Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora are now banned in Pauper Commander, effective May 17, 2021.
Many people may ask the question, “Why now?”. After all, these cards have been legal in PDH for the whole life of the format up until now. The answer is simply that it’s been a long time coming. Banning Rhystic Study has been discussed semi-regularly ever since we first formed the PDH rules committee almost 2 years ago. While many of us have long viewed Rhystic Study as problematic, we always felt that the format was in such a place that there was no real damage being done.
So what changed? Previously, without a well-developed competitive PDH metagame, it was difficult to judge whether Rhystic Study would truly be as ubiquitous or harmful as we suspected. In the past 9 months though, several prominent community members have been consistently playing cPDH games, steadily tweaking their decks, testing the limits of the format with new combos, and developing better counter-strategies. In addition to the rise of cPDH, we are also now witnessing some of the first attempts at PDH tournaments. When there are prizes on the line, the importance of balanced gameplay increases drastically. Taking proactive steps before more tournaments are organized can ensure a better reputation for PDH and help the format continue to grow.
Arguments For Banning
Resource Imbalance: Both Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study are fairly unique because they combine low mana value, the potential to draw more than 3 cards, and low requirements for setup or mana investment. Together, these three factors can cause games with severe resource imbalances, where the only way to defeat the player with the draw engine is to play a 3v1 game, regardless of whether or not players are paying the taxes. When comparing Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora to other draw engines and their costs, we looked at examples including Audacious Thief, Tuskeri Firewalker, Dimir Guildmage, Ophidian Eye, and Brightwood Tracker. When comparing Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora to other tax effects, the closest comparison in the format was to a potential commander, Vryn Wingmare. Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora compare favorably to all of these cards.
Archetype Balance: Because of their card draw potential, Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study both incentivize decks focused on card advantage, such as combo and control. They also suppress aggressive decks, since they are least able to pay for any taxes on their spells. Because these two enchantments don’t directly interact with the rest of the decks they are in, this ban is expected to increase diversity in high level play, without severely damaging any particular deck or archetype.
Color Balance: Everyone knows counterspells and card advantage are powerful and that blue will be omnipresent in competitive pods. However, from a multiplayer perspective, both of these blue enchantments are among the most powerful stand-alone cards ever printed at common. Banning them is a small step towards moderating the power imbalance between colors.
Early Game Tempo: Whenever a Mystic Remora or Rhystic Study resolves, the tempo of the game usually slows as people carefully select which spells are worth casting and whether they can afford the taxes. However, a less direct effect has also emerged in cPDH, where the popularity of these draw engines has led to slower early games, as players are more likely to hold up mana to counter or immediately remove them, slowing the rate of board state development. There are plenty of other powerful and dangerous cards that can be played early on, such as Crypt Rats, Ley Weaver, Malcolm, and Zada. The difference is that these other threats require more setup, whether that’s a haste enabler, other attacking creatures, or available mana, before they can start threatening a win or swaying the balance of power. Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora require no such setup, and therefore are always a threat in the minds of competitive players.