Playing Devil’s Advocate: What’s In, What’s Out March 1st

Dave looks ahead at what he thinks might get banned in Standard next week, laying odds on what combinations of cards might get the boot and what that will mean for those of us looking forward to playing a fresh, Ravager-free Type Two format.

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it – George Santayana

Good old Necropotence. Remember that card? How it was a critical part of the ugliness that was (shudder) Combo Winter?

And remember how the DCI kept banning various support cards – Mana Vault and Lotus Petal, to name a few – in order to try and keep the beast in check? And introducing “subtle hosers” to combat the power of the skull?

And remember how well that worked until they finally bit the bullet and got rid of Necro, ostensibly through set rotations?

Stop me if this starts sounding a little familiar. Merely replace “Necropotence” with “Affinity” and you can see where I’m going with this.

Affinity has been a major problem since the release of Darksteel, and the DCI has finally admitted that neither the banning of Skullclamp nor the introduction of cards like Samurai of the Pale Curtain and Imi Statue has had any affect on stopping the powerhouse that is Ravager Affinity. While not said specifically, Aaron Forsythe recently said:

Ravager Affinity continues to exert its chokehold on the rest of the format. It has gotten absolutely out of control despite the efforts of determined players and worried R&D and DCI officials…I just got out of the quarterly Events Team meeting that handles the management of the Banned and Restricted Lists, and we’ve finally decided to put our collective feet down. On March 1st, we will be announcing major changes to the Banned List that should finally correct what has been an egregious problem with Standard over the past year.

While he didn’t specifically name cards for banning, it’s basically a foregone conclusion that at least one critical card to the monster that is Ravager Affinity will get banned. Possibilities include:

Arcbound Ravager

Disciple of the Vault

The six artifact lands, or possibly restricting them

Aether Vial

Cranial Plating

Chromatic Sphere

What will get the boot? Prognosticator Dave – who has had a pretty good record as of late – has a few guesses.

Arcbound Ravager?

This is about as close to a stone-cold bet-the-farm lock as you’ll ever see. While it’s the Ravager/Disciple of the Vault combo that gives Affinity much of its punch, the Ravager by himself is quite deadly, providing the “all in” ability to stack an alpha strike attack on a Blinkmoth Nexus or such, whereas, by itself, the Disciple is just a dork.

This is what should have been done a long time ago, as the lesson of Necro should have taught us. That, or at least upping the casting cost on the original card, but this isn’t World of Warcraft; Wizards can’t issue a patch for this boo-boo. I can understand wanting to give people a chance to play cards they’d traded or paid a lot for. But it’s been a year; time to fix the mistake. Besides, there’s still Extended…

…or is there?

Disciple of the Vault?

Nope. If the Ravager goes, as previously mentioned this is just a less-than-impressive 1/1. Of course, you do have to worry about Atogs and Aether Vials…right?

Aether Vial?

Boy howdy, I missed the power of this card when it first came out. Looks like it’s time for me to start eating my hat again. As both a mana accelerator and mana fixer, Aether Vial is a critical component of any deck running small creatures, especially in Extended. But does that make it ban-worthy?

A few voices on this site – Chad Ellis and Mike Flores, to name a few – have called for banning Aether Vial in Extended. Like another certain one-mana uncommon artifact from Darksteel, it’s appearing in a lot of different decks, like Life, Burning Wish Goblins and, of course, Affinity. But does that mean it should be banned in Extended?

I thought so, but the more I thought about it, I changed my mind. Are these decks dominating because of Aether Vial? Look at Flores’s White Weenie, which he added Aether Vial to – it’s a much stronger decklist, but has anyone made a Top 8 with it yet?

As for Extended Affinity, the Canali version packing Meddling Mages succeeded, but that was probably due, in part, to the unexpected presence of Pikula in the deck. Since then, Extended Affinity has been good, but not dominating, even with Aether Vial, even with Meddling Mage.

But what about Standard? The only deck that really uses it is, of course, Ravager. In a deck that needs artifacts, runs a low mana curve and has multiple colors, Aether Vial truly is a Mana Vault-type artifact, and one that has most likely kept countermagic on the sidelines in Extended (or, that may be due to the generally crappiness of four-mana counterspells – again, I digress).

Aether Vial provides much of the current unholy acceleration that give Ravager Affinity those turn 4 wins, and while it might be interesting to see what Aether Vial could do in a Standard metagame uncluttered by the unholy terror, I don’t see it happening, and the DCI will ban it in Standard, to make sure Ravager Affinity is extra dead.

This one I wouldn’t take to the bank, however…stick to putting your money on Arcbound Ravager.

Chromatic Sphere?

Don’t laugh. Have you noticed what an important part of Affinity this card actually is? It’s a mana fixer, Affinity fuel, and card drawer all in one. And do you realize how important all three of those things are, especially in a deck running three or four colors?

But while I just don’t see a ban coming down on a common reprint, I wouldn’t be surprised, either.


It’s possible but not likely, especially if my previous predictions are correct. I think a combo with this card and Disciple of the Vault is perfectly acceptable. It’s having multiple ways to abuse the Disciple that fell into the “sick and wrong” category. And, as previously mentioned, I doubt another reprint would be banned.

The artifact lands?

At first thought, I believed there would be no way the DCI would ban common lands. But, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense: if you wanted to eliminate Affinity, you get rid of the artifact lands. Problem solved.

But I don’t think Wizards wants to get rid of Affinity. Yes, the ability is probably a little undercosted, but think back to States 2003 – pre-Darksteel – when then there were several different flavors of Affinity, the best of which was probably the U/B Sarnia Affinity, which ran up to ten counters (Counterspell? In Standard? Good heavens!) and depended upon Broodstar as the big hitter.

Remember when that card was, like, $10 or so? Ah, those were the days.

But I digress. The point being, these were decent decks, but by no means dominant like Ravager Affinity.

There was innovation, there was variety, and no one was really complaining about the bah-roken-ness of Affinity.

I believe the artifact lands stay and Affinity goes back to the drawing board, which is fine by me.

Cranial Plating?

Again, no. Assuming that both Ravager and Aether Vial get the boot, that means the creature base loses a very good creature and you’re out eight artifacts. Sans Ravager, that leaves you with a creature base of Arcbound Worker (who, let’s be honest, isn’t that great without his big brother), Frogmite, Myr Enforcer, Disciple of the Vault (who may also leave the deck without Ravager) and (maybe) Somber Hoverguard. A rather motley crew that has a big-time Achilles’ heel to Electrostatic Bolt. And equipment isn’t very good unless you have a creature to put it on.

Cranial Plating is a very, very good card that piles on the broken-ness in Ravager Affinity. By itself, it’s good, but not broken by any stretch of the imagination.

Krark-Clan Ironworks?

I’m really going out on a limb here, but part of the reason KCI hasn’t risen to the top of the Standard heap is the presence of Affinity, and not exactly as how you might think.

It’s mildly ironic that, with Fifth Dawn, R&D wanted to create a set that would bring back combo decks using the artifact theme, but didn’t foresee that a) a better artifact-centric would already exist by the time the set was released and b) this would force almost every other deck to run some kind of main deck artifact hate. This has helped to keep KCI in check.

There’s also that little matter of Affinity being just as if not faster than KCI, and that previously mentioned 1/1 dork who negates those “all ins” that KCI wants to pull off.

Without Ravager Affinity, KCI may likely become “the” deck, and we’d be kvetching about Krark-Clan Ironworks as much as we are Arcbound Ravager. Therefore, I believe that the DCI will move proactively and ban KCI before this problem potentially arises.

This is uncommon for the DCI to do, but I think they don’t want a repeat of the last six months.

So what will happen to Affinity if my guesses are on the money? No more Ravager, no more Aether Vial, Krark-Clan Ironworks is gesphincto?

That’s a story for another time.