August 3, 2020 Standard Bans: 12 Deck Archetypes to Prepare for the Post-Ban Metagame
Hello again! When I look at the date, it says August 3rd, but it really feels way more like Christmas! Earlier on today, four cards were added to the Standard banlist:
Wowsa! That’s a lot of cards now banned in Standard (10 in total, not counting the nerfed Companions), and for my taste these latest ones have been banned far too late, but better that than never! Standard is wide open again, and there’s a wide variety of decks out there that currently exist, or have existed in Standard, only to be quickly shut down then faded away. Today we will explore such decks.
Read more about the ban announcement, that affects Standard, Historic, Pioneer and Brawl:
All the possibilities: What effects did the banned cards have?
Temur and Four-Color Reclamation are both completely gone as a result of losing not one but two of their most important cards. Bant Mid-ramp tried to find a version that beat Reclamation consistently, but ultimately failed. Even though it had all the tools in Narset, Parter of Veils, Teferi, Time Raveler, and Dovin’s Veto, people found out that they could just splash those cards in Reclamation Decks. Ultimately, the best Deck to beat Reclamation was a Reclamation deck tuned to beat the mirrors, so what we ended up in was a format completely dominated by Wilderness Reclamation, the decks that tried to counter it like Mono Black or Mono White, and Sacrifice decks, which in turn preyed upon all the decks that tried to beat the Reclamation decks.
All of this is over! No Sacrifice, no Growth Spiral gaming, and no enchantments that double your mana. Before we talk about what decks get better or worse, let’s first talk about what cards, and furthermore, what kinds of cards get better in general.
Wilderness Reclamation and Growth Spiral were insanely strong and forced you to try to play a deck that could compete on their power level, both in getting more mana onto the battlefield and having an unbeatable late game. This indirectly took some decks out of the equation due to the sheer lack of power. In my opinion, Teferi and the Sacrifice decks too directly erased individual cards and even archetypes.
Let’s talk about Sacrifice first. This deck actively destroyed all the decks that just wanted to play a creature-based plan. Sure, Mono Black and Mono White dodge Aether Gust and, for the most part, Mystical Dispute. However, these decks just do not have the tools to beat Cauldron Familiar, Witch’s Oven, Mayhem Devil, Priest of Forgotten Gods, and Claim the Firstborn, all at the same time. Claim the Firstborn in general is just a one mana removal spell on super steroids in these decks and are a complete nightmare to play against. And by nightmare, I mean nightmare. I don’t think any matchup in standard is as polarizing as Sacrifice decks versus other creature-based decks; it’s one of the most one-sided games you could play and was the reason why Sacrifice was so popular, even though it had a bad matchup against Reclamation.
Yes, almost all of those anti-aggro tools are still available, but Sacrifice has always been a deck that relied on synergy far more than it did on sheer power. As such, losing an important synergy piece is huge: Mayhem Devil is not nearly as good without the ability to loop the Cauldron Familiar. Trail of Crumbs loses one of the 2 early game cards that can actually trigger its ability without having to sacrifice a food token the “normal” way by paying 2 mana. Sacrificing your own creatures to Witch’s Oven to blank opposing removal does not even feel that great anymore, as you can’t actually do much with the Food tokens without the Cauldron Familiar. You also don’t have an infinite blocker in the early game anymore. Overall, deck just lost so much early game and synergy by losing the Cauldron Familiar, that might not be apparent at first glance.
To put it more simply: the power level of this deck has been crippled severely, and even though it will still be okay against creature decks, it’s probably just not worth it anymore to go in that direction.
The resulting possibility: Creature strategies are back on the menu! Dust off all your Rotting Regisaurs, Runaway Steam-Kins, and Edgewall Innkeepers. Anything with 1 toughness in general is a lot more playable now, due to the absence of Mayhem Devil, so maybe I should give my Selesnya Ozolith Counters deck another spin!
Now, let’s talk about Teferi: this guy single handedly erased entire strategies like Flash, but also traditional Control decks, that wanted to play some number of counterspells. But his static ability is not all: his -3 ability basically said that all your cards better produce value the turn they enter the battlefield, or they will just get bounced and you will lose a huge amount of tempo. Let’s take Mono Red as an example. An aggro deck loses so much power when their Anax or Runaway Steam-Kin gets bounced on turn 3. If you didn’t have another creature on the battlefield before that, you could most of the time just concede on the spot, as it’s really tough to get back on board after that. Yes, sweepers also reset the whole board, but they don’t leave a piece behind for your opponents to get further value from. Rotting Regisaur, for example, should have been great against Control: 7 power for 3 mana is just so much, but it getting bounced by Teferi was just a complete nightmare. His static and activated abilities might have been fine on their own, but the combination of both on one 3 mana planeswalker, and the fact that he was so versatile and never really that bad in any matchup since he can also bounce your own permanents, really makes me wonder how he even survive being banned for such a long time.
The resulting possibility: The number of playable cards in the format has greatly expanded! Obviously Rotting Regisaur, Runaway Steam-Kin and other creatures (such as Doom Whisperer, Elder Gargaroth, and Terror of the Peaks) that don’t have immediate value or haste get infinitely better, but there’s more! Flash now actually works as intended (did you know that flash means that you could play them on your opponent’s turn? Teferi did not). Control Decks lost Teferi themselves, but they also lost the opponent’s Teferi, which means that they can now play a completely different deck with actual Counterspells. Artifacts and enchantments that need to stay in play in order to have an effect are much better now as well, like Rhythm of the Wild. Auras might be much better now too, since buffed up creatures getting bounced by Teferi was just backbreaking.
There’s one more overarching point: the shadow of Reclamation loomed over and stifled the format to such a degree that every Growth Spiral deck just played Mystical Disputes and Aether Gusts in their main deck, to have a better chance to win the mirrors in game 1. If we assume that aggressive strategies will come back, at least Mystical Dispute will be cut, and probably some number of Aether Gusts too.
Now that we’ve talked about some general theory, let’s talk about some returning decks.
Mono Red / Gruul / Rakdos Aggro
Let’s start with a banger here. Yes, Mono Red is the aggro deck that gained the most, simply because it lost its worst matchup in Sacrifice, but Teferi was also a card that most of the slow decks wanted to play anyway, and was brutal against cards that require some board presence like Runaway Steam-Kin, Anax, Torbran and also removed the strong part of Embercleave. Martin Juza and some other people will disagree with me here, since they believed that Teferi wasn’t even that great against Mono Red, since bouncing a Scorch Spitter or Robber of the Rich isn’t that great, but I think that Mono Red had enough juicy targets that the bouncing effect was still strong, because the version in Standard is actually a creature-based beatdown deck and relies less on burn spells or numerous one drops. Enabling instant speed Shatter the Sky is also pretty obnoxious, and I think Teferi’s departure is a huge boon for aggro decks too. The ban of Growth Spiral means that there are no longer turn 3 Nightpack Ambushers out of Flash decks, and makes turn 3 Shatter The Sky a lot harder to pull off.
Other Embercleave based decks such as Gruul Aggro and Rakdos Knights will also be a strong contender, as equipping it with Questing Beast or Rotting Regisaur is often a game-ending combination. The downside is that we have the Shocklands to rely on as the untapped source of both colors of mana, as Temples or Fabled Passage is not ideal for aggro decks. For this reason, Rakdos or Mardu Knights may get a slight edge as it has Tournament Grounds to help cast Embercleave. Gruul may transition into a more slower midrange deck to utilize some of the new top end cards such as Elder Gargaroth, Terror of the Peaks or Radha, Heart of Keld.
Temur Adventures / Clover
Another banning, and another chance for Temur Clover to get better! This deck was not great for two reasons: Sacrifice decks and Reclamation decks. Well, both are gone! Obviously all of this is speculation to a certain degree, but I would say that Temur Clover is probably tier 1 now. This deck has strong late game because of Lucky Clover, Fae of Wishes and Escape to the Wilds, while also covering the early game with Bonecrusher Giant, Lovestruck Beast, and Brazen Borrower. If you ever experienced the Turn 2 Lucky Clover you know what I am talking about, as this deck can have those really absurd draws.
The deck is mostly rotation-proof and the cards individually are innately strong, since they pack two cards in one, which means that you can safely craft and play this deck to your Heart’s Desire.
Golgari / Gruul / Selesnya / Simic Adventures
The Temur version definitely makes maximum use of the Adventure mechanic the best, but did you know that Edgewall Innkeeper has been paired with every other color, and that each of these combinations have been competitively played? These are all mostly creature-based aggro decks that have a great card advantage engine built-in and the very efficient Lovestruck Beast. These decks are now much more viable with Sacrifice decks possibly leaving Standard for good, probably ordered by strength here.
Teferi is gone, but will that bring Simic Flash back, or even the other variants such as Dimir, Sultai and Izzet? Typically, this type of deck preys on the slower sort that want to slam huge threats, like ramp decks, or even most midrange Decks (we haven’t had that many of them in Standard since the banning of Fires of Invention, because Reclamation decks just overpowered them so easily). It is in general great against decks that operate on sorcery-speed most of the time. It also lost Growth Spiral, which enabled it to get on board much faster (surprise) and the return of aggro is not a great sign, but there is the powerful combo of Rewind and Nightpack Ambusher if you can stall until turn four.
This one is pretty old-school for current Standard, and it might actually be good now. Yes, aggressive strategies are still great against it, but the fact that it lost Sacrifice and Reclamation as bad matchups might just be enough to push it back into contention. The main strength of this deck has been its ability to beat control decks because it generates so much value, similar to Temur Adventures, so let’s see how it goes!
Simic / Sultai Ramp
By the way, this will finally be a ramp deck. The Bant Mid-ramp thingy wasn’t really a ramp deck; it was just a play-the-best-cards strategy, where some of the best cards did ramp. When it comes to ramp, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is not even especially good at that: it’s a broken midrange card that also happens to ramp you. In a dedicated ramp deck, spending 3 mana to get a land onto the battlefield is not what you want to be doing, and it’s mostly just there for late game insurance.
Ever asked yourself the question why Arboreal Grazer is played in Pioneer and Modern ramp decks and not in Standard? That is because the Bant deck was just a value deck primarily and less focused on ramping out mana; it just happened to play broken cards that also ramp. I often referred to Arboreal Grazer as “Arboreal Mulligan” in those Standard Decks, because they really could not afford to play a card that gave you ramp, but not card advantage. And you saw that: the highest CMC in the Bant Deck was Nissa, Who Shakes the World and maybe one copy of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. In the new format’s Standard environment, ramp decks may consist of cards like Arboreal Grazer, Cultivate and Migration Path – much fairer cards with more downsides and clear weaknesses to aggro decks. Let’s see if ramping into Cavalier of Thorns and Finale of Devastation into End-Raze Forerunners is good enough anymore.
Azorius / Esper / Jeskai Control
This is my most speculative take. I am actually not sure whether getting to play counterspells makes up for losing Teferi. A well tuned control list that tackles the format always has the potential to be a very strong contender, and saying that a deck is good or bad when I don’t know the new format yet is pretty tough. It does have potential though, and all you classic control players should certainly be excited.
There is also the possibility of going back to a tap-out control deck regardless, making use of cards like Doom Foretold, Oath of Kaya, and Elspeth Conquers Death. These cards work great with Yorion, Sky Nomad as we have seen previously with Orzhov Yorion, and we could even see cards like Dance of the Manse being played in this kind of strategy again.
Jeskai Planeswalkers and control may also be a possibility, even without Teferi as we still have two different Narsets, a new Teferi and Sarkhan to turn them all into dragons.
The budget deck of the format. Sacrifice ate this deck for breakfast, and all the Reclamation decks just packed in tons of counterspells and Aether Gust for the mirrors, which also happened to be great against Zenith Flare. This deck is very beatable if you try, but if it flies under the radar (it already is – a lot of people have already forgotten that this deck ever existed), it could be very strong. I will take a look at this for sure, as it also survives Standard rotation.
Mono Green Stompy
A lot of people would argue that Mono Green lost its best matchup in Temur Reclamation, but I always thought that this was an overstatement to begin with. Mono Green was never great against Reclamation per se – it just got good results because Reclamation was not prepared for it. Once it was on their radar, Reclamation was able to adapt and overwhelm thanks to their great and flexible sideboard, and just packed in some Elder Gargaroth, maindeck Aether Gust, Brazen Borrower, Storm’s Wrath… The list goes on. So no, I do not think that Mono Green lost its best matchup.
I do however think that it lost its worst matchup in Sacrifice. Honestly, Mono Green just stomps on its rival Mono Red, has a great curve, strong efficient cards, and overall I could see it being one of the best decks, especially since fewer Aether Gusts are likely to be played maindeck now. This could be a great time for the green mage to shine even more!
Mono Black / Mono White Aggro
I will stick both of these together because they actually lost the matchup that they were trying to beat – Temur Reclamation. When you played against other decks with those two decks, you always felt like you lacked the sheer power level and were just not strong enough. They are still consistent, have no mana troubles, and may still have enough tools to fight against the other decks of the format, but I think I’d rather pass on these two until we discover a secret list that smashes everyone.
Winoter is banned in Historic but still Standard legal – let that sink in! While we do not have the same kind of mana acceleration and payoff cards anymore, anything can happen in the next year before she rotates out of Standard. Most recently, Mardu Winota has put in a great top 8 result at the Players Tour Finals and the deck remains wholly intact. We also have the early Alpine Houndmaster aggro decks (“Pawblade”) that briefly sparked the early Core Set 2021 metagame, and fell out of the meta due to it being a hostile environment for creature-based decks.
Izzet Phoenix / Spells
This one is a completely old school deck! Reclamation was a horrible matchup and the mana base did not help it either. Sprite Dragon and perhaps Rielle, the Everwise were strong recent additions, but it was so bad if they got bounced by Teferi after you made them huge, and Crackling Drake was poor in that regard as well. Teferi also countered Finale of Promise, and the deck in general was not great against Aether Gust and Mystical Dispute maindeck. Niv-Mizzet, Parun is also a top end control card people are trying already in similar archetypes. This is another very speculative pick, but also a popular archetype that people always try and make work in a new metagame. It might honestly not be able to match up with the power level of the other decks, but I am excited to try out.
I’m pretty excited about the bannings, and I hope you are too and are ready to get back into Magic if the recent Standard environment has put you off playing! Of course, this article is mired in speculation, but that will always be the case in a new format.
If you liked this article, felt like I missed some important decks, and/or have other questions, please let me know in the comments below. If you want to help me solve the new format, you can catch me at twitch.tv/sorquixe or twitter.com/sorquixe.
Have a great week, all you mighty Gandalfs, and may you enjoy your Standard format without quite as many old broken faces!