Marvel’s Banned; What Now?
Wizards has decided that among other things, the versatility of Marvel as a Tier 1 deck is just too powerful to exist in Standard. A huge point of reference in the announcement was that the Temur Energy deck—which is largely a Marvel-less Marvel deck—is a big part of the metagame without having access to the broken artifact at all.
“When you think about it, the existence of this deck is further proof that Aetherworks Marvel is an unhealthy part of the metagame. Like the Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian combo before it, Aetherworks Marvel/Ulamog was a combo essentially shoehorned into a deck that was already a tier 1 deck,” Wizards wrote, in a statement about the banning.
Of course, the big question here is what we all do now, after two consecutive banned and restricted announcements took out Standard’s best decks. What’s the new best deck? What gets better and what gets worse?
Mono-Black Zombies: After Team Genesis’ Chandra, Flamecaller discovery at Pro Tour Amonkhet (ed. I take offense to not being credited here for my genius innovation -Fournier), the Marvel matchup just got progressively worse for Zombies. Now, with Marvel out of the format, Zombies is primed for a resurgence because of its ability to prey on midrange strategies like Mardu Vehicles and Golgari variants. There is a catch though: the Temur Energy decks that were popping up at the end of Marvel’s reign pack a similar amount of red-based removal as those Marvel decks. A few Magma Sprays and a couple red sweepers might mean another top-tier deck can keep Zombies down.
Mardu Vehicles: I think this one’s obvious. Heart of Kiran and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar are simply the next most powerful thing you can be doing in Standard now that Marvel is gone. What’s more is that Mardu now gains access to the midrangey sideboard plan it was sporting at Pro Tour Aether Revolt and can lose a lot of the Marvel hate it’s been forced to pack in the last few weeks. It’s worth noting that if Zombies is atop the metagame Mardu will have to do a lot to shore up that matchup, as it’s just inherently problematic for the deck to beat.
Nonsense: One of the larger macro-level changes that this announcement brings to Standard is the lack of a “punisher” deck that can beat-up on some of the janky combos that are available in Standard right now. Metalwork Colossus decks, and strategies looking to abuse Gonti’s Aether Heart or Paradoxical Outcome and Aetherflux Reservoir have gained a lot from not having to worry about losing the game on turn-four. If Standard’s immediate reaction to this change is to become midrange-palooza, look out for one of these combo decks built by a pro team to make a splash.
BG Constrictor/BG Delirium: This might be a controversial opinion but I just don’t see these decks getting any better, and trust me, I really wish that wasn’t true. Mardu will be able to return to their haymaker-city sideboard plan and grind you out of the game and the rest of Standard is going to see a huge increase in robust sorcery speed threats that can grind. I expect to see a lot of people working on Glorybringer RUG decks with planeswalkers to provide card advantage, and it’s going to take some serious convincing for me to believe BG can hang with those decks. With that said, Liliana, Death’s Majesty is a big-time threat and can do some relatively broken things with cards like Demon of Dark Schemes, as we saw in the last Pro Tour. Maybe 5-mana Liliana is the Golgari saviour, or a slight red or blue splash will give the colour combination what it needs to hang with the rest of the field.
U/R Control: Simply put, if Mardu is the best deck in the format and packs the sideboard cards to beat U/R, then this is not where you want to be, sorry Fournier (ed. I will still play and lose with this deck, screw you.) However, if these Temur decks, Zombies and various fringe decks can keep Mardu down, maybe it’s time for counterspells in Standard. I apologize to all you control fans who wanted more of a declarative sentiment, but the jury’s still out on this one.
Cards to Watch
Channeler Initiate: If Standard is set to devolve into a midrange fest, then accelerating into your four and five mana plays is going to obviously be powerful. Initiate has the added benefit of not being a dead card later on, and without Marvel there’s less of a need to play Servant of the Conduit as an energy producer. The format could just be about Glorybringer, and if “monsters” style decks are good, then so is this card.
Archangel Avacyn: There’s no doubting the power level of this card as we’ve seen in the past. But it’s likely to see a resurgence as a counter to Glorybringer and a possible strong option in combination with Walking Ballista to sweep away Zombies. I also think there’s an outside chance at a G/W Tokens style deck is now a viable option with less of need to answer Marvel and again, Standard becoming midrangey.
Cryptolith Rite: ChannelFireball Fire already thought this type of strategy of was good enough for Pro Tour Amonkhet, and without Marvel to go over the top, it’s possible that these powerful go-wide sacrifice decks can just go bigger than the midrange decks. Vizier of the Menagerie is a powerful card, Westvale Abbey still steals games and Yahenni, Undying Partisan was a big addition. Is it time for Loam Dryad’s triumphant return to Standard?
For reference, here’s Joel Larsson’s deck from the PT: