Up and Down Standard

Posted in Top Decks on January 27, 2017

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

With the release of Aether Revolt and the changes to the banned list, there are bound to be winners and losers among the cards already in the format. Today we are going to take a look at which cards gained, which lost, and why. Figuring out which cards have gotten better and which have gotten worse helps point us in the right direction when figuring out the new format, and there have been plenty of shifts. Let's get to it!


Aetherworks Marvel took perhaps the biggest hit. Losing Emrakul, the Promised End as a monster to flip makes the Marvel deck much weaker, as Emrakul also happened to be very castable. The strength of the Red-Green Marvel deck lay in its ability to both spin the wheel and hit a giant Eldrazi and just straight-up cast Emrakul if that failed. Once you replace Emrakul with Kozilek, the Great Distortion or something along those lines, the deck loses a ton of potency. Aetherworks Marvel is still a card worth building around, but it has lost ground, and the deck likely needs to be rebuilt.

The bans hit Spell Queller hard as well. Losing its partner in crime, Reflector Mage, makes the tempo game of the White-Blue Flash deck quite a bit less powerful. Without the double threat of being able to bounce every creature that doesn't get countered, Flash as it stands needs to drastically increase the amount of interaction. Losing Smuggler's Copter at the same time may prove to be fatal, and even though Spell Queller will assuredly find some sort of home, it will be in a very different shell.

One of Smuggler's Copter's best friends was Scrapheap Scrounger, and without such a spiffy Vehicle to fly, the scrapheap is emptier than it used to be. You can still scrounge up aggro decks that use this, but losing the best threat and a card that combined well with Scrapheap Scrounger is a blow.

Ishkanah is still undoubtedly a powerful card, but the loss of Emrakul means that black-green decks are going to refocus more on the aggressive side of things. I'd expect to see more aggressive creatures and fewer Spiders. (Although Spiders are aggressively scary, they are defensive in Magic.)

Gideon is an interesting spot, and I actually have him on both lists here. The reason Gideon has lost ground is that Smuggler's Copter was one of the best aggressive cards to pair with Gideon. Without Copter, white-based aggro decks have taken a hit, and Gideon was a big part of those decks. Additionally, Reflector Mage was often paired with Gideon, and that friendship has been lost as well.


The departure of Emrakul, the Promised End opens the door for Torrential Gearhulk to make a splash. Blue-based control decks had such a hard time with Emrakul, and now that Emrakul is gone, they have gotten a huge boost. Additionally, the printing of Disallow means that blue decks can stop the giant Eldrazi triggers that still exist, like the one from Ulamog, while still having flexibility against the rest of the field. Look for Torrential Gearhulk to come back in a big way.

The printing of Felidar Guardian has turned Saheeli from a niche planeswalker to an in-demand combo piece. Add these two cards together and you get infinite 1/4s, all at the cost of seven total mana (six if you can use the first Guardian trigger on a land). That combo is powerful enough to create multiple new decks, and I am anticipating a lot of Saheelis at the Pro Tour.

I will fully admit that I have a soft spot for Metalwork Colossus, but I'm still going to include it on the list. This is another deck that gained with the departure of Emrakul, as the Colossus deck was good against midrange but suffered against the high end of the Aetherworks Marvel decks.

Smuggler's Copter was the main reason Nissa didn't see play, and now it's time to hear her voice once again. The classic Green-White Tokens deck from last Standard still has a lot of pieces left, and Nissa, Gideon, Archangel Avacyn, and Walking Ballista all combine very nicely.

With more planeswalkers and fewer Vehicles roaming the format, I'm much more interested in going down this path. Being able to kill almost anything for three mana is a valuable addition to any midrange or control deck. Plus, between Fatal Push and Ruinous Path, black is well set up to deal with anything the format has to offer.

As promised, Gideon makes an appearance on both lists. Overall, I do think he lost a little more ground than he gained, but it is worth noting that Smuggler's Copter did attack Gideon effectively. Plus, the power-up potential with Nissa and Oath of Ajani makes Gideon appear in new decks—and that is a plus.

Mindwrack Demon is emblematic of a whole class of cards that gained value: creatures that interacted poorly against Reflector Mage. No longer are you going to pay four mana and just get your Demon bounced to no avail, as Reflector Mage has exited the format. That's a big shift, and I encourage you to look at creatures like Mindwrack in a new light.

This was a heavy hitter when Collected Company and Rally the Ancestors were around, but it faded for a time. Now with revolt in the format, Catacomb Sifter has gained a good amount of value. You can sacrifice the Scion to power up your Fatal Push with ease, making an already-strong card good enough to see play again.

Hopefully these lists give you some good starting points on which cards are going up in playability and which might dip, as there are a lot of shifts happening. Between the release of a new set and the releasing of three cards from the format, Standard is in for a wild ride.


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