Fresh Entry Into New Standard

Modern has been hiding Standard for a few weeks now, but Ari is on the case! Is it still as healthy as it was weeks ago? And what are the best decks to be playing? Catch up on everything you’ve missed here!

Step 1: Play Mono-Red at a Pro Tour, worry about everything else while
Hazoret does good work.

Step 2: Trick someone else into playing Standard for all your team events.

Step 3: Play lots of Modern events.

Step 4: Actually play Standard.

Wait…. how did we already get to step four?
I can’t have been Karning and
Mox Opaling people for that long
. Let’s check this out. What has actually happened…. New set? Banned

I have a couple weeks to figure out Rivals of Ixalan Standard
prior to Grand Prix Memphis, and after that I’ll probably be immersed in
the format until after Pro Tour Dominaria. The format has defined
itself fairly well in the last few weeks, so I have a lot of data to work

Starting from scratch, here is what I see and how I would approach the

Top Level

Out of the gates, the first thing I thought about was how important having
removal that exiles creatures is. The weird part is that these are threats
across a ton of scales. It’s not like you can Magma Spray out of all your
5/5 God problems, and it isn’t like Vraska’s Contempt is efficient enough
against Earthshaker Khenra. I’m not even sure there’s enough removal in
most decks to properly cover everything.

Except possibly in white. I haven’t quite figured out what white cards I
even care about beyond removal, but that half of the color is quite good.
The move from Temur to Grixis as the midrange deck of choice also reduces
the exploit potential of cards like Naturalize, and though Vraska, Relic
Seeker sounds a bit scary I’m not sure most decks beat the normal Pirates
and Terminates mode regardless.

I’m also reminded that Ixalan’s Binding is really darn good if you play any
kind of long game. Any chance of a two-for-one out of your expensive
removal is nice, but it’s double nice when it hits a crucial threat like
Rekindling Phoenix or Hazoret the Fervent.


Right now, aggro has to be the number one target in Standard. Mono-Red has
won both SCG Tour Classics and the Magic Online PTQ. Mardu Vehicles won the
first SCG Tour Team Open in Dallas.

The lesson of Mono-Red is the same as before. They are still the bad
one-drop deck they were before. They don’t get ahead by curving better,
they get ahead on their later turns. Blocking sucks, don’t do it.

Okay, that’s a bit of a lie. Your creatures can all threaten to block,
force your opponent to cast their Earthshaker Khenra or exert their
Ahn-Crop Crasher. But they better be good at bashing once they inevitably
fail to block, and they better not trade poorly for Lightning Strike. And
the big ones better just dunk on your opponent after they survive the first
turn, or immediately in the case of Glorybringer.

Or they can be Whirler Virtuosos that make multiple blockers and just
ignore this whole process, but there aren’t many of those.

So, basically nothing has changed, the same rules that made Ramunap Ruins
pretty bad because you died too fast still apply, and Red is the same pile
of cards it was before so don’t get Hazoret’ed.

Mardu Vehicles is a bit of a reminder that mono-exile removal has costs.
You can’t Baffling End a Heart of Kiran. There is a reason to play Abrade
or Fatal Push after all.

I do wonder if small numbers of Thopter Arrest can bridge some of this gap
for specific decks. Ixalan’s Binding costs four, four is a lot, three is
less than four, basic math is great. It isn’t quite Oblivion Ring, but no
one is playing planeswalkers besides Chandra, Torch of Defiance and the
again “I guess I’m dead anyways” Vraska, Relic Seeker. Creatures and
artifacts will do for flexibility.

I do want to note that I really liked Ahn-Crop Crasher in Mardu Vehicles as
additional reach when I tested it for Pro Tour Ixalan. I don’t see
too many Lightning Strikes these days so the layering might not matter, and
I definitely need to retest the Mono-Red matchup and see if Pia Nalaar is
needed as a three-drop to change the margins there, but I’m keeping
Minotaurs in mind if I go down this road.

One thing I’m watching for is if Veteran Motorist is actually a relevant
Magic card beyond the scry trigger. If a 3/1 gets blanked too fast, I’m
skeptical Mardu is actually a deck I want to pursue. I guess this similarly
applies to Scrapheap Scrounger, but you can build non-Mardu decks with that
card that function fine. I need to actually play games against Rekindling
Phoenix to figure this out, but I do know it’s a priority.


I think you just have to admit that you aren’t beating these threats in a
fair fight. Well, that might not be exactly correct. It isn’t like
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner was unstoppable pre-Rivals of Ixalan, though
Whirler Virtuoso was pretty darn good and The Scarab God…well…yeah. I
guess the point is more that the vast majority of configurations aren’t
going to stand a chance in threat-to-threat fights, so I’m going to default
to trying to beat Grixis on a different axis until I find specific things
that do work.

So what answers are you trying to dodge? Unfortunately, I’m not sure I have
a satisfying answer. This feels very touch-and-go. It’s too easy for Grixis
to just sleeve up some Supreme Wills and Disallows one week, bonus Fatal
Push and Abrade the next week. I would need to crunch more numbers and
grind a fair amount to see if this is the kind of thing that ends up
unavoidably built into sideboarding or if Grixis has exploitable holes
week-to-week, but this might end up being a key decision point of the

An exploitable hole that does jump out is a lack of sweepers. Tomas’s two
Hour of Devastations are way outside the norm. Between Magma Spray and
Fatal Push, Grixis can match simple one-two-three curves all the way up,
but what about threats that spread like Oketra’s Monument? Monument might
not be the best example as it has an easy out in Abrade, but Grixis Energy
isn’t getting out from Sram’s Expertise nonsense. Just be aware that you
can’t be all spells like Abzan Tokens, or you run into their Negate and
Duress sideboard that is going to be there every time.

Double dipping into the control side, which honestly looks about the same
except it gets to jam more Abrades instead of two-for-one threats, the card
that catches my eye is Consign. It functions as an “exile” removal spell
against the threats where that matters, but it gets to work retroactively
and tag eternalize tokens at value. Consign is a bit slow, but if you want
to stretch your exile interaction beyond Vraska’s Contempt and Magma Spray
isn’t going to cut it, this card is a fine fifth copy.

I guess technically there are Dinosaurs in this deck, but a more accurate
description is G/R two-for-ones. Literally every creature in this deck
provides a card or so of advantage at minimum, and you can’t just Disallow
your way out of it the way you can against Grixis.

Again, you aren’t going to beat this deck point-for-point, and this time I
mean it a little more literally. You don’t fight two-for-ones by playing
right into them. You either need some runaway threat like The Scarab God or
an unopposed Glorybringer, which it notably has basically no outs to, or
you need to play a game where something happens at not parity.

The no outs to a big threats is interesting to me. You do have Struggle to
fight The Scarab God in reasonable quantities, but overloading them with
four and five toughness creatures is going to get them eventually. They
also can’t be Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in the face of all these
Abrades, which sucks because that card seems like it does a bit of work
against Rekindling Phoenix and explore bodies.

I trust Jadine Klomparens
is doing good work on this front,
but I’m not getting a ton from this deck. Winding Constrictor requires
Fatal Push or Abrade, but we already knew that via Mardu Vehicles. Two
decks is a trend where one is just a note.

Blossoming Defense is a bit unique. The requirements on removal in this
format come at a tangible cost of mana. Blossoming Defense is a pretty easy
way to exploit that. If Jadine says that the Winding Constrictor shell
isn’t the way to do that right now I trust her, but it feels like something
along those lines should exist.

Willy Edel has favored a G/W Aggro deck for a while now, and recently has
spun it back up in the post-Rivals format to some success. The
larger pump approach with Appeal on Adorned Pouncer is pretty good way to
exploit Blossoming Defense against removal. It remains to be seen if the
individual card quality in this deck stacks up to Rekindling Phoenix and
Glorybringer, but it does good things.

Weird Stuff

This is just your regular reminder that Duress and Negate are still great.
Both of these decks have been known for a while and were driven out of the
metagame by those cards. Also, Thrashing Brontodon, Slice in Twain, and
even just normal Naturalize interact well with both of these decks. Beyond
all the tokens tools, all of the white removal I’ve been mentioning are

I just want to point out some technical play advice that Brennan DeCandio
brought up in his article last week:
split your threats attacking into open Settle the Wreckage mana
. I don’t have a precise formula for it, but the general pattern is leave
back at least one thing that is Fumigate-proof then cast another threat if
they do Settle the Wreckage.

Not a lot has changed about these decks since Ixalan. W/U Gift is
pretty straightforward: bash them, break their God-Pharaoh’s Gift if
possible, and don’t get caught by a weird Fumigate scenario. Esper is a
little weirder and I don’t have a precise method to the madness for
approaching the deck despite playing a lot with and against it. Some games
you just want to bash them, sometimes you have to balance their blocks,
sometimes they just do a lot of stuff that doesn’t actually amount to
anything while you wonder what horrible thing could happen.

It’s hard to extract what Gift existing means for every other deck besides
making Abrade good and giving you a reason to play Naturalize or Thrashing
Brontodon over expensive Slice in Twains. You don’t really need to be
proactive to beat it, just have tools that interact well.

Between this and all the graveyard shenanigans normal decks get up to, I’m
wondering if Deathgorge Scavenger comes close to making a starting 60
instead of just a 75. It can eat a Rekindling Phoenix or eternalize
creature, clear out The Scarab God fuel, and it incidentally stops
nonsense. The concern would be the sheer number of Shocks and Magma Sprays
floating around, but I’m willing to give a three-drop hate Dino a shot.

Just yet another reason to play Fatal Push.

How many Baffling Ends are there going to be compared to Magma Sprays? How
many times are they going to control Soul-Scar Mage when they gun for your

I think Adanto Vanguard is just a victim of every other card in the format
forcing people to play the removal that is good against it. Also just being
a 3/1 is a bit small ball for me in a world of Hazoret the Fervent and The
Scarab God.

Where To Start

My initial reaction is that Brennan’s claim of G/R Aggro being the best
deck in the format is very believable. It has a ton of great threats,
reasonable removal across the spectrum, and the right interactive tools in
the sideboard.

With that deck, I have two concerns. One is that the Approach decks with
Ixalan’s Binding look like a nightmare, and the other is that you can’t
actually kill the Amonkhet Gods. If you can’t beat a Hazoret the
Fervent because you can’t kill it I have no good answers for the deck. If
you can’t beat Approach variants you can splash blue relatively easily,
though it isn’t quite the full Temur Energy free roll.

If my first pass fails and G/R Aggro isn’t quite capable of fighting off
aggro and control, my honest plan is just to Red Mage people until someone
stops me. Part way through writing this, Marcio Carvahlo won the quarterly
Magic Online Championship Playoff with basically stock Mono-Red. Obviously
Mono-Red is an inherently assailable strategy, but someone else is going to
have to show me how.

If I were to focus on a few primary things to prove with Mono-Red, it would
be the following three things: Prove Red is still ahead against Mardu even
if Mardu tries, confirm that even with all the white auras the Approach
decks still can’t stop Red, and just jam a bunch of heads up games against
Esper Gift to figure out what matters in a post-Rampaging Ferocidon world.
These are all points I could easily see the “Mono-Red is pure greatness”
script being flipped, and challenging your basic assumptions is key to
actually coming up with the right answer.

But if all that fails? At some point you just have to look at the
scoreboard and bet on the Patriots…er– how about the Warriors? Let’s go
with that one. [

CEDitor’s Note: Hey how about we don’t go with the Warriors? How’s that
sound Ari?