Formats For Days!

CVM is studying up on all that Magic has to offer these days! He’s finding a lot of the same in Standard, a mega-diverse metagame in Modern, and even some shifts in what Pauper gets from Modern Masters 2017! What are you playing these days?

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!

This week, with much anticipation, the latest Banned and Restricted announcement from Wizards of the Coast was posted. Standard has devolved into two decks, Mardu Vehicles and Four-Color Saheeli, and the people are clamoring for something to be done. In fact, of the sixteen decks in Top 8s of Grand Prix over the weekend, here is the breakdown:

Four-Color Saheeli : 7
Mardu Vehicles: 8
Jund Energy: 1

With Ben Stark’s sweet list being the outlier, this format has been about only two decks for a bit now. I’d like to think that a lot of us expected some sort of ban to happen this time. At the very least, we hoped it. The two big ones on everyone’s mind were Felidar Guardian and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. These would destroy the Four-Color Saheeli deck and would deal a big blow to Mardu Vehicles.

I would say that some were even so sure that a banning was going to take place that they took drastic actions.

We all waited in anticipation for the announcement. Cards were shifting prices left and right. Paper and MTGO were in flux. Players were having a hard time trying to get $6 for Saheeli Rai. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar dropped over ten tickets on Magic Online. Was anything in Standard going to get the axe? Would they finally ban Simian Spirit Guide in Modern? Is Mishra’s Bauble going to continue to climb in price?


The short answer is no. No changes were announced, and it’s business as usual. Everyone can continue doing whatever the heck they want to do in Modern, and everyone in Standard can continue to feel like they are forced to play one of two decks.

If Felidar Guardian and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar were banned, though, what happens to the format? I get that we are unhappy with the current state of things, but what happens with those cards gone? If you thought Standard was a two-deck format, imagine what it turns into without those two cards.

G/B Winding Constrictor decks reign supreme. People go back to trying to play Aetherworks Marvel, all the while fist-pumping when they hit their monster and feeling extremely sad in the games where they Marvel on four and still lose because variance is a thing.

Ultimately, I think that leaving things the way they are now is for the best. Fingers crossed that Amonkhet has something to offer to the format that breaks up the monotony, but even if it does, the play patterns that Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai offer just aren’t fun. Maybe we just get a Torpor Orb stapled onto every creature, or Thoughtseize makes a comeback. Gotta combat heinous cards with heinous cards, right?

All sarcasm aside, I get that the current Standard format is a bit stale, but at least there are a few different versions of Mardu Vehicles that you can play, and even though most Four-Color Saheeli lists are within a handful of cards, there is usually a lot of play to the games. For me that’s the saving grace. Well, that and I called it like months ago in an article during preview season.

“Jeskai Saheeli Combo is going to be extremely popular, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we end up seeing the combo put into other decks that already had a solid gameplan. Remember back in Standard when Splinter Twin became TwinBlade and rocked the socks off everyone? When you must respect a combo finish out of a deck that can already rumble with the best of them, then you get to create lots of uncomfortable scenarios where opponents play the game incorrectly.

Fortunately, Oath of Nissa does this perfectly by helping us find the missing pieces and fixing our mana all at the same time. Oath of Nissa revealing Saheeli Rai may just end up being the TwinBlade of this Standard format, whether it’s this list or another.”


The good news is that if you aren’t up for battling in Standard until some new cards hopefully shake things up, Modern is continually exploding and Modern Masters 2017 looming on the horizon is only going to help that. With all the great reprints driving down the price, Modern Masters 2017 is going to help a lot of players build their collection and delve deeper into the format.

That is, if you already had the cards that have spiked due to not being reprinted. Mishra’s Bauble, Fulminator Mage, Karn Liberated, and even cards like Through the Breach and Noble Hierarch are jumping back up in price. Zendikar fetchlands, Liliana of the Veil, Snapcaster Mage, and Tarmogoyf are great pulls and are all cards that were high-priced before, but it seems that those prices are just shifting.

Now that we are three Modern Masters sets in, we can see a trend. Cards get reprinted in an effort to inject more copies into the market and make the format more accessible, and while those cards that get reprinted see an immediate reduction in price, the cards that aren’t reprinted just jump in price and start to fill the cost gap that was just created.

Even though a lot of cards are going down and there will be a decrease in the overall cost of a given deck in Modern, it’s likely to not be as much as we would all hope, and will start to climb back up for staples the same way it has in the past with MMA and MM2.

Enough with the bad news, though, let’s get into the sweetness. You may have heard me drone on and on, some would say Ad Nauseam, about how Modern is a format in which you can play whatever you want and have a chance to succeed.

Well, check out the second-place list from the Modern Classic this last weekend at the SCG Tour stop in Texas.

Yeah, that’s right. U/B freaking Faeries, and we’ve even got some spice! If you were looking for a deck to bust into Modern with the addition of Modern Masters 2017, this looks like a great start. Snapcaster Mage, Liliana of the Veil, and Inquisition of Kozilek are seeing reprints.

My favorite part of this deck, though, must be Smuggler’s Copter, especially in conjunction with Bitterblossom. Bitterblossom was initially thought to be ban-worthy at the inception of the format, and now the 1/1 that it makes each turn, even with summoning sickness, can enable a 3/3 flying looting Smuggler’s Copter to attack each turn?

Sign me up.

This is a much more aggressive U/B Faeries deck. There is no Cryptic Command. There is no Mistbind Clique. We are jamming and disrupting and putting a lot of awkward pressure on the opponent.

Can you imagine the look on the faces of any of the Death’s Shadow players that David faced this weekend that had their Death’s Shadow countered by a Spellstutter Sprite? That topdecked Traverse the Ulvenwald that would otherwise be exceptional? A well-timed Fatal Push or Lightning Bolt that is going to take out a Smuggler’s Copter?

Spellstutter Sprite seems like gas right now. We do have to be cognizant that Kolaghan’s Command is quite the beating against Smuggler’s Copter, but I think that’s a risk we can take.

I just love the construction of this deck. It’s well-thought-out and plays a fair number of creature-lands to go along with our “jam and disrupt” strategy. In fact, I also love Mutavault with Smuggler’s Copter. My biggest hiccup with the list is that, with only four fetchlands, the Fatal Pushes aren’t as super-charged as I would like. I could see cutting the second Sunken Ruins for a fifth fetchland. Mutavault plus Sunken Ruins draws are already going to feel extremely awkward, and not having Cryptic Command mucking up your color requirements makes me believe that Sunken Ruins isn’t as needed.

Now, I know that the maindeck construction is about enough to get anyone excited for this deck, but go ahead and check out the singleton copy of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver in the sideboard.

Can you imagine getting to use Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver against a Death’s Shadow opponent? Not only are their huge threats very cheap in the converted mana cost department, but they only have six actual lands that produce mana and snagging a few with their +2 is a real threat.

Real talk, though. I was never a Faeries player. It was either Five-Color Toast or Demigod Red or Kithkin for me during those times. Heck, Faeries was the best deck in Extended when I won my PTQ with G/W Trap. I’ve never been a huge fan of that playstyle, but this isn’t your normal Faeries deck. I foresee a lot of main-phase Vendilion Clique and Snapcaster Mage. I foresee a lot of Liliana of the Veil -2 activations to clear the way for attackers.

Now, I know that there were multiple Death’s Shadow decks in the Top 8 of the Open, but the Classic didn’t have a single copy. In fact, we had seven different decks in the Top 8 of the Classic.

Talk about an eclectic group of decks. Stars of Modern past, present, and future. Where did Living End come from? Although, if you think about it, it’s likely decent against Death’s Shadow. All the discard can hit the cascade spells, but cycling cards tends to help find what you need, and the maindeck Faerie Macabre might mess up some Tarmogoyf math.

Scapeshift is a bit misleading, since neither of them was the normal blue-based Scapeshift that you would expect. Instead they are just Primeval Titan decks that also happen to have a full set of Scapeshift in them. That is a lot of redundancy, and if you can ramp hard enough, no amount of discard-based disruption is going to stop you from going off.

The problem is that, unless you can outright kill your opponent, you’re just going to turn their Death’s Shadow into a lethal monster that you likely must chump block with your Primeval Titan. On top of that, Tarmogoyf is regularly a 6/7 or bigger, which also dwarfs Primeval Titan.

What a weird time to be playing old Prime Time.

Besides the interesting spread from the Modern Classic’s Top 8, the other interesting thing for me is that Merfolk made Top 8 at another Open. I’m not sure if his deck is foil and/or non-English, but I’d guess it was.

Okay, that was a joke. Merfolk is great. What stuck out for me was the sudden reappearance of Burn. Our own Ari Lax does a great job talking about how Burn is just not good, and I have to say I am inclined to agree. I do think it’s interesting that neither Top 8 list had Atarka’s Command in the maindeck and relied on Skullcrack instead as it’s easier to cast. We even see Kenny Hudman with Angel’s Grace in the sideboard of his Top 8 Burn list.

“Okay, I’ll cast Angel’s Grace and draw my entire deck with Ad Nauseam. Kill you with a lethal Lightning Storm?”

“I’ll respond. Angel’s Grace?”

“Judge! I think my opponent picked up my own card and tried to cast it against me!”

Much like the Spellstutter Sprite snagging a Death’s Shadow, I wish I could see the look on his opponent’s face when Kenny stole any game with Angel’s Grace. When you think about it, though, a lot of time, and I mean a lot of times, Burn just need one more turn. One more draw step or one more chance to use my mana, and you’re just dead.

Angel’s Grace can do just that!

Once You Paup…

The last thing that has me hyped for Modern Masters 2017? The common downshifts that open cards in Pauper. With Thunderous Wrath becoming common and giving me another reason to play Brainstorm and the addition of Augur of Bolas, I may have to take a trip to U/R Delver Value Town for my next Pauper event.

Which piles of commons are you on?

Grand Prix Orlando March 24-26!