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Brewer's Minute: Dies to Doom Blade

Hey, everyone. It's time for another Brewer's Minute. This week, we are going to take a few minutes to talk about a famous Magic saying: it "dies to Doom Blade." Some people love it, other people hate it, but there's no doubt that it has a lot of impact on how people view the game because it comes up over and over again every spoiler season. So today, we are going to break down the truth of "dies to Doom Blade" and see what the idiom can teach us about choosing solid cards and building powerful decks in our current Standard format!

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The crux of the "dies to Doom Blade" argument is that some people think that creatures that die to Doom Blade (which is basically a stand-in for the best removal spells in a format) without doing anything are utterly unplayable. While some people hold steadfastly to this belief, there's another group that fights back, arguing that everything dies to one removal spell or another and that the worry about removal is overrated. What's the truth of this argument, and how does it relate to our current Standard? First, we need to identify the Doom Blades of our current Standard format.

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The three cards above are the "Doom Blades" of Aether Revolt Standard, and they are—by far—the most played removal spells in the format. Fatal Push is currently in 81% of decks, Harnessed Lightning is in about 40% (but almost always as a four-of), and Shock shows up in about 50% of decks. As such, these are the cards we need to be considering as we break down "dies to Doom Blade" in our current format. 

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It wasn't that long ago that Grim Flayer was a top 10 card in Standard, coming down on Turn 2 and taking over many games with its unique mix of powerful stats, delirium enabling, and card filtering. Then, all of a sudden, something changed. As of right now, Grim Flayer is barely in the top 50 cards in Standard, despite the fact that GB decks are among the most played in the format. So, what happened to Grim Flayer

The biggest problem with Grim Flayer at the moment is that it dies to all of the Doom Blades in the format. Fatal Push and Shock kill it for just one mana (when in the past, the worst-case scenario was an opponent having to spend two mana to kill it with Grasp of Darkness or Harnessed Lightning). As a result, Grim Flayer is much less playable than it was just a month or two ago, mostly because it dies to Doom Blade. So, as we can see, there is at least some amount of truth to the "dies to removal" argument, because we have a current real-world example of an extremely powerful card being pushed from a format based mostly on how poorly it matches up against popular removal spells. 

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Winding Constrictor is another interesting case. Like Grim Flayer, it doesn't do anything immediately when it enters the battlefield, and it still dies to a lot of the Standard Doom Blades (although it does dodge Shocks). Interestingly, this is enough to make Winding Constrictor not just a playable card but a great card in our Standard format. While its resilience to removal isn't a reason to put it in a deck, it is good enough that even though it still dies to most of the popular removal and doesn't impact the board immediately, it still has a home in a ton of Standard decks. This flies in the face of the argument that simply dying to Doom Blade makes a creature bad or unplayable. Winding Constrictor dies to a one-mana removal spell that is played in 81% of decks, and it's still great! So, perhaps the truth of the matter is somewhere in the middle.

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We also have a third group of cards: cards that actively benefit from the popular removal in the format. While the Standard Doom Blades are making Grim Flayer much less playable and are more or less neutral with Winding Constrictor, the fact that everyone is trying to kill stuff with Fatal Push, Shock, and Harnessed Lightning makes me want to put Aethersphere Harvester in as many decks as possible, because none of the most popular removal spells in Aether Revolt Standard can kill it (well, Harnessed Lightning can sometimes, but not without help). This is basically the opposite situation as Grim Flayer—instead of forcing a card out of decks, the Standard removal suite is almost forcing a card into decks because it lines up so well. 


So, what is the point of this discussion? It's not to say that you should (or shouldn't) play spells that die to Doom Blade, but instead to illuminate the importance of thinking through the metagame and the format. As you are choosing the cards for your deck, take a minute to think about what spells you will be fighting against, and when you have the option, try to cut cards that line up poorly and add in some cards that line up well. While you might not see the impact of these choices immediately, over the course of time, deck after deck, match after match, adding in these slight edges that come from solid choices during the deck-building process will add up to better decks and, in the end, more wins! So, rather than being a hard and fast rule, the "dies to Doom Blade" argument, at least for me, is a reminder to be conscious in my deck-building choices and to focus on the big picture.

Anyway, that's all for today. Leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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