It’s been awhile since I last wrote something here. Last week’s article got swallowed up by the black hole that is Las Vegas, so this week I’ll not only be covering my Grand Prix experience, I’ll be talking a little about Standard in the wake of Aetherworks Marvel’s ban.
As I write this I’m sitting in a casino in Philadelphia, a consequence of trying to save money and having a connection in Philly on the way home from Vegas. Some rough weather cancelled my short connection and now I’m taking a late night greyhound bus to New York, a train to the airport, and hopefully getting my car in time to get to work at 11. Play the game, see the world, indeed. There’s some silver linings to this story but they’re gonna be assessed in the Modern recap in next week’s article. For now, let’s talk Legacy and the 2600 person Grand Prix I played in on Thursday and Friday.
As the days before I left counted down, I couldn’t figure out what to play. My default was a Delver deck, naturally, and Grixis felt like the best one since it has a solid combo matchup. I had played Sultai in Louisville and I really enjoyed that version, but it felt rough against Jace and against the white creature decks like Maverick and Death and Taxes.
After playing Grixis in a Legacy event at Bearded Dragon in New Jersey where I went undefeated in the Swiss and lost close games to the mirror in top 8, I didn’t see a reason to switch. While Temur Delver also make top 8, I don’t really consider it one of the Delver archetypes that’s played right now. Sultai is certainly the midrange list while Grixis is the more aggressive and tempo based deck. To this end some lists even played Stifles maindeck.
I hate Stifle. I think it polarizes the games you play and I really like playing close games, not lopsided ones in either direction.
I discovered throughout the event that Grixis was a little too aggressive for my tastes. I would’ve been much more comfortable casting Hymn to Tourach than Young Pyromancer. Pyromancer is a card I’ve done well with in the past and while I certainly think it’s a great card, Grixis has very weird mana requirements and fetching is difficult. You’re required to think several turns ahead and you still might lose to Wasteland off the top. The deck has only blue duals to support Daze and the cantrips so there’s no way to prevent them from cutting you off of the support colors, red and black. No three land combination gives you two black and two red mana which means you have to figure out what to get. You often must do so before casting Young Pyromancer so you can cast a spell immediately. Generally, two Volcanic Islands and an Underground Sea is the way to start. This lets you cast Pyromancer into Cabal Therapy and then cantrip into a Lightning Bolt or a black spell like Angler or Deathrite. Fetching in reverse order is something you can do if you’re wary of being Wastelanded as well. For example, you could play turn one Ponder or Delver off Underground Sea if you have a crucial Lightning Bolt in hand and don’t want to be down a red source.
In addition to having awkward mana, the Grixis deck is slanted much more aggressively than Sultai and is harder to play from behind. I generally enjoy playing decks that can switch roles and Grixis is less flexible at this than some other Delver decks have been. Sultai is certainly able to take more value-based midrange lines and I generally like this when looking for a Legacy deck. While Delver is great at pressuring combo decks in Legacy – the reason many people choose to play the card – it often pigeonholes you into being aggressive and can be weak to removal-heavy fair decks. These decks are usually terrible against combo and the cycle continues on and on. Such is Legacy. But, Sultai Delver can play Hymn to Tourach which is one of my favorite cards in Legacy. I’ve always loved the value and it makes your Force of Will much better. By getting a 2-for-1 early, you can afford to lose a card to Force later on while still being even on cards.
Anyway, this is the deck I played to an utterly medium 10-5 record this weekend. I got one pro point though, so scoreboard!
Grixis Delver by Kevin Jones
My record after you factor out byes was 8-5, which while not a bad showing still leaves me a little disappointed. I used to consider myself very good at Legacy and I’ve felt much weaker lately. Playing regularly is the best way to stay sharp in the format and neither the Grand Prix circuit nor the SCG Tour really forces me to play the format or, rather, rewards me for consistently doing so. My rustiness certainly showed throughout the 13 rounds I played and I was probably lucky to win the rounds I did.
- Sneak and show
- Grixis mirror
- Someone who didn’t show up
I lost to:
- 2 Grixis Delver
- Sneak and Show
- 4-Color Control
I would expect to lose to Aluren and 4-Color Control as both decks are incredibly good against fair decks, specifically Delver variants. My inexperience showed in the mirror as I was sequencing poorly and had to beg Legacy master Ethan Gaieski to teach me how to sideboard with my own deck. The Sneak and Show opponent killed me turn one when he was on the play with double Lotus Petal, Simian Spirit Guide, Show and Tell, Emrakul, and Force plus a blue card. I had Daze and Therapy but was on the draw so I just died. I had a way to win still: put a land into play off Show and Tell so I could rip a Diabolic Edict and Daze his Force. I forgot to do that though, but it was a moot point as I didn’t draw the Edict anyway. It’s probably for the best though, as otherwise I would’ve been really, really mad. Combo decks are awesome matchups for this deck and the nut draw was the only match I lost to combo in the GP.
As for the wins I managed, they felt mostly academic. Won a close match against the mirror even after I messed up ’cause I got lucky with a topdecked fish daddy. The mirror can be a blowout or a swingy back and forth game, but the general rule is that Deathrite is ridiculous and you’ll lose if they have one and you don’t. The same goes for Young Pyromancer. I beat two Show and Tell decks because Cabal Therapy is a really messed up card against combo. I won a close one against Infect by being very patient with my wastelands so I didn’t let him get value out of Crop Rotation. I got very lucky to draw a bunch of sideboard cards and beat Andrejs Prost on Elves despite him having resolved Leovold and Scavenging Ooze. Fire Covenant and Engineered Explosives did some serious work. Storm actually almost got me with a topdecked Ad Nauseam after Therapy hit double Lion’s Eye Diamond. Fortunately he revealed a bunch of 4 and 5 mana spells and died anyway. Affinity should probably be a bad matchup but I drew really well and Delver decks are hard to beat when their draws line up like they did.
That was a very minimal recap of my Legacy event. That one pro point was nice since it put me at 18 which means I need an 11-4 to lock silver.
What I really want to talk about is something that happened while I was in the airplane on Tuesday. I decided reading, podcasts, and trying to sleep would be enough entertainment and elected not to purchase wifi on the flight. When I landed, the internet was going nuts because Wizards banned Aetherworks Marvel. Five cards have been banned in Standard in 2017. That’s an utterly ridiculous statistic and the most bans since Skullclamp and Arcbound Ravager were banned with all their friends in 2004.
So, they finally pulled the trigger on Marvel. They said in the article that they considered banning Ulamog or making it so that the two cards couldn’t be played together. I think those approaches would both be wrong. Banning Ulamog is wrong because something else will eventually show up and get busy and cause a lot of people to complain. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharoah and The Locust God are both fine hits off Marvel for example. Having some weird errata where the two offenders were only banned from being played together is really poor, not only because it suffers from the same problem as above, but because that’s just a very unusual decision that will confuse people and probably make them complain.
I think there’s a line. On one side is listening to the public so that Wizards can make the best game possible for the people that play it. The other side is letting the public dictate the formats by complaining on social media and questioning Wizards’ ability to do their jobs. I’m afraid this line is being toed at the moment. I have faith that Wizards can make a great game as they’ve done so for 25 years. Things slip through from time to time, like Felidar Guardian/Saheeli Rai and Marvel into Ulamog. It’s good to make Wizards aware when people are unhappy. What’s not good though is if the people complaining don’t represent an accurate distribution of the demographics that Wizards is targeting with Standard legal magic cards. If FNM level players liked Saheeli but the grinders and pros who complained were so much louder then you’ve got an issue on your hands. The social media communities of competitive magic are often echo chambers for the thoughts and opinions of a select few smart people and not representative of what people who buy cards and decks actually think. In these cases I think most people hated losing to Ulamog or infinite cats on turn 4, so these bannings were probably correct. But in the future they could be swayed to make an incorrect decision because of a vocal minority. I think that’s kinda dangerous. But anyway, that’s another topic.
So what’s in the future for Standard? Mardu is probably back as well but I’m of the opinion that, when well positioned, the deck is just as oppressive as Marvel was. Gideon is so unbelievably good that the only way to beat the card is infinite cats or an indestructible 10/10 double vindicate on turn 4. Read that sentence again because as dumb as in sounds it’s totally true. Temur Energy will appeal to some of the people that played Marvel and will likely do okay. Decks like Temur Emerge, UR Zombies, and Sultai Delirium can come and see how they can hang in the new Standard. Anyone comb- oriented who liked Marvel could be enticed to get busy with Cryptolith Rite or Panharmonicon. Both strategies are cool and could be good but were simply worse versions of Marvel Black Green decks will be a strategy that many people revert to because the worst matchup many of them faced is now banned. UR Control doesn’t have to worry about Ulamog and their Glimmer / Gearhulk chains will have total inevitability once again. The Four-Color Vehicles decks and the esper aggro and UW Flash decks were very interesting to me but sadly their best matchups were Marvel decks. They’ll just become Mardu again which isn’t great cause I want a blue tempo deck back!
I don’t know if this Standard will ever be balanced again because I imagine that Mardu and BG decks will dominate the post ban metagame. If this becomes true then Monoblack Zombies will be the best deck within a few weeks and all three of these decks are good against my flash decks. This might lead to UR Control being good for awhile or it could spawn something new, but with only the Invitational to go before Hour of Devastation, it’s likely that nothing totally new will emerge. SCG’s best players will likely choose comfort over the chance to break it but I certainly don’t fault them there. The next Standard event could have 6 different decks in top 8 but I would say that’s rather unlikely. Either way, the new metagame for the SCG Invi should be a great place to find out if people are enjoying Standard again.
Thanks for reading everyone, see you soon!