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Insider: Standard – The “Other” Format

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Modern, Modern, Modern. Fish, Faeries and Fulminator Mage. Snapcaster, Scapeshift and Storm.

It’s all we’re hearing these days. And with good reason. The format was put on display at the Pro Tour and again at the largest constructed GP ever hosted. Cards are steadily rising, cards are spiking and not a single card is tanking. So we’ve paid the most attention to the exciting format, and to be honest I don’t really expect that to change any time soon.

But what about Standard?

I get that it’s as unpopular as it ever gets. Mono-Black seems to be dominating and there’s no innovation. But even a stale Standard format at the valley of its popularity is still the most popular format Wizards offers.

So let’s try to pay it some mind, if only for today. After all, it’s especially important for me, since I’ll be doing official text coverage for WOTC at Grand Prix: Cincinnati next week. I’m pretty excited about the opportunity and will be making the most of it. And, of course, if anyone reading this is there, feel free to stop and say hi!

Anyway, let’s get back to looking at Standard.

The Witch Is Dead?

Okay, so maybe Mono-Black won the last Standard SCG Open, which is all the results we have to go on at this point. There haven’t been any GP-level Standard events for a while, though Melbourne from right after the release does give us some info.
[img n='Pack Rat'][img n='Nightveil Specter']
Basically, Mono-Black isn’t the only deck anymore. It’s interesting, because after Born of the Gods dropped people were lamenting a lack of change to Standard. But the truth is, despite Mono-Black getting even better, the field has opened up a little.

Basically, a small number of decks define the meta right now:

  • Mono-Black
  • Mono-Blue
  • Control (Esper or U/W)
  • R/G Monsters
  • B/W Midrange

The White Weenie aggro decks seem to have fallen to the wayside, leaving us with the five decks above. Of those, all are known qualities, so it’s hard to find financially-relevant pickups there.

Theros Cards

In general, I just hate having these. The set has been opened a ton, and will continue to be for a time to come. That creates so much downward pressure on the cards that, while I want Stormbreaths and Caryatids and Polukranos’s in my binders, I don’t think there’s a ton of upside even though they move well.

So if we want to find any opportunities, we’ve got to go back farther.

Domri Rade

Notice how this has continued to trend up over the last month. I’m going to make a bold prediction here: Domri is the next Liliana.

What I mean is that Domri will stay high after rotation, and probably hit $40 before then. It’s something I really want to have in my binder moving forward, because a deck like R/G or Jund Monsters has more room for upgrades than something like Mono-Black, which is already about as streamlined as possible.
[img n='Domri Rade'][img n='Liliana of the Veil']

Will Domri fall before rising again? Sure. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to have an eye on this card in the meantime.

Mutavault

On the other side, one card I do see dropping hard is Mutavault. Yes, like Domri, Mutavault is heavily played in Modern. But it has so much farther to fall, because of both its rarity and number of printings.

A good way to look at a card like this is to say “What could happen to make it increase in price?” If the answer is “nothing, because it’s already a four-of in everything Tier 1,” well then we’ve found a card at its ceiling. I didn’t think this would hit $40, but I’m even more confident it’s not going to $50. The play is to out these now at max value.
[img n='Mutavault'][img n='Desecration Demon']

Desecration Demon

Here’s one that’s trending down, mostly because a lot of the Mono-Black lists are moving to B/W Midrange in order to play Brimaz. That means some amount of cuts, and some of those cuts are coming to Demon. I don’t think it’s going to hit its old $2-rare status soon, but it’s likely not going back up to $10 either. And every day we march closer to rotation.

Mizzium Mortars

There’s been some fluctuation in its price, but the rise of G/R again seems to be pushing Mortars back up. We could see this move from $3 to $6 in the next month as people start looking at Standard again after the Modern fever passes.
[img n='Mizzium Mortars'][img n='Blood Baron of Vizkopa']

Blood Baron of Vizkopa

The fact that this hasn’t moved at all is surprising. Here we have a Dragon’s Maze mythic that has began popping up everywhere in Standard. It’s available for $15 now, but there’s not way it doesn’t at least hit $20 very soon, and $30 is certainly possible if it stays as relevant as it’s been recently. Remember, somehow this thing isn’t legendary, so you don’t even have to worry about drawing multiples.

Angel of Serenity

While this has begun to see a little more Standard play, I mention it because I’ve seen it for as low as $2-3 recently. That seems insane for an out-of-print mythic angel. It has flatlined at that price, showing us as low as it can go, so the play on it is soon and the long-term upside is huge.
[img n='Angel of Serenity'][img n='Witchstalker']

Witchstalker

One of the only true “breakout” decks recently has been Naya Hexproof, and Witchstalker seems like the prime target here if you’re a believer in the deck. It’s been holding steady at $3, and this represents an easy double-up if this deck breaks into the meta in any real way.

It’s also a deck that gets better every set in a way that doesn’t necessarily care how much better the opponent’s deck gets. After all, Witchstalker doesn’t care about Mono-Black’s upgrade in Bile Blight, but it does care about its own upgrades. This is something that is realistically probably one piece away from really taking off, so even if it goes nowhere in the next month don’t forget that come Journey into Nyx.

Standard concerns

Well, trying to re-familiarize myself with Standard really does lead to the impression that it’s kind of a rock-paper-scissors format that isn’t ripe for innovation. That said, we seem to be a little better off than we were two months ago.

What do you think? Is Standard as bad as they say it is, or do we have a somewhat-stale format that nonetheless rewards innovation?

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

10 thoughts on “Insider: Standard – The “Other” Format

  1. I agree with almost all of what you said with the exception of Domri just because I’m not sure what would buoy his price up to anything near Liliana. I believe hes only played in one fringe modern deck and can’t fight Liliana for the 3 drop slot if the decision comes down to it. Otherwise I think you are spot on with the Blood Baron of Vizkopa, because as you said “Somehow this isn’t legendary”, and could really be in a breakout deck. It shares the same set as Voice of Resurgence which has proven to be a factor in and of itself because most of the set is just bad. You’re article makes me want to give standard another try but all I can seem to want to play is Mono Red Devotion lol. As always great article!

    1. Thanks! What I mean with Domri-Lily is that they’ll follow the same trajectory, even if the numbers are far apart. But if you were to graph them and remove the numbers I believe the trend lines will be similar.

      1. I think that is totally plausible, after all there is the planeswalker factor that players just love to use. Something repeatable with a powerful effect that only gets better could see growth that trend similarly with the numbers removed. How do you feel about his ceiling? The ceiling on Liliana could be pretty high, I’m thinking this guy will have a similar ceiling as Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. Sees Modern and Legacy play and is sitting between $15-20 right now.

  2. I agree with Matt on Domri, he doesn’t see Legacy play and the only Modern decks he’s in are the occasional Kiki-Pod and Jund Obliterator builds, plus you need to kind of warp your deck around him to really make him shine.

  3. I don’t see Domri becoming anything close to Liliana.

    I believe you should sell everything in RTR block right now (except for things like Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay).

    1. Maybe I’m overly-bullish on Domri. But I do see it as a card that has solid Modern appeal, gets better with every creature printed, and costs three mana. Will be interesting to see this one going forward.

      1. On the contrary, I think your assessment on Domri is correct. It has been keeping up in price more or less since its release (I bought some at 12$ a few months ago). I confess I do not know the amount of play it sees in standard, but the fact it is playable in Modern will help maintain and grow.

  4. As big a fan of Blood Baron as I am, it looked like it went to $20 momentarily but has since come back down to the $15 you mention, and that was after Monoblack Devotion reached what I think was peak saturation but in all likelihood can see even more play. I like Obzedat probably even more, but with G/R Monsters and the like, it really is still almost too slow. Like so many amazing four through six drops, like Master Biomancer and Prime Speaker Zegana, that have so much on-card power, in this new age of Arbor Colossus and even Reaper of the Wilds not being good enough, Blood Baron of Vizkopa should be better than Stormbreath Dragon, but is only about as good. Baron is still just as slow in Modern if not impossible to play currently, so his only hope is EDH, which if what you see for Domri in Modern is true could already be setting the current price, and Standard. The “Voice of Resurgence effect” is probably the other half of what is setting the price, and what I think is the biggest real hope for both Voice and Baron. Standard is not likely to slow down enough before the next block to make Baron worth it, and people worry about Standard rotation earlier every year and so only if Baron is vital to compete in the format would people want it. Otherwise it’s just another Vampire and so I don’t think the Standard applications are going to be all that relevant, even for Domri from where he already is, so those are just my thoughts. What I want to know is what you think about Boros Reckoner, if it’s at all possible for that one to be different. Thanks Corbin

  5. Domri is already trending down and see literally 0 play outside standard. This is the time to SELL domri. No way this hits any higher then it is period.

    1. Also saying you “don’t want theros cards” jut because they will be opened forever is like saying you didn’t want RTR cards when they were at an all time low like theros is now which is of course just wrong. Theros may drop some more (not by much) but the set is good and I’m filling my boxes with these cards for rotation.

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