Say goodbye to Magic: The Gathering’s pesky nightmare kitty Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Companions have been nerfed with today’s new banned and restricted announcement.
Companions, introduced in the latest Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths set, were a way to play with commanders without playing in the Commander format. Companions were cards that, like a commander, could be cast from outside the game. However, unlike a commander, your deck had to meet specific criteria in order to cast a companion in that way. (You can still play a companion if you had it in your hand, as you would any other creature).
Using Lurrus of the Dream-Den as an example, the 3 mana card could be put onto the battlefield from outside the game so long as
You pay its mana cost and
Each permanent card in your starting deck has converted mana cost 2 or less.
Starting June 1st for paper Magic players and June 4th for Magic Arena and Magic Online players, how companions work is changing. “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.” With the new rule, companion players must go through an additional step and additional mana to get their precious kitty or other companions—like my favourite Yorion, Sky Nomad—into play.
Wizards wrote, “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. As a group, decks using companions have too high of win rates and metagame share in Standard, Pioneer, and Modern, and have already necessitated bans in Legacy and Vintage. This trend represents a long-term problem for the health and diversity of all formats.”
Instead of banning companions outright or banning some disproportionately played companions—like Lurrus—piecemeal, Wizards decided to simply change the mechanic altogether.
“By charging additional mana, playing a companion becomes less efficient relative to playing the other cards the player has drawn. In this way, players are more likely to cast their other spells before their companion, resulting in more divergent game paths. Next, this additional mana will often slow the companion down by a turn, allowing the opponent to interact with it while in the companion player’s hand or otherwise giving the opponent an additional turn to plan ahead before the companion hits the battlefield.”
The companion nerf is significant, as Wizards explains:
“It’s rare that we use a rules change to address metagame balance, and this isn’t something we have plans to do in the future.[...] We believe this solution is preferable to potentially needing to make multiple bans across different formats over time.”
I enjoy companions; it’s a way to make the commander style of play more accessible to people who may not have the ability to create commander sized decks. But I do understand that, as they are, they’re difficult to deal with and seem symptomatic of the common complaint of Magic’s power creep. Players will still likely see Lurrus played after the change, since its ability to cast cheap spells from your graveyard is too good to pass up. But don’t expect the ladder or your local Friday Night Magic games to be dominated by companion decks going forward.