It is Wednesday, my dudes!
One thing we've been talking about a lot recently is Green cards. And Green decks. All things Green. Last week we talked about the first wave of bannings in Pioneer, 66% of which were Green cards. The week before that we talked about how Oko was dominating all the formats, Standard included. Maybe dominating is a strong word for the non-Standard formats; "present and winning" in every format, let's say.
The reason I'm bringing all this up is two-fold. 1) This weekend there was an absolutely unprecedented number of Green cards in the Top 8 of the Mythic Championship. (Actually I don't know if it was unprecedented; that's too much research to do. It was a lot, and it seems unprecedented enough, okay!?) And 2) yet another Green card was banned in the Pioneer format this past Monday: Veil of Summer. It seems like no matter what format you're playing,Green has become the best color you can possibly sleeve up.
Green at Mythic Championship VI
Let's talk about the first part of our two issues first. For obvious reasons. If you happen to follow me on social media, you may have noticed me make the following observation:
"The Top 4 of this Mythic Championship contains the following:
16 Gilded Goose
16 Wicked Wolf
That's four copies in every one of the Top 4 decks. That means 28 of every non-land card in the Top 4 decks was the exact same. (Much higher when you include lands and overlapping sideboard slots, but at least these 28.) That means, given that each deck played a minimum of 24 lands, there were a maximum of 8 cards that any deck could have different from another.
Veil of Summer was also likely a three- to four-of in every deck, I would imagine (without double checking), so that's another ubiquitous card that was present in all of these decks. I don't know about you, but something surely has to be done about this come the Banned and Restricted announcement next week on November 18th.
Whether we agree that there is more than one inherently broken Green card in Standard or not (there is), one thing that seems indisputable is that Green is by far the strongest color in the format right now. Outside of the six copies of decks in the Top 8, there were two other decks that did not add Blue: and Adventures. Both decks consisting of...you guessed it: Green cards!
As you'll notice there are no Red cards in the entire Top 8, and only one deck has White cards in it. I keep writing things like, "while it's fine for a single color to be this dominant, usually..." but that's just it, really. It's not okay. There's no way to word that sentence that makes it true. In no world should a single color, let alone a single archetype, be this dominant. That's the entire point of both Magic and the color pie: it's a way to balance out the colors so they each provide things the other is unable to. The current problem in Standard is that Green simply has access to everything it needs right now.
- It has counterspells to protect its creatures (Veil of Summer)
- It has essentially unblockable threats that can also deal with planeswalkers without sacrificing tempo (Questing Beast)
- It has a way to remove problematic creatures and artifacts (Oko, Thief of Crowns)
- It has evasion (Questing Beast and Hydroid Krasis)
- It has cards that ramp in the early game, and provide an immense late game advantage (Hydroid Krasis; Nissa, Who Shakes the World; and Gilded Goose)
- It has card filtering and draw (Hydroid Krasis and Once Upon a Time)
Green in current Standard - and maybe even in Pioneer, I'm not sure - is very much an "anything you can do, I can do better" color. There realistically isn't much any other color can do better than Green can right now.
One of the best (and most oppressive) parts about Nissa is that, whenever you attack her, no matter how much loyalty she loses, you're never turning off one her most relevant modes unless you manage to kill her. Heck, you turn off neither of her relevant modes! She will always allow you to tap for twice as much mana, and she will always allow you to make 3/3's.
Come to think of it, maybe the problem with Standard is how freely Wizards is letting cards give out 3/3 creatures...
Green in Pioneer
Boy. Four cards have been banned in Pioneer thus far, and 75% of them have been Green. Just like in Standard, however, it makes a lot of sense. Before this banning, you should know that there were
15 decks containing Green out of the 32 decks that placed in this past weekend's Pioneer Challenge on Magic Online.
While that's significantly better than the Top 8 from the Mythic Championship, half of the field being Green decks in the third or fourth week of a format doesn't seem ideal. Out of those 15 decks, eight of them were Mono-Green, meaning 25% of the field.
In fact, here are some interesting deck stats in regards to the most highly played cards in the event, provided by MTGGoldfish.
- Once Upon a Time - 53 (43.75%)
- Walking Ballista - 48 (40.62%)
- Llanowar Elves - 42 (34.38%)
- Elvish Mystic - 40 (31.25%)
- Nissa, Who Shakes the World - 35 (28.12%)
- Voracious Hydra - 35 (31.25%)
- Veil of Summer - 35 (40.62%)
- Vivien, Arkbow Ranger - 32 (25.00%)
- Burning-Tree Emissary - 32 (25.00%)
- Jadelight Ranger - 28 (21.88%)
Nope, you're not misreading that. Nine of the Top 10 most represented cards in this weekend's Pioneer Challenge were Green cards, and the tenth card was Walking Ballista! Again, this is another situation where Green is entirelyover represented. Which brings us to the Veil of Summer issue.
One thing you're probably thinking is, "Why was Veil of Summer selected for a banning, and not one of the other cards that's higher up?"
That's a great question. The best way I can describe it is that there's a cost/tempo ratio here with Veil of Summer that defies every other card on the list. Keep in mind, a card being played a lot does not typically necessitate a banning, so a card like Once Upon a Time, while powerful and heavily played, is nearly worse than a card like Ancient Stirrings (in the decks that want Ancient Stirrings) on almost every turn after the first. The card is good, great even, but it isn't oppressive.
But Veil of Summer is unlike any other card on this list. Planeswalkers, creatures, they can all be interacted with favorably, with cards that are already in your deck. Once Upon a Time simply replaces itself, and doesn't need a response. Veil of Summer is the only card on this list that prevents interaction; the card literally denies your opponent the very ability to interact with multiple spell types: discard spells, counterspells, removal spells, etc. If that wasn't enough, it also draws you a card while doing so. There's a very good reason it's referred to as the GreenCryptic Command; 90% of the time (another well-vetted statistic, I assure you), Cryptic Command is going to counter a spell and draw you a card, and this is the exact thing Veil of Summer does nearly 100% of the time you cast it.
There are quite a few ways Veil of Summer could have been modified from its current form in order to be more balanced:
Draw a card if an opponent has "resolved" a Blue or Black spell this turn:This means that their spell would have to resolve, then you have the option to either counter their spell, or cycle the Veil of Summer. It also works as intended against, say, creatures with "enters the battlefield" abilities. Shriekmaw? Oko activation? Counter the ability and draw a card, and they keep their creature or planeswalker. Noxious Grasp? Well, I can cast it in response and save my creature, or I can let it resolve and cycle to draw a card. This also allows the opponent to resolve something like a creature before their removal spell for us toget full value.
The card could also say either"You and permanents you control gain hexproof from Blue and Black spells until end of turn"or"Spells you control can't be countered this turn" and not both. I could also just say "permanents" gain hexproof, allowing discard spells to get through. Again, these change the functionality, but right now the card does everything and I don't have any issue with it being banned. If banning Veil of Summer means that a higher, more representative number of Blue, Black, and Red decks can exist in the metagame, then I'm all for it.
As always, I'm very curious to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Was Veil of Summer a solid Pioneer ban? Was it a mistake of a card to have been printed in the first place? Do you think it will see a banning next week? Let me know, and as always, thank you so much for reading. Be sure to use promo code FRANK5 to get 5% off, I love you guys, and I'll catch ya next week!