Have you ever watched Good Will Hunting? I loved that movie and will now give you a spoiler warning.
I always thought the scene where Ben Affleck goes up to Matt Damon’s house at the end of the movie and he’s just not there anymore was really poignant. Such a mix of emotions! Affleck really loves and cares for Matt Damon, and wishes that they could be friends together in Boston forever. But on the other hand, he knows that Matt Damon is just too good for the neighborhood. It’s better if he goes away, as heartbreaking as it is to admit. Affleck, deep down, is happy to see Damon go.
That’s how I feel. Marvel and I have had great times together—I have never won this consistently in my life. It was beautiful, raining Ulamogs on the battlefield every match. “People call those imperfections, but no, that’s the good stuff.”
That being said, the fact is that Marvel was simply too good for Standard. It needed to go away.
I read the article on the Wizards website that talked about how many decks had positive matchups against Marvel but I think that is a bit misleading for a few reasons.
Firstly, decks that could not compete with Marvel would just not show up in this data set at all. What about all of the sweet Brisela, Noxious Gearhulk, and Ishkanah decks I wanted to play? This data didn’t display their 15% win rates against Marvel. Turn 5-10 cards can’t exist in a format where your opponent is likely to just cast an Ulamog the next turn, if they haven’t already. It is a similar effect to the one Emrakul had on Standard.
Secondly, the decks in this data set, in general, were trying very, very hard to beat Marvel. B/G counters decks often had 4 main deck Dissenter’s Deliverance or main deck Transgress the Mind. The energy aggro decks had many main deck Negates or even Manglehorns. After putting all of these cards that are awful against decks like energy aggro or Zombies in their main deck, they can finally boast a 50% win rate against Marvel. This is as “hateful” as the format can get.
Marvel, along with Ulamog, put enormous restrictions on what you could do in this format. This pair was by far the best thing you could do in the late game. Since you can start casting both between turns 4-7, other decks were forced to try to compete with you on turns 1-3. After turn 3, it’s just a matter of time until the Marvel player takes over the game. Unfortunately, given Standard’s card pool, it is just very difficult to get ahead that early.
It is not an option to try to interact with Aetherworks Marvel either. In my opinion, there are only 2 cards in the format that fight it really effectively—Negate and Dispossess, which even have their own weaknesses. All of the next best options have large drawbacks, such as Dissenter’s Deliverance, which allows them an activation first, or Transgress the Mind, which doesn’t work if they draw it later or if they have 2 in hand. This means you still lose a large amount of the time even when you are lucky enough to have your “answer”. If you aren’t playing blue or black, you basically can’t have a reasonable Marvel matchup.
In my opinion, the root of frustration in Magic is the feeling of, “well if they have it, I can’t possibly win. I have to pray they don’t draw it.” The key to preventing these sorts of powerful payoff cards from taking over a format is to have very effective answers in all colors. You don’t want to be incapable of interacting with their marquee card even when you’re trying your best. Cards like Pithing Needle are fantastic at allowing players to have hope against certain strategies, while also not being overpowered. That card in particular would also be effective at preventing all the truly powerful cards in Standard from being too dominant, such as Heart of Kiran and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
Based on articles I’ve read, it sounds like in recent times, Wizards has become acutely aware that they have not printed answers that are good enough. I think they are in a tough spot—they want the competitive environment to thrive, but they also don’t want players to have their favorite cards shut down by a single colorless mana. I have a lot of faith that these Standard bannings will not become the norm and that Wizards is learning as they go along.
There are only a couple of things that bother me about our great Magic community, and one of them is the constant deluge of, “Wow, Wizards has no idea what they’re doing” comments that show up on Reddit and elsewhere. Magic is such a great game, has been popular for such a long time, and is still always growing. You are literally addicted to their product. Is that supposed to be an easy task? There are hundreds of games that fail because they aren’t fun or balanced enough. Although I understand that sometimes Standard can be very frustrating, I would really encourage everyone to just give the development team a bit of credit. They make a few mistakes here and there, but I think they’re wicked smart and are obviously doing an enormous amount of things right.