It has finally happened, the expected, the debated, the Sensei’s Divining Top banning. Obviously this cripples Miracles, but there are less obvious implications of a Top banning that stretch beyond Blue decks. Today we’re going to take a look at these consequences, both obvious and not-so-obvious as we mourn the loss of a staple, and celebrate the gain of our collective time no longer waiting for the Top to stop spinning.
Firstly its necessary to examine the stated reason as to why Top has received the ban-hammer. From Wizards of the Coast’s statement: “Miracles…has been the best deck in the format for some time.” and “Top activations to play the card slows down match play and leads to tournament delays.”. Pretty simple stuff, right? The deck had consistently placed in 15% or more of top 8 cuts, compared to the next highest deck (Show and Tell) at 7%, and a typical turn in Legacy Miracles could be as long as Top, form multi-turn game plan, fetch, Top, form multi-turn game plan, pass, then activate top as needed in their opponent’s turn. In a simple turn, the Miracles player was forced to think up to three turns ahead, a plan that had to be re-evaluated every turn and dragged games out unreasonably.
Another, less obvious reason that Miracles was so unsatisyfing to play against was that their most active zone was one hidden to their opponent; they saw the manipulation, but had to gamble on what those top cards were. This leads the non-miracles player into the mental trap of assuming the Miracles player “has it all” when in reality, they had been carefully playing the odds and may not have had that crutch card until this turn, after fetching, cantripping, and rearranging multiple times.
Is it safe to come out?
But enough about Miracles itself, the real question is how the format changes with the banning. Some number of Miracles players will stick with the ideas inherit in the deck, and may brew some sort of Monastery Mentor control deck, leveraging cantrips much like Grixis Pyro-Delver does to amass a board of tokens. Some others will snap up a Stoneforge Mystic package and transition to Esper Stoneblade. Decks that make a huge profit from Miracles ceasing to exist include Elves, Delver, Storm, DnT, and Stoneblade variants as their low-cost creatures are freed from the oppression that is Counterbalance and their board states from Terminus (one-drop pseudo-Wrath of God? who thought that up?)
There were, unfortunately, decks that ran Top that were not Miracles, and some of these may not be able to function in a world without it. Doomsday (the coolest combo deck ever, in my humble opinion) loses half of its ‘pile’ options and may outright no longer be playable since the deck was finicky and mentally draining enough with Top. 12-post is possibly the most hard hit by the banning as it was both Miracles worst matchup and used Top in lieu of cantrips, so give it a month and buy those Candelabra of Tawnos, they’ll drop in price due to low play, right? Painter-Stone also suffers in much the same way; whether the deck can support Islands (basics because Blood Moon) in order to run regular cantrips is yet to be seen. There were some Storm variants that ran Top for a cheap boost to their storm count, and some colourless card selection; these decks will continue to exist, and in the long run are probably the least affected by the banning.
Even though the ban has been made, it is always good to evaluate what could have been done better, and in this writer’s opinion, the best ban to make would have been Terminus. Why? A Terminus ban would completely nullify the above paragraph as no other decks run the card. It would also allow the Counterbalance-Top interaction to be played for those control lovers out there, Miracles would just need to find another sweeper (and pay fairly for it dammit!). The only forseeable downside is the Monastery Mentor + Top interaction becoming a larger part of the deck’s overall gameplan, being used to form a small wall and generating board-stalls that few decks can overcome. As for the slow-play element, we all know that one player after all, who tends to slow play regardless of what’s in their deck, so I feel it unfair to apply their ineptitude to a ban decision as it affects competent players as well.
As always, we’d love to hear your points. Was Top the right ban? Is there a deck about to break out that I haven’t covered? Will Wizards ban Brainstorm next?
Let us know in the comments below
Until next time, good topdecks and enjoy resolving your spells.