This past Monday, Wizards of the Coast made a heavily anticipated announcement regarding Companions . Leading up to the announcement, and having only been around for a month, it was already clear that Companions were becoming format warping cards.
They appeared in nearly every deck, archetype, and format, making formats stale and gameplay predictable. This was made explicit in the announcement, as Wizards shared that “Our reason for making this change is based on metagame data and play rates of companion decks across all formats, and on player feedback on repetitive gameplay patterns.” Additionally, their power was too high given their ubiquity. Players were hoping for a fix to the generally overpowered design of Companions, what they got however was quite different.
In a rare move by Wizards, the Companion rule was errated to read the following:
“Once per game, any time you could cast a sorcery (during your main phase when the stack is empty), you can pay 3 generic mana to put your companion from your sideboard into your hand. This is a special action, not an activated ability.”
In their announcement, Wizards made their intentions for this rule change very clear “The result we intend is to reduce the metagame share of companion decks while still capturing the spirit of the mechanic’s design and still having companions be worth building around in many cases.”
And so far, it seems like players feel this move by Wizards is an adequate nerf to the powerful ability.
This change means that players no longer begin the game with effectively eight cards in their hand. Having to pay three generic mana to move a Companion to your hand also makes format staple Thoughtseize more powerful as a tool to keep these cards in check. This move will especially hit the faster decks like Lurrus Burn which thrived off of casting Lurrus on turn three and curving out.
This change to the Companion rule will also have significant effects on the formats where Companions currently see play. In Legacy, combo decks had recently come into fashion; casting Gyruda into a number of clone effects early in the game will eventually let you cast a Dragonlord Kolaghan, giving your team haste for a lethal attack. Now that Gyruda will take an extra three mana to cast, the combo becomes ostensibly a turn slower,making the strategy as a whole less powerful.
My guess is that we will see Companions moving forward in control strategies or combo strategies, and probably not in Legacy or Vintage anymore, with seldom play in Modern. Control decks who probably would be holding up counter magic on their turn three will have more options now, and as games go late having access to a powerful card out of your sideboard for three mana is very powerful. As such, Yorion, Sky Nomad should be safe here.
For combo decks, where card quality is more important than card quantity, being able to have access to specific combo pieces for three mana is amazing. Zirda, the Dawnwaker comes to mind as a Companion whose play in decks will either not be altered, or increase after these changes. In that same vein, Gyruda, Doom of Depths will probably still see play too.
The biggest trap that accompanies this announcement is that Companions are no longer playable. This is not true. What is true is that the tier of Companions will likely be shaken up, as well as how Companions are viewed in the meta. Certain Companions may be less relevant now, and their play across the board may see a hit, but these are still extra cards which can be accessed for three mana, and extra cards have always been incredible value in Magic.
Before I leave you all, here is an example of a deck I think would still be a good choice in Modern despite the new Companion rule. I present to you an “oldie” but a goodie.
Modern Lurrus Death & Taxes
Feel free to leave any comments you have on the list, or any frustrations you might have about the new rule change to Companions in the comments below!
Until next time.
Jonah Gaynor had been calling for changes to companions for weeks, and he finally got his wish this past Monday. Check out his analysis on the errata and how he thinks companions will work moving forward.