Don’t Stay Stuck In Standard’s Past

In Week 1 after a quadruple Standard banning, the top Standard decks looked awfully familiar. Peter Ingram says that’s not good enough, and today he presents several avenues he’s eager to explore before SCG Philadelphia!

Maybe it’s the lack of the old PTQ system or the way tournaments are set up nowadays, but people lack the incentive to “break” Standard.

People have jobs and lives outside of Magic, so it’s pretty easy to just take lists that do well from previous tournaments and accept that you will likely do well in a future tournament if you play well. This mentality is what leads us to the same decks doing well over and over in a solved metagame. But let me tell you, this new metagame isn’t close to being solved.

If we take a look at the results of Standard tournaments, we see some similar results from what we’ve seen in the past – Mono-Red Aggro taking down the most recent Standard Classic and Mardu Vehicles taking down the Magic Online PTQ. It’s easy to be aggressive and it’s also easy to just keep doing what works, but I’m confident that there are decks that can prey on both of these strategies, as they are pretty similar.

I fully believe that Temur Energy as we knew it is completely dead. While some people expect the deck to survive in some fashion, I think the loss of Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner was too much to just replace with Jadelight Ranger and additional lands. If you want to play Energy, you should be playing Sultai or Grixis. Previously, with Temur and Four-Color Energy decks being a huge part of the metagame, they had a maindeck answer to Hazoret the Fervent in Confiscation Coup. With energy on a huge decline due to the recent bannings, Hazoret has admittedly benefitted from this. However, there still are maindeckable answers to this popular menace.

Vraska’s Contempt is likely the place where decks need to go, and even Cast Out is also a fine answer. Enchantment answers are at an all-time low and only in white and green. Play the answers that allow you to interact with the problems. Never before has Standard been riper for the picking, and not just with new tribal decks. There are many new archetypes to be explored. If you want to beat Mono-Red and Mardu Vehicles, for example, look no further.

This deck has a fair amount of lifegain in it and would be able to interact favorably against aggressive strategies. With Rampaging Ferocidon out of the picture, red decks have nothing in the way of dealing with lifegain, and that’s the weakness you must exploit to beat them.

I really like the idea of Huatli, Radiant Champion in this deck. If you can get it on the battlefield with a few creatures out, it becomes quite hard to kill and the ultimate will bury the opponent in card advantage. I know Abzan Tokens was a deck for a little while back when Temur Energy first started to surge in Standard, and I fully expect a reappearance from the archetype. This is the type of deck that can mold itself to have game against aggro and control decks and exploit a format light on enchantment removal.

The skies have been taken over now that Whirler Virtuoso is on the decline. Not that Glorybringer was any stranger to dominating Standard in the past, but Rekindling Phoenix is also here to stay and you should pick up your playset now before the card goes up any higher in price.

Evasion happens to be even better if you can manage to take extra turns, and I’ve mentioned my love for Timestream Navigator in the past. I think there’s certainly new potential for the card now that the format has opened up.

While this deck would probably get rolled by Mono-Red in its current iteration, I view this as more of a deck that would succeed depending on the amount of interaction being played in the format. With the help of removal and Censor, I think U/R Timestream can pretty easily make its way to the mid-game unscathed. From there, if you can stick Saheeli Rai on an empty battlefield, the deck can do some pretty explosive things.

Saheeli has multiple exciting targets in this deck, whether you’re taking extra turns with Timestream Navigator, sending in an extra exerted Glorybringer, or creating more energy with Whirler Virtuoso. While this deck might be a little too cute in its current iteration, I certainly think there’s something here and I will continue to work on Saheeli Rai and Timesteam Navigator decks.

If this isn’t the home for Rekindling Phoenix, it shows up in another new archetype as well.

While Brennan DeCandio has used black for Scrapheap Scrounger to synergize well with the explore mechanic, I’m a bigger fan of blue. Negate is an impactful sideboard card that can really shift your matchup against control and other planeswalker-driven midrange decks.

Another key card that I’m trying to exploit by playing nine Dinosaurs is Thunderherd Migration. Rampant Growth is an extremely powerful effect, and exploring what four-drops can be cast on Turn 3 can be format-defining. I think Rekindling Phoenix and Chandra, Torch of Defiance are some of the strongest options, but Ripjaw Raptor is a Dinosaur, thus demanding the slot.

Walking Ballista is pretty great in this deck, as it works well with Ripjaw Raptor and fills in the curve nicely. I predict Walking Ballista will become better in Standard soon due to creatures with one toughness like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and various tribal creatures becoming more popular. This is the type of deck I imagine doing well against more aggressive strategies while being able to shift post-sideboard to crush control.

One last deck I would like to look into is an interesting brew that I worked on a bit in the Future Future League during my time at Wizards of the Coast. The basic idea of this deck is to get a bunch of lands in your graveyard via Cathartic Reunion and Tormenting Voice to get back with World Shaper. With a ton of lands on the battlefield, you can finish the game off with Wayward Swordtooth and Cut // Ribbons.

Getting to Ascend with this deck shouldn’t be that difficult once World Shaper dies. Perhaps this deck can be even more Ascend-driven with a card like Twilight Prophet, another great card that has yet to find a home. Another card that interested me for this deck was Azor’s Gateway. If you transform it, it usually wins the game with the X spells in the deck, but perhaps that’s cause for a different deck entirely.

Even though I’ll be playing Modern this weekend at SCG Philadelphia, my teammate playing Standard will have the tools to beat these aggressive red decks. Please do me a favor and remain stuck in the past. That way, we can have one of our three matches locked down as a win this weekend. Standard is just starting out, and with Grand Prix Memphis on the horizon, I haven’t been this excited to play in an individual Grand Prix in a long time.