Here are ten things I like and don’t like from this week in Magic: The Gathering:
1. Kaldheim Standard Is Awesome
I promise I’m not leading today’s article off with proclaiming my love for Kaldheim Standard because Mono-White Aggro❄ got first and second place in yesterday’s SCG Tour Online $5K Kaldheim Championship Qualifier. Even though I adore any deck that gets to play 15+ basic Plains (or snow-covered ones in this instance), a few creature-lands (Faceless Haven is busted), and a bunch of awesome white cards (yes, white has awesome cards now), what I really enjoy about the format, at least thus far, is that there’s a ton of diversity.
Here’s a sampling of decks in Kaldheim Standard that either have won a tournament or I believe can win a tournament:
- Mono-White Aggro❄
- Mono-Red Aggro❄
- Sultai Ramp (Yorion)
- Sultai Control (with or w/out Yorion)
- Dimir Rogues (with or w/out Lurrus)
- Gruul Adventures
- Naya Adventures
- Temur Adventures (with or w/out Obosh)
- Four-Color Cycling (with or w/out Lurrus)
- Boros Aggro
- Rakdos Midrange
- Rakdos Sacrifice
- Izzet Midrange❄
- Azorius Control
- Esper Control
- Some stupid blink strategy with Yorion and Doom Foretold
And before you ask where your pet deck is (Mono-Green Aggro, Mono-Blue Snow❄, some mediocre midrange deck based around your favorite card(s), etc), the only reason I haven’t listed it here is because I knew it would upset you and I am nothing if not petty.
That pettiness aside, Kaldheim Standard looks dope. The banned list looks well curated for once (more coming there, I promise), the games don’t appear to be midrange slogfests based around The Great Henge or Embercleave, and you can kinda do whatever you want to do with something resembling success.
While I know many were prepared for Goldspan Dragon and Showdown of the Skalds to dominate Kaldheim Standard, both are merely pieces to a very big puzzle that folks appear to enjoy solving. How long will that last? A good question to be sure, but since I choose to live in the present and not the future, I’m going to enjoy
beating people’s ass with Mono-White for a while the newness and diversity of Kaldheim Standard for as long as I can.
2. Fourteen Is A Large Number
How often do you want fourteen of something?
- Fourteen pizza rolls? Absolutely
- Fourteen cheeseburgers? Gross
- Fourteen chicken wings? Against my better judgment, yes please
- Fourteen beers? Maybe when I was 22
- Fourteen phones? Who needs more than one
- Fourteen pens? I lose them all the time so sounds like a good idea
- Fourteen basic Plains? You know me too well
Everything in life is contextual but when fourteen (!) different cards had their legality change earlier today, it really does make you take a step back and think about things. My biggest question?
How did we get here?
I’ve been doing this Magic thing for 20+ years, with the majority of it being on a competitive scale, and I’m still having difficulty wrapping my head around today’s B&R update. Note that I haven’t said if I think today’s B&R update is a good or bad thing because I’m still very much undecided (I, quite literally, change my opinion every twenty minutes or so). I’m a process driven individual and I just cannot imagine what processes took place within WotC to get to where fourteen (!) different cards changed legality across five different formats today.
Spare me the link to Fire It Up by Andrew Brown because I’ve read it enough times to basically have it memorized. The biggest question to be asking here is if everything that has taken place over the last 2+ years in Magic is a process WotC believes to be a good one. I don’t work there so I don’t know the answer to that question but I’m hard pressed to believe the answer is yes from the outside looking in.
- Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath was so unfun they had to announce it biting the dust in a supplementary product article.
- Omnath, Locus of Creation passes no design or development test if you play five or more games with it.
- Oko, Thief of Crowns is arguably the worst designed Magic card in the history of the game given what we know about card design in 2021.
I’m sympathetic to the difficulty of implementing a new system, a new process, or a new way of thinking. When dealing with change, things are generally going to get worse before they get better. So are we at the spot where things start to get better or are we still in the spot where things are still getting worse?
3. Cascade Me A River
Speaking of analyzing processes, the cascade rule predictably changed on Monday:
702.84a. Cascade is a triggered ability that functions only while the spell with cascade is on the stack. “Cascade” means “When you cast this spell, exile cards from the top of your library until you exile a nonland card whose converted mana cost is less than this spell’s converted mana cost. You may cast that spell without paying its mana cost if its converted mana cost is less than this spell’s converted mana cost. Then put all cards exiled this way that weren’t cast on the bottom of your library in a random order.”
When we all learned how Valki, God of Lies and Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor interacted with cascade, we as players all knew that this was going to be a problem. I simply cannot imagine a single person thinking to themselves “A seven-mana planeswalker on Turn 1 or Turn 2 is going to be totally fine.” upon learning how these cards worked together.
But, more importantly, I have extreme difficulty imagining a world where this wasn’t brought up internally at WotC before Kaldheim launched. And that means, if my assumption is correct, a conversation was had around this topic and the powers that be thought that cascading into Tibalt was just going to be a totally fine thing for players to be doing.
My long time friend and brother from another mother, Patrick Sullivan, has taught me many things during our travels together but one that has really resonated with me over the years is the following (it doesn’t have a title so enjoy this very relevant example):
Let’s imagine a world exists where the cascade rule that was put in place today (one that does not work favorably with Tibalt) was what was in place at the start of Kaldheim. Now let’s imagine a meeting takes place where someone pitches the idea of “Hey, I think we should change the cascade rule with DFCs so that if someone were to cascade into a DFC with a lower mana cost, they can cast either side of the card, even if one of those sides were more mana than the cost of the cascade spell.” They then cite Violent Outburst into Valki which allows one to cast Tibalt as their example.
That idea probably gets shot down right? What’s the upside of making that change to cascade? How do you explain the rationale behind that change to cascade to your audience? If you have to go back on that change to cascade, what does that look like?
If that’s how that hypothetical conversation likely goes, you probably have the wrong thing in place right? Yet things were allowed to be the way they were (though, admittedly, for not a very long time).
This, my friends, is a bad process. The outcome is what it is (in this instance, the cascade rule changing entirely and those who invested in Valki — primarily on Magic Online — taking a giant beating) but this was entirely avoidable and that’s where the frustration lies.
4. Is Historic Back To Being Fun?
As someone who has played far too much Historic over the past 2-3 months, I’m hard pressed to believe a banning of Uro fixes much in Historic. It powers down Sultai Midrange in a very meaningful way, but Historic was very much a three deck format prior to this change (Sultai Midrange, Jund/Rakdos Sacrifice, and Gruul Aggro) with a few other decks being legitimate even if they do underperform occasionally (Mono-Red Goblins and Azorius Control).
I’m not going to argue that Uro was a good thing to have around in Historic because I think that’s far from true (and I was the one casting Uro for the past 2-3 months) but I don’t think banning only Uro was a good idea at all. Jund and Rakdos Sacrifice are fully powered strategies in Historic that are not fun to play against at all (especially if you enjoy casting creatures), Goblins has a (mostly) I Win! button in Muxus, Goblin Grandee that you always have to care about, and while Gruul Aggro is giving aggro decks a fighting chance, it was built to prey upon Sultai-based strategies, not fully powered Mayhem Devil-based ones.
Toss in the addition of Blightstep Pathway and Valki as relevant additions and I’m hard pressed to see how Historic doesn’t just become a Cauldron Familiar + Witch’s Oven fest that drains Arena clocks around the world.
5. Matt Dilks, Is That You?
With Five-Color Cascade no longer a thing, Tibalt’s Trickery no longer thing, Uro and Mystic Sanctuary-based control no longer a thing, and Simian Spirit Guide-based combo no longer a thing, Amulet Titan sure does sound pretty attractive right now doesn’t it?
Dilks’ Twitter bio says he’s retired but we all know Magic players never hang up their wand for good. So if you’re looking for what’s stock in Amulet Titan, give the man who hates online tournaments more than life itself a bit of time to dust things off.
Other Modern options that initially come to mind include Jund Midrange, Mono-Red Prowess, Burn, Death & Taxes, and the incredibly infuriating Colossus Hammer deck.
I’ve lost a lot of interest in Modern over the past few months, as I found Uro, Mystic Sanctuary, Omnath, and the game play in general to be incredibly repetitive, so while banning five cards is quite a few, it’s a change that I think everyone is welcoming.
6. Let’s Rank ‘Em
8/10. Even though you don’t think of blue cards when you think of me (especially Faeries!), I love all four of these cards (especially in Cube!) and love the artwork on each. Job well done.
2/10. Much like Party Hard, Shred Harder, these aren’t my style (though I’m sure the people who like these absolutely love them).
0/10. Valentine’s Day is a fake holiday that I refuse to celebrate. Consider me the fun police.
10/10. Love Primeval Titan. Love Frost Titan. Love that Uro got banned here so that consumers were purchasing with eyes wide open. Absolute perfection.
8/10. Love Inferno Titan. Love Grave Titan. Hate that there’s no banning announcement about Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Not perfect but close.
7. Remember Me?
Just a reminder that Sun Titan is awesome and the fact that it’s getting no love in this Secret Lair Superdrop is criminal and the only way to right this wrong is a Secret Lair drop of Sun Titan by itself.
Do it WotC. Show the big fella the respect it reserves.
8. A Sealed Arena Open!
Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to. Please let the program work the way it’s supposed to.
Other than that, I’m super excited!