Deep Dive Into the New Standard

Arne Huschenbeth

Arne Huschenbeth


Wilderness ReclamationTeferi, Time RavelerGrowth SpiralCauldron Familiar

Bye, Bye 《Wilderness Reclamation》, 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, 《Growth Spiral》 and 《Cauldron Familiar》. Some of you will be missed, some of you will not. I honestly did not expect Wizards to ban four cards in a format soon to be rotating anyways. I believe it was a good decision though.

The preemptive ban of 《Cauldron Familiar》 is a heads up decision that I approve. The banning of 《Wilderness Reclamation》 and 《Growth Spiral》 I can totally get behind.

Banning 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 might not have been necessary. The card is on powerlevel not strong enough to justify its ban in an open field. 《Teferi》 restricts certain archetypes and the overall gameplay experience, I suppose the unfun play justifies its exit. So here we are.

A new format and we already have some tournament results to talk about. I, myself, tested a lot of different decks in the last days too. I wanted to get a feel for the format and its boundaries.

Higher Power Set Design

One thing I want to address first is the strategy of set design since round about War of the Spark to go for a higher power levelin cards. We have a lot of very powerful cards in the format right now, even though many already got banned.

Field of the DeadOko, Thief of CrownsOnce Upon a Time
Veil of SummerAgent of TreacheryFires of Invention

Banning cards will lead to a shakeup and a fresh, exciting experience at first. But the inherent issue is that there are very powerful cards left, which will likely take the spot for “King of the Hill” and become the next target for complains by the playerbase. Cards that come to mind are 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》, 《Winota, Joiner of Forces》 or 《Embercleave》.

Uro, Titan of Nature's WrathNissa, Who Shakes the WorldWinota, Joiner of ForcesEmbercleave

These cards or one of them might just take the spot for the dominating performance and will create an disbalanced metagame where people might call for a ban yet again.

I think the solution lies in the creation and the design. We have seen an overall trend in power level increase over the last one to two years. I am not opposed against trying new things and I am sure the design team at Wizards had very good reasons for their design approach.

In my opinion the design team should learn from the many bans that had to be done in the last 12 months and should think about lowering the powerlevel in future sets. I know the design job is highly complex and very difficult, the design team has all my respect. I just want to point out what I believe what one problem is and when addressing the issue it could then prevent us from having to ban cards regularly in the future.

Tier 1 Decks

Enough ban and design theory, I got into the trenches for you and tried a lot of different decks. I will quickly go over them, tell you my thoughts and hopefully will save you time by determining the Tier level and its current positioning in the metagame.

Sultai Ramp

Uro, Titan of Nature's WrathNissa, Who Shakes the WorldCasualties of War

Before I do that I should establish the metagame and the Tier 1 decks. Last weekend we saw an absolute dominant performance by Sultai Ramp. Winning the Redbull Qualifier, the SCG Championship Qualifier and the Magic Online Standard Challenge. Brad Nelson was promoting the archetype in the last week and to no one’s surprise his list took down one of the aforementioned events.

Sultai Ramp is the clear “King of the hill”. Most played deck and nonetheless a phenomenal performance are indicators of a powerful and consistent strategy. From looking at the results, Temur Adventures and Rakdos Sacrifice seem to be the other top performers.

Temur Adventures

Edgewall InnkeeperFae of WishesLucky Clover

Temur Adventures is clearly a strong strategy that was held down by Temur Reclamation prior to the bans. Temur Adventures is strong against most of the fair midrange and creature decks, it struggles with strategies that go over the top. For example Sultai Ramp and Temur Elementals. I am not sure how it plays against the new Rakdos Sacrifice decks, 《Bonecrusher Giant》 is very strong against those. It looks close, but I could see that RB has an edge.

Rakdos Sacrifice

Priest of Forgotten GodsLurrus of the Dream-DenArchfiend's Vessel

Rakdos Sacrifice is a new version of the old archetype. Build around 《Lurrus of the Dream-Den》, which I believe is the right approach. I really like Ryuji’s list. 《Archfiend’s Vessel》 in conjunction with 《Lurrus》 is a powerful combination. The jury is still out on how good this deck is versus Sultai. I would give Sultai a slight edge from what I have seen. But this RB deck is unknown territory for me, I have tried a lot of decks, but did not find the time to play Rakdos Sacrifice.

Mine For Gems

These are our Tier 1 decks and now we can dive into what I have been trying out and what I think might be good or what might be terrible. I think in general it is a good approach to play a lot of different archetypes at the beginning of a format to get a feeling for what is good and what is bad. And sometimes you find a gem, that with a certain amount of tuning can become a real contender.

Let’s dive into my findings. First up Boros Cycling.

Boros Cycling

Flourishing FoxValiant RescuerZenith Flare

Boros Cycling is a solid Tier 2 deck. The matchup against Temur Adventures feels in favor, but Sultai does feel tough. Cheap removal for your early beaters, 《Uro》 and 《Enter the God-Eternals》 in combination with 《Negate》/《Aether Gust》 for 《Zenith Flare》 are difficult to beat. Boros is a good deck, but not in this Sultai heavy metagame. The aggressive matchups felt in favor for Boros Cycling, Mardu Winota being close.

Izzet Tempo

Sprite DragonDreadhorde ArcanistStormwing Entity

I saw this deck and liked the combination of cards. After playing with the deck, my initial positive feelings have been vanished. I think with a better list you could achieve more. This list does not have enough card draw, you often find yourself with awkward combinations of cards. Like a handful of 《Unsummon》s and 《Shock》s after they killed your one threat. Similarly to Boros Cycling you rely on your early creatures to do the damage, but if those get removed you have a tough time to get back into the game. I think this is Tier 3 or worse.

Arclight Phoenix

A question raised in my head was how good 《Arclight Phoenix》 might be nowadays. The Phoenix is good, but the enablers are bad. Without a card like 《Faithless Looting》 you do not get the explosiveness. The format is fast, you do not have time to draw a bunch of cards and hope to have two 《Arclight Phoenix》 in your top 14 cards. Sultai has 《Extinction Event》 and often even 《Cry of the Carnarium》 in the sideboard, another argument against the 3/2 flyer. 《Arclight Phoenix》 often sounds appealing in theory, but often plays out slow in practice. Therefore I will not even bother to try.

Orzhov Yorion

Next up Orzhov Yorion. The deck is powerful. It is very strong against aggressive strategies and fairly good in a midrange fight.

Treacherous BlessingDoom ForetoldYorion, Sky Nomad

Problem is the consistency, with 80 cards and only really 《Treacherous Blessing》 to smooth out your draws, you often sit there not having the right cards at the right time. It feels like you are ahead against Sultai, but sometimes you lose against your own deck. Sultai has more consistency. And then there is Temur Adventures, a truly horrible matchup for the discard deck. Orzhov Yorion is solid Tier 2 and might become a justifiable option if Temur Adventures has been pushed out more and more.

Mono Red

Fervent ChampionTorbran, Thane of Red FellEmbercleave

Mono Red. Solid Tier 2. Highly consistent, but the format is prepared. 《Aether Gust》 and cheap interaction is flowing around plenty. Sultai and Temur Adventures are both difficult matchups in my experience.

But there are close, Mono Red has power and consistency. From all the aggressive decks I tried I like it the most. In general playing aggressive decks is very difficult with cheap Adventure creatures and 《Uro》 around.

Boros Winota

Tithe TakerSeasoned Hallowblade

I also tried this Boros Winota deck by Simon Nielsen. Again I was not convinced. 《Winota, Joiner of Forces》 is a lot weaker in this build, you have more humans and your humans are less powerful than in Mardu. You trade power for a better manabase and 《Embercleave》. 《Embercleave》 is not even that great in this deck. And both 《Embercleave》 and 《Winota, Joiner of Forces》 are kinda weak against cheap interaction.

I think the Mardu version of Winota is stronger, because 《Winota, Joiner of Forces》 is most of the time an “I win” card if you play here in Mardu.

Cry of the Carnarium

I had the pleasure to face 《Cry of the Carnarium》 multiple times playing the deck and yeah, if Sultai players choose to play 《Cry》 in their sideboard, then this deck does not have any future in the current metagame.

Beat Tier 1 Decks

My Favorite Color Combination

The more I played, the more it became to clear to me that Sultai was the strongest deck overall. And mind that before this weekend’s result came in. But the problem with playing a deck aimed at beating Sultai, like Temur Flash or Simic Flash, that Temur Adventures heavily prays on those decks. Similarly to Orzhov Yorion. The question is, what is good against Sultai, but can also beat Temur Adventures?

People that know me, know that I have preference for a certain color combination and the shards that go with it. I am speaking of Dimir and Grixis, Sultai and Esper.

Dance of the Manse

The best Esper deck is likely Esper Dance with Yorion. I think there is certainly potential in Esper Dance, but the similarity to Orzhov Yorion with its weaknesses disqualified Esper Dance for me. The Esper manabase without a Tri-land is an additional downside. Although I have to say that with 《Golden Egg》 and 《Omen of the Sea》 you can smooth out your mana nicely. There might be a strong deck in a tuned version of Esper Dance.

Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God

Dimir Control itself might be solid, but is lacking the power level. I also wanted a way to get rid of 《Lucky Clover》. I took a look at Grixis. 《Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God》 is one of the best cards ever printed for a grindy midrange fight. Here is what I tried.

The Elderspell

《The Elderspell》 in conjunction with 《Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God》 or 《Liliana, Dreadhorde General》 can sometimes result in a quick win out of nowhere. And you can discard it with the three copies of 《Teferi, Master of Time》 when its not needed.

In theory the deck is appealing, but it lacks in consistency. 《Nicol Bolas》 is the reason to play the color combination, but losing out on 《Uro》, 《Hydroid Krasis》 and 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》 when you compare the deck to Sultai is undeniably a harsh toll.

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

Playing Grixis against aggressive decks makes you really appreciate and want to have 《Uro》 in your deck. It just shows how messed up 《Uro》 really is. Having the ability to gain life and to stabilize incorporated in a ramp spell is just unreal for a midrange strategy.

Grixis’s best draws might beat Sultai’s best draws, but Sultai is more consistent and overall cleaner and better prepared for a wider range of decks. Sadly the Dragon-God was not victorious in beating the enemy. He seems to be losing a lot lately, in the story as in the actual game.


Temur Flash

I have already touched on Flash decks, I tried out this list based on a version I saw online.

Nightpack AmbusherFrilled MysticSinister Sabotage

From my experience playing this archetype, I believe it is favored against Sultai, not by an great amount, but by a decent amount. The better the Sultai player, the harder the matchup. One of the more difficult matchups for Temur Flash, yet again Temur Adventures. Surprising, I know.

Temur Adventures has kept the enemies of Sultai in check, but what this does, it tells us that when Temur Adventures metagame share declines we might have some Yorion or Flash decks coming in to balance out Sultai’s dominance. I think Temur Flash is a reasonable choice right now, but of course the aggressive matchups are difficult too. Not unlosable, just more difficult than with Sultai for example.

Temur Elementals

The last deck I want to talk about is Temur Elementals. From looking at the Redbull Qualifier results Temur Elementals seems to be one of the better performing decks against Sultai. The SCG Championship Qualifier is painting a picture showing Temur Elementals having a really bad performance against Sultai. To that we have to acknowledge that the sample size of the Redbull is much bigger than of the SCG Qualifier. These news are giving me hope for the deck. The next question I then ask, how is Temur Elementals performing against the rest of the field?

Terror of the PeaksGenesis Ultimatum

This is the Standard Challenge list by Magic Online Grinder _Batutinha_, an experienced deck builder and player. This list is very straightforward and looking to maximize 《Genesis Ultimatum》 together with 《Terror of the Peaks》.

Though being straightforward makes it easier to disrupt you, 《Aether Gust》 is very strong against this approach. With Temur Elementals the lack of interaction can make you lose a quick game against an aggressive strategy like Mono Red or Mardu Winota.

From my own experience playing against Sultai, the matchup is closer than it might look on first sight. Temur has to draw their cards in the right order. You need your early ramp and your lategame payoff, a card like 《Hydroid Krasis》 could help smooth out your draws. Sometimes you flood out when they handle your threats. 《Extinction Event》 is also fantastic against you, most of the time on odd it takes away 《Terror of the Peaks》, 《Cavalier of Thorns》, 《Uro》 or 《Risen Reef》. Temur is ahead, but not by a longshot. 《Aether Gust》 and 《Mystical Dispute》 are both very good against Temur.


These are the decks I took a look at. I did not have the time to try out Rakdos Sacrifice, but I believe there is a lot of potential. In the future I will take a look at that and Esper Dance as well.

Frilled MysticNissa, Who Shakes the World

To sum things up, I believe for the coming days and tournaments Temur Flash and Sultai are the best choices, with Rakdos Sacrifice as a maybe included. Temur Adventures and Temur Elementals are solid choices too, but have each their own problems.

If you want beat Sultai, I recommend playing Temur Flash or just a tuned version of Sultai to beat the mirror. I am not going into presenting you a list of Sultai. There are infinite lists out there and I am sure other players will write about the deck with more expertise than I have on the archetype, where you can get all the information you need.

This article was there to show you the format as a whole and the different options at hand. I tried out many decks to find a hidden gem (I was not successful) and to present my findings with you. I hope you could take something away from this article and I wish everyone a lot of fun exploring this new format.

Happy laddering!

Arne Huschenbeth (Twitter / Twitch)

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Arne Huschenbeth

Arne Huschenbeth Arne is an enthusiast for Standard and won GP Rimini which was held by exact his favorite format. He also achieved impressive 10-0 record at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. He has 3 more GP top 8s past seasons, and earned 41 Pro Points during 2017-2018 season which was good enough to become a Gold Level Pro. Read more articles by Arne Huschenbeth

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