We're only a couple of days away from the release of Rivals of Ixalan, and to follow up on our little experiment from last time, we started a poll on our TCGplayer community section on YouTube to know which deck you wanted me to play against current Standard decks.
The choice was between Mono-Black Hatred ('99), Replenish ('00), Green-Blue Madness ('03) and Astral Slide (Green-White Cycling) ('04). You wanted to see Wild Mongrel and Arrogant Wurm in action and picked Madness.
While I couldn't find one of the exact decklists I played back in the day, I took Dave Humphreys' Worlds '03 deck. I just took out two very specific metagame cards that were in the main deck (Ray of Revelation and Krosan Reclamation) for a fourth Arrogant Wurm and Roar of the Wurm to make it look like the most common list. Then we jammed it against recent Standard decks – including former boogeymen Temur Energy and Ramunap Red.
I played a couple of matches against (not-so) random people in the freeform room of Magic Online, playing White-Blue Gift, Temur Energy and Ramunap Red, three decks from recent Standard. Could Madness stand up to decks so powerful they had to be banned from Standard?
Okay, so these players were none other than my guests Pascal Maynard, Adam Yurchick and Craig Wescoe – a big thank you to them for their time and cooperation!
When Blue Green Madness was around, it was one of the most successful decks in the format, but it wasn't unbeatable. Psychatog had a good chance against it (Sydney '02), and Mirari's Wake had a good matchup also (Berlin '03). The reason why the deck was so good was thanks to two cards: Wonder and Circular Logic. While being able to cheat big guys into play was great (Arrogant Wurm at its madness cost and Roar of the Wurm at its flashback cost), without the two cards that could interact with your opponent, the deck wouldn't be that good.
Not too long ago, you could build a Red-Green Madness deck that could have been just a few cards away from Green-Blue Madness. Wild Mongrel had a strictly better version in Noose Constrictor, Aquamoeba had a red counterpart in Ravenous Bloodseeker, Roar of the Wurm had an embalm reprint (kind of) in Honored Hydra, while Arrogant Wurm gained haste with Incorrigible Youths. That deck never saw play and wasn't even close to being playable.
If you watch the games I played, you'll see that Green-Blue Madness had a shot against the current format. Its mana base isn't great (something that wouldn't be as bad today), but its strategy is fast enough to race and disrupt its opponents.
So what can we learn from this?
Past the fun aspect of such an experiment, and if we compare the would-have-been Red-Green Madness (that never was) and Green-Blue Madness, they are just a couple of cards away from each other, meaning that if somewhere a card like Wonder or Circular Logic was in the format, we could have had another viable deck. Sure, recent Standard is a little different from the previous one with Shadows over Innistrad, but you get my point.
I could understand why they wouldn't want a card like Circular Logic to be printed. But would it really be "too" good? Would decks like Aetherworks Marvels have been so dominant if a cheap situational counter was around? As for Wonder, it's not an unbeatable card. If you manage to deal with the board, it doesn't matter if the creatures have flying, so no need to pack specific graveyard hate cards to deal with it.
This experiment made me wonder… I mean, think. What if the solution to making Standard more fun – rather than banning cards – was to print just a couple of cards, let's say once a month, with very specific effects, to make more decks viable and diversify a format without warping it completely?
A deck's viability often depends on whether or not certain cards exist at all. For example, some decks can't be because they're missing a crucial one-drop. What if they gave us a good one-drop for that deck to make it viable, without printing 200 other cards that would totally sink that deck's hopes to ever be playable? We wouldn't be stuck for three months with formats that become stale, and with only two or three cards changing from the dominating deck from its version on day one to its version on day 90.
Is this a viable solution? It would be indeed hard/impossible for Wizards to design and print a batch of new cards every month. However, how about older cards that would be printed as promo cards so there is a way to easily access them even if you didn't already own them. There are plenty of old cards that have never been played in Standard that are ripe for reprints, and plenty of decks looking for them. My problem with Standard is that I lose interest when I see there's nothing new to do. Too many people in the world are working to solve the same problem, and eventually, they find the solution, or agree that there's nothing new to find (and more often than not, it's true).
What do you think? Would there be another way to introduce new cards within the months of a Standard season? Would that make Standard more interesting? More fun? Let me know what you think!
- Raphael Levy