Upcoming Magic: The Gathering bans for Zendikar Rising are around the corner, and that's probably because in the time that you've read this sentence, 100,000 Scutes were made.
Right before that, one Lotus Cobra crawled through a Fabled Passage, effectively giving its controller three rainbow mana. That even happened twice in the same turn, because two passages dropped as a Song of Creation was playing. And it turns out that cobra itself counted as a land, because freaking Ashaya, Soul of the Wild said so, making its field entry trigger so much more Cobra and Scute to the point that the mana possibilities of Standard today will boggle even practiced logicians. And that's not even adding Omnath, Locus of Creation.
Zendikar Rising is pretty crazy. While MTG's latest set is really fun, it also has its oopsies so Wizards has announced an upcoming update to Standard, effective this Monday.
We're closely monitoring developments in Standard. In order to avoid disrupting this weekend's tournaments, we intend to provide an update on the format early next week.
— Magic: The Gathering (@wizards_magic) September 22, 2020
As for which Magic: The Gathering cards are on the chopping block, one element stays thematic: mana fixing. In Magic: The Gathering, players have always had to find their personal mix of being frugal, clever, and creative regarding how they handle mana in order to see their most effective drops into play. But collectors know, certain cards have been creeping into the game's meta that can fill in for those traits. Fast combinations have been resulting in mana benefits so intense that exponential growth is just not as rare of a thing anymore, and achievable as early as turn three.
This is probably why player polls are indicating cards like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, which can let you double your land drops in a turn, or the aforementioned Lotus Cobra and Omnath – both of which can double, or even quadruple the value of one land hitting the field – are major contenders for the next ban list. In a set featuring mechanics such as landfall and modal double-faced land cards, these synergies can make for a case of too much just being too much.
This set's reprint of Lotus Cobra is another risk for a strike from the banhammer. Cobras are easy plays during the early game, and the way they negate the cost of bringing in a land tapped and adds rainbow mana on top introduces intense variability. Lotus Cobras also brings massive snowball potential with them, and renews arguments around cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, whose costs can be met so much sooner.
On top of all this, Magic: The Gathering's tried and true ratio pitching that 40% of a player's deck should be lands should also be taken much more loosely after Zendikar Rising. Its new double-faced mechanic means packing cards that can fill in as lands and spells both. Players who shuffle 12 of those into a deck of 60 find themselves not craving 24-27 dedicated lands anymore. And even in today's age of landfall, what's on the spell side of these two-faced cards often matters more.
For example, Bala Ged Sanctuary is an ambitious, if not understated card design for green. This one offers recursion to players who choose not to use it as a land – a mechanic that has historically been in Black's zombie-loving wheelhouse. Because that's in the same color as Lotus Cobra — or our next creature — they can seem even more omnipresent in Standard.
Scute Swarm is another lovely card whose synergy puts it at high-risk for new restrictions. With the options available today, players who combine its landfall trigger with the mutation potential of Ikoria might find the legendary rule more restrictive than basic controls, like needing mana in the first place. Players have to stick to cloning non-legendary mutations at a high speed, and yet those experiments still somehow end up being the stuff of nightmares.
So while playing Zendikar Rising can still be more fun than making your worst enemy box an Eldrazi, Monday's ban announcement is expected to walk back a lot of the above – at least in Standard. Power creep continues to be a real tradition in Magic: The Gathering's newest releases. While this keeps new sets exciting, it also means that Standard players may also want to hold back from dropping big bucks on the game's most successful netdecks — at least until the banhammer falls.
By the way, we're not kidding about the Scutes: