Raise Your Standards – Out With The Old…

raise-your-standards

Hello and welcome to another episode of Raise Your Standards.

Last weekend the first major tournaments in the Post-Hour of Devastation environment took place, and the results were astounding.  For both the SCG Standard Open and the SCG Standard Classic, there were multiple different archetypes in the top 8 (with even more represented in the top 32).  In this week’s article, we’ll take a look at some of the new decks that were played that weren’t represented in Pre-HOU Standard.  Then we’ll go over the changes that Wizards is making to their in-store play programs and discuss what that means for you.

SCG Standard Open and Standard Classic

Congratulations go out to Michael Hamilton and his Four-Color Control deck.  With Hour of Devastation being a set featuring Nicol Bolas, it’s great to see a deck win that includes that card in the main deck.  A lot of people have already written about his deck, and I believe that it’s a deck that will be played a lot and improved upon in the weeks to come.

A deck that I was excited to see came in 10th place.  It’s called Esper Aggro.

 

Esper Aggro – (by Donavon Maddasion)

PlaneswalkersGideon, Ally of Zendikar

Creatures

Spells

Lands

SideboardMetallic Rebuke

 

This deck takes a little from the U/W Spirits deck and a little from Mardu Vehicles and mashes them together to become what looks to be a pretty powerful deck.  This deck can manage a fast start since it plays many of the cards that make the Mardu Vehicles decks so aggressive.  However, with the printing of Abrade, the vehicles decks have something to fear.  Thanks to Spell Queller and Metallic Rebuke, this deck has an answer to Abrade.  This deck looks promising.

Another deck that did well, but came up just a little short was a G/R Ramp deck.  Let’s take a look at it.

 

G/R Ramp – (by Dustin Kelley)

PlaneswalkersWorld Breaker

Creatures

Spells

Lands

Sideboard

 

When Aetherworks Marvel was banned, many people thought that would be the last we’d see of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.  This deck shows those people that they were wrong.  It uses quite a few new cards from Hour of Devastation too.  Hour of Promise and Beneath the Sands are the ramping engine (in conjunction with Traverse the Ulvenwald and Natural Connection) that help us get enough mana quickly to cast our expensive creatures.  The deck also uses Hour of Devastation and Kozilek’s Return as sweepers to keep the opponent’s board clear of creatures.  This deck looks like a lot of fun.

Changes to In-Store Play

On Sunday, Wizards announced some changes that will be taking place to their in-store play events.  Shake ups are happening at Friday Night Magic, the Standard Showdown, Magic Open House events, Leagues, and Game Day events.  Let’s start by taking a look at each change and then analyzing it to determine the positive and negative effects each change will have.

Magic Open House – I’m starting with this event because it’s the one least likely to affect most of us, since I expect the majority of my readers are somewhat enfranchised players.  The change announced is that at the Magic Open House events, players will now receive a full-art promo card from the upcoming set.  While I think this is a good thing, it feels like a change that could potentially make some players upset.  I know at my local store, if you show up at an Open House and are an established player with them, you receive nothing.  The promos for Open House are meant for a new player just learning the game.  As such, I liked that foil land cards were given out, as I could still have a chance of opening a foil land out of a booster pack.  I don’t have that same option with a full-art promo card, so unless changes are made to the way these cards are distributed, this feels like a slap in the face to established players.  It’s the same feeling I get when I call my cable company up and ask about their advertised lower rates only to have them tell me that those rates are only for new customers, not for people who have been loyal customers for years.

Magic League – These kind of events have a very minimal change.  The only change to the way they are currently handled is that now each player will receive some sort of promo card for playing.  No further details were given, so we don’t know if it’s the same promo that will be given out at the Open House events or not.  Regardless, this change is a positive one.  After all, who doesn’t like more value when they play?

Game Day – Game Day will be moving to the end of a set’s season and will be renamed the Store Championship.  Also, the promo cards being given out will be promos from the next set.  It also sounds like everyone will receive foil full-art promos (not just the top 8), and “store champion playmats and program-exclusive deck boxes await those who emerge victorious”.  I’m not sure if the deck boxes will be replacing the foil promo rare card previously given out to the top 8, or if the deck box will go to the winner only, though.  Until we know more information, it’s tough to say whether this is a positive change or not.  I do like the change in the date, though, since these are likely to be larger local events.  This allows players adequate time to get the cards they need and time to properly playtest.  I also know at my local store, there’s some amount of pride involved with winning a Game Day mat, so the change to this being the Store Championship adds more prestige to winning this event.

Standard Showdown – The changes to the Standard Showdown are very minor and are all totally positive.  Basically, in each Standard Showdown pack, an additional card is being added that is a foil land card specially selected by Wizards for this purpose.  The initial selection of lands will be the Rebecca Guay lands that were recently only released in Commander decks.  Since this is the only place you can get these sweet lands in foil, I’ll chalk this change up to being a positive change.  (It would be nice if they would give us the slim chance of finding a Masterpiece in these packs again, though.  That was what made winning these packs truly exciting.)

Friday Night Magic – This is the change every seems to be talking about.  The change eliminates the current trend of Friday Night Magic promo cards being actual foil alternate art cards usually from the most recent set (with some notable exceptions).  Wizards will now offer foil double-sided token cards from the current set in their place.  Wizards has stated that their desired audience for FNM is players that have built their first deck, or players that just want to hang out with their friends and play with the sweet zombie they just opened.  (They did go on to make sure to mention that this wasn’t the only audience they want at FNM, in an attempt to include all player types.)

So, because of that desire, they are hoping that FNM becomes less competitive and more casual than it has been in the past.  I don’t believe this will happen unless other changes are made.  Unless the promo token cards are being given out to each player, there will always be competitive players at these events.  Also, many people use FNM as a way to test out their decks for an upcoming tournament.  I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Wizards also stated that there was no direct correlation that they could see that would indicate that more players would show up for FNM when the promo card was “good” compared to when it wasn’t.  The data they have indicated that it basically didn’t matter what card was being offered.  Their numbers showed very little variation in attendance at FNM when comparing this January (with Noose Constrictor as the promo) and this June (with Aether Hub as the promo).  I can’t help but wonder if the thing keeping players away from FNM has less to do with the prizes being offered and more with the state of the format.  After all, the banning announcement of January 9th (where Emrakul, the Promised End, Smuggler’s Copter, and Reflector Mage were all banned) happened right at this point, so Standard had been pretty stale for a while prior to that.  I do not doubt that the numbers weren’t that different from January to June, but I think it has a lot more to do with the state of Standard during that time and less to do with the quality of the promos being offered.

Ultimately I don’t see this change doing anything at all to change the number of players currently playing at FNM events.  The good thing about the change is that it takes the difficult decision of what cards to make as FNM promos away from Wizards.  After all, they did have to choose which cards they thought would be well received many months prior to the release of the FNM promo.  As a person who does reviews of upcoming sets, I can attest that it’s difficult to know which three uncommon cards from a set will be the best prior to them seeing actual tournament play.  Wizards was setting themselves up to disappoint us players right from the start.  Now that we’re just getting tokens, that disappointment goes away (replaced by the disappointment of just getting tokens for some of you).

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not fond of this change.  Even though I didn’t particularly like the FNM promos (I generally don’t like foil cards), I knew there were people that did like them and I could usually trade any promos that I won for other cards I needed.  I’m not sure if the same will be true for these tokens.  I guess time will tell.  This change won’t affect the amount of FNM play for me (or my family).  I enjoy playing at FNM and it’s nice to occasionally get something for nothing.

Conclusion

So, to sum things up… Standard looks like it’s in a terrific place currently.  There are a variety of decks that are performing well, so pick your favorite and have fun!  I’m sure as the weeks go on the number of tier 1 decks will drop but hopefully there’ll still be 4-5 super decks.

And while the changes to in-store play aren’t all positive, I have hopes that Wizards has considered the consequences of these changes and will be able to assist stores in steering their more competitive players towards Standard Showdown events and the more casual players toward Friday Night Magic.  I’m not certain things will work out as well as Wizards intended, but I’m hopeful that they will be open to changing things if this experiment fails.  I’m also hopeful that Wizards can realize that the state of Standard has less to do with their in-store play programs and more to do with the quality of the sets they release.

What are your thoughts on the changes coming to in-store play?  Let me know by leaving a comment below or by emailing me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com.

Be sure to come back next week when we’ll once again take a look at Standard and hope to find some new innovative decks.  I’ll see you then!

Mike Likes

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Mike Likes

Mike started playing Magic back in 1994, but gave it up at the end of 1995. He came back to the game during the Lorwyn block and has been playing ever since. Around this time, he opened and ran his own comic & game store, while also raising his newborn daughter. After 8 years, he sold his business and moved to Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. With the debut of Kaladesh, his entire family became regular Magic players. He now has hopes of competing alongside his wife and daughter at a Grand Prix or similar event in the future. #MTGDad

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