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By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
Jan 16 2018 1:00pm
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I haven't played Standard in months.  It's not because I don't have the cards or anything, but because Energy had already solved the format, and if it wasn't Temur Energy, it was some four color variant of Temur and that quickly became boring.  Who knew that having easily splashable access to four colors would make decks incredibly streamlined and the metagame incredibly stale? 

Standard gets stale, I understand that.  I've been playing the format since the late 90s, and even in the era of Usenet and Inquest, Standard was boring and stale quickly.  At least back then we had different PTQ seasons to look forward to.  Something like every 4 months we'd focus on a different format, be it Block Constructed, Extended or Limited and battle for PT slots.  Standard was rarely the format one played to get on the Pro Tour back then.  When there was a Standard season, or whenever WotC threw us a bone and gave us a Standard Pro Tour, it was treated as something special, because in an age of Rochester drafting, Standard was looked down on. 

Organized Play, of course, has since changed course.  Making the majority of Pro Tours Standard, the PPTQs Standard and keeping it in regular Grand Prix rotation has brought a greater focus to the ever changing format, which is supposed to help move product, which makes Wizards bottom line look good.  While moving a ton of product is a good thing, it does matter if that product is poorly made, or if you can open three banned cards from a pack of in Standard boosters. Those are looks that one would have to consider to be not good. 

We've seen a ton of bannings in Standard recently, and I for one, having suffered through a ton of Standard formats that could have used bannings before now (I'm looking at you, Khans of Tarkir Standard, and also you Lorwyn block Standard) find it refreshing that Wizards of the Coast is finally willing to use the banhammer to fix the format.  While that is more than likely the after effects of the failed rotation schedule, and sets suddenly interacting with sets that they shouldn't have, it can also be attributed to poor play testing as well.  I know that R&D as it was, was probably spread a bit too thin to be able to test everything properly, and the new Play Design team should start paying off for healthier Standard formats soon.  I'm looking forward to seeing what that team can contribute to the health of Standard as it moves forward!

Back to the bans, it's been 24 hours since they came out and you can read the announcement here.  For those of you who do not want to click the link and read the full, well thought out reasonings for the bans, I'll recap them quickly here.  However for a rare glimpse at data driven decision making made public from Wizards, one should really check out that link, it's just full of impressive information. 

Attune with Aether is banned. 
Rogue Refiner is banned.
Rampaging Ferocidon is banned.
Ramunap Ruins is banned. 

Attune with Aether getting banned was not a huge surprise.  I think a lot of people saw it coming, however, if I traveled back in time, to June of 2001, and told a 21 year old Joshua that Lay of the Land, but with upside, was going to get banned in Standard, I would have looked at myself, clearly disappointed with what I had become in the next 17 years. 

Wait, that's a joke! 

Having access to Attune made splashing incredibly easy, and with the free energy it provided, not only did finding off color mana get easier, but it helped to keep Aether Hub making any color as well. When a three color deck could easily play a powerful card like The Scarab God and take up a large portion of the Standard metagame, something had to be done in order to control that a bit. 

Rogue Refiner was the other ban that hit energy.  Had this card provided energy when it came in to play and then made you pay energy to draw a card , much like Whirler Virtuoso does with creating Thopter tokens, it probably would not have been banned.  As it was printed, the free energy and the free card draw pushed the card over the top. 

Energy based decks should still be competitive in the Standard format.  While it may not be Temur based, cards like Longtusk Cub, Electrostatic Pummeler and Bristling Hydra are all still really good in the context of the format.  They might be a little less explosive but one can still do really cool things with energy. There is after all, a deck that exists in Standard that can make an incredibly large amount of tokens in the UR module deck.  It's based around the Modules and Whirler Virtuoso so it lost nothing.  The Red Green Pummeler deck can still survive after the loss of Attune, as it really just wants to play Pummeler and pump spells.  Heck I've seen people still winning with Temur Energy on social media.  Overall, removing these cards should cut back on the popularity of Temur or Four Color Energy and help open up the format with the addition of Rivals of Ixalan. 

Moving on the other bans, we get to the cards removed from the format that were helping out the most winning deck in Standard when measured by Magic Online Competitive Leagues.  Seriously, go to that link and check the data.  Looking at that table and seeing that Ramunap Red had a 60% or higher winning percentage against the Approach of the Second Sun decks is truly mind-blowing to me, because I always thought, and had found in my own limited testing, that the Approach deck felt like the heavy favorite, when in reality, it was a huge underdog.  I thought that Twitter control players were crying wolf when they said that banning energy without touching Red deck would make Red deck the best deck by far, but they were clearly right.  The stats are right there, and except in rare cases, numbers never lie. 

Ramunap Ruins getting banned leads me back to the same place that Attune with Aether getting banned did.  If you went back to September of 2001, and told a still 21 year old me that Barbarian Ring but with upside was going to be banned in Standard, he probably would have wondered why you hadn't told him anything incredibly useful yet.  Ramunap Ruins did two things to the deck.  It gave it a source of repeatable damage at low cost, and it ruined a really fine deck name.  Turning Red Deck Wins into Ramunap Red was lame, and without the land in the deck anymore hopefully we can go back to a Red Deck variation or, at least Mono Red Aggro.  Losing the desert theme is not a huge deal.  There are plenty of options for splashing for the deck to play now, be it black for something like Unlicensed Disintegration and Scrapheap Scrounger or white for Path of Mettle and Relentless Raptor the deck is still powerful on the backs of the hasty Falter creatures. 

Rampaging Ferocidon getting the axe was as surprising to me as Reflector Mage getting banned, and if anyone told you that they knew the dinosaur was getting banned, they were lying to you. 

This may be why the creation of a watch list is so important to the Standard format. 

One of the best tools the Approach deck has against the red deck is Authority of the Consuls.  It makes creatures enter the battlefield tapped, which is super nice against a squad of hasty dorks, but it also gains you a point of life every time a creature comes in to play under you opponent's control.  Ferocidon shut that down.   It also shut down life gain from Approach of the Second Sun.  The reason that the Ramunap Red deck was just as good in game two and three against the control decks is it very easily shut down any counter play that the deck had for the Red deck.  Fumigate was the only life gain option one had with the dino in play and with it in play, other counter measures were often not good enough. 

I've also seen it tossed about on Twitter that it was banned because judges were giving out to many warnings because of the card.  While it's not an issue on MTGO, apparently the whole, it deals a point of damage to the creature's controller every time it enters play was a line of text that was often forgotten in paper play. 

It shouldn't be, it's a dang paragraph on the card, and I doubt that protecting players from themselves was something WotC did with this ban.  The red decks will survive this banning as well, there are still a ton of great cards to play in it, and you still get the powerful haste creatures.  While it loses the desert reach and oppressive to counterplay measures, it will ensure that the deck evolves.  It's still going to win its fair share of games! 

What do you think of the Standard bannings?  Was it to much, not enough, or just right?  Let us know in the comment section, and thanks for stopping by the site! 


Boring is an interesting way by Paul Leicht at Tue, 01/16/2018 - 17:39
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Boring is an interesting way to put it. Another way is: lacking in diversity. Both complaints were valid. But both are almost always the case. Very few Standard formats end up interesting and diverse. The bans, I feel, were given out as the habitual appeasement that was due to keep players happyish. I say ish because we all know, MTG players are never all happy at the same time. The most we can have as a group is happyish.

That isn't to say complaining isn't valid but to recognize that complaining seems to have gotten to a point in the game where WOTC just reflexively ban hammers when enough voices are heard. Was I terribly angry with Energy? Not really. I know it was strong to the point of silliness but not to the level of affinity silliness. Did I still brew my own versions of weird decks? Yep and played them against the top tier decks in "Just for Fun". So of course I saw plenty of Temur and 4c Energy. Lots of Cubs and Pummelers too.

It was fun when I won. Winning is fun of course. But also fun to see ideas come to fruition vs top tier decks. Rare though that is. My point being: The bans were necessary because people said they were necessary, not because there were no alternatives.

The data was also interpreted by JXClaytor at Wed, 01/17/2018 - 09:58
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The data was also interpreted as saying it was necessary.

Exactly. :D by Paul Leicht at Wed, 01/17/2018 - 10:52
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Exactly. :D

As a UG Pummeler, I have been by MichelleWong at Wed, 01/17/2018 - 08:19
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As a UG Pummeler player, I have been hit by collateral damage since my deck was neither too potent nor too popular, yet losing Attune and Refiner hurts a lot.

Nonetheless, I will need to adapt and accept that my Pummelling will not be as explosive now. I'm still sticking with the Pummeller though, and will up the count of the Elephant Rampager to 4 copies.

Yeah the Pummeler decks got by JXClaytor at Wed, 01/17/2018 - 09:57
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Yeah the Pummeler decks got some splash hate, which is unfortunate.

Have you tried the RG version at all? I know people like the UG version, but I just couldn't get the dang thing down, and have access to Glorybringer and Chandra was super nice out of the board.

Mono red by TheWolf at Thu, 01/18/2018 - 02:11
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I'm not sure mono-red survives without Ramunap Ruins - that card really did make the deck. It felt soooo good as a red player to actually have late-game inevitability for once. There might be a mono red deck in the format, but I have my doubts now.

As for the name, I'd rather just go back to calling mono red aggro decks Sligh.

No one would know what sligh by JXClaytor at Thu, 01/18/2018 - 02:55
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No one would know what sligh means other than old people :D

Magic deck names used to be cool!

Or breakfast cereals.

Whippersnappers by TheWolf at Thu, 01/18/2018 - 04:35
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These young whippersnappers these days don't know what's good for them! Back in MY day, we had Sligh, The Deck, Rock, Fruity Pebbles... and we liked it! Now get off my lawn!

You still have Hazoret for by stsung at Thu, 01/18/2018 - 10:07
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You still have Hazoret for late game if you manage to resolve it or you are not attacking into a 7/6 Hydra that is.

During the prerelease I asked some players if they are playing in the preview event. They answered 'no'. And I saw them get seated for the prerelease event later. I didn't realize that what we called preview events is obviously not called that anymore ... I asked some people about Type 2 and got the very same blank stares. I think that Type 2 is still widely used for Standard here...at least those people I talk to use that name and I don't think this will ever change. But saying that at an actual Standard event...that makes people go 'what?'.

If by a chance I'd use an old deck name I think they would stare at me with
an even stranger look. On Reddit I had quite a long flame war about the type of decks under one of my articles. Because I said something while others thought otherwise. In the end we figured that it's not because of me choosing archetype/name but rather the fact that Magic changed so considerably that what we used to call control in the past doesn't exist now. There are rather hybrid control decks or midrange decks pretending to be control. Someone had to ask though 'for how long do you play Magic' and that's when it started to make sense. We all were right... just most of the posters were newer players.

Wasn't actually Atarka Red called Sligh? Didn't even that show up in some of the Standard Flashback Gauntlets? (I don't know..I don't remember. I know that Suicide Black was actually renamed because it may offend someone or something).

Sligh by TheWolf at Thu, 01/18/2018 - 18:28
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I don't remember "Sligh" being used in the flashback events... I know "Deadguy Red" (which was the evolution of the original Sligh) was used (I even got to play with it - yay!). I don't remember Ataraka Red being anything other than Atarka Red.

I am know as the "RDW guy" locally - it annoys me because I always call me decks Sligh decks haha.