—Harry S. Miller
The new Standard format is finally here and it’s time for it to be explored with SCG Atlanta and Pro Tour Amonkhet right on the horizon.
But first we need to know if anything is banned… drum roll please…. annnnnnd…
No changes in Standard.
The Cat’s still out of the body bag.
I think a lot of people weren’t expecting that result and even fewer were expecting what happened in Legacy. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
First of all, let’s discuss the lack of changes in Standard. You can also check out Jim Davis’s reaction here.
Felidar Guardian is appearing to have more than one life, and at this rate it might end up having the full nine lives. It would be hilarious if Felidar Guardian managed to survive nine Banned and Restricted announcements.
I think not banning Felidar Guardian was a mistake. I think not banning Felidar Guardian every chance they’ve had has been a mistake, yes, even when it was first revealed and hadn’t actually seen any play yet. While that kind of preemptive action may have been jumping the gun, banning Felidar Guardian now seemed very reasonable.
Can Amonkhet change things?
Is it likely to change things?
Probably not nearly enough.
Based on what I’ve seen of Amonkhet, Iwould expect Saheeli Rai decks to evolve and improve faster than the rest of the format can keep up.
Even if the deck does prove to be beatable, the format will almost certainly be focused almost entirely around the combo.
At what point does it become reasonable to ban Felidar Guardian if not now? Does it have to terrorize the format for another three months? Another six months? Can they wait long enough to actually print enough answers for the deck? Or do we just keep hoping the format will fix itself? At a certain point you have to just suck it up and say that the deck is having too detrimental an effect on the format, and I think that point is certainly now. Because if not now, then when?
Legacy: Sensei’s Divining Top is banned.
This was much more surprising and unexpected.
For starters, if Wizards was afraid to ban cards in Standard and was trying to rebuild consumer confidence by not banning anything, then why the heck would you choose now of all times to ban Sensei’s Divining Top?
Felidar Guardian, Ruiner of Standard wasn’t dealt with, and it still looks like they’re more willing than ever to pull the ban trigger.
Banning Sensei’s Divining Top might or might not improve Legacy as a whole, but it seems like a very strange time to ban it, considering Miracles has been the best deck since approximately forever.
Will banning Sensei’s Divining Top improve Legacy?
I guess? From my perspective, sure, it might, even if it just decreases the amount of draws that happen in big events.
But despite Miracles being my Legacy deck of choice, I didn’t actually own a physical copy of it, so I’m not feeling the pain of losing a heap of time, money, and effort by assembling a Miracles deck.
It also seems like people who really liked Legacy were happy with the way it is. That makes sense, since the format changes so rarely, but hopefully this change will open the door for new Legacy players, or even more Legacy events, since it will probably make plenty of the current ones unhappy.
All right, now that we have full information about what tools we have access to in Standard, let’s continue to fill it up with decks:
Commit//Memory seems like an underrated card to me.
Just looking at the Commit side, it’s actually a fairly great spell. Think of it as a Venser, Shaper Savant plus Oust combo without the body. Even just comparing it to Cast Out, which has gotten plenty of attention, Commit//Memory doesn’t look bad.
The advantage Commit//Memory has is that it’s incredibly versatile. It can interact with spells or permanents favorably for a potential tempo swing without being down a card. It’s also much harder to punish than Cast Out, since you can’t just remove it later.
The icing on the cake is if you can use Memory effectively. Sometimes it will be advantageous to be able to completely refill both your hand and your opponent’s in a normal deck, but not usually. But in an Engulf the Shore plus Fog type of deck, it could be amazing.
The cherry on top is that Torrential Gearhulk can actually recast Memory, despite it being a sorcery, and you can do it at the end of your opponent’s turn too!
The only real downside to Commit//Memory is that it’s pretty slow, so you probably shouldn’t be playing too many in a regular deck.
- 3 Mindwrack Demon
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 1 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 2 Channeler Initiate
- 1 Manglehorn
- 3 Rhonas the Indomitable
Amonkhet’s focus on -1/-1 counters is going to hurt everyone’s favorite Constrictor a bit. It’s kind of cool to have one of the stronger cards in a powerful archetype be punished by a mechanic in the next set to make sure the best decks continue to change and the tools exist to deal with everything. Just be careful with Channeler Initiate when you have Winding Constrictor out or you’ll end up killing your own creatures for no reason.
Rhonas the Indomitable makes this a full-on Snake party! Why repent when you can ser-pent?
Never//Return isn’t a strict upgrade to Ruinous Path, but it seems better in most situations. Being able to fiddle with your opponent’s graveyard and make a 2/2 once you have nothing better to do seems good. That doesn’t even count the times you mill it with Mindwrack Demon or have to discard it!
The most exciting ability on Gideon of the Trials is its +1, which is clearly best used defensively in a control deck. That effect works nicely to buy time or making your opponent overextend into a Fumigate.
Gideon of the Trials also gives the opportunity to pressure planeswalkers or go for the kill within a reasonable timeframe once you’ve found an opportunity to Giddy Up.
Forsake the Worldly is another card that excites me a great deal, probably even more so than Dissenter’s Deliverance in a lot of ways. If the format is trying to dodge Dissenter’s Deliverance and Manglehorn, then Forsake the Worldly might be the best choice.
Forsake the Worldly seems like a nice way to punish Cast Out. One of the main weaknesses of Cast Out is if your opponent has enchantment removal to free whatever it was casting away. There aren’t many ways to do that in the format, but Forsake the Worldly seems like a good option to do so. Forsake the Worldly just hitting a God, Scrapheap Scrounger, Drake Haven, or a Heart of Kiran is pretty good too.
Forsake the Worldly is basically just a slower, beefier, more versatile version of Dissenter’s Deliverance. Which one you’re going to want to put in your maindeck and sideboard is of course going to depend on the metagame and which colors you have access to.
All right, we’ve explored some more potential. Now let’s cover some updated Felidar Guardian decks.
Four-Color Saheeli almost entirely replaced Jeskai Saheeli, but Pull from Tomorrow seems like exactly what Jeskai Saheeli was missing.
Pull from Tomorrow can really punish a player for trying to play around the combo, providing an alternate “win condition” like Torrential Gearhulk, and just seems like an incredibly powerful card in general that can help assemble the combo or just bury an opponent in card advantage.
Pretty much all the Aftermath cards are worth an extra look in decks that can support both sides. Reduce//Rubble could be particularly good, acting as a worse Mana Leak and Exhaustion that gives extra time to set up your combo.
Failure//Comply is also fairly exciting for pushing your combo through. It’s a worse Remand and Silence, but those cards would be amazing in the deck, so a split version that’s worse than either could work as well.
- 1 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 1 Whirler Virtuoso
- 2 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 4 Felidar Guardian
- 3 Glorybringer
- 4 Channeler Initiate
- 1 Manglehorn
You should probably get nice and comfy either playing or beating Four-Color Saheeli. The main question is whether the new cards alter the way the deck is built.
Here’s a version with a bit of a toolbox thanks to Traverse the Ulvenwald. There’s still a bit of an energy package, but it’s much less the focus of the deck now.
Manglehorn actually disrupts your opponent’s Saheeli Rai plus Felidar Guardian combo because their Felidar Guardian tokens are artifacts and will enter the battlefield tapped. While Manglehorn can be used against the combo, it seems like a much bigger gain for the deck overall. It’s not hard to clear out a Manglehorn, and if you’re not running any artifacts, it is just super-unexciting. Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Walking Ballista are better against Four-Color Saheeli, but Manglehorn balances out by being amazing against decks with artifacts.
I’m still looking forward to a shake-up and new Standard decks thanks to Amonkhet. After all, who knows what the future holds?
Will Mardu Vehicles still be the top aggro deck of the format despite plenty of good artifact removal flooding the format? Will any decks be able to dethrone Felidar Guardian? I’m looking forward to trying some new decks out and getting back into playing some Standard.