Tibalt's Trickery before the ban comes into effect on May 12, and haven't received compensation for them from previous bannings (such as Tibalt's ban in Historic) you will receive wildcards to apologise for the ban. This is particularly pertinent for Winota, as many people will have crafted multiple copies of her to play her in the Explorer metagame.
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