On Monday the 9th, Wizards announced the banned list updates, which booted Emrakul, the Promised End, Reflector Mage, and Smuggler's Copter out of Standard! But, MTGO is doing the timing differently. Through a quirk in rolling things out, MTGO will have the bans from January 11 until January 27 to play with the bans, but no Aether Revolt! With that, let's brew!
Wizards moved up the typical announcement date for the banned and restricted list, posting it Monday the 9th. The link is here. Here is the run down:
- Emrakul, the Promised End banned: Big Bertha turned out to be too big for her britches. She was too much, as there turned out to be too many ways to power her out too quickly. In fact, as Wizards described out, she was so powerful that players simply warped around trying to play her. Besides Wizards official reasoning, a lot of players had pegged Emrakul, the Promised End as the bad kind of oppressive, and Wizards has acknowledged that she was at least somewhat of a mistake. Coming out most games and often before turn 6 or 7, she was not fun. There's enough anecdotal evidence to support an idea that tournament attendance was falling and She Who Shall Not Be Named played a large psychological role in that decline.
- Reflector Mage banned: This one came as a surprise to a lot of people, but it turns on that sacrosanct, but ever elusive, Wizards data. Sam Stoddard, the public face of MTG development, discussed on twitter why Reflector Mage got the slap. Wizards data showed UW flash as the best deck in Standard, with only one unfavorable match-up, though only slightly. The mage specifically was heavily disliked for a while, and was a card nearly exclusively used in UW Flash.
- Smuggler's Copter banned: This might be the biggest shift, even if it doesn't have the face value of banning Emrakul, the Promised End. Smuggler's Copter was in so many decks, and often just an auto-four of. It simply warped the game too much, and pushed way too much out of the format (such as my favorite planeswalker, Chandra, Torch of Defiance). Wizards did print Fatal Push, which arguably was supposed to be an answer to Smuggler's Copter. It simply was too oppressive.
- Gitaxian Probe banned: Probe was just too good of an enabler for too many decks. The concern was that it allowed too many turn 2 or 3 kills. Apparently, Peek is worthless, but if you make it cost 2 life, it's ban worthy (note, I generally agree with the ban).
- Golgari Grave-Troll banned: Dredge got two great additions lately in Cathartic Reunion and Prized Amalgam. Those, combined with the we'll-see-how-it-goes unbanning of Troll, pushed Dredge too far, so the Troll went back to the benches.
- Other News: Adding a ban cycle: Going forward, Wizards will issue banned and restricted updates twice per set. Once prior to a new set being released, before the Pro tour, and a second time--five weeks after the Pro Tour.
Normally, if there is a ban list update, the roll out of the ban on MTGO would come only a few days before the set comes out, usually the Wednesday downtime before the Friday pre-release. This time, we get the new format Wednesday the 11th, nine days before the paper world starts the format. When the paper world starts, they will have Aether Revolt. MTGO will not have Aether Revolt until the 27th. So MTGO will have a unique standard for about two and a half weeks.
| MTGO Standard w/Ban
||Paper Standard w/Ban
||MTGO Gets AER
| Wed. Jan. 11
||Sat. Jan. 15
||Fri. Jan. 20
|| Fri. Jan. 27
Rightfully so, most of the focus will be on the Aether Revolt format. But, that doesn't mean we cannot have a little fun in this weird standard, so let's get to brewing!
The Old Guard of Standard
First up, we should consider what the format is now, and what the apocalyptic landscape looks like after this bomb.
There are a number of variations on this deck. It's your traditional Boros aggro deck, splashing to revive the occasional Scrapheap Scrounger, and more recently, adding some Unlicensed Disintegration with the black. So, what do these style decks lose, without the Smuggler's Copter? The big concern is that the deck loses one of its artifacts, when Inventor's Apprentice and Toolcraft Exemplar really need artifacts. It's also important to note that aggro decks this blatant--with little midrange--are usually scarcer by this portion of a format. But, these decks don't usually have a cycler to dump lands that also flies into the face for 3. So, the loss will probably be fairly heavy, as any 2 cost vehicle replacement (e.g. Heart of Kiran or Sky Skiff) won't be nearly as useful.
Ah, the pseudo-surprise Aetherworks Marvel decks. They all pretty much run Emrakul, the Promised End, 2 or 3 of them. I don't think Emrakul, the Promised End is completely necessary for the deck, but it does lose a lot of resilience. There were a number of games where an Emrakul, the Promised End was countered, killed, or bounced, but just getting to use my opponent's Negate on their Gideon, Ally of Zendikar cleared the way for a win. So, there will be a number of games where the Marvel player simply just has to hope to brute force through resistance. Another issue is finding another win con that can be reasonably cast. Chandra, Torch of Defiance and a Servant of the Conduit could allow a hard casted Emrakul, the Promised End on turn 6 or so. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger does not have that luxury, where, if unassisted, won't be hard cast until turn 10 at the earliest.
UW Flash is likely the deck most impacted by the bans. Reflector Mage did a lot of work, ensuring a clearer board or giving the pilot time to find answers. It also provided an extra blocker to protect Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. UW Flash also lost Smuggler's Copter of course. As a pseudo aggro-control deck, the Smuggler's Copter cycling was hugely beneficial. The loss will be hard for UW flash, but it still has the strength of Archangel Avacyn and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. But it's still losing 13.3% of its deck, so it will necessarily be different.
Finally, we look at BR Madness. Here the loss is the Smuggler's Copter, which is fairly profound. This is the deck that really uses both sides of the Smuggler's Copter filter, and it can create insanely valuable plays. And it also just plays its value role, the same as other decks. The real question is how crucial is the Smuggler's Copter cog. The deck already packs some discard with Key to the City and Bomat Courier, and the not always useful Lightning Axe. Similar to most of the decks, the loss of 4 artifacts also hurts, so Unlicensed Disintegration does not hit for damage, which will hurt the deck as well.
First up, what's there to replace Emrakul, the Promised End?
The Mindslaver effect is fairly rare, and there's no replacement that is also stapled on a creature. Nor is there any other 13/13 creatures that might cost 7 or 8 without downside. In short, there is nothing that is similar enough to Emrakul, the Promised End to be a straight slide in. The main deck looking for a replacement is Aetherworks Marvel. So, mana cost is not entirely limiting. One option is to go heavier on Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, as he often does incredible damage on his own. But it's a wheel spin or bust. So what are some options?
||Oblivion Sower is an option to go with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Most decks are ~40% land, so you will get at least one land ~88% of the time. So, a couple of Oblivion Sowers might help ease the pain of an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger sitting in your hand. A 5/8 beats most bodies, and can also block Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Do not be surprised to see this in some Marvel decks.
||Distended Mindbender works well with Marvel, as even if he is countered, you still get to make them discard 2 cards, probably a counter and a win con. But, he is not a super impressive body, and eight mana is a bit steep.
||Here, the Temur decks could use Whirler Virtuoso to drop a few thopters with Decimator of the Provinces on the stack. It also works decently with Ishkanah, Grafwidow, putting out 3 creatures first, then emerging for 4 mana. If I play a Marvel deck, this will be one of the options I consider.
Next up, replacements for Reflector Mage:
This is going to be a hard replacement. Man-o'-War effects are rare enough these days, but to include a Silence style effect pushes the mage over the top. In fact, the only other Silence-esque effect in standard is on Void Winnower, which is nowhere near a replacement. The closest is Sweep Away, conditionally. There are no other Unsummon-on-a-stick cards. I don't think there is anything UW flash players can replace that will fill the shoes. So, what's the next best 3 drop for them? A quick note--I am not familiar with piloting this deck, only going against it, so I could be completely off base.
|The most obvious choice pulls shenanigans in Panharmonicon decks. Eldrazi Displacer is a good sized creature, and was something that UW Flash used previously. Ironically, it would be most busted with Reflector Mage. But, Thraben Inspector, Spell Queller, and Archangel Avacyn also can be abused. But it does also mean adding colorless support, probably with some Aether Hubs.
|Fairgrounds Warden might be able to fill in for the Reflector Mage, as least in the early days of the quirky Standard. It is both better and worse than Reflector Mage in certain ways. The creature under the Fairgrounds Warden might be gone for quite the long time, or it might come back quickly.
|Aerial Responder takes a different role, but still might fill up the void. It is a solid tempo play, and no one ever really doubted the power of Vampire Nighthawk. With the format's most prominent flyer no longer an issue, Aerial Responder might see play in Standard.
Finally, we have Smuggler's Copter, the card most likely to affect the environment more pervasively with its absence.
How do you replace a card that has been compared to Umezawa's Jitte ? There's just so much the card does, and a replacement in one deck will not be a viable replace in another deck. Most decks want the filter ability, but wouldn't take that ability if it wasn't attached to a pseudo 3/3 body. Some decks just want the beats. Others want the artifact to trigger cards like Toolcraft Exemplar and Unlicensed Disintegration. If you start with a 2 drop artifact creature or vehicle, the options are either already utilized or subpar. Decks already using Scrapheap Scrounger cannot add more, and it's a questionable addition to UW Flash, unless it adds other colors. The only other remotely playable card is Sky Skiff in this selection, and it's doubtful many decks will pick that up--though Mardu Vehicles might.
For those looking for the looting effect, there are very few options. The best is already used in Rakdos Madness--Key to the City. It would have some decent functionality in pretty much any deck, but it does a poor Smuggler's Copter impression. Otherwise you are looking at Wharf Infiltrator. . The looting options are bad enough that some decks may fall out of favor because of the lack of consistency. At least Key to the City also activates artifact triggers.
The decks looking for the beats can find a two drop replacement, but none are going to be as versatile and valuable as the Smuggler's Copter.
There's one deck that I haven't mentioned yet that didn't lose any cards and was probably just outside of Tier 1. Good ol' energy explosion:
This deck was already solid, and without the strong filter and pressure of Smuggler's Copter, the tempo of Reflector Mage, and Mindslaver-into-waste-your-energy Emrakul, the Promised End, it could easily break through. My guess is that Marvel players are just going to switch to the Nahiri, the Harbinger style decks, maybe putting in Linvala, the Preserver or World Breaker. So, Energy Explosion might need a way to get a better match up against them, perhaps even some main board answers.
Whew, that took a while. Sorry, I felt that setting up the format was important. I do think the biggest shift is the removal of Smuggler's Copter. We might actually see more Planeswalkers now, so that'll be my first brew--Super Friends! There are 17 planeswalkers in Standard right now, though some are clearly not suited for a Super Friends deck (sorry Saheeli Rai, you'll need to wait a bit to shine). There are also all of the Oaths, some of which would be quite good. Anywho, here's my first crack:
So, I've never actually played this deck, nor do I claim to be an expert brewer, but this deck looks fun to me! Whether or not it's super competitive is another issue. The land in particular is rough, and it might mean dropping the blue. I was trying to decide between dropping blue and black, but the blue wasn't heavy at 3. I could see changing in black though.
Overall, I cannot see doing super friends without green, red, and white. In the style of deck, the planeswalkers are just too good. No one questions the power of Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Green adds Nissa, Vital Force to recover planeswalker from the grave, and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar can throw out chump blockers like a pro. Then there's Oath of Nissa which helps find land and the best walkers, while providing some help with mana.
I have Consulate Skygate in here because I've always found a cheap artifact wall to be very useful in a turtle deck. Similarly, Aerial Responder helps keep me alive until the true turtling can begin!
The sideboard is mostly thrown together and some cards that I wanted to but was unable to fit in the main deck. Since Marvel decks are likely to be the star of the show, a good chunk of the sideboard is for those.
Let me know what you think or how you'd change it!
Next up we have an old classic, Red Deck Wins. By removing Smuggler's Copter, Chandra, Torch of Defiance becomes much more powerful, and she makes a fantastic RDW finisher. Without further ado:
I've long played RDW or various similar versions, whether or not they were good. Red has pretty much always been my mono color of choice. I think there is enough red strength, particularly with Chandra, Torch of Defiance that this deck could work. I could easily see going up to 4 Chandra, Torch of Defiance. The real issue for this deck is the seriously lackluster red artifact removal--hence the Demolish in the sideboard. It was that or Ruinous Gremlin, and I don't think it should be on the board. It might be that a splash is necessary simply to better handle Aetherworks Marvel.
The Crumble to Dust in the main and sideboard may seem odd, but there will be times that it can singlehandedly win a game. Temur Marvel plays few blue and red sources, and few land in general--removing 2-4 might be enough to take the game. A lot of decks in the current standard have the same issue.
There are a few cards thrown in for the random wins, such as Hanweir Garrison and Dragonmaster Outcast. My experience in RDW has been that sometimes you run of juice, but so does your opponent, so something more unexpected can overswing for its weight.
Combustible Gearhulk is a card that I think is severely underrated. It'll hit for around 5-8 damage or draw you three cards, then it's a 6/6 first strike. There's little in the format that can hold it back. I know that players claim punisher mechanics are always bad, but that simply isn't true (look at Vexing Devil which did wonders in Modern burn before Monastery Swiftspear). What little testing I've done with Gearhulk has been encouraging--by the time you play him, you are low on gas, and hopefully the opponent is low on life, so either choice is good for you and bad for them.
Well, that's it! I hope you enjoy my two brews and this quirky Standard that we will have for a few weeks. Time for some fun!
As always, I appreciate any comments!
xger21 on MTGO