On the 1st of March, the DCI announced what would be remembered as one of the most welcomed, yet the most drastic banning ever. The bannings left 7 commons and 1 rare out of the running. They banned the six artifact lands: Vault of Whispers, Seat of the Synod, Tree of Tales, Ancient Den, Grea Furnace and Darksteel Citadel. They also banned the famed Arcbound Ravager as well as its partner in crime: Disciple of the Vault.
What happened? Too many cards turned broken. It was like the Urza block had come back to life. It was obvious that Disciple had to go. It was probably printed as an innocent opposite to the Leonin Elder, but became too broken in a world of engines, where artifacts became mana or +1/+1 counters. Imagine sacrificing a simple 10 artifacts to win the game (you must have another win condition, of course). With affinity in the game, it was obvious how the game would be won. It would not be by attacking or a Fireball, but it would probably be by a simple one black mana costing creature. To ban this card was a no-brainer. There is no need to explain anything. The card is extremely abusive - two in play would be murderous. You could just swing small 1/1 artifact creatures at your opponent - it'll be take it or take more - and it'll be endgame next turn. This banning was a no brainer.
What about the six artifact lands? They could do little harm with Ravager and Disciple out of the running. This would what you would be thinking if you were one of those players who just download decks from the net and build them. Experienced players would catch why instantly. The first thing is that artifact lands allow the other engine card to go off early. Krark-Clan Ironworks would have easily taken the cake that was left by Ravager and destroy all point of banning Disciple and Ravager. Affinity would rule. What's the next problem? 24 artifact lands in your decks would be a good combination with Myr Incubator and Krark-Clan Ironworks. Without artifacts lands, Myr Incubator would likely to produce around 20 tokens. With them, probably around 36 tokens when it goes off. We all know that seems like a small problem, but it's actually huge. On turn three, if you had 3 artifact lands and 3 affinity creatures in play and possibly a talisman and a Pentad Prism, you would be looking at a win already. All you would need is Myr Incubator and Mass Hysteria or Fireball (both red) in your hand. While the banning of artifacts lands destroyed affinity and the identity of the Mirrodin block, it was necessary to bring affinity to its knees rather than see another affinity deck like KCI take the cake with Cranial Plating.
Now, we're on to Arcbound Ravager. This seemingly innocent card got banned too. Heck, they banned the six problem commons, why ban this? The problem with Arcbound Ravager was probably that it was supremely flexible. Sacrifice it, and suddenly there is another bigger creature on the table. It also hits the table way too early than it should. Arcbound Crusher is at 4, and while Arcbound Crusher could get pretty big, it's only a turn 4 drop. Arcbound Ravager is a turn 1 or 2 drop. It's uncanny chemistry with anything in play that you could sacrifice would actually make affinity a big bomb. It could probably still go off on turn 4. It's extreme flexibility also means it's extremely difficult to terminate. Two Arcbound Ravagers could pile on an opposing player very badly. Which one to block? Doesn't matter - which ever is the bigger blocker is bound to die anyway. It's not a huge leap to see what happens after your opponent runs out of stuff to block with. Not a no brainer - but it was probably possible to keep in the game for a while longer to see if it would change then environment. I don't think it would have made a difference - banning Ravager might have been just to send a message that Affinity decks were going off too early.
Where does that leave Affinity now? Playable. Why do I say that? It's not unplayable - affinity is playable. It's not as consistent - probably only as consistent as my Mycosynth Golem deck, but it's playable. We still have Pentad Prism + 2 mana cost artifact (add anything you like here: Talismans, Frogmites, go figure) and more things to help Affinity get off its feet. I've been looking at the metagame - I don't how the new decks work because I haven't played them - but IMHO, most of them are being too complacent. All it might take if one good KCI-Affinity deck to wipe them all out as from what I've seen from the top 8 lists - the lack of artifact removal is astounding - as low as 25%. I'd say it's likely there is a KCI-Affinity build that is extremely playable in the new Standard environment - and Magic Research and Development knows what it is.
By the way, am I playing Affinity? Nope. :D I do intend to try when I do have the time to build a viable Affinity deck though. Time to get to work on my next article on some really red decks. I honestly hate the way the game is now. There are so many players who merely download decklists of the Internet and go off the tournaments without actually rebuilding it. You want to know what's funny about red? Yam actually built a deck that was more consistent and far more capable of winning Extended than the current Red Deck Wins Extended archetype, if it came to a one-on-one, it would be obvious that Yam's deck would win - and guess what, it's a pretty light deck compared to what people and maindecking. Of course, I won't be talking about his deck - that's for him to talk about and surprise people with at tournaments. I will be talking about how to build a red blaster deck. :D Come on, I know everyone wants one. :D