Hello and welcome to another episode of Raise Your Standards. This week we’ll be taking a look at the deck that won this years MOCS (Magic Online Championship) as well as discussing what cards, if any, should be banned in the next Banned & Restricted Announcement taking place on Monday, March 13th.
But first, I have to take a quick minute to give a shout out to Wizards of the Coast. Typically I am a Standard player through and through, but this latest Modern Masters set has gotten me pretty excited. The reprints that this set has to offer are incredible. Hopefully the rumors about the increased quantity and availability of this set are true and this can dramatically reduce the price of some of the high priced Modern staples. I’ve got my eye on a few cards that, if the price gets low enough, I might have to pick myself up a playset of in the event that I start playing Modern in the future. Nice job Wizards!
Now, let’s discuss Standard. Last weekend, Josh Utter-Layton (a.k.a. wrapter) won his second major tournament of the year. He did it with a deck called Mardu Vehicles. Let’s take a look at it.
Mardu Vehicles – (by Josh Utter-Leyton) – 1st place at 2017 MOCS Standard
- 4 x Scrapheap Scrounger
- 2 x Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 4 x Thraben Inspector
- 4 x Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 x Walking Ballista
- 4 x Aether Hub
- 4 x Concealed Courtyard
- 4 x Inspiring Vantage
- 1 x Needle Spires
- 3 x Plains
- 4 x Spire of Industry
- 3 x Swamp
- 1 x Anguished Unmaking
- 1 x Archangel Avacyn
- 2 x Fumigate
- 1 x Nahiri, the Harbinger
- 1 x Oath of Chandra
- 3 x Oath of Liliana
- 1 x Ob Nixilis Reignited
- 2 x Painful Truths
- 3 x Release the Gremlins
The next evolution of Mardu decks takes the original Mardu Vehicles shell and combines it with the best parts of Mardu Ballista. It’s a very solid deck and if you’re looking for a deck to play in Standard that will be viable for a while, this will likely be a contender until the rotation of the Zendikar and Innistrad blocks this fall. That is, as long as nothing in the deck gets banned.
Speaking of bans… Back in January, Wizards of the Coast shocked everyone by announcing that 3 cards would be banned in Standard. These cards were Emrakul, the Promised End, Smuggler’s Copter, and Reflector Mage. The reasoning behind these bans was “to improve and diversify the Standard environment”. They also added a new Banned and Restricted announcement that would take place five weeks after the Pro Tour, which happens to be on March 13th.
Now that five weeks have nearly gone by since the Pro Tour, I’ll admit that I’ve had a lot more fun playing Standard since these bans took place. The format seems to have opened up considerably from the days where nearly every deck in the top 8 of a tournament included a playset of Smuggler’s Copters. While it’s pretty clear that the top decks are Mardu Vehicles, B/G Constrictor, and Saheeli Combo, there are a wealth of decks that are close to crossing that threshold and breaking into that elite club.
There are, however, a few cards currently that some folks feel are unbalancing the format. Let’s look at these cards and discuss whether they are likely to be banned.
First up is Winding Constrictor. This card is the lynchpin of most of the current B/G decks, and it is pretty difficult to recover from a turn 2 Winding Constrictor, turn 3 Rishkar, Peema Renegade. However, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Fatal Push goes a long way to combating this snake, not to mention any of the other spot removal in Standard. Due to the sheer number of ways to destroy this card, I don’t believe it should be banned. (I might be biased on this one though, due to my love of +1/+1 counters.)
Next up is the other card found running rampant in the B/G decks, Walking Ballista. While this card is stupidly good, it’s another card that there are plenty of ways to currently deal with it. Its ability to remove the +1/+1 counters from itself to deal damage to you or your creatures can be especially frustrating, but it doesn’t make the card broken in Standard. I think this card will also avoid a Standard ban. In Modern, though, I could see this card getting banned due to the symbiotic relationship it has with Basilisk Collar.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is next on the list of cards to consider. He is primarily found in Mardu Vehicles decks and, in my opinion, is the most powerful of the current Standard-legal planeswalkers. When he enters the battlefield, he must be dealt with as soon as possible otherwise his abilities will begin to overwhelm you. Also, when he was designed the belief was that he would have already rotated out of Standard by now, so I believe there is a decent chance that Wizards could ban him in order to promote a more diverse Standard environment. My only concern if they banned him would be the serious lack of value in Battle for Zendikar, as he is the card that holds most of the value in the set.
Heart of Kiran is the other potentially banned card that currently resides in the Mardu Vehicles decks. When it was first spoiled many people questioned whether it would be better than Smuggler’s Copter. As it turned out, Copter got banned and Heart of Kiran was left as its best replacement. And it has turned out to be a quite strong replacement. But I believe in many ways that it is a much more fair card than Smuggler’s Copter ever was. It still costs 2 mana, so it will be able to go into most decks, however the crew cost being 3 is what makes it so much more fair to play. No longer can you cast your vehicle on turn 2 and then crew it ad infinitum with every new creature you cast. Don’t get me wrong, that can still happen but you have to build your deck differently to accomplish this since it’s more difficult to play only creatures that have 3 power. Because of this fairness, I don’t believe Heart of Kiran will be banned, (however if there were to be a dominating version of a Superfriends deck at some point, I could see them considering banning it as it is quite pushed for use in a deck with planeswalkers).
Moving over to the next dominant deck in Standard brings us to Saheeli Rai. Saheeli managed to play nicely with all of the cards in Standard without problems until the release of Aether Revolt. And while Wizards of the Coast admitted they didn’t notice the specific infinite combo she creates with Felidar Guardian, they did acknowledge they realized there was a potential for her to do broken things. Since planeswalkers are the face of the set, I don’t believe Wizards will ban her (even though they banned the face of the Eldritch Moon set).
The last card we’ll look at for potentially banning is Saheeli Rai‘s accomplice, Felidar Guardian. This is, perhaps, the card most problematic in Standard today. The threat of this little Cat Beast in conjunction with Saheeli Rai can make the most stalwart of players flinch, causing them to hold back mana turn after turn in anticipation of this combo being played. This can create unfun gameplay, which Wizards wants to reduce. For that reason, I believe that Felidar Guardian is the most likely card to receive a ban on March 13th.
So, there you have it. That’s my take on what should, and should not, be banned in Standard. I don’t believe that Emrakul, the Promised End, Smuggler’s Copter, or Reflector Mage will be unbanned, as their banning did shake up and diversify Standard. If there are any cards that get banned, no matter what those cards are, there will be some people upset over the decision. I know my daughter, Arianna, won’t be happy if Felidar Guardian gets banned, as she enjoys playing her Crazy Cat Lady deck. But if it happens, it happens. She’ll find a new deck to play. Hopefully that’s the same sentiment other players will have as well, and the current Standard bannings won’t push people away from Standard.
What are your thoughts on which cards (if any) should be banned? Do you think there’s anything that should be unbanned? Let me know in the comments section below.
That’s all for this week. Be sure to join me again next week where we’ll go over any changes happening in Standard and we’ll look at some of the more innovative decks in Standard. I’ll see you then!