When you look at the B&R (banned & restricted) lists of eternal formats (e.g. Vintage, Legacy, Modern) you’ll be confronted with a large amount of banned cards. Newer players may wonder why certain cards are banned when they are churning through these lists for the first time. And most bans need to be explained to new players. Often they have to be put in their historical context to make sense. To do that for every card on the B&R list would break the limitations of this post. But I’ll try to generalize the reasoning behind banning cards. The card pool of eternal formats is growing with every release of a new Standard set. Vintage and Legacy also access the cards from other products like Commander sets. As more cards are introduced to a format like Modern it gets harder for Wizards of the Coast’s game designers to ensure balanced eternal formats. Sometimes cards are printed that create new decks in a format. While that is generally a positive effect it can revert and backfire. That’s the case when a new deck is created which is able to achieve an oppressive win rate. Combined with a lack of answers in the card pool a best deck manifests. The result is a format that is dominated by a single deck. Players strive to win events so they are exclusively playing the best deck which seeks for competition on an equal level. Deck diversity plummets and after a few weeks the format dumbs down and bores people. The player base will start to complain and eventually stop playing the format. To counteract this dynamic the card that created such a tyrannical deck will be banned.
Looking at Standard’s B&R list you’ll notice that a sole card was on there until recently. The ban of Rampaging Ferocidon happened when Standard looked differently. Kaladesh and Amonkhet block were still in Standard and Mono Red Aggro occupied the top tier. Mono Red Aggro was defined by a textbook mana curve and stacked with quality cards. Additionally it packed cards that provided hard-to-deal-with reach to finish off opponents - should they have survived the initial onslaught. There was only one deck that could compete and trump Mono Red Aggro: Temur Energy. Both of these decks (especially Temur Energy) dominated the format before January 15, 2018. This was the day when key cards of Temur Energy were banned. At the same time Rampaging Ferocidon and Ramunap Ruins were banned to prevent Mono Red Aggro from claiming the sole throne of Standard. With Ramunap Ruins gone Mono Red Aggro lost its reach. With Rampaging Ferocidon gone other decks had a chance again to fight back with lifegain strategies.
Standard is ever-changing and Amonkhet as well as Kaladesh left the format at some point. Mono Red Aggro continued to exist but in a weaker form. The version that is currently played has still a good mana curve. It also plays top tier cards but it has to fill its curve with mediocre spells and creatures. At this point players started asking if Ramaging Ferocidon could be unbanned. I think it didn’t happen because Mono Red Aggro managed to stay a tier one deck although it wasn’t as powerful as one rotation before. With the release of M20 Mono Red Aggro faded from the meta. It couldn’t keep up with Esper Hero / Control, Bant Scapeshift and Orzhov Vampires. All of them decks that have a deluge of options to fight Mono Red Aggro in the early game and bury it in the mid to late game. Considering the newly shaped format Wizards of the Coast deemed that it was time to free Rampaging Ferocidon. Also it will rotate in less than a month and there are no major Standard tournaments in this timespan which weakens a possible negative effect of the unbanning.
There may be no major Standard tournaments with Rampaging Ferocidon but the Arena Ranked ladder is still relevant. That’s why I want to evaluate how Rampaging Ferocidons fits into Standard.
Focus on the stats of Rampaging Ferocidon first. Three CMC is cheap and you get a 3/3 creature with Menace for it. That’s a potent creature because it deals a decent amount of damage and is hard to block.
Rampaging Ferocidon’s ability pushes the creature above decent. Whenever a creature enters the battlefield its controller is dealt one damage. If you’re expecting to face decks that go wide by deploying lots of cheap creatures or tokens, the in-game value of Rampaging Ferocidon increases. Currently there are two decks in Standard that can be punished by Rampaging Ferocidon. Bant Scapeshift’s win condition is to create an army of tokens to kill their opponents. It happens frequently that Bant Scapeshift will create 20+ tokens at once or throughout the game. Rampaging Ferocidon punishes that severely. At the same time Rampaging Ferocidon can pressure Bant Scapeshift when it starts slow. The other deck that doesn’t like to see Rampaging Ferocidon is Orzhov Vampires. This deck likes to spam the board with cheap creatures which hurts when Rampaging Ferocidon is on the battlefield. Especially activating a flipped Legion’s Landing will be brutal. It will ping your opponent every time a Vampire token is created and its Lifelink ability is invalidated. That leads to the second reason to play Rampaging Ferocidon.
There is a huge amount of cards in Standard that gain life. Many of them are played in meta decks. When you are playing an aggro deck you hate to see your opponent crawling back into the game by gaining life. Rampaging Ferocidon helps to shut down this counter strategy. Here’s a list of important decks and cards that gain life:
I’ll keep this paragraph very short. Every deck that has access to red can play Rampaging Ferocidon. Because it requires only one red mana it is very easy to splash. So here’s a list of current Standard decks that could play Rampaging Ferocidon:
Rampaging Ferocidon should be played by aggressive decks that need to fight main or sideboard strategies involving tokens, cheap creatures in high numbers or gaining life. That leaves us with either Mono Red Aggro or aggressive, creature-based decks like Jund / Gruul Dinosaurs or Naya / Boros Feather.
I think you need to play Rampaging Ferocidon in this deck. It will help you against the two best decks of Standard (Bant Scapeshift, Orzhov Vampires) and can punish occasional anti Mono Red sideboard strategies that are based on gaining life. The question is: Is Rampaging Ferocidon a sideboard or mainboard card? If the meta is crowded with Orzhov Vampires and Bant Scapeshift you could test two variants. You could incorporate a split between Goblin Chainwhirler and Rampaging Ferocidon or keep four Chainwhirlers and add one to three copies of Rampaging Ferocidon (I’d start with four copies of Goblin Chainwhirler and two copies of Rampaging Ferocidon). When you aren’t encountering Bant Scapeshift and Orzhov Vampires all the time Rampaging Ferocidon should replace Tibalt, Rakish Instigator in the sideboard.
This deck should play Rampaging Ferocidon in the sideboard for the same reasons as Mono Red Aggro. A more interesting option is to replace Legion Warboss or Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin in the mainboard with Rampaging Ferocidon. I lean towards the same answer as in the paragraph above. Albeit I also think this is something to be determined by extensive testing. So try it and I’d like to hear feedback on Twitter.
Gruul Dinosaurs should definitely play Rampaging Ferocidon. It’s better than Thrashing Brontodon because of its ability and Menace. It’s better than Gruul Spellbreaker because it benefits from tribal synergies. I think it’s a mistake not to play Rampaging Ferocidon in Gruul Dinosaurs.
When it comes to Jund Dinosaurs the question is again: Mainboard or sideboard? Currently I lean towards sideboard. To fit Rampaging Ferocidon into the mainboard of Jund Dinosaurs you’d need to cut some of the more expensive creatures. You can’t cut your cheap cards because you need your mana accelerants and your reason to play Jund - Rotting Regisaur. You can’t cut your five drops because you already play so few and Regisaur Alpha is too good. So you’re left with one option: Cut the four drop creatures. You should play four copies of Ripjaw Raptor because of its synergy with Marauding Raptor. At this point only Shifting Ceratops is left to cut. When you do replace Shifting Ceratops with Rampaging Ferocidon your deck will get faster. Also you will hit your three drops more often when there’s no Marauding Raptor or Otepec Huntmaster on the battlefield. Anyway Shifting Ceratops is a powerful creature. Replacing it could reduce the overall power of Jund Dinosaurs. Again testing is needed.
I think it’s cool that we can play with Rampaging Ferocidon again. It freshens up the last month before rotation and provides Arena players with work to do.