Pro Tour Copycat

A live look at Standard:

A live look, one hopes, at Aaron Forsythe:

From the future, a live look at Aaron Forsythe after the Pro Tour:

The level one argument for banning Felidar Guardian is that the card is ruining Standard. Almost half of the field is Copycat, and half of the rest are Mardu Vehicles. Things are so bad that when I went looking for successful deck lists of second tier archtypes other than Green-Black or Dynavolt Tower (both of which have been massively under-performing) that I could use as inspiration, there were no such deck lists. None. In the words of speed runners the world over, that’s never happened before! Or at least, it’s never happened in a remotely healthy format.

When I saw the matchup played at the Magic Online Championships, it was a breath of fresh air with lots of depth and skill testing—interesting decisions. A true combo deck was itself refreshing. It is still a skill testing matchup, but it’s no longer fresh air and it’s not only Sperling that’s Sick of It. We all are. We are sick of having to build every deck and play every game worrying that if we tap out we will lose on the spot. We are sick of the question, “do you have it?”

Friday Night Magic tournaments are suffering. Some are switching formats, some are failing to fire. The deck is making people hate Magic. Lots of Amonkhet decks that look like fun aren’t even worth trying. Sam Black has been reduced to writing about Modern. Whatever should have been done last time (and I am much less sure now, with more experience in the format, that not banning was correct), it is time for the deck to go.

The argument against banning Felidar Guardian is that Amonkhet has the potential to shake things up and provide new information, and bans are both dangerous and expensive. Fair points.

The problem is that it seems impossible that Copycat will cease to be a major player in Standard. It seems implausible it will even cease to be the most popular or successful deck. Its numbers might decline as new decks step up to challenge it and other decks continue to warp themselves to answer. Yes, if we are lucky, it will be 30% of the field and the format will be diverse, once players have several weeks to adapt. After months of the deck being forced down our throats, even that level of play will continue to frustrate players and drive them away. Cool concepts will remain non-viable. Fun will not be had. The absolute best case is that it becomes 20% of the field and is only a major annoyance.

With that groundwork in place, the second level argument for banning goes like this. Suppose you wait for the Pro Tour. What are you hoping for? What do you do now? Game it out!

Scenario 1: Copycat Dominates (let’s be generous and say 50% probability)

You have ruined several weeks of Magic. You have ruined a Pro Tour, which will no longer be a showcase for the new set since the Copycat deck will contain at most Glorybringer and a few cycling lands, and might not even change its 75 at all. Magic will take a permanent hit to its popularity, reputation, and momentum. Then you ban Felidar Guardian. It’s bad, but it’s not a disaster—just bad.

Scenario 2: Copycat is Best, but not Dominant or Co-Dominant (let’s say 20%)

Now you are really screwed. Seriously, royally screwed. You want to ban, but can you? If you do ban, then you have to do it when the evidence suggested things are not so bad, after not doing it when things were really bad. Banning now violates the principles Wizards has set down and looks terrible combined with the decision not to ban earlier. It’s going to be awkward. If you don’t ban, which is more likely, it’s easy to explain the decision, but now you are stuck with more months of dealing with Copycat. Yes, if things don’t then get worse, we will have ways to deal with it, but it will all be pretty miserable, and a lot of people will be inclined to not play Standard for several months. Then the next set comes out and we do it all again with a ban even harder to justify. We could end up with six months of Copycat being 30% of the field and driving everyone away because you did not ban it when you had the chance. This is the real reason you ban now—because you can! The big risk is not that you ban and didn’t have to, the big risk is that you don’t ban when you can and then you aren’t able to justify it.

Needless to say, this is me imploring Wizards to, in this scenario, admit they made a mistake and ban Felidar Guardian. Ideally, we would set some threshold on the level of 3 copies in the Top 8 or 12 in the Top 32, or whatnot, and pre-commit to act based on that, barring major unforeseen events.

Scenario 3: Copycat is Good, but not Obviously Best or Part of a Dominant Two (20%)

Now you obviously cannot ban. We are in for what is likely 6 months of worrying about this deck, but not being willing to pay the price to undo the mistake. You could argue either way on whether not banning is now justified as the right decision. I think we need to freshen up Standard more often in today’s era of so much high-level tournament play, and still prefer a ban in these scenarios, but I respect disagreement on that front.

Scenario 4: Another Deck is Clearly Better than Copycat (10%)

I realize that is low, but I’ve seen the set and I’ve seen Copycat. In this case, I admit that you are happy you waited, in terms of the short-term result, but worry you will have learned the wrong lessons and this will stick us with a similar problem at some point in the future.

Thus, to me, the decision seems vastly over-determined.

As for me, I’ve gone from being excited to see how the new format shakes out and wishing I could find a way to draft enough that going to the PT makes sense, to not even being excited to watch the stream. A shame.


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