I'm fairly certain Wizards is out to get my family and me.
Now hear me out.
It all started at the beginning of the year. I just came off my #SCGKNOX win to then find Emrakul, the Promised End fulfilling her promise. Wizards said they banned the card due to it being better than they imagined, but I could read between the lines. They didn't want me to win anymore, and thus, I didn't. By proxy, my brother, Corey Baumeister, took down #GPNJ four months later and guess what? They banned that deck, too! A little perplexed, I chose to ignore the signs and kept going about my business. It wasn't until this week that my paranoia was finally confirmed. It took me seven years, but finally I won another Grand Prix, and what did they do? They took another card from me! I don't even know what to do anymore. Clearly Wizards of the Coast has it out for me, and nobody seems even a little bit concerned with this!
Oh, and by the way, my first Grand Prix win was with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Checkmate!
So Aetherworks Marvel is the last card in a long line to get banned in Standard. This decision has had polarizing reactions from the community. Some cry out about product confidence. They exclaim that it's just too risky to invest into a format where their cards can lose so much value overnight. It's really difficult to argue with that. I personally have eight copies of Smuggler's Copter, twelve Reflector Mage, four Emrakul, the Promised End, two sets of the Felidar Guardian/Saheeli Rai combo, and now a set of Aetherworks Marvels rotting away in a box. I even feel slightly frustrated, and I'm someone who plays this game at the professional level.
Others just want the format to be as enjoyable as possible and are happy to see cards that hinder this gone. Obviously, bans in Standard aren't ideal, but it's a better alternative to just making us deal with such degeneracy until natural rotations. I can get behind this as well. Sure, the initial shock of these decisions can be jarring, but future events will at least be more enjoyable. I mean, as Magic players we want people to be playing Magic!
The last argument I've seen being made has to do with how these decisions were made in the first place. A lot of shade has been thrown at Wizards for creating this reality. Venting is the natural way to initially deal with frustration, but I don't buy into this as a grounded argument. Not with the strides the company have been publicly making, anyway. Wizards, as of late, has shown their concerns, and they are in the process of creating a team that should eliminate many of these issues in future sets. Last week, Sam Stoddard wrote an article where he told us what Dan Burdick, the new Play Design Manager, would be doing to remedy concerns. I am excited to hear from such an inspiring person, and I have faith that this time in Magic will not repeat itself thank to this leadership.
Well, until I win another tournament...
For now we need to look ahead. I'll be the first to admit I look forward to Ixalan, and the coming rotations, but I also understand that there's much work to be done before then. The #SCGINVI is quickly approaching, which means my work in Standard isn't over. This Aetherworks Marvel ban just means we once again start working out what this "new" Standard format looks like. We don't have to start over, but we do have to adjust the dials slightly to have a better understanding of where things are likely to go. Which brings us to maybe debunking the first myth of the format.
- 3 Bristling Hydra
- 3 Glorybringer
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Whirler Virtuoso
Aaron Forsythe posted this list as a possible pivot point for Temur Aetherworks. Clearly, this list wouldn't be competitive given how warped it is for the metagame, but will the archetype in general have what it takes to compete in this Marvel-less world? This deck felt to me as a product of a warped format. Now I don't want to condemn Aaron for suggesting ways to continue utilizing cards from the banned archetype, but nothing about this deck speaks to me as a competitive alternative for the format ahead of us.
First of all, to explain this hypothesis, we need to guess what the format is going to look like. On the surface there seems to be four major archetypes that will emerge first.
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 Veteran Motorist
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 2 Pia Nalaar
To me, Mardu Vehicles is clearly the deck to beat moving forward. Throughout Standard's "broken-ness," this deck has continuously proved its worth by constantly being one of the best decks each and every time. In all honesty, the next in line for a ban would almost assuredly come from this deck in the form of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but that's not an idea we should massage given the circumstances. For now, we should just accept Mardu Vehicles and be happy about it. The deck is tough to overcome, but at least it's possible.
- 3 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Greenbelt Rampager
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 3 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 3 Walking Ballista
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 1 Manglehorn
- 2 Mindwrack Demon
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Now I don't know which version of Winding Constrictor will come out on top, but what I do know is this archetype will run rampant in this format. Winding Constrictor has always had a difficult time with combo and control, which is why these past two bannings were perfect for this deck. Now these two decks can focus on beating the other decks in the format and not need to stretch themselves too thin like they have had to do in the past.
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Diregraf Colossus
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Lord of the Accursed
- 4 Relentless Dead
Zombies is another new next deck in line for the throne. This deck didn't even have that bad of an Aetherworks Marvel matchup per se, but it was more of an issue with dedicated hate. Chandra, Flamecaller has proven its worth against this deck, but no deck really has shown itself to utilize it other than Temur Aetherworks. With it being gone and decks like Mardu Vehicles and B/G not being hurt by this six-mana Planeswalker, I'm not confident this Zombie slayer will see much play. If that's the case, I predict Zombies to be a solid choice moving forward. We may see decks fluctuate in how much they respect this archetype, causing it to ebb and flow within the metagame.
Now I may sound like a broken record when I say this deck sucks, but please continue listening to the melodic tones of my voice.
This deck sucks!
Honestly, I think Temur Energy's best matchup in this new format would be U/R Control since both Four-Color Saheeli and Temur Aetherworks had to lean on the Energy/Tracker side of the decks to defeat U/R Control. Unsurprisingly, it was easily accomplished after sideboard.
U/R Control does have a fairly decent matchup against B/G Winding Constrictor decks and Zombies, but it just can't beat Mardu Vehicles, which has been the litmus test for Standard since the deck's incarnation. This assessment of mine has never deterred those who want to play this deck, but I advise anyone looking for something new to play to look elsewhere.
Of course, there are outliers to this argument. There have been a few times where a Torrential Gearhulk deck did do something spectacular during its time in Standard, but for the most part the deck has come up short. I just don't want you to live with this level of suffering.
It's too late for this poor soul.
Clearly, these are just initial speculations of what the format will look like. And honestly, after surveying some things, I believe I may need to eat crow on my initial judgements about Temur Energy. Glorybringer seems primed for this metagame, and the best home for that card thus far has proven to be in an energy theme. Of course, we've seen people play it in Mardu Vehicles, but Archangel, Avacyn has over-performed in that slot. I guess there might be something to these Temur Energy decks. Well, with some tweaks at least...
This will be the first place I start in the new metagame.
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Channeler Initiate
- 2 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 3 Whirler Virtuoso
There are a few major changes from the norm. First of all, this is a relatively similar shell to what William Craddock played at Grand Prix Omaha. He ignored Longtusk Cub, which at the time I thought was suspect, but I now understand it. Longtusk Cub is great at pressuring opponents that aren't also overloading the battlefield. Also, half of the Winding Constrictor decks will be playing the card and will be much better at growing its stats. I'd rather take a different approach that I can leverage as an advantage, and that's acceleration. Cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer seem poised to take over the battlefield, but that's only when they get there first.
Now I'm not sold on Elder Deep-Fiend, but that's why I have to try it. If those two slots don't pan out, my next attempts to find a good maindeck will most likely involve Negates, an extra Chandra, Torch of Defiance, or maybe even a Cut in the main since that removal spell seems great right now.
One thing that seems clear, mostly thanks to it being a constant in this shifting Standard format, is that most sideboarded games will play out like midrange mirrors. We've seen this for sometime now, so it comes as no surprise. Mardu Vehicles will almost always have access to Fumigate and a few random Planeswalkers to facilitate the more-controlling transition. To mitigate this the rest of the metagame will also be bringing in answers to this shift in the form of Planeswalker removal, true/virtual card advantage engines, and maybe even hand disruption to fight the slower Mardu deck.
The only difference now though is there's no combo deck everyone has to respect. This is going to open up a few slots in each sideboard that will most likely be reallocated to fighting opposing midrange strategies and control. This additional density is going to make sideboard games more interesting since a larger chunk of the maindeck will be missing after sideboard. Games will start to feel much different after sideboard thanks to these gigantic shifts in strategy, and we will begin to see metagame shifts on how people approach sideboarding. It's going to get interesting!
This is just a small list of cards I expect to see in sideboards in the attempt to combat the impending midrange madness. At this point it's too early for me to give you proven strategies, but what I tell you with certainty is you will need to build your initial sideboards diligently. At least for now, a well-tuned sideboard will go much further than a perfect maindeck. I'd advise using Zvi Mowshowitz's "Elephant Method" for deckbuilding. You can read more about it here .
For those lacking in time to read his wonderful piece, the general strategy is to build a deck using the same archetype for each matchup. For example, you would build a sideboarded Mardu deck that's perfect against Mardu. Then do it for B/G, then Control, then Zombies. Once you have multiple 60 card lists, you can start to see what cards are most important to have access to. If done correctly, you should have way more than fifteen cards to choose from. Slowly whittling away at the options should help you find cards that can bridge between multiple matchups, and you may even find a card that's worth maindecking. You don't want to throw too many cards in the maindeck since it goes without saying that you should lean proactive in game 1, but a card here or there might not be a bad idea. Afterall, that might let you cheat on having a larger than fifteen-card sideboard, thanks to one or two good midrange cards in the maindeck.
If you really don't want to put in that amount work, I'll be back next week with some more concrete ideas going into the #SCGINVI . Until then, I suggest you grab your keys and start some vehicles. Mardu Vehicles, after all, is a great deck, and is capable of winning tournaments when the format's fresh. Isn't that right, Andrew Jessup?