Pondering a less mystical world

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The next Banned/Restricted (B/R) list announcement is coming up on the 20th, and the hot talk these days has been about what, if anything, will be done about CawBlade.
Certainly, the deck is dominant in a way that even Jund never quite managed, at least (and this is important to note) the “premier” level, and in the money events on MTGO. More to the point, as I touched on here, there is a significant difference between the fundamentally democratic nature of Jund and the limiting nature of CawBlade.
Or, in other words, Jund was relatively affordable, and CawBlade is a big stack of bills.
Joey Pasco made a really nice connection between our current impressions of CawBlade and the time of Jund dominance in the most recent episode of Yo! MTG Taps!. In essence, if you look at either archetype as being uniform, then yeah, it seems like Standard is especially static during their times of dominance. On the other hand, if you care to appreciate the many different choices made within each archetype, then there’s a lot to be interested in even if Standard features CawBlade or Jund as the prevalent, or even dominant, deck.
Joey also pretty much summed up the bullet point complaints about Jund and CawBlade:

  • Jund – “Requires no skill.”
  • CawBlade – “Requires too much skill.”

Which suggests to me that “skill” is a euphemism for money, since neither statement is true. CawBlade and Jund were both skill-testing decks in skill-testing environments. They just happened to test different skills. Jund was about resource management and attrition, and Jund design was about building in optimal cascade chains and trees while gaining an edge on opposing matchups. In contrast, CawBlade appears to be more about card advantage, control, and managing the point of inflection between control and closing the game – tempo, in other words.
However.
Since many, many players could put together a Jund deck all the way down to the FNM level, and a reasonably constructed Jund deck would beat most homebrews, it became “braindead” and “unskilled.”
I’ll suggest that if CawBlade felt equally affordable, you’d hear the exact same thing. However, since the buy-in cost starts at four copies of Jace, CawBlade graduates into an elite tier in Standard decks, meaning that the stereotypical Mister Suitcase can buy the deck, fumble his plays a lot, and nonetheless crush at FNM.

What’s actually broken

None of this money talk is meant to suggest that Standard isn’t pretty skewed right now. The CawBlade frame is genuinely impressive. Consider the comparison between a power two-drop of yesteryear and CawBlade’s beater of choice.
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Right. Dark Confidant let you trade in life for cards in a somewhat uncontrolled fashion. Generally, we could reasonably expect that more cards would mean more winning, and that we’d figure things out before the Confidant took us down.
On the other hand, Stoneforge Mystic just draws you that one first card

1 thought on “Pondering a less mystical world

  1. Interesting that you mention Caw-Blade’s dominance at the “premier level.” That, I believe, was where the problem really was this time – Stoneforge Mystic can be played as a fair card (cf. Gideon’s deck in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012), but all the press time it got was as an unfair one. We expect the premier level decks to use the most powerful interactions possible, but we also let them color our impressions of what Magic as a whole is like.

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