Everyone Saw it Coming - Field of the Dead Banned!
If you’ve dipped your toe into the world of standard in the last six months then you’ll definitely have witnessed the scourge, the juggernaut, the demon of current Standard that is “Bant” Golos. Ever since Core Set 2020 gave us Field of the Dead the Standard format has been warped and subsequently created a deck that was very difficult to attack from any angle and had a higher level of consistency than any deck in Standard should have or has had for a long time.
Bant Golos aims to build up a huge mana repository with cards like Circuitous Route or Growth Spiral, both either able to dig out lands from your deck or help power out more lands from your hand. Along with the deck’s namesake - Golos, Tireless Pilgrim - the deck allows you to find so many unique lands very quickly to get a tonne of triggers from your Field of the Dead and amass a huge board sometimes in the space of a turn. Even without any of its ramp spells, as long as you can find seven uniquely named lands and a Field of the Dead or two, your land drops do all the work for you and when you’re playing 27-30 lands in your deck the rate at which you draw lands is frequent. This deck has buried opponents for the entirety of this recent Standard format with ease, to the point where big tournaments had a vastly significant chunk of the metagame being represented by Golos. This doesn’t make for a healthy metagame at all, couple this with the fact that this Lands strategy is a holdover from Scapeshift decks from before the last rotation and it’s difficult to ignore it any more: Golos decks are too good!
Obviously good is a fairly subjective statement, there are decks that CAN beat it but the rate of which that happens is dwarfed by the amount Golos decks manage to pull through. The deck is too consistent. A more accurate assessment would be that Golos decks are too oppressive. In the most recent Mythic Championship V, Bant Golos represented 33.8% of the field. If you couple that will all the other decks playing Golos like Golos Fires and 4C Golos that number rises to a bewildering 42.7%, that should give you an idea as to how much you would be seeing Golos per tournament. Oppressive decks lead to boring metagames where there’s really only one choice of deck if you realistically want to win a Standard tournament, and while Golos mirrors can be entertaining and very skill based, that’s no denying that those circumstances come up too often.
Now for the good news, Golos decks are no more!
Yes, that’s right, Field of the Dead has kicked the bucket and will no longer be terrorising Standard tables and I can practically hear the cheers from around the world.
Golos gave the deck so much versatility throughout the game but Field of the Dead was the real powerhouse of the deck. Allowing you to find whatever utility or mana fixing lands you want and protecting yourself with an ever growing army of zombies ready to attack at your whim is too powerful. Golos had to be stopped.
The New Standard
So, with Field of the Dead finally bidding farewell how has that changed the metagame and what decks will be seeing more play?
Because of the consistency of Golos decks, the opposing metagame had to hit fast or hard to get anywhere near defeating it. Decks like Simic Food and Golgari Adventures were able to generate card and life advantage to combat the Golos decks, whereas Mono Red and Gruul Aggro hit the table very quick and sometimes snowballed into some early wins. The thing missing here is the control side of the metagame.
Control got hit hard when the Golos decks started climbing to the top: they needed to be able to keep the rest of the metagame in check, which involved playing more removal spells. Great against aggressive and midrange decks but terrible against Golos. Control didn’t have a very adaptive plan is the point and subsequently was left by the wayside. Now Golos decks will have diminished, Control decks can start to find a bit more of a footing in the format.
Another archetype that can start to see more play is your typical Midrange decks, not the ones that center themselves around value like Golgari Adventures but the slightly slower ones. Mono White or Mono Black are decks looking to use their presence on the board over time rather than in a couple of turns, something that’s more achievable now that you don’t have to worry about having to deal with ten 2/2 zombies that have just appeared in the space of a turn. Because of this possible rise in the Midrange archetype playability, I think aggressive decks are well positioned - especially depending on what removal is being utilised. If the aggressive decks are fast enough then other decks in the format will have to rely more on Wrath effects for an efficient way of dealing with all those creatures. The slower aggressive decks will then start to come forward as they crumble more so to one for one removal spells and are fine with you wasting a Wrath on one of their bigger guys as they just land another one and carry on.
All in all, this standard format is now wide open with a tonne of great, varied strategies where no one is better/more consistent than the others, at least not by a huge margin.
So why wasn’t it Golos?
I actually think Golos could’ve at least been banned if not as well as Field of the Dead. Golos lets you turn the corner out of nowhere not only by giving you an additional Land but by allowing you to start casting spells for free off the top of your library. Even if your opponent can deal with Field of the Dead somehow, it’s very difficult to deal with free spells every turn.
Was anything else on the chopping block?
A couple of very remote possibilities like Hydroid Krasis, Circuitous Route or Growth Spiral but all of these were known quantities and all could be dealt with. Plus it feels very unfair to ban cards like Circuitous Route and Growth Spiral as they’re only as good as the deck is, unfortunately when that deck is playing Field of the Dead that makes them very powerful.
Hydroid Krasis is another question: it’s not that the card is too powerful or even that it sees too much play in the metagame. The real issue, for me at least, is the feel bad factor. You know the one I’m talking about, you get your opponent down to 4 or 5 and feel like you’re in a good position to take the game, only for a Hydroid Krasis for seven to bring your opponent back into the game in almost every aspect and leaves you feeling like you’ve wasted your time and resources. I think this was just a lapse in design development though, take the “cast” trigger off and replace it with an “enter the battlefield” trigger and everything is fine.
My point is you need to cut it off at the source and that source is either Field of the Dead or Golos. With Field of the Dead gone the deck dies. It’s had its time in the sun and made Standard boring for long enough. It’s time to put this to bed and move on.