Is it just me, or does it feel like Magic’s changing all the time?
Modern’s been absolutely crazy lately. I’ve been playing in The Team Modern Super League for months, and there was a different “format” for all four weeks my team participated. Our first match was before Modern Horizons, the second right after the Bridge from Below ban, and then these last two were before and after the most recent announcement. It’s just too much to keep up with!
And to top it all off, Rampaging Ferocidon is back in Standard for less than a month?!
This little Dino was a mainstay in Standard a while back, but randomly got banned from the format along with Rogue Refiner and Attune with Aether. While I completely understood why the energy cards got the axe, I couldn’t really wrap my head around the Rampaging Ferocidon ban. I just thought the reasoning was circumstantial at best. I mean, sure, the card was good. Very good, in fact, but good enough to get removed from the format? That format? It just didn’t make sense to me.
Whatever. None of my prior thoughts are actually important and they’ll just get us off track. The fact is, Rampaging Ferocidon is once again Standard-legal, and we have to figure out what that means. I know it’s not going to matter for that long, but we might as well figure it out while there’s another season of ranking to do on Magic Arena.
As the wordsmith Charlie Day once so eloquently said, “What do now?”
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – the only way to figure out where we’re going is to understand what got us to now. Core Set 2020 Standard has been ripe with evolution, even though a couple of weeks ago it didn’t feel like this format would be doing any of that. For a while it was feared that Orzhov Vampires and Bant Scapeshift would just take over the format, but as of late both of these decks have been losing control of the format. We’ve seen the creation of Kethis Combo, ever-adapting Esper variants, and even crazy Golos / Nexus of Fate decks becoming successful.
I think this is why Rampaging Ferocidon found its way off the Standard Banned List. Mono-Red Aggro as well as Jund Dinosaurs were just not powerful enough to compete with both Orzhov Vampires and Bant Scapeshift, two decks that seemed to have taken over the format. This three-mana Dinosaur could be exactly what Core Set 2020 Standard needed to shake things up. This decision most likely happened before the format actually did get shaken up by all these new strategies that have emerged in these recent weeks. If these new decks didn’t rise in power, we’d be desperate to save this format from another dull month of Ixalan creature types.
That’s not what’s happening, though. Rampaging Ferocidon is showing up right when the format is shifting, and Orzhov Vampires and Bant Scapeshift aren’t the strongest decks to play. This unban is coming at an extremely unstable time for Core Set 2020 Standard, as players are desperately trying to tune strategies.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before. A format in its eleventh hour already had a huge shakeup thanks to some very talented deck designers, and now before players can fully digest these new creations, another wrench is thrown into the mix. I just can’t get over how random, yet awesome, this all is.
So, let’s talk about some of these decks! I’ll be focusing on those that won’t be playing with Rampaging Ferocidon, but instead trying to prepare them to beat it. What’s cool is PVDDR is also taking about the menacing Dinosaur today, but he’s talking about the decks that will be playing it. So if you want to be casting Rampaging Ferocidon, be sure to check out his article, but stay here if you want to know what I suggest you should and shouldn’t play to beat it!
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Esper Control might be a good choice for this last month. I know – I’m going against everything I believe. In fact, before the unbanning announcement, my plan for this week was to write a long piece about why control is often overplayed. Now I’m thinking this might be one of the better choices in the format. I hope I’m just straight wrong on this opinion, as I hate eating crow on the control debate.
I mean, I really, really hate it.
Esper Control wants to play against creature decks, which is exactly what Rampaging Ferocidon will cultivate within the metagame. Esper Control was suffering in a metagame full of Nexus of Fate and Scapeshift but should be happy to see these decks lose ground as the format speeds up. Now, I don’t know if Rampaging Ferocidon will have a large impact on the format, but odds are it will at least make a splash for the first week or so once it hits Arena. When that happens, an Esper Control deck geared for the aggressive matchups should do pretty good against them.
- 2 Forest
- 1 Plains
- 2 Island
- 2 Temple Garden
- 2 Breeding Pool
- 2 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Glacial Fortress
- 1 Sunpetal Grove
- 1 Hinterland Harbor
- 1 Azorius Guildgate
- 1 Selesnya Guildgate
- 1 Simic Guildgate
- 2 Temple of Mystery
- 1 Tranquil Cove
- 1 Thornwood Falls
- 1 Blossoming Sands
- 1 Field of Ruin
- 1 Memorial to Genius
- 1 Blast Zone
- 4 Field of the Dead
This was my last version of Bant Scapeshift that I played in last week’s Fandom Legends event, but don’t get too tied up in the specifics. It’s just an example of where I thought Bant Scapeshift was going in the format. The deck was still geared for Orzhov Vampires and Esper Control with a gameplan for Kethis Combo, but, honestly, I wasn’t too happy with my chances in that matchup.
That all said, this whole deck is shot in a world of Rampaging Ferocidon. You have some answers to the 3/3, but it’s one of the few cards in the format that must be answered, something that Bant Scapeshift isn’t great at doing.
This might be the straw that breaks the Zombie token’s back. Bant Scapeshift has been getting worse and worse as more combo decks have been introduced into the Core Set 2020 Standard metagame. Sure, it can power through them with perfect draws, but for the most part you never want to get paired against Kethis Combo or any Golos / Nexus of Fate strategy.
I could try to update a version of Bant Scapeshift for you, but I’m not going to do that because I think it’s unwise to play the deck moving forward. Bant Scapeshift was doing decently well against everyone’s reactive plans, but now there are just too many decks out there that actually have better proactive plans that Scapeshift struggles to keep up with. Maybe there will be time for Bant Scapeshift to sneak back in to win some matches, but I honestly think the deck’s best days are behind it, given the short window we have before Throne of Eldraine releases.
- 1 Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle
- 4 Diligent Excavator
- 4 Lazav, the Multifarious
- 4 Fblthp, the Lost
- 4 Kethis, the Hidden Hand
I’m going to be really honest with you right now – I don’t exactly know how to build or play Kethis Combo just yet, but I’m very confident this is the best deck in the format. I’m fairly inexperienced with the deck, but I’ve yet to lose a non-mirror and I’ll be putting my money where my mouth is today (Thursday) as this is the deck I’ve registered for the Fandom Legends event this week. I’m still unsure how good the list I registered is, but there are so many ways to build Kethis Combo that hopefully I’ll have that answered for next week.
What’s really cool about this week’s Fandom Legends event is that they allowed Rampaging Ferocidon to be played, as it’s legal to use in Challenge Mode, so that should make for an exciting day of Magic!
One big thing about Kethis Combo is that it can be designed to counteract the new strategies playing Rampaging Ferocidon. For starters, Oath of Kaya is great at dealing with creatures out of Mono-Red Aggro, and the additional Tyrant’s Scorns in the sideboard should help out in this matchup. Often the games play out where Mono-Red will get a creature or two onto the battlefield, and then invest their time into keeping Kethis’s battlefield clear from comboing. It’s tough to keep Kethis from gaining value as the game continues, so it’s best to try to deploy this strategy as often as possible.
That’s similar to the tactic that Boros Feather uses as well, which is another deck that Rampaging Ferocidon might sneak its way into. Since normal Kethis decks can’t deal with Feather’s namesake card, adding a couple of Tyrant’s Scorns made a lot of sense to me.
This is not the gameplan that Jund Dinosaurs uses, however, as that deck goes wide and big. This is where Urza’s Ruinous Blast comes in, but the issue with that card is it’s not that great against Esper Control, Simic Nexus, or the mirror. The original versions of Kethis Cobo played two since Orzhov Vampires was so dominant, but lately it has been trimmed to a one-one split. That’s still where I’m at, but I could see adding more to the maindeck if Jund Dinosaurs is actually good, which should call for an Orzhov Vampires resurgence.
Ultimately, I do think it’s important to respect Rampaging Ferocidon, but I don’t think Kethis Combo has to do much to accomplish this, especially since I believe Esper variants will get the biggest resurgence with more aggressive decks coming into the metagame. These can oftentimes be more challenging matchups for Kethis which do ask for specific cards to help swing the matchups, but most of those slots will be found in the sideboard.
The trickiest thing about this deck is navigating the difficult waters of respecting the mirror. There are many cards that are great in the mirror, but awful against the rest of the field. Ashiok, for one, is wonderful in the mirror, but really only good against Bant Scapeshift, which is seeing less and less play. Every time you respect the mirror in your maindeck, you increase your chances in winning it, but hurt other matchups. I think it’s currently correct to lean on respecting the mirror, but so far do not know what that exactly means. Maybe it’s playing two Ashioks maindeck, but it’s just so hard for me to pull the trigger on that.
- 4 Opt
- 1 Spell Pierce
- 3 Search for Azcanta
- 1 Blink of an Eye
- 4 Nexus of Fate
- 4 Root Snare
- 4 Chemister's Insight
- 4 Growth Spiral
- 4 Wilderness Reclamation
- 1 Callous Dismissal
- 1 Drawn from Dreams
Nexus decks will suffer the most from people playing more red aggressive decks, especially since they’ve been slowly evolving into Field of the Dead strategies that clog up the battlefield until they have enough resources to combo off by taking every turn. This is exactly what a Mono-Red deck with Rampaging Ferocidon wants to play against, which makes me feel like these deck’s days are numbered, just like Bant Scapeshift’s are.
So where does that put us? Well, I believe the deck that benefits the most from this unbanning is Esper variants. I still want to believe Esper Hero is better than Esper Control, but that just might not be the case if Jund Dinosaurs and Mono-Red Aggro start showing up again. I think this unbanning will cause Kethis Combo to evolve, but it was already doing that. Lastly, I believe this Dinosaur will kill both Scapeshift and Nexus decks.
That’s my first-week suggestion. If you want to play Rampaging Ferocidon, then head over to Paulo’s article for some great lists, but if you’re anti-Dino, I suggest starting with either Kethis Combo or Esper Control.