Monday, January 16, 2017

Playing Standard and banned cards

On 9th of January there was an emergency ban of 5 cards - Emrakul, the Promised End, Reflector Mage, Smuggler's Copter in Standard and Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll in Modern. Luckily for me the announcement was made at 8pm my time. Even though I expected Emrakul, the Promised End to be banned for some reason I did not sell them prior the announcement. So when it was announced it took me about 20 minutes to get rid of the banned cards and Ishkanahs that I expected to drop in price too. But those 20 minutes were worth it. In two hours Emrakul was down to 7tix, Copter went to 0.7tix and Ishkanah went down to 7.

I was wondering what to do with all that tix I got from the cards I sold. I just earned some tix actually and still would be able to rebuy the cards later. I wanted to buy Cavern of Souls for my White Eldrazi deck since I still was missing two. But since I got more tix than that I decided to buy some Standard for the remaining tix. I remembered Joshua Claytor's article - - Using budget to get most out three pillars of Kaladesh Standard - and decided to buy some Temur Energy cards, including Dynavolt Tower and Confiscation Coup. At first I just wanted to try RG Pummeler aggro but that did not really sit well with me. While 20/20 Trample creature sounds good enough to kill someone, I did not feel like I could be the one to play a pump spell on the creature and attacking with it. I'd rather have the possibility to fly over other creatures with Thopter tokens (and somehow avoiding Ishkanah and its little spiders). Since the first time I saw the card Whirler Virtuoso, I fell in love with it. I always wanted to put it in a deck. I was on BG Delirium at that time though and didn't see a reason to change that. Later I bought RG Marvel and found place in that deck for it. While the card showed to be good, it's not really necessary in it. So when I saw I can put together Energy deck that does not need to use the Energy to put into play some Eldrazi or Ishkanahs I put it in RG Energy aggro which created a strange Temur aggro deck. I filled the remaining slots with some cards I found relatively fine. The sideboard was rather questionable since I did not know what to expect and my brain was too lazy to think about it. I put some countermagic in it and decided to played few matches in the TP room so I could decide later on what to change. After some matches during which my only concern was to deal with Smuggler's Copter I added Natural States and Galvanic Blasts. The next day I did not really meet some resistance in the TP room but I at least got to see some cards that I could possibly encounter in Standard or limited that I would play soon (because of limited GP I preregistered for and few prerelease/release events).

After these matches it was time to enter few Leagues because obviously in the TP room I wouldn't encounter a 'normal' deck. My first League was all about RG Marvel. I have to say that my deck struggled against Ishkanah, Kozilek's Return and some Eldrazi octupi. Obviously my sideboard wasn't ready for this and I simply lost. My deck wasn't aggressive enough to win by turn 4. It wasn't just Marvel I struggled against. Spell Queller and Avancyn also taught me a lesson so I quickly bought few copies of Tears of Valakut and put 3 copies of Negate in my sideboard. My deck obviously could attack and deal a lot of damage but it did not count with several Woodweaver's Puzzleknots (otherwise the Marvel players would have indeed succumbed to my creatures attacks) or Kozilek's Return dealing 5 damage to all my creatures. Anyway after I lost all the matches against Marvel I was still motivated enough to try again with the same deck. With proper sideboard I could see winning some games against that annoying marvel deck and I wanted my 120PP back.

In my second league I battled UW Flash featuring Gisela and Bruna and I was happy to actually have Negates in my sideboard because I learned that unanswered Chandra from a Marvel player and Gideon from a Flash player is very bad. It was a very bad feeling when I had to stare at a planeswalker on a empty board knowing my chances to get rid of the planeswalker are close to 0. Even the burn spell that could target my opponent wasn't good enough since both of these planeswalkers would have 4 Loyalty counters on them on my turn (I learned the hard way that Incendiary Flow is a Sorcery and not an Instant). In the last event I played I played against three UR Dynavolt decks, Humans and Boros Vehicles. To my surprise I won against those UR decks but lost to Humans and Boros (because I decided to keep unkeepable hands so I did not even get a chance to win or put up a fight. I almost won against Humans, but Avacyn wrecked my come back). After seeing the UR Dynavalt deck in action that also pestered me with Chandra post-board I decided to give the deck a try. I bought few cards for some ridiculous fractions of a tix and did not bother buying Void Shatter and put Scatter the Winds in instead. On second thought though the 'exile' effect on the spell might actually be worth a tix because I could have easily encountered a Delirium deck.

I knew that I would be missing some cards but I could play with 75 cards that would work and keep the idea of the deck intact. I bought Weaver of Lightning (cost more than I was willing to pay and obviously does not really help much) to help me with aggressive decks (based from my experience running my UR Dynavolt opponents over) and from my last experience with flying Spirits and Angels I also put Tears of Valakut in there. It was time to try few TP matches so I would know how to play with the deck. The first match (at 2am) was a funny one. I expected Humans deck after seeing Plains and Forest but since my opponent did not play any creature it was odd. Then an idea that my opponent was on Bant Marvel came to my mind but that wasn't the case either - he was playing a retreat deck with Aetherflux Reservoir as its win condition (or one of them). It was a funny game and I decided to upload it. I was surprised that this deck attacks with 7/8, 4/1 and 5/6 bodies. Way bigger than the creatures from the Temur Energy deck even though I managed to have 11/11 Longtusk Cub and 7/6 Bristling Hydra (the Cub was targeted with 2 Harnessed Lightnings for 10, Hydra had to kill Chandra with 7 counters).

After I got up and played more matches I found out that I actually like playing with the deck and planeswalkers weren't bothering me that much. As for planeswalkers, when I was still playing with the Temur Energy aggro I remembered my feelings about planeswalkers - they are simply too overpowered. They made me very upset. When I was trying to win my matches with bunch of commons and uncommons and I had to face one single planeswalker, the game became a war of my deck vs that single walker. Not just planeswalkers were problematic. Actually every single Mythic I faced with the Energy deck was very problematic. I understand that if my deck was more aggressive it wouldn't need to deal with them that much or if it would be more of a control deck it wouldn't have such difficulties either. But I wanted to have fun with the cards I liked and facing Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, Archangel Avacyn, Chandra, Torch of Defiance of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was VERY demotivating. My 40 tix deck couldn't deal with it. I guess I felt what other players feel when playing against something they feel is unfair. When I entered a friendly League with my BG Delirium a while ago all my opponents made not nice remarks about my deck choice and asked me why I am in a Friendly League instead of a Competitive one. I did not feel like doing anything wrong when I was entering the League (my first Friendly League attempt) but then I faced decks that could hardly deal with Emrakul. I felt the same way facing those mythics. In my case though it was something I could actually deal with if I tweaked my deck a bit or played a bit differently. But it didn't change my feeling when playing the game. It was the same one that I felt when facing UW Flash that played Reflector Mages and Smuggler's Copters. I was upset, very upset because I did not have cards of equal power to deal with them. It did not feel right and being killed by Emrakul certainly had to feel the same. I didn't mind dying to Emrakul because I was usually the player who had 2-4 Emrakuls in their deck. Either me or my opponent could simply die to this card but we both had the possibility to cast the card. We were even. During those Leagues I did not feel very good in terms of having the means to beat unfair cards in the form of Copter, Emrakul or Mage.

Playing with decks not costing over 300tix was actually a very nice experience and I think that I will continue in it for a while till some unbeatable deck arises. After all the matches I played in post-ban environment I realized that BG Delirium is still the same deck, it just does not run Emrakul. But since Reflector Mage and Smuggler's Copter are gone the deck's power level should actually be higher, at least till the release of Aether Revolt which can change the metagame quite a lot and I'm not sure if I will be willing to buy new Standard cards. But if I could keep in in the range I put into Temur Energy and UR Dynavolt I'm all in. It was refreshing to play a different format, with different types of decks and facing cards I have not even seen yet.

Many people deem Standard to be expensive but now it certainly is not so if you want to buy a deck, win some Chests and packs. Just do it. You might see that the format is actually fun and with Aether Revolt coming you can either sell it or get deeper into Standard because you'll already have a base for other decks. I'd advise you to read the article I mentioned earlier - Using budget to get most out three pillars of Kaladesh Standard. The article is kind of outdated now already but it applies to all formats be it upcoming Standard or Modern. The budget might change but for relatively small investment you can have lots of fun in Standard. A friend of mine playing normally Vintage bought few cheap decks for Standard and then build on that, got his walkers quite fast.

Give it a try! Now is the time to brew and come up with cool ideas. The format is full of options.