It was an exciting week in Magic. Multiple bannings across multiple formats ensure big changes for Constructed. Change is exciting, change is encouraging, and change is necessary, but when it comes to Magic, change is often overestimated.
Were the Bannings a Success?
Not a single sanctioned match of Standard has even been played yet, but I am confident that the bannings were a success.
“If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.” -Don Draper, Mad Men
Wizards changed the conversation, which was unanimously negative, into one of optimism. I appreciate that the DCI listened to the players’ complaints and took decisive action.
When you stretch the limits of design, sometimes a card or two gets pushed over the edge and need to be banned. When the DCI listens to feedback and makes the right call, everything is copacetic. I’d rather see the cards that drive players away be banned than endure 4 more months of Collected Company.
Don’t Buy Into False Hope—Buy Into the Last Hope
When a new set arrives, there is a short lived mirage of brewer’s paradise. It is doubly true on the heels of a triple banning. Please, don’t drink the sand.
“Been playing tribal mice living in a brewer’s paradise.”
“Melded Brisela once or twice living in a brewer’s paradise.”
I encourage everyone to experiment with new cards, be creative, and test out new ideas. Brewer’s paradise is one of the truly fun and worthwhile experiences in all of Magic, but it is also fleeting.
If your objective is tournament success, the point of brewing is to try many strategies to single out the strong ones and cull the inadequate. When you are done playing in brewer’s paradise, be objective and honest with yourself about the results.
Who doesn’t want to be the person that breaks the format with some crazy highlander Bring to Light combo control deck? Chances are that breaking the format and finding the best deck isn’t a matter of creating a crazy outside-the-box brew, but rather having the best-tuned 75 of a known commodity.
The point I’ve been building to is that B/G Delirium was, and is, a great deck with or without Emrakul, the Promised End. The deck was perfectly capable of winning games without Emrakul and will remain so moving forward. In a vacuum, the loss of Emrakul makes the deck objectively worse, but when you consider that all the best decks lost key pieces, it is possible that B/G Delirium actually came out ahead.
One card does not a great deck maketh.
The banning of Reflector Mage and Smuggler’s Copter means that multiple decks lost their best overall card. The fact that Aetherworks Marvel, by far Delirium’s worst matchup, is the format’s biggest loser makes Delirium better positioned.
It’s basic addition by subtraction. What we lost in the fire we gained in the flood.
Even without Emrakul, the Promised End, B/G Delirium is easily one of the strongest decks in my #MTGAER gauntlet. In fact, I would consider a list like this to be the fun police, in the sense that as far as new brews go, if they can’t hang with Delirium, either rebuild or scrap. It’s a great way to narrow down and focus your expected metagame.
Let’s talk a little bit about the Delirium list. Another reason I believe Delirium is poised to be at the top of the heap is simply that it gained the best card in Aether Revolt:
I don’t mean to push Delirium so hard but I feel like not preparing for it would be a fatal mistake.
A clean, 1-mana removal spell doesn’t just come around every day of the week. Fatal Push will have consequences and effects that will be felt all the way back into Eternal formats.
“Welcome my son, welcome to the Mystery Machine.”
It doesn’t take a genius sleuth like Sherlock Holmes or Ace Ventura to figure out that if you are playing Fatal Push, you also need to maximize your ability to consistently trigger revolt. The Wilds, Tracker, and Clue trio do a fantastic job of ensuring a permanent can go to the garbage at instant speed. Keep in mind that revolt says “permanent” and not “card,” so Clues get the job done just fine.
Tracker is also doing double-duty in Delirium right now. Since there is no Emrakul to come down and snatch the game away, the midrange and control mirrors once again boil down to either out-tempoing or out-grinding the opponent. Tireless Tracker + Evolving Wilds on turn 4 is an excellent way to ensure you have enough gas to go the distance.
Another nice bonus of losing Emrakul is that Delirium doesn’t need to play bad cards to maximize card types in the graveyard.
The parade of medium.
These cards were individually medium but provided a lot of synergy with Emrakul. Now they can be replaced with cards that are individually more powerful.
The true queen of the Golgari dodged a banhammer bullet.
Before the banning, I believed that Ishkanah and Aetherworks Marvel were the most format defining cards in Standard. I’m interested to see what happens next, because Ishkanah is still an obnoxiously efficient card that can brickwall an entire game of Magic.
With no Emrakul, I’ve gone up to 3 copies, plus the Traverse the Ulvenwald to find her. It may well be that I go up to 4 before I’m done.
Killing planeswalkers is going to be important in Aether Revolt Standard. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar gets better without Copter to challenge it and the “Copy Cat” Saheeli Rai combo is also poised to be a contender. I currently have a split on Path and Slaughter, but each card is better at doing different things, so I could see adjusting as the metagame starts to solidify. The instant speed is better at disrupting the combo, whereas Path is better at dealing with Gideon on curve when you might not have Delirium yet.
Delirium Sideboard Contenders
You may have noticed that my Delirium sideboard is currently doing its best impression of a Commander deck…
That will probably change as I start to get a better idea of exactly what the format and expected metagame look like. I’ve got a lot of different option cards floating around in my sideboard so I can see how often I use them and how good they are when I draw them.
Some are fairly obvious carry-over cards from last season, but there are some cool new cards that have been pulling their weight so far:
One hell of a finisher.
Emrakul may be gone but that doesn’t mean that you can’t play with big, bad, bomby finishers. It is worth noting that a lot of the removal is conditional and efficient (i.e., Fatal Push) and Demon is tough to kill. I also love the way the Demon comes down and clears out Spider tokens. I have Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Verdurous Gearhulk to set up some truly devastating turns in the mirror.
Demon has also proven to be a pretty absurd tutor target against the various G/W Token decks that have been gaining in popularity.
“Yanni! Yanni! Play ‘Rainmaker‘!”
I’ve been pretty impressed with my singleton copy of Expertise in the sideboard. Getting to -3/-3 and then drop a Liliana, the Last Hope is pretty sweet. It’s will likely earn its spot depending on how good token-based strategies turn out to be.
I probably wouldn’t have gotten turned on to this card if it wasn’t in my Sealed deck at the prerelease. My estimation of the card in my G/B Rock deck quickly went from probably above average to easily the best card in my pool by a wide margin after casting it for the first time.
The scry and additional card draw adds up to a cascading advantage over the course of the game. I understand that the pace of the game is much quicker in Standard than Sealed, but there are some matchups that crawl at a snail’s pace where this could be backbreaking.
Also worth noting that the “G: draw a card” ability is a “cast” trigger, which means that against a control deck you can draw a card even if they counter your spell. I also love the way that the scry ensures you continue drawing into gas every turn.
I would have thought the card was bad, but after having played with it I’m inclined to say it is a Constructed-caliber spell. It may not be a main-deck option, but I’ll be testing it out in various sideboards.
Despite losing a big piece with the Emrakul ban, B/G Delirium ends up picking up a lot of new toys. The bannings and new printings are going to shake up Standard and give us all something to be excited about playing, but I’d be shocked if B/G Delirium isn’t one of the best decks after the dust settles.
Queen Emrakul is dead! Long live Queen Ishkanah!
Old boss same as the new boss.
Hope you all like Spiders…