You probably have enough already, but just indulge me.
Yes, Compaions are way too strong. I get why. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be played, so they wouldn’t be interesting.
One of the way too few positive things WotC has done for Standard in recent years is deck diversity. Before the current era, it was quite common that you had two or three viable archetypes, which often didn’t even have that much room to evolve with the meta. While Lukka-decks dominated last weekend, in general we have had plenty of different decks in Standard recently. There are more playable cards and you actually can make meaningful deckbuilding choices.
But then came Companions and suddenly the pool of cards isn’t that big anymore.
[draft]Gyruda, Doom of Depths
Jegantha, the Wellspring
Kaheera, the Orphanguard
Keruga, the Macrosage
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Lutri, the Spellchaser
Obosh, the Preypiercer
Umori, the Collector
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Zirda, the Dawnwaker[/draft]
As many people have noted, on the ladder most players will be playing Companion decks. At least on the higher levels. While Companions do encourage new decks, which was the intention, the way they do it just makes me gringe. Many otherwise relevant cards have fallen out of the meta just because you have to play a companion and that means that your Mono Red aggro just isn’t viable anymore without Obosh. While I’m not actually shedding any tears for [card]Runaway Steam-Kin[/card], [card]Torbran[/card] or [card]Embercleave[/card], these are now cards that won’t be seeing as much play as they used to.
While I have seen each of the Companions see some play (although I haven’t seen Zirda in Standard), not all of them are good enough to make a dent in the meta and many of those that are good enough, pretty much enforce a very strict deck. I mean, there’s no actual reason to follow Gyruda’s limitations without building a deck specifically designed to push him out on the fourth turn. Otherwise you are just hindering yourself. Let’s look at some of the other ones that see play:
- Obosh: There are three decks runnign around, but based on the results of recent tournaments, only one of these is actually viable (the Mono Red one), which is largely predetermined by what’s available at odd costs
- Lurrus seems to be somewhat flexible, as there’s the cycling decks (Boros and Jeskai), which employ it, various Rakdos sacrifice decks and the enchantment based Mono White and Orzhov decks. The good thing here is that this actually enables a lot of cards that wouldn’t really be playable otherwise, but also Lurrus’ limitation pushes many cards out of these decks.
- Yorion is the weirdest case here. In some ways it enables a lot of different cards, as you have to break a cardinal rule and play more than 60. There seems to be a lot of these decks around, so from this point of view, Yorion is actually a positive (but you are free to hate it anyhow)
- I’ve tried many Umori decks, but just for fun. They aren’t very competitive (at least not in Standard). The lack of interaction makes them horrible in a meta with Lukka dominating. You don’t really want to assemble a huge mutant monster only to have it be stolen by the numerous decks relying on [card]Agent of Treachery[/card]. Worse yet, it feels like Umori pushes out many planeswalkers, which might otherwise be interesting additions to the meta, like various Viviens.
- Kaheera also forces certain decisions on the player. There are very few playable early creatures from it’s types, so you have to rely on subpar ramp to get enable an awkward curve, which leads you dead to most fast decks and vulnerable to the ever-present Agent. These decks don’t do very well.
- Keruga is completely unplayable outside of the Fires deck
How many decks does that leave us with? The game has not been healthy for a while, but the meta has (weirdly). While some decks would just be awful without a certain companion and thus Companions do enable decks, their inherent power means that you just have to have one, which means that the number of playable decks is down, which means that the number of cards that can potentially see play is also down.