What does it take?

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

It started in Dallas over a month ago.

There were talks before that but nothing serious.

It was not until the entire top eight had four copies of Jace the Mind Sculptor in their main deck that the talks became serious.

We all knew nothing would happen then because New Phyrexia was yet to be released, in printed form at least. But now, the release has come and gone, players have adopted some new cards into their decks, and a new deck or two have made tournament appearances.

So, what’s changed then?

Not much.

Nothing has changed other than one of the top two decks, RUG, has become obsolete. Now, Caw-Blade’s strangle hold is even more pressing, and it is closing its grip on the format. This past weekend in at the Star City Games tournament in Kentucky was really when it hit me.

SCG Louisville
7 out of the top 8
12 out of the top 16

I did some quick research for larger tournaments since New Phyrexia has been released to find the following.

SCG Orlando
4 out of the top 8
8 out of the top 16

SCGIQ Lansing
5 out of the top 8

SCGIQ Chester
4 out of the top 8

SCGIQ Wilmington
3 out of the top 8

TCG Big Apple
6 out of the top 8
12 out of the top 16

Statistics can be misleading so let’s talk about them for a moment. The first major tournament after New Phyrexia’s release was in Orlando. Many new players would be playing new decks with the new cards. Still, there were four Caw-Blade decks in the top eight. The following weekend at Star City’s smaller events, the Invitational Qualifiers at local shops (SCGIQ), on average half of the top eight spots went to Caw-Blade. The thing to keep in mind about those statistics is that the majority of the local players do not have access to all the high end cards like Jace. I play at three different shops around my area and less than 25% of players at the three shops combined have access to the best card in Standard. Looking at the other large tournament from this past weekend, the TCG Player tournament in New York, basically the same result happened as did a couple states away in Kentucky. What we keep seeing is top eight after top eight, completely dominated by Caw-Blade. Sure sometimes we have new versions of Caw-Blade trying to play black, green, or red mana in addition to the standard blue and white, but they are all basically the same deck. Even the Caw-Blade with Deceiver Exarch is still just Caw-Blade with some different creatures.

So what is the point of all this? The point is, do we really want to be dealing with this weekend after weekend for four more months? Can the Magic player base handle this stale, degenerate format for the PTQ season we are about to enter? If nothing is done will GP Pittsburgh get the attendance Wizards is looking for?

The answer is no. I, as well as many players I know, have skipped many events recently because the format is horrible and no fun to play. You know that the format is broken when older formats start using the same cards. Stoneforge Mystic, Jace the Mind Sculptor, and all the equipment in Standard right now are a big part of the Extended and Legacy metagames. Why is that? Why is it not? They are so powerful, how could they not get played in multiple formats.

What then can we do?

We can hope and pray that Wizards, in their upcoming banned restricted announcement the first week of June, includes some cards that are banned in Standard. If not, we have a depressing four months of Standard to look forward to.

The only other time we can compare this current metagame to is when Affinity was this dominant. I am not going to go into detail to defend that point, but I truly believe it to be that bad. We have not seen dominance on this scale since Ravager Affinity. The difference is that Affinity was not terribly expensive to build. If Jace the Mind Sculptor were a thirty dollar card, we would see numbers like fifty to seventy five percent of the metagame playing Caw-Blade.

I want to move on because rather than just talk about the problem, talking about the solution seems more helpful.

What would happen if there was a banning in Standard? Well, some players would be upset, but the majority would rejoice. I assume when I mention banning something in Standard the first thing everyone thinks is Jace the Mind Sculptor. Do I think Jace being banned would help, yes certainly yes, but I do not think that would solve the problem.

Recently my friends and I have been talking about the possible bannings and the repercussions they would have. When we discussed the possible ban of Jace, I brought up Consecrated Sphinx. The Sphinx, by the way, is steadily increasing in value, up to five dollars on most sites, so if you don’t have any you may want to consider getting a hold of them. My statement was that if Jace were banned, it would not solve the problem because Caw-Blade would just add three Consecrated Sphinx to their deck and it would be about the same power level as before. The Sphinx already appears in decklists and side boards as a way to break the mirror so that line of thought seems logical to me.

Well, if banning Jace would not solve the problem, then what? I think we don’t just need to ban one card, more is required to make the format fun again. Stoneforge Mystic. To put this creature in perspective, let me share a quote some of you might not have seen.

Stoneforge Mystic – THE BEST CREATURE EVER PRINTED! That's right, I said it. She is better than Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, or any of the one-drop Goblins (Goblin Lackey, Goblin Welder, Goblin Guide). Even Hermit Druid and Protean Hulk have their merits, but since I'm the one making the claim, I can likewise decide the criteria for judging. Here are my criteria: Fits into all formats, defines at least one format, fits into an array of decks in multiple formats, and top 8'd a Pro Tour in two different archetypes in its debut weekend of tournament eligibility.

-Craig Wescoe

Craig’s article can be found here for those interested. I have a lot of respect for him and the article was refreshing as well.

Even if you don’t agree with him about it being the best creature ever, you must admit that it is up for consideration. Just the fact that a mainstay pro believes it and that if you had the conversation you would have to at least discuss the topic says a lot to me. If Stoneforge Mystic is one of the best creatures ever printed, it being too powerful for Standard seems completely logical to me.

Alright so think about a Standard format where there is no Stoneforge Mystic or Jace the Mind Sculptor. Hard isn’t it? It took me a minute to just start thinking of strategies that don’t include those cards. Vampires is an obvious one for me because it is a deck that I have played a lot this season. Elves, another tribal deck, shows up on and off. And then there’s Valakut. With no Jace and Stoneforge to keep Valakut in check wouldn’t it just dominate the format? Wouldn’t Eldrazi Green pop up to try to fight Valakut in the pseudo mirror? When my friend made his points about Valakut, my response was that Mono Red would just start showing up to destroy Valakut. If that is the case though, we would be in the same place as we are right now. Valakut would be the deck taking six out of every top eight spots, followed by Mono Red that was fighting it. Why is that? The reason is that Primeval Titan is broken also. In other formats, he would be the card to beat because Primeval Titan in a format with Valakut the Molten Pinacle is a one card combo. Play Primeval Titan and win the game.

These three cards are so high in power level that other strategies are made completely obsolete by their existence in Standard. There are plenty of tournament quality cards in the format right now but they are just outclassed by the three kings of the format.

With all that being said, we can only hope that when the Banned Restriced Announcement is posted it reads…..

The following cards are banned in Standard

Stoneforge Mystic
Jace the Mind Sculptor
Primeval Titan

Can you feel the anticipation building? Just the thought of playing Standard with out these cards has me excited and ready to start building decks again. There would be interesting articles to read about again with new innovative decks. Players would be excited to go to FNM again because they might have a chance of winning with the new deck they built. Even the Event Decks would be somewhat reasonable again.

Enjoy thinking about this theoretical environment that would be interesting, fun and diverse. Enjoy it while you can because I fear it will never become a reality. I hope someone at Wizards listens and makes Standard exciting to play again. I hope that something is done about these cards that are warping the format so drastically. Unfortunately, the most likely response will be that M12 is coming out soon and maybe that will help. Maybe. It is possible. Those are the types of words that never seem to pan out and actually help anything. If not, better save up to buy some Jaces because that is the only way you can compete right now.

Dear Wizards, please make Standard fun again!

So, until next time…

Unleash the Force on Wizards. Let them know how unhappy we are.

If you agree or disagree, I would love to hear what other players think about this topic in the forums or through my usual contact methods.

Mike Lanigan

MtgJedi on Twitter

14 thoughts on “What does it take?

  1. Interesting. I have said for a VERY long time Mythics, in general, hurt the game overall. People say I'm gonna build… then insert a couple Mythics and start from there. These cards do build the decks themselves essentially. I don't care about them being banned personally (outside of value I would lose) but I do have issue with them in a similar situation. Not all Mythics are created equal but typically they will continue to dominate the format. Imagine these cards banned… now we see 4 Gideon, or a different Titan taking their places. Nothing changes with overpowered Mythics.

  2. Mystic won't get the axe, they just released those new event decks with TWO of them in there. Regardless, JTMS is a possibility, but even then, like you said, Caw would get 3 Consecrated Sphinxes and keep going.

  3. Primeval is fine, there are plenty of counters for valakut, the if JTMS is banned valakut is op argument is short sighted and flawed. There's this card called spreading seas, it did a good job keeping it on a short leash during worlds. Blue decks didn't even need it to beat valakut pre-nph. Then of course tectonic edge and leyline of sanctity do a good job slowing it down several turns.

    WotC will never ban a card in standard ever again. We saw this diluted confidence last year when most of R&D was very proud that the only card that needed to be banned in extended was top and it was out the door.

    It's sickening that they believe they are beyond human error now. Most of the imbalances we see are from multiple designer's creations blending almost flawlessly to create a power creep that is near combo winter/black summer.

    We have Jace, which is essentially Jitte, in the sense you either play it to win, or you play it to counter itself. You have Stoneforge, where you are right, can go toe to toe with tarmogoyf, a card WotC has apologized for. And then you have equipment that outclasses all but 3 of their predecessors.

    I'm glad that all these new cards are keeping legacy fresh and alive, but it's killing standard, people don't show up to tournaments, it's starting to feel a lot like Mirrodin again, cept I'm on the other end of the spectrum and play the big bad, but I'm just as unhappy.

    1. @MtgVeteran: "WotC will never ban a card in standard ever again." I fear this is correct though that thought scares me quite a bit. My point on Primeval Titan was that if he was still in the format, the format would still be boring and stale because the format would revolve around either playing that card or beating that card, just like it is now. Yes there are plenty of ways to beat it usually, but no format should consist of play this card or build to beat it.

      @2moreCents: The economy being low is part of why Jace needs to be banned. If you remove him from the metagame, suddenly there are plenty of decks that affordable to build again. He is the sole reason in my opinion that Standard is so expensive. No other card even comes close.

      Thanks for all the comments, spread the word.

  4. I think that a significant portion of the low attendance problem that everyone is talking about is just money — the economy is ridiculously tight right now, and people simply don't have disposable income to attend an event every weekend, or even every month. There is always a dominant deck, and people always complain about it. If Wizards would stop releasing so many new products constantly, I think they'd actually see an uptick in event attendance. With a limited budget and a new product coming out basically once a month, they're forcing a lot of players to choose between being competitive in tournaments and being casual players / collectors / vorthoi.

  5. Since when has a deck dominating Standard become the reason to ban a card? WotC didn't ban out Jund or Faeries, why would they ban out Cawblade?

    Since when has Standard been a bastion of deck creativity and ingenuity? As I recall, the big anti-Jund movement involved dropping Black for White, and called it a new deck.

    Banning cards in Standard is ludicrous for two reasons: First, Standard will always have a top dog. And while the results are occasionally extreme, it always works that way. A smaller card pool and rotation means that top 8's will always feature at most 4 decks in them.

    Second, cards naturally ban themselves from Standard. Why ban three of the most expensive cards in Standard and drive away all the players who lost hundreds of dollars from one ban announcement in order to have the environment be just as stale as it ever was? If you ban those three cards, what then? Do you ban Goblin Guide to stop the inevitable rise of aggro again? Or Splinter Twin, when it starts dominating Standard?

    I own 1 Jace, having sold my others to make money on them while I could, 4 Stoneforges, bought long ago because it's not like it took a brain surgeon to realize how good that was going to be by the end of the block, and I have access to 4 Primeval Titans, which I'll pretty much never play because Valakut is the most boring deck ever. I'm not defending Cawblade because I play the deck and steal packs from FNM kids playing Kuldotha Red.

    I'm just saying that if your choice is to spend your money playing Standard, then you should make an informed choice. Standard always has been and always will be like this. Banning cards in it makes no difference. It just changes the names attached to the decks in GP top 8's.

    The only exception to that comes at the start of a block. If you have to deal with the card for 9 months or more, then the argument to ban something is more appropriate. The new sets can't handle the power of the earlier card, sales flag, and the environment is stale for a long time. Cawblade hasn't dominated for nearly the length of time as Jund, and it will probably only equal Valakut.

    Also, it's disingenuous to blast WotC as though they're Scrooge McDuck sitting on their pile of money and laughing while their players writhe in agony as though they're slavemasters, bending us to their will. Of course they care what happens to the environment, and of course they want to do what's best for the game. If they don't, you quit playing, and they don't make any more money.

    The difference is that they have other factors to consider than what beat them at a tournament last weekend. The players don't. Innistrad will bring back the players lost because of Jace's power level. Innistrad will not bring back the players who took a bath from the banning of Jace.

    I'm going to get a jump on the bandwagon and start my cries for "ban (monoblack control card of the moment)" and "ban Tempered Steel" now.

    1. "Since when has a deck dominating Standard become the reason to ban a card?"
      Since 1999
      MoM, half the deck was banned, Dream Halls, Mind over Matter, Time Spiral, Tolarian Academy, and Windfall.
      Broken Jar, banned memory jar.
      Survival/Recur, Recurring Nightmare banned.
      Fluctuator, itself
      And then again in 2005
      Ravanger affinity, artifact lands and disciple banned.

      All had a fraction of caw blade's results and tournament play before banning.

      WotC wont ban cards because they refuse to admit imbalances now. Bitterblossom was a card that was often brought up by R&D, they were really shaky about making it produce faerie rogues and not just rogues. It never was officially "under watch", but they repeatedly stated that they took it's tournament results seriously. Great sable stag was introduced as a band-aid fix, a card that forced players to answer one particular card with another, a silver bullet if you will. If you ever had a chance to play the original star wars tcg you would see several of these per set as Decipher felt it was better to force players to play rock paper scissors with select power cards making a large number of the pool next to useless. We see this again with obstinate baloth answering blightning, although Jund was essentially put into it's place once eldrazi constription entered the fray. NPH contains no card that out classes caw blade, perhaps M12 will bring another green card that does something to make Jace less appealing?

      I hate how the whole "mythics are bad" and "price of standard" derails the ban Jace argument, card demand does bring attention but can't properly demonstrate game mechanics. I own 4 of just about everything, I go to FNM's and beat small children and casuals and walk away with product, it compensates for my time having to endure mouth breathers while I defend my rating. I paid a lot of money for my cards, and I don't believe the "not fair for those that spent money" brew ha ha has any bearing. The secondary market doesn't dictate WotC's ability to ban cards. WotC doesn't set prices, the market does.

      It's of the up most importance that we not only blast, but nuke WotC, their PR these past several months have been next to non existent outside of pre-release notes.

      MBC of the moment? MBC hasn't been a real deck since torment. Tempered steel decks are flimsy without tempered steel resolving, any deck that resolves at least one enchantment removal, counter, or doj essentially shuts it down, every U/W deck from the past 11 years run all 3 of those things.

  6. I don't see the point of banning cards because they are dominant. No matter what gets banned something else will pop up and be just as dominant causing even more outcries. As a player I would be pretty upset if the 3 cards you mentioned were banned. Myself and 2 other friends decided to invest into competitive magic about 8 months ago and in that time period we have bought 8 JTMS (About $90 each), 12 Primeval Titan (about $40 each), 12 Stoneforge Mystic (about $13 each). Those are the averages we spent and you're telling me that we should be ok with losing $1300+ just because not everyone can afford these cards? Are you going to want to do the same thing with Tezerret and Koth next spring?

    Magic is a competitive hobby and if you want to compete at a high level you need to find a way to do it. Complaining about these cards would be like me joining a basketball league and then complaining because I'm in flip-flops but everyone else has tennis shoes so they run faster and jump higher. Or trying to get pebble beach closed because I can't afford to play there. It is just a ridiculous argument.

    If you want a more varied standard format then WOTC needs to print better manabases (even though they are pretty good right now) to allow 3 and 4 color decks to compete without the need for lotus cobra. Banning cards won't solve anything.

Join the conversation

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.

Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.