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The Five Most Improved Cards In Post-Ban Standard!


Removing cards from a format is an odd thing.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki
Reckoner Bankbuster
Invoke Despair

Because most of the focus is on the cards that are being removed, the entire discussion usually revolves around why those cards were banned, if they should or should not have been banned, and what other cards should have also been banned. However, while this discussion is interesting and important to resetting the format to something hopefully healthy, once the ban decision is final and the new format is set, these discussions aren't very useful as far as evaluating what the new format is going to look like.

Rather, it is of course the cards that weren't banned that require the most attention, because these are the cards you will actually be playing with. The removal of three such powerful cards from a format has major ripple effects across all the other cards in the format, which can allow underappreciated cards and decks to rise up when they were previously suppressed. Figuring out what those cards are is the key to winning in a semi-new format like post-ban Standard.

That being said, today I'm going to go over the five most improved cards in our new Standard format, as well as why these cards have improved so much!

Atraxa, Grand Unifier

Atraxa, Grand Unifier

Okay, this one isn't exactly a big secret, but Atraxa, Grand Unifier dodged the ban hammer and remains the big bad of the current Standard format. Atraxa is certainly answerable, especially by counterspells, but the fact remains that you need to have some sort of plan in place to beat Atraxa if you plan to win in this format, one way or another. The combination of a must-remove body as well as a half of a dozen cards worth of card advantage makes a resolved Atraxa a very difficult hill to climb.

Make Disappear
Go for the Throat

The primary way to beat Atraxa is countermagic.

A clean Make Disappear or a sideboarded Disdainful Stroke presents a very lopsided exchange that will often be backbreaking, making the player looking to cast or reanimate Atraxa fall into a deep hole tempo-wise. This is a large part of why Blue is such an important color in this format, being able to answer such large and powerful cards at such a stark mana advantage. This is also why non-Blue midrange decks like Mono-White Control are going to struggle in this format.

The other way to beat Atraxa is to have your opponent in a spot where they are relying on it to stabilize a board they currently can't beat. If you've got a few creatures in play and your opponent plays an Atraxa and draws five cards, only to see you cast Go for the Throat on it and attack for lethal, then all those cards in hand mean nothing. This however, does require an aggressive stance.

Atraxa is perhaps the format's biggest measuring stick, make sure you've got a plan to beat it, or a plan against countermagic and aggression if you're and Atraxa player.

Tenacious Underdog

Tenacious Underdog

Cut from an entirely different cloth is Tenacious Underdog.

Tenacious Underdog has seen a decent amount of play during its life in Standard, but recently has been absent because the effect it provided was simply not needed. However, now with both Reckoner Bankbuster and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki no longer in the format, it's time for Tenacious Underdog to shine again.

Reckoner Bankbuster previously filled the role of "2-drop that is also a late game mana sink" better than anything, but now in its absence it's easy to feel like you're actually running out of cards in the mid to late game. This is further exacerbated for decks that used to also play Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, as without the looting effect of chapter two you again are missing that card filtering and flood insurance effect.

Tenacious Underdog checks off those boxes well, providing a creature that attacks and blocks well, has some side synergy with discarding straight to the graveyard, and comes back for more later as a pretty good mana sink. Expect to see more of him!

Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim

Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim

Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim is an awesome planeswalker. While five mana is a lot, you get a threat of constant card draw, as well as a win condition capable of making an army of huge tokens that both attack and block very well.

The improvement of Teferi is two-fold; the biggest reason Teferi is now so appealing is because of the banning of Invoke Despair. Tapping out for a five mana planeswalker is once again a reasonable thing to be doing, rather than getting punished super hard by Invoke Despair. Now you can present multiple threats at once that your opponent can't cleanly answer.

Secondly, the absence of Reckoner Bankbuster and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker as card advantage engines opens the door for alternate sources of card advantage to be necessary. Teferi checks this box as both a threat and card advantage engine, doing so in a way that isn't always easy to deal with.

I'm a big fan of Teferi in this new format.

Knight-Errant of Eos

Knight-Errant of Eos

Knight-Errant of Eos is a phenomenal Magic card, and some solider decks did see success at Pro Tour March of the Machine, but the issue is that decks playing Knight-Errant of Eos were fundamentally flawed against decks playing Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

The issue with decks playing Knight-Errant of Eos is that they must play a critical mass of creatures to function; you need creatures out to convoke as well as a good density of creatures for the triggered ability. The issue that arises is that, like most linear synergy decks, this doesn't leave much room for removal. Your goal is to do your thing fast and well and overpower your opponent.

This is when Reflection of Kiki-Jiki just dismantles you, usually in concert with Bloodtithe Harvester, because you don't have the proper answer. And even if you do, fighting Fable of the Mirror-Breaker with removal is often a losing proposition. There's still another major wrench for linear decks in the format in the "must remove" Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, but at least you can overpower than card.

Knight-Errant of Eos looks like a big winner here.

Jukai Naturalist

Jukai Naturalist

Our last card of the day is somewhat more evocative of an entire archetype.

Jukai Naturalist and the other "enchantments matter" cards sprinkled throughout the format form a very powerful synergy engine, but they suffered the same issue against Reflection of Kiki-Jiki. A year ago, Naya Runes looked poised to take the New Capenna Championship by storm, only to be held in check by Fable of the Mirror-Breaker decks because Reflections of Kiki-Jiki was just too hard to overcome.

Now that shackle is lifted, as is the ability for Black to kill enchantments easily with Invoke Despair, opening up the door for all of these underplayed enchantment cards to finally shine again.

Hallowed Haunting
Michiko's Reign of Truth // Portrait of Michiko

Whether it's something more controlling and inevitable with Hallowed Haunting, or something more aggressive with cards like Michiko's Reign of Truth // Portrait of Michiko, there's definitely a place for enchantments in the format. Just watch out for Farewell!

Our New Format

I've been having a lot of fun exploring post-ban Standard over the last few weeks, with Atraxa being the only card in the format that really scares me so far. While there are certainly rules of engagement that need to be followed, there're also a lot of fun possibilities and you can't ask for more from a Standard format.

I can only hope the format continues to see support and thrive as Wizards of the Coast shows a renewed focus on it!

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