I won't lie. I had a lot of trouble coming up with a good article topic this week. We've been testing over the last few days for the SCG Invitational in Indy trying to come up with some sweet technology but anything we find I'm trying to keep under wraps for the good of the group. That generally leaves me feeling hollow when it comes to writing because I try to write what I know and what I play. Well lately I've been playing Delver and I don't think anyone should play anything different in Standard.
Maybe that means that some cards should be banned...but that isn't my decision. I do like to think that my words might have some influence though at this juncture it is probably a bit too far along in the process. Perhaps results matter more than social stigmas but I feel like the general populace feels very strongly about getting rid of some of the more annoying cards from the U/W Delver deck.
While I'm sure a lot of you have strong opinions on the matter I have yet to give my two cents on which cards I think are too powerful and which cards I think should be banned during the announcement coming late next week. Honestly I didn't really get why people hated Delver so much at first. After all it is beatable. With dedicated hate and a lot of effort you can put a dent in the juggernaut that is Delver but at what cost? When you force yourself to bottleneck your deck into this hate-machine you end up losing to literally every other deck in the format.
This tactic was fairly common in the days of Affinity where everyone was playing Viridian Shaman and Oxidize maindeck. While this example is much easier to see Delver "hate" is much harder to spot. People start filling their decks with Phantasmal Image. They start sideboarding Whipflare in their aggro deck. They maindeck Gut Shot. Additionally these "hate" cards can still be trumped very easily by a great draw or a tuned list.
So what to do?
Honestly I hate it when cards get banned but I am a huge advocate of keeping formats fair and balanced. I would much rather have my $20 card get banned and become virtually worthless than suffer through months and months of mirror matches. I like playing the best deck in the room because I am confident that I can beat other players metagaming against me as well as mirror matches. But sometimes things need to change. Today we're going to go over a few cards that I think should be banned in Standard Modern and Legacy and why I feel that way.
I generally hate the argument "It has been banned and restricted in other formats" but I think it hits home pretty hard with Ponder. It was too good in Modern because it allowed combo decks to be incredibly consistent and their draws were almost always the same. That same logic applies to Standard where you can consistently dig up whatever card is most important in a given situation.
While Ponder isn't degenerate at its core it helps supply degenerate decks with draws that allow for it to be continually powerful and oppressive. When a strategy is too good and that strategy is aided by the game's best card selection there really isn't all that much that other decks in the format can do.
I don't think Ponder is the problem but it helps fuel the problem and should probably get the hammer even though it rotates in just a few months. I appreciate the fact that they try to give the blue mages consistency when it comes to card selection and deckbuilding but Preordain and Ponder have been putting tempo-based control decks over the top for the last two years. Perhaps it is time to put a stop to it.
While Delver of Secrets at its core is just a Merfolk of the Pearl Trident without a little luck or a little deck manipulation it does cause some outlandishly fast and powerful draws for a blue deck. With that said Delver of Secrets is the card that people singlehandedly hate losing to the most in Standard. When your opponent plays a Delver of Secrets on the first turn and you can't kill it you can bet that you're probably dead. That just shouldn't happen with a one-drop creature!
I haven't said this much in my time as a Magic player but I actually hate the card Delver of Secrets for a few reasons. Cards that have some luck-based element to make them good have always rubbed me the wrong way. I know I know. Delver of Secrets can be much better or much worse depending on how you build your deck or sideboard but the fact remains that a ton of mirror matches are decided on whether or not your Delver of Secrets flips or not. I don't like this aspect of the mirror which is one of the reasons why Delver decks have become so inbred with cards like Gut Shot.
I don't think Delver of Secrets is too powerful without Ponder in the format but I do know that Delver of Secrets isn't even close to as powerful in Modern as it is in Standard at the moment. Ponder has a lot to do with how good Delver of Secrets is but that almost feels like a snake eating itself argument. No matter which one you ban people will complain that the other should have been banned too so I say "Good riddance!"
I think that Delver of Secrets is better than Wild Nacatl ever was in almost every format where both are/were legal. At the very least that should give you some perspective. I helped in the development and design of multiple iterations of Delver of the last few months and I am honestly sick of it. I think that losing to a naturally flipped Delver of Secrets leaves one of the worst tastes in my mouth and leaves me feeling helpless. That isn't something that a one-drop creature should ever do in Standard and I really hope it doesn't happen again after next week.
Oh what a blessed life he lived. But seriously Snapcaster Mage shouldn't have been blue. No one liked playing against Cryptic Command and Snapcaster Mage is just that but probably worse! In whatever situation you find yourself in Snapcaster Mage is almost always the best topdeck possible because he can be ANYTHING in your graveyard with additional legs attached to it. His ability to generate card advantage board advantage and tempo is just bonkers.
In the beginning people didn't really put him into decks correctly. Snapcaster Mage is at his core a creature. He attacks and blocks. Without adding that utility to your deck Snapcaster Mage is just a fancier Recoup. If you don't utilize the power/toughness ability of Snapcaster Mage then he really isn't that good. Unfortunately Standard is currently built to surround Snapcaster Mage with some of the most undercosted creatures I've ever seen.
While Snapcaster Mage is only as good as the spells surrounding it the existence of Phyrexian mana spells allows Snapcaster Mage to gain tempo as well as card and board advantage. This is not a good thing. Decks with Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves become immediately crippled by a Gut Shot followed by a Snapcaster Mage. Similarly control decks are usually dominated by Mana Leak plus a flash back. I don't think they really understood how abused he would be in Standard especially so alongside Phyrexian mana spells. It didn't take long for us to break it but I think they should just go ahead and fix it.
I believe the thing to remember is that many of Magic's best creatures have had amazing abilities when they came into play. The problem with Snapcaster Mage is that he can mimic so many different ones throughout the course of a single game! Imagine a creature that can be Man-o'-War Mystic Snake Flametongue Kavu or even just Court Hussar! Snapcaster Mage can be any or all of these at any point of the game assuming you've churned through some of your deck. It really isn't that hard and people are finally figuring out that Snapcaster Mage is probably too good.
Maybe Snapcaster Mage won't get banned in Standard. After all when all of the Phyrexian mana cards have rotated he can't really be utilized until the third turn assuming there aren't any free spells in the next block. Unfortunately we are in a PTQ season and Snapcaster Mage is going to be pairing up with Gitaxian Probe and Gut Shot for the next three months or so. I think that Snapcaster Mage is the most likely to get banned on this list but if Ponder and Delver of Secrets are banned I don't really think that banning Snapcaster Mage is necessary.
Lastly for Standard we have one of my least favorite creatures of all time:
We meet again old friend. I wish it could have been under better circumstances. Unfortunately you've been around for an uncomfortably long time pairing up with some of the game's best lands in order to wreak havoc on control and aggro opponents alike! So what's with banning Primeval Titan now?
Well without Delver of Secrets and company around to keep this guy in check I would highly recommend banning it in order to save some headaches before Return to Ravnica is released. Sure Primeval Titan can be "handled" in the same way that Delver of Secrets and Geist of Saint Traft can be "handled." The problem is that they just printed Cavern of Souls a land that can help your accelerated monstrosities hit play without any Mana Leak shenanigans. While there are some decks that can race Primeval Titan and others that can ignore the card completely that comes with a high price. Additionally those decks tend to fold to Whipflare or Slagstorm which means that virtually any large creature following such a blowout will probably end the game quickly. Primeval Titan just happens to end it with the highest frequency.
Since they keep printing adorable lands to go alongside Primeval Titan it keeps winning. Sure since Delver has overtaken the metagame it hasn't seen much play but do you think that's really going to be the case once Delver is gone? I honestly think that Primeval Titan decks are easily the second best deck in the format but no one can play them because Delver of Secrets is the best. Without Delver around Primeval Titan will just slide into the gaping hole in Standard that is left behind.
When it's all said and done Titans won't be back in M13 which is a healthy thing for Standard. They've been around for two years and it's time for some other fatties to shine. I'm all for printing cards that are gigantic value monsters but when some are clearly better than others it feels a little sour.
Overall I feel like the banning of Primeval Titan is inherently dependent on what else they decide to ban (if anything).
Well that's my short list of cards that I think are probably too good for Standard though two of them are rotating with the Return to Ravnica.
As far as Modern is concerned there is only one card I think is too good but there isn't a lot of data to support it. Unfortunately since the PTQ season ended a few months ago Jund decks have been running rampant in Magic Online Daily Events due to their consistent draws. I don't think anything in that deck should be banned. What do I think should be banned?
While this card didn't really break the bank during the PTQ season it still put up reasonable numbers before people even realized which version was the best. As the season came to an end a stronger version began to surface that would consistently win on turn 3 or 4 through multiple pieces of disruption. The problem? Consistency. However they've already banned the two biggest offenders in this regard as Ponder and Preordain are no longer in the format. However there are still a few cards that are similar that help make Pyromancer Ascension the powerhouse card it currently is.
As the PTQ season started winding down people figured out that playing Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens wasn't really the way to go. You could easily draw your deck with Manamorphose and Noxious Revival eventually finding all the Lightning Bolts you needed to kill your opponent. Why bother playing so many bad cards in your deck when you can just go infinite?
While you can play Disenchant Thoughtseize Extirpate etc. you will very rarely win game 1 against this deck. There are only a small handful of decks in the format that can boast a winning percentage against Pyromancer Ascension and that is coming from a guy that regularly played a different deck in each Daily Event for a week straight. There are a lot of awesome archetypes in Modern and I don't think the format is broken or degenerate. I actually think that there should be a few combos in Modern that people can build around. These combos should interact with the opponent in some way or the opponent should be able to interact with you in a fairly basic way.
This is one of the biggest reasons why decks like Dredge don't exist in Modern (at least not in their more powerful iterations). No one wants to bend space and time in order to try and interact with their opponent when they're just playing solitaire. This is one of the biggest reasons why I was so drawn to Splinter Twin while it was in Standard. Everyone had answers. Everyone had ways to interact. Everyone could beat Splinter Twin in game 1.
This isn't true with a lot of combos in Magic but I think that Wizards is trying to push Modern as a very friendly format that encourages interaction. When Pyromancer Ascension decks regularly combo off on turns 3 and 4 that isn't healthy for the format or the metagame.
Legacy is another story entirely. I feel like Wizards actively promotes the degenerate nature of the format so long as the cards dominating aren't all the same. When everyone plays Survival of the Fittest then they figure it is probably a little too good to stick around for longer than a few months. While Legacy tournaments don't directly affect their ability to sell booster packs they do help keep interest in older formats and help their vendors sell cards. No one wants Legacy to be completely broken which is one of the reasons why Force of Will has been in the format for so long. After all it is the glue that holds it all together right?
For the last few months Show and Tell has been the biggest card in Legacy. When backed up with Force of Will as well as various other "free" counters like Daze and Misdirection it is very easy to punch through. A lot of decks in Legacy just can't handle an Emrakul on the second turn (shocker) let alone the format's most degenerate fatty:
I think that Griselbrand is the only card that needs to be banned in Legacy. The nature of the beast is evident. I believe that Griselbrand is just a better Yawgmoth's Bargain which dominated every format it was ever in. It is currently banned in Legacy and for good reason but Griselbrand is just better. It acts as a win condition on its own. It gains life. It blocks. I have never felt as absolutely defeated as I do when Griselbrand is in play on my opponent's side of the board and I have never felt more in control of a game when I have a Griselbrand in play.
While Show and Tell decks are definitely beatable and have their fair share of weaknesses it is much harder to exploit those when they can just refill their hand at will. It isn't hard to get an Emrakul out of play. Jace Oblivion Ring and Karakas are all great answers not to mention Knight of the Reliquary and Crop Rotation can search for Karakas. When Griselbrand hits play the game changes entirely. You aren't going to resolve spells. You aren't going to get rid of Griselbrand without them refilling their hand only to have them do exactly the same thing next turn while you've spent all of your resources fighting it the first time.
The thing about Griselbrand that I love is that he is virtually impossible to race. This should not be part of a creature that can also draw seven cards at will! With cards like Lotus Petal as well as other free mana cards you can occasionally use Griselbrand to draw into a different combo all the while drawing protective measures like Force of Will.
While I don't think that Griselbrand is going to get banned next week I think that it should. The problem with a lot of Legacy results is that people tend to play whatever they want! Fewer "name" players tend to play the format as well so the dominance of one card or another might not be as prevalent as it should/could be. Overall I think Griselbrand was probably a mistake but one they will let play out for a few more months until they have more data. My job? To make them regret printing it!
Over the next few weeks I will be doing my best to exploit Griselbrand. I feel very strongly that this card is bad for Legacy but it will take a little while for people to realize it.
Of course all of these suggestions are just my opinion. I am going to love reading the articles on why certain cards got the hammer because I like figuring out if my reasoning was the same as theirs. Unfortunately we don't always see eye to eye. For a while Wizards was under the impression that Mana Leak was a gigantic mistake and a huge problem when it wasn't even remotely the problem. While Mana Leak helped to keep certain decks in check I think that was a great thing for Titan Standard. Cavern of Souls proved them wrong. Cavern of Souls wasn't the answer they wanted because Mana Leak wasn't the problem. Now that we have more information we can make a better decision going forward.
As I stated earlier I don't really like it when cards get banned because I genuinely enjoy trying to break formats. Having a known entity be the best deck is a good thing for me because metagaming pays off in large dividends. However when a card or archetype is too dominant something needs to be done. I feel like this is true for Delver in Standard at the moment and will ultimately ring true for Griselbrand in Legacy. Time will tell one way or the other. The ultimate goal is for everyone to have fun at all stages of the game. When playing tournaments start to feel like a chore then you know something is wrong.
I'm looking forward to the SCG Invitational this weekend and I hope you guys tune in for all the coverage. It should be a fantastic tournament and SCG will be featuring amazing coverage all weekend long. I'm incredibly excited to be part of such a monumental event and I'm really looking forward to winning my share of the $75000 prize purse! See you there!
Thanks for reading.
strong sad on Magic Online
@strong_sad on Twitter; follow me!