To much surprise or no surprise at all, Wizards of the Coast decided not to ban anything in Standard this time around. As someone who plays almost exclusively Standard and limited, this was quite a frustrating ban update to see, but after reading the subsequent articles and endless Reddit discussions, it’s at least understandable why this choice was made.
If Wizards of the Coast decided to ban Gideon and Guardian right now, there would be a lot of disappointment. Banning cards in the most played Magic format is a lot tougher on people who have smaller collections or can’t afford to have a Tier 1 deck every rotation.
I think banning Felidar Guardian and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar would have been a positive decision for more competitive players, but when only a small fraction of the total player base attends competitive events such as PPTQs or Grand Prix, another wave of bans would have definitely turned off your local LGS-goer. Only about two months ago, we waved goodbye to Smuggler’s Copter, Reflector Mage, and Emrakul, the Promised End – would a new banning have been positive for the growth of the game?
As I understand the changes with this update, I’m still not happy. This is just my two cents, but Standard currently isn’t a healthy format. Grand Prix New Jersey was the first time I saw multiple competitive friends of mine either upset about the format and their deck choice or even not playing the event at all. On Friday afternoon I bumped into my friend Liam Lonergan. Liam, as most of you know, is an Invitational champion and played in Pro Tour Kaladesh. When I asked if he was playing the main event, he shrugged and said he’d lent off his Mardu deck to someone else. I was baffled. Not playing a Grand Prix in your back yard? Absurd!
But as I sat down for my first three rounds of the day as Mardu Vehicles (and lost all three of those rounds) I understood Liam’s perspective. While Liam was swimming in Prize Tickets crushing with modern Elves, I sunk in my seat at the Buffalo Wild Wings once my Grand Prix chances were up. I knew Mardu was the choice for the weekend and what all (and I mean all) of my friends were playing. But I should have sleeved up this instead:
Temur Aetherworks by Roman Fusco
Non-Creature Spells (30)
1 Aether Meltdown
4 Aetherworks Marvel
4 Attune with Aether
2 Dynavolt Tower
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
1 Nissa’s Renewal
4 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
I know Aetherworks Marvel decks are known for inconsistency, but flipping over Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger at instant speed is hard to pass up. I think there is a correct build of this deck that was well-positioned for the Grand Prix, maybe something with more Aether Meltdown or Kozilek’s Return in the maindeck. Something like that.
In the limited testing I did with this deck, the Mardu matchup seemed close to 50/50 and I wasn’t entirely sure about the 4-Color Copycat matchup either, but the 2 Shock and 2 Dynavolt Tower help. The deck is doing something powerful and seems consistent, but variance and Mardu and 4-Color Copycat being insanely powerful made me pick Mardu for the weekend. Although I regret my decision, I don’t feel as if I made a bad one given the information I had.
I think before picking my deck for the weekend, I should’ve asked myself one question: “what deck would I have the most fun playing?” I’m not saying to sleeve up an Aetherborn tribal deck or something crazy, but if you can “go rogue” with a powerful strategy, I’d recommend it – if copying cats or smashing with an indestructible 5/5 isn’t your thing. Fellow Spellsnare.com writer Charlie Rinehart-Jones is a big fan of bringing divergent strategies to a big tournament like a Grand Prix, and I definitely agree.
The lack of diversity in Standard by two oppressive decks is frustrating to deal with and I’m actually happy I’ll be taking a short Standard hiatus until Amonkhet comes out. Hopefully Wizards of the Coast will evaluate how Amonkhet shakes up the format and if any bannings will help even things out.
And although my Grand Prix New Jersey tournament experience was abysmal, I can’t say the weekend was all that bad. On Saturday I got to spend time with a lot of friends after dropping from the main event, and on Sunday I got to see one of my closest Magic friends, Chao Chen, win the sealed PTQ. Way to go Chao! You can’t win them all and you’ll fall short, but sometimes your worst performances can also be some of the best weekends.
The balance of luck and skill required to win any big tournament is always a talking point among pros. This article by Jonah Gaynor goes over his big stage experience, mistakes he made, and his philosophy on testing and tight play.
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