Wizards of the Coast banned Oko, Thief of Crowns and Nexus of Fate in Magic: the Gathering’s Pioneer format this evening.

When they revealed Pioneer in October, Wizards decided to start with a small banned list that only included the five fetchlands printed in Khans of Tarkir. They said that they would “be watching [Pioneer] closely…and banning cards on off-cycle dates,” using data from Magic Online to identify problematic cards to ban early on.

In the two months since the format’s inception, Wizards has kept its word and made several sweeping bans, totaling nine additional banned cards after today’s announcement. Wizards says those bans have helped balance the Pioneer metagame, “with most of the top decks having a mix of favorable and unfavorable matchups against each other.”

“However,” they continued, “two decks proved to be outliers: Simic Food Ramp and Simic Nexus.”

Simic Ramp has been the clear best deck in Pioneer since the last ban, achieving a 60% non-mirror match win rate as well as winning twice as many leagues on Magic Online as any other archetype. According to Wizards’ data, the deck had favorable matchups against most of the other top decks in Pioneer while not having any extremely unfavorable matchups. In order to weaken the deck, as well as some of the other strong non-ramp strategies that could harm the Pioneer metagame long term, Wizards decided to ban Oko, Thief of Crowns because it alone “shores up many natural weaknesses of ramp decks.”

Pioneer Simic Nexus

Creatures (1)
Brazen Borrower

Planeswalkers (3)
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales

Spells (28)
Cyclonic Rift
Growth Spiral
Haze of Pollen
Supreme Will
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Nexus of Fate
Dig Through Time

Enchantments (4)
Wilderness Reclamation
Lands (24)
Blast Zone
Breeding Pool
Castle Vantress
Fabled Passage
Hinterland Harbor
Lumbering Falls

Sideboard (15)
Thing in the Ice
Lovestruck Beast
Mystical Dispute
Tireless Tracker

Pioneer is just the latest format from which Oko, Thief of Crowns has been banned. He was initially banned from Brawl in early November, then from Standard a few weeks later, and got “suspended” from Historic last week.

Simic Nexus, on the other hand, was the second best-performing deck in Pioneer and had the second-highest league win rate in the format—after Simic Ramp, of course. Simic Ramp happened to be one of the deck’s worst matchups, so Wizards wanted to take preemptive action concert with the Oko ban to prevent Simic Nexus from dominating the metagame. As such, Wizards banned Nexus of Fate, noting that the card’s frustrating play patterns by locking opposing players out of taking another turn would have had a negative impact on the Pioneer format’s health.

Pioneer Simic Ramp

Creatures (27)
Walking Ballista
Elvish Mystic
Gilded Goose
Llanowar Elves
Hydroid Krasis
Scavenging Ooze
Jadelight Ranger
Wicked Wolf

Planeswalkers (8)
Oko, Thief of Crowns
Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Artifacts (2)
Heart of Kiran
Lands (23)
Botanical Sanctum
Breeding Pool
Castle Garenbrig
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Yavimaya Coast

Sideboard (15)
Aether Gust
Aethersphere Harvester
Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
Lovestruck Beast
Reclamation Sage

The next Pioneer Banned and Restricted announcement is scheduled for Monday, January 6, 2020, after which it will join the combined Banned and Restricted announcements used for each of Magic’s other competitive formats. The first premiere Magic event to feature the new Pioneer format will be a month later at Players Tour I on February 1, 2020.

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