"Aetherworks Marvel, for your crimes against Standard and RNG, I sentence you to be unsleeved and placed on top of a pile of bent foils until death! May Ulamog have mercy on your cardboard soul."
The next Banned & Restricted Announcement on June 14 is approaching quickly. As has been the case for some time now, there is plenty to discuss.
Today I'll share my judgment on whether something should, or shouldn't, be banned.
Let's start by looking at Modern, with the case of Death's Shadow.
Should Death's Shadow Be Banned in Modern?
The Modern metagame is in an interesting spot.
On the one hand, I think that many players and pros feel that the various Death's Shadow archetypes are where the best decks are (myself included) and that they're good enough that it's incredibly difficult to justify playing anything else.
On the other hand, the Modern metagame is still quite diverse and is generally considered to be in a good place overall right now. If you look at recent events, you'll see plenty of interesting archetypes, not only present, but having great results.
So I'm claiming there's an oppressive best deck, but…Modern is also completely fine? How do these two seemingly conflicting stances exist together?
Oddly enough, it just feels like not enough people are playing Death's Shadow when they should be if they want to maximize their chance of winning.
There is usually a lot of lag for Modern to adjust to equilibrium, since it's difficult for most people to just immediately change decks on a dime.
Death's Shadow decks aren't that oppressive, either. Instead of going to all the work of building and learning to play Death's Shadow, just add some sideboard cards for the matchup to your current deck of choice. You probably still won't be favored, but it won't be that bad, and after all, Death's Shadow isn't even that much of the metagame.
It's almost like an unspoken force or weird prisoner's dilemma is keeping Modern in check:
If you cooperate and don't play Death's Shadow, Modern is fun and diverse.
If you defect and play Death's Shadow, you'll degrade the quality of the Modern metagame, but increase your win percentage.
This unspoken agreement from the players keeps the metagame intact so Modern isn't ruined.
But slowly, more and more players will be tempted to the dark side of the force...
…and while it's possible to beat Death's Shadow, it's difficult to hate out of the format.
Death's Shadow is just more efficient in pretty much every aspect you can imagine than any other deck in Modern.
There are only eight cards in the maindeck that can't be cast for one mana or less! Having a low curve full of high-impact cards means you'll win games by just needing fewer lands and having a higher density of relevant spells. Why would you want to be mucking about trying to cast four-drops, rather than just playing a deck that can function perfectly fine on two lands?
Death's Shadow decks, while being tricky to pilot, are also very difficult to play against. Trying to calculate combat math or if you can win a race is downright frustrating when you're facing down a creature that grows the more damage you deal to your opponent.
So Death's Shadow is clearly very good, but is it really ban-worthy?
Even though I do think it's the best deck in Modern and may very well be banned at some point, I don't think it should be now.
Death's Shadow decks only taks up a small chunk of the metagame for being the best deck, often a mere 10-20% of the metagame online or at major tournaments.
You'll often hear cries of "Leave Modern alone!" if you discuss banning cards. This makes sense. People have been burned in the past by losing their decks to the mighty Ban Hammer at strange times. Ahem…
There's a strong case to make that if there isn't a serious problem that needs fixing, let Modern be.
I agree with this sentiment and don't think a ban on Death's Shadow is currently warranted. Right now, I don't think Death's Shadow is a serious problem that's ruining Modern, even though it has the potential to be.
In my head, I can see why it should be banned, and I think it would improve Modern, but in reality it just doesn't add up yet.
So I suppose, if you feel like I do, the best thing you can do is just play Death's Shadow and crush with it…while you can.
Verdict: Not Banworthy...but that could change.
Should Aetherworks Marvel Be Banned in Standard?
How's the Standard metagame holding up?
Everything revolves around Aetherworks Marvel.
You have two choices. Are you playing a deck designed to beat Aetherworks Marvel, or just playing Aetherworks Marvel… and targeting the mirror?
This will likely continue as long as Aetherworks Marvel and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger are in the format. Preview cards from Hour of Devastation will inevitably be judged based on their effectiveness against Aetherworks Marvel decks, or in Aetherworks Marvel decks.
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is a powerful, interesting new card, but it's almost impossible to not first think about it in any context other than hitting it off Aetherworks Marvel, or using its +2 ability against an Aetherworks Marvel opponent to hit their Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.
The power of Aetherworks Marvel decks is so high that it makes a great deal of sense to look at every card using this framework.
Why not use another Brad Nelson list as an example of the best deck winning?
The other problem with Aetherworks Marvel decks is that games are high-variance. Running four Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is just not fun for me. Games being determined by whether you draw Aetherworks Marvel; whether you hit Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger off Aetherworks Marvel; or whether you draw too many Ulamogs is not fun.
Not only is it bad drawing Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in the early-game, it also makes it less likely that you find one when spinning Marvel, increasing the variance between draw quality.
Aetherworks Marvel has proven to be very resilient to hate as well so far, even if some clever fellows are coming up with ways to fight it.
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 4 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
B/G is one of the decks that has a good matchup against Aetherworks Marvel in theory, but I think that is about to change.
B/G always succeed because Temur Aetherworks players failed to adjust for B/G sideboarding into a control deck post-sideboard.
Now that B/G is a known entity, the average Temur Aetherworks player should have a much easier time against it.
In fact, if I had to pick up a deck for a big Standard tournament right now, I would probably just jump back to Temur Aetherworks and feel advantaged against the B/G decks that I helped inject into the metagame!
Second of all, I think it is incredibly risky for Wizards to unban a card in Standard and the risks far outweigh the rewards.
Wizards would look really bad unbanning a card that just ruins the format in some new way. I even think a Reflector Mage unban would be fine right now, but it makes far more sense for them to just play it safe in almost every circumstance.
So is a ban warranted for Aetherworks Marvel?
I don't think Standard is in a nearly hopeless situation like it was with Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai. While there are some startling similarities between Aetherworks Marvel plus Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Felidar Guardian plus Saheeli Rai, Aetherworks Marvel is not quite that bad.
Based on their extreme reluctance to ban Felidar Guardian, I would imagine them wanting to act even less now when things are slightly less bad, especially considering we've just had a very high amount of bans happening recently.
But is that the right way of thinking?
Now that the ban flood gates have been opened, what if, instead of trying to seal them back up again, they just go with the flow and continue banning cards to fix broken formats?
… at least this one last time. Then Standard will be fixed for ever and ever. For reals this time.
This is unlikely to happen…
… and you should always be wary of a "just one last time."
I will say that I think banning Felidar Guardian was the correct choice and that the Standard format is much better for it. It's not an easy decision, though, and there is probably no win-win situation.
I would prefer to live in the world without turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.
Verdict: Banworthy! …although I don't think Wizards of the Coast will.