Hello all! No, I’m not crazy and yes, you read that correctly — I am fully under the belief that Theros block constructed is a better, more fun and more interesting format to play than the current standard. Let us discuss why this is, shall we?
Before the last Pro Tour in Atlanta, I can safely say that I never felt the urge to play any bit of MTG’s smallest card pool constructed format. Why? I love brewing! I love making new and exciting decks that can still work well against the given format. So when someone says “severely limited card pool”, it’s a complete turn-off to me. I don’t want to be forced into choosing one of a few archetypes. I don’t want to be forced into playing certain cards because there is so few to choose from! Well…..guess what…?
A week before the pro tour, a friend of mine decided he wanted to begin constructing and playing with post-rotation decks and he wanted me to join him for testing. I obviously felt obliged to do since it would mean getting to brew up a new deck from scratch while also preparing for the rotation that is still months away. I had previously been playing mostly standard and had just finished creating my standard GW Mid brew (seen here). I was having success with it and having fun here and there, but I wasn’t excited to play anymore. That all changed once I began brewing for block.
“Where are all the cards?!” was something I exclaimed numerous times to my friend while trying to begin on my deck. The power level of Theros block compared to Return to Ravnica block is quite different, and it’s fair to say that there are a lot less “playable” constructed cards in the sets. But this is block constructed. The bar has been set much lower and, most importantly, there are a lot less cards that would typically cause me not to play certain things. And THIS is where Theros Block Constructed begins to appeal to a much greater audience than standard has been doing for most (or at least me).
What happens to a format when you remove Supreme Verdict? What about Sphinx’s Revelation? Jace, Architect of Thought? What about Abrupt Decay, Detention Sphere, Nightveil Specter, Pack Rat, Boros Reckoner, Elvish Mystic, Experiment One, Burning-Tree Emissary, Doom Blade, Ultimate Price, Syncopate, Archangel of Thune, Scavenging Ooze, Shocklands, Mutavault…the list goes on and on and on. The format drastically changes! The environment shifts completely! And I think the biggest reason why this format became such an amazing thing to me was NOT just the loss of Mono-Black Devotion in the metagame, but actually the loss of Esper Control. The loss of Supreme Verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation.
Why is this a bigger deal to me than if Thoughtseize had rotated? Because there is finally INTERACTION. There is no longer the need to have to win before a T4 wrath or at least before the obvious Rev hits. There is no longer an entire archetype built around stalling until AEtherling hits the field. Decks no longer are forced to fit into the category of blitz or control in order to thrive, and that is a huge thing when it comes to creative deck building. The metagame has slowed significantly, and so many cards are suddenly playable because there is no fear of it just “dying to doom blade” or not being impactful as soon as it enters the battlefield to avoid being blown out by a Supreme Verdict. And thus, the age of midrange has come upon us.
Now, don’t get me wrong — the format is not without its flaws. Everyone who watched PTJOU can tell you that Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is the single most significant and powerful card in the format. It’s entirely true that the best competitive decks either play Elspeth or play cads to beat Elspeth. Yes, every green deck runs a playset of Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix. Yes, every black deck runs a playset of Hero’s Downfall and some number of Silence the Believers. Yes, every blue deck runs Prognostic Sphinx. And yes, every red deck runs Stormbreath Dragon. But that isn’t the point. It isn’t just deck lists and prevalence of cards that makes a format stale. The worst thing that can happen in a format is for games to become decided as soon as it begins.
“Mull to 5? Okay. Thoughtseize you?”
“I need to run a playset of Mutavault to beat verdict, but it means I get mana screwed pretty often”
“And here comes the T2 Pack Rat. Looks like this game is just about wrapped up”
These are all things I’ve heard and said in standard right now. ^^ That’s not fun. Knowing you’re going to lose on the first turn of the game generally is not fun. And it’s usually not fun for the winning player either. Games simply become an act of going through the motions and hoping you curve out so that you are the winner. Sure, this is a big part of magic. But you know what is more fun? Acting and Reacting. Having to think about your opponent and play answers and have threats and watch as the ebb and flow of a game happens. Experiencing a losing start turn into a comeback and even turn back into a loss by the end. I’m talking games that last more than 6 turns, here. This is why Theros Block is so fun right now. Don’t expect to be super creative in your builds and have them win often. There is still a very limited card pool and there are a select few cards that are practically must-haves. But expect every game to be an actual battle. Expect to have to work for your victory no matter the matchup. Expect to start a game losing and come back with an amazing story to tell your friends after the round. And most importantly, re-learn what it means to have fun while playing Magic the Gathering.
Rotation is still a while away. And there’s no telling what M15 or Khans of Tarkir will bring to the competitive scene or what it may do to the metagame. But I can tell you one thing — if Theros block has been any indication of what is to come, I will be happy to continue playing standard at that point. And I hope you all will join me in that notion.
Til then, take it easy and may you never be mana-screwed.
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