This post is Part One, covering All Threes to Scanner Interference.
After I hit the character limit, I had to finish up in Part Two, covering Senior Staff Meeting through You Are A Monument.
As MSD wrote: "This card is, by far, the most powerful drawing interrupt in the game. Even with the opponent's choice, this card is a basically a 2-for-1, and with your choice, it improves to roughly 3.5 or 4-for-1. For free, no strings attached. It's like Kivas Fajo, but better, on an interrupt." The very first thing on most internal versions of the ban list was every single card involved in The Holy Hexany. All Threes was a centerpiece of hexany.
There doesn't appear to have been an official reason for banning this. There was a consensus for banning it, and apparently it was obvious enough to those involved that ATA is an NPE that specifics didn't need to be spelled out. One person who was involved at the time (and has since retired) said exactly that: it's so obvious that ATA needs to be banned, because what it does is so fundamentally not something the game should ever allow, that anybody who doesn't agree probably shouldn't get a vote on the ban list.
Another argument: anything Decipher considered bad enough to get targeted by Writ of Accountability should be illegal in OTF. (Fair enough.)
One regular player in 2009 said that Anti-Time Anomaly only became really problematic after Decipher ruled that Temporal Rift allowed you to save your own cards from it.
*shrug* I've literally never played this card nor seen it played, because I joined the competitive scene late. It does seem like a nightmare card, although hoo boy I kinda want to bring it back just to see what it'd do affect the game pace here in 2019. Lobbing this at my opponent's speedster with 12 guys out by Turn 3? Mmm mmm tasty.
EDIT: Anyone thinking about ATA errata should read Rachmaninoff's post below.
This card was nearly banned in 2012, but was spared at the time. I understand that a powerful Eel deck continued to circulate in Europe for years. That deck finally gelled -- and gelled good -- when Cold Station 12 came out, removing what turned out to be the key element holding Ceti Eel in check (the inability to get Khan out early in OTF). When Jon Carter took that deck, modified it, brought it online, and promptly wiped the floor of an Online Regional with it, the banhammer finally fell to protect the 2019 world championships.
The core problem seems to be that there's very few ways to respond to an Eel deck. The game has plenty of battle protection, but Eel decks don't have to battle -- and can even short-circuit defensive battle using Smoke Bomb. The game also has capture protection (Rescue Captives being the most obvious), but Eel decks don't capture. This is pretty similar to the problem with pre-errata Outgunned.
"Having unrestricted copies of unique personnel in play creates too many rules issues," is what the official announcement said, on 6 September 2010. The Rules Committee was having an issue that month where dual-personnel cards were being cloned, and the rules couldn't handle it correctly. Some of the 2EBC cards (Telok and Koloth) have been mentioned over the years as causing problems, although they weren't mentioned at the time of the ban.
Those are both pretty solvable problems, though. Rules issues don't seem to have been the biggest reason Clone Machine went away.
The actual reason Clone Machine was banned seems to have been power-level related. Internally, 3 days before the announcement went up, somebody summed up the discussion quite nicely: "Clone Machine / Subspace Schism
Memory Wipe / Devidian Door - These cards made for unhealthy play environment. Used excessively they are above the power curve and must take a step back to let other cards have a little more time in the lime light. All for the sake of making the game a more healthier and happier place to be."
There was internal concern that removing Clone Machine meant that AQ decks would not be able to keep up with DQ decks. Sure enough, DQSS was banned two months later, and Kazon Collective / Vidiian Sodality were banned and errata'd within a year.
Personally? I'd have huge worries about bringing back a generic, stackable free play engine available to anyone. In the eight years since this card was banned, the free-play landscape has changed a lot, and now pretty much all decks run at DQ pace. We don't need another free play engine to put in every deck. Delete "for free" from this card, though, and I think it's fine.
Data, Keep Dealing
The very first thing on most internal versions of the ban list was every single card involved in The Holy Hexany. Data, Keep Dealing was a fairly minor part of the hexany, but it was hexany, so it was banned. As someone wrote at the time, "Cards that retrieve cards should not be able to retrieve themselves."
But Data, Keep Dealing was a pretty minor hexany card. The rest of the hexany has been dealt with (either banned or errata'd), so I actually wonder now whether it would be safe to bring Data, Keep Dealing off the ban list as-is.
Delta Quadrant Spatial Scission
Simpler story than I thought it would be: was considered unbalanced. DQSS was considered the most unbalancing part of , so it got banned first. There were no lengthy analyses of this that I can find, but it seems like a reasonable enough belief. Since remained strong, Kazon Collective / Vidiian Sodality got banned shortly thereafter. Collective / Sodality came back off with errata in relatively short order. DQSS has not been so lucky.
The official announcement said: "Getting a second copy of a powerful unique personnel in play is too much." I don't see much about that in the notes; it was more of a general push to rein in DQ, especially Hirogen. I suspect that the last clause (allowing you to use DQSS as a combined free play / draw engine) was actually more at the forefront of the team's mind. (It's certainly my biggest concern with DQSS today.)
Destroy Radioactive Garbage Scow
This was banned because Containment Field nullifies it. As I mentioned with Anti-Time Anomaly, at the time of OTF's creation, any card specifically targeted by an existing card was presumptively overpowered. Most ended up on the ban list with little discussion.
So the question becomes: why did Decipher target DRAGS? From what I gather, it was being abused by players who would self-seed Scows then detonate them at opponents' missions. This is another card I've never actually seen played, because I came to the competitive scene too late.
I idly wonder whether simply making DRAGS target opponent's Scow would be enough to fix it.
Edit: Once again, Rachmaninoff has given some really helpful context for what made DRAGS a bannable card.
Distortion of Space/Time Continuum
Like Horga'hn below, Distortion was one of the most powerful cards ever made. It was pseudo-banned by a card very early (Temporal Vortex simply nullifies it outright), and it floated onto the original ban list with little further discussion.
This seems to have been a good call. Errata tried to nerf it at one point in the past couple years so it could come off the ban list. However, even with the nerf, playtesters' verdict was intense and unanimous: it was still ridiculously overpowered, particularly in the modern speed meta. In a game with 25 turns, it was very powerful. In a game with 5 turns, Distortion is God-Mode.
EDIT: Rachmaninoff explains some of the more broken Distortion combos.
This is a strange case.
From what I have been able to find, banning Dixon was particularly contentious, with more decisionmakers arguing against banning Dixon than arguing in favor. It seemingly went through more or less because the minority who supported the ban wanted it more than the majority who wanted to keep Dixon legal. The people who opposed banning Dixon were fighting to keep other cards on the ban list, and I think Dixon ended up something like a horse trade so that those other cards would stay on as well. (Baryon Sweep, which was also banned for a while, had a similar situation.)
Another interesting wrinkle: Dixon was banned back in the days before universal printability. A lot of the arguments revolve around Dixon's status as an ultrarare card that most players couldn't access. As one decisionmaker wrote, "He is used to much as a backup plan for anything. It's more about having te money to buy the card then to be a good player."
Here are the main arguments made for banning Dixon Hill:
redacted - 10 Jan 2010 wrote:1. It gives us a chance to re-release him. This will give us a playable Dixon Hill for all the cards that trigger off of him (the worst offender of a linked card that's very hard to obtain).And the main arguments against banning him:
[Editor's Note: back in the days before all cards were printable, physical cards were declared printable if they were given errata. This person is arguing that Dixon Hill is so rare and important that he should be banned and errata'd in order to trigger that rule, making him printable and accessible to all players.]
2. I still maintain that he should only ignore ONE mission requirement, not ALL of them. He was made "that good" because he was an UR. There's absolutely no thematic reason for him to be that good, and he doesn't really make mechanical sense, either.
redacted, stitched together from posts on 12 Jan 2010 & 3 Dec 2009 wrote: 1. There is nothing stopping us from rereleasing him as is [Editor's Note: thus making him printable], so this point is moot.Others went on to argue that Dixon would be OP in 2E, where mission skills matter a lot, and solving with a single personnel is a huge deal... but that 1E, where a single personnel being able to solve a mission is pretty routine, it's not overpowered, and possibly not even very good.
2. I absolutely fail to understand why this guy is a problem. He does not help you pass dilemmas. If you are building your deck, and finding yourself needing Dixon Hill often, then you are not selecting your missions/personnel correctly. It's no different from Suna downloading Reflection Therapy to get the skill you are missing for the mission. The biggest problem with Dixon Hill is that he lets you play DHBC, once for free, and even then, it is not too concerning.
A coda to this: Errata has tried letting Dixon Hill off the ban list more than once, starting way back in 2014 -- sometimes with changes, sometimes without. Playtesters never form consensus about him. Some believe that reducing Dixon's ability to "all levels of one requirement," or only regular skill requirements, or only missions worth 30 points or less (etc.) is a big nerf that turns him into binder fodder, and that he should come off the list unchanged. Others believe that he was rightly banned, and needs to be nerfed to some extent.
So, like I said, Dixon Hill is a weird situation. He was banned by a minority that felt strongly about banning him, their reasons partly related to printability issues that no longer exist, and even those who wanted him banned wanted him re-released swiftly so that Carlos and Lily would continue functioning. But the power level on his ability has been contentious from day one, and that has paralyzed repeated efforts, from multiple directions, to re-release him.
Phew. This one's easy!
OTF made this card into a rule (OTF Rule #4: Mission Stealing). If it's both a card and a rule, they can stack in an unbalanced way, so the card got the banhammer.
Since Fair Play will always be needed as-is in Open, it's never going to be errata'd and, I expect, is never coming off the ban list.
OTF made this card into a rule (OTF Rule #5: Personnel Download Limit). If it's both a card and a rule, they can stack in an unbalanced way, so (like Fair Play) the card got the banhammer.
Like Fair Play, it's never going to be errata'd and is probably never coming back to OTF.
Seems to have coasted onto the list fairly smoothly because an existing card (Panel Overload) already targeted it, indicating Decipher considered it an NPE. The problem with it seems simple: as someone wrote at the time, "This one is to save people from dying, but it is too powerful at it." Everyone seems to have agreed.
It's too darned easy to use this card. With two drones able to damage opponents every turn, they can routinely devastate opponents (even relatively well-shielded ones) at minimal cost... AND score points from the exchange, which is what really pushes it over the top. JeBuS ran it at an event where he got True Ties in every game (because he kept forgetting to solve missions before time), but the "actual score" was something like 60-0 in each game, because he kept scoring points from those battles.
Easily the most powerful card ever made. The game tried five different counters, from Temporal Narcosis to Arandis, before finally pseudo-banning it with Writ. When the CC took over, turning that pseudo-ban into a real ban appears to have attracted zero disagreement. I can't find any discussion of it -- it was on the proposed ban list from the start.
My favorite fix idea, incidentally, remains Wambundu's Amazonian suggestion from 2011:
Horga'hnThis feels much closer in spirit to Collect Metaphasic Particles, requiring you to build a very strange and difficult deck type to work at all and only awarding a single double turn. But I digress!
If at least half your personnel in play are female, immediately play on table; you may take a double turn, then discard artifact (otherwise, discard artifact).
In The Zone
This is another really interesting ban, because it was very controversial both inside and outside the 1E Department.
This entry is really long, because the drama surrounding ITZ had a lot of different aspects to it. I'm going to leave the executive summary visible and put the details in spoiler tags.
In the 2010s meta, ITZ was no longer being used defensively to stop cheese decks. Instead, if you had more than 50 points, and your opponent had fewer than 50, you would use Tribunal of Q to get ITZ on the table. This would prevent your opponent from catching up. ITZ bought the player who had an early lead an extra turn or two to win the game -- and, in a 7-9 turn game, an extra turn or two before your opponent could close the game was a huge deal. ITZ wasn't used against cheese; it was used against perfectly normal, innocent decks that hadn't cheesed, hadn't failed a requirement, hadn't done anything "wrong" except falling behind.
I played I don't even know how many games in 2012-2015 where the two sides were very closely matched, both sides were positioned to win in a turn or two... but one player (often the player who went first) nosed over 50 and used ITZ to hold their opponent down and coast to a win. The second player's last turn often became completely futile, because ITZ made it simply impossible for them to win, so why bother playing at all? This was intensely frustrating when you were on the receiving end of it, and felt pretty cheesy when you were on the winning end of it.
Indeed, the mere threat of ITZ meant that players who solved a mission were unwilling to attempt a second mission on the same turn. Because -- horror of horrors -- what if they accidentally solved that mission (because of weak dilemmas or whatever), and their hard-won mission points got nuked? It was almost like a universal Mission Debriefing.
Some people, me included, hoped that banning ITZ would benefit mid-range decks more than it benefited speed solvers.
That didn't happen. Speed solvers became stronger, exactly as opponents of the ITZ ban predicted and feared. At the time of ITZ's banning, many people (on both sides of the argument) expressed a hope that ITZ would soon receive errata to allow it to continue to serve as a speed bump, that it would be unbanned after data about game speed had been collected, or that Design would take other steps to slow the game down to make up for ITZ's influence being removed. None of that happened.
Now, here in 2019, the game's very very fast pace is (in my opinion) the biggest problem the game faces.
So were critics of ITZ right? I think they were. By the 2010s, ITZ was being used in a really perverse way to make large parts of the game pointless or impossible. It needed to go.
But does that make supporters of ITZ wrong? No, they were also right. The removal of ITZ poured high-octane fuel into a card pool that was already tilting toward speed-solver decks -- and, rather than meet the problem head on, the CC has tried and repeatedly failed to address the void ITZ left behind. Result: a game that ends in 5-7 turns.
Definitely a complicated issue, and one reason I'm glad I'm not an Errata decisionmaker!
OTF made this card into a rule (OTF Rule #7: Victory Conditions, clause 4). If it's both a card and a rule, they can stack in an unbalanced way, so (like Fair Play) the card got the banhammer. Like Fair Play, it's never going to be errata'd and is probably never coming back to OTF.
Fun note, though: during the early years of OTF, Intermix Ratio was banned, but not fully implemented as a rule. You could not win if more than half your points were bonus points, but they did count. Thus, during the first few years of OTF, players routinely got mod wins with scores of 3-0 or 100-11 (with bonus points picked up from Dabo or whatever).
Why the change? When You Are A Monument was turned into a rule, Rules had to reword the Victory Conditions rule pretty completely, and writing a good, clear rule while also retaining the basic wording from the original OTF rule turned out to be fairly difficult. During the rewriting, the current version eventually surfaced. Truthfully, most people (me included) didn't even notice the functional change in the initial draft; we were all too focused on whether YAAM worked, and were still debating how the rule should deal with the Voyager-Only card pool.
However, once a smart rulesmeister pointed it out, there was general agreement that making OTF completely follow Intermix Ratio was a good change which would discourage lockout decks that can't actually solve missions. There was some dissent on this; one player pointed out that making OTF fully implement Intermix Ratio would also injure decks that try to win against battle by scoring a few bonus points and hide for the rest of the game. But the rule was so much cleaner, and most liked the change, so it went through.
Yeah, I guess that story wasn't really related to the ban. But it was interesting, I hope!
This one's neat because we actually know exactly why it was banned.
On 4 Jun 2011, a few days after OTF came out, the 1E Rules Liaison (an account jointly-managed by several CC staffers to answer rules questions) received the following PM. I don't know who it came from, because the 1ERL anonymized it:
I have a very important concern about Holodeck Adventures Incident Jem'Hadar Shrouding and hope that this message will change something.One decisionmaker said that the message made sense to him, so he nominated it for the ban list. Another user said "Yeah, I've abused this in the past" and seconded the nomination. In a flurry of "+1" and "Thumbs-up" emojis, the card was banned, with the ban announced and becoming effective July 2011. So, whoever you are who sent that PM, you were very convincing!
When OTF was created, one of its goals has been to ban all the broken cards or cards which can create a negative game experience and after some time bring them back with an errata. Not saying that I completely agree with all the card on the ban list most of them have their place there very well deserved.
For example Rogue Borg Mercenaries: A very disturbing card where a card exists against it found a way there. Jem'Hadar Shrouding is almost the same with NO card against it and no place on the ban list.
Shrouding costs you one seed card and is limited to an away team not at a headquarters mission. So it is not as "universal" as Rogue Borg are. But because of the fact, that you can place as many Jem'Hadar from hand on it every turn without any cost (you draw a card for placing one card there) and that you can de-shroud them during an opponents turn it is far too strong.
Of course you can build something against it. Personell battle prevention such as Smoke Bomb, but you can still be easily stopped because you can always de-shroud only one Jemmy to stop the away team.
As said before, you can do something against it. But there were also possibilites to counter Rogue Borg, Q, Scan, and some other broken cards which were found on the ban list, and those possibilties were much easier to get because of the cards against it. The easiest thing is to attempt only headquarters missions, but I don't think that this limitation is one of OTF's goals.
I don't know how to fix this card, probably if the Jemmies have to come from play this would be much more expensive to play, but it would be a real pity if we see continentals with decks only attempting HQ missions for their planet points...
I know that this is not a new card, but hopefully I was able to make my point clear and to convince you that this card should be put onto the ban list.
Rulesmaster AllenGould followed up in a public post the following month by explaining that Shrouding was part of the "next best thing" effect:
I call this the "next best effect": when you pull out the best card in any given category, players naturally look for the 2nd place card. Often, that card was previously seldom played (because there was a better version), but now it's the top dog, and sometimes it was too good as well. Shrouding is the "next best" Rogue Borg - you can pop a single Jemmie off on your opponent's turn and stop an away team (while getting a draw engine on the side). We're pretty sensitive to cards that let you battle your opponent on their turn - the guaranteed stop is far more powerful than the actual battle.So, whew! What a well-documented banning!
...You'll notice that there's not a lot of "hard data" above. That's largely because there isn't any hard data to be had - we have deck lists (if players/TDs entered them - and that's nowhere near 100%), and we have tournament reports/forum posts/PMs. I would be thrilled to have the level of data that Magic has (where they can tell you exactly what percentage of decks have Jace in it, and what it's win percentage is). Mael does fantastic work in helping us mine the data we have, but in the end, we still make some judgement calls.
The errata team summed this up nicely when it was banned just a few months ago:
Memory Wipe ban notice wrote:This card, when played in multiple, can lock an opponent out of all but a few space missions. Cards like Parallax Arguers and Obsession can exacerbate this effect. As the card only seems to be used in such a manner, it is a good candidate for removal.The proximate cause for banning Memory Wipe now was a bunch of high-level players petitioning for the ban prior to this year's major summer events. This was because a number of players had figured out decks which used Obsession + Memory Wipes to achieve some very tough lockouts, and the belief (which seemed credible) was that the majors would end up being dominated by those decks (or by decks which specifically tech'd against them).
I suggested that, since this was still just theorycraft (albeit clever theorycraft), it should be tested after the fact to see if the card really needed to stay banned. To my knowledge, that hasn't happened, but Playtesting has been totally swamped by the (very large) Project G'Kar file all summer and fall, so it's understandable.
Interestingly, I believe Memory Wipe is the only card to get banned twice. It was also banned in September 2010. This was the official reason:
This card is used in a lockout deck where a player’s cards all become , preventing that player from solving his or her missions....so, basically the same reason as why it was banned in 2019. (The post nominating Memory Wipe for a ban simply said, "Are they [Memory Wipe and Subspace Schism] still plaguing your tournaments? Mine are.")
There was also an internal notion at the time that Memory Wipe should be banned because it was targeted by a card, Intruder Alert!. However, this seems to have been a misguided argument, and did not factor into the final decision. (The story there is complicated; Wambundu explains it here.)
Either way, though, the original ban didn't stick; it was unbanned just over a year later, in November 2011. Whoever made the decision to unban it didn't talk about it on the forums, though! I can find literally zero discussion of unbanning Memory Wipe prior to the announcement, so I don't know why it was unbanned the first time.
Palor Toff - Alien Trader
As MSD wrote in 2011: "This card has proven too strong as it acts as a wild card for any card in your discard pile." This is a big part of the story, and we can see that it's always been considered overpowered from the fact that Decipher released three separate counters to it over several years (Countermanda, Kivas Fajo, and 47th Rule... and I thought there was one more, hm).
But the other big part of the story was that Palor Toff was an absolutely key part of The Holy Hexany. The very first thing on most internal versions of the ban list was every single card involved in hexany.
One interesting thing I noticed is that there have been a ton of fairly simple, reasonable suggestions for fixing Palor Toff over the years: limit to once each turn, limit to twice per game, limit to non-Interrupts, play in place of a card draw, add a 0 point box, add a -5 box box, make it play on your turn then add a "draw no cards this turn" restriction, and a few other options. Of course, all ban list cards have some fix suggestions out there, but I was struck by the sheer number of fix suggestions I combed through while trying to find why it was banned.
In March 2019, a new version of the Organized Play Guide was circulated to me for revisions, because Kris knows I love revising rules documents. (It's a weakness!) There are dozens, maybe hundreds of changes, major and minor. One thing I noticed was that the paragraph about promo cards had been revised:
Promo cards distributed by the Continuing Committee in prize kits are legal for play as soon as they have been won. This includes White-Border Preview cards (those bearing a “P” rarity) that have not yet been released in a virtual expansion.At the time, the only 1E white-border preview card in the wild was Centurion Kirk, and there were no more in the pipeline, to my knowledge. (I had seen Persistent Individuality but had not been informed it was a WB Preview.) I verbally confirmed with Kris that this seemed okay to me as long as white-border preview cards continued to be low-powered personnel who didn't work very well outside their chosen factions. Kris agreed. He wasn't aware of Persistent Individuality, either. He circulated the information about WB previews to various departments, including 1E and Shipping.
Charlie was aware of Persistent Individuality and the WB change but didn't connect the dots. I know somebody else in 1E was aware of both things, but I'm not sure whether he didn't connect the dots or if he thought it was a good idea.
So the updated OPG goes up in late March as planned, with changes to white-border playability across all games. This is not much noticed, because there are lots of other changes in the OPG and very few players read updated rules documents anyway. A few months after that, Persistent Individuality goes out in promo packs. This isn't a low-powered personnel tied to a specific more-or-less unplayable faction; it's a pretty strong anti-Borg dilemma that a ton of decks would like to get their hands on.
I don't actually have any idea when PI reached players and became technically legal, but Dan Hamman teased it in September, sparking concerns about unknowable and inaccessible cards in the environment. A thread started shortly after on the topic. The idea of legal WB previews was controversial, with supporters and opponents, but the idea of a strong anti-Borg dilemma existing as a legal WB preview nobody else could was quite unpopular.
At the infamous September Board Meeting, where nobody could hear each other and the recording was lost, P.I. was on the agenda, but I don't know that it was discussed. The minutes for October mention it obliquely, and I didn't find much about it in the recording -- seemed like the decision had already been made.
My impression is that the 1E Department wanted Organized Play to change the white-border preview rule back to what it was in order to "fix" P.I.. Organized Play, however, tries to do only annual updates of the OPG, and, like, hey, y'all had plenty of warning and signed off on this and we're not going to change the whole OPG for three games because of one card you could just ban. So, come November, 1E finally pulled the trigger and banned the card to get it out of the environment. Centurion Kirk, the other WB preview, remains legal.
It's not clear right now what the future will be on the overall issue. In the meeting, 1E reported that they may limit future WB previews to more restricted personnel, and OP signaled that it will reconsider whether to revert this change next April, during the OPG's regular pre-regionals update window.
But the future of Persistent Individuality is very clear: it will remained banned until it is released as a regular black-border card in a real set, and then it will be released without changes. It's kind of a pseudo-ban, because it seems nobody expected it to be legal right now anyway. It could be released tomorrow; it could be released in five years. But Errata and Playtesting aren't looking at it and won't need to sign off on changes, which is good news for PI. Persistent Individuality (incidentally, today's card of the day!) is banned strictly for accessibility reasons, not power-level reasons.
Q's Planet - Not much on this one. Q's Planet was considered disruptive enough that Decipher pseudo-banned it with Strategema. It went onto the banlist without much discussion, as did every other card named on Strategema.
I wasn't really around back in the day, as I've noted before, so I don't know what the deal was with Q's Planet. To my eyes now, it looks so obviously broken that I can't believe there weren't more counters against it much earlier, but... I dunno! Hopefully Rachmaninoff (or somebody else) will write another post explaining the history here.
EDIT: Both Rachmaninoff and somebodies else chimed in to explain what this was all about.
Quantum Incursions - I actually can't explain this better than Charlie did the day it was banned. Read his article. (Then read the thread linked to the article if you want even more.)
It was controversial: a public poll shortly before the ban showed an exact 50/50 split in the community (with 58 votes!) between banning and keeping it. The split within the 1E department was nearly identical.
But, as that poll showed, even half of the people who wanted to keep QI agreed it needed changes, and the 1E Department had tried and failed for over two years (by that point) to come up with workable changes that would make most people happy. So it's banned until Errata comes up with a better idea than any ideas Design had.
Raise The Stakes - This is banned because all cards named in the "Special Cards" section of the Premiere Rulebook are banned.
Nah, just kidding. This is the only card that is banned in both OTF and Open. It is the only card Decipher banned. It's banned for the same reason Magic The Gathering's ante mechanic is banned: first, players had strong reactions to the possibility that they would lose some of their very valuable cards just for losing; second, ante mechanics arguably (in the opinion of Decipher and Wizards of the Coast lawyers, anyway) count as gambling, creating all manner of legal hassles for players, venues, and manufacturers. Is that true? I suspect so, but it never really mattered, because DECIPHER thought it was true, and they're the ones who counted.
Red Alert! - Everyone, absolutely everyone agreed that this card was beyond broken in 1995. But, by 2010, the question was more complicated. It wasn't clear to everyone anymore that Red Alert! was harmful in the environment, what with It's Only A Game, Spacedoor, and the other counters to Red Alert! that were prevalent by then. One very key decisionmaker went as far as saying that 2010 Red Alert! was too weak, given all the counters: after somebody proposed errata'ing Red Alert! to follow the restrictions on It's Only A Game, this decisionmaker mused "This is effectively what the card does now, and it does not see any play. It should do more than that."
Regardless, everyone still agreed that, without the counters, Red Alert! was too powerful. Even with It's Only A Game, unprepared players still sometimes got steamrolled. Since Team OTF was trying to make the game less of a guess-the-meta, hope-you-packed-the-right-counters kind of game, that was enough, and Red Alert got banned. (As we've seen, "being named by a card" is kind of how a lot of cards got banned.)
All this suggests that giving Red Alert! balanced errata could be challenging. Nobody's really seen it in an environment free of its counters in, like, two decades. That makes it hard to redesign and harder to test. Everyone's going to be skittish about reintroducing such an iconically overpowered card, but it would be all too easy to turn it into binder fodder in the process. And, when it comes off the ban list, do its counters get errata'd, too? That has a huge effect on how powerful the updated card can be. Should be fun to see what Errata ultimately does with it!
Rogue Borg Mercenaries
Horga'hn may be the most powerful card ever, but RBM is the most obnoxious. My very first tournament (late 2002), my very first game, was versus a guy who Defended Homeworld for Lore, and the rest of his draw deck was Rogue Borg, Lore Returns, and Crosis. He waited until I attempted a mission, hit me with the Higher Fewer / Scow combo that was underneath every single mission, then buried me in RBM for a lockout. (At the time, I was impressed; 13-year-old me was astonished that anyone could own more than 2 or at most 3 copies of a rare card like Crosis.)
That's all RBM did. It seems they were supposed to be kind of a cool pop-up battle, maybe once or twice a game, where the intensity of the battle scaled with the owner's investment in the strategy. (I've misplaced my Brady Strategy Guide, so maybe somebody can remind me what it says about RBM, but I think it was something like that.) Neat gamesmanship, right? But, instead, in a classic "here's why good Interrupts are hard to design in 1E" moment, RBM only ever showed up in one of two very degenerate uses:
(1) The deck I faced, a hard lockout deck that prevented me from playing the game.
(2) RBM "ping" decks, where a single RBM would be sacrificed in a battle with opponent's crew on opponent's turn... thereby stopping said crew and preventing them from doing anything that turn. Another kind of lockout, essentially.
Decipher refused to ban cards, so instead they started making counters. RBM is probably the most-countered card of all time: I count 11 explicit counters to it, increasing over time from the very modest (Targ and Intruder Force Field) to the dramatic (Sense The Borg + Borg Neuroprocessor) to the absurd ( Reactor Overload) until finally Decipher gave up and pseudo-banned it with Strategema.
Strategema is what got it added to the original OTF ban list, because every card named by pre-errata Strategema was banned. But, interestingly, RBM was considered a serious enough problem that, about three weeks earlier, there was a discussion about banning RBM (and Q, and for some reason Strategema itself) from Open format as well (where the only banned card has always been Raise the Stakes). However, decisionmakers were starting to work on OTF at that time, and decided that it was better to tackle everything at once in OTF's comprehensive ban list rather than single out a few cards for special treatment.
On a side note, while I was trying to figure out exactly what was going on here, I discovered that the ban list went from "here's an idea whose time has probably come" to "we're done, ship it to Playtesting" in six weeks flat -- and this happened over the Christmas holidays, when things around here usually get very quiet. The speed with which the 1E Department moved in those early days is both thrilling and terrifying.
(There was also a brief public comment period in May, which was surprisingly sparse given the explosive content.)
Writing about this card after designing it is a bit of a minefield for me, ha ha ha.
The official reason given for the ban is on the card page:
Errata Team 2 July 2018 wrote:Romulan Minefield is part of a powerful combo involving free plays and a draw engine, IDIC: Power of the High Command, without cultural enforcement. Due to concerns from the Errata Team and players, Romulan Minefield is banned to avoid warping the rest of the competitive season.On pre-errata IDIC: Power, you could draw cards for Schemes even without having any Vulcans in play, so people were playing all-Romulan decks that seeded IDIC: Power anyway just to generate card draws. This was crazy good. Following the maxim "ban the thing with the smallest impact on the game, not the thing that is 'most to blame,'" the CC took Minefield out of circulation (instead of Power, which was briefly discussed).
However, IDIC: Power was fixed (or, in the eyes of some players, yes I'm pre-empting you Armus, spayed, (pun intended)) in September of this year, yet Minefield remains banned. What's up?
I don't have access to the current Errata team forums. (Which is for the best.) But I think Errata is aware that, while the Minefield/Power combo was particularly degenerate, there were concerns that Minefield was still too good even without Power... particularly in an environment with Holographic Camo (which had not yet been banned). Were those concerns justified? Hard to say, since Minefield was legal for such a short time and nearly everyone used it with Power. I'm certainly too biased to judge.
There was public discussion of making Minefield into a unique card, like some other schemes... but, without the comprehensive "scheme" support Vulcans have, that seems to turn Minefield into binder fodder, and guts its designed intent. The proposal to remove the "for free" text completely ran into similar problems: it corrected the problem, but also made it very hard to use the card as intended.
What was Minefield's intention, you ask? Well, here I can speak with authority, since this is the one card on the ban list where the idea came straight from my brain:
Romulan Minefield is supposed to be a defensive card. The mechanical "flavor" for as a whole was defined as "we turtle up at Drone Control Room," making DCR an extremely tempting (and virtually undefendable) target for an opponent. Minefield is supposed to help a player block (or at least slow) an aggressive opponent who is trying to attack DCR. You play a bunch of them between your own missions, then mostly ignore them. If you want to use them aggressively against an opponent, you have to burn card plays, just like Subspace Warp Rift (which is binder fodder). Originally, only Drone-class ships were immune to Minefield's effect (making it a VERY focused card), but we decided Chess Game decks might like to use it to defend the Neutral Zone, so we extended it.
What I think we overlooked in Design (other than the Power/Minefield interaction, which we very obviously missed) is that there are a lot of missions in the game, and this made it relatively easy to use Minefield aggressively, heavily polluting your opponent's part of spaceline at the very low cost of "free". Moreover, an aggressive opponent is unlikely to allow you to actually put your missions next to each other -- aggressive opponents almost always interleave missions. Because of this, despite promising playtest results, Minefield never really got used the way Design hoped. It was almost universally used offensively.
If I were redesigning this today, I'd probably pitch this text instead:
Plays on your mission (for free if a non-homeworld whose only printed icon is ). Span is +2. Passing non- ships must stop here for rest of turn or incur damage.That would limit free plays to Covert Installation (NZ), Covert Rescue, Establish Medical Complex, Extraction, Iconia Investigation (NZ), Inspect Strategic Snare (great combo, as intended), Investigate "Shattered Space" (NZ), Investigate Raid, Quash Conspiracy, Strategic Diversion, Study Lonka Pulsar, and Supervise Dilithium Mine (Remus). That, in turn, would drive players strongly toward playing these missions, which only further reinforces the flavor of the faction. Meanwhile, making it "your" mission means you will always suffer at least some cost from using this aggressively, and can't screw over an opponent who just happened to pack lots of missions.
However, I'm not part of Errata. Even if Errata sees this and says, "Oh, that's a good idea," the proposal could easily fall apart in testing, as happens so often when a seemingly good idea is exposed to real play conditions.
This was a very self-indulgent entry, because I (obviously) care about this card disproportionately much compared to other cards on the ban list. I'll try to keep the next entry short and sweet!
Why was it banned? Exactly why MilesStuntDouble and CorbinQ said it was banned: "The 'pollution' function was used to lock the opponent's personnel on planet missions for most of the game." "Opponent's would use it to download the cards it downloads and lock me out of a mission for a turn or so and then only allow me to beam up / down three guys each turn. The card got better when tribunal of Q came out as it could come from out of the discard pile. This is one of the most annoying cards in revised. NPE for sure!"
However, the pollution cards (Atmospheric Ionization / Distortion Field) got errata'd back in 2010. Why's Scanner Interference still banned?
It stayed banned for a long time just because the Errata/unban process was dysfunctional. At the time, Errata was a function of Rules, and there was no precedent at the time (that I'm aware of) for releasing a banned card back into the environment without errata. There was talk of unbanning Scanner Interference unaltered in 2013, and it just... didn't happen. Many of you remember how long we had to wait between Errata in those days, which is why there's now a dedicated 1E Errata team. (We still have to wait a while, but the bottleneck is now playtesting, not the new Errata team itself.) In 2016, a decisionmaker suggested it should stay banned because cards that have been removed from the environment shouldn't be allowed back in (because the CC is trying to phase out cards). That was it, internally.
And, hey, the public didn't seem to mind. The first person to publicly argue that S.I. should be unbanned was apparently hoss-drone in 2018, after Scan and Full Planet Scan were errata'd.
However, the Scan erratas are exactly the reason S.I. stayed banned for the past couple of years. Errata made an attempt to errata S.I. in 2018, but testing feedback was that the new versions of Scan and Full Planet Scan were such bad binder fodder that releasing anti-Scan hate into the environment was just adding insult to injury. (FWIW, this assessment seems to be accurate: since receiving their errata, neither Scan nor Full Planet Scan has been played in a single OTF Complete event, at least not in a public deck.)
So, at this point, it seems that the only way for Scanner Interference to get past Playtesting is if it comes back without actually interfering with Scans -- a tall order, given Errata's mandate not to mess too much with the fundamental story of a card!
Part II of this post can be found in Why Was That Card Banned? 2019 Edition - PART II.
"We pledge our loyalty to the Glossary from now until death."
"Then receive this reward from the Glossary. May it keep you strong."