Welcome to the New World of Standard

Oliver Polak-Rottmann

While Standard was in a crucial state since the printing of 《Emrakul, the Promised End》 we finally have something that looks promising again. After the first wave of bans the Energy mechanic took over and dominated tournaments all over the world for a long time.

While Temur never won a Pro Tour (Mardu, Zombies, Mono Red and Sultai did) it almost always had to highest percentage played at those events and cursed the GP Circuit and Magic Online. Regardless whether it was 《Saheeli》, 《Marvel》 or straight Temur Energy it always was the best deck in the field and while gameplay was interesting it was not for the whole majority of viewers and players at FNMs and GPs.

Attune with AetherRamunap Ruins

The last Banning Announcement caught many off-guard as the banned 《Attune with Aether》, 《Rogue Refiner》, 《Ramunap Ruins》 and 《Rampaging Ferocidon》. While the first two were clearly to weaken Temur Energy people were surprised that the two red cards also got the axe. The expectation was that Ramunap Red would be too strong after the absence of Temur and I am pretty sure it would have been. The 《Ramunap Ruins》 were too strong as it gave the deck a lategame plan without sacrificing anything of the core gameplan.

《Rampaging Ferocidon》 on the other hand was not even played by all Mono Red decklist at that time and came to the surprise of the most dedicated Standard players, but I think they also called that perfectly fine. This card singlehandedly kept decks like 《God-Pharaoh's Gift》, token strategies or control decks in check. So what was to be expected of the new format?

The Clash of the Gods

While the feedback of the new format was great we were not sure if it only came down to the clash of 《The Scarab God》 against 《Hazoret the Fervent》. While both UB Control and Mono Red were quickly stated as the decks to beat there were stategies like Tokens in various builds to keep both decks in check and then there were the green decks.

《Jadelight Ranger》 is a very potent card and was looking for a home from the very beginning as it is a card that can smooth out your draws like harly any other card can and you get a body alongside that for only three mana.

While Tokens is supposed to have a decent matchups against both Mono Red and UB it has a tough time beating white control or green creature decks. UB has decent game against Mono Red due to 《Moment of Craving》 and is able to beat the green decks unless 《Carnage Tyrant》 appears on the battlefield.

And as it was a new format that did not get explored by the Pros due to the lack of a Standard PT no one really knew what the new standout cards would be unless GP Memphis, which was the first big Standard tournament with Rivals of Ixalan.

Jadelight RangerHidden StockpileMoment of Craving

Mono Red Was The Most Played Deck

That did not come as a surprise to me, as I played the deck a lot in the past and figured it would still be very strong with the addition of either black for 《Scrapheap Scrounger》 or go slightly bigger with 《Rekindling Phoenix》.

Scrapheap ScroungerRekindling Phoenix

So when we look at the decklists of the tournament the successful players were gunning for Mono Red in a big way. Nearly all black decks ran the full set of 《Vraska's Contempt》, UB played 3-4 《Moment of Craving》 main and the other red decks played 《Magma Spray》 main. 《Call to the Feast》 showed up in a lot of Tokens decklists and 《Gifted Aetherborn》 was also played quite often.

My analysis of this weekend is that Mono Red might still be the best deck BUT is very beatable if you want to. It did not put a single copy in the Top8 though. Jon Rolf came very close with falling short in Round 15. He is an expert with this archetype so if you are interested in this strategy I would try to stick with his list as close as possible.

Very interesting to me is the absence of 《Sunscorched Desert》 in favor of 《Scavenger Grounds》 and 《Grasping Dunes》 and I think that is the right call. He also did not respect any artifact strategies like 《God-Pharaoh's Gift》 or Mardu with only one 《Abrade》 in the main. I think this is correct too. And lastly he swapped the 《Soul-Scar Mage》 for 《Rekindling Phoenix》, which makes the deck much slower but very potent in the lategame.

Scavenger GroundsGrasping Dunes

This list looks like it very well tuned for the Mirror and UB so this is the list I honestly recommend.

UB Control and Grixis are also Potent

One big question before the event was whether it is correct to play straight UB or add red for the removal spells or head into the energy direction and go with 《Whirler Rogue》. For me this question is still not solved yet as both strategies performed quite well over the course of the GP and placed two UB and 3 Grixis into the Top8 of the event.

As a controlplayer by heart I do really like this list and this Efro built this list almost to perfection for the Event. He had strong plays against Mono Red and also ran the combination of 《Field of Ruin》 and 《Commit // Memory》 to solve threats that slipped through.

Field of RuinCommit // Memory

What he did not do was to show a lot of respect to the green decks as he was not running any copies of 《Confiscation Coup》 or 《Entrancing Melody》 and he also did not run 《River's Rebuke》 against the token strategies. I am not saying that this is right or wrong but going forward that could be an interesting approach.

Important sidenote: this deck will always have problems with 《Carnage Tyrant》 but there is one way to “counter” the dinosaur. When the 《Carnage Tyrant》 is on the stack you can 《Commit》 it and then shuffle it away with 《Field of Ruin》 as the shuffle-trigger is mandatory and not optional. Of course this is not a permanent solution but it might be good enough to steal the game.

There were three different builds in the Top 8 but for me this one is the least fancy one and most straightforward with a lot of control elements to make use of the power of 《Torrential Gearhulk》 and 《Search for Azcanta》 without losing the Energy elements of 《Glint-Sleeve Siphoner》 or 《Whirler Rogue》. I think the only card I might be interested to try out is 《Dire Fleet Daredevil》 as it enables some very neat plays.

Torrential GearhulkGlint-Sleeve Siphoner

The Rise of The Green Creatures

I only committed one sentence to the green strategies so far because I did not expect them to perform. Well, they proved me wrong by putting two different archetypes in the finals of GP Memphis. Let’s start with the Runner Up.

This deck is basically two colored with only one blue card in the maindeck but I think that card is the reason why this deck is playable: 3 《Hadana's Climb》. Sometimes you curve your opponent out with constrictor and win in quick fashion but that is hardly ever the case.

The idea of this deck is to chip in some early damage and then win by sending a 《Bristling Hydra》 or a creature protected by 《Blossoming Defense》 to the dome with the help of 《Hadana's Climb》 for lethal damage.

Bristling HydraHadana's Climb

Otherwise this deck could not outgrind a 《The Scarab God》, any token strategy or be fast enough to even compete with Mono Red. In case you watched the finals you also saw the true weakness of this strategy: it loses to it’s own draws in very spectacular fashion and you really need to smooth your draws with 《Glint-Sleeve Siphoner》 or 《Jadelight Ranger》 to achieve the long-term goal.

I honestly think that this strategy is about to vanish right now with the knowledge of the real gameplan of the deck.

When I saw this list I was like: How can you even win a match with this pile. Only expensive creatures, no real gameplan and no way to stand either control or red.

Well, once again I was proven wrong as the deck has some sort of engine with 《Merfolk Branchwalker》 or 《Jadelight Ranger》. They smooth out your draws and if you are lucky you can net card-advantage by putting one of the Khenras into your graveyard. At first that does not sound that amazing, but with the other powerful creatures in form of 《Glorybringer》, 《Rekindling Phoenix》 or 《Rhonas the Indomitable》 this is the icing on the cake.

Merfolk BranchwalkerEarthshaker KhenraResilient Khenra

While I do think that this deck does produce a lot of disfunctional draws it has ways to be a well fueled machine and crush any other strategy in the format as you have access to very efficient removal. I predict that this deck will stay in the metagame for some time, even though it will not be the deck to beat.

While green was lacking proper 《Naturalize》 effects this deck got two new pieces with the showing of Rivals of Ixalan and that is very important for this kind of deck.

The Deck Brad Nelson Chose

One last deck I want to talk about is the UB-Midrange by the Roanoke Crew. I know they worked hard on that list and as everybody knows Brad Nelson is the strongest Standard player on this planet but I think they over thought it a little with this deck:

Don’t get me wrong, the deck looks like it could be a masterpiece with all this 1- and 2-offs in Main and Sideboard. I somehow think that they wanted the strategy where they could put up the most gameplay scenarios where your opponent might not know what you are up to. Random Counters to fuel 《Torrential Gearhulk》, some creatures to fight opposing threats and the almighty 《Glint-Sleeve Siphoner》 to not pass on the energy mechanic entirely.

Essence ScatterSupreme Will

While I think this shell is the deck that can abuse the 《The Scarab God》‘s power the most it tries to do too many things at the same time and therefore does nothing sufficient. I played a lot of Brad’s decks and will in the future on this one I think I will pass, even though this is the deck where you can force your opponent to make the most mistakes and create a lot of extremely complex boardstates so if you are up for that I do recommend this deck.

My next tournament will be GP Madrid next week and I will be our Standard pilot so I will expand the format a lot more starting with this article and hopefully end up with the right deck for this new and exciting metagame.


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