Is Standard Mar-Doomed?
Last week, WotC ended up banning Felidar Guardian. It was a bit of a PR disaster but at least WotC finally came to the right decision. And with the banning, we got a revitalized Standard format. New Amonkhet cards plus reexamining old archetypes that were pushed out by Copycat combo created a lot of work to be done. This weekend, the Star City Games Atlanta Open started revealing the new look of the format. Andrew Jessup won the event by defeating Ryan McDonough in the Mardu Vehicles mirror in the Finals and the deck was the most popular deck on Day 2.
Jessup’s build looked more like the Ballista versions that were popular at the end of last season. Even without Copycat in the format, Walking Ballista is still very powerful and has incredible synergy with Archangel Avacyn. Cut // Ribbons appears in small numbers in this deck but I think it is a gamechanger for the deck. The front half is a passable removal spell and the backside adds a lot of reach. The Mardu deck hasn’t had a ton of reach outside of Unlicensed Disintegration previously.This extra burn is especially powerful in a deck with threats that are hard to remove and hit hard. Scrapheap Scrounger, Heart of Kiran and Gideon are all hard to interact with through combat and can be hard to remove profitably due to timing restrictions or possible recursion. Often opponents have to take the first few hits from the aggressive 2 drops, which leaves them more and more vulnerable to the drain from Ribbons. The presence of Ribbons is a game changer and could make any matchup where both halves of Cut// Ribbons are live a cakewalk.
Jessup’s list is looking to go large postboard with a bevy of planeswalkers. Jessup even packs 25 lands to make this postboard transition more consistent. His extra lands are two Canyon Slough, which add colored sources to the deck and can cycle to help fight getting flooded. The plan of additional planeswalkers after sideboarding was common in last season’s iteration of Vehicles and still seems great in the new format. This list has very solid plans pre- and post-board. Combine that with being played by one of the best player in the room and that is a winning recipe.
Ryan Mcdonough’s second place looks more like the old school versions of Mardu. Veteran Motorist was a hallmark of the strategy early in last season but it has conventionally been replaced with Walking Ballista. Motorist is great at helping Heart of Kiran win the battle in the air against fellow Hearts and Avacyns. Despite helping win the sizing war, Motorist is so horrible against Ballista that I wouldn’t play it. I would stick to Walking Ballista. Cultivator’s Caravan takes the place of some of the extra lands Jessup was playing. Having Caravan as an accelerant with the addition of Glorybringer instead of Archangel Avacyn is a powerful reason to lean towards this build. Glorybringer is the ideal threat to get out a turn early and makes it hard for the opponent to stick a turn 4 Gideon. If the Mardu mirrors devolve into midrange Planeswalker battles postboard, Glorybringer could shine in the deck as a ‘Walker slayer. The sideboarded Fumigates and more removal reveal that he is trying to go bigger postboard. His sideboard planeswalkers will generally live though a Glorybringer attack. And despite their sorcery speed, both Chandra and Nahiri serve as reasonable answers to the giant Dragon. Chandra and Nahiri are some of the few planeswalkers that may succeed in the shadow of Glorybringer pushing some the planeswalkers out of the format.
- Walking Ballista is still King
- The “Go Big” plan for Mardu is alive and well
- Chandra and Nahiri retrump over Glorybringer
- Avacyn takes Glorybringer’s lunch
- Cut// Ribbons is great and should be in more lists
I know everyone was excited for a new format and this isn’t exactly exciting. I know that last format, the only two decks were 4 Color Saheeli and Mardu Vehicles. And with the banning of 4 Color Saheeli,I know that leaves Mardu vehicles as the only deck that appears playable. But I don’t think that is true. Week one is an indicator for the direction of the format but usually looks nothing like the post Pro Tour format. This week one is especially odd because of the late ban. Players found out Thursday that Copycat was banned and had to scramble to find a new deck. The best players in the room were incentivized to find the best known-quantity and try to grind out their skill against lesser players. That is what happened here. The deck’s flexibility is impressive and will reward week to week tuning but I don’t think the deck is Caw Blade by any stretch. Mardu is our first big player in the format and will be popular at the PT; it may not always be top dog but Mardu Vehicles is going to end up being a part of the format for its lifespan. Don’t stop looking for the next best thing though, I think Amonkhet Standard has more to offer.
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