The Last of the Elks

Written by Ryan the Goblin King on . Posted in Block Constructed, Competitive Magic, Standard

The Last of the Elks

Ryan the Goblin King

Hailing from Goblinville, IN, Ryan AKA the Goblin King has been brewing Standard decks since Kaladesh block. Ryan has only one goal as a competitive Magic player and that’s to participate in a pro tour where every participant brings with them only the finest in jank.

The thing about Magic the Gathering, like any CCG, is that everyone’s got an opinion on how things should be done. Those opinions can vary wildly, ranging from the absurd “UNBAN SPLINTER TWIN YOU COWARDS” to the more mundane “ban Oko, he’s in 70% of decks in all formats, he’s literally ruining the game.” Of course, looking at recent history, it’s not so cut-and-dry exactly how to correct an unbalanced meta, as when one thing goes out (see: Field of the Dead #goodriddance), another, possibly even more oppressive being fills the void (see: Oko, Gilded Goose, and the entirety of the very energy-like food package that is running rabid in every format in existence.)

So the question that we must ask ourselves, in order to right this true debacle of a Standard format is (with Oko out, or Nissa, or the very Untitled Goose game-like, I AM GOING TO BREAK EVERYTHING GOOSE) what format comes about in it’s place, and is it a healthy one? In order to answer that question I feel this is where we should start. If you could Ban something from the Goose Gang, what is the correct target and why?

Now I don’t know how the mothership comes to their conclusions on what is the correct item to ban in a deck that’s woefully overpowered, but I imagine that they are incentivized as a corporation to ban a card that is from an older set on account of rotation plus it’d be quite the feel bad to pull a banned card from a set that just got released and which people are buying up in droves. Nissa will rotate out with Oko so the former point is invalid, but she is from an older set so the latter makes sense to analyze, that is if we’re looking at this thing from the mindset of a profit-driven monolithic corporation. If we ban Nissa will that do enough to reel in the Mighty Ducks or will Oko (abs and all) still reign supreme in Standard in the midst of the Mighty Forest Queen’s absence?

There’s a cascading effect that takes place when you ban a card of Nissa’s power level- not only are you banning her, but you’re effectively under-powering every card that benefits from her Static ability- and one card in particular comes to mind- Hydroid Krasis. In the words of Dennis Reynolds to Mac in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” “if we ban Nissa Hydroid Krasis would quit, and unfortunately, no longer be legit”. And it’s for this reason that I worry that banning Nissa will simply do too much to dismantle any ramp style archetypes. Should Nissa be on the chopping block? Probably yes, the card just takes over a game at 5 whole mana. But in terms of power level (from the perspective of someone that loves aggro decks) I don’t think she’s the worst offender out there. Sure turn three Nissa is still gg’s but without the Elf around that’s a lot less likely. Also it would cause Krasis to no longer be a real card. I think Nissa should be plan b. Let’s see what other options we have for the chopping block, shall we?

“I think that I’ll cause problems on purpose”

Oh the entitled Gilded Goose and all the problems that it and other one mana rampers have been causing in Standard since forever. It was because of these problems that it wasn’t too long ago when one-mana ramp cards were deemed too powerful for Magic’s flagship format but since the printing of Llanowar Elves, it’s clear that they have since reneged on this assertion. Much like with Hydroid Krasis – banning The Goose presents its own set of problems in that you could potentially be nullifying Oko as well (turn 3 Oko, you say?). Of course, Grazer could just end up taking the Goose’s spot and potentially doing so admirably. I don’t think the same can be said for Oko, however. If we ban Oko I don’t see anything else taking the place of the abs king. The bird will likely just fall into obscurity and no longer be a playable Magic card without the fuel for its engine. Spending two mana to ramp into an extra mana (and having it only happen one time) is just not a rate that any competitive Magic player would be interested in. So I think the Goose should stay, if solely for entertainment purposes alone.

“Ban all Elks”

I’m not going to lie to you all- there is something that I simply must get off my chest. You see, I’ve been having recurring nightmares lately- and they all revolve around the same theme- Elks, murderous, soulless elks, and the more I think about it, it seems as if every time I have this recurring nightmare, that there are more and more of them. And tbh, that’s my biggest fear when it comes to any decisions that don’t involve banning Oko- that Elk tribal will simply overtake the meta in a way that has never been seen ever in the history of Magic. Now I know what you’re thinking, aside from Arboreal Grazer and everything that Oko touches- there just really aren’t that many solid elk cards in Standard. And sure, it’s all fawn and games now. But what happens when we visit the plane that is in my nightmares, the metaphorical Elk tribal plane- then what will you have to say for yourself? No, personally, I think it’s best to nip the Elks in the bud now.

Shoutout to sowizard for not only the list, but also making sure to include the one pump spell with Elk art in the deck- genius. As you can see, Wizards has a history of printing OP Elk cards and if Oko is any indication, there are even more in the pipeline. Yes, I think if we are to look at things holistically, banning Oko would do an excellent job of preventing anymore emergency bannings in the near future. I don’t say this lightly either, sure it’s just one Elk now.. but winter is coming…

“Where to Frodo”

I actually have no idea if this line was actually uttered in LoTR but it seems like something JRR Tolkien could have potentially said, so we’re going to go with it. Random, unrelated, unnecessary aside.. well aside, the question that’s important that we must ask ourselves, and which I’m not sure was truly asked when Field of the Dead was banned is what sort of meta will arise in the absence of Thief of Crowns?

The answer- I think at least, is a varied one. I really don’t see one aggro deck reigning supreme- we’ve got knights, we’ve got mono-red and hopefully in the near future mono-white and Selesnya tokens will overtake the meta in a resounding fashion- I don’t think that white is quite there right now (in fact, it’s awful), but I do feel that Giant Killer is one hell of a start.

Midrange could potentially end up being a dominating factor. Black green will likely be the front-runner (adventures, maybe knights, maybe knights going on adventuresTM). It has access to Legion’s End which can shut down any aggro decks that overtake Standard and the card draw that cards like Innkeeper provide mean that midrange decks should have game against control.

Ramp will be dead. How awful.

Control will see an uptick. This is one I’m less convinced by as aside from a kind of awkward 6 mana (albeit smoking hot) PW Liliana, control doesn’t have all that many viable finishers these days. Doom Foretold is cute and could see play but with all these hasty bois running around in the form of Questing Beast, Rankle, and more, Kaya’s Wrath feels more poorly positioned then it has ever been. With that said, the most dominant deck would be losing its early turn plays and anytime even one deck slows down that gives control decks the opportunity to prey on a smaller meta. No Field to go over the top, no turn 2 Okos to get underneath, control could potentially be a viable strategy once again even if counter-magic is still nowhere to be found with a certain 3-mana PW still dominating Standard and more. (speaking of bannings….)

The tl:dr is this. I think it’s essential that we ban all Elks and any honorary Elks (Oko) or Elk creating spells. Let’s just go ahead, get rid of them entirely, they serve no purpose but to break the game and the staggering number of Elk decks that have dominated past PTs shows that R and D just has no chill when it comes to pushing Elks. It was fun while it lasted but it’s obvious to me that the soul-sucking, nightmare inducing Elk parade must come to an end. The Goose can stay.

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