Better Or Worse?

It’s reevaluation time! Brad Nelson goes through the major Standard players one by one and sees if they got better or worse from the bannings. Some obvious, some not.

While waiting for pairings to go up at Pro Tour Nagoya a couple weeks ago, Tom LaPille came up to me, wanting to talk about the state of Standard. The
only thing I could think about was how there were so many cards that were just awesome in the format but couldn’t see the light of day because of
Caw-Blade. Standard would be rainbows and puppy dogs if this deck didn’t exist. Two weeks later, I got my wish!

Right now is the perfect time to brew, since everything is changing. But first, we have to know exactly what the bannings will do to the value of
cards. So I present to you a list of cards that will either get better or worse. I do love a list!

Cards that get better

Primeval Titan

This one is a no brainer. Stoneforge Mystic searching for Sword of Feast and Famine was the perfect answer to Valakut and the only reason this deck
dropped off the face of the planet. Being a control deck isn’t enough to crush a deck like this without a proactive strategy that starts on turn 2.
Caw-Blade was both of these.

Valakut is going to take over the throne as best deck right after the bannings go through, but I’m not sure that will be true for the entire summer.
This is just the deck I would play right out of the gate before the format gets more solidified.

Thrun, the Last Troll/Gaea’s Revenge

Going with the theme of Valakut, these two cards will also be back in the sideboard of this deck. These cards are amazing at fighting control
strategies. The only reason they were unplayable was because Sword of Feast and Famine was the perfect answer for them.

Spreading Seas

Spreading Seas was a very good spell to help deal with problematic lands in the past, but it lost value when it was more profitable to be casting
Squadron Hawks and Stoneforge Mystics.

Not only does Spreading Seas work against Valakut, a soon-to-be larger part of the metagame, but also it’s very strong against other control decks as
well as some aggressive strategies like Vampires.

One-for-one removal (Lightning Bolt, Condemn, Doom Blade, Go for the Throat, Journey to Nowhere, etc.)

These cards are usually decent but were embarrassingly bad while Caw-Blade held dominance. It just wasn’t profitable to kill creatures. You wouldn’t
get ahead by killing off creatures like Squadron Hawk, and these spells were ineffective at dealing with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Now that the era of
insane card advantage is over, removal spells are much better.

Day of Judgment

Whenever one-for-one removal is good, mass removal spells are for the same reasons.

Luminarch Ascension

This card is going to be very good if there is a deck that can play it. The best reason is it gives a U/W Control deck the ability to play a finisher
against Deceiver/Twin before the deck threatens the combo. After Ascension is in play, the U/W deck will be able to sit back on disruption and wait for
the enchantment to activate.

It’s also a great card against other control decks, since no one will have Squadron Hawks anymore.

Hand disruption (Duress, Inquisition of Kozilek, Despise, Mind Rot)

Hand disruption was always good at dealing with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic before they hit the board but would never do anything
once they landed. Now hand disruption will be more relevant past those turns, as it will be harder to regroup without Jace quickly rebuilding hands.

Hard Counters (Negate, Deprive, Stoic Rebuttal)

These counterspells were held back by the power and speed of Caw-Blade. I find it rather funny to be saying this because most of these spells were in
the first version of Caw-Blade back in Paris.

I remember when I was playing in the Player of the Year playoff; I was boarding out Stoic Rebuttal, while Guillaume Matignon was boarding them in. It
wasn’t that they were good against me, but most people who played in that tournament didn’t know a deck with Jace, the Mind Sculptor could be so fast,
and Guillaume didn’t have anything better to bring in.

Games will be played at a slower pace now, making hard counters where you want to be.


Every version of Caw-Blade was good against this guy, making Vampires a Tier 2 deck. Things will change when people start playing more spot removal and
control decks go back to playing fair.

Vampires might not be a great choice against Valakut, but as a whole, it should have some serious results in any format that doesn’t have Sword of
Feast and Famine in 50% of the decklists.

Ob Nixilis, the Fallen

Yup, this guy is still in Standard. I know what you’re thinking: “Brad has gone off the deep end and should retire before he makes a fool of
himself.” You might be right about that if we were arguing about something else, but not in this case.

Sure, Ob Nixilis might not find a home and might never reach his true potential, but he can have a huge impact on a game—without even attacking!
He also doesn’t die to the removal that most people will be initially playing. Dismember does not kill him if you have a fetchland to follow it up. Go
for the Throat and Journey to Nowhere are the only real spells people will be using that can take him out.

Neurok Commando

This is another creature that I think has the potential to be very good. Shroud seems like a great ability to have right now, since a number of people
will be trying to build control decks. It’s a great way to pressure any Splinter Twin decks before they’re able to set up the combo, and it will take
over the game if it resolves.

Gideon Jura

Gideon Jura has always been my favorite planeswalker because of how well he does his job. The only problem was he just didn’t get it done when
Batterskull was able to do it for him.

The card is not good against Splinter Twin, and it’s very average against Valakut, but it wrecks creature strategies. Gideon Jura has the ability to
swing many games when they’re trying to attack you with dudes.

Phyrexian Obliterator

This guy has a real chance at being good now. Backed up with some hand disruption and earlier pressure, he could be a staple in decks like Vampires. He
does just die to most removal, but unlike most creatures, he’s a very big problem if they don’t deal with him.

Frost Titan

Frost Titan will play an important role against those decks that try to win with a single big threat, like Phyrexian Obliterator, Baneslayer Angel, and
Primeval Titan. He might not even see much play, but I know he now has a chance to shine again.

Kargan Dragonlord

This has always been one of those awkward cards that sometimes would be amazing, but most of the time was bad. Its weakness to Jace, the Mind Sculptor
had a lot to do with it.

This card is very good against creature decks that don’t have much removal and is a very impressive topdeck against decks that have to one-for-one it
just to not lose. It also is a clock all by itself against decks like Valakut.

Shrine of Piercing Vision

This might be a long shot. It’s not as if I have a weird fixation on this card, but I do think it is Constructed playable, particularly in a deck like
Splinter Twin. Splinter Twin is going to have to change how it does business in Standard, and one way is it needs to control the game for a longer
period of time to find its combo pieces.

The deck will run more creature removal and countermagic, and the games will go longer. These are all good reasons to have a spell that gets better the
longer the game continues. I think it’s at least worth testing.

Everflowing Chalice

I think U/W Control is going to want to progress its mana a turn faster. One reason is to play spells like Day of Judgment and Gideon Jura faster, but
also to be able to accelerate against Splinter Twin. Pre-bannings, there was just no time for this card on turn 2.

Cards that get worse

Fauna Shaman

These types of decks were terrible before Caw-Blade took over. Trust me; I know this firsthand. I spent all of my time trying to find the perfect mix
of creatures that wouldn’t constantly lose to Valakut. When Caw-Blade took over and Valakut disappeared however, these strategies still couldn’t

It’s even more discouraging to know that even if you spend time to make this deck good, people can just start playing Surgical Extraction to invalidate
your VengevineFauna Shaman plan. I wish this type of deck could be good, but it just isn’t so.

Spell Pierce

There really isn’t a reason to be playing this card anymore, since you no longer need to counter or protect Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It’s decent
against Valakut, but better cards can be found to do that job.

Squadron Hawk

This card just lost all of its buddies. I mean, it still has Fauna Shaman, but that guy is not nearly as sweet as the crowd Squadron Hawk used to hang
out with.

Hawk is not good on its own. Other spells in the deck have to interact with it to be good. It used to be fine on its own when it was attacking Jace,
the Mind Sculptors, but that time has passed. The little Bird had its glory, but now it’s time to take a break.

Sorry buddy!


It’s no big surprise that Equipment is losing value. I think people will try to live the glory days and continue to play with some of them because they
want to, but without Stoneforge Mystic, they’re nothing special.

Artifact Removal

The only artifacts/enchantments I want to be killing these days are red. Nature’s Claim will remain in the sideboard of Valakut due to this, but there
really is no need for other decks to have this ability.

Anti-Jace, the Mind Sculptor spells (Jace Beleren, Koth of the Hammer, Vengevine, Inferno Titan, etc.)

All of these cards and others were used to beat up on Jace. Most of them did a very good job of it, but it was the main reason they were seeing play.

Inferno Titan was especially good, since if there were no Jace in play, it could blow up creatures instead, which the Caw-Blade player likely spent
multiple turns playing. With the upswing of removal in Standard, this Titan decreases in value however.

Koth of the Hammer will probably be too slow now. There are other things Mono Red would rather do on those turns.

Jace Beleren will still see some play because people love drawing cards, but it will not be as good. People were not running Jace Beleren because it
was an amazing card. It was just the Seal of Jace everyone needed to gain an advantage in blue mirrors.

Lotus Cobra

Lotus Cobra stirs big dreams in people. It had its day in the sun alongside Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He accelerated the planeswalker out, and then the
walker in turn helped Lotus Cobra do powerful things on the following turns. Now he doesn’t have the same synergy with anything and no one to help
stock him with big spells and fetchlands.

Oracle of Mul Daya

Oracle fit Valakut very well when creature removal was at its all-time low. Because Caw-Blade didn’t have a ton of removal and feared Summoning Trap,
it often let Oracle resolve. Creature removal will be more popular, though, which makes it harder to go crazy with this card.

Sun Titan

No Stoneforge Mystics or Seal of Jaces to get makes this card very weak. There just isn’t anything you want to be returning with this card anymore.

Inkmoth Nexus and the Worldwake Manlands

Being able to equip this card and attack in the early turns of the game was very powerful. Without the Equipment, this card loses almost all of its
power. Not only will Spreading Seas be popular, but Tectonic Edge also gets much better (you didn’t want to spend time killing Caw-Blade’s lands, as it
put you too far behind).

The Worldwake cycle of lands will also lose a bit of value. It’s not as if they’ll be unplayable or anything, but attacking into open mana will become
a more dangerous proposition.

There is also a section of cards that I think have not changed in value even though people have started to talk about them.

Cards that stayed the same

Grave Titan

The equation of three finishers (Grave Titan), four Jace, the Mind Sculptors, and four manlands was used to great effect. Without Jace to help churn
out card advantage and possibly win by itself, killing with “finishers” will be much more difficult. Closing a game where Grave Titan is
the only win condition seems difficult even when it’s the best control finisher in the format. It needs something else to push games totally out of the
opponent’s grasp.

Baneslayer Angel and Hero of Bladehold

I have been hearing rumblings that every single card that couldn’t pass the Jace test will be playable again. This just isn’t true. There is still an
abundance of very powerful things to be doing at this point in a game of Magic. Baneslayer Angel can’t handle a Primeval Titan that’s fetching
Valakuts, just as Hero of Bladehold can’t punch through 1000 Deceiver Exarchs.

On the other hand, the black cards at this curve point, like Phyrexian Obliterator and Ob Nixilis, are in a color that has more ways to disrupt combo
decks while playing these very midrange creatures.

Baneslayer doesn’t give you enough of an advantage with all the removal out there; these cards weren’t great before and don’t get much better.

Blue Sun’s Zenith/White Sun’s Zenith

These cards didn’t change either. They are just too slow to be powerful enough. Just because the two best cards were banned doesn’t mean 50 unplayable
ones are now playable. I’m talking to you, Drew Levin and Augury Owl!

The one card I’m not sure about

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

I have no clue whether this card will be good. It seems on the slow side, but I’m thinking primarily of those games where opponents have good draws.
Tezzeret can crush opponents who slip up in any way, which makes it scary.

There will also be fewer decks putting pressure on Tezzeret with creatures and counter backup. I don’t know what this deck will look like, so I cannot
judge it yet, but it’s worth the effort to find out.

That’s all I have for this week. I know there were no decklists, but that’s what next week is for—after I process how much will actually change.
I’m very curious to know what you guys think about the cards I talked about and even other cards you think I missed.

It seems that my draft went over very well, so I’ll continue to be posting those on a weekly basis, with or without video. See you guys next week!

Brad Nelson