Standard Ban List 23.03

When we released our last Standard Ban List update, Endurance was running rampant in the meta game, fueled by the steady economy of multiple Rezekis. We decided to first tackle the general economic strength of the Runner side that was suppressing Corp decks, and keep an eye on Endurance until the Borealis Cycle was complete. With Parhelion out, we face a similar dilemma—Nanisivik Grid has become a vital part of Jinteki prison strategies. The current meta is very heavy and slow, with prison Corps attempting to lock out the Runner’s options, and extremely rich control Runner decks being the strongest available solution. We hope that these changes will help break up this dynamic and make faster strategies more viable on both sides.

Before we get into it, a brief note on the Startup format: we are continuing to monitor Startup and follow tournament results and player reports. While there are some strong cards that see wide play in many decks, this is unavoidable in smaller card pools. The meta game seems varied and healthy and we are not considering it necessary to take any balancing actions at this point.

Summary of Standard Ban List 23.03 Changes

Effective Date: 3 March 2023

Kabonesa Wu: Netspace Thrillseeker banned
Endurance banned
Nanisivik Grid banned
Drago Ivanov banned

Click here to jump to the full ban list.

Explanation of Changes

The main driving force behind these changes is to reduce the power of control strategies on the Runner side, and prison strategies on the Corp side. These created a feedback loop—slower Runner strategies that could quickly lock the remote were incredibly powerful and pushed more traditional Corps out of the game, favouring controlling prison-type strategies capable of forcing the runner to play on a different axis instead. While archetypes like Precision Design rush decks certainly still had a home and were more than capable of winning games, they definitely took a backseat. Meanwhile, prison Corp decks seeking to continually install the same asset repeatedly—Drago Ivanov in NBN and Dr. Vientiane Keeling in Jinteki—found themselves extremely strong against many Runner strategies. The most consistent way to counteract them was to play slowly yourself, ensure you had a robust economy to trash the assets whenever they reappeared, and lock down any attempt at scoring — in other words, choosing control-type Runners.

Banning Nanisivik Grid was a hard decision—it is very frequently an interesting card, but installing one on Archives makes it extremely difficult to trash without the use of specific tech cards. This stops the runner from safely checking Archives to turn any ice face-up, which in turn allows for a Nanisivik Grid on the remote to be far stronger than is acceptable. AgInfusion even stymies the easiest tech solution, since the ID ability can be used to block Pinhole Threading attempts. We don’t believe the problems the Keeling AgInfusion deck poses to the Runner are healthy for the game, so something had to change. Ultimately, while banning Keeling might have solved the current issue, Nanisivik Grid is likely to be a persistent issue and the deck is bound to find a different payload to deploy.

The possibility of a solution for Nanisivik Grid involving functional errata was raised. We feel this is not an appropriate case for errata. While digital card games can easily change the functionality of their cards post-release, doing it in a physical game always comes with problems around communicating changes to the wider player base, and remembering those changes during games. It is cleaner and more accessible to simply ban the card in the Standard format.

Likewise, Drago Ivanov was another difficult choice. While we knew we wanted to weaken the Reality Plus prison decks that utilised it, Drago is also the centrepiece of the Urban Renewal Ob deck. This Ob deck is maybe the strongest horizontal deck in the current metagame, and banning Drago means this kill combo no longer exists. We had also seen some experimentation with Seamless Launch decks in the Midnight Sun metagame trying to land a kill with an early BOOM! Neither of those archetypes are problematic, and it’s unfortunate that they end up as collateral damage in the wake of a Drago Ban. 

As such, we explored multiple other options but none of them worked as well as we wanted them to. Banning Reality Plus itself sees the Drago prison archetype move to a different ID, likely Azmari EdTech, where it continues to have the exact same frustrating play patterns once set up. However, games with this deck were even slower than with Reality Plus. The Corp player does not get their money back while repeatedly tagging the Runner, and so requires more credits up-front to begin the lock, while the Runner often will not play events even when they are useful to avoid giving the Corp free Azmari triggers. Banning Degree Mill to weaken the Corp’s defensive agenda suite definitely made a difference—one big issue with the current deck is that it is frequently correct for the Runner to never steal agendas until they are confident there are enough points in HQ to win—but we did not feel it made enough of a difference for the deck to be acceptable. Banning Self-Growth Program also made a significant change, but the deck adopted Retribution as a similar tool that is actually stronger against Criminal decks.

The core issue with all these options is that they do nothing to disrupt the deck’s main playstyle. It installs Drago in a taxing server and tags you every turn until you either die or trash it, only for the Corp to just reinstall Drago again. This is not a particularly fun deck to play against for most players, and having been a staple of the meta since APAC Continentals we hope that a meta without Drago prison will be fresh and exciting.

Over on the Runner side of the table, Endurance has begun to see slightly less play than it did previously, being a liability against Reality Plus. However, with that particular deck banned out of the meta, the boat is poised to make a triumphant return to dominance. That is a big issue in a banlist update trying to promote “traditional” corps. Endurance has seen play in all 3 main factions (and even 2 of the 3 mini factions!) and we do not see a world where it is healthy for the game’s diversity going forward. It is strongest in control decks that are otherwise vulnerable in the early stages of the game before they are appropriately set up, being an excellent early aggression tool which forces Corps to slow down, thereby giving the Runner the time to establish a board state. We hope that an Endurance ban will make faster, aggressive Runner strategies more appealing in the future (even if they’re likely to still be a few paces behind their control brethren). 

Finally, Kabonesa Wu has been the strongest home for the new World Tree decks introduced in Parhelion. We are exercising additional restraint when it comes to identities, particularly since these decks have not yet shown very strong results, and they are certainly not as dominant right now as other Runner options. However, World Tree Wu is primarily held back by an atrocious Reality Plus matchup. With Drago banned, Wu is set to become a hugely over-centralising force on the meta and so we are taking preemptive action.

Banning Wu weakens the World Tree deck in several crucial ways. Firstly, the deck’s economy becomes far more finite as they are forced to play a smaller deck size. Wu allowed you to play grossly oversized piles of cards because she could easily grab any program you needed from your deck, including the eponymous World Tree. A smaller deck means that in longer games it could find itself running out of cards and getting taxed out. Secondly, Wu gave too much early remote pressure with her ability to tutor for Mayfly. A Mayfly hosted on Flame-out could get into most remotes for cheap, before using World Tree to turn the Mayfly into a different card. On a future turn, Flame-out could then be turned into any other hardware, including a new Flame-out to repeat the whole process again. While these interactions still exist, they now need more time to find and install the relevant pieces, since Mayfly can no longer be immediately grabbed from the deck on-demand by the identity. In conjunction with the Endurance ban, we hope that World Tree decks will be reduced to a fun and fair option rather than the dominant force we expect them to be otherwise.

If you’re interested in what you have read here and want to help with the process, please apply here to join Ban List testing. We rely massively on our testers to see how our theories about changes might pan out in practice, and we would love to have you on our team!

Standard Ban List 23.03

Effective Date: 3 March 2023

Changes from Standard Ban List 22.09 appear in bold.

All cards with the “current” subtype All cards with the “current” subtype
Aaron Marrón24/7 News Cycle
Bloo MooseArchived Memories
Clan VengeanceBreached Dome
CrowdfundingBryan Stinson
EnduranceCayambe Grid
GPI Net TapCyberdex Sandbox
Kabonesa Wu: Netspace ThrillseekerDrago Ivanov
LaambEngram Flush
Liza Talking Thunder: Prominent LegislatorFriends in High Places
Mars for MartiansGame Changer
PAD TapGold Farmer
RezekiHigh-profile Target
ŞifrHired Help
Salvaged Vanadis ArmoryJinteki: Potential Unleashed
Temüjin ContractKakugo
Watch the World BurnMass Commercialization
Mti Mwekundu: Life Improved
Nanisivik Grid
Preemptive Action
Project Vacheron
Shipment from Tennin
Slot Machine
SSL Endorsement
Violet Level Clearance
Whampoa Reclamation