Emergency Ban Needed in Legacy
📅 April 01, 2021•
⏱️3 min read
(This article was written as an April Fool's joke, but feel free to take it as seriously as you want)
While it's been only six weeks from the date of the last Legacy ban to the date of this article's publication, when something truly broken emerges, it's best to address the problem before it gets truly out of hand. While Legacy is a format full of powerful spells, one stands head and shoulders above the rest. I am, of course, talking about Aether Vial.
This call to action might surprise some of you. In this article, I will present my case for banning this egregious (or dare we say vile) card.
The Mana Advantage
It's a well-known adage that the best decks in Magic cheat on mana in some way. Vintage Shops, for instance, abuses Mishra's Workshop to add 3 mana off of a single land. When you're casting spells at a rate much faster than the game that Richard Garfield intended, broken things can happen. Aether Vial is no exception.
While a Dark Ritual can only net 2 mana over the course of a game, and Black Lotus can only do 3, the mana production that Aether Vial enables is truly absurd. Over five turn cycles from the turn it's played, it generates 10 mana. Ten! And it doesn't end there, since the decks that abuse Aether Vial are often designed to drag the game out over double-digit amounts of turns, making Aether Vial unparalleled in terms of its mana production. To make matters worse, it's even possible to activate Aether Vial for zero and put Dryad Arbor into play, creating a game state where someone can have two lands and an Aether Vial in play in the first turn. Good luck coming back from that.
As the Legacy format's found its footing after the ban that eliminated Oko, Thief of Crowns, Arcum's Astrolabe, and Dreadhorde Arcanist, a Legacy Super Qualifier sported over 300 players on Magic Online. While Delver decks were the most played archetype, the finals was between Esper Vial and Death and Taxes. While Vial decks were under-represented as a whole, they made up 25% of the top 8 and 100% of the top 2. That's an insane conversion rate.
The raw power of Aether Vial is out of control. There's no way these decks could make the finals of a Legacy tournament otherwise. Jeff Lin's deck is sporting a full playset of Charming Prince, a card barely good enough for Standard, while Colin Rountree's deck features the worst card I've ever seen in Legacy: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. If there's a card good enough to make Thalia look reasonable, it's probably got to go.
The Color Pie
As we established with Deathrite Shaman and Arcum's Astrolabe, cards that allow decks to break the color pie are potentially problematic. Aether Vial is a colorless artifact that allows creatures of any color to enter play, providing absurd color fixing to manabases that could not support the color requirements of their spells. A deck full of basic Plains could be putting Leovold, Emissary of Trest into play, and honestly, we're just lucky that Aether Vial players mostly aren't aware of these interactions yet (outside of the occasional enlightened 5c Humans player).
Instant Speed and Uncounterable Everything
Timing is an integral part of Magic. One of the ways that cards are balanced is by restricting the times they can be cast. Aether Vial takes the timing restriction that is typically used to balance creatures, kills it, spits on its corpse, buries it, and spits on its grave for good measure. Cards like Mother of Runes are balanced around giving the opponent a turn cycle to answer them. WIth Aether Vial, someone can put a Mother of Runes into play on your end step, and if you forgot to have an end step stop set on Magic Online, it's too late. You've already lost. Other cards like Stoneforge Mystic similarly abuse this "turn cycle" timing restriction, but it can get even worse than that. Imagine you're playing some good clean Doomsday, and your opponent just vials in Meddling Mage on your namesake card! You built your deck with Force of Will and Daze to be able to counter the spells that your opponent put in their deck, and Aether Vial undoes all of that good deck design for a single colorless mana.
As the saying goes, "A stitch in time saves nine." While the post-ban Legacy format is still relatively new, I believe it is important to act before the damage caused by a broken card can get out of control. Aether Vial must go, and we must act today.