This banned and suspended announcement was originally scheduled for January 30. Due to the proximity of that date to the Calling Indianapolis taking place on February 4-5, we are bringing this announcement forward to give players a more reasonable amount of time to prepare following the changes being announced today. These changes are effective Monday, January 30, after ProQuest season 3 has concluded.
In previous B&S announcements, we have talked about our philosophy towards using the banned and suspended list as being three-fold; Sometimes we use it to address card interactions that are degenerate or create negative play experiences. Sometimes it's because we messed up. Sometimes it's to actively manage the format. Today's changes are centered around actively managing the format.
Before diving into the changes, we do want to note that we actively consider removing cards from the banned and suspended lists as a way to manage the formats, and you can expect to see some ebb and flow of cards in and out legality over the coming months and years. The banned list is not a one way street.
The following changes to Classic Constructed are effective from January 30, 2023:
- Belittle is banned
- Winter’s Wail is banned
- Amulet of Ice is suspended until Iyslander becomes Living Legend
- Hypothermia is suspended until Iyslander becomes Living Legend
In this most recent ProQuest season, hero representation in our game has been perhaps the most diverse we’ve ever seen. The majority of our heroes showed up to events, showcased a wide array of play patterns, and challenged for, and won, Pro Tour invites. Despite this diversity, three heroes dramatically outpaced the field in terms of conversion rate, win rates, and total number of Pro Tour invites secured.
If this were the first season of dominance for Oldhim, Iyslander, and Fai, perhaps we’d be inclined to look the other way and allow the metagame time to adapt. After all, we are not in a three deck metagame and none of these heroes have play rates that are problematic. At this point, however, things simply feel stagnant. Furthermore, we recognize that our Ice heroes can occasionally create polarizing experiences, where one player has an inordinate amount of control over the flow of the game. It is important that these strategies remain viable in Flesh and Blood, but we do not blame anyone for wanting to play against a few less Frostbites for a while.
Simply put, Oldhim, Iyslander, and Fai have been on top for a long time, and all three are a long way off from attaining Living Legend status. It is time for a change in the Classic Constructed format.
Winter’s Wail is too strong for a one-handed Guardian weapon. Tales of Aria represents a set where boundaries were pushed, and as we learn more about Flesh and Blood, it has become increasingly clear that Duskblade was not the only Majestic weapon in Tales of Aria that went too far. Winter’s Wail has impact on the game equivalent to, if not greater than, many two-handed weapons like Anothos, Romping Club, Nebula Blade, and Sledge of Anvilheim. It brings that output to the table while also carrying with it a Rampart of the Ram’s Head; Stalagmite, Bastion of Isenloft; or Arcane Lantern. There needs to be a meaningful cost to playing a one-handed weapon given how much value your off-hand provides as a Guardian. In hindsight, the value of Shields wasn’t priced in correctly to Winter’s Wail final form.
It is too easy for an attack from Winter’s Wail to change the swing back damage equation by a disproportionate amount. Oldhim’s ability to keep a one-card hand and offer 4 damage while potentially mitigating double digits of damage on an opposing turn has been at the core of his broadly favorable aggro matchups. Oldhim without Winter’s Wail still offers a hearty challenge for aggro decks based on best-in-game defensive options as well as a bevy of Crush and Ice effects. We expect Oldhim decks will have to adapt significantly to this change, but in no way do we expect Oldhim to disappear from the metagame.
Hypothermia and Amulet of Ice
Iyslander has not been quite as dominant as Oldhim this season, but as our World Champion has proven, there is nothing scarier to see across the table than a great player behind a Waning Moon and an Ice Wizard. Iyslander has effective game plans into virtually every hero in Flesh and Blood, and it would be challenging to bring the deck back to the field with only a single alteration. Therefore, we are targeting some of her best tools for both aggro and control matchups.
With Hypothermia in arsenal, Iyslander feels virtually invulnerable against decks that rely on bestowing go again to their attacks. With a single free blue card, turns are routinely stolen from Briar, Dash, and Fai. Hypothermia can undo multiple turns worth of setup and planning by an opponent.
Likewise, Amulet of Ice allows Iyslander to sculpt a perfect opportunity in the late game at very little deckbuilding cost, and almost no output cost given that it is free to play and has go again. The fact that Amulet of Ice is routinely part of Iyslander’s plans against aggro as well as control really tells you all you need to know about its power. When it is still worth playing a card with no block value against extremely potent offensive strategies, there is really no risk/reward proposition around Amulet of Ice—it is simply all reward. We much prefer if Iyslanders that wish to set up these card denial game plans are forced to do so at a higher cost, on the back of something like Insidious Chill.
We expect these suspensions to last until Iyslander attains Living Legend status, but we will check in at the next B&S announcement to make sure they are affecting both Iyslander and the format in general in a manner that is consistent with our goals.
Despite taking multiple strong anti-aggro tools from the format, we have no desire to just hand the keys to the castle over to Fai. There may be fewer Frostbites in the future of Classic Constructed, but the absence of Belittle should mean that the ones that do show up will be more effective. Furthermore, removing Belittle lowers the ceiling on Fai’s output by producing fewer virtual 6 and 7 card hands.
This is also a ban directed at the long-term health of Flesh and Blood. As a generic, it’s too easy for aggro decks to default to Belittle / Minnowism as their foundation, and when they do so, the unique nature of our heroes is deemphasized. Belittle / Minnowism as a resource engine also diminishes one of the unique elements of the Flesh and Blood game system and its deck construction considerations; The trade-off between impact cards and cards that produce resources. Belittle fetching BLU Minnowism allows decks to cheat on their resource base, increasing threat density, output consistency, and leading to less instances of interesting game states where players have to make the most of BLU rich hands. This is the kind of variance that adds the dynamic ebbs and flows to game play that we like. (Variance that doesn’t allow you to even participate in the game is the kind of variance we are opposed to.)
Belittle has featured prominently in Fai, Viserai, Briar, Katsu, and countless other brews over the history of our game. Belittle engine decks won both Pro Tour New Jersey and Lille. We’re excited to see a more diverse world, where go-wide heroes are forced to explore other options.
Crown of Seeds
Notable for its absence in this Banned and Suspended announcement, Crown of Seeds deserves its own discussion. We are not blind to the fact that a tremendous portion of Oldhim’s power lies in the card filtration and damage prevention of Crown of Seeds. Certainly, in many scenarios, Crown of Seeds would have hit the bench in Classic Constructed some time ago, much like it has in the Blitz format. However, we recognize what the Legendary acquisition process means to a Flesh and Blood player. Many of us at LSS still look back fondly on the first Legendary we ever opened from a pack, and we use them in our decks happily and proudly, taking every opportunity to share the card’s history with our opponents.
We take the bond between a player and a Legendary seriously. That is not to say we will never ban a Legendary card. We will always do what is best for the health of the game when it comes to Banned and Suspended announcements, but we will exercise a greater degree of caution when it comes to Legendary bans, and we absolutely view them as a last resort. Given internal testing, as well as cards releasing in Outsiders, we believe Crown of Seeds should remain part of Classic Constructed at this time.
Briar, Warden of Thorns and Living Legend Check
The reason this B&S announcement was originally scheduled for January 30 was so there is a Living Legend check at the conclusion of ProQuest season 3. In the unlikely event that Briar (or any other hero) happens to cross the 1000 point threshold in the final weekend of ProQuest, she will attain Living Legend status as if this announcement was made on January 30.
Aether Icevein was suspended on the last B&S announcement with a timestamp of today's announcement. Due to a lack of competitive Blitz events since Aether Icevein was suspended, we do not have enough data to assess whether Aether Icevein should return to the format or move to the banned list. As such, Aether Icevein will remain suspended until the next B&S announcement on March 20.
Next Scheduled Banned and Suspended Announcement
The next scheduled banned and suspended announcement is March 20, 2023 (EST).
*Announcement updated with addition of Aether Icevein section and amendment to the date referenced for the Calling Indianapolis.