Wizards’ announcement week was a blast for any Magic player. Every single day, they announced some exciting new piece of news—dinosaurs in Ixalan, Vraska being a Pirate, a Team Pro Tour, and another Un- set. But the thing that surprised me most was the update to the banned and restricted list—Aetherworks Marvel was banned in Standard. I’ve been playing and writing about Standard for the past couple weeks, and my conclusion was that while Marvel was a powerful strategy, it’s not unbeatable. Therefore, I didn’t expect any bannings, given the fact that WotC had already banned so many cards lately.
I was wrong.
In Aaron Forsythe’s announcement, he said that the biggest reason for the ban was the fun factor. It’s true that playing against Marvel is awful. With many decks, you just have to hope they don’t have it, and that’s miserable.
I’m not going to dive into whether the ban was justified, Mike Sigrist already covered that. Instead, I’m going to look at the state of Standard now. I’ll tell you what I think the best decks in the new format will be, and which I would choose.
This is the deck that likely gained the most from the bannings. According to the statistics Forsythe posted in his article, Zombies had an awful Marvel matchup (33%). Now I don’t think it was that bad, but if the Marvel player showed up prepared with Chandra, Flamecaller and Sweltering Suns, it was definitely hard to win.
I think the new Standard will be mostly about creatures, and Zombies is quite good at preying on those. Basically, you can go over the top of other creature decks thanks to cards like Diregraf Colossus, Cryptbreaker, and Dark Salvation.
There isn’t much you can change in the main deck—Zombies is a tribal deck, so you have to keep all the synergy cards. The only change I made from my pre-ban list was to add another Fatal Push. If the format is more about creatures, I want to have access to more cheap removal.
The sideboard is more interesting. Gone are cards like Lost Legacy and Dispossess that were only good against Marvel. I also trimmed the number of Transgress the Minds, as that was your best card against Marvel. I still believe it’s good versus U/R, some variants of B/G, and even Mardu’s planeswalker sideboard plan, so I kept 2 copies. I also have more removal than before—I can go up to 4 Fatal Push and 4 Grasps against decks like B/G and R/G. I’m not playing Liliana, which I’ve seen in many lists. Apart from the mirror match, I don’t really see much use for her, and even in the mirror, if they have Lord of the Accursed or Liliana’s Mastery, her value goes down dramatically.
I think the days of Spell Queller are gone, and we’ll return to builds with 4 Unlicensed Disintegration. The big question for Mardu, however, is how well it’s going to adapt to Zombies. It’s possible that Walking Ballista might find a way back into the deck now that Marvel is no more.
Still, I’m a big fan of Veteran Motorist—it just makes your draws much smoother. It works well with Aethersphere Harvester, which is a great card against Zombies because it’s hard to kill. Zombies also have a weakness to flyers, so Harvester will likely be your best chance to win game 1. The only worry I have with Motorist is just how bad it is against Ballista.
Still, for now, I’ll keep playing with Motorist, but I can see myself making the change soon. Playing Harvester also lets you play 1 Aether Hub, although I wouldn’t recommend more than that. On the other hand, I do recommend 4 Canyon Slough—that card is great.
Post-board, you have the tried and true sideboard plan with more removal and planeswalkers, and I think it’s still the best sideboard plan for this deck. It’s nothing new, and nowadays everyone will be ready for Mardu midrange post-board.
You can also play some mind games by keeping your aggressive build because most of your opponents will sideboard against your midrange plan. The one new thing I’m eager to try is Descend Upon the Sinful. You can definitely turn on delirium with all the artifacts and planeswalkers in this deck, but you play it mostly for the exile clause, which is important against Relentless Dead, Dread Wanderer, and Scrapheap Scrounger from Zombies.
I expect many versions of B/G in the new format. I think I would start with this aggressive build, but it’s possible that B/G will evolve into a more of a control deck with Ishkanah and Grim Flayer. I’ll let Sam Pardee work on that, as Grim Flayer is his favorite card nowadays. But before he breaks it, I’d start with this version and just try to smash face.
As with Zombies I changed the sideboard, cutting the black discard spells that were present only for Marvel. I’m still keeping 2 copies of Manglehorn because they are good against Mardu, but it also got worse with the Marvel banning. The one question mark for me is the 2 copies of Yahenni’s Expertise. In a deck full of small creatures, it’s definitely an odd card to include. Still, I believe you need this card to have a better chance against Zombies.
In his article, Forsythe mentioned that one of the reasons for the ban was that Temur is still playable without Marvel. I have seen many people on the internet making fun of that statement, which is a bit puzzling to me. Going forward, I fully expect this deck to be one of the front-runners in Standard. It might not look like it, but Rogue Refiner is a messed up card, and the whole energy package is quite strong even if your only energy sinks are Harnessed Lightning and Whirler Virtuoso.
Glorybringer is also a great card, and it shines in this archetype. As for my version, I decided to cut the Longtusk Cub, and I’m instead going with the full 8 mana dorks to get more explosive starts. I’m also playing 3 Elder Deep-Fiend, which should help you win board stalls.
In the sideboard, I have 2 Flagships, which is kind of a theme for me. I expect this card to shine in the new format as it’s great against both Zombies and Mardu. Baral’s Expertise is another card that I expect to become a bit better than before, so I also have 2 copies. I’m a big fan of this deck. It’s a lot of fun to play and I believe it has potential to be the best deck in Standard.
In the sideboard, you want to keep the transformational package with Thing in the Ice, because, quite simply, there is nothing better, though I might try out Glorybringer. The problem with that is that black decks will be prepared with Grasp of Darkness as an answer for Thing in the Ice no matter what.
I think this is one the decks that got a lot worse with the bans. Even though the numbers from Forsythe’s article suggest that U/R was a dog to Marvel, I think that’s far from true. Also, Mardu, which has historically been a bad matchup for U/R, is back now. Moving forward, I think this deck will be a part of the metagame, as people love casting Torrential Gearhulk, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s just not a good day for a control mage in a field full of Vehicles, planeswalkers, and recursive creatures.
This is kind of a wild card, and will be one the first decks I want to try to break in the new format. We had this deck for the PT, but it didn’t have a good matchup with Marvel so we ultimately decided against playing it. It did perform well against all the aggro decks, especially Zombies. This is my starting point, but I also want to tinker with incorporating more Harnessed Lightning. It would make my mana base worse, but Harnessed is still one of the best removal spells in the format, so it might be worth a try. This deck definitely needs a lot of work, but I’m excited to try it out.
That’s it from me. Let me know what you think about the new Standard, what decks you want to try, and if you think that Marvel’s demise was just.