Ten Things I Like And Don’t Like, Including Field Of The Dead

Cedric Phillips draws inspiration from one of the greats to share his thoughts on the Magic: The Gathering banning announcement, metagames, and more.

Field of the Dead
Field of the Dead, illustrated by Kev Walker

Zach Lowe is my favorite NBA personality. From his podcast (The Lowe Post) and Twitter feed (@ZachLowe_NBA) to his critical but almost always correct analysis of my favorite sport (The Knicks aren’t confusing, they just stink!), he has been a huge part of my life for the past seven-plus years.

He also writes one of my favorite weekly columns, Ten Things I Like and Don’t Like, so as an homage to his greatness and because I’m transitioning back to writing weekly and can’t write about Mono-Green Aggro in Core Set 2021 Standard every week, this is my first of (ideally) many Ten Things I Like and Don’t Like.

Thanks Zach for being a source of inspiration. Now on to…

1. Field of the Dead… Why?

We felt the need to do this again? Really? Let’s look at the history here:

December 10, 2019: Field of the Dead is suspended in Historic.

Similar to Once Upon a TimeField of the Dead is constraining Historic in much the same way it affected Pioneer: it’s having too large of a damping effect on controlling and reactive deck options. Suspending this should allow a wider variety of deck archetypes to be viable in Historic.

This explanation makes sense. Field of the Dead does have too large of an effect on controlling and reactive deck options. Every time you play a game against a deck built around Field of the Dead, it’s the sole focus of the player playing against the card and your options as the one trying to defeat Field of the Dead are limited because it isn’t easy to interact with given that it’s a land (oftentimes your best option is to kill your opponent as quickly as possible before Field comes online).

However, for the Field of the Dead player, building towards it isn’t the only thing that they’re doing. They’re casting other spells (Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath; Golos, Tireless Pilgrim; Hydroid Krasis; etc.) and Field of the Dead is more or less a freeroll because the restriction built into the card isn’t as restrictive as it initially appears. Therefore, while you, my opponent is panicking about me getting Field of the Dead online, I’m just over here playing a game of Magic with my best cards that also works towards me getting the ultimate end-game engine online.

March 9, 2020: Field of the Dead is moved from suspended to legal.

In the last Historic update, four cards were suspended from the format for having problematic win rates and reducing diversity. We now have updates to those suspensions with Field of the Dead becoming unsuspended and Oko, Thief of CrownsVeil of Summer; and Once Upon a Time becoming banned.

Because of the digital-first nature of Historic and its unique approach to adding card content, our philosophy is, when possible, to introduce answers to problematic cards rather than ban them. In the case of Field of the Dead we’re introducing some new answers with Historic Anthology II, including Ghost Quarter and Goblin Ruinblaster. With these new options and other decks picking up powerful additions, we’re optimistic that we can reintroduce Field of the Dead without decks that use it becoming dominant.

Overall, we’re pleased with the current state of Historic and the variety of archetypes that have been performing well. We’ll continue to keep watch on how the format develops with the addition of Historic Anthology II and the unsuspension of Field of the Dead. If issues arise, we’re likely to suspend problematic cards temporarily to see how the metagame responds.

This explanation, however, makes little to no sense and straddles the line between worrisome and laughable. For starters, there’s a cost to putting Ghost Quarter and/or Goblin Ruinblaster into a deck. It’s not like I just get to say “Oh you’re playing Field of the Dead? Well I get to use these/have these in my deck/hand now!” Further, we have enough history to know that a single land destruction spell rarely (if ever!) KOs ramp decks of this nature. Because if they did, Urzatron decks (and other ramp decks of course) would fail to exist due to the existence of… wait for it… Ghost Quarter and Goblin Ruinblaster! However, as we all know, that isn’t (and has never been) the case.

This explanation reeks of not having played the games. Because anyone who has played games against a Field of the Dead deck (or a Tron deck, or a Cloudpost deck, or a Scapeshift deck) knows that a single land destruction spell is something the deck shrugs off and keeps coming back for more.

August 4, 2020: Wizards of the Coast announces Amonkhet Remastered.

Wizards of the Coast took some liberties with what they decided to print in Amonkhet Remastered. Which means they took those same liberties and decide what not want to print in Amonkhet Remastered. Now I’m not saying that Hour of Promise is a bad reprint; I think it’s actually a powerful card that’s super cool in a lot of contexts. What I am saying, however, is that you probably knew Hour of Promise was coming for some time now, so unsuspending Field of the Dead looks weird. What I’m also saying is that we know the play experience of Field of the Dead (which is part of the reason it was banned in Standard and previously suspended in Historic), so the upside to unsuspending it was… what… exactly?

August 24, 2020: Field of the Dead is banned in Historic.

Field of the Dead has been a powerful force in Historic for much of the format’s life. While its overall win rate is rarely at the top, its matchups are extremely polarized. In particular, its high win rate against slower decks has made the format as a whole lean more toward aggressive strategies. This effect scales with the ubiquity of Field of the Dead decks, and recent sets have given the deck several powerful additions, including CultivateExplore, and, most recently, Hour of Promise. As a result of this we have seen both the popularity and win rate of Field of the Dead decks steadily climb, and it is currently one of the most played Best-of-One decks and, by far, the most popular Best-of-Three deck.

Having watched the progress of this deck closely, we feel that this trend is unlikely to change. We also feel that Field of the Dead is unlikely to be a healthy part of the format anytime soon, so suspension is the wrong approach. In order to bring a greater diversity to the Historic meta, Field of the Dead is banned.

But what about Ghost Quarter and Goblin Ruinblaster?! I guess we’re done playing pretend that those would be an answer to Field of the Dead?

And for the record, I’ve been streaming a ton of Mono-Blue Aggro in Historic lately and am on the record of saying that I didn’t mind playing against Field of the Dead decks. However, the main reason for that is because Mono-Blue Aggro had a fairly good matchup against the deck because timely counterspells were good at delaying the inevitable and flying is a great solution once the inevitable occurs — infinite Zombies.

Even though not that much harm was done over the past handful of days that Field of the Dead was legal in Historic alongside Hour of Promise, there still was harm done (the expense of wildcards on Magic Arena and time that cannot be gotten back spent working on something that was clearly going to be undone) and I think it’s fair to be frustrated by this. But more important than anything, please don’t try to sell us on solutions that obviously don’t work. It makes you look disingenuous at best and something far more offensive at worst.

2. Mono-Green Aggro Did What?!

Are we sure Sultai Ramp is the best deck in Core Set 2021 Standard?

Back in July, I told you everything I knew about Mono-Green Aggro in Core Set 2021 Standard. Earlier this month, I explained why WotC banning Wilderness Reclamation; Growth Spiral; Teferi, Time Raveler; and Cauldron Familiar made Mono-Green Aggro the best aggro deck in Standard (note that I did not say it was the best deck in Standard). And now it’s beginning to win tournaments:

Now this is where I tell you what I’ve always said from the start — for as long as the best deck in the format is something controlling and players are trying to get an edge in the mirror (Wilderness Reclamation mirrors previously, Sultai Ramp mirrors currently), Mono-Green Aggro is not only a viable option but a very good one.

But I will warn you Mono-Green bandwagoners, if players actually decide to beat you (mixing in Ritual of Soot with Extinction Event so Mono-Green players can’t guess correctly, sideboarding in Blight Beetle because it’s hell for Mono-Green to beat), they will do exactly that. But if players continue to not take the deck as seriously as they should, the free wins will continue.

3. Rakdos Sacrifice Did What?!

No but seriously… are we sure Sultai Ramp is the best deck in Core Set 2021 Standard? 😉

4. Play Four Copies of Your Best Cards

Speaking of Sultai Ramp, if you’ve been keeping track of Core Set 2021 Standard tournament results, you’ve seen it dominating events of all shapes and sizes. Which means you’d expect to see the following a lot right?


Excuse me, what? Is there a new rule where you’re no longer allowed to play four copies of your best cards? Because, in case you missed the memo, Hydroid Krasis; Nissa, Who Shakes the World; and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath are without question the three most powerful cards left in Standard (sorry Pelt Collector but I cannot tell a lie).

Do I like to play underpowered, monocolored aggressive decks? I sure do. But if I were going to play the overpowered multicolored deck, I’d play four copies of the best cards because those cards are the reason I’d be playing the deck in the first place.

5. Put The Keyboard Down

Last weekend, Alexander Gordon-Brown dominated an SCG Tour Championship Qualifier with his take on Sultai Ramp:

This was a masterclass in reading a metagame, adjusting accordingly, and glorious domination. I know many people nowadays complain regularly about individual cards and the state of metagames on social media (and the “Ban Something From Sultai Ramp” train has already taken off from the station) but I wish there was a bit less complaining and a bit more hard work reading metagames, learning your deck inside and out, and being rewarded accordingly.

Tl;dr = Tweet less. Play more.

6. Happy Trails To Rotting Regisaur

I remember the first time I saw Rotting Regisaur. My first thought was…

Now there was some risk that Reggie may have been a bit too thicc for MTG to handle. The worst case scenario of being bludgeoned over the head by a 7/6 repeatedly is less than ideal but things turned out okay. Regisaur was a nice counter to those who relied on damage-based removal, which made it a tool that many turned to during the dominance of Temur Reclamation.

However, Reggie my poor friend, your days of minor levels of dominance are over. Because your worst nightmare has come true.

Eliminate Heartless Act Nissa, Who Shakes the World

It’s been a good run ole pal but Standard’s best deck laughs are you. Best of luck in Historic, Pioneer, and Modern.

7. Can You Imagine…

If Veil of Summer were legal in Standard? You’d have to be a real munson to think that card is okay in any format, right?

8. Pioneer Is Back to Being Dope

You wanna talk about a roller coaster? Three months ago, I won a Pioneer Super Qualifier on Magic Online with Gyruda Combo. Thinking about that accomplishment now is unfathomable to me, not only because the companion rule changed (RIP Gyruda) but because we’ve just seen Pioneer banned into a unrecognizable but incredibly healthy format.

In case you missed last week’s Pioneer episode of What We’d Play (<insert PA announcer’s voice> Now weekly here at Star City Games dot com!), we had seven people pick seven different decks that they really believe to be the best thing to be doing in the format right now.

  • Dom Harvey – Five-Color Niv-Mizzet
  • Ryan Overturf – Boros Winota
  • Shaheen Soorani – Azorius Control (shocking, I know)
  • Patrick Sullivan – Boros Burn (Lurrus)
  • Autumn Burchett – Temur Reclamation
  • Todd Anderson – Mono-Green Devotion
  • Corey Baumeister – Jeskai Lukka (Yorion)

For full disclosure, there’s no nonsense going on where I ask people to recommend different decks so that the format looks good and diverse. And if I had time to throw my recommendation into the pool? I would have gone with Mono-Black Aggro!

What we all remember Pioneer being when it was came along last year was a place of hope and innovation before Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach ruined everything. It’s back to being that and better than ever!

9. Listen

10. Laugh