Standard's Huge Bans and Where the Format Goes Next

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
1/15/2018 1:00:00 PM
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After seeing Ramunap Red and Energy decks dominate Standard the format wasn't diverse. It got to the point where it was clear Temur Energy was the best deck, with Ramunap Red as a close second, so for a big tournament there was very little room for brewing. In order to give the Ixalan tribes a shot to be competitive in Standard it was necessary to change the format in a big way.

So Wizards answered.

Rogue Refiner AND Attune with Aether are Banned

Banning both Rogue Refiner and Attune with Aether is devastating for Temur and Sultai Energy. These are two of the most important cards in the blue-green-based energy decks. Whether you like it or not I believe these decks are essentially dead. I don't think these energy decks will be able to bounce back from these two staples leaving the format. Personally, I expected Attune with Aether to get banned, as being able to essentially replace itself immediately by finding a land and net two energy was broken.

It's not clear that Rogue Refiner also needed to be banned, but by taking two cards away from the energy decks it looks like Wizards wanted to completely kill them. If they were to just ban Attune with Aether we may have seen a situation similar to when Eye of Ugin was banned in Modern, but players continued to play with Eldrazi decks. This isn't to say that there are absolutely zero ways to play any energy cards though. This is a deck that plays a couple energy cards that looks a lot better now:

I have a feeling we could be seeing a lot more of Mono-Black Aggro, as other decks will get a chance to shine. This deck plays Glint-Sleeve Siphoner plus Aether Hub. No longer will we be seeing decks with all energy cards, this may be as far as it goes, and cards like Bristling Hydra and Whirler Virtuoso no longer have a home. We will still see removal spells like Harnessed Lightning and Abrade in control decks though.

Unfortunately for a deck like Blue-Green Electrostatic Pummeler, almost all the cards in that deck will be lost from the format completely. Optimally, when a banning happens, the cards that were in the banned deck can find other homes but this isn't always possible.

Ramunap Ruins AND Rampaging Ferocidon are Banned

I think banning Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon caught many by surprise, but hurting Ramunap Red was necessary. I agree that if Wizards elected to only take away cards from Energy decks then Ramunap Red would become the overwhelming best deck in the format. There were other cards that could have been banned, but I like the choice of Ramunap Ruins. Ruins only fits in Ramunap Red, so by banning it this only effects one deck, but taking it away removes the late game power from the deck.

Rampaging Ferocidon is a bit stranger of a choice as far as a banning goes. Of the four cards banned today this is the one I'm not sure was necessary, but I also don't hate the choice to remove it from the format. Rampaging Ferocidon had become a maindeck card in Ramunap Red, after originally being in the sideboard when it was first printed. However, the reason it was moved to the maindeck was because of its effectiveness in the Temur Energy matchup.

With Temur Energy being practically removed from the format it doesn't seem like Rampaging Ferocidon would be that important anymore. In fact, we may have seen Ramunap Red leaning more on Ahn-Crop Crasher. Removing Rampaging Ferocidon opens up the door more for token and vampire decks to do well, which may have been another part of the thought process behind the ban.

Wizards may be anticipating Rampaging Ferocidon being very powerful against decks that will emerge after the dust settles from the banning. Completely stopping cards like Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle isn't in the best interest of helping the new strategies. Overall, while I'm not totally sure the Rampaging Ferocidon ban was necessary I'm also willing to put my trust in Wizards on this one.

Did You Just Lose Hundreds of Dollars? (Nobody Did This Time)

I think the ban was clearly good for the format but at the same time bans can make the players frustrated, which is why Wizards doesn't like to do too much banning. We had a banning not too long ago that involved Emrakul, the Promised End and Smuggler's Copter leaving the format. Those were expensive cards, and I think Wizards realized it may have been a mistake to ban staple rares and mythics—in today's case the priciest card banned was actually Rampaging Ferocidon.

Of course, there are going to be other cards that are going to be affected as well, like say Bristling Hydra, but I don't believe the value lost to be as much as it could have been. Wizards could have easily gone after Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Hazoret the Fervent, but stayed away from that. Those cards have a chance to be played in other decks, so I wouldn't expect their value to tank completely.

The other factor is that Standard cards are relatively cheap overall, so you aren't losing as much money as you would from something like a Modern or Legacy ban. I believe making bans where you can avoid taking away the expensive rares and mythics are great, and Wizards was able to do this here.

What Decks Will Shine Now?

Standard is once again wide open, there is no clear best deck anymore. Control decks are big winners here, so I expect to see plenty of Blue-Black Control, White-Blue Approach, and White-Blue Cycling moving forward. We may even see Blue-Red Control make a comeback as being able to play Abrade may become important for control. Mardu Vehicles is going to be one of the best aggressive decks once again.

We will see Mardu and Black-Red decks that feature Hazoret the Fervent and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. We may even see cards like Earthshaker Khenra, and for sure Bomat Courier will still be a staple aggressive creature. These aggressive decks should be strong enough to keep the control decks in check.

The biggest question is where does midrange go now? The energy decks defined midrange strategies in Standard. Perhaps we will see Black-Green Constrictor make a comeback, as going Winding Constrictor into Jadelight Ranger is certainly very powerful. We also could see Dinosaur decks featuring hits like Ripjaw Raptor and friends. The tribes of Ixalan can now look to make an impact.

There is an argument to be made for any or all of the Ixalan tribes to make a splash in Standard. Merfolk looks to be aggressively slanted, but may play out more like a midrange deck. This will be a creature deck that can sideboard in Negate against control, which may be a big deal. I expect we will see Vampires for sure. With Rampaging Ferocidon gone, tokens and lifelink creatures look better than ever. This is an exciting time, as once again there is room for brewing!

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield
@sethmanfield




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