Why Have They Gone? -Standard Banning-

Petr Sochurek

Petr Sochurek

Hello everyone, it’s Petr again.

Initially my plan was to talk about the new cards and Rivals of Ixalan limited, but then the bannings happened and I knew that I have to share my point of view on the subject. I don’t really think that anyone who reads my articles doesn’t know about the bans, but just to make sure these are the cards has gotten the axe:

Rogue RefinerAttune with AetherRampaging FerocidonRamunap Ruins

WOW! I was incredibly surprised when I saw the announcement for the first time. Not dissapointed, but surprised. I definitely think that the bans were good for the environment and I am excited to see how things will shake up, but I definitely didn’t see it coming despite many people talking about it on social media. I thought that Wizards would shy away from such a drastic countermeasure simply from economical point of view. I know that there used to be bannings at any point in Magic, but they are becoming more and more common and I think that people are starting to be upset about it.

For competetive players like me this isn’t really a big deal, but I can’t really imagine that I am a poor teenager who has finally collected enough money to buy a Standard deck to get it banned right after.

Now – Wizards are trying to prevent this from happening by not entirely destroying these decks, but only making them weaker.

This is the offical statement;

  1. Reduce the overall win percentage of Temur Energy and other related energy variants, while still preserving the competitive capability of the core of the deck.
  2. Open space in the metagame for other decks to excel above energy decks in certain areas, and to force energy decks to build toward different strengths and weakness.
  3. Allow for easier counterplay against energy decks.
  4. Preserve the most fun gameplay and deck-building elements, while reducing frustrating ones.

quoted from January 15, 2018 Banned and Restricted Announcement

I highly disagree with the idea that energy would remain competitive. HOW? I just don’t see it. Don’t get me wrong, there will most likely be a midrange deck, that will play out similarly as current energy decks and it might even play some of the same cards (《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》, 《Glorybringer》 etc.), but it won’t be energy.

Chandra, Torch of DefianceGlorybringer

The entire reason why energy was so busted, was exactly these incindental energy producing cards that replaced themselves. To make it easier to understand – let’s say that a card needs to be 7 on scale from 1 to 10 to be a Standard playable.

Whirler VirtuosoBristling HydraLongtusk Cub

Cards Like 《Whirler Virtuoso》, 《Bristling Hydra》 or 《Longtusk Cub》 are propably something like 5.5 or maybe 6 if I am generous on their own, but they suddenly become 8s if you have a random free energy lieing around. I understand that you still have some flexibility (you can for example choose whether it’s better to pump your guy or make a token) which makes these cards better (《Whirler》 would still just not be a 2/3 that makes a 1/1) but the point remains.

I don’t think that the energy mechanic will completely dissapear, but I do think that we won’t see dedicated energy decks. There will propably be control decks, playing 《Longtusk Cub》, 《Glimmer of Genius》, 《Harnessed Lightning》 etc, but I would be surprised to see a green based energy decks from now on.

The general problem of Standard that we can clearly see in this occasion:

The problem with Standard is that the environment is relatively small and there are only so many decks (archetypes) you can play so anytime there is a cheap efficient way to get advantage you know that eventually archetype that can best utilize this card (cards) will be the best. This is true for cards like 《Bitterblossom》, 《Stoneforge Mystic》, 《Bloodbraid Elf》, 《Pack Rat》, 《Jace, Vryn's Prodigy》, 《Tireless Tracker》 and now 《Rogue Refiner》.

BitterblossomStoneforge MysticBloodbraid ElfPack Rat Jace, Vryn's ProdigyTireless TrackerRogue Refiner

What these cards do is pulling you ahead on resources without losing tempo incredibly early in the game. If you want to beat these cards, you can’t fight fair and square against them – afterall if one player plays 1-1 and the other one is generating advantage while trading off, the second player is just inevitably going to win, so you have to find a different strategy.

Generally speaking you have a couple of options – you can try to kill your opponent before he is able to capitalize on the gained advantage, you can try to invalide some of the cards they are playing (this is usually the case of control decks without creatures) or you can just completely ignore whatever they are doing and go over the top with something they can’t really interact with (《Approach of the Second Sun》).

Well these things just doesn’t work in Standard – they might work at the beginning, because noone knows what the enemies are yet and you can easily catch your opponents off-guard, but as I already mentioned above, the Standard environment usually isn’t so big and there are thousand of matches being played every day, so it’s always just a question of time, untill everyone knows what they have to fight. What this usually comes down to is that these decks have a favorable matchup in game 1, but get destroyed post board, which we can clearly see in the above graph. The reason is that postboard you have the perfect setup to fight any strategy and you are able to trade 1 for 1 while still having acces to this cheap efficient glue.

Let’s for example take a look at control (in general) vs energy matchup. The plan of control is to blank the removal from energy, have just enough answers for the threats and eventually outgrind them. The other approach is to go over the top of energy with 《The Scarab God》 or 《Approach of the Second Sun》, because they can’t interract with it.

The Scarab GodApproach of the Second Sun

This sounds like an awesome strategy for game 1, but what are you going to do when they can counter your 《Glimmer of Genius》 or deal with your 《God》 while presenting all these cheap value cards?

It goes similarly for the 《Ramunap Ruins》 matchup – 《Refiner》 isn’t even that good against them game 1, because you don’t have the right setup and you often die with bunch of cards in your hand. That changes dramatically post board homewer and Refiner suddenly becomes this free guy that they have to deal with.

You can see a clear difference between Standard and Modern in this. Yes there are still decks in Modern that try to use this pattern (for example B/G 《Dark Confidant》, 《Liliana of the Veil》 decks), but there are just way too many decks that you have to be prepared for and it’s impossible to be favored against all of them – you either have to choose which ones you want to beat or you become evenish against all of them. The B/G x Tron matchup is awful for B/G, but I think that if there were only about 5 decks in modern B/G would be ahead.

Some people argue that there are decks that have a positive win percentage against energy or that it doesn’t really have that many great matchups, but you have to realize that everyone is building their decks to beat it (mostly unsuccesfully) and everything else got pushed away from the metagame. The decks had to strech extremely to remain competetive with energy, which usually meant a horrible red matchup – would you rather enter a tournament with an energy decks that has couple of 48% (maybe – I think that the “aggrocontrol” x control matchup is always harder to play from the aggro side so I am not even sure if the number 48 is correct – I personally didn’t mind the control matchup with energy) matchups or do you enter with a deck that has 52% against energy, but about 30 against red?

Rampaging FerocidonRamunap Ruins

As for the ban of 《Rampaging Ferocidon》 and 《Ramunap Ruins》; I don’t think that there is that much to say, the only reason why red wasn’t completely dominating was the huge presence of energy, which was a bad matchup. I understand of course, that there would propably be more bad matchups if energy didn’t exist, but I definitely think that the deck was too powerfull and it’s correct that Wizards have weakened it.

Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

At the “Red Pro Tour” that Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa has won, everyone knew about red and it was still the best deck and I don’t think that that’s the world we want to live in (that being said, all of the Temur cards were around at that point and I feel a little bad for not playing it there – it would be sooo good).

Ramunap Ruins

Were the specific cards they banned the best options? I am not sure, but I certainly don’t mind them. I most definitely agree with the banning of 《Ramunap Ruins》 – it just gave the red deck too much free value – it often meant that your opponent starts at 14.

Rampaging Ferocidon

As for the 《Ferocidon》 I am not so sure – I definitely think that it’s fine, because the deck needed to get weaker and 《Ferocidon》 was one of their better cards, but I don’t really like their reasoning. They basically said that life gain and small creatures are historically strong against red strategies and 《Ferocidon》 laughs at those. My problem with this is that Ramunap Red isn’t really the same as the previous iterations of agressive red strategies. The reason why the deck is so good is that it plays just enough cheap creatures, that you are forced to play on board to keep up (trying to beat them with removal is not really a great strategy against a deck with 《Khenra》, 《Hazoret》, 《Chandra》, 《Ruins》 etc.) just to get punished by 《Chandra》, 《Hazoret》 or 《Glorybringer》.

Hazoret the FerventGlorybringer

Overall I think the deck will get weaker, but it will definitely survive and we might see a version splashing for 《Scrapheap Scrounger》 or something else moving forward.

Scrapheap ScroungerPath of Mettle

I was personally a little bit sad to see 《Attune》 and 《Refiner》 go as I won and top 8ed a GP largely on the back of these cards, but I can’t wait to brew in the new environment. It’s been a long time since we had such a fresh and undiscovered environment as we do now.

Thanks for reading

Petr

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