What would No Banlist Standard look like?

Hello and welcome to Only On Tuesdays! Over the past 2 years, we have had a ton of cards banned in Standard, from game-breaking turn 4 wins, to cards that search out basic lands. It has been a tumultuous time for Standard. Answers for these problem decks weren’t printed until 6 months after the problem had already gone away due to bannings. Cards such as Rampaging Ferocidon and Suncleanser were created to try and shift the meta in a positive direction, even though those decks no longer existed. However, now that we are nearing the end of this Standard season, something interesting has occurred. Due to the development cycle of R&D answers to the best decks finally got printed, months after that deck had already been banned out of the format. What would Standard look like with these powerful decks existing in the same environment as the hate pieces for them?

Unban Everything

Standard as a format usually does not ban cards. The last Standard banning happened in 2011 when Wotc had to ban Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Stoneforge Mystic. Since then, no cards had to be banned from Standard up until this last year when Emrakul, Reflector Mage, and Smuggler’s Copter all got the ax. Ever since then, we have had a plethora of bannings that have left a sour taste in the mouth. What would the meta look like today if every card were to be taken off the ban list? Here are the 7 cards that are currently banned in Standard:

Smuggler’s Copter

Image result for smuggler's copter mtggoldfish

Felidar Guardian

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Aetherworks Marvel

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Attune with Aether

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Rogue Refiner

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Ramunap Ruins

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Rampaging Ferocidon

Image result for rampaging ferocidon mtggoldfish

What’s interesting about these 7 cards is that in the past two years, answers have been printed that can deal with all of these cards. While these answers took a lot of time to develop and print, had these cards never been banned, checks would have existed for them in the metagame. Let’s take a look at some answers that were printed for each of these problem cards.

Smuggler’s Copter

This annoying little vehicle was present in every single deck that could play it; which turned out to be almost every deck. The cost to play this card was so low that as long as you had a decent creature base, putting the looter scooter in your deck was hardly an issue. It got banned January 9th 2017, one week before Aether Revolt was released. That is unfortunate because one of the cleanest ways to deal with Smuggler’s Copter was printed in Aether Revolt in Fatal Push. Then a couple months later, Abrade was printed and has become one of Red’s most versatile removal options in the past few years. Lightning Strike was also being printed in Ixalan, and there are several answers available to it in other colors such as Forsake the Worldly and Sorcerous Spyglass.

Image result for fatal push mtggoldfish

While the infamous looter scooter would still play a vital part in the metagame, it’s share would slowly be stopped as more efficient removal is printed to deal with it. In Modern, Smuggler’s Copter sees very little play, thanks to efficient removal such as Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push to keep it in check.

Felidar Guardian

Within 5 minutes of being spoiled on Twitter, Splinter Twin had been rediscovered in Standard. This card was a mistake in design and had an unintended combo with Saheeli Rai leading to a turn 4 win. A turn 4 infinite kill had been unheard of in Standard for years, and having it in Standard proved to be terrifying. Combined with the efficient Energy package, and cantrips such as Oath of Nissa, the deck was frighteningly consistent. Felidar Guardian was banned April 27th, 2017 right after the release of Amonkhet. Had the card remained unbanned, it is likely that the deck would have continued to dominate as there weren’t very good answers available at the time.

Image result for saheeli rai mtggoldfish

However, now at the end of one of the largest Standards ever, maybe there a few cards in this Standard that could help to keep CopyCat at bay. One of the biggest enemies to CopyCat is of course Rampaging Ferocidon, a card specifically designed to deal with infinite cats. It was pushed incredibly hard to defeat this deck and ended up getting banned as a result, but if CopyCat had still been a deck by the time Ixalan rolled around, Ferocidon would have been a great check against the deck. Tocatli Honor Guard also would have shut off the combo and Lightning Strike could deal with Saheeli as you can bolt Saheeli after she ticks down, but before she creates a new Felidar Copy. Vraska’s Contempt would be a slower answer, but would still be able to take out Guardian or Saeheeli, and Cast Down is an efficient Doom Blade clone that can also deal with the cat.


Image result for lightning strike art

The main issue is interacting with the deck at instant speed. If they are able to play a turn 4 Felidar Guardian while you are tapped out you just lose. This creates for very difficult games of Magic, in which you can never let your guard down, but your opponent can proceed to kill you in other ways. Just like Twin in Modern, dealing with the duality of the deck is very hard, and having reliable instant speed removal in Standard is a lot harder to ask for. I don’t think this deck would reach the dominant metagame percentage that it did before the banning, but it is very likely to be the most powerful deck in Standard.

Aetherworks Marvel

The next card to be banned was, of course, Aetherworks Marvel. Marvel was an energy deck that had almost as crazy of a turn 4 play as Saheeli combo. When your 10 mana Ulamog only costs 4 mana you might as well be playing Tron in Standard. Slamming Ulamog, exiling 2 of your lands, and then beating down with a 10/10 indestructible was impossible to deal with at the time so on June 13th, 2017 Marvel had to go. Out of all the cards on the Standard ban list, Aetherworks Marvel is the one I am least afraid of seeing off the ban list.

Image result for ulamog mtggoldfish

The problem with Marvel back in the day was 2 things: 1.) Marvel’s payoff at the time was huge and 2.) The hate for the deck did not exist at the time.

During Marvel’s tenure in Standard, Ulamog was one of the best cards to hit off of Marvel and still is one of the best cards to hit off of it. However, given the current card pool, Aetherworks Marvel has a lot less juicier targets to hit. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharoah and Zacama, Primal Calamity are the 2 big ones but those pale in comparison to Ulamog. Cards like these don’t immediately end the game when they enter the battlefield like Ulamog did, and while they are very strong, are not oppressive.

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The other thing about Aetherworks Marvel in Standard these days is the answers to the deck are everywhere now. Abrade is the third most played card in Standard, and came out 1 month after the banning of Marvel. Vraska’s Contempt kills any threat that comes off the fidget spinner, and cards like Duress, Sorcerous Spyglass, and Suncleanser can stop the strategy before it even starts.

Attune with Aether/Rogue Refiner

It is fascinating to see a card like Lay of the Land in the same league as Jace, the Mind Sculptor but here it is. Attune with Aether, and Rogue Refiner were simply too efficient. Their effects are pretty mediocre when looked at in a vacuum, but when combined with the powerful payoffs that Energy provided, these cards provided way too much value. When there was no good way to answer Energy, it was just too easy for these simple cards to take over the game.

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Solemnity was an attempt at attacking energy but proved to be 1 mana too expensive. By the time you are casting Solemnity, they usually have either a Longtusk Cub or a Whirler Virtuoso in play and can simply use up all the energy before Solemnity even hits the battlefield. However, Suncleanser might have been the answer the format needed all the way back in Hour of Devastation instead of Solemnity. The 1/4 body lines up really well vs a lot of the removal in the format, and it shuts down energy during the crucial early turns.

Image result for suncleanser mtggoldfish

Suncleanser alone may not be enough to deal with Energy. But, in an environment surrounded by other powerful decks, Temur Energy may not be the scariest deck to deal with anymore.

Ramunap Ruins/Rampaging Ferocidon

These 2 cards were banned at the same time as the energy cards, and as we have seen for the past 9 months, for good reason too. Red has been one of the best decks for the past year, and even after losing its namesake card, and a powerful option in Rampaging Ferocidon, it still continues to put up massive results and dominate the metagame. Ramunaps only check in the past was Energy, and with that deck gone, Mono-Red could finally dominate the metagame.

Image result for vraska's contempt mtggoldfish

With all cards unbanned however, how would Ramunap face off against the other decks in the format? Quite favorably I feel, and I believe a lot of that has to deal with a lot of the efficient answers I’ve talked about above. One of the best cards in this format is Abrade, and Mono-Red gets to play that in spades. This deck also has Lightning Strike, which gets better if Saheeli is good, and also those powerful black answers such as Vraska’s Contempt and Duress if they so choose. Combine this all with a fast clock, and Red is looking to be a serious contender in this metagame. Rather than Red being loathed by all as the deck to beat, Red would be the deck keeping the format in check, and hopefully, keep everyone from getting combo’d out on turn 4.

A Sample Metagame

With all cards now legal in this theoretical no ban-list Standard, I decided to try and create a possible metagame where these decks could compete against each other. The interesting thing about this potential Standard format is that most of these decks never had the chance to face each other in a format full of many more answers than what existed during their time.

*Disclaimer: I am not the best at creating competitive decks. If you have any issues with any of the decks provided below, or would build these decks differently please let me know in the comments below!

Jeskai Copycat Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1306954#paper


During the heyday of this decks inception, one of the main ways to play the deck was actually by splashing for a 4th color in Green. The main reason to do this was because of Oath of Nissa, a powerful cantrip that could find anything the deck wanted, and could even color fix for Saheeli. Oath of Nissa by now has been long out of Standard, and so the deck would likely shift back to a Jeskai shell. The Jeskai shell still contains a lot of powerful cards, such as Abrade, which would also be necessary for dealing with opposing Rampaging Ferocidon’s and Tocatli Honor Guards, while also cleanly dealing with Aetherworks Marvel, if that even turns out to be a deck.

M19 actually gives CopyCat a lot of powerful tools it can use. One of the best tools it can use is in Suncleanser. Being able to shut down Energy from the main deck, while still having a great blocker to protect Saheeli is really powerful. Another fun card from M19 would be the Human O’ War, Exclusion Mage. The tempo swing you can get from playing Exclusion Mage, followed by Felidar Guardian can buy you plenty of time to deploy a Saheeli Rai at your own leisure. From the sideboard, Felidar Guardian can also blink a History of Benalia, making your matchup against control much more favorable. Overall, Copycat looks to be incredibly powerful still and is the deck to beat in this Standard format.

Sultai Marvel Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1306970#paper

Sultai Marvel.PNG

Out of all the decks to come back from the land of bans, Marvel seems to be the worst off. Not only did it lose its payoff in Ulamog, it also had 2 very effective hate cards printed against i.e. Abrade and Suncleanser. When both of these cards can cleanly answer your main strategy for only 2 mana, the deck starts to look really shaky. And if a Marvel is allowed to resolve, with the sufficient energy needed to get a spin-off, Vraska’s Contempt should handle whatever it finds really well. Copycat combo singlehandedly destroys this deck, and with new answers available, Marvel decks may become the next Against the Odds segment.

With Suncleanser dealing with this deck so efficiently one of the main changes this deck would have to undergo would be having Black be the primary splash color over Red. Black gives you access to Fatal Push and Cast Down, 2 instant speed ways of dealing with both Copycat and Suncleanser. Red does not have very many efficient answers to 4 toughness creatures, and when Suncleanser can hose you that badly, you have to make some changes. However, Red gives you access to Rampaging Ferocidon, which is a creature you can Marvel into, and should hopefully improve the Copycat matchup.

Temur Energy Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1306989#paper

Temur Energy.PNG

While no longer the top dog it used to be, Temur Energy may still prove to be a decent deck in this Standard format. While the hate for it will still be really strong, the deck should still be able to put up a fighting chance. Why do I feel this way about Temur Energy, but can’t say the same about Marvel? Marvel’s whole gameplan revolves around resolving a turn four Marvel with 6 energy available, and then getting lucky and spinning into the right card. Temur Energy, on the other hand, is a midrange deck that is complemented by energy but not dependent on it. If you play a turn 2 Suncleanser, Rogue Refiner still draws you cards, Smuggler’s Copter can still be crewed, and Glorybringer can still do Glorybringer things.

While Suncleanser could potentially knock Energy out of the meta, I feel that with Ramunap Red, Energy could be a good deck to counter the potential Red decks while still having game against Copycat thanks to the availability of Rampaging Ferocidon. This kind of midrange deck would eb and flow based on how many copies of Suncleanser see play, but given the right tournament, Energy could prey on a lot of decks and turn up good results.

Sultai Energy also isn’t a bad choice, due to the great removal, and less of a reliance on Energy. (Harnessed Lightning is probably the deadest thing you can draw against an opposing Suncleanser), however, the percentage points gained vs Copycat might be worth the Red Splash. Ultimately, I feel that Sultai would end up being the better Energy deck, but it is still interesting to see how Temur Energy could have potentially shown up in this metagame.

Ramunap RB Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1307006#paper

RB Aggro.PNG

The bane of our Standard, may just be the savior of this hypothetical Standard. With the format being flooded with Copycat, RB might have the best chance of beating it. With the main deck inclusions of Lightning Strike, and Rampaging Ferocidon, with the ability to sideboard into Sorcerous Spyglass, Cast Down, and Duress, Ramnuap may actually have a favorable matchup against Copycat.

With all of these powerful tools available what is stopping the deck? Energy seems to be the best potential answer to Ramunap, as the midrange gameplan will just go over the top of the aggro deck. With no way to deal with the Energy pool, Energy decks can just simply trade 1 for 1 until they eventually draw a way to use all of their energy. However, the inclusion of Goblin Chainwhirler makes one of Energy’s best cards in the matchup (Whirler Virtuoso) significantly worse so maybe it’s not as bad as expected. Marvel decks may be able to gain an edge vs Red thanks to putting some massive creature into play that they simply can’t deal with.

These 3 archetypes can hopefully create an environment where each deck checks the other. Copycat beats Energy which beats Ramunap which beats Copycat. With these 3 archetypes representing combo, midrange, and aggro, where does control come in?

Esper Control Decklist: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/1307047#paper

Esper Control.PNG

Out of all the control decks most likely to survive post un-banning, Esper Control seems the most likely. Suncleanser is an incredibly powerful card against the Energy strategies and a very good reason to play White, but given the removal suite in white, things look very grim against Copycat. Cast Out is the only option that can outright deal with the combo, whereas something, like Settle the Wreckage, will only be able to buy you a turn. Vraska’s Contempt, on the other hand, does very good work against the Copycat deck, while still lining up well vs Hazoret and Energy. Because of this, a base UB deck that splashes White makes a lot of sense, especially when you get access to both The Scarab God and Teferi.

Esper Control is a deck that can have game against a large majority of the field but needs to be tuned correctly in order to do well. If you bring a deck intending to smash Copycat, but get lined up vs Ramunap all tournament you’ll be hurting. However, given the right configuration, you should be able to do well against a lot of the field.


With all of these options available, this Standard could either turn out to be one of the most interesting and varied Standard formats of all time or could end up being dominated by 1 deck for the entirety of the Standard season. If Wizards had been a little slower to ban cards, and a little faster to print answers, maybe we’d be having an amazing Standard with very little dominance from any deck. Many of these cards were banned for good reason but were never given a chance to see play with their checks also existing. Given the right environment, powerful cards could still exist, if we have powerful options to stop these strategies. Or, one deck could simply prove to be too good and might warp the entire Standard format. Given the past 2 years of Standard, it’s not like we’d be changing things too much. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!

Image result for abrade art promo



2 thoughts on “What would No Banlist Standard look like?

  1. VERY insightful article, my friend. I still find it interesting that with so many bans, pauper rarely gets hit with the same exclusions (see: Attune & Probe). While I don’t play standard, I am aware of the problems that Future-Future League should have saw. Your commentary seems reasonable and yet provocative about a play environment will will never see. Well done

    1. Analyzing a standard that didn’t exist was really hard to do, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the future-future league was created specifically because Copycat combo got created. Also pauper is fantastic, wasn’t the last ban Peregrine Drake 2-3 years ago?

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