Standard After The Bannings – Some Cards That Might Become Playable Again

Holy banhammer.

I knew this Standard format was shit, but after a certain Sam Stoddard damage-control article, I was not aware that Wizards agreed.

Clearly they believed Sam’s article about as much as we did. Three cards have been taken out the back and shot, in the banhammer’s busiest day in Standard since the Affinity massacre.

A couple of quick thoughts about new Standard, but first an important disclaimer. On MTGO, I own a moderate number of some of the cards that this article talks up. I bought those cards because I believe the contents of this article, and I bought them a couple of hours before writing this article. However there is a potential conflict of interest you should keep in mind while reading. 

Finally I’m not covering the new Copy Cat archetype that will appear in Standard events near you. This Saheeli Rai fuelled combo deck is being talked about a lot elsewhere and has the ability to win out of nowhere. It should be on your radar but as I’ve not tested with it I don’t know if it will be a gimmick or a powerhouse.

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Bannings remove cards from a format, but can also effectively add cards to it too.

Sometimes a previously mediocre strategy becomes good in a new, less powerful field.

Other times, a strategy is pushed out of an environment because other cards invalidate its strategy entirely. When these other cards are banned, the decks hated out by the banned card can return.

Emrakul, The Promised End was an unbeatable End-game (sorry) that pushed a lot of other strong lategame cards out of Standard. There simply was no point casting a haymaker on turn 6 if it was going to be trumped on turn 7 or 8 by His Noodly Appendage.

The Emo With A Big Sword (Sorin, Grim Nemesis) was a lategame powerhouse prior to EMN. Then suddenly he dropped completely out of the competitive limelight, because he lined up terribly against Emrakul, and to a lesser extent, The Unspellable Spider (Ishkanah), who could swarm Sorin and bring him down.

Sorin still has massive starting loyalty, a +1 that grants card advantage while threatening to win the game on its own, a very strong minus ability that assassinates Planeswalkers, protects him from creatures and also keeps you on a stable life total. I expect him to make a serious competitive comeback now that one of his main nemeses is banned and the other is probably not nearly as playable.

Sorin will, however, compete against another 6 mana black card that stabilizes you, kills creatures and threatens to end the game swiftly. (Ob)Noxious Gearhulk competes with the Emo Walker, and it’s not clear which of the two will be better.

To start with I’ll be experimenting with running four of one, and taking notes on how often I’d rather have drawn the other card. After a couple of hundred matches this will provide useful information.

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Part sweeper, part gameending threat, OGW’s incarnation of Chandra was also completely pushed out of Competitive play by Emrakul. While Chandra could sometimes kill before His Noodly Appendage hit the battlefield, Emrakul’s favorite spider was extremely good against Chandra.

With Emrakul banned, and players having less incentive to play the spider as a result, I think Chandra might well be coming back.

It’s not clear to me whether it is better to use Kaladesh Chandra to ramp past 6 mana to drop a big Eldrazi, or whether it is better to top out at the Flamecaller. I’m going to start out with the latter option because I think that the available sources of actual colorless mana are probably not good enough to power many Eldrazi into Standard.

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The second card to feel the banhammer’s loving caress was of course Snugglecopter.

Snugglecopter was one of two things that kept the Vampires deck from getting anywhere in Standard.

Being able to block and eat Drana, or trade with Olivia, Snugglecopter was a 4-of in 60% of the format, and this created an extraordinarily hostile environment for a deck that wanted to attack with fliers.

Additionally, Vampires had no truly consistent removal. Fiery Temper was powerful but unreliable, and the deck had no artifact synergies to use Unlicensed Disintegration, which at 3 mana competes with the deck’s best creatures.

This has also changed with the printing of the best removal spell Standard has seen in over five years. A quick Push should prove Fatal to most potential blockers.

For this reason I’m going to be experimenting with Vampires again. Drana is an absurdly strong card in a vacuum and lines up acceptably well against Fatal Push.

I’m going to test both a BR deck with the Madness synergies, and also a BW fliers deck without tribal synergies, because I can’t let Bygones be bygone, and I still think Topplegeist is one of the strongest unplayed cards in a long time.

Both decks will need to have a plan for a sweeper that gives everything -3/-3 until end of turn, of course. Yahenni’s Expertise might keep Vampires down again.

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Sylvan Advocate, the Land Lord we all love to hate, was the most played card in Standard for a period, and a multi-archetype staple from the release of OGW right up to a couple of weeks after Kaladesh hit.

Right now, the Land Lord is largely unplayed due to how poorly it lines up with Snugglecopter in the early game.

With Snugglecopter now a wreck, Drana isn’t the only 2/3 that might be able to attack safely in the early game.

I’m not sure exactly what home or homes Advocate might find, but the card is powerful enough that it just might see play again.

Perhaps alongside its old BFF Tireless Tracker, or perhaps slowing down the opponent while Superman takes over the game. Or perhaps alongside one or both Chandras.

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The last card I want to brew with in the new Standard is Dovin Baan. I honestly don’t think he will get into the competitive spotlight, but with his greatest foe the Snugglecopter getting Baan-hammered, he is certainly more likely to survive than he used to be.

Drawing a card and gaining 2 life each turn is powerful, but only if your board is somewhat stable. If you are able to protect Baan via other means, his -1 will put you into a commanding position.

His +1 isn’t what you want to be doing with him, but it does buy you time against a single attacker.

Baan’s weakness, however, is that he competes with Gideon for deck space. Gideon is better when you are behind as he can protect you by vomiting out 2/2 blockers.

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This Seattle Banhammer Massacre has shaken the format up. For the first time in ages I am actually optimistic about Standard.

What forgotten gems do you expect to see in Standard now? Feel free to post here in the comments, or (better) on Reddit. (Because of spam I have to individually approve comments here, so Reddit flows much better).

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3 thoughts on “Standard After The Bannings – Some Cards That Might Become Playable Again”

  1. Just a bit more on the disclaimer:

    My holdings on MTGO of named cards are:

    – 20 Chandra, Flamecaller
    – 16 Sylvan Advocate
    – 19 Noxious Gearhulk
    – 12 Dovin Baan
    – 15 Olivia, Mobilized for War
    – 21 Sorin, Grim Nemesis
    – 32 Drana, Liberator of Malakir (purchased a while before this article)
    – About 50 copies of each of Topplegeist and Bygone Bishop
    – 0 copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
    – 0 Tireless Tracker

    I own none of these cards in paper.

    Again this is posted in the interest of full disclosure to help you judge any potential conflict of interest.

    1. Without commenting on the contents of the article, let me just say that i appreciate you revealing that you’re speculating on those cards as well. I honestly don’t think any magic writer hypes cards to make a profit rather than because they think the card is hype-worthy, but such a disclaimer helps those who are skeptical of intentions.

      1. TBH I think most articles hyping cards in spoiler season are commissioned by dealers looking to bump presales.

        Especially any article hyping a new mythic.

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