The New Standard (of Removal)
This is not the standard I know. The Standard I had known previously had great removal spells, Courser of Kruphix and an unconditional removal spell I took for granted. (RIP Hero’s Downfall) This Standard is the first time I look at most removal spells and get quite sad. No Lightning Strike, no two mana black removal spell that hits almost everything. Ultimate price is a great removal spell that somehow wizards has managed to turn into a liability. We have alot of great creatures in standard but no removal that’s universally good against most decks. Each one has their pros and cons. Let’s break down what we have left.
Abzan Charm– This is almost as good as it gets; it has alternate modes that you can always use. Since it sucks against mono red and doesn’t kill any of the Origin flip Planeswalkers, you may want to compliment it with some removal that is good against mono red.
Draconic Roar– This card is very good if you have a dragon! It rewards you for playing the already good dragons but because without a dragon it is not very good it isn’t advised to play it in aggro decks without them. Not killing all the creatures out of Abzan aggro is a problem though.
Ultimate Price– It hurts me to see a card I like so much be so awkward in standard. This card is very powerful and likely should be included in some capacity in your black based decks. The problem with this removal spell is that it doesn’t kill Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Anafenza, the Foremost and Hangarback Walker. All of these cards need to be answered when played and ultimate price doesn’t cut it.
Valorous Stance– It’s like a poor man’s Abzan Charm but it is less versatile and kills less things. It does however have a huge benefit of being only one colour. With Courser of Kruphix rotating out, I think this card gets worse because it was in alot of decks and kept Courser live. I do think this card will see play but I’d be very surprised if it was anything other than a 1-2 of.
Murderous Cut– This card is great but delve is not free these days. You can usually afford to play 1 delve spell for free. In decks with Dig Through Time delving is important. If you add too many high costing cards to the deck you will stall out and lose tempo. With an enabler this card could be a 3-4 of but without one I’d be surprised to see more than one.
Ruinous Path– After our heroes downfall, he was sent on a ruinous path. This card is kind of close to the power level of downfall. It’s really telling how important being an instant is though. You tack a very good ability on an already great card but change it from an instant to a sorcery and the card is much worse. This card will be played as a necessary evil to combat Planeswalkers and as a safety net because it does kill basically everything but it won’t be a necessary 3-4 of in control decks.
Stasis Snare– It’s funny that the new Hero’s downfall is now a sorcery and the new Banishing Light is now an instant. There are obvious differences between the cards but they do have a similar feel to them. Being an enchantment does make it a bit of a liability when cards like Dromoka’s Command will be a big part of standard. Double White in the casting cost also leaves this card likely to be played only in decks willing to have heavy white commitment.
Foul-Tongue Invocation– This card is quite good when you have dragons. As long as you are willing to accept it’s always killing the worst creature they have and it is terrible against Hangarback Walker. If decks that present one threat at a time and that don’t include Hangarback Walker get popular, this card will be very good. Until that happens, you’ll see it mostly in black based dragon decks.
Wild Slash / Fiery impulse– These cards are very efficient cheap creatures. Trading this card with a creature that cost more than it is always a great tempo gain and that alone makes it powerful enough to include in decks even if it doesn’t kill half of the creatures running around.
Exquisite Firecraft– Very powerful card. I imagine this will be a 4 of in base red decks and be included in some capacity in Soulfire Grandmaster Jeskai decks. It kills almost everything, however 3 mana is a steep price depending on the deck and with all cards being a 2 red mana 3 mana spell makes it hard to splash.
These are the tools we have to combat our opponent’s creatures. When you look at these removal spells, try to imagine where the creatures you want to play line up against all these spells. A card like Hangarback Walker for instance is very good against most of these removal spells. The new man lands don’t die to a whole lot of these so don’t underestimate their power level. Some cards die to almost every single one of them but are powerful enough that they are worth the risk. Since the format is new, it’s hard to figure out what conditional removal you want to play. My suggestion would be to play the most versatile removal and have a proactive strategy. See where everything lies then you can build the perfect removal suite. Abzan seems to have the upper edge as far as removal goes as usual and I expect this to make it thrive over other strategies. This is not the standard you knew but at least you know the removal.