Pioneer: It was wrong to ban Felidar Guardian and not Saheeli Rai.

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Posted on Nov. 5, 2019, 2:24 p.m. by StopShot

Since the Pioneer format had been introduced Felidar Guardian has only seen play for 14 days, and while the Saheeli Rai + Felidar Guardian combo was too profound for the meta to deal with I think it would have been worthwhile to see what the cat would do without it's fellow planeswalker for a variety of reasons.

First off Pioneer is currently going through a grace period where Banned and Restricted announcements are being put up weekly on every Monday. If another secondary broken card interaction would surface with the cat it would be very easy for Wizards to correct the problem swiftly unlike with other formats where it would take months before dropping the banhammer.

Secondly Saheeli Rai as a card is hardly going to see play in this format without the cat, which means there probably isn't going to be a lot of problems for tier 1, 2, and 3 decks if she's missing.

But most importantly, no one is asking the question, "What would be the next broken card interaction Felidar Guardian would slot into?" I actually have the answer to this one and it's Flameshadow Conjuring .

Combo Explanation: Flameshadow Conjuring + Felidar Guardian works similarly to its preceding combo with Saheeli but not as straightforward. Conjuring is on the field and then you cast the Guardian. At this point in the combo we always stack ETB's so Guardian's resolves first and the Conjuring's resolves last. Guardian blinks a red source such as Mountain or alternatively Clifftop Retreat effectively untapping it. Then we can tap the blinked red source to produce the mana needed to resolve the Flameshadow Conjuring 's effect. This in turn produces a token copy of the cat, however, the token copy does not retrigger Flameshadow Conjuring , so instead, whenever a token copy enters the battlefield, we'll have it's ETB target the original Felidar Guardian . The original cat blinks causing both it's ETB and Flameshadow Conjuring 's ETB to trigger again. Repeat the process by resolving triggers in the same order as mentioned before with the cat blinking your red mana source until you have infinite hasty cat tokens to deal lethal with.

I think this combo should have at least a single day where it's legal in this format to see how it stands against other decks. The cons to this combo-strategy are that it takes one turn slower to deal lethal than Saheeli, it's weak to both instant-speed and sorcery-speed artifact and enchantment removal, and lastly you need to restrict your mana-base so that you always have a red source that can instantly produce red mana for free. I feel that these set-backs are enough to give other decks a better shot at combating copycat combo, and if the combo is still too degenerate then it would probably be worth banning Felidar Guardian instead of taking down more cards due to it.

Wizards has also said they banned the cat because they're afraid it would conflict with design space for future sets. I think this is not a realistic concern given the power-level of today's standard sets. In order to make infinite cats you're going to need a permanent that can readily produce a copy of Felidar Guardian with haste for 0 or 1 mana on your main phase, and that permanent needs to cost 3 or less mana in order to get a turn 4 kill. I think this is an incredibly high requirement that won't be surpassed in standard ever again. Even if Wizards reprinted the Modern-banned Splinter Twin card into standard, while it could produce infinite hasty cats, they'd all be tapped and you'd be unable to win the game unless you had something like an Impact Tremors on the battlefield, which; even that combo would never be used, because Felidar Guardian + Impact Tremors + Mirror Image would be a better combo.

My opinion is if Pioneer can't handle a turn 5 copy-cat combo that's weaker to more forms of removal then Felidar Guardian should be banned for good. Otherwise removing an entire deck strategy when there are much weaker variants to run in its place seems wrong to me. Thoughts?

RNR_Gaming says... #2

It would of been interesting to swap the Walker for the cat. I was in the process of building copy cat before the ban; I played it in standard so I didnt really need to by much. I love combo but I can see why it was banned. RnD would have to constantly think about how this card would impact the format going forward and that may prevent then from being able to put out some really cool and fun cards. The format will settle down but I don't think I'll be buying into any decks for awhile if they decide to go all konami on this format and ban anything that does just a tad too well.

November 5, 2019 2:47 p.m.

rockleemyhero says... #3

i dont think you mentioned this but felidar probably does/will enable broken Prime Speaker Vannifar combos as well. Imo Guardian was the right choice from a brewers and financial perspective for players and wotc.

November 5, 2019 3:37 p.m.

StopShot says... #4

@RNR_Gaming, I'm not sure if they'd really need to think about it a whole lot when designing cards. I'm getting the impression the card is going to be like the Stoneforge Mystic of Modern, because the Mystic remained on the ban list citing that it would hinder creativity when designing equipment in later sets. Equipment however is an already touchy matter as it's already easy to go terribly wrong even without the Mystic, ie Skullclamp , Umezawa's Jitte . Copy creature effects already have that same degree of delicacy to them as you're effectively cheating creatures in for free or cheap and even when the Felidar has not been in standard Wizards will still produce a lot of watered-down copy effects that can't be broken with combos anyway like Flamerush Rider , Mirror March , Tilonalli's Skinshifter , and I doubt we'll ever see another three mana planeswalker with a copy creature ability either.

But I digress, I don't think it would hurt seeing what it would do for at least a week or month as the best time to do so would be now rather than later. It might turn out very poorly, but we don't know as all we can do is speculate rather than find out.

November 5, 2019 7:04 p.m.

StopShot says... #5

@rockleemyhero, Well I wouldn't necessarily be citing, "Makes Birthing Pod Ver. 2.0 degenerate" as a reason to remove a piece of the engine when the engine itself is nefariously known for amassing easy value from very little to begin with. After all I'm sure the added delve creatures also have disgusting synergies with the Prime Speaker and it wouldn't surprise me if she eventually ends up in the pool of Pioneer cards that will be considered for bans regardless if the Guardian is in the format or not.

The best way to put it is to ask the question, "if the two together end up being really awful, then which one of the two is going to cause the most trouble in the format if left unbanned?" Felidar is broken with a planeswalker card that doesn't see play in any other deck, but the Prime Speaker makes value out of a barrage of different creature cards.

November 5, 2019 7:23 p.m.

rockleemyhero says... #6

Didn’t say it makes it degenerate, just saying it has the possibility to given the right card pool, and mostly speaking some commons printed for limited play like Bounding Krasis . However the real reason is financially and cuz people like pws more than 1/4 4 cmc white creatures. It leaves room for people to explore a ur/x artifact synergy deck with saheeli (not saying it’ll ever be competitive but people love brewing that kind of stuff). And mythic pw of a set > an uncommon cat from a wotc financial standpoint.

November 5, 2019 8:27 p.m.

SP3CTR3_chelts says... #7

I'm sorry i dont see your complaint? you have literally already found a similer combo (yes i admit it is not as good as higher cmc and you have to play one piece first) but that shows that fellidier is the broken card not saheeli?

November 7, 2019 6:41 a.m.

x12721 says... #8

Felidar Guardian is a much stronger card. Even on an empty board, it gives you at least one mana back (via flickering a land) and allows all sorts of shenanigans to occur.

November 7, 2019 11:57 a.m.

Argy says... #9

WOTC stated that they wanted to make Saheeli Rai still accessible for other potential combos they had seen.

November 11, 2019 11:12 p.m.

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