Underworld Breach Banned in Legacy
- Robert Swiecki
Let us say goodbye to Underworld Breach, the fastest ban in the history of Legacy. Let us also ask the tough questions: Wasn't it obvious? Should the card have existed in the first place? And what's next? Will Legacy settle down and allow decks to evolve in peace now, without any more manufactured shake-ups?
Wasn't It Obvious?
It is really no surprise that Underworld Breach has been banned. On the list of cards that do similar things — like Past in Flames, Ill-Gotten Gains, Yawgmoth's Will — and other engine cards — such as Time Spiral, Echo of Eons, and Ad Neauseam — Underworld Breach ranks pretty high. As a 2-mana enchantment that cannot be countered by Flusterstorm and affects the entire turn allowing for interactions in between, the red spell brought huge upsides to the table in comparison to one-shot sorceries and instants.
So, the question remains: Wasn't it obvious that Underworld Breach would be banned at some point? Since its release, the combo enabler had been breaching Wizards' own policy on combo decks and their roles in metagames. It only costs 2 mana, is easily splashable, and to find its synergy with Lion's Eye Diamond and Brain Freeze does not demand a superhuman genius. Without taking away the work of Legacy's masterminds, Underworld Breach was just too easy to abuse.
What brings us to another important consequence of such a ban: the waste of brewing energy. Unlike Standard, Legacy is an Eternal format — let us keep that in mind — where players build decks around certain cards, synergies, and create powerful decks that slowly but steadily evolve over time. Eternal has never implied that we should have a stale and static format where one's Arcbound Ravager is as powerful in 2020 as it used to be in the mid-2000s. However, developing and printing a card like Underworld Breach, then banning it quickly after it gained enough traction and picked up some decent results online and offline, casts a shadow over the credibility of Wizards' R&D department … once again. In the wake of Wrenn and Six's dominance, Legacy still seems not to get enough attention and playtest time at their headquarters.
In the end, the format evolves nonetheless but gets robbed of a central figure and needs to find itself again. Even though Underworld Breach had not had a impact on the format comparable to Wrenn and Six, it still sends a questionable signal to players. Let us not forget that we look at things through the lense of a Legacy player and Underworld Breach's role in other format is of no concern here. It might become problematic when players are forced to choose their decks very carefully and patiently in order not to run the risk of financial disadvantage and wasting their energy on a strategy that is doomed to die, while on the other hand sticking with subpar and dated decks. At least they did not ban the Diamond.
Once again the solution to such a question is time. Time will tell if the format will go back to its post-Wrenn and Six state with Oko, Thief of Crowns running rampant and Blue-Red Delver the runner-up. At least it is quite clear that Storm combo decks will go back to their evolved state with Tendrils of Agony coming back from its short hiatus. Nevertheless, such a ban is never a homogeneous setback but presents itself in a wave form that leaves behind new elements and sparks an evaluation of the metagame. Again, Teferi, Time Raveler and Silence could be the predominant forces against a field full of Veil of Summer. Same holds true for Wishclaw Talisman that has already replaced Infernal Tutor in The Epic Storm.
From a broader perspective, it would be good to see the format settle down for now: develop and refine strategies from its own trusty ranks rather than experiencing another shake-up through a newly printed bomb. There is much to explore and many decks will try to close the gaps and establish a healthy metagame share. I am looking at Death and Taxes, Maverick-style decks, and Depths in particular, as well as other Blade and Delver variants.
Again, time will tell, although it may take a little more of it now that so many events are being cancelled. We might have to look to Magic Online for answers.
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