Updated: Jun 12
Fable of the Mirror Breaker, Reckoner Bankbuster, and Invoke Despair were all banned in Standard. This is part of a new Standard philosophy where cards will be banned more aggressively given a three-year rotation time.
Fable was too powerful for Standard and changed the format's entire dynamic. A three-drop that provided card selection, a big mana advantage, and card advantage was too pushed for the format. Fable is an excellent card for Pioneer, as the format is much faster and more punishing. No one was surprised to see Fable go. No one.
Invoke Despair is the weirdest banning to me. It’s a powerful card, and it shapes the format by weakening planeswalkers, but there were ways around it. I like this ban. While it's not the most powerful card in the format, it wasn’t a fun card to game plan and deck build with in mind. With Invoke Despair gone, the stock of cards like Ao the Dawn Sky drops. This was a proactive play to make Invoke Despair difficult to cast. We may now see more Gix Command in that space. This was a card some people started playing in place of copies of Invoke Despair, and now it’s a natural-value card that can affect the battlefield in a variety of ways.
Reckoner Bankbuster was a great and colorless card. It punished planeswalkers since it had a ton of power ready to attack at any point. Liliana of the Veil was mostly held in check because it’s impossible to cast into a turn-two bankbuster. Liliana of the Veil's stock goes up with these cards all banned. The fact that Bankbuster was seeing play in a ton of decks was always great. It makes sense to ban. Cards like this have been banned in the past, and pushed colorless cards always have the risk of being played in every deck like Smuggler’s Copter, Hangarback Walker, and Walking Ballista. I’m comfortable with the Bankbuster ban since it doesn’t hit any deck specifically. It just makes decks find more interesting ways within their color pie to generate value and board presence.
This was a good start to Standard bannings, but we may need to see more down the road. I started playing this format heavily while preparing for Worlds about eight to nine months ago. The decks are mostly still the same. Grixis and Esper were dominant and not much could be done about it. I actually found Grixis, Rakdos, and Jund easier to beat than Esper. Esper was a small underdog to the Rakdos-based midrange decks but by so little that I was comfortable playing against them. The sole reason many players registered Esper for Worlds was that the rest of the field outside of Rakdos got thrashed by Esper. Esper kept a lot of brews in check, and not enough has changed since then for that not to be the case moving forward. Esper Legends is a new and improved version of that deck, and I’d have liked to see Raffine go on top of that. Raffine is the glue that holds that shell together, and we’d see a lot more innovative deck building without it.
While anticipating the bannings before Worlds, we expected to see Fable banned and eventually it was. I thought that banning Raffine would have been wise because of how strong Esper was before Skrelv and the best Plaza of Heroes shells were created.
I expect to see a lot of innovation in the short term. People will try stuff, and it will be fun for a bit. However, if you’re planning to win a Standard tournament this weekend? Just play Esper Legends and make them beat you.
Esper has a fast clock, access to counterspells, and is resilient. Skrelv gets a lot better now with Bloodtithe Harvester all but removed from the format. We’ll likely still see some Harvesters to enable stuff like Atraxa reanimation, but it’s not going to be as ubiquitous as before. While Go for the Throat is still the most efficient removal spell, Skrelv carries a ton of weight.
Various midrange control shells may have the tools to compete with Esper Legends, but it will have to start packing some sweepers. Sunfall has gotten a ton of Limited hype but no love in Constructed, which may be about to change. Sunfall will play through Plaza of Heroes, but it’s more easily disrupted.
Esper is adaptable enough to compete with anything gunning for it, so it will be interesting to see what happens. As the card pool gets bigger, more decks will break through, and we may have a reasonable metagame.
We saw Jeskai Dragons, a deck that carried Ondrej Strasky to a Worlds invitation this past weekend, pop up from Team Handshake at the Arena Championships. While Fable is gone from that deck, the core pieces of Invasion of Gobakan and Zurgo and Ojutai remain, and it will be interesting to see if that shell continues to grow. While it loses Fable, there may be something there if that combination of cards is as strong as advertised.
I’d love to see more Big Score into Breach the Multiverse shenanigans, and it may be the new direction for Rakdos. The faster curve-out game plan isn’t there without Fable. Chandra and Breach are still strong cards, so I’d like to see where that can be taken.
I’m curious to see how many Make Disappears we see moving forward. It was mostly utilized to make an even exchange with Fable of the Mirror Breaker. In modern-day Magic, Quench is a fine card, especially one that has the casualty mode to make it useful as the game drags on. It will still be a prolific card in the format since permanents snowball like crazy.
The last card to discuss is Sheoldred. Sheoldred was, and still is, one of the strongest cards in Standard. I’m a Sheoldred lover. I always leave it in my deck and play four copies. While it’s an all-star in Esper Legends, Raffine is the more reasonable target, as it homogenizes decks to playing Esper colors, and Sheoldred is a fun card that is easy to interact with and punishes opponents who don’t put removal in their deck. It’s a classic 2022 power-level Siege Rhino that is good for the format.
I’m not surprised by anything from the bannings. I expected Bankbuster and Fable, but Invoke wasn’t on my radar. I like it because of how restrictive it was for deck building. We may see more cards that played poorly into it, like Nissa, Ascended Animist, and maybe a resurgence of Wrenn and Seven.
There’s a whole new world to explore in Standard. If you’re looking to brew, there are tons of options on the table. I would suggest any brew you make, you focus test against Esper Legends since Esper Legends is a holdover that lost the least and gained the most from Rakdos being expunged from the format.