Last week, 16 of the best Magic Online players set out to compete in one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year. With the changes made to the MOCS last year, there were a number of big-name players in attendance—Owen Turtenwald, Marcio Carvalho, Lukas Blohon, and Josh Utter-Leyton, to name a few.
I was glued to my computer screen the whole weekend to see how the tournament would unfold. I was obviously rooting for my countryman Lukas Blohon to take the tournament down, but it was not meant to be. After a hard fought battle, Lukas lost in the finals to Josh Utter-Leyton, who went from not qualified for a PT to Platinum faster than anyone.
I had a blast watching the event, with exciting games and quality coverage. As an aside on coverage, this tournament showed just how much of a commentator talent is out there. It kind of blows my mind that Patrick Sullivan, David Williams, and Chris Pikula aren’t commentating on the PT. Also, as always, I’d like to point out that it’s a travesty that Riley Knight isn’t a mainstay in the PT booth yet, as I think he is the 2nd-best play-by-play commentator, behind only Marshall Sutcliffe.
Overall, the tournament was amazing, the gameplay was great, and I especially recommend watching the matches in the Top 4 as that was some of the best Magic I have ever seen.
That all got me thinking Standard, and more importantly about the ban announcement on Monday.
Here is the metagame breakdown from the MOCS:
- Mardu: 8
- 4c Saheeli: 5
- B/G: 2
- Temur Marvel: 1
Well, that’s not very diverse, is it? After playing lot of Standard over the past month, I have come to the same conclusion as the MOCS competitors that Mardu and 4c Saheeli are the best decks in the format right now. I liked the Temur Tower deck, but your draws need to line up pretty well for you to beat all the other decks and the power level just isn’t that high.
It looked like B/G was also a frontrunner for a while but now that everyone has tuned their Saheeli and Mardu lists, Standard has become a two-deck format.
Even though I think the game play is excellent and I wouldn’t mind battling Mardu versus Saheeli all day long, it’s clearly unhealthy. Wizards have given themselves an opportunity to fix it, though. When they announced the last (and shocking) bans for Standard, they also announced that there would be another ban window, which happens this Monday.
This one is at the top of everyone’s list. The Saheeli + Felidar Guardian combo is oppressive. It creates unhealthy game play where the Saheeli player can just play the planeswalker onto an empty board, and their opponent is now in a weird spot where they can’t ever tap out without the risk of dying.
It’s important to note that Wizards didn’t intend to print this combo and admitted it was a mistake that they missed. Of the two cards, it’s pretty obvious that they would rather ban the uncommon than their set’s iconic mythic rare. This combination of cards just stops too many of the cool decks like Metalwork Colossus, Paradoxical Outcome, and more.
Overall, I think it is quite likely that the combo will be banned.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Now if the combo gets banned, I think Wizards will also have to find a way to hurt Mardu. Mardu is one of the most aggressive decks we have seen in a while. Thanks to cards like Scrapheap Scrounger and Gideon, it also has a pretty good late game.
I think if you only ban Felidar Guardian and leave Mardu as it is, it’s going to run rampant.
Now the question is: which card should be banned? There are compelling arguments for many of them. You could ban Heart of Kiran as it’s the card that hits the hardest, and if you don’t have an answer for it you just die. You could ban Scrapheap Scrounger, which is a pain in the ass for any grindy deck. The card I think should be banned, though, is Gideon.
The combo is oppressive, yes, but I think the same goes for Gideon. Since its printing, it has won all but one PT. It’s annoying to play against, especially on the draw. I am sad that the current Standard format doesn’t have something like Hero’s Downfall, as I think it would make the format much better. Unfortunately, Ruinous Path at sorcery speed is just laughable.
Let me start by saying that this card doesn’t need to be banned. The reason I would ban it is similar to the reason Reflector Mage was banned. If you take away Felidar Guardian and Gideon as I suggest, I think B/G would be the #1 deck yet again. Banning the Snake would hurt it, but it wouldn’t kill it outright. It would be bad news for the energy shell (poor Longtusk Cub), but you can still build your deck around some of the delirium synergies.
Overall I would like this card to go—it’s just so depressing when your opponent plays it, you’re lacking a way to remove it, and you know you’re going to die instantly.
As of right now, I don’t think Marvel is a problem. The Emrakul banning hit it pretty hard and the format is currently too fast for Marvel to truly shine. But if the bans I’m suggesting come to pass, I think this card might become a problem yet again. After all, Anssi Alkio played a version of this deck to a very respectable finish at the MOCS. He lost his win-and-in for Top 4, and if he’d won that match, the story of the weekend might have been different.
Marvel is so obviously pushed that I don’t really understand what Wizards was thinking. It also hurts their development going forward because you always have to be careful to not print anything similar to Emrakul that would be broken alongside it.
On top of that, no one really likes playing with this card. Yes, it is kind of cool to look at your top 6, find Ulamog, and win, but after a while you get tired of playing the lottery every time you activate it. I would much rather get rid of it preemptively before it becomes too much of a problem yet again.
These are the bans I would love to see in an ideal world. Obviously, as a pro player, I view the game differently than others. I have access to the cards I need and I would much rather see healthy gameplay because I don’t mind getting some of my cards banned. I understand that this is not the case for everyone, and Wizards has to be really careful when it comes to bans. Look, it’s not easy—Wizards messed up with Felidar Guardian, and to some extent they have been printing too many powerful cards for awhile. Like I said with Marvel, it’s fun to beat your opponent with powerful cards for at first, but losing to Toolcraft into Heart of Kiran into Disintegration into Gideon over and over feels terrible.
Mostly, I just hope Wizards will pull back on this impulse in development. The past couple Standard formats were so heavily dominated by strong single cards instead of well-built decks. It stifles creativity—it’s obvious that you should throw together Vehicles plus cards that work well with them. The same goes for Winding Constrictor plus everything that has a counter on it. Those decks just end up too strong and people don’t have fun playing after a short time.
The bans will come on Monday, and I expect they will do something with the Saheeli combo. I just hope they won’t stop there, as that would mean Mardu will overrun the format. For an aggro deck, it’s surprisingly hard to hate out.
That’s all from me today—let me know in comments what would you like to see banned, if anything.
Bonus: I have spent some time tinkering with the Temur Tower deck, and given the fact that I don’t think I will play it at the GP, I’ll happily post it here. So here you go:
Not much has changed from the updated list I posted last week, but I got a lot of questions on social media asking for another update. The deck is still so much fun to play, and while I don’t think it’s quite as strong as the two top decks, I would still recommend it to anyone who wants to have some fun in Standard while winning enough to stay competitive.