As I walk to school, I remember that my phone is at 9%. I was watching Game of Thrones last night and forgot to plug it in. I reluctantly take my headphones out and turn low battery mode on, can’t miss the new Banned and Restricted announcements today. I watch the clock in class, waiting for the moment. After class, I get a text to my group chat.
Jonah Gaynor: “No bans in Standard is a joke…”
I quickly scramble to find the announcement, and the link is right there. I am greeted with the thing I feared most:
How did this happen? Didn’t they get the memo last time? Do I really have to play Copycat at Grand Prix Montreal? The pros will know what to do, I tell myself. I log onto Twitter at 3%, hoping to find some solace in the midst of this catastrophe. Instead, I find a series of disgruntled tweets from the game’s top players. Here are an assortment of my favorites:
Then all is truly lost…
A quick side note before I get into Standard, the Legacy bans seem to be great for most people, and I know that I’m sure glad to be able to take Abrupt Decay out of my Storm deck, so I’m glad that something good came out of this announcement. As for Vintage, I’ve seen some pretty upset Mentor players, so my condolences to you and may you find another way to beat Shops. I also won’t touch upon Modern, because I think the format can adapt to Death’s Shadow, and is in a relatively stable place right now.
What the Ban Announcement Means for Standard
When I first saw the B&R announcement, I can’t help but say I was shocked. For the past few months, there have been two viable decks in Standard, and apart from the few brave souls who still play Temur Tower or B/G Constrictor, Mardu Vehicles and 4-Color Copycat have reigned supreme. Deck diversity is a very important part of every Standard format, and Kaladesh block has unfortunately taken that amazing diversity to its lowest point in years. Part of this can be pinned on the sheer amount of information available, through the publishing of decklists on MtGO and social media. This causes the format to develop much faster than it would without this information.
However, the larger part of it is Wizard’s evolving way of designing Magic. This consists of an increased emphasis being put on the important planeswalkers and legendary creatures in the set, as well as supporting cards that ensure that the flagship cards will see a lot of play. Look at Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Heart of Kiran, or Emrakul, the Promised End. Each are ridiculously overpowered and are essentially forcing (or forced, RIP Emrakul) people to play with them, or at least keep them heavily in mind when deckbuilding.
Of course, there is also the matter of mistakes, one of which happens to be the best deck in Standard, 4-Color Copycat. Because of Wizards admitting that Felidar Guardian was a mistake, many people expected to see it get the axe. Instead, everyone’s favorite cat gets to play with it’s new Amonkhet toys before heading back to the chopping block after the Pro Tour.
What this means is that for the next two months is we are likely going to be stuck with these two decks, Mardu Vehicles and 4-Color Copycat. Now, while I do believe, as I stated in my last article, that a new deck will arise from Amonkhet, whether it be U/W Drake Haven Control or Red Aggro or something of that kind, I also believe that Mardu and Copycat will stay at the top. They are simply too powerful and actively limit what the opponent can do for them to not be top dogs.
This means that people who played these decks last season will have an edge up against people who simply waited to be saved by the bannings. It also means that Standard will become an experience-rewarding format, much like Modern is today. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but Standard doesn’t exist to test a player’s experience with the format. It exists to allow an ever-changing format with innovative deckbuilding.
Another thing we can determine from this announcment is what Wizard’s new banning policy is, which was all but confirmed by Aaron Forsythe on Twitter.
We now know that Wizards will always wait for the second date that they have instilled for B&R, which in this case is June 14th. What this means is that Wizards is using the Pro Tour and the few tournaments after it as a sort of test run for the new format. While this would be totally understandable in other scenarios, the presence of a format warping two card combo should give Wizards enough incentive to ban Felidar Guardian.
If that wasn’t enough, the considerable drop in attendance of Standard tournaments in the past month has got to count for something at Wizards HQ. One of the biggest issues that people often don’t take into account is that people need to test, especially for the looming Pro Tour, and having a deck that is so clearly on the chopping block heavily influences how people test.
Many were demanding that the announcement be moved up a week to mitigate this effect, which makes perfect sense. However, Wizards waited till today, and this is what we got, and have to keep for the coming months. While Forsythe did state that all the feedback they received today would be taken into account for the next bannings, WotC has left us with a broken format.
If Amonkhet does indeed change things, I will gladly admit that I am wrong in criticizing this decision, but from the way things currently are, the change we will see will mainly be the addition of new cards to 4-Color Copycat, and the increase of mirrors (I know right, seems impossible) in the feature match area.
This coming weekend will showcase SCG Atlanta, and many are scrambling to find decks to play, while others are resigning themselves to playing whatever they had from last season. My best advice to you, an echo from my previous article, is to just play either Copycat or Mardu. By all means try out some Amonkhet tech, (Nissa, Steward of Elements looks super spicy) but the main thing you should be focusing on is arriving with a plan to beat “the big two.”
I really, really wish that I didn’t have to stick with the advice from my last article, and that we had a brand new Standard on our hands, but alas, we must work with what we have. On the bright side, the matchups are at least pretty skill-intensive, and even if the Copycat mirror is a bit of a die roll game 1, there are plenty of opportunities to gain small edges to vanquish your opponents in the second two games.
As always, thanks for reading, and hopefully there are better times to come. Good luck to anyone attending SCG Atlanta, and may the draws be ever in your favor. Or you know, you could just play limited in preparation for Grand Prix Richmond like I am. This sealed format looks sweet! See you next time,