A Marvel-less Standard

Another crazy (but somewhat predictable) week for Magic players!

For those of you who are unaware Aetherworks Marvel was finally banned from Standard. Finally, there is no turn-four combo looming over the format! No longer will we have to stare down 10+ mana Eldrazi on turn 4! With Hour of Devastation just around the corner, we only have a few weeks to play what’s left of the current Standard and I’d expect these remaining weeks of the format to have little innovation since we already know the best decks.

So what is the best archetype now? And which decks are gainers and or losers from the ban? Let’s find out!

Mardu Vehicles

Whether you like it or not, Mardu Vehicles is going to be top dog in Standard. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can only remain on the bench so long before smashing everyone’s faces in again. The death of Marvel is a huge deal for Mardu as an archetype for a couple main reasons.

  1. You no longer have to splash blue for counters and Spell Queller to be able to have a fighting chance in this format.
  2. The black removal spells (Fatal Push and Unlicensed Disintegration) were virtually unplayable last format and are going to be all-stars in Standard once again. When 1-mana Doom Blade and Murder + Searing Blaze aren’t very good in Standard you know there’s a problem.
  3. Marvel made grinding basically impossible which meant people had to build their Mardu decks less midrangey and more aggressive.

I fully expect Mardu to return in full force and dominate these next few months. As we’ve seen in the past, the deck is very flexible and capable of playing both aggro and control. I’m anticipating a a very similar “go big” sideboard plan out of these decks to combat the archetypes geared to beat them.

BG Constrictor

If time has told us anything, it’s that people will be reverting back to their Hissing Quagmires in order to beat up on Mardu Vehicles. Sure, there will be some crazy men out there like Brennen Decandio who will try playing their old school Delirium decks, but I don’t think that archetype will find much success as it loses to both UR Control and Zombies.

BG Contrictor shells (Delirium a la Shaun Mclaren or an energy build) are the ones I’d expect to see the most success. Whatever BG deck you play, it’s no secret you’ll be trying to go over the top of Mardu with bigger guys who brawl better. But being low to the ground and aggressive is important so you can have a fighting chance against the other decks of the format. I just wrapped up a league with a Delirium deck where Petr Sochurek handily defeated me with Zombies in the last round. Let me assure you, you are not beating that deck without sufficient pressure. They draw too many cards and overwhelm the board.

I have also been very unimpressed with Yaheeni’s Expertise as the way to beat Zombies out of these GB decks. Sometimes their dudes will just be out of range or it still leaves a Diregraf Colossus behind. On top of that, cards like Liliana’s Mastery and Dark Salvation are one card threats that provide a good amount of virtual card advantage.

Overall I think BG will be one of the bigger losers even though it struggled with Marvel. The fact that Zombies crushes it, as well as being quite unfavored vs UR, on top of the fact that it’s never going to be above 60/40 vs Mardu steers me away from the archetype.


Zombies is without a doubt a huge winner from this banning. As we saw at Pro Tour Amonkhet the deck is very powerful, fast, and resilient. However, once Marvel decks tuned to beat it and UR control rose in popularity, the undead army found itself with a lot of popular, bad matche ups. Going forward, UR control is really the only deck I think is actually good vs Zombies. Even then, a good sideboard should make the match up much more even.

Zombies is a great choice if you expect there to be a lot of creature combat and little removal. Zombies should destroy any build of BG (whether it be big Delirium or with snakes) and beat Mardu almost every game one. I expect the Mardu decks to be packing 3 to 4 sweepers in the side board so that they can hope to survive.

Perhaps Zombies builds should go BW so they can play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Regardless I fully expect Zombies to be tier one in the format going forward.

UR Control

UR Control is another gainer, albeit to a lesser extent. Some might question this because UR was deemed to have a relatively favorable Marvel match up. However, UR actually really struggled with post-board Marvel and I think that was a big reason why it was held back. UR is the easiest and best way to combat Zombies. On top of that it is also favored vs BG, both snake and Delirium varieties. Naturally Mardu still beats up on the control deck as we’ve seen in previous formats; however there have been a lot of great interactive spells in Amonkhet that we really haven’t gotten to see line up vs Mardu yet. In any case, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar will certainly keep this deck in check and I don’t anticipate UR ever becoming the best deck because of that. Maybe we will see these decks splash for Cast Out like Collins Mullen and I did at the Atlanta Open earlier this year, or perhaps the return of Temur Tower in order to combat Mardu a bit better? Regardless I’m looking forward to casting some Glimmers into Gearhulks in my near future.

That’s the wrap up of main decks we are left with in standard. Personally I think Mardu will be the best, followed closely by Zombies, then UR control variants, and then lastly BG.

New Stuff

So now that we’ve covered the straight forward archetypes, what decks will emerge now with the banning of Aetherworks Marvel? We saw at the end of this format a string of various “aggro control” decks popping up in order to combat the legendary artifact, such as Temur Energy aggro, Esper and Jeskai Vehicles, UW Flash, and RG Pummeler. While I don’t particularly love any of those decks going forward (Spoiler: they all loose to Zombies) I do think there will be some room for innovation.

One deck that particularly comes to mind is Sam Black’s Abzan Tokens list. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here was his list from the last format.

Abzan Tokens by Sam Black

This deck might look like a pile of draft commons but it actually does some powerful stuff when all the pieces come together. This deck did not have a fighting chance vs marvel, and was also quite vulnerable to sweepers, but with the format heading to a more creature-combat-oriented metagame I believe this deck is quietly a huge gainer. If your trying to get ahead and get on the board, this deck is going to be nothing but head aches for you.

Wrap Up

I think the format is finally about to be in a relatively good place. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar appears to be the most powerful card in a vacuum but hopefully we can avoid it being oppressive for the rest of its time in Standard. Regardless there’s almost no way it could be better/more oppressive than Marvel or the Saheeli combo was, so I personally am looking forward to brawling in a field full of Vehicles, Snakes, and Zombies. Standard is shaping up to be even more skill intensive than it already was with the lack of “oops I win” combos. Hope everyone is ready for some complicated board states and lots of math. I know I am!

Until next week,


Dylan Donegan

Dylan Donegan

Hi, my name Dylan Donegan. I am an 18 year old Magic player from Cary, North Carolina. I currently go to school at East Carolina University studying music. You will normally find me at any large magic tournament between Atlanta and Baltimore. Some notable Magic accomplishments I have include winning the Star City Invitational in Seattle, 6 Open Series top 8's, 3 Pro tour appearances and 1 Grand Prix top 16.
Dylan Donegan




Published:June 16, 2017


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