Pillars of Standard, before the Pro Tour

Immanuel Gerschenson

Immanuel Gerschenson


Hello and welcome to my first article for Hareruya. For those of you, who do not know me, a short introduction: My name is Immanuel Gerschenson, I am 25 years old and I currently study Biomedical Engineering.

Immanuel Gerschenson

Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

Today I will write about Standard, as we have two Standard Grand Prixes (Lille / New Jersey) in the books and a Standard Pro Tour coming up. There are plenty of lists available from those Grand Prixes, but instead of going over those lists, I would rather like to talk about some cards and their impact on the format and meta.

The Pillars of the New Standard

Pillar #1

Experimental Frenzy

Let’s start with one of my favorite cards from the new set, which has been featured four times in one of the Grand Prix winning decklists: 《Experimental Frenzy》.

I had to read this card more than once, to fully understand what is written on it. This card is closer to 《Future Sight》, than I thought, after reading it only once, as it allows you to play lands and more than one spell per turn (if you have the mana).

In Standard red rarely gets cards that are able to produce some form of card advantage. Even more uncommon is, that there are enough red cheap cards in Standard you want to play, which lets 《Experimental Frenzy》 effectively draw you approximately 3 cards per turn. If we take a closer look at the following decklist, we can see how low the actual mana-curve is. If you manage to stick a 《Runaway Steam-Kin》 and play an 《Experimental Frenzy》, you can go completely crazy.

Runaway Steam-KinGoblin ChainwhirlerLightning Strike

《Experimental Frenzy》 is so strong in this list, because you can play a game you could not play before. The big advantage of such a deck is, that it in the first few turns it will cast more spells on average, than your opponent, which will try to trade resources one for one.

At around turn four or five you usually run out of steam and this is the point, at which 《Experimental Frenzy》 takes over and lets you still play more spells on average for the rest of the game.

Pillar #2

Carnage Tyrant

Next up on my list is a card, which many players love and hate at the same time: 《Carnage Tyrant》.

A few weeks ago Golgari Midrange was the talk of the town and people called it the best deck. It was a grindfest to win the mirror, most threats could be removed and would not impact the board for longer than a turn, so people looked around for help. That was the point when people started packing 《Carnage Tyrant》, as it is a very resilient threat and is basically uncontested in many matchups. Combine 《Carnage Tyrant》 with 《Find // Finality》 and your problems can only be solved by a sweeper or very timely sacrifice effect.

A nice side-effect of this big bad dinosaur is, that it is very good against control decks and fast at ending games against aggro decks, which cements its position at the top for me further more. Fellow Hareruya Pros Javier Dominguez realized this and utilized 《Carnage Tyrant》 to end up in the top 8 of Grand Prix Lille 2018 with following list:

Llanowar ElvesElvish RejuvenatorFind // Finality

Pillar #3

I have heared some players refer to it as the best card in the format, so there is no way around for me and I will gladly talk about 《Crackling Drake》.

Crackling Drake

Understanding this card is quite simple in my opinion: play many spells to make it beefy! It even replaces itself, so to say, by drawing a card when entering the battlefield.

Not only it is easy to understand this card, it is also easy to find multiple decks featuring 《Crackling Drake》. If we take a look at the following two decklists, we can see that at some point the plan is to just stick a 《Crackling Drake》 and win with a few, preferably not more than two, swings. The difference is only when you want to win, as one deck is trying to do it as early as possible, the other one is doing it as late as possible.

A version, which wants to kill as fast as possible, piloted by fellow Hareruya Pros Arne Huschenbeth:

Arclight PhoenixEnigma DrakeMaximize Velocity

Here is an example for a version, that will wait until the coast is clear and just win with two swings:

Deafening ClarionTeferi, Hero of DominariaExpansion // Explosion

Pillar #4

Last, but not least, on my list is following card: 《History of Benalia》.

History of Benalia

If you exclude basic lands and 《Opt》, 《History of Benalia》 is the most played card across two individual Grand Prix top 8s. The first and obvious reason for this is, that this card is just so powerful. The second reason is that it might synergize well with the theme of your deck, which would be going wide. The third reason is that unless your opponent counters it, they will need more than one spell to get rid of the tokens or more than one creature, as the tokens get pumped in the end.

I could go on with more reasons, but let’s just agree that 《History of Benalia》 is a very strong card. Here are two example decklists from this weekend’s Grand Prixes, one showing its power-component and the other one how it is used by a deck that wants to go wide.

Adanto VanguardAurelia, Exemplar of JusticeLyra Dawnbringer

This list is a good example of how you just want to curve out and have the most powerful threat at each point of the curve.

Emmara, Soul of the AccordTrostani DiscordantMarch of the Multitudes

This list is a good example of how wide you want to go. Almost all cards produce more than one creature, or pump many creatures. In case you do not have those draws, but a good curve, you can try to just play the aggressor and kill your opponent before too much happens.


I hope I was able to show you how diverse and strong some cards are in this Standard format and I am really looking forward to the Pro Tour itself, as it will show us how the Standard format evolves in the next few weeks.

If you have any questions and/or suggestions, you will always be able to reach me either on Twitter or on Facebook.

Until next time,

Immanuel Gerschenson

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