After months of being stuck in a fairly stale place, Standard just got a major shakeup. On Tuesday, WotC announced that three of the format’s strongest cards are banned.
Farewell, Alrund’s Epiphany, Divide by Zero, and Faceless Haven.
Although many players expected an Epiphany ban sooner or later, the other two came as somewhat of a surprise. However, it makes a lot of sense to also remove these cards from the format now that turns decks won’t have a chokehold on it.
Let’s take a look at what the most recent round of bannings means for Standard and examine a few decks that could be primed for success.
Making Sense of the Bans
Alrund’s Epiphany doesn’t need much explanation. It was difficult to have a discussion about Standard without at least mentioning the extra-turn spell and its impact on the metagame.
Not only did it create an unfun win condition with copy spells like Galvanic Iteration, it was also incredibly hard to interact with. By tucking the card away with foretell and copying it on the stack, opponents had basically no way to deal with it. For the health of the format, it's a good thing Epiphany is gone. Sorry, Alrund, looks like you’ll have to go back to the thinking chair.
Speaking of, the other two bans require some thought. At first look, it might seem odd to take Divide by Zero over one of blue’s potent finishers: Lier or Hullbreaker.
However, with Alrund’s Epiphany gone, it was almost certain that blue decks would pivot to a much heavier Lier / Lobster strategy. With Divide by Zero in hand or in the graveyard and a Lier on the board, it’s somewhat simple to lock your opponent out of the game. Meanwhile, the card’s learn ability makes it possible for decks to survive into the late game and drop a Hullbreaker.
Ultimately, Divide by Zero was a catch-all answer for blue decks at any stage of the game—including answering threats both on the stack and on the board. With it out of the format, these decks will need to find other ways to be resilient and maintain control. It also leaves blue with multiple ways to close out the game, just with a weaker shell around them.
On the flipside, with Epiphany gone, mono-colored aggro decks now sit alone at the top of the format. Targeting Faceless Haven is a smart choice that takes away both value and resiliency from these hyper-aggressive builds.
Mono-White Aggro takes the biggest beating without Haven. It is now much more vulnerable to board wipes and will need to find a new threat to push through lots of damage for just three mana all while being evasive. Spoiler alert, that doesn't exist yet in mono-white. Meanwhile, Mono-White doesn’t have a great creature land to fall back on as Cave of the Frost Dragon is mediocre at best.
Mono-Green is much less affected by the Faceless Haven ban. In fact, one could argue that it is now even more streamlined with a cleaner mana base. With lots of MDFCs and a great replacement creature land in Lair of the Hydra, Mono-Green remains quite healthy. That being said, it still loses the board wipe protection and the free threat that Haven offered.
Standard Decks That Could Thrive
With this trio of cards gone, the Standard metagame is ready for a shakeup. It opens the door for some Tier 2 decks to rise even higher while also making it possible for slower strategies to find success.
Without needing to run snow lands for Faceless Haven, aggro decks will likely start splashing for multiple colors. The likes of Jean-Emmanuel Depraz’s Temur Treasures deck that took second place at the World Championship could see more play.
Meanwhile, traditional control decks may enter a renaissance without needing to play around a multi-turn combo a-la-Epiphany.
Finally, it looks like midrange is back on the menu. With the ability to go over dominant aggro decks and get under traditional control builds, midrange decks could make a comeback. That would bring Standard back to a place it hasn’t been since before Throne of Eldraine.
Let’s take a look at a few decks that could have an impact. However, keep in mind the format is likely to change again in a few short weeks when Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty arrives.
Orzhov Snow Control
Decks running Blood on the Snow and other Orzhov control cards have a great matchup against mono-colored aggro decks. However, they got decimated by Epiphany builds. Without Divide and Epiphany in the format, Orzhov control decks could immediately move to the top of the meta.
You have a great selection of removal with things like Vanishing Verse, The Meathook Massacre, Infernal Grasp, and Blood on the Snow. Meanwhile, good midrange options like Sorin the Mirthless, Wedding Announcement, and Edgar, Charmed Groom help you keep control of the board.
For decks looking to go big with control spells, a package built around Lolth, Spider Queen and Professor Onyx could find success. Meanwhile, going for value with Shambling Ghast, Deadly Dispute, and Fell Stinger could also be solid.
Without Epiphany in the format and Faceless Haven to get around board wipes, these decks can take their time setting up and locking down the board before going for the win.
Multi-Colored Aggro / Midrange
With less emphasis on running a mono-colored deck, aggro and midrange builders alike now have a lot more tools to play with. Expect to see a lot more two-color decks learning towards the faster side of things in the days to come. Splashing for a third color (especially out of the sideboard) is also reasonable.
Cards like Halana and Alena, Partners could see more play. Paired with threats like Goldspan Dragon, Esika’s Chariot, and Reckless Stormseeker, the makings of a strong Gruul midrange build are evident.
Meanwhile, Angelfire Ignition becomes more viable with less bounce in the format thanks to Divide’s ban. It’s a beating against aggro decks and could power a midrange build to success.
It looks like the Naya shell is currently showing the most promise thanks to things like Thalia, Elite Spellbinder, Intrepid Adversary, and Reidane more than justify a white splash off of Gruul.
This deck has already proven itself by winning the most recent World Championship in the hands of Yuta Takahashi. With Epiphany gone, we might see a resurgence of the original Izzet Dragons build.
Cards like Goldspan Dragon and Expressive Iteration are still fantastic. We also still haven’t seen how this deck plays with Hullbreaker Horror as its fallback plan.
Although the Izzet shell is certainly much weaker without Epiphany and Divide by Zero, it is still strong enough to compete. It will be interesting to see where players pivot in the coming days.
Where do you think Standard is heading without these three cards in the format? Got any ideas for a spicy new deck? Share them with us in the comments below or on social media!