Standard is boring as heck right now.
….. What? That’s all that needs to be said right?
The magic community is split into three different camps right now it seems like: Those who are playing one of the two meta decks and feel kinda “meh” about it, those who are trying to fight the power and failing for the most part while rolling their eyes at how lame this format is (my camp), and those who have put down standard and have decided to sling some Lightning Bolts and Snapcaster Mages until WOTC fixes their flagship format. From what I hear (and seeing personally), the local level is struggling with standard attendance across the country as people become bored with the same 2-3 match-up variants or decide to play modern until Amonkhet drops. This is bad. If LGSs struggle, then we risk losing stores if this drop in profit is coming at the wrong time, which all sorts of bad for the game as a whole. This also means that Wizards is making less money if fewer people are buying their product and event attendance is dropping. This last point is why we’re likely going to see a change when Amonkhet arrives. Guardian and potentially others will (SHOULD) be banned.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a fan of the recent “ban culture” that has cropped up. My first modern deck I built was Birthing Pod and I finished it about nine months before the ban hammer crushed it. I’ll never forget that day; not because of the ban itself, but because that day was the first day at a new job and my muted phone was exploding in my pocket with condolences while I was filling out paperwork. I have personally taken a huge hit from bans, so I am definitely not a supporter of banning cards just for the heck of it. That being said, in hindsight I agree with the banning of Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, Emrakul and many others. If a deck is making the game of Magic not fun, then there is a problem. If people aren’t having fun, then they will go play some other game that is. If people aren’t playing their game, then Wizards isn’t making money, and Wizards does not want that.
I was of the belief that Felidar Guardian was going to be banned due to how restrictive it is on the format, and the rest would be left alone to see what happens. I still believe that the cat is going to get hit, but barring a strong answer card being printed in Amonkhet, I believe we will see either Gideon or Scrapheap Scrounger getting hit as well.
This obviously doesn’t help you play standard right now. If you need help with playing one of the two decks, there is a plethora of information out there on both. I am instead electing to look ahead: What kind of world will we live in with Amonkhet and without the combo? If we can predict even a part of this, we can start planning now and pick up potential future standard staples now while they’re on the cheap. For this exercise, we are going to look at standard if Felidar Guardian was banned and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. I am also going to pay some particular focus to cards in the Kaladesh block. While it is still six months away, BFZ block and SOI block are soon rotating. Unless that particular card is seeing modern play, a current staple, or a mythic they will probably not rise TOO much.
The first two are obvious: GB and Mardu. GB was the third pillar for a good chunk of time but has fallen out of favor and has become tier two. Mardu will still be a strong aggro deck without Gideon. With the announcement of the Liliana and Gideon planeswalker decks, there may even be a new Gideon to take the place of the current one. Both of these decks will be contenders most likely, but investing in either right now both involve some risk. Mardu may have a completely different card banned, such as Heart of Kiran. It would really suck to invest $80+ bucks into a playset of a banned card (see Emrakul). Also GB may lose something too if Wizards feels like the deck will be too strong after banning cards from the main two decks, granted this seems unlikely at this point. GB’s cards also haven’t really dropped in price too much since the deck started declining, so you can probably pick those staples up after the announcement just to play it safe.
The next place I would look is Torrential Gearhulk. While the card is currently still twenty bucks, I can easily see this one hitting thirty if the format allows it. People love their blue cards! The blue gearhulk is already seeing play in the tier two deck, Temur Tower. Torrential Gearhulk is insanely powerful and probably the most satisfying card I personally have cast in standard since Collected Company, and I don’t see me parting with my playset anytime soon. Speaking of Temur Tower, picking up the key parts of that deck would also be a good investment. Dynavolt Tower and Disallow in particular will most likely find a home in future standard.
From there, things get a bit tougher to predict, but we have the tools to make a decent guess. First place I look at when brewing is budget brews and what’s working at the tier two or lower level. What are these decks doing that is strong and could a few upgrades take them to the next level? Panharmonicon is strong and flexible since it’s colorless. Inspiring Sanctuary is tempting, but we probably won’t get too many artifacts in the future block compared to Kaladesh. Metallic Mimic and Animation Module have seemed to be a sweet combo since they were spoiled, and their time to shine may be around the corner. Metallurgic Summonings is another card to potentially keep your eye on. Summonings being a five mana do-nothing the turn it comes down has made it close to unplayable in the copycat combo era. However I played with it some before Aether Revolt and the card is amazing at taking over the game. With three of the best “disenchants” people are using to deal with the large amount of artifacts not hitting it (Release the Gremlins, Fragmentize, Natural Obsolescence), your five mana investment is well protected.
Beyond these there is one archetype I would like to highlight that could potentially be amazing. I played this for some time locally to some decent success, but it struggled against 4-color Saheeli. If the meta would’ve determined that the correct Saheeli build was the jeskai controlling version, then I’m confident that this would’ve been a contender. But no such luck….
This is a go wide deck, attempting to take advantage of the large amount of spot removal that the meta needed to combat the combo, vehicles, and (at the time) Winding Constrictor. Fatal Push looks horrible going against servos and indestructible creatures.
Syndicate Trafficker I threw in the deck at first to just see what happens and as a sacrifice outlet for Zulaport Cutthroat, but it ended up exceeding my expectations. A 3/1 for two that can swing into or block four toughness creatures (or bigger if you’ve activated it earlier) without fear as long as you have an artifact is quite good. One toughness is a glaring weakness in some match-ups, especially on the draw, but the activated ability makes up for it most the time, and I was sure to actively side it out when it was appropriate. It being partially immune to
most the removal and applying a fast clock made it an excellent two drop and one I’m going to be watching in the future.
Zulaport Cutthroat was disappointing, but in a less hostile format this card could be great with all the creatures you sacrifice. The Blood Artist effect allowed me to steal any game that stalled out with a complicated board state. That being said, there was a better card to break stalls that had lower opportunity cost in Westvale Abbey, which I would go up to three if possible. If the format gets to a point where tapping two mana for a 1/1 isn’t suicide then I think Cutthroat will be great, until then I would suggest something else over it.
Yaheeni has been the truth in this deck. The 2/2 indestructible body has proven difficult for any deck to deal with, and the haste from a white/black deck has caught many opponents off guard and pressured planeswalkers. Yaheeni also can get big quite big surprisingly, thanks to all the trades you force upon your opponent and your removal. Cutting Cutthroat (pardon the pun) makes me think that only three are needed in the deck though, since the legendary rule and the fact that it can be hard to kill makes one often be rotting in your hand.
Weaponcraft Enthusiast was another card that impressed in this deck. Providing three bodies, two of them being artifacts, for three mana is exactly what this deck wants. This will be a four of in any black token deck in standard.
Sram’s Expertise was both impressive and disappointing. Whenever I got to cast something for free I felt like I just pulled way ahead. When I didn’t, I felt like I overpaid for the effect. If Gideon gets banned, Expertise becomes a 3-4 of due to how powerful it can be and how synergistic it is in the deck. If not, then I would probably keep it at two. I like the card on the draw more, since you will have an extra card and need a way to catch up, which this card does an excellent job of.
Angel of Invention ate many a removal spell, but not before leaving an impact on the game, which is what you want from your mythic five drops. Worst case is you are left with two servos. Granted this is still not great, but that’s the floor. Often, you get one boosted attack, and your opponent will be forced to deal with it on their turn or risk dying if you untap. I cast Angel without servos only once and that was to play around an untapped mountain and a Shock, but the fact you even have that as an option is a great advantage. Angel of Invention is a card I definitely wouldn’t sleep on.
The current format is very stale, with the innovations being minimal and unexciting. With Amonkhet spoilers starting to leak out, there is absolutely no shame in looking forward to a new standard and making sure you are properly prepared for it. Regardless of where you stand on the ban decision, make sure you are ready for either outcome, or you’ll risk being left way behind your competitors. I hope you enjoyed my first article with MTGDeckTechs! I’ll do my best to bring you some awesome content on standard, modern and limited. Please share feedback and follow me on Twitter @CloudRunner172. Thanks all!