Raise Your Standards – What To Do During a Lame Duck Format


Hello and welcome to another episode of Raise Your Standards.  Because of the early announcement heralding the bans in Standard of Emrakul, the Promised End, Smuggler’s Copter, and Reflector Mage, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to discuss any current innovative decks.  We’re at a point in Standard that I would call a Lame Duck format.  In politics, a lame duck is an elected official whose successor has already been elected but has not taken office yet.  So, because of the bannings and the upcoming release of Aether Revolt, any decks I would discuss this week would automatically be outdated by next week.  So this week, I’d like to take a look at some things that you can do when the format may not be at its best.

Review Upcoming Cards

Whether you call them spoilers, previews, or sneak peeks, it’s always a good idea to take a look at these cards prior to them being released.  I know, there are some people that enjoy going to a prerelease with no prior knowledge as to what the cards do, but those people aren’t usually players that play competitively.  That being said, if you consider yourself a competitive player and aren’t opposed to viewing soon-to-be-released cards, consider familiarizing yourself with these upcoming cards.  The more you know of these upcoming cards, the better prepared you’ll be to play them and have them played against you.

Often it’s also good to look back at all of the sets that are current in Standard when looking at these upcoming cards.  This can help you spot combos that you might not immediately recognize, especially if some of the cards that combo are not currently played in high profile Standard decks.

Brew.  Then brew.  And brew some more.

For those of you that are deck brewers, you have my envy.  Personally, I know I’m not a great deck brewer.  That doesn’t stop me from looking for powerful combinations of cards and trying to find ways to incorporate them into existing decks.  I’ll also write down combinations of cards into a notebook that I can use a few weeks after a new set releases to search for decks containing these cards.

If you are one of the lucky people with the talent for creating your own decks, you can use the time between set to create what could become the breakout deck of the new format.  Or you could brew a really terrible deck that doesn’t amount to anything.  Either way, you will have made progress in figuring out what works and what doesn’t in the upcoming format.

Sort and Organize

If you’re anything like me, you build a new deck week after week, but you never seem to find the time to put cards back into your collection once you’ve finished playing a deck.  I try to keep all of my cards alphabetized, so that I can find whatever I’m looking for with the maximum of ease.  Usually though, ninety percent of my cards are alphabetized and the remaining ten percent are the cards that actually get played in my decks.  That ten percent can usually be found piled together in one large stack, which can make building decks challenging.  I also find sorting cards to be rather cathartic as well, so this is an activity I heartily endorse.

Play Casual Magic

This is perhaps my favorite activity to do during a lame duck format.  Playing for fun, when there’s nothing on the line, is a great way to get back to what matters when you play this game we all love.  And you don’t just have to play Standard either.  Pick out your favorite Legendary creature and build yourself a Commander deck.  Or, if you’re like me and not good at building your own decks, pick up one of the preconstructed Commander decks to try out.  Or take a chance and try building a deck of your own.  Even if it’s not the best, treat it as a learning experience.  It can only help give you more knowledge about what works and what doesn’t when building a deck which can ultimately make you a better deck builder.

I’m also fortunate that I have a set of Planechase cards that I can use when playing casually.  My group usually places the pile of all of the planes in the center of the table and we play a multiplayer game using them.  Any player can roll the die to see if they can planeswalk on their turn.  It’s a great way to turn an otherwise normal multi-player game into a wacky, out-of-this-world experience.

Or if Planechase isn’t your style, Wizards of the Coast released a series of decks a few years ago called Archenemy.  This is another fun way for many people to play together, except this time one player takes on the role of the Archenemy and is pitted against everyone else.  I’ve been the Archenemy many times, and usually the team of players playing against me manages to win once they all figure out how to work together as a team.  It’s a lot of fun and can make everyone end up feeling like a winner.

There’s also a bunch of other formats that can be played, ranging from Pauper to Modern, Legacy to Tiny Leaders.  You could also try the newly developed Frontier format out to see what you think.  Or maybe a game of Two-Headed Giant is more to your liking.  As you can see, there’s a ton of different ways other than Standard that can be played.  Whatever you choose, remember to have fun when playing, because that’s what it’s all about.

Take a Short Break

One other thing you can do when Standard just isn’t doing it for you is to take a break from playing.  Magic is a hobby for most, and hobbies are supposed to be fun.  If you’re not having fun, take a week off from playing.  Usually for me, after a week away from playing, I’m ready to play again and am itching for the chance.  A short break will allow your brain to rest and you might end up spotting new card combinations after you come back.  And, as the cliché goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  For me, it’s more than just a cliché, though.  After taking a short break, I find myself thinking more and more about the game and can’t stay away for long.

Have Fun

Again, and I can’t stress this enough, during the periods of a Lame Duck Standard format, don’t let the negative aspects of the lame duck time period get you down.  Do things that you enjoy to continue having fun with Magic.  Lame Duck formats happen every few months, but hopefully you can see that there are lots of ways to work through them and to still have fun.

If you have a way to work through a Lame Duck format that works for you, I’d love to hear it.  Leave me a comment below letting me know what you do.

This weekend is the StarCityGames Columbus Open, so there should be a wealth of new decks for me to talk about next week.  I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing the new decks people come up with in the aftermath of the recent bannings and the release of Aether Revolt.  Join me next week when we take a look at the new frontrunners in Standard.  I’ll see you then.


Mike Likes

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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